Serve the “King of the Nations” and Survive
1. According to the pattern set by King Jehoiakim and his successor, his brother Zedekiah, will the world rulers today change their course due to what the Jeremiah class says?
WHAT if worldly rulers, especially those of Christendom, were to recognize that there is a modern-day Jeremiah class? What if they sent for it to find out what Jehovah’s prophetic word was concerning their fate? Would this mean that they were about to alter their course and to take the course leading to their surviving the foretold “great tribulation” upon this world? NO! Not if we take the last Judean king of Jerusalem as an example, namely, King Jehoiakim’s brother, Zedekiah. King Jehoiakim had forced Jeremiah and his secretary Baruch underground—for how long it is not recorded. But King Jehoiakim’s brother Zedekiah did worse to Jehovah’s faithful witness, Jeremiah. Just so, too, today’s worldly rulers will not change their headlong course. Too much is involved in the way of political interests. This bodes no good for the peoples whom they govern.—Jer. 37:2.
2. Under what circumstances did Zedekiah call upon Jeremiah to pray for the Israelites, but what did Jeremiah indicate to him?
2 Timewise, it was in the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign. The third and final siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians was on! Military forces were coming up from Egypt to help the beleaguered city. In order to meet this threat, the Babylonian besiegers withdrew. It seemed like the time for praying to Jehovah for his blessing upon the Egyptian relief columns. So King Zedekiah called upon Jeremiah to pray “in our behalf to Jehovah our God.” But Jehovah had instructed Jeremiah not to pray for this. Jehovah would not listen to such prayer. (Jer. 37:3; 11:14; 14:11, 12) So Jeremiah indicated victory for the Babylonians over the Egyptian relief forces by telling King Zedekiah that the Babylonians would come back and actually cremate Jerusalem.—Jer. 37:4-10.
3. Why did the city princes of Jerusalem have Jeremiah thrown into the “house of fetters”?
3 During the withdrawal of the Babylonians, Jeremiah felt free to leave Jerusalem and go to the priests’ city of Anathoth, in the territory of the tribe of Benjamin. When he was arrested in Jerusalem’s northern gate, the Gate of Benjamin, he denied that he was deserting to the enemy Babylonians. Treating him as if he were a subversive element, a traitor, the city princes had him put in the “house of fetters,” where he was detained for “many days.” (Jer. 37:11-16) How like the handling of the Jeremiah class today!
4. How did Jeremiah advise King Zedekiah to make it easier for himself, and why was Jeremiah transferred to the Courtyard of the Guard?
4 Would Jeremiah, when face to face with King Zedekiah himself, budge from his hard message? When King Zedekiah had him brought from the house of detention to a concealed place for private questioning, he boldly told the king that he would become prisoner to the Babylonians, whom Jehovah was using as his instruments. Whether the king willingly surrendered to them or had to be caught and taken prisoner against his will, the outcome would be the same. Jeremiah was in favor of the king’s making it easier for himself. Jeremiah gave the king no false assurances. Frankly, Jeremiah was doing no wrong to his own people and to their king, and so why should he be kept in a place of detention where it would mean his early death? At his request, King Zedekiah had him transferred to the Courtyard of the Guard, a sort of military prison for Jeremiah. His diet was bread and water.—Jer. 37:17-21.
THE WISE COURSE NOT A SUBVERSIVE ONE
5. What was the right and proper thing for King Zedekiah to do respecting the Babylonian Empire, and why was it left to the people to take individual action respecting Jerusalem?
5 Zedekiah had been made king of Jerusalem by Emperor Nebuchadnezzar. Yet, after being a tributary king to Nebuchadnezzar for eight years, Zedekiah had rebelled against him. The right and proper course was to cease from his rebellion and peacefully submit to the Empire that Jehovah had let become the Third World Power of Bible history. If he as king refused to do this, then it would be in the interest of the people for them to do so. Yes, do just as Jeremiah had declared to the people in Jerusalem:
“This is what Jehovah has said, ‘The one continuing to dwell in this city is the one that will die by the sword, by the famine and by the pestilence. But the one going out to the Chaldeans is the one that will keep living and that will certainly come to have his soul as a spoil and alive.’ This is what Jehovah has said, ‘Without fail this city will be given into the hand of the military force of the king of Babylon, and he will certainly capture it.’” (Jer. 38:2, 3)
King Zedekiah should have taken the lead in following this inspired counsel. But since he did not do so, it fell to his subjects individually to take action with faith in Jehovah’s directives.
