WHAT ARE “OLD CAST CLOUTS?”
by Shawn Brasseaux
“So Ebedmelech took the men with him, and went into the house of the king under the treasury, and took thence old cast clouts and old rotten rags, and let them down by cords into the dungeon to Jeremiah. And Ebedmelech the Ethiopian said unto Jeremiah, Put now these old cast clouts and rotten rags under thine armholes under the cords. And Jeremiah did so” (Jeremiah 38:11-12). What are “old cast clouts?”
The Jews have greatly abused Jeremiah the Prophet. Zedekiah, Judah’s final king, is wicked, so he has permitted the Israelites to persecute God’s messenger. The Babylonian Captivity has already begun several years prior, the LORD’S punishment on Judah for its habitual idolatry. Apostate Jerusalem is soon to fall to the Babylonian troops, and Jeremiah makes that quite clear in his preaching during the opening verses of the chapter! Pleading with his people not to resist the Gentile invasion, but rather submit to King Nebuchadnezzar and be taken political prisoners to Babylon (this is God’s will!), Jeremiah is falsely accused of “hate speech” (sound familiar?) and the princes of Judah inform King Zedekiah of his “treasonous” sermon. Those princes seek Jeremiah’s execution! Zedekiah, the coward that he is, permits them to incarcerate Jeremiah and do with him as they please.
“ Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the son of Hammelech, that was in the court of the prison: and they let down Jeremiah with cords. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire.  Now when Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, one of the eunuchs which was in the king’s house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon; the king then sitting in the gate of Benjamin;  Ebedmelech went forth out of the king’s house, and spake to the king saying,  My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they have done to Jeremiah the prophet, whom they have cast into the dungeon; and he is like to die for hunger in the place where he is: for there is no more bread in the city.  Then the king commanded Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, saying, Take from hence thirty men with thee, and take up Jeremiah the prophet out of the dungeon, before he die.”
The aforementioned “old cast clouts” are components of the “rescue mission” to deliver Jeremiah from his pit prison. He is confined in a hole in the ground (apparently, an empty cistern or water well), so straps are lowered down to him to hoist or lift him out. “Clouts” are scraps of cloth used to mend or patch. “Cast” here is like ripped, pulled apart, strips subsequently twisted or braided. “So they drew up Jeremiah with cords, and took him up out of the dungeon: and Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison” (verse 13).