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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Jeremiah 20

 

 

Verse 1

THE OPPOSITION AND THE PUNISHMENT OF PASHUR, Jeremiah 20:1-6.

1. Pashur — Many individuals of this name are mentioned, but none can be certainly identified with this one. It is possible, and indeed probable, but by no means certain, that he is the one mentioned in Jeremiah 38:1, as the father of Gedaliah. The Pashur of the following chapter is another person. This one seems to have stood at the head of the sixteenth course of priests, (1 Chronicles 24:14,) called sons of Immer, who was their ancestor in David’s time. Of this house ten hundred and fifty-two men returned from the exile.

Chief governor — The epithet “chief” implies that there were many. He was the temple governor, and in dignity ranked next to the high priest. See Jeremiah 29:25-26; Jeremiah 52:24.


Verse 2

2. Jeremiah the prophet — This designation indicates that he had come to have a public recognition in his prophetical character. It occurs here for the first time.

Stocks — This word occurs besides only in Jeremiah 29:26, and 2 Chronicles 16:10. In this last passage it is translated “prison-house.” It comes from a root which means to twist, and was a contrivance for confining the body in a crooked and painful position. Paul and Silas were subjected to this mode of punishment. Acts 16:24.

High gate of Benjamin — Further designated as a temple gate.

By the house of the Lord — The epithet “high,” or upper, implies that it was a gate to the inner court of the temple, which was raised above the outer court.


Verse 3

3. Pashur — All is uncertain as to the etymology, and so the meaning, of this name. As it is set over against the one which follows, it is probably opposite to it in sense, but just how we do not know.

Magor-missabib Fear round about, as the margin correctly translates. It seems to have originated from Psalms 31:13. It is a rather common phrase with Jeremiah, being used besides in Jeremiah 6:25; Jeremiah 20:10; Jeremiah 46:5; Jeremiah 49:29; and in Lamentations 2:22. The general significance of this phrase has been indicated, but its precise application is less evident. Probably it is used to intimate that the course adopted and carried out under his instigation would involve in calamity not only himself but all those about him.


Verse 5

5. Strength of this city — Its stores and resources.

Labours thereof — The fruits of labour, the great works of the city.


Verse 6

6. Shall go into captivity — Apparently a milder fate than that of multitudes who, as had been before predicted, should come to fearful deaths, and should lie unburied and be devoured by beasts and birds of prey; and yet, for this very reason, terrible. Pashur will see all this, even to the end; and to him, a leading instigator of the policy which will work out this fearful ruin, the very spectacle itself will be an awful punishment.

Hast prophesied lies — Opposing his word of power to that of this obscure prophet of evil.


Verse 7

JEREMIAH’S COMPLAINT, Jeremiah 20:7-18.

7. Deceived — Rather, persuaded: though the word often contains the sense of misleading. Here the meaning is: didst entice me into the prophetic office with vain hopes.

Thou art stronger — Literally, hast taken hold of: placed me in this position of fruitless suffering and danger.


Verse 8

8. Since I spake, I cried out — Rather, when I speak, I cry out, as if in pain or protest. The first “cried out” means to make an outcry as in danger or pain; the second cried means to call out — proclaim. Such was the subversion of justice on every side — the violence and spoil — that he could not speak calmly, but only cry out.


Verse 9

9. I will not, etc. — Because his word had been apparently fruitless of good, and brought only sorrow to himself.

Shut up in my bones — A vivid phrase for a restless and resistless inward moving.


Verse 10

10. Defaming — Literally, talking: but the word has in it a sinister and evil animus. It does not necessarily mean slandering, but talking fraught with mischief. Fear, etc. — What follows appear to be fragmentary quotations from his slanderers and opposers.

Familiars — Literally, men of my peace, taken from Psalms 41:9. The allusion in the phrase may be to the usual mode of Eastern salutation — Peace be to thee! The “men of my peace,” are those who say when I meet them: Peace be to thee; but who do really watch for my halting.


Verses 11-13

11-13. The Lord is with me — Very strikingly does the lament rise into a clear and strong expression of faith in God. Deeper than his despondency, and stronger than the terrors about him, is his trust in God’s unfailing strength. And at last, in Jeremiah 20:13, this faith rises into triumph, and he speaks of his deliverance as already accomplished.


Verses 14-18

14-18. Cursed be the day, etc. — Violent and unexpected is the contrast of this passage with the preceding. Instantly and without warning we are precipitated from the height of perfect and triumphant confidence into the deepest depth of sorrow. The faith which had just shone out full-orbed seems suddenly to pass into a fearful eclipse.

But though there is here a startling contrast, there is no essential inconsistency. The faith of the preceding section, and the intense and bitter sorrow of this, are alike genuine facts of the prophet’s experience; and are not necessarily incongruous. Indeed the sorrow which Jeremiah experienced, and which is expressed in these passionate utterances, is not in itself a difficulty; but only its degree as measured by these fearful utterances, and its close relation to the victorious faith of the preceding passage.

But let not the spirit of these passionate words be misunderstood. Too little allowance has been made for the fact that we have here only a summary of the prophet’s oral teachings, so that what we now read in a few sentences represents the experiences of this earnest man, it may be for months and even years. Passages which here stand alongside of each other may reflect states of mind which, in the prophet’s actual experience, were separated by a considerable time. Hence the real difficulty, if any there be, must consist in the essential incongruity of these words with a state of loyalty to God.

As we carefully examine this passage, so far from finding it essentially inconsistent with a personal theistic faith, we see that it could come only from one in whom the idea of God “Like one great furnace flamed” in his fervid soul. It is his jealous regard for God’s honour that gives the keenest bitterness to his grief. The darkest feature of the coming calamity is the fact that it would over-spread God’s own particular heritage, and sweep away the defences of Jehovah’s cause.

In outward form these words are very similar to those fearful utterances of Job recorded in the third chapter of that book. But a careful study of them discloses important differences. Jeremiah’s words are not, like Job’s, turned directly against God, neither are they so violent and passionate and selfish. They are called forth, not by personal losses of property, health, or friends, but by that which he was inevitably to see, though he had struggled against it so long — the ruin of the commonwealth and the discomfiture of God’s people before their heathen enemies. We do not, indeed, deny that there is in this fierce outcry an element of human passion. Jeremiah may have felt that he had been sacrificed to no good end — that he had been too much left to himself in executing Jehovah’s commission. Like Moses, Elijah, and even John, he may have mingled his selfish hopes and disappointments with the deeper experiences of faith and loyalty to God. But this only proves what is so abundantly illustrated everywhere — that this man of God was also “subject to like passions as we are.”

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Jeremiah 20:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/jeremiah-20.html. 1874-1909.

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