6. Why did the princes have Jeremiah thrown into the cistern in the courtyard of the king’s son?
6 The princes of Jerusalem clamored for Jeremiah’s death, as they claimed that he was weakening the hands of the armed forces defending the city; he was undermining the will of the people to fight. So, without the king’s consent, they had Jeremiah thrown into a cistern in the Courtyard of the Guard, this being in the home of Malchijah the “son” of Zedekiah. At the bottom of the cistern, Jeremiah sank into the mud. Now he could not follow his own advice to others.
7. Who now came to Jeremiah’s rescue, and on what basis?
7 When, now, things looked blackest for Jeremiah, ropes were being lowered into the cistern, with rags to serve as cushions for his armpits, to hoist him out of the miry deep. An Ethiopian eunuch named Ebed-melech, in the king’s employ, had learned of the prophet’s plight. Fearing Jeremiah’s death down there in the miry cistern, he made bold to speak to the king. He got the king’s order to take along 30 men and to get Jeremiah out.—Jer. 38:10-12.
8, 9. (a) In secret interview, how did King Zedekiah free Jeremiah from any pressure to be a false prophet to him? (b) What unchanged advice did Jeremiah give Zedekiah, setting what alternatives before him?
8 King Zedekiah, at whose order Jeremiah had been rescued, called for another secret interview with him in an entryway of the temple. Zedekiah swore by the life-giving Jehovah not to have the prophet put to death for telling him God’s truth, but did not promise to listen to it. Freed from the threat of death that could have turned him into a false prophet, Jeremiah stuck true to the identical message that had earlier put him in danger of death:
9 ‘King Zedekiah, either you yourself as king surrender Jerusalem to the Chaldeans or else Jehovah will take it upon himself to surrender it to be burned down by the Chaldeans. Have no fear of being treated abusively by Jews who have already heeded my advice and escaped to the besiegers. If you do not surrender, then what? Then the womenfolk who survive will be led forth singing out how those who kept on peaceful terms with you misled and overreached you and treacherously left you to sink into the mire, whereas they themselves took to flight. Also, your own wives and children will be led out captives. You yourself will not escape from the clutches of the king of Babylon. Alas, you will become responsible for the burning down of the city!’—Jer. 38:17-23.
10. How did Jeremiah make it easier for King Zedekiah by what he told the inquiring princes, and till what event did he continue confined in his new quarters?
10 The princes of Jerusalem were the ones who acted as “men at peace” with King Zedekiah. Afraid of these, he told Jeremiah, under pain of death, not to tell them the facts, if they inquired. He was merely to turn their inquiries aside by saying he had been granted an audience with the king, since he did not want to be returned to detention in the house of Jehonathan, the secretary, to die there. By not telling the inquirers the full story about the secret interview, he would make it easy for the king. In agreement with what Jeremiah told the suspicious princes, he was kept prisoner at another place, the Courtyard of the Guard. There he endured confinement till the ninth day of the fourth month (Tammuz) of 607 B.C.E., when the Babylonians breached Jerusalem, captured it, putting King Zedekiah to flight with his troops.—2 Ki. 25:2-5.
11. On the day that Jerusalem fell, how was escape by means of the Middle Gate blocked to the penned-up Jews?
11 So, as Jeremiah had warned, Jehovah, upon whose earthly throne at Jerusalem King Zedekiah had been sitting, came under the obligation to surrender the city to its besiegers. Consequently, on that summer day of Tammuz 9, 607 B.C.E., instead of Jewish judges sitting in the Middle Gate of Jerusalem to handle cases at law, five Babylonian princes, whose names are recorded, sat in that entryway of the city. Thus they blocked up escape for the penned-up Jews by this exit. (Jer. 39:1-3; 1 Chron. 29:23) Alas!
12. How did King Zedekiah fail to defeat Jeremiah’s prophecy about him, and what spectacle was he obliged to witness in front of King Nebuchadnezzar?
12 As King Zedekiah and his troops fled from the invaded city under cover of night, he may have congratulated himself that he had foiled the dire prophecy of Jeremiah about him. But he failed to make his way down to Pharaoh Hophra of Egypt, his ally. (Jer. 44:30) Babylonian pursuers overtook him in the desert plain of Jericho, in the Arabah or Rift Valley, some miles to the northeast of Jerusalem. In copper fetters he was taken up north to the city of Riblah in the land of Hamath, to have a confrontation with King Nebuchadnezzar. Before Zedekiah was blinded at Nebuchadnezzar’s order, he was forced to witness the horrifying spectacle of his own sons being killed. Many of his court and military officials were likewise put to death. High Priest Seraiah and his assistant, Zephaniah, who had not backed up their fellow priest, Jeremiah, were killed, along with three temple doorkeepers.—2 Ki. 25:6, 7, 18-21.
13. (a) How does all that ancient history connect up with 1914 C.E.? (b) Why is it logical to ask whether Ebed-melech prefigured a class today, and with what answer?
