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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Jeremiah 20

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. XX.

Pashur, smiting Jeremiah, receiveth a new name, and a fearful doom. Jeremiah complaineth of contempt, of treachery, and of his birth.

Before Christ 605.


Verse 1

Jeremiah 20:1. Now Pashur, the son of Immer Pashur was not the immediate son of Immer, but of Melchiah, as it is expressly mentioned in 1 Chronicles 9:12 and hereafter, chap. Jeremiah 21:1. Immer was one of his predecessors, and head of the sixteenth sacerdotal class; 1 Chronicles 24:14. Pashur was not high-priest, as some of the ancients have thought, but captain or overseer of the temple. In this capacity, he had power to arrest and put in prison the false prophets, and those who caused any disturbance in the temple. This appears from what Shemaiah afterwards is said to have written to Zephaniah, the son of Maaseiah, who had the same post under king Zedekiah, as Pashur, chap. Jeremiah 29:25-27 namely, that the Lord had appointed him head or overseer of his house, in the place of Jehoiada, that he might arrest and imprison all who reigned themselves to be men inspired, and prophets. Under the reign of Josiah, Hilkiah exercised the high-priesthood; 2 Kings 22:4; 2 Kings 22:8; 2 Kings 22:10; 2 Kings 23:4; 2 Kings 23:24. 2 Chronicles 24:14 so that Pashur was not high-priest. In the temple, as in the palace of a great prime, there were the same officers, the same order, the same service in proportion, as was observed in the court of the kings of Judah. The overseer of the temple is the same with those who are so often called chief-priests in the Gospel. Matthew 26:47; Matthew 26:75. Luke 22:4; Luke 22:71. This chapter is a continuation of the foregoing. Pashur thought that Jeremiah's discourse, which spoke too plainly of the overthrow of Jerusalem, and of the miseries which should befal it, deserved that he should be arrested and put in irons, to hinder him from speaking thus freely; and accordingly he treats him as they treated the false prophets. See Calmet.


Verse 2

Jeremiah 20:2. And put him in the stocks Houbigant renders the whole verse, This Pashur apprehended Jeremiah the prophet, and put him into the prison which lieth near the upper gate of Benjamin, which is near, &c. Our translators have rendered המהפכת hammahpeketh, the stocks; but I think without sufficient ground; for the word, which properly signifies that instrument of punishment, is סד, sad, see Job 13:27 ; Job 33:11. The word המהפכת hammahpeketh, occurs twice besides; chap. Jeremiah 29:26 and 2 Chronicles 16:10.; in both which places it is rendered simply a prison; and is mentioned as a punishment due to or inflicted on one, who assumed the character of a prophet without a proper call, or was presumed to have behaved unbecomingly as such.


Verse 3

Jeremiah 20:3. Magor-missabib That is, Terror to all around, as the name is explained, according to the usual method in the next verse.


Verse 5

Jeremiah 20:5. Moreover, I will deliver, &c.— It will, I think, tend much to illustrate this passage, and the corresponding conduct of the Babylonian monarch, related 2 Kings 24:12-17 if I here cite the words of a celebrated modern historian, who describes the similar behaviour of those Barbarians, the Moguls or Tartars, who under Zingis overran and conquered Asia, to their captives, in the following manner:—"The inhabitants, who had submitted to their discretion, were ordered to evacuate their houses, and to assemble in some plain adjacent to the city, where a division was made of the vanquished of three parts. The first class consisted of the soldiers of the garrison, and of the young men capable of bearing arms; and their fate was instantly decided; they were either inlisted among the Moguls, or they were massacred on the spot by the troops, who, with pointed spears and bended bows, had formed a circle round the captive multitude. The second class, composed of the young and beautiful women, of the artificers of every rank and profession, and of the more wealthy or honourable citizens, from whom a private ransom might be expected, was distributed in equal or proportionable lots. The remainder, whose life or death was alike useless to the conquerors, were permitted to return to the city; which in the meanwhile had been stripped of its valuable furniture, and a tax was imposed on those wretched inhabitants for the indulgence of breathing their native air."


Verse 7

Jeremiah 20:7. O Lord, thou hast deceived me, &c.— Over-persuaded me, and I was over-persuaded. Our translation here is harsh and faulty. The occasion of the words was this: The prophet had met with a large share of ill-usage from an ungrateful people, in return for the faithful discharge of his prophetic office. Under these his calamitous circumstances, he looks up to God, and appeals to him, the searcher of hearts, as his witness, that it was not through any ambition of his own that he had entered upon that invidious office; see chap. Jeremiah 1:6-7, &c. nor had he taken upon him of his own accord to reprove his countrymen: but all that he had done in that affair was pursuant to a divine cause, and in pure obedience to divine command. He would gladly have declined it, but God would not suffer him; wherefore hereupon he says, speaking to the Almighty, Thou hast over-persuaded me, and I was over-persuaded; thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed. The passage carries in it a lively idea of the prophet's great modesty and profound humility, in not affecting high things or shining offices; but submitting, however, to the burden of them in obedience to the will of God. See Waterland's Script. Vind. part. 3: p. 84.


