Ebed-melech was the Judean official who helped Jeremiah. The Bible never says if Jesus was talking about a real person when He told the story of the Good Samaritan, but if He was, He certainly would have found a good model in Ebed-Melech—right down to the fact that Ebed-Melech wasn’t even an Israelite.
The Bible says that Ebed-Melech was a “Cushite,” meaning that he was from Cush, a land south of Egypt. Ebed-Melech was almost certainly black-skinned and would have been immediately recognizable as a Cushite. He was one of King Zedekiah’s officials, so he lived during the time just before the Babylonians invaded Judah and destroyed Jerusalem and the temple.
When Jeremiah warned the people that Jerusalem would soon be captured by the Babylonians, several royal officials arrested him and received permission from Zedekiah to lower him into an empty cistern. When Ebed-Melech saw him, however, he was afraid that Jeremiah would starve to death—so he received permission from Zedekiah to pull Jeremiah out of the cistern, even taking care to cover the ropes with rags to keep them from hurting Jeremiah (Jeremiah 38). Because Ebed-Melech trusted in the Lord and saved Jeremiah, the Lord promised to save Ebed-Melech’s life when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians.
Although the kingdom of Cush had several hostile encounters with Judah, there is a particularly hopeful promise about them in Psalm 87:4:
“I will record Rahab and Babylon among those who acknowledge me—Philistia too, and Tyre, along with Cush—and will say, ‘This one was born in Zion.’ ”