13 Does all that ancient history have any relation to our 20th century? Yes! About two lunar months after the calamity upon King Zedekiah, his realm, the land of Judah, became totally desolated. There the “seven times” of the nations, “the times of the Gentiles,” began their run of 2,520 years, to end in 1914 C.E. (Dan. 4; Luke 21:24, Authorized Version) Today that which was foreshadowed by Jerusalem of King Zedekiah’s day is nearing its destruction, according to the judicial decision of Jehovah, the “King of the nations.” (Jer. 10:7) How fitting it is, then, that there should be on earth at this critical time a class of worshipers of Jehovah God who were prefigured by the prophet-priest Jeremiah! In the light of this we properly ask, Is there also on earth a class that was prefigured by the Ethiopian eunuch who befriended Jeremiah, namely, Ebed-melech the servant of King Zedekiah? Modern facts indicate that there is.
14. (a) As to skin color, what was Ebed-melech? (b) Why did he not try to escape from Jerusalem with his royal master?
14 Ebed-melech did not try to escape from Jerusalem along with his royal master, Zedekiah. He was an Ethiopian, the kind of man about whom Jeremiah asked the question, “Can a Cushite [or, Ethiopian] change his skin? or a leopard its spots?” (Jer. 13:23, NW marginal reading) Ebed-melech was a Black,* and in Byington’s Bible translation he is called “ʽEbed-Melec the Negro.” (Jer. 38:7, 12; 39:15, The Bible in Living English) He did not need to flee from Jerusalem in an attempt to find safety. He had been given the promise by the God of Jeremiah respecting his preservation. That is why, after we are told what was done with regard to a few poor Jews by Nebuchadnezzar and with regard to Jeremiah, his account connects up with Jeremiah 38:28. In fact, Moffatt’s A New Translation of the Bible transplants Jeremiah 39:15-18 to right after Jeremiah 38:28, to read as an unbroken story.
15. (a) When did Jehovah’s word concerning Ebed-melech occur to Jeremiah? (b) What did this word say respecting the Ethiopian?
15 So the verses quoted below are to be understood as applying before Jerusalem fell to the besieging Babylonians on Tammuz 9, 607 B.C.E., in the 11th year of King Zedekiah’s reign:
“And to Jeremiah the word of Jehovah occurred while he happened to be shut up in the Courtyard of the Guard [and before the Jewish soldiers fled from there at Jerusalem’s fall], saying, ‘Go, and you must say to Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, “This is what Jehovah of armies, the God of Israel, has said: ‘Here I am bringing true my words upon this city for calamity and not for good, and they will certainly happen before you in that day. And I will deliver you in that day,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘and you will not be given into the hand of the men of whom you yourself are scared. For I shall without fail furnish you an escape, and by the sword [of the Babylonians] you will not fall; and you will certainly come to have your soul as a spoil, because you have trusted in me,’ is the utterance of Jehovah.”’”—Jer. 39:15-18.
16. So over what was Ebed-melech to rejoice like those who rejoice over the taking of spoil, and what yet remains although we have no further history of him?
16 So, at the fall of Jerusalem this friend of Jehovah’s prophet left himself at the disposal of Jeremiah’s God. Whether he was deported to Babylon and died a natural death there or was left back in the land of Judah as one of the poor people of the land under Governor Gedaliah, the Bible does not say. At any rate, his soul or life did not fall prey to the Babylonian soldiers but he was allowed to retain his human soul like one who rejoices over spoil. Thus he could live on and worship the God in whom he had trusted, the God whose prophet he had saved from death in the miry cistern of besieged Jerusalem. By this he had doubtless incurred the hatred of the princes who had holed up Jeremiah in the prison to die. But Ebed-melech was not to be given into their hand for them to take vengeance. Under Jehovah’s promised protection he had no reason to be afraid of what those princes might want to do to him in reprisal. At this point he vanishes from Bible history, but not so his name nor God’s promise to him.
TODAY’S COUNTERPART OF EBED-MELECH
17. What does the Ethiopian’s name, Ebed-melech, mean, and in what sense was this name true of him?
17 Is there really a counterpart today of Ebed-melech in connection with the modern Jeremiah class? Yes! Who, then, make up the modern counterpart of Ebed-melech? Just how he came by that name we do not know. As a name Ebed-melech means “Servant of a King,” or, “King’s Servant.” As a eunuch he may have been castrated* and deprived of raising his own family. But, true to his name, he was in the court service of the king of Judah. Further, due to his trust in Jehovah, he proved to be in the service of more than an earthly king. Zedekiah sat on the royal throne at Jerusalem that was called “Jehovah’s throne.” (1 Chron. 29:23) Logically, then, Ebed-melech showed himself to be, in fact, in the service of the “King of the nations,” Jehovah. For being in the service of Jehovah’s typical kingdom in the land of Judah, he was amply rewarded by being preserved when unfaithful Jerusalem was destroyed.
