Jeremiah in the Well
Rev. Ron Friedrich
September 3 & 10, 2006
begin this lesson, please read Jeremiah
chapters 37 and 38. Because this text is long, I will not
reprint it here. You may read it in your own Bible, or click here to read it on your computer.
Zedekiah was the last Old Testament king of Judah (southern
Israel). (Click here to review the
last five kings of Israel)
Zedekiah's brother, Jehoiakim, hated Jeremiah because he hated
Jeremiah's message. In other words, Jehoiakim hated God's Word.
Zedekiah was different. He respected Jeremiah. Three times
he asked Jeremiah either to pray for him or to give him God's
advice. However, Zedekiah refused to trust God or to obey
him. He was a weak king, not because he lacked authority,
but because he lacked courage.
These two chapters give us a clear comparison between Jeremiah and
|"What does God
|"What will the
approval more than men's praise
praise more than God's approval.
more than he trusts God.
|What does God
want me to do?
|What will God do
|God is Lord
||God is a
|Stand alone for
what is true and right.
crowd; Politically Correct.
|Truth is worth
|His faith is
open, for all the world to see.
|His "faith" is
preserve his power
so Jeremiah lost nothing,
but he gained inheritance
- in his lifetime
- in heaven.
- lost wealth
- lost power
- lost family
- lost eyesight
- lost freedom
|Single minded -
focused on God
(Greek: "double soul")
focused on the world,
while trying to keep one on God.
love, forgiveness, and life;
zealously tried to share the same with
down) God's gifts
to gain approval from people.
Chapter 38 (New Century Version)
king's officers] heard what Jeremiah was telling all the people. He
said: 2 "This is what the LORD
says: 'Everyone who stays in Jerusalem will die from war, or hunger, or
terrible diseases. But everyone who surrenders to the Babylonian army
will live; they will escape with their lives and live.' 3 And this is what the LORD says: 'This city
of Jerusalem will surely be handed over to the army of the king of
Babylon. He will capture this city!' "
In a time of war, people who advocate surrender are traitors. So
the king's officers saw Jeremiah as a traitor.
4 Then the officers said to the king,
"Jeremiah must be put to death! He is discouraging the soldiers who are
still in the city, and all the people, by what he is saying to them. He
does not want good to happen to us; he wants to ruin us."
5 King Zedekiah said to them, "Jeremiah
is in your control. I cannot do anything to stop you."
Zedekiah "cannot do anything"? Wrong. Zedekiah is the
king. He is the highest civil authority in the country. He
privately respects Jeremiah, but Zedekiah did not protect Jeremiah's
life, because he was afraid of his advisors.
6 So the officers took Jeremiah and put him
into the well of Malkijah, the king's son, which was in the courtyard
of the guards. The officers used ropes to lower Jeremiah into the well,
which did not have any water in it, only mud. And Jeremiah sank down
into the mud.
The word that is translated here as "well"
can also mean "cistern",
which was a pit, a hole in the ground, for collecting rain water.
Sometimes people channeled water from a nearby stream to a
cistern. Some cisterns were large deep pits that were
covered. The cover slowed evaporation of the water. The
cover had a hole for lowering a bucket with a rope to pull water
out. The water in a cistern is not fresh and pure; it is
not good for drinking. (See Jeremiah 2:11-13. There God calls Himself
"the spring of living," and the idols which Israel worshipped as gods
were "broken cisterns that cannot hold water.")
The king's officers put Jeremiah into a pit (well or cistern) that was
not filled with water, nor was it completely dry.
Jeremiah sank down into the mud.
This was a really bad situation for Jeremiah! The officers really
did want to kill him.
7 But Ebed-Melech, a Cushite and a servant in
the palace, heard that the officers had put Jeremiah into the well.
Now meet the hero of this story.
Ebed-Melech was a "Cushite" -- from the country named
"Cush." Today we call that country "Ethiopia." It is near
Egypt. Ebed-Melech was an African. Ethiopia had - and
still has - a large population that worships the God of Israel.
