🔼The name Ebed-melech: Summary
- Slave Of the King, Servant Counselor
- From (1) עבד ('abad), to work or serve, and (2) מלך (melek), king.
🔼The name Ebed-melech in the Bible
The name Ebed-melech is assigned to only one man in the Bible but he's quite the hero. When Jeremiah the prophet announces the imminent destruction of Jerusalem, a group of royal officials has him thrown in a cistern, and this during a famine. The Cushite Ebed-melech is another official at the court of king Zedekiah, and he protests Jeremiah's effective execution with the king. The king allows Ebed-melech to rescue Jeremiah, and God awards Ebed-melech with survival of the Chaldean invasion (Jeremiah 38:7, 39:18).
🔼Etymology of the name Ebed-melech
The name Ebed-melech obviously consists of two elements. The first part of this name comes directly from the root עבד ('abad), meaning servant or to serve:
The verb עבד ('abad) means to work or serve, and the noun עבד ('ebed) denotes someone who works: from a slave to a hired expert. The Greek equivalent of this noun is δουλος (doulos).
The second part of the name Ebed-melech comes from the ubiquitous word מלך (melek), meaning king:
The noun מלך (melek) means king, and a king is not merely a glorified tribal chief but the alpha of a complex, stratified society, implying a court and a complex government.
The Bible insists that a society must be governed by a triad of anointed sovereigns, namely prophets, priests and the king. A good king causes his people to be prosperous and peaceful whereas a bad one causes poverty and strife. The difference between the two is dictated by how close to the Law of Nature (a.k.a. the Word of God) the king operates. A kingdom that is wholly in tune with the Law consists of only sovereign individuals and is thus without a physical king.
An Aramaic cognate verb מלך (malak) means to consult, which confirms that the concept of royalty indeed evolved from wisdom and intellectual prowess rather than brute physical or political strength, as is commonly suggested.
From this noun derives the verb מלך (malak): to be or become king, the nouns מלכה (malka) and מלכת (meleket): queen or court-lady, the noun מלוכה (meluka): kingship or royalty, and the nouns מלכות (malkut), ממלכה (mamlaka) and ממלכות (mamlakut), meaning sovereignty or kinghood.
According to BDB Theological Dictionary the verb מלך as used in Nehemiah 5:7 is a loan word from Aramaic, and since the Chaldeans had more to do with Aram than with Israel, perhaps the melech part of Ebed-melech has more to do with counsel than with rule.
Thus Ebed-melech may mean Servant Counselor, or it may mean Slave Of the King (NOBSE Study Bible Name List), or Servant Of The King (BDB Theological Dictionary and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names). In fact, it may even mean Servant-King.