Jeremiah 20 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

Jeremiah 20
Pulpit Commentary
Now Pashur the son of Immer the priest, who was also chief governor in the house of the LORD, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things.
Then Pashur smote Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the high gate of Benjamin, which was by the house of the LORD.
Verse 2. - Pashur, being charged with the police of the temple, smites Jeremiah, i.e. causes stripes to be given him (a legal punishment, Deuteronomy 25:3; comp. 2 Corinthians 11:24), and then orders him to be put into the stocks; literally, that which distorts - some instrument of punishment which held the body in a bent or crooked position (comp. Jeremiah 29:26). The "stocks" were sometimes kept in a special house (2 Chronicles 16:10); these mentioned here, however, apparently stood in public, at the high - or rather, upper - gate of Benjamin, which was by - or, at - the house of the Lord. The gate, then, was one of the temple gates, and is called "the upper" to distinguish it from one of the city gates which bore the same name (Jeremiah 37:13; Jeremiah 38:7). It is presumably the same which is called "the new gate of the Lord's house" (Jeremiah 26:10; Jeremiah 36:10), as having been comparatively lately built (2 Kings 15:35).
And it came to pass on the morrow, that Pashur brought forth Jeremiah out of the stocks. Then said Jeremiah unto him, The LORD hath not called thy name Pashur, but Magormissabib.
Verse 3. - Symbolic change of name. Not... Pashur, but Magor-missabib; i.e. terror on every side. There is probably no allusion to the (by no means obvious) etymology of Pashur. Jeremiah simply means to say that Pashur would one day become an object of general horror (see on ver. 10).
For thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will make thee a terror to thyself, and to all thy friends: and they shall fall by the sword of their enemies, and thine eyes shall behold it: and I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall carry them captive into Babylon, and shall slay them with the sword.
Moreover I will deliver all the strength of this city, and all the labours thereof, and all the precious things thereof, and all the treasures of the kings of Judah will I give into the hand of their enemies, which shall spoil them, and take them, and carry them to Babylon.
Verse 5. - The strength; rather, the stores. The labors; rather, the fruits of labor; i.e. the profits.
And thou, Pashur, and all that dwell in thine house shall go into captivity: and thou shalt come to Babylon, and there thou shalt die, and shalt be buried there, thou, and all thy friends, to whom thou hast prophesied lies.
Verse 6. - Comp. the prophecy against Shebna (Isaiah 22:18). Since we find, in Jeremiah 29:26, Pashur's office occupied by another, it is probable that the prediction was fulfilled by the captivity of Pashur with Jehoiachin. To whom thou hast prophesied lies (comp. Jeremiah 14:13). Pashur, then, claimed to be a prophet.
O LORD, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived: thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed: I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me.
Verses 7-13. - A lyric passage, expressing the conflict in the prophet's mind owing to the mockery and the slander which his preaching has brought upon him, and at the same time his confidence of victory through the protection of Jehovah; a suitable sequel to the narrative which goes before, even if not originally written to occupy this position (see general Introduction). Verse 7. - Thou hast deceived me, etc.; rather, thou didst entice me, and I let myself be enticed. Jeremiah refers to the hesitation he originally felt to accepting the prophetic office (Jeremiah 1.). The verb does not mean "to deceive," but "to entice" (so rendered in ver. 10, Authorized Version), or "allure." The same word is used in that remarkable narrative of "the spirit" who offered to "entice" (Authorized Version, to "persuade") Ahab to "go up and fall at Ramoth-Gilead" (1 Kings 22:21). In Ezekiel, too, the same case is supposed as possible of Jehovah's "enticing" a prophet (Ezekiel 15:9). The expression implies that all events are, in some sense, caused by God, even those which are, or appear to be, injurious to the individual. Was Goethe thinking of this passage when he wrote the words, "Wen Gott betrugt, ist wohl be-trogon?" Applying the words in a Christian sense, we may say (with F. W. Robertson) that God teaches us by our illusions. Thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed; rather, thou didst take hold on me, and didst prevail. The expression is like "Jehovah spake thus to me with a grasp of the hand" (Isaiah 8:11).
For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the LORD was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily.