According to their tradition, the Queen of Sheba who met King Solomon
was from Ethiopia and she introduced her people to the true God.
Ebed-Melech was not the only Ethiopian in the Bible who worshipped God.
King Zedekiah was sitting at the Benjamin Gate, 8
Ebed-Melech left the palace and went to the king.
Ebed-Melech said to him, 9 "My
master and king, these rulers have acted in an evil way. They have
treated Jeremiah the prophet badly. They have thrown him into a well
and left him there to die! When there is no more bread in the city, he
will starve to death."
Ebed-Melech served under the authority of the king. He
understood that in that position, he himself was not able to exersize
authority, but he was able to influence
the one who had authority - the king. When Ebed-Melech saw the
problem, he did not take matters into his own hands. He knew how
to make an effective appeal. He described the problem,. He
appealed to the king's responsiblity for justice, and he described how
Jeremiah was treat unfairly. Ebed-Melech did not accuse the king.
And did not tell the king what he should do. He let the king
decide on the best solution.
Ebed-Melech had better character than King Zedekiah, and Zedekiah knew
it. Fortunately, Zedekiah's conscience ws still working, and he
was humble enough to respond to Ebed-Melech in a positive way.
10 Then King Zedekiah commanded Ebed-Melech
the Cushite, "Take thirty men from the palace and lift Jeremiah the
prophet out of the well before he dies."
Why 30 men? Was Jeremiah that stuck, that it will require
the strength of 30 men to get him out? Probably not.
But Ebed-Melech needed that many to protect him from the officers who
want Jeremiah dead.
11 So Ebed-Melech took the men with him and
went to a room under the storeroom in the palace. He took some old rags
and worn-out clothes from that room. Then he let those rags down with
some ropes to Jeremiah in the well. 12 Ebed-Melech
the Cushite said to Jeremiah, "Put these old rags and worn-out clothes
under your arms to be pads for the ropes." So Jeremiah did as
Ebed-Melech said. 13 The men pulled
Jeremiah up with the ropes and lifted him out of the well. And Jeremiah
stayed under guard in the courtyard of the guard.
That means that Jeremiah still was under arrest in prison, but not in
If you have ever been "in the pit" because of what
other people did to you or said about you, you can identify with
Jeremiah. During those dark days, friends to whom you looked for
support, they abandoned you, the same as Zedekiah did to
Jeremiah. But you also noticed the quiet servants who have always
supported you, now they move to the front in your defense, same as
Ebed-Melech is one of my
favorite people in the Bible. Part of my fascination with
him is the meaning of his name.
Ebed means "servant."
Melech means "king."
If we follow the rules of grammar for the Hebrew language, Ebed-Melech
means "Servant of the
King." That describes his job. He worked for
King Zedekiah. So in
the land of Israel, his job title
became his name: Servant
of the King, Ebed-Melech.
How a good man like Ebed-Melech endured working for such a lousy boss
like Zedekiah, I don't understand. He serves as a good example
for all of us.
We can also translate Ebed-Melech's name as "Servant-King." So his name
becomes a prophetic picture of Jesus Christ, who is both our Suffering
Servant and our King
(see Isaiah 52:13-53:12
said, "I have not come
to be served but to serve, and to give My life as a ransom for many"
10:28; 1 Tim. 2:6
). The last hours before
his death on the cross, Jesus took a towel
and a large bowl of water, and He washed His Disciples' feet.
When He was
finished, He told them, "I did
this to be an example for you. As
I have washed your feet, now go and wash each other's feet."
Jeremiah was stuck in mud at the bottom of a pit. In the same
way, we are stuck in that awful mud called "sin" in a pit called
"death." Same as Ebed-Melech, Jesus
appealed for our lives. Then Jesus
came into our pit with us, and He got Himself stuck in our sin and died
alone in our place.
If I look at my life and my character, am I like Ebed-Melech, or am I
like Zedekiah? I must admit, I am more like Zedekiah.
But Christ my King and my Servant still loves me.
Psalm 40 says:
1 I waited patiently for the LORD.
He turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the pit of destruction,
out of the sticky mud.