Verse 8

Jeremiah 20:8. For since I spake For as often as I speak, whether I cry out against injustice, or proclaim devastation, the word of JEHOVAH is turned against me into matter of reproach and derision continually. Houbigant renders it, For since I spoke, and cried against iniquity, and denounced desolation, the word of the Lord, &c.


Verse 9

Jeremiah 20:9. Then I said, I will not make mention of him But when I say, I will not make mention of it—then it becomes in my heart, &c. So it is said of St. Paul, that his spirit was stirred in him; and again, that a necessity was laid upon him to preach the Gospel. See Acts 17:16. 1 Corinthians 9:16. Elihu, in Job, speaks of the spirit constraining him: see Job 32:18-19 and Virgil's Eneid, 6: ver. 77. Indeed, no heat is so raging and insupportable, as that in the bosom of an honest man, upon the doing of any thing which he ought not to have done, or refraining from that which his conscience informs him he ought to do.


Verse 10

Jeremiah 20:10. Fear on every side, &c.— The Hebrew is, מסביב מגור Magor-missabib, the name which Jeremiah gave to Pashur; and if it were here read as a proper name, as in Jeremiah 20:3 it would appear more plainly to point at the persecutions which the prophet endured from him. Houbigant renders the remainder of the verse thus; The men with whom I was at peace, watching at my side, and saying, Take care to inform us by what means he may be deceived, that we may seize him by craft, and take our revenge on him.


Verse 11

Jeremiah 20:11. As a mighty terrible one As a warlike hero.


Verse 14-15

Jeremiah 20:14-15. Cursed be the day, &c.— See the note on Jeremiah 20:7. These verses are so like those in Job 3:3 that they seem to have been borrowed thence. The sentiments are the same, and the expressions not greatly dissimilar. The prophet, indeed, has filled up the ellipses, smoothed the abrupt style of Job, and extended his short distich into two distichs or pairs of verses, in which he himself much abounds. Hence we find that the imprecation of the prophet contains more of complaint than indignation: it is indeed milder, softer, more dolorous, and more especially adapted to excite pity; in which this prophet's peculiar excellence undoubtedly consists: whereas Job does not so much raise pity as excite terror. This lamentation is written in poetical figures, like the ancient funeral songs; in which every circumstance proper to raise the passions is mentioned; which therefore are not to be considered as so many expressions of indignation and malice, but rather of mourning and sorrow. See Bishop Lowth's 14th Prelection.


Verse 16

Jeremiah 20:16. Let him hear the cry.—and the shouting An outcry—and the alarm of war, &c. Houbigant reads, Let him hear a cry in the morning, and vociferations or howlings at mid-day.


Verse 17

Jeremiah 20:17. Because Because I was not slain in the womb, so that my mother might have been my grave, even the womb of her that conceived me, for ever.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, They who will be zealous for God, and faithful to men's souls, must expect to be abused and insulted. We have here,

1. The prophet smitten by Pashur, a priest, and a chief governor of the house of the Lord, probably the head of his course, or captain, of the temple, see Acts 4:1. Hearing the prophet's discourse, or being informed of it, though his sacred character should have been a protection, and his own station and profession should have restrained him from such violence, he fell into a rage and struck the prophet himself to silence him, or commanded some inferior officer to beat him; and, to add ignominy to the insult, he ordered him to be set in the stocks, or prison, at the high gate of Benjamin, which was by the house of the Lord, that he might there be exposed, his person rendered contemptible, and his prophesies despised. Note; (1.) False prophets and worldly-minded priests have been ever the bitterest persecutors of God's faithful ministers. (2.) They who dare remonstrate against the iniquity of wicked priests and an abandoned people, must not wonder if even the formalities of justice are not observed to oppress them.

2. God's judgment upon this proud priest and persecutor, and the sentence on the land confirmed. In silent suffering the prophet all night submitted to his ignominious confinement; but on the morrow, when brought forth for examination before the sanhedrin, or discharged because no real charge could be supported against him, he has a revelation from God, which he denounces against this wicked man. The Lord had changed his name from Pashur into Magor-missabib, Terror to all around, importing the horror which would seize him and all his wicked adherents, when the Chaldean army should compass the city, and verify Jeremiah's prophesy. His eyes should see his dearest friends and relations massacred, his country enslaved by the king of Babylon, the people slain or carried captive, the fortifications of Jerusalem razed to the ground, the treasures of the kings of Judah given for a prey to their invaders; and himself, with all his house, should be led into slavery to Babylon, and die in that polluted land, with all his friends deceived by him, and to whom he had prophesied visions of peace. Note; (1.) God can soon make those who would frighten his prophets with menaces, a terror to themselves. Let every persecutor tremble at Pashur's doom. (2.) They who think by stopping the mouths of God's prophets to procure themselves ease, only bind on their sentence, and hasten their doom.

2nd, Jeremiah, though a good man and a true prophet, appears compassed with infirmities. What he suffered seems to have exasperated his spirit, so that he spake unadvisedly with his lips.

