Jeremiah 38:7
Now when Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, one of the eunuchs which was in the king's house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon; the king then sitting in the gate of Benjamin;
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(7) Bbed-melech the Ethiopian.—The name signifies “servant of the king,” but the absence of the article in the Hebrew makes it probable that it had come to be used as a proper name, and so both the LXX. and Vulgate take it. The use of Ethiopian or Cushite slaves in the king’s household, probably as keeping guard over the harem, had been of some standing; perhaps even as early as the time of David, as in the case of Cushr (or the Cushite), in 2Samuel 18:21. Then, as in other countries and times (Terent., Eunuch, i. 2), there was a fashion which led princes and men of wealth to think that eunuchs were part of their magnificence. The law of Moses, it may be noted, forbade such mutilation in the case of Israelites (Deuteronomy 23:1). In Psalm 87:4, we find probably a record of the admission of such persons on the register of the citizens of Zion. Of the previous history of the Eunuch thus named we know nothing but he appears here as the favourite of the king, using his influence to protect the prophet. The Ethiopian descent of Jehudi (Jeremiah 36:21) may probably have brought him into contact with an officer of the king’s household of the same race, and Ebed-melech’s feelings may have been drawn to the prophet by what he thus heard.

In the gate of Benjamin.—This was on the northern wall of the city, the most exposed to the attack of the invading army, and the king apparently had gone there either to direct the operations of the defence, or, perhaps, to prevent others from following, as they might think, Jeremiah’s example, and either deserting to the enemy or abandoning the defence of the city (Jeremiah 37:13). Ebed-melech had accordingly to leave the palace, and went to seek the king at his post, in order to obtain an order of release in time to save the prophet’s life. He alone, as if inheriting the blessing of Isaiah 56:3-6, has the courage to appear as the friend of the persecuted.

