Lord, help me step up into the responsibilities I have today. Bless the work of my hands and bless others through me.
Read JEREMIAH 38
Jeremiah Thrown Into a Cistern
38 Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashhur, Jehukal[a] son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur son of Malkijah heard what Jeremiah was telling all the people when he said, 2 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague, but whoever goes over to the Babylonians[b] will live. They will escape with their lives; they will live.’ 3 And this is what the Lord says: ‘This city will certainly be given into the hands of the army of the king of Babylon, who will capture it.’”
4 Then the officials said to the king, “This man should be put to death. He is discouraging the soldiers who are left in this city, as well as all the people, by the things he is saying to them. This man is not seeking the good of these people but their ruin.”
5 “He is in your hands,” King Zedekiah answered. “The king can do nothing to oppose you.”
6 So they took Jeremiah and put him into the cistern of Malkijah, the king’s son, which was in the courtyard of the guard. They lowered Jeremiah by ropes into the cistern; it had no water in it, only mud, and Jeremiah sank down into the mud.
7 But Ebed-Melek, a Cushite,[c] an official[d] in the royal palace, heard that they had put Jeremiah into the cistern. While the king was sitting in the Benjamin Gate, 8 Ebed-Melek went out of the palace and said to him, 9 “My lord the king, these men have acted wickedly in all they have done to Jeremiah the prophet. They have thrown him into a cistern, where he will starve to death when there is no longer any bread in the city.”
10 Then the king commanded Ebed-Melek the Cushite, “Take thirty men from here with you and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies.”
11 So Ebed-Melek took the men with him and went to a room under the treasury in the palace. He took some old rags and worn-out clothes from there and let them down with ropes to Jeremiah in the cistern. 12 Ebed-Melek the Cushite said to Jeremiah, “Put these old rags and worn-out clothes under your arms to pad the ropes.” Jeremiah did so, 13 and they pulled him up with the ropes and lifted him out of the cistern. And Jeremiah remained in the courtyard of the guard.
Zedekiah Questions Jeremiah Again
14 Then King Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah the prophet and had him brought to the third entrance to the temple of the Lord. “I am going to ask you something,” the king said to Jeremiah. “Do not hide anything from me.”
15 Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “If I give you an answer, will you not kill me? Even if I did give you counsel, you would not listen to me.”
16 But King Zedekiah swore this oath secretly to Jeremiah: “As surely as the Lord lives, who has given us breath, I will neither kill you nor hand you over to those who want to kill you.”
17 Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “This is what the Lord God Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘If you surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon, your life will be spared and this city will not be burned down; you and your family will live. 18 But if you will not surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon, this city will be given into the hands of the Babylonians and they will burn it down; you yourself will not escape from them.’”
19 King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “I am afraid of the Jews who have gone over to the Babylonians, for the Babylonians may hand me over to them and they will mistreat me.”
20 “They will not hand you over,” Jeremiah replied. “Obey the Lord by doing what I tell you. Then it will go well with you, and your life will be spared. 21 But if you refuse to surrender, this is what the Lord has revealed to me: 22 All the women left in the palace of the king of Judah will be brought out to the officials of the king of Babylon. Those women will say to you:
“‘They misled you and overcame you—
those trusted friends of yours.
Your feet are sunk in the mud;
your friends have deserted you.’
23 “All your wives and children will be brought out to the Babylonians. You yourself will not escape from their hands but will be captured by the king of Babylon; and this city will[e] be burned down.”
24 Then Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “Do not let anyone know about this conversation, or you may die. 25 If the officials hear that I talked with you, and they come to you and say, ‘Tell us what you said to the king and what the king said to you; do not hide it from us or we will kill you,’ 26 then tell them, ‘I was pleading with the king not to send me back to Jonathan’s house to die there.’”
27 All the officials did come to Jeremiah and question him, and he told them everything the king had ordered him to say. So they said no more to him, for no one had heard his conversation with the king.
28 And Jeremiah remained in the courtyard of the guard until the day Jerusalem was captured.
The Fall of Jerusalem
This is how Jerusalem was taken:
- Jeremiah 38:1 Hebrew Jukal, a variant of Jehukal
- Jeremiah 38:2 Or Chaldeans; also in verses 18, 19 and 23
- Jeremiah 38:7 Probably from the upper Nile region
- Jeremiah 38:7 Or a eunuch
- Jeremiah 38:23 Or and you will cause this city to
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Thank God for all our civic, national, and international leaders. May they always lead in righteousness and the fear of God.
Think of some leaders you are familiar with: parents, teachers, captains of commerce and industry, civic and other political leaders. Distinguish between excellent and poor examples. What is it that makes the difference between them?
In this passage, we have one example each of good and poor leadership – and the consequences. On the one hand we have Ebed-Melek and on the other King Zedekiah. Ebed-Melek enters the narrative abruptly. He is an Ethiopian (a Cushite) in the service of King Zedekiah. There were many Ethiopians in the Egyptian army, which was allied to Judah against Babylon. That is why many think of him as some high-ranking military attaché (the description of him as a Cushite has falsely led many traditional commentators to suggest that he was a slave, but the ease with which he approaches the king and rebukes him and his nobles in public contradicts this notion). Ebed-Melek shows good leadership: he is decisive and he uses his considerable diplomatic influence to reverse a gross injustice and thereby rescues Jeremiah from certain death. He sees the injustice done to Jeremiah and he rebukes the king’s complicity in the scheme. As a result, he saves the prophet’s life and the Lord promises him rescue from the Babylonians.1
King Zedekiah, on the other hand, shows poor leadership, which leads to the capture of Judah and the deaths of many people. His leadership is based on the shifting sands of fear: fear of his officials, the Babylonians, and even the Jews who had already defected to the enemy (vs 5,19). What he does not do is fear the Lord enough to listen to his word and to do it. That is the thing that Jeremiah consistently declares in his hearing.
Identify injustices, systemic or sporadic, in your community, where you should be exercising godly leadership to curb evil.
Holy Spirit, in those places where I can represent my Savior, speak to me and give me wisdom, speak through me so that others will be drawn to him.
1 Jer 39:15–18
Last Updated on December 5, 2023 by kingstar