He stood me on a rock
and made my feet steady.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many people will see this and worship him.
Then they will trust the LORD. (New
That is true! Jesus pulls us out of that deepest and final pit
After Ebed-Melech rescued Jeremiah from the muddy pit, the king sent
Jeremiah back to prison to live. However, our Holy King, after He
rescues us, He invites us to live in His own house - in heaven - as His
How can we respond to such great love as that?
"Lord Jesus, You are my King.
Make me Your servant."
The next chapter (Jeremiah 39) describes Babylon's
final attack against Jerusalem and the destruction of the city.
see Jeremiah 52, 2 Kings 25, and 2 Chronicles 36.)
to Ebed-Melech? (Jeremiah 39:15-18)
15 While Jeremiah was
guarded in the courtyard, the LORD spoke his
word to him: 16 "Jeremiah, go and
tell Ebed-Melech the Cushite this
message: 'This is what the LORD All-Powerful, the God of Israel, says:
Very soon I will make my words about Jerusalem come true through
disaster, not through good times. You will see everything come true
with your own eyes. 17 But I will
save you on that day, Ebed-Melech,
says the LORD. You will not be handed over to the
people you fear. 18 I
will surely save you, Ebed-Melech. You will not die from a sword, but
you will escape and live. This will happen because you have trusted in
me, says the LORD.' "
What happened to
39:1-7 = Jeremiah 52:3-11)
This is how Jerusalem was captured: Nebuchadnezzar king of
Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army and surrounded
the city to attack it. [Two and half years later] ...the city
wall was broken through. 3 And all
these officers of the king of Babylon came into Jerusalem and sat down
at the Middle Gate...
When Zedekiah king of Judah and all his soldiers saw them,
they ran away. They left Jerusalem at night and went out from the
king's garden. They went through the gate that was between the two
walls and then headed toward the Jordan Valley. 5
But the Babylonian army chased them and caught up with
Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho. They captured him and took him to
Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, who was at the town of Riblah in the
land of Hamath. There Nebuchadnezzar passed his sentence on Zedekiah. 6At Riblah the king of Babylon killed
Zedekiah's sons and all the important officers of Judah as Zedekiah
watched. 7 Then he put out
Zedekiah’s eyes. He put bronze chains on Zedekiah and took him to
...and there he stayed until he died. (Jer. 52:11)
happened to Jeremiah? (Jeremiah 38:11-14)
Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had given these orders
about Jeremiah through Nebuzaradan, commander of the guard: 12 "Find Jeremiah and take care of him. Do not
hurt him, but do for him whatever he asks you."
The Babylonian officers released Jeremiah from prison, and they
took him to his own home.
...and he stayed among
the people left in Judah.
The Babylonians allowed a few people -- the "poorest of the poor"
-- to stay in Judah, and gave them the vineyards and farm
fields. But some of them were irresponsible and rebellious.
One of them assassinated the Babylonian governor, led a rebellion,
kidnapped Jeremiah and Baruch, and took them with them to Egypt with
them. Jeremiah advised the Jews in Egypt
to return to Judah, but they rejected his message.
(Jeremiah 40-43) We do not know if Jeremiah was able to return to
Judah, or if he stayed in Egypt until his death.
What happened to Baruch? (Jeremiah 45)
Remember... he was Jeremiah's secretary
(scribe) in the story about the scroll.
was the fourth year that Jehoiakim son of Josiah was king of Judah.
Jeremiah the prophet told these things to Baruch son of Neriah, and
Baruch wrote them on a scroll: 2"This
is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says
to you, Baruch: 3 You have said,
'How terrible it is for me! The LORD has given me sorrow along
with my pain. I am tired because of my suffering and cannot rest.' "
LORD said, "Say this to
Baruch: 'This is what the LORD says: I will soon tear
down what I have built, and I will pull up what I have planted
everywhere in Judah. 5 Baruch, you
are looking for great things for yourself. Don't look for them, because
I will bring disaster on all the people, says the LORD. You will have to go many
places, but I will let you escape alive wherever you go.' "