Jeremiah 38:7-9. Now when Ebed-melech the Ethiopian — Or Cushite, as the Hebrew is. His country seems to be mentioned to let us know that this prophet of the Lord found more kindness from a stranger, who was a native heathen, than from his own countrymen; one of the eunuchs which was in the king’s house — That is, one of the court officers. It is probable that the princes had put Jeremiah into this miserable place privately, but by some means the report of what they had done providentially reached this officer’s ears. The king then sitting in the gate of Benjamin — Namely, to hear the complaints of the people, and to administer justice; the courts for that purpose being usually held in the gates of the city. Ebed-melech went forth and spake to the king — The zeal as well as courage of this good officer was very remarkable. He did not stay till the king returned to his house: but went to him as he was sitting in the gate administering justice, where doubtless he was not alone, but was probably attended by some of those very princes who had thrown Jeremiah into the dungeon: Ebed- melech, however, was not afraid of them, but complains openly to the king of their cruelty to Jeremiah, saying, My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they have done to Jeremiah — They deal unjustly with him, for he had not deserved any punishment at all, and they deal barbarously with him, so as they used not to deal with the vilest malefactors. And he is like to die — Hebrew, וימת תחתיו, he will die upon the spot; for hunger, for there is no bread — That is, as some interpret the clause, “There was no need for those who desired his death to put him into so filthy and loathsome a place; since, if he had continued in the court of the prison, he must have died through the famine which threatens the city. The words, however, are more literally rendered, When there is no longer any bread in the city. Ebed-melech supposed with reason that when the bread failed, Jeremiah must perish with hunger in the dungeon; for he would be of course neglected, and not have it in his power to make those shifts for subsistence which persons at liberty might avail themselves of. Such was the compassion which the stranger had for the Lord’s prophet, whom his own countrymen would have destroyed! And God, who put these sentiments of pity and benevolence into Ebed-melech’s heart, afterward recompensed him by delivering him from death when the city was taken, Jeremiah 39:15-16. But how remarkable it is, that in the whole city of Jerusalem no person was found, save this Ethiopian, to appear publicly, as the friend and advocate of the prophet in his distress! Thus is the justice of God vindicated in giving up this people into the hands of their enemies, when there was not a single person of their nation willing to hazard his life or character in the cause of God, to save the life of one who had been known among them for a true prophet between twenty and thirty years. 38:1-13 Jeremiah went on in his plain preaching. The princes went on in their malice. It is common for wicked people to look upon God's faithful ministers as enemies, because they show what enemies the wicked are to themselves while impenitent. Jeremiah was put into a dungeon. Many of God's faithful witnesses have been privately made away in prisons. Ebed-melech was an Ethiopian; yet he spoke to the king faithfully, These men have done ill in all they have done to Jeremiah. See how God can raise up friends for his people in distress. Orders were given for the prophet's release, and Ebed-melech saw him drawn up. Let this encourage us to appear boldly for God. Special notice is taken of his tenderness for Jeremiah. What do we behold in the different characters then, but the same we behold in the different characters now, that the Lord's children are conformed to his example, and the children of Satan to their master?Ebed-melech - i. e., the king's slave. By "Ethiopian" or Cushite is meant the Cushite of Afric. It seems (compare 2 Kings 23:11) as if such eunuchs (or, chamberlains) took their names from the king, while the royal family and the princes generally bore names compounded with the appellations of the Deity. 7. Ebed-melech—The Hebrew designation given this Ethiopian, meaning "king's servant." Already, even at this early time, God wished to show what good reason there was for calling the Gentiles to salvation. An Ethiopian stranger saves the prophet whom his own countrymen, the Jews, tried to destroy. So the Gentiles believed in Christ whom the Jews crucified, and Ethiopians were among the earliest converts (Ac 2:10, 41; 8:27-39). Ebed-melech probably was keeper of the royal harem, and so had private access to the king. The eunuchs over harems in the present day are mostly from Nubia or Abyssinia. Ebed-melech was unquestionably the name of the person, though some interpret it appellatively a servant of the king. It is particularly noted that he was an Ethiopian or a Cushite, to let us know that this prophet of the Lord found more kindness from a stranger, that was a native heathen, than from his own countrymen. Princes were wont to keep eunuchs in their houses in those countries, 2 Kings 9:32 Daniel 1:9 Acts 8:27. It should seem the princes had privately put Jeremiah into this miserable place, but yet the noise of it came to Ebed-melech’s ear, who was attending in the court. The gates of the city were places where princes were wont to sit to execute justice, and to receive petitions, and give answers, 2 Samuel xix, 8 Pr 31:23, &c. Now when Ebedmelech the Ethiopian,.... The Targum renders it,

"a servant of King Zedekiah;''

which Jarchi, and other writers, following, make Zedekiah to be the Ethiopian; so called, because as an Ethiopian differs in his skin, so Zedekiah differed in his righteousness, from the rest of his generation; and this his servant, he, with others (r), takes to be Baruch the son of Neriah, but without any foundation; but, as Kimchi observes, with whom Abarbinel and Ben Melech agree, had this word "Ebedmelech" been an appellation, the usual article would have been prefixed before the word "king", as in the next clause; and somewhere or other his name would have been given; but it is a proper name, as Ahimelech, and Abimelech. A servant of the king he might be, and doubtless he was; and perhaps had this name given him when he became a proselyte; for such he seems to be, and a good man; who had a great regard to the prophet, because he was one; and had more piety and humanity in him, though an Ethiopian, than those who were Israelites by birth:

one of the eunuchs which was in the king's house; an officer at court; one of the gentlemen of the bedchamber. Josephus (s) says he was in great honour; so the Targum renders it,

"a great man;''

a man in high office, of great authority; taking it to be a name of office, as it sometimes is; though it may be understood, in a proper sense, of a castrated person; for such there were very commonly in kings' palaces, employed in one office or another, and especially in the bedchamber: now this man

heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon; for though the princes did it with all possible secrecy, it was known at court, and came to the ears of this good man; and indeed the dungeon was not far from the court; and some have thought he might have heard the groans of Jeremiah in it; however, he came to the hearing of it, and was affected with the relation of his case, and determined to save him, if possible:

the king then sitting in the gate of Benjamin; the same in which the prophet was taken, Jeremiah 37:13; here he sat to hear and try causes, courts of judicature being held in gates of cities; or to receive petitions; or rather it may be to consult about the present state of affairs, what was best to be done in defence of the city, and to annoy the besiegers; and it may be to have a view of the enemy's camp, and to sally out upon them; for that he was here in order to make his escape is not likely.

