From Jeremiah 38-41
Jeremiah faces persecution by the crowd again. The people bring him to their king Zedekiah. Zedekiah bowing to the power of the angry mob delivers Jeremiah into their hands. Jeremiah finds an unlikely friend and is raised up. Jesus was handed over by Pilate to an angry mob. They crucified the servant of the LORD. But God glorified his servant and raised him up.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comment
Jeremiah keeps on proclaiming a message of judgment. The people don’t want to believe what he has to say or follow his instructions. In today’s passage, Jeremiah’s listeners take steps to silence him.
38 Now Shephatiah the son of Mattan, Gedaliah the son of Pashhur, Jucal the son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur the son of Malchiah heard the words that Jeremiah was saying to all the people,
2 “Thus says the LORD: He who stays in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, but he who goes out to the Chaldeans shall live. He shall have his life as a prize of war, and live.
3 Thus says the LORD: This city shall surely be given into the hand of the army of the king of Babylon and be taken.” (Jer 38.1-3)
‘Thus says the LORD’ is repeated. Jeremiah’s message carries authority. The people who stay will die. Those who submit themselves to their enemy will live. A hard message to take in.
To follow Jeremiah’s instructions on how they can live would take a fair amount of trust. What would you do?
The people who hear don’t like Jeremiah or his message. He is undermining the morale of the soldiers.
4 Then the officials said to the king, “Let this man be put to death, for he is weakening the hands of the soldiers who are left in this city, and the hands of all the people, by speaking such words to them. For this man is not seeking the welfare of this people, but their harm.”
5 King Zedekiah said, “Behold, he is in your hands, for the king can do nothing against you.”
6 So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the cistern of Malchiah, the king’s son, which was in the court of the guard, letting Jeremiah down by ropes. And there was no water in the cistern, but only mud, and Jeremiah sank in the mud. (Jer 38.4-6)
Zedekiah says he cannot stop them from doing what they want. Mob rule.
He gives in to the crowd.
So he allows them to do with Jeremiah what they wish. They throw him into the pit. They don’t care if he drowns. As it turns out the pit has no water. It’s turned into mud.
7 When Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, a eunuch who was in the king’s house, heard that they had put Jeremiah into the cistern—the king was sitting in the Benjamin Gate— 8 Ebed-melech went from the king’s house and said to the king, 9 “My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they did to Jeremiah the prophet by casting him into the cistern, and he will die there of hunger, for there is no bread left in the city.” (Jer 38.7-9)
An Ethiopian hears what they did to Jeremiah. I would expect an Ethiopian to be an unlikely helper for a Judean.
Help sometimes comes from unlikely places.
Jeremiah’s own people reject him, the LORD’s message and try to kill him. A Gentile on the other hand values his life and seeks to save him.
He pleads with Zedekiah for his life.
10 Then the king commanded Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, “Take thirty men with you from here, and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies.” 11 So Ebed-melech took the men with him and went to the house of the king, to a wardrobe in the storehouse, and took from there old rags and worn-out clothes, which he let down to Jeremiah in the cistern by ropes. 12 Then Ebed-melech the Ethiopian said to Jeremiah, “Put the rags and clothes between your armpits and the ropes.” Jeremiah did so. 13 Then they drew Jeremiah up with ropes and lifted him out of the cistern. And Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard. (Jer 38.10-13)
The King commands his rescue. They take care in how they do it. Then they look after him in the court.
Story of Israel
In Isaiah, King Hezekiah heard a similar message from their enemy. The message was designed to weaken the people trust in the LORD and Hezekiah.
Is Jeremiah their enemy or is he speaking for the LORD? The key difference with that story is that here, Jeremiah speaks for the LORD. He is seeking their welfare. He is speaking the truth.
Judah was about to be conquered. Jeremiah gave them a way out. A message they didn’t want to hear. The king gave him up to the people. A Gentile raised him out of the pit.
Story of Jesus
In the gospel many rejected Jesus and his message. Like Jeremiah, Jesus was delivered over and denied by the Jews in the presence of their king, Pilate.
24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” 25 And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” 26 Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified. (Jer 27.24-26)
Pilate gave in to the mob, just as Zedekiah did. Jesus was crucified, but Jeremiah was spared. God glorified his servant Jesus when he was raised to new life.
Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2015. All Rights Reserved.