1. He is tempted to find fault with God. Thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived; either in not bringing on the judgments which God had sent him to foretel, or not protecting him from the insults of his enemies, as he had promised him, chap. Jeremiah 1:18-19. But this was his impatience and hastiness: God will ever be found true, and never deceive those who trust in him. Or the words may be rendered in another manner, Thou didst over-persuade me, and I was over-persuaded; thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed; silencing his pleas to be excused, by unanswerable arguments, and injunctions not to be disobeyed: and therefore, since he was at it were pressed into the service, he was ready to think it hard in God, that he should leave him exposed to such ill-usage.

2. He complains of the affronts that he met with, and the injuries that he received. I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me; and nothing wounds a generous mind deeper than scorn. But what hurt him more than any personal insults was, their contemptuous disregard of the word of God that he preached. They ridiculed the earnestness with which he delivered his message, and treated the charges that he brought against them, of violence and oppression, with derision at his preciseness; or the threatenings of the ravages which their enemies should make, with contempt and disbelief. He heard the vilest misrepresentations of his words and conduct, as seditious, false, and dangerous to the state; and his enemies stopped at no lies to blacken his character. Report, say they, and we will report it; ready to spread the most malignant aspersions, and, on the least shadow of offence, to accuse him before the governors, and procure his condemnation. For this purpose they set spies around him, who, under the guise of most cordial friendship, watched for his halting, in hopes that he would be taken in some or other of the snares which they laid for him, give them a handle for accusation, and an opportunity to revenge themselves, in his destruction, for the threatenings which he had denounced against them. Note; (1.) Ridicule and contempt are the common weapons of infidels and ungodly men against the preachers of the truth. (2.) It is grievous to a pious soul to hear the word of God treated with levity and derision. (3.) The fairest professions often cloak the foulest designs. (4.) Neither the purest innocence, nor most consummate prudence, can protect us from malignant tongues, resolved to find or invent some cause of accusation.

3. Discouraged by ill treatment, he owns himself ready to give up his ministry. Since he despaired of doing any good, he though that he might as well be silent, as exasperate them with fruitless rebukes. Note; It is a most discouraging thing to the preachers of God's word, to see their labours vain, and themselves rendered odious for their fidelity; but we must leave the event to God: our duty is, to persevere.

4. He resolves, notwithstanding, to go on, and trust God; nay, he was constrained to speak: the word of God was as a burning fire in his bones, which must have vent: or, there was in mine heart as a burning afire, such zeal for God, and love of men's souls, that he could not keep silence; and now his faith triumphs over his fears. The Lord is with me, and therefore their malicious devices shall be disappointed, and return in vengeance on their own souls; for he is as a mighty terrible one, strong to avenge, and jealous to return the wrongs of his insulted ambassadors. Therefore their persecutors will with shame and grief see their mischievous designs abortive, and stumble and fall into the pit that they have digged, covered with an everlasting confusion, never to be forgotten: and such shall be the end of all the enemies of God's church and people. No weapon formed against them can prosper; and every tongue that shall rise up in judgment against them, he will condemn.

5. He appeals to the heart-searching God for the goodness of his cause, and, conscious of his integrity, expects to see justice done him on his enemies, and vengeance poured on their devoted heads. Note; (1.) It is a comfort to us, when, in the sight of that God who trieth the reins, we can boldly appeal for our simplicity and sincerity. (2.) In all our sufferings it is a great relief to have a gracious God, into whose compassionate bosom we can pour out our complaints.

6. He rejoices in the confidence that God will hear and grant his requests. Sing unto the Lord, praise ye the Lord; the few faithful in Zion are called upon to join in his thanksgivings, for he hath delivered the soul, or life of the poor, from the hand of evil-doers; he means himself, now rescued from the hands of Pashur; or, since he can by faith embrace God's promises, he exults in the performance of them as equally sure as if already fulfilled.

3rdly, Dire is the change between the just-mentioned notes of praise, and the melancholy sounds which follow. Some have supposed, that this is here recorded as the humbling acknowledgment of what passed in his mind during his confinement in the stocks or prison, from which sad prevalence of impatience he was now recovered, but remembers to his shame how ill he had borne it. He utters imprecations,

1. On the day of his birth, that ushered him into a world of misery. Instead of celebrating its return with joy, he regards it as ominous, and brands it with a curse.

2. On the messenger who carried the tidings to his father, and made him glad with the news that a son was born; he wishes that he might be destroyed as the inhabitants of Sodom, and be in perpetual terrors, as in the agonies of death, from some invading foe: an imprecation shockingly severe and uncharitable. Into such unbecoming extravagancies may passion, when prevailing, transport us, and leave us deep cause to repent their rashness, if we do not watch unto prayer.

3. He wishes that the messenger of his birth had been his murderer, &c.; wishes unnatural, as they were wicked and wilful.

4. He expostulates with God. Wherefore came I forth out of the womb? as if God had done him injustice in bringing him into the world, that my days should be consumed with shame, exposed to a continued series of insult, derision, and contempt; and herein, to say the least, he shewed much, very much of human infirmity. Let it serve to warn us against such a hasty spirit; which is not only highly criminal before God, but makes us appear absurd and brutish, and must expose us to just censure from men.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Jeremiah 20:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/jeremiah-20.html. 1801-1803.

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