The oracle about Ebed-melech (Jer 39:15-39:18)

“The word of Yahweh

Came to Jeremiah

While he was confined

In the court of the guard.

‘Go!

Say to Ebed-melech,

The Ethiopian.

Thus says Yahweh of hosts!

The God of Israel!

‘I am going to fulfill my words

Against this city

For evil,

Not for good.

They shall be accomplished

In your presence

On that day.

But I will save you

On that day.’

Says Yahweh.

‘You shall not be

Handed over

To those whom you dread.

I will surely save you.

You shall not fall

By the sword.

But you shall have

Your life

As a prize of war.

Because you have trusted

In me.’

Says Yahweh.”

Perhaps this oracle should have been at the end of chapter 38, but it is here. Jeremiah is still in the royal prison as he gets this oracle about the Ethiopian eunuch Ebed-melech, who had saved him from starvation and death in the cistern well. Jeremiah was to go to Ebed-melech to tell him what Yahweh had told him. Yahweh was going to destroy Jerusalem because of its evil ways, in the sight of this Ethiopian. However, the God of Israel was going to save him as he would not be handed over to the Babylonians to die by the sword. Ebed-melech was going to save his life as a prize of war. This usually meant that he would be taken into captivity with the king of Judah. His life would be saved because he trusted in Yahweh.

Live or die (Jer 38:2-38:3)

“Thus says Yahweh!

‘Those who stay

In this city

Shall die

By the sword,

By famine,

Or by pestilence.

But those who go out

To the Chaldeans

Shall live.

They shall have their lives

As a prize of war.

They will live.’

Thus says Yahweh!

‘This city shall surely

Be handed over

To the army

Of the king of Babylon.

It shall be taken.’”

Jeremiah delivered an oracle of Yahweh that said that they had a choice, stay in the city and die or live by surrendering to the Babylonians. If they remained in the city of Jerusalem, they would die by the sword, famine, or pestilence, the 3 common ways of dying. However, they would live, if they surrendered to the Chaldeans. They would save their lives as a reward, thus a prize of war. This is practically identical to what was said in chapter 21. Jeremiah was clear. The city of Jerusalem was going to fall into the military hands of the king of Babylon, one way or another.

The choice of life or death (Jer 21:8-21:9)

“To this people

You shall say.

‘Thus says Yahweh.

‘See!

I am setting before you

The way of life

Or the way of death.

Those who stay in this city

Shall die by the sword,

By famine,

Or by pestilence.

But those who go out,

Those who surrender to the Chaldeans,

Who are besieging you,

Shall live.

They shall have their lives

As a prize of war.’”

Yahweh told Jeremiah to tell the people of Jerusalem that they had a choice of life or death. If they stayed in the city, they would die by the sword, famine, or pestilence. However, if they surrendered to the Chaldeans, who had surrounded the city, they would live. They should consider their lives a prize of war.