Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, is not a name one hears often from the pulpit. A notable white Bible scholar puts this partly to the fact that as a black man, many white Christian scholars, preachers, and missionaries, from the reformation era to the present day, have not felt comfortable, giving Ebed-melech airtime in Christendom.
Who is Ebed-melech? He is the Ethiopian who saved Prophet Jeremiah from painful death, when the King and princes of Judah, imprisoned Jeremiah in a well. The story of this honorable black man is told in Jeremiah Chapters 38 and 39.
Jeremiah 38:7-10 (The Living Bible) says: “When Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, an important palace official, heard that Jeremiah was in the cistern [well], he rushed out to the Gate of Benjamin where the king was holding court. “My lord the king,” he said, “these men have done a very evil thing in putting Jeremiah into the cistern. He will die of hunger, for almost all the bread in the city is gone.” Then the king commanded Ebed-melech to take thirty men with him and pull Jeremiah out before he died.”
Jeremiah angered the leaders of Judah, with his preaching that God’s is judging them for their corruption, wicked practices, and idolatry; as a result they will be captured and enslaved by Babylon. Jeremiah was deeply unpopular, so the leaders decided he should die, except for Ebed-melech who believed Jeremiah.
Consequently, we read from Jeremiah 39:15-18 (The Living Bible): “The Lord gave the following message to Jeremiah before the Babylonians arrived, while he was still in prison: “Send this word to Ebed-melech the Ethiopian: The Lord, the God of Israel, says: I will do to this city everything I threatened; I will destroy it before your eyes, but I will deliver you. You shall not be killed by those you fear so much. As a reward for trusting me, I will preserve your life and keep you safe.”
Jewish traditional teachings say Ebed-melech, like Enoch and Elijah, did not die but entered into paradise alive. The Bible narrative about Ebed-melech is so honorable, and powerfully contradicted the slave era and colonial era idea of the inferior black person, white Christians avoided given it airtime in the Churches.
In this era when we are exposing racial injustices, Lord open our hearts to fully accept the equality of all peoples, black and white, Amen!