18. According to the description of Revelation 7:14, 15, the “great crowd” was prefigured by what individual of Jeremiah’s day?
18 When it comes to being preserved through Christendom’s “great tribulation,” Revelation 7:14, 15 says concerning the “great crowd” there described: “These are the ones that come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. That is why they are before the throne of God; and they are rendering him sacred service day and night in his temple.” As a class, those who make up that “great crowd” of tribulation survivors were prefigured by Ebed-melech, an outstanding survivor of Jerusalem’s destruction.
19. The uppermost desire of the Ebed-melech class is to be in whose service, and what are they willing to incur in behalf of the Jeremiah class?
19 This class really learns to fear Jehovah and to trust in him. Their uppermost desire is to be in the service of the Universal Sovereign, the “King of the nations,” rather than to be serving the political rulers and kings of man-made governments. They see how power-greedy rulers, like Adolf Hitler who gained power in Germany in 1933 C.E., tried and still keep on trying to exterminate Jehovah’s anointed remnant who were prefigured by his prophet Jeremiah. So the Ebed-melech class raise a protest and make an appeal in the courageous effort to help the Jeremiah class, even though this means incurring the hatred and persecution of the religious and political enemies of the Jeremiah class.
20, 21. (a) The Ebed-melech class came to view from what year on particularly? (b) How does this class try to imitate the Ebed-melech of Jeremiah’s day, and what action do they encourage all people to take with regard to the world empire of false religion?
20 These backers of Jehovah’s anointed remnant of witnesses came to view particularly in the year 1935, when the “great crowd” of “tribulation” survivors was identified.
21 Regardless of whether the Ebed-melech class have any influence with the governments of Christendom or not, they have never favored the religious-political endeavor to put the Jeremiah class to death or to make the Jeremiah class ineffective in Jehovah’s public service as if by lowering them into a miry cistern in a guardhouse. In spite of facing the fear-inducing disapproval of the political-religious authorities, they have done all they could to hoist the Jeremiah class out of the miry “cistern” of inoperativeness. To this very day they have been courageously acting world wide at the side of the Jeremiah class, proclaiming the doom of Christendom and of the world empire of false religion, Babylon the Great. They are encouraging people of all kinds to desert this doomed system of things and to take a firm stand on the side of Jehovah’s executional forces under the command of a general greater than Nebuchadnezzar, namely, Jesus Christ. Thus they prove that they have put their full trust in Jehovah, “King of the nations.”
22. By what symbolic “sword” will this class not fall?
22 Because of such unwavering devotion to him and his modern-day Jeremiah class, Jehovah loves this composite Ebed-melech. He promises that this class will not fall by the “sword” of the approaching “war of the great day of God the Almighty” at Har–Magedon.—Rev. 16:13-16.
23. The spoil that they take possession of will be what, and how have they acted like the “sheep” in Jesus’ parable of Matthew 25:31-34?
23 As a reward from Jehovah, they will have their earthly lives, their souls, preserved for them like the spoil of warfare, deservedly coming into possession of a preserved life. Like the sheeplike ones in Jesus’ parable of the “sheep” and the “goats,” they have done good to the remnant of Christ’s spiritual brothers. When these were “in prison,” in a miry “cistern” or death house, they have visited these underground or openly and have served to free them for further action in the grand finale of Jehovah’s witness work amid a doomed worldly system of things.—Matt. 25:31-36, 46.
24. For the services of what class does the Jeremiah class of today give thanks to God, and what united action will they carry on after surviving the “great tribulation”?
24 Let it be known everywhere that the Jeremiah class thank Jehovah for raising up the “great crowd” of “other sheep,” prefigured by the Ethiopian eunuch Ebed-melech of the last days of unfaithful Jerusalem, the capital city of the kingdom of Judah. Unspeakable will be the pleasure of the Jeremiah class in surviving the “great tribulation” with the Ebed-melech class at their side. Shoulder to shoulder they will begin working together in the New Order into which they will be introduced under Christ’s millennial kingdom. Such an introduction into the brilliant New Order will be their reward for having now served the Sovereign of the universe, Jehovah, the “King of the nations.”
Another discussion in the series on Jeremiah’s prophecy will appear in “The Watchtower” of March 1, 1980
According to A Greek-English Lexicon, compiled by Liddell and Scott (1948), the Greek word for Ethiopian (Aithiops) means “Burntface, i.e. Ethiopian, negro, Homer, etc.”
[Picture on page 24]
Ebed-melech, accompanied by 30 men, rescues Jeremiah