Verse 8. - For since I spake, I cried out, etc.; rather, For as often as I speak, I must shout; I must cry, Violence and spoil; I can take up no other tone but that of indignant denunciation, no other theme but that of the acts of injustice constantly committed (not merely, nor indeed chiefly, against the prophet himself). Was made; rather, is made.
Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.
Verse 9. - Then I said, etc.; rather, And when I say, I will not make mention of him, etc., then it becometh (i.e. I am conscious of a feeling) in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I weary myself to hold it in, but cannot. The prophet has repeatedly been tempted to withdraw from the painful duty, but his other and higher self (comp. 'Old Self and New Self' in the 'Lyra Apostolica') overpowers these lower bayings for peace and quiet. The fire of the Divine wrath against sin burns so fiercely within him that he cannot help resuming his work.
For I heard the defaming of many, fear on every side. Report, say they, and we will report it. All my familiars watched for my halting, saying, Peradventure he will be enticed, and we shall prevail against him, and we shall take our revenge on him.
Verse 10. - For I heard, etc.; rather, For I have heard the whispering of many; there is terror on every side. Inform (say they), and let us inform against him. This gives us the reason for Ms momentary inclinations to silence. He was surrounded by bitter enemies, who were no longer content with malicious words, but urged each other on to lay an information against him with the authorities as a public criminal. The first clause agrees verbatim with part of Psalm 31:13 (this is one of the psalms attributed, by a too bold conjecture, to Jeremiah). "There is terror on every side" (see above, ver. 3, and also note on Jeremiah 6:25) means "everything about me inspires me with terror." All my familiars is, literally, all the men of my peace; i.e. all those with whom I have been on terms of friendship (same phrase, Jeremiah 38:22). Watched for my halting; i.e. either laid traps for me or waited for me to commit some error for them to take advantage cf. The phrase, "my halting," is borrowed (?) from Psalm 35:15; Psalm 38:18 (Hebrew). He will be enticed; viz. to say something on which a charge of treason can be based.
But the LORD is with me as a mighty terrible one: therefore my persecutors shall stumble, and they shall not prevail: they shall be greatly ashamed; for they shall not prosper: their everlasting confusion shall never be forgotten.
Verse 11. - As a mighty terrible one; rather, as a formidable warrior. They shall not prevail. This was in fact, the Divine promise to Jeremiah at the outset of his ministry (Jeremiah 1:19). For they shall not prosper; rather, because they have not pros-pored.
But, O LORD of hosts, that triest the righteous, and seest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto thee have I opened my cause.
Verse 12. - Repeated, with slight variations, from Jeremiah 11:20.
Sing unto the LORD, praise ye the LORD: for he hath delivered the soul of the poor from the hand of evildoers.
Verse 13. - In the confidence of faith Jeremiah sees himself already delivered. He writes in the style of the psalmists, who constantly pass from the language of prayer to that of fruition.
Cursed be the day wherein I was born: let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed.
Verses 14-18. - Jeremiah curses the day of his birth. The passage is a further development of the complaint in Jeremiah 15:10, and stands in no connection with the consolatory close of the preceding passage. There is a very striking parallel in Job 3:3-12, and the question cannot be evaded, Which is the original? It is difficult to believe that Jeremiah copied from an earlier poem. Deep emotion expresses itself in language suggested by the moment; and, even after retouching his discourses, Jeremiah would leave much of the original expression. But impressions of this sort cannot be unreservedly trusted. The argument from parallel passages is only a subsidiary one in the determination of the date of books.
Cursed be the man who brought tidings to my father, saying, A man child is born unto thee; making him very glad.
And let that man be as the cities which the LORD overthrew, and repented not: and let him hear the cry in the morning, and the shouting at noontide;
Verse 16. - As the cities which the Lord overthrow. It is, so to speak, the "technical term" for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah which Jeremiah employs. So deeply imprinted was the tradition on the Hebrew mind, that a special word was appropriated to it, which at once called up thoughts of the awful justice of God (see Genesis 19:25; Isaiah 1:7 (?); 13:19; Amos 4:11; Deuteronomy 29:23 [22]; Jeremiah 49:18; Jeremiah 50:40). The cry... the shouting. The cry of the besieged for help; the shouting of the suddenly appearing assailants (comp. Jeremiah 15:8).

Because he slew me not from the womb; or that my mother might have been my grave, and her womb to be always great with me.
Wherefore came I forth out of the womb to see labour and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame?
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