(r) Pirke Eliezer, c. 53. Shalshelet Hakabala, fol. 13. 1.((s) Antiqu. l. 10. c. 7. sect. 5.

Now when Ebedmelech the Cushite, one of the eunuchs who was in the king's house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon; the king then sitting in the {e} gate of Benjamin;

(e) To hear matters and give sentence.

7. Ebed-melech the Ethiopian] a eunuch, attached to the court or harem after the Eastern custom. See on Jeremiah 13:23.

the gate of Benjamin] See on ch. Jeremiah 37:13.

7–13. See introd. summary to section.Verse 7. - Ebed-melech the Ethiopian. The name means "the king's slave." Ebers remarks that the eunuchs employed are those on whom the shameful operation has been performed by Copts in Upper Egypt. Zedekiah's harem is referred to in vers. 22, 23. Jeremiah is cast into a miry pit, but drawn out again by Ebedmelech the Cushite. Jeremiah 38:1-6. Being confined in the court of the guard attached to the royal palace, Jeremiah had opportunities of conversing with the soldiers stationed there and the people of Judah who came thither (cf. Jeremiah 38:1 with Jeremiah 32:8, Jeremiah 32:12), and of declaring, in opposition to them, his conviction (which he had indeed expressed from the beginning of the siege) that all resistance to the Chaldeans would be fruitless, and only bring destruction (cf. Jeremiah 21:9.). On this account, the princes who were of a hostile disposition towards him were so embittered, that they resolved on his death, and obtain from the king permission to cast him into a deep pit with mire at the bottom. In v. 1 four of these princes are named, two of whom, Jucal the son of Shelemiah, and Pashur the son of Malchiah, are known, from Jeremiah 37:3 and Jeremiah 21:1, as confidants of the king; the other two, Shephatiah the son of Mattan, and Gedaliah the son of Pashur, are not mentioned elsewhere. Gedaliah was probably a son of the Pashur who had once put Jeremiah in the stocks (Jeremiah 20:1-2). The words of the prophet, Jeremiah 38:2, Jeremiah 38:3, are substantially the same as he had already uttered at the beginning of the siege, Jeremiah 21:9 (יחיה as in Jeremiah 21:9). Jeremiah 38:4. The princes said to the king, "Let this man, we beseech thee, be put to death for the construction, see on Jeremiah 35:14; for therefore i.e., because no one puts him out of existence - על־כּן as in Jeremiah 29:28 he weakens the hands of the men of war who remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, by speaking words like these to them; for this man does not seek the welfare of this people, but their ill." מרפּא for מרפּא, to cause the hands of any one to be relaxed, i.e., to make him dispirited; cf. Ezra 4:4; Isaiah 35:3. דּרשׁ with ל htiw , as Job 10:6; Deuteronomy 12:30; 1 Chronicles 22:19, etc., elsewhere with the accusatival את; cf. Jeremiah 29:7 et passim. On this point cf. Jeremiah 29:7. The allegation which the princes made against Jeremiah was possibly correct. The constancy with which Jeremiah declared that resistance was useless, since, in accordance with the divine decree, Jerusalem was to be taken and burnt by the Chaldeans, could not but make the soldiers and the people unwilling any longer to sacrifice their lives in defending the city. Nevertheless the complaint was unjust, because Jeremiah was not expressing his own personal opinion, but was declaring the word of the Lord, and that, too, not from any want of patriotism or through personal cowardice, but in the conviction, derived from the divine revelation, that it was only by voluntary submission that the fate of the besieged could be mitigated; hence he acted from a deep feeling of love to the people, and in order to avert complete destruction from them. The courage of the people which he sought to weaken was not a heroic courage founded on genuine trust in God, but carnal obstinacy, which could not but lead to ruin.
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