Jeremiah 20


Jeremiah, on account of his prophesying evil concerning Judah

and Jerusalem, is beaten and imprisoned by Pashur, chief

governor of the temple, 1, 2.

On the following day the prophet is released, who denounces the

awful judgments of God which should fall upon the governor and

all his house, as well as upon the whole land of Judah, in the

approaching Babylonish captivity, 3-6.

Jeremiah then bitterly complains of the reproaches continually

heaped upon him by his enemies; and, in his haste, resolves to

speak no more in the name of Jehovah; but the word of the Lord

is in his heart as a burning flame, so that he is not able to

forbear, 7-10.

The prophet professes his trust in God, whom he praises for his

late deliverance, 11-13.

The remaining verses, which appear to be out of their place,

contain Jeremiah's regret that he was ever born to a life of so

much sorrow and trouble, 14-18.

This complaint resembles that of Job; only it is milder and

more dolorous. This excites our pity, that our horror. Both are

highly poetical, and embellished with every circumstance that

can heighten the colouring. But such circumstances are not

always to be too literally understood or explained. We must

often make allowances for the strong figures of eastern poetry.


Verse 1. Pashur-chief governor] Pashur was probably one of the

chief priests of the twenty-four classes.

Verse 2. Put him in the stocks] Probably such a place near the

gate as we term the lock-up, the coal-hole; or it may mean a sort

of dungeon.

Verse 3. The Lord hath not called thy name Pashur]-Security on

all sides. This name thou hast had, but not by Divine appointment.

But Magor-missabib-Fear on every side. This name hath God given

thee; because, in the course of his providence, thou shalt be

placed in the circumstances signified by it: thou shalt be a

terror to thyself.

Verse 6. And thou, Pashur-shall go into captivity] Thou shalt

suffer for the false prophecies which thou hast delivered, and for

thy insults to my prophet.

Verse 7. O Lord, thou hast deceived me] Thou hast promised me

protection; and, lo! I am now delivered into the hands of my

enemies. These words were probably spoken when Pashur smote him,

and put him in prison.

I think our translation of this passage is very exceptionable.

My old Bible reads, Thou laddist me aside Lord; and I was lad

aside. The original word is pittithani, thou hast

persuaded me, i.e., to go and prophesy to this people. I went,

faithfully declared thy message, and now I am likely to perish by

their cruelty. As the root pathah signifies to persuade

and allure, as well as to deceive, the above must be its meaning

in this place. Taken as in our Version it is highly irreverent. It

is used in the same sense here as in Ge 9:27:

God shall enlarge (persuade, margin) Japheth; and he shall dwell

in the tents of Shem.

Verse 8. I cried violence and spoil] This was the burden of the

message thou didst give me.

Verse 9. I wilt not make mention of him] I will renounce the

prophetic office, and return to my house.

As a burning fire shut up in my bones] He felt stings of

conscience for the hasty and disobedient resolution he had formed;

he felt ashamed of his own weakness, that did not confide in the

promise and strength of God; and God's word was in him as a

strongly raging fire, and he was obliged to deliver it, in order

to get rid of the tortures which he felt from suppressing the

solemn message which God had given. It is as dangerous to refuse

to go when called, as it is to run without a call. On this

subject, See Clarke on Jer 1:6.

Verse 10. Report-and we will report it.] Let us spread calumnies

against him every where; or let us spread reports of dangers

coming upon him, that we may intimidate him, and cause him to


Verse 11. But the Lord is with me as a mighty terrible one] Thus

was he, by his strong confidence in the strong God, delivered from

all his fears, and enabled to go on comfortably with his work.

Verse 13. Sing unto the Lord] He was so completely delivered

from all fear, that although he remained in the same

circumstances, yet he exults in the Divine protection, and does

not fear the face of any adversary.

Verse 14. Cursed be the day wherein I was born] If we take these

words literally, and suppose them to be in their proper place,

they are utterly inconsistent with that state of confidence in

which he exulted a few minutes before. If they are the language of

Jeremiah, they must have been spoken on a prior occasion, when

probably he had given way to a passionate hastiness. They might

well comport with the state he was in Jer 20:9. I really believe

these verses have got out of their proper place, which I

conjecture to be between the eighth and ninth verses. There they

will come in very properly; and might have been a part of his

complaint in those moments when he had purposed to flee from God

as did Jonah, and prophesy no more in his name. Transpositions in

this prophet are frequent; therefore place these five verses after

the eighth, and let the chapter end with the thirteenth, and the

whole will form a piece of exquisite poetry, where the state of

despair, and the hasty resolutions he had formed while under its

influence, and the state of confidence to which he was raised by

the succouring influence of God, will appear to be both

illustrative of each other, and are touched with a delicacy and

fervour which even a cold heart must admire. See Job 3:3, and the

notes there. The two passages are very similar.

Verse 15. A man child is born] Borun is to thee a knave

child.-Old MS. Bible. This is the old English word for man or

servant; and is so used by Wiclif, Re 12:5.

Verse 16. And let him hear the cry] Let him be in continual


Verse 18. Wherefore came I forth] It would have been well had I

never been born, as I have neither comfort in my life, nor comfort

in my work.

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