The psalms introduce “the princes” of the Old Testament who are the middle-managers of ancient Israel. Traditionally the role of a leader but not the king, the prince is a person who had some authority, but is not the king.
Jeremiah speaks of them in chapters 37 and 38 as they are the ones who have conspired to imprison him. Their pressure and nationalistic furor have led Jerusalem down the path to ultimate destruction at the hands of Babylon. King Zedekiah is afraid of them, the people follow them, and the false prophets curry their favor.
The princes make Jeremiah enemy number one. Funny, it’s not their unbelief, their sin, their idolatry, their injustice, but it is Jeremiah who is the enemy, the only one to tell them the truth.
There is one who stands apart from them, and he alone takes up Jeremiah’s cause. He is given a name, but I believe that it isn’t his real name, for it is really the title of his job. The Scriptures call him Ebed-melech. His name means “king’s servant”. Jeremiah also notes that he is an “Ethiopian” (or more likely a Cushite), and Jeremiah notes that he is a eunuch. The no-name, family-less, ethnic outsider, an alien from Cush, who is the king’s servant — he is the one who has the stomach for truth, compassion, and justice. It is probably all those things which excluded him from “prince-hood,” that enabled him to see righteousness more clearly.
This sonnet is based on Jeremiah 37:12-38:28. If it is helpful you may listen to me read the sonnet via the player below.
The Princes, a meddling flock of liars,
A murder of crows whose cackle chatters,
Whose cawing chides and sneers safe from their wires
Whose tangled tales leave the truth in tatters.
A King who seems to want to hear, receive
Some word, is earnest for news, some token
Of truth, but controlled by fear he will not believe,
Cannot, for his courage fails, is broken.
A Friend, who is only known, by what he
Does, by where he’s from, by the price he’s paid;
Boldly he speaks the truth, who courageously
Fights for the right, who in friendship displayed
Reaches down, who does the good, does not tire,
Pulls me from the pit, out of muck and mire.
© Randall Edwards 2018.
This poem is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.
Artwork: Marc Chagall (1887-1985), Jeremiah in the Pit (from the Bible Series), 1958.