THE STORY OF EBED-MELECH (Does obedience really matter?)

JEREMIAH 39:15-17: “Meanwhile the word of the Lord had come to Jeremiah while he was shut up in the court of the prison, saying, “Go and speak to Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Behold, I will bring My words upon this city for adversity and not for good, and they shall be performed in that day before you. But I will deliver you in that day,” says the Lord, “and you shall not be given into the hand of the men of whom you are afraid.” NKJV
OBSERVATION: Does obedience really matter? Is it really important to be a doer of the Word and not a hearer only? In the midst of the book of Jeremiah, we find a wonderful story of someone most people may have never heard of – Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian.

I venture to guess that many people have never even read the story of Ebed-Melech. Who is he? Why is his store so significant? How is this story so important for me to understand and apply to my life today? Let’s take a look at the story as it unfolds and learn the wonderful truth it holds.

Jeremiah was called by God to prophesy against Jerusalem for her sins and rebellion against God. Most of the book of Jeremiah is difficult to read and really not very encouraging. The word of the Lord was simply this – Judgment is coming. The King of Babylon will destroy the Temple, burn down the city, kill people without discretion, and take the survivors away captive.

Obviously, this angered the leading officials and the commanders of the dwindling army that was left in Jerusalem. They viewed Jeremiah’s words as nothing short of treason. They refused to repent and worse yet – they plotted to kill Jeremiah. Finally, they went to King Zedekiah and pleaded for him to let them kill Jeremiah. King Zedekiah’s defenses had worn down. He replied to their request,

  • “…Look, he is in your hand. For the king can do nothing against you.” Jeremiah‬ ‭38:5‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

What happened next was tragic for Jeremiah. They took him from the prison he was in and lowered him into a dungeon (cistern) that did not have any water but was filled with thick mud.

  • “So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the king’s son, which was in the court of the prison, and they let Jeremiah down with ropes. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire. So Jeremiah sank in the mire.” Jeremiah‬ ‭38:6‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Jeremiah, stuck in the mud, without food or water, was being left for dead. The leaders and nobles all conspired against him. The King resolved himself to Jeremiah’s fate. Everyone was happy with what had just happened except for one man.

This man was Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian.

  • “Now Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian, one of the eunuchs, who was in the king’s house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon. When the king was sitting at the Gate of Benjamin, Ebed-Melech went out of the king’s house and spoke to the king, saying: “My Lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they have done to Jeremiah the prophet, whom they have cast into the dungeon, and he is likely to die from hunger in the place where he is. For there is no more bread in the city.” Then the king commanded Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian, saying, “Take from here thirty men with you, and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the dungeon before he dies.” Jeremiah‬ ‭38:7-10‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

In all of Jerusalem, there was only one man who was willing to be obedient to the Lord and stand up for the Lord’s prophet. He was not a Hebrew. He was not from a priestly line. He was not one of the princes or nobles. He was a foreigner who had joined himself with God’s people, had earned the king’s respect, and was part of the king’s court. Ebed-Melech risked his life and his position when he approached the king. Yet, he had no regard for all of this.

He knew that he must obey God!

Fast forward. The King of Babylon and his army break through the walls of Jerusalem. King Zedekiah tries to escape. He is captured and has to watch the Babylonians kill all of his sons. All the princes and nobles who conspired against Jeremiah were also killed. Jeremiah was released from prison by the King of Babylon and allowed to live wherever he chose. And, one other man was given preferential treatment and protected by the Lord. It was Ebed-Melech, the Ethiopian!

  • “Go and speak to Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Behold, I will bring My words upon this city for adversity and not for good, and they shall be performed in that day before you. But I will deliver you in that day,” says the Lord, “and you shall not be given into the hand of the men of whom you are afraid. For I will surely deliver you, and you shall not fall by the sword; but your life shall be as a prize to you, because you have put your trust in Me,” says the Lord.’ ”. Jeremiah 39:16-18

If there is ever any doubt that obedience makes a difference – just consider the story of Ebed-Melech, the Ethiopian. God is watching our lives and He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). We don’t always see it at once, and our obedience may not even be fully rewarded in this lifetime. Yet, we can stand on the sure promises of God’s Word – to obey is truly better than sacrifice!

  • “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves…But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” ‭‭James‬ ‭1:21-22, 25‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Lord, help me to live my life like Ebed-Melech. Help me to be a doer of the Word and not a hearer only. And, help me to rest in Your promise that he who is a doer of the Word will be blessed in what he does!


In Jesus Name!

About Kirk's Devotional Journal

Kirk L. Zehnder is the Founder of Resurrection Christian Outreach. RCO is a ministry that promotes the growth and vitality of the local church through speaking engagements, seminars, various media tools, and written curriculum and books. This ministry was started over 35 years ago by Kirk as a means to strengthen the church that he was pastoring. It grew as Kirk began to share these tools with other churches. Today many of the materials are being used by local churches both nationally and internationally. Kirk's Devotional Journal is a result of struggling with Bible reading programs that never seemed to work. Kirk feels the Lord helped him discover an easy-to-follow program to Read, Reflect, Pray, and Journal through the Bible in one year. This program is called L.I.F.E. Unlike other programs there are no dates to follow. You can miss a day and still complete your reading. You never feel like the dates and verses you missed are chasing you. You are free to enjoy your daily Biblical journey and listen to the voice of The Lord. For more information on the L.I.F.E. plan, send an email to Kirk is also available for speaking engagements, seminars, and retreats. With over 40 years of professional business and pastoral ministry experience, Kirk brings a unique combination of practical wisdom, humor, and Biblical insight. If you would like Kirk to speak at your church, school, or ministry, please send an email to and we will get back to you as soon as possible to discuss your opportunity.
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