I Want to be Poor or an Ethiopian Eunuch
Jeremiah Chapter 39 – The Church in 2012
By Candace Malcomson
For months, nay years; indeed many years, Jeremiah had been warning Israel and Judah of the coming captivity and here in chapter 39 we find that Judah and the city of Jerusalem is besieged, only to be finally conquered 18 months later when the enemy, the Babylonian princes, move in to the city. We are told that they came right in to the ‘middle gate’ (v2); they had ‘centre stage’ — a present day picture of our pulpits. The number of princes is very exacting and relevant to our picture of today’s church for there were SIX Babylonian princes (v3) and six is always the number of man in the Bible. God is giving us a picture of the captivity of our present-day church: the church is in the captivity of man’s ways and man’s heart which we know is desperately wicked.
Let us look at these six princes’ names for they too are relevant to our 21st century church; they are: Nergalsharezer, Samgarnebo, Sarsechim, Rabsaris, Nergalsharezer and Rabmag. (v3)
Nergalsharezer: Two princes bear this same name which means ‘prince of fire’. How many ‘princes of fire’ do we know in our churches today? These are not princes of God’s fire but princes of man’s fire. In contradiction of God’s word man has kindled his own fire. God warns against this in Isaiah 50:11 “Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.”
More specifically, these are the men and women who have come in to the church who minister with an enthusiasm and zeal which is not of the Lord. This is the zeal which Paul speaks of in Romans chapter 10 which is zeal without knowledge.
We are inclined to describe a Nergalsharezer minister as ‘fiery’ but are we certain of the source of that fire? There are plenty ‘princes of fire’ in our pulpits, world-wide, whose fire is their own fire and it has made countless millions ‘lie down in sorrow’. This is the great distinction between man’s fire and God’s fire for man’s fire will result in sorrow but God’s fire brings joy unspeakable.
Samgarnebo’s name means ‘sword of Nebo’, in other words he carried the cause of Nebo. Now Nebo (also Nabu) was the Babylonian god of wisdom and writing who also had power over the length of days of man. (The Greeks made him Apollo and the Romans made him Mercury.) This prince is carrying the cause of wisdom and writing right in to the centre stage: our pulpits. Whilst we do not despise writing, for the very Word of God is carried in to our lives through the written word, we do and should despise writing that comes from the wisdom of man. So much which sounds so very good or reads so very well from off the bookshop shelves, is simply the wisdom of man and at best can only lead to destruction for that is what lies in the heart of man. Much of the man-centred psychology which we hear in today’s church which sounds so wise or clever will be burnt up in eternity as wood, hay and stubble.
Sarsechim’s name means ‘prince of Eunuchs’ and Rabsaris was the name for the chief of all eunuchs or chamberlains; Rabsaris also means abundant or great/mighty/popular. We, the Church, are guilty of putting our preachers on a pedestal, thus putting the curse of popularity on to many preachers in our day.
These Babylonian eunuchs could not live as they were created to live; they had no freedom (remember Daniel was a eunuch in Babylon) but they dedicated their entire being to the evil palace of the Babylonian king.
The word Eunuch comes from an Assyrian term which means ‘he who is head to the king’ or ‘court officers’. Contrary to popular thought, a Eunuch was not always a castrate (one who has given up reproduction for service to his king), indeed Potiphar was a Eunuch (see Genesis 39:1 — the word used for ‘an officer’ is the word cariyc=saw-reece’; the same word for Eunuch) and we know most surely that he was married. What we have is one word used for different vocations. Either way, what we have in these two men’s names is the representation of the utter devotion and giving over to the Babylonian kingdom and Isaiah 39 shows us that it is considered a curse to be a Babylonian eunuch. Isaiah 39:7 “And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” Sarsechim’s and Rabsaris’s are in our pulpits: they do not serve Jehovah, LORD, but they serve another kingdom.
The fifth name of our six princes is perhaps the most disturbing and he is a ‘prince’ we find very active in our churches today. Rab-mag’s name means chief magician or chief soothsayer. The soothsayer divines and casts spells; he uses familiar spirits and occultic powers to tell him of the future and the past.
One of the great successes of our time is the Christian Counseling movement. By this I mean using man-made psychology. Let us establish that we know from God’s word that godly counsel is to be sought; counsel from a godly shepherd is as precious honey, for godly counsel will bring forth God’s Word, but we are talking about man-made Psychology used in churches in this hour.
In the very least Christian psychology denies the very vicarious nature of the blood of Christ, but at its very worst, it practices divination and cultic practices. Take heed lest you fall for the Rab-mag’s of our pulpit who want to ‘cut you free’ and ‘loose you’ from those things which Christ’s own blood has already set you free. They predict (‘prophesy’) your future and divine the past. Of these counselors, the Lord God Almighty says: Deuteronomy 18:10 “There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch”
To continue with our chapter 39 of Jeremiah, we read in verses 4 – 9 what the Chaldeans and Babylonian enemies did to Jerusalem and the people. The king’s sons were killed; the king’s eyes were put out; the king’s houses were razed to the ground; the walls of Jerusalem were broken down, and the remnant of the people, were taken captive. In other words the enemy devastated the city. BUT. . .
In contrast to these wealthy princes we now have a ‘poor people’ who “had nothing, in the land of Judah” who were suddenly given “vineyards and fields.” (v10) Imagine that! Yesterday you were poor; you had nothing, but today a stranger comes along and gives you as much as you can possibly contain. God used the persecutor, the captain of the guard, to give the poor persecuted an inheritance. Overnight, suddenly the poor people’s lives change. They inherited vineyards already planted and this word ‘fields’ means fields which were ploughed — ploughed by the labour of others.
The essential thing to note about these poor people is that they had nothing in the land of Judah; houses, lands, riches, position and (here’s the big one) Ministry: all (should) mean nothing to the true people of God. This word ‘poor’ means ‘thin or weak or needy’. These are the very things the true people of God ought to be: we ought to be weak for then is He strong; we ought to be needy of Him ‘every hour’ and the fact is the true people of God are thin — there are not great numbers. When God then revives His people, He will give them vineyards and fields they have not ploughed. God revives suddenly.
In the following verses we read of Jeremiah’s treatment at this time but more fascinating is the following cameo where we see Jeremiah sent to tell an Ethiopian Eunuch, called Ebed-melech, of God’s reward to him for how he (Ebed) protected and rescued Jeremiah (Jer 38: 7-14)and put his trust in the Lord.
Ebed-melech is a Eunuch of absolute opposite allegiance to the former Eunuchs of Babylon. This Ethiopian Eunuch (Jer 38:7) is serving in the king Zedekiah’s house and put his trust in Jehovah. He was instrumental in rescuing the servant of God, Jeremiah, from the miry dungeon in which he had been laid therefore God sends Jeremiah to give this godly man a wonderful promise: 17: “But I will deliver thee in that day, saith the LORD: and thou shalt not be given into the hand of the men of whom thou art afraid.” V18b: “because thou hast put thy trust in me, saith the LORD” If we trust in God, that which we fear shall not come upon us and your life will gain much: “thy life shall be for a prey unto thee”.
It is no mistake that hidden in this chapter in Jeremiah is the story of contrasting peoples. It now lies with us: which will we choose to be? I know that I want to be a part of those poor people or an Ethiopian Eunuch.