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Bible Commentaries

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible
Jeremiah 20

 

 

Introduction

The breaking of the bottle Jeremiah 36:5. It is probable also that Jehoiakim‘s scroll ended with the prophecy of the potter‘s vessel, and the account of the contumelies to which the prophet had in consequence been exposed. One prophecy, however, at least in our present book, is of a later date, that of the linen girdle Jeremiah 13.


Verse 1

Pashur, the father probably of the Gedaliah mentioned in Jeremiah 38:1, was the head of the 16th course (shift) of priests (marginal reference); the other Pashur Jeremiah 21:1 belonged to the fifth course, the sons of Melchiah. Both these houses returned in great strength from the exile. See Ezra 2:37-38.

Chief governor - Or, “deputy governor.” The Nagid or governer of the temple was the high priest 1 Chronicles 9:11, and Pashur was his Pakid, i. e., deputy (see Jeremiah 1:10 note). Zephaniah held this office Jeremiah 29:26, and his relation to the high priest is exactly defined 2 Kings 25:18; Jeremiah 52:24. The Nagid at this time was Seraiah the high priest, the grandson of Hilkiah, or (possibly) Azariah, Hilkiah‘s son and Jeremiah‘s brother 1 Chronicles 6:13, Ezra 7:1.


Verse 2

Jeremiah the prophet - Jeremiah is nowhere so called in the first 19 chapters. In this place he thus characterizes himself, because Pashur‘s conduct was a violation of the respect due to the prophetic office.

The stocks - This instrument of torture comes from a root signifying to “twist.” It thus implies that the body was kept in a distorted position. Compare Acts 16:24.

The high gate … - Rather, “the upper gate of Benjamin in the house of Yahweh (compare 2 Kings 15:35);” to be distinguished from the city gate of Benjamin leading toward the north.


Verse 3

Magor-missabib - See Jeremiah 6:25 note. Jeremiah uses it no less than five times, having probably adopted it as his watchword from Psalm 31:13.


Verse 4

A terror to thyself, and to all thy friends - Jeremiah plays upon the meaning of Magormissabib saying that Pusbur would be a terror to all around. It is remarkable that he prophesies no evil of Pashur Jeremiah 20:6. His was to be the milder fate of being carried into captivity with Jehoiachin, and dying peaceably at Babylon Jeremiah 20:6, whereas his successor Zephaniah was put to death at Riblah Jeremiah 52:24, Jeremiah 52:27. His punishment probably consisted in this. He had prophesied “lies.” When then he saw the dreadful slaughter of his countrymen, Jehoiakim put to death, his young son dragged into captivity, and the land stripped of all that was best, his conscience so condemned him as the guilty cause of such great misery that in the agonies of remorse he became a terror to himself and his friends.


Verse 5

All the strength - “All the stores.”

The labors - The gains of the citizens.


Verse 6

Thou hast prophesied lies - Pushur belonged to the warlike party, whose creed it was, that Judaea by a close alliance with Egypt might resist the arms of Assyria.


Verses 7-18

In the rest of the chapter we have an outbreak of deep emotion, of which the first part ends in a cry of hope Jeremiah 20:13, followed nevertheless by curses upon the day of his birth. Was this the result of feelings wounded by the indignities of a public scourging and a night spent in the stocks? Or was it not the mental agony of knowing that his ministry had (as it seemed) failed? He stands indeed before the multitudes with unbending strength, warning prince and people with unwavering constancy of the national ruin that would follow necessarily upon their sins. Before God he stood crushed by the thought that he had labored in vain, and spent his strength for nothing.

It is important to notice that with this outpouring of sorrow Jeremiah‘s ministry virtually closed. Though he appeared again at Jerusalem toward the end of Jehoiakim‘s reign, yet it was no longer to say that by repentance the national ruin might be averted. During the fourth year of Jehoiakim, the die was cast, and all the prophet henceforward could do, was to alleviate a punishment that was inevitable.

Jeremiah 20:7

Thou hast deceived me … - What Jeremiah refers to is the joy with which he had accepted the prophetic office Jeremiah 15:16, occasioned perhaps by taking the promises in Jeremiah 1:18 too literally as a pledge that he would succeed.

Thou art stronger than I - Rather, “Thou hast taken hold of me.” God had taken Jeremiah in so firm a grasp that he could not escape from the necessity of prophesying. He would have resisted, but the hand of God prevailed.

I am in derision daily - literally, “I am become a laughing-stock all the day, i. e., peripetually.

Jeremiah 20:8

Translate,” For as often as I speak, I must complain; I call out, Violence and spoil.”

From the time Jeremiah began to prophesy, he had had reason for nothing but lamentation. Daily with louder voice and more desperate energy he must call out “violence and spoil;” as a perpetual protest against the manner in which the laws of justice were violated by powerful men among the people.

Jeremiah 20:9

Seeing that his mission was useless, Jeremiah determined to withdraw from it.

I could not stay - Rather, “I prevailed not,” did not succeed. See Jeremiah 20:7.

Jeremiah 20:10

The defaming - Rather, “the talking.” The word refers to people whispering in twos and threes apart; in this case plotting against Jeremiah. Compare Mark 14:58.

Report … - Rather, “Do you report, and we will report him: i. e., they encourage one another to give information against Jeremiah.

My familiars - literally, “the men of my peace” Psalm 41:9. In the East the usual salutation is “Peace be to thee:” and the answer, “And to thee peace.” Thus, the phrase rather means acquaintances, than familiar friends.

Enticed - literally, “persuaded, misled,” the same word as “deceived Jeremiah 20:7.” Compare Mark 12:13-17.

Jeremiah 20:11

A mighty terrible one - Rather, “a terrible warrior.” The mighty One Isaiah 9:6 who is on his side is a terror to them. This change of feeling was the effect of faith, enabling him to be content with calmly doing his duty, and leaving the result to God.

For … - Rather, “because they have not acted wisely (Jeremiah 10:21 note), with an everlasting disgrace that shall never be forgotten.”

Jeremiah 20:12

This verse is repeated almost verbatim from Jeremiah 11:20.

Jeremiah 20:13

Sing - Jeremiah‘s outward circumstances remained the same, but he found peace in leaving his cause in faith to God.

Jeremiah 20:14

This sudden outbreak of impatience after the happy faith of Jeremiah 20:13 has led to much discussion. Possibly there was more of sorrow in the words than of impatience; sorrow that the earnest labor of a life had been in vain. Yet the form of the expression is fierce and indignant; and the impatience of Jeremiah is that part of his character which is most open to blame. He does not reach that elevation which is set before us by Him who is the perfect pattern of all righteousness. Our Lord was a prophet whose mission to the men of His generation equally failed, and His sorrow was even more deep; but it never broke forth in imprecations. See Luke 19:41-42.

Jeremiah 20:16

The cry - is the sound of the lamentation Jeremiah 20:8; “the shouting” is the alarm of war.

 


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Bibliography Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Jeremiah 20:4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/jeremiah-20.html. 1870.

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