First Reading: Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10

Rescue from the Well

4 Then the princes said to the king, "Please let this man be put to death; because he weakens the hands of the men of war who remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, in speaking such words to them: for this man doesn't seek the welfare of this people, but the hurt." 5 Zedekiah the king said, Behold, he is in your hand; for the king is not he who can do anything against you. 6 Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into the dungeon of Malchijah the king's son, that was in the court of the guard: and they let down Jeremiah with cords. In the dungeon there was no water, but mire; and Jeremiah sank in the mire.

8 Ebedmelech went out of the king's house, and spoke to the king, saying, 9 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 in the place where he is, because of the famine; for there is no more bread in the city. 10 Then the king commanded Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, saying, Take from here thirty men with you, and take up Jeremiah the prophet out of the dungeon, before he dies.

World English Bible

Between 588 and 587 B.C., the Babylonian army laid siege to Jerusalem. The first siege ended with retreat in late 588 or early 587. But the army returned and conquered the city in July 587. These verses report the political climate in the city during this time.

As a prophet that was not part of the royal court, Jeremiah was the leading critic of the Zekediah, the king. And the people listened to his diatribe. In 37:3-10, Zekediah sent court officials to appease Jeremiah, but they were rebuffed with a prediction of doom. In 38:4-6, the princes took their revenge. Since the king would not allow them to murder the prophet [4-5], they lowered him into a dried-up well to die by starvation [6].

But Jeremiah had friends in high places. The court eunuch, Ebed-melech the Ethiopian (a trusted member of the royal family since he guarded the king's harem), interceded and convinced the king to save the prophet [7-8]. The death of the prophet could cause riots among the starving populace of the city, something the king could ill afford.

That day, wisdom prevailed over the jealousy of politicians. But the parallels between Jeremiah and Jesus cannot be missed. Both preached moral change and religious renewal. Both laced their preaching with the threat of God's wrath. Both suffered for their message.

We face that challenge Jeremiah and Jesus laid before their audience. When can we put aside our own petty rage to see the greater good? When do we stop our selfish behavior to work for the just treatment of others?