Jeremiah 20 Bible Commentary

Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown

(Read all of Jeremiah 20)


1. son--descendant.
of Immer--one of the original "governors of the sanctuary and of the house of God," twenty-four in all, that is, sixteen of the sons of Eleazar and eight of the sons of Ithamar (1Ch 24:14). This Pashur is distinct from Pashur, son of Melchiah (Jer 21:1). The "captains" (Lu 22:4) seem to have been over the twenty-four guards of the temple, and had only the right of apprehending any who were guilty of delinquency within it; but the Sanhedrim had the judicial power over such delinquents [GROTIUS] (Jer 26:8, 10, 16).

2. The fact that Pashur was of the same order and of the same family as Jeremiah aggravates the indignity of the blow (1Ki 22:24; Mt 26:67).
stocks--an instrument of torture with five holes, in which the neck, two hands, and two feet were thrust, the body being kept in a crooked posture (Jer 29:26). From a Hebrew root, to "turn," or "rack." This marks Pashur's cruelty.
high--that is, the upper gate (2Ki 15:35).
gate of Benjamin--a gate in the temple wall, corresponding to the gate of Benjamin, properly so called, in the city wall, in the direction of the territory of Benjamin (Jer 7:2; 37:13; 38:7). The temple gate of Benjamin, being on a lofty position, was called "the high gate," to distinguish it from the city wall gate of Benjamin.

3. Pashur--compounded of two roots, meaning "largeness (and so 'security') on every side"; in antithesis to Magor-missabib, "terror round about" (Jer 20:10; Jer 6:25; 46:5; 49:29; Ps 31:13).

4. terror . . . to all thy friends--who have believed thy false promises (Jer 20:6). The sense must be in order to accord with "fear round about" (Jer 20:3). I will bring terror on thee and on all thy friends, that terror arising from thyself, namely, thy false prophecies. Thou and thy prophecies will be seen, to the dismay both of thee and thy dupes, to have caused their ruin and thine. MAURER'S translation is therefore not needed, "I will give up thee and all thy friends to terror."

5. strength--that is, resources.
labours--fruits of labor, gain, wealth.

6. prophesied lies--namely, that God cannot possibly leave this land without prophets, priests, and teachers ("the wise") (Jer 18:18; compare Jer 5:31).

7. Jeremiah's complaint, not unlike that of Job, breathing somewhat of human infirmity in consequence of his imprisonment. Thou didst promise never to give me up to the will of mine enemies, and yet Thou hast done so. But Jeremiah misunderstood God's promise, which was not that he should have nothing to suffer, but that God would deliver him out of sufferings (Jer 1:19).
deceived--Others translate as Margin, "Thou hast enticed" or "persuaded me," namely, to undertake the prophetic office, "and I was persuaded," that is, suffered myself to be persuaded to undertake what I find too hard for me. So the Hebrew word is used in a good sense (Ge 9:27, Margin; Pr 25:15; Ho 2:14).
stronger than I--Thou whose strength I could not resist hast laid this burden on me, and hast prevailed (hast made me prophesy, in spite of my reluctance) (Jer 1:5-7); yet, when I exercise my office, I am treated with derision (La 3:14).

8. Rather, "Whenever I speak, I cry out. Concerning violence and spoil, I (am compelled to) cry out," that is, complain [MAURER]. English Version in the last clause is more graphic, "I cried violence and spoil" (Jer 6:7)! I could not speak in a calm tone; their desperate wickedness compelled me to "cry out."
because--rather, "therefore," the apodosis of the previous sentence; because in discharging my prophetic functions, I not merely spake, but cried; and cried, violence . . . ; therefore the word of the Lord was made a reproach to me (Jer 20:7).

9. his word was--or literally, "there was in my heart, as it were, a burning fire," that is, the divine afflatus or impulse to speak was as . . . (Job 32:18, 19; Ps 39:3).
weary with forbearing, and I could not--"I labored to contain myself, but I could not" (Ac 18:5; compare Jer 23:9; 1Co 9:16, 17).

10. For--not referring to the words immediately preceding, but to "I will not make mention of Him." The "defaming" or detraction of the enemy on every side (see Ps 31:13) tempted him to think of prophesying no more.
Report . . . we will report--The words of his adversaries one to the other; give any information against him (true or false) which will give color for accusing him; and "we will report it," namely, to the Sanhedrim, in order to crush him.
familiars--literally, "men of my peace"; those who pretended to be on peaceable terms with me (Ps 41:9). Jeremiah is a type of Messiah, referred to in that Psalm. (See Jer 38:22; Job 19:19; Ps 55:13, 14; Lu 11:53, 54).
watched for my halting-- (Ps 35:15, Margin, "halting"; Ps 38:17; 71:10, Margin). GESENIUS not so well translates, according to Arabic idiom, "those guarding my side" (that is, my most intimate friends always at my side), in apposition to "familiars," and the subject of "say" (instead of "saying"). The Hebrew means properly "side," then "halting," as the halt bend on one side.
enticed--to commit some sin.

11. not prevail--as they hoped to do (Jer 20:10; Jer 15:20).
prosper--in their plot.

12. triest the righteous--in latent contrast to the hasty judgments of men (Jer 11:20; 17:10).
opened--that is, committed (compare 2Ki 19:14; Ps 35:1).

13. delivered . . . soul--This deliverance took place when Zedekiah succeeded Jeconiah.

14-18. The contrast between the spirit of this passage and the preceding thanksgiving is to be explained thus: to show how great was the deliverance (Jer 20:13), he subjoins a picture of what his wounded spirit had been previous to his deliverance; I had said in the time of my imprisonment, "Cursed be the day"; my feeling was that of Job (Job 3:3, 10, 11, whose words Jeremiah therefore copies). Though Jeremiah's zeal had been stirred up, not so much for self as for God's honor trampled on by the rejection of the prophet's words, yet it was intemperate when he made his birth a subject for cursing, which was really a ground for thanksgiving.

15. A man child--The birth of a son is in the East a special subject of joy; whereas that of a daughter is often not so.

16. the cities--Sodom and Gomorrah.
cry . . . morning . . . noontide--that is, Let him be kept in alarm the whole day (not merely at night when terrors ordinarily prevail, but in daytime when it is something extraordinary) with terrifying war shouts, as those in a besieged city (Jer 18:22).

17. he--"that man" (Jer 20:15, 16).
from the womb--that is, at that time while I was still in the womb.