Stuck in the Mud

Introduction

The following event is another true story. The 100% accurate account can be found at Jeremiah 38:1 – 13. This elaborated account is presented through the eyes of an unnamed “participant”.

Unnamed Palace Servant

I was on my knees busily polishing the marble floor when my top boss came marching past. Worry etched his extra-dark face as he headed off to Benjamin Gate where King Zedekiah sat, enjoying the fresh air.

Has Ebed Melech been summoned by the king? Has this good man offended His Majesty? But this is not proper protocol, what was his hurry? My boss must be panicked about something and seeks help from the king.

Peeking around the corner I could see I was right. Mr. Melech was in animated conversation with King Zedekiah himself. What could be so important?

He bows to the king and turns to come back, so I rush back to work. As he entered the palace he called my name and barked out, “Put that stuff away, we have to rescue the Prophet!”

I was confused but followed his orders. I put the polish and cloths in their proper place while Mr. Melech rounded up two others[1] and grabbed a rope from the storeroom. He threw it to me and without explanation he went downstairs. I am confused. He came back up carrying a bunch of old rags and worn-out clothes and he barked, “Let’s move it!”

Now I am totally confused. Rope, old clothes, big hurry to “save” the prophet. What will Boss Melech come up with next?

We marched to the temple yard with no chance for conversation.

My boss stops and calls down into the dark, damp cistern of the king’s son.[2] “Are you O.K., sir?”

The faint answer returns, “The Lord lives.”

Mr. Melech grabs the rope from me, ties up some of the cloths, and lowers it down the cistern.

“Put these rags and cloths under your arms.” He called down, “When we pull you out, these rags will pad your underarms and the ropes will not hurt you.”[3]

So, we pulled the prophet out. He was covered by smelly mud from waist to feet. How did he manage to breath down there? Who could have done this to such a man of God? Has he been down there all night?

We helped him get washed off and gave him a change of clothes. He gulped down water and tried to swallow some bread, then fell into exhausted sleep almost in our arms.

“What happened, Mr. Melech?” I asked as we cleaned the rope and removed the dirty rags. “Who could do such a terrible thing?”

So he told me the story.

He was in the king’s palace inspecting the rooms when he heard several nobles talking and laughing. He listened in and learned that they had reported Prophet Jeremiah to the king (no doubt speaking lies and false accusations). The king told them they could do whatever they saw fit. So they were laughing at the old prophet floundering in the mud “where all unclean animals (pigs) belong.”

So this explains the worry etched on Mr. Melech’s face as he rushed to see the king. But what made him, a foreigner from Ethiopia, care so much to risk his job, and maybe his life, to save him? So I pondered this old man, Jeremiah.

He is called “The Prophet.” Respected by most people but hated by a few. Unfortunately, these few are the ones in power. Jeremiah has been speaking on God’s behalf for 40 years. He has been beaten, jailed, ridiculed, and now thrown into a muddy cistern for his faithful service to the Living God. I decided then and there that if anyone is looking for a hero, brave and true, this is the man! Praise the Living God!

Things to Note

1. At the beginning of the Biblical account, four palace officials are mentioned by name. They were obsessed with permanently closing God’s spokesperson’s mouth. This is what they said to King Zedekiah, “Sir, this man must die! That kind of talk will undermine the morale of the few fighting men we have left, as well as that of all the people. This man is a traitor!” 38:4.

They admit that they have just “a few fighting men” while thousands of professional, fully armed enemy soldiers surround the city. On what source were they placing their hope for deliverance?

2. This story portrays Zedekiah as the wimpy king he was. He answered the four men’s request with these words: “All right. Do as you like. I can’t stop you.”38:5. But when another man makes a contrary request he does a 1800 turn: “Take thirty of my men with you, and pull Jeremiah out of the cistern before he dies” (38:10).

3. Ebed-Melech was a brilliant thinker. He approached the king as if the king didn’t know what was happening, saying, “these men have done a very evil thing.” Then, he mentions that Jeremiah might starve to death and added the strange words, “For almost all the bread in the city is gone.” There was a reason for this comment. King Zedekiah had recently made a very specific, unconditional promise that was now in danger of being forgotten, because Jeremiah was now “out of sight, out of mind.”

“The king also commanded that Jeremiah be given a loaf of fresh bread every day as long as there was any left in the city.” 37:21. Ebed-Melech indirectly called the king’s attention to this promise while not directly confronting his superior. This spurred the king’s action. Well Done E.M.


[1] Some manuscripts say “3 men”, some say “30 men.” The king was a weak leader. He wanted to assist this upright man to rescue the prophet, but he was not strong enough to confront the men who did the imprisoning. If he authorized “3” men, it means it was for a quick, stealth mission. If he authorized “30” men, it was intended as a show of force in case of confrontation.

[2] The ownership of the cistern is quite a remarkable detail. “It belonged to Malkijah, a member of the royal family.” Jer. 38:6. No one would want a human being (especially one of note) dying in their cistern, even if it was no longer used. This may have been a reason for King Zedekiah’s about-face and call to action. Had the officers intended to insult the king and his family?

[3] Nice little tidbit of information.