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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 20

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-5




In this chapter one may clearly observe the testings, afflictions, perplexities, emotional openness, hopefulness, discouragements and despair of the man of God. Let those who are quick to condemn the prophet’s "failings" stop to consider that they would never have known of his frustrations but for his own candor. And let it also be recognized that Chapter 20 does not describe the moods of a single day. Rather, this appears to be a collection of complaints from various periods and experiences during Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry.


1. Listening to Jeremiah’s prophecy in the temple court (Jeremiah 19:14 -­15) was Pashur, chief officer of the temple, and son of Immer, the priest, (1 Chronicles 24:14; Ezra 2:37-38).

2. Infuriated by what he heard, Pashur reacted with violence, (vs. 2-3a;19).

a. He beat the prophet - quite possibly laying on the full 40 stripes, which was as much as the law allowed, (Jeremiah 1:19; comp. 1 Kings 22:27; 2 Chronicles 16:10; 2 Chronicles 24:20-21; Amos 7:10-13).

b. Then he had Jeremiah placed in stocks, near the north (Benjamin) gate of the inner court of the temple, as a spectacle and object of ridicule, (comp. Job 13:27; Jeremiah 37:11-15; Jeremiah 38:7-13; Acts 16:34).

c. The next day, however, Pashur released the prophet from the stocks, (vs. 3a).

3. But Pashur was not yet finished with Jeremiah: the prophet was not so humiliated as to forget whose servant he was; thus, he took up the prophecy of the previous day and expanded it, (vs. 3b-6).

a. The Lord’s name for Pashur is a symbolic one: "Terror on Every Side" (vs. 10; Jeremiah 6:25; La 2:22).

1) He will be a terror to himself and to all his friends, (vs. 4a; comp. Ezekiel 26:21).

2) They will fall by the sword of their enemies, (vs. 4b).

3) And the eyes of Pashur will surely observe it all, (vs. 4c; comp. Jeremiah 29:21-23; Jeremiah 39:6-7).

4) For the first time, Jeremiah specifically names the King of Babylon as the enemy into whose hands the Lord will deliver the whole of Judah, (Jeremiah 21:4-10; Jeremiah 25:9) - some to be slain with the sword, and others to be taken captive to the land of the Chaldeans, (vs. 4b; Jeremiah 13:19; Jeremiah 52:24­-27).

4. The treasures of Jerusalem, Judah and her kings will be given into the hands of the Babylonians and transported to a foreign land, (vs. 5; Jeremiah 15:13-14; Jeremiah 17:3-4; Jeremiah 27:21-22; 2 Kings 20:17-18; Isaiah 39:4-7).

5. The household of Pashur and all the friends, to whom he has prophesied falsely about the security of Jerusalem, will go into captivity together, (vs. 6; Jeremiah 14:14; La 2:14; Amos 7:17; 2 Peter 2:1); all of them will die and be buried in Babylon!

6. Let no one doubt that God’s faithfulness, in the execution of judgment threatened against unrepented sin, is as certain as His promise of blessing to obedience; whoever assumes that "all judgment is past for the Christian" assumes far more than the Word of God promises! (see Hebrews 10:26-30).

Verses 7-10


Here is an unusual prophetic self-disclosure of profound emotional tension and conflict. The tender, compassionate, loving and caring heart of Jeremiah is overwhelmed by the sarcasm, ridicule and threatenings of his own countrymen to his faithful witness and warning as the messenger of Jehovah. This self-disclosure of Jeremiah’s inner conflict is for our good. It is not a valid instrument for use in censuring the prophet himself. His enemies had no idea that such a conflict existed. Before them he stood as a "wall of bronze," (Jeremiah 1:18; Jeremiah 15:20) -though, within, was a boiling tempest of perplexity, fear and despair. But, he himself tells us of his open and honest complaint to Jehovah.

1. The word "deceived," in verse 7, does not have an evil connotation; it is Jeremiah’s way of saying that God has induced him to accept the prophetic office without a full disclosure of the misery he must endure as the result of his faithful witness, (vs. 7-8; Jeremiah 1:6-8; Jeremiah 1:18-19; comp. Ezekiel 3:14; Micah 3:8).

a. He can only speak of "violence and spoil," (Jeremiah 6:7; comp. Psalms 55:9-11; Ezekiel 7:11; Ezekiel 7:21-25).

b. Because his predictions of judgment have not found immediate fulfillment, he is made the object of daily derision and reproach, (La 3:14; comp. Psalms 22:6-7).

c. Instead of turning his beloved nation from their sins, it actually appears that his faithful warnings have only spurred them to more outrageous rebellion against the word of Jehovah; surely he has been a failure.

2. Terror seizes him as he hears the whispers of once-familiar friends plotting his downfall - awaiting some unguarded word that they may use in charging him with treason, (vs. 10; Jeremiah 18:18; Jeremiah 18:22; comp. Isaiah 29:21; 1 Kings 19:1-2; 1 Kings 22:26-27; Psalms 41:9).

3. But, it would be useless for him to try resigning his prophetic office - no longer speaking in the name of Jehovah; his heart would simply not permit it! (vs. 9; comp. 1 Kings 19:3-4; Jonah 1:2-3).

a. The word of the Lord was like a fire shut up within his bones; he could not hold it in; he MUST SPEAK! (Jeremiah 4:19; Jeremiah 23:9; comp. Psalms 39:1-3; Acts 4:18-20).

b. His sense of duty, and his compassion for a people who were blindly rushing to destruction, compelled him to speak!

Verses 11-13


1. Though one cannot be certain that these verses chronologically follow the complaint that Jeremiah just poured out, they do demonstrate the fluctuating moods through which the prophet passed.

2. Here is a new awareness of Jehovah’s presence as a fear ­inspiring warrior, (vs. 11; Jeremiah 1:8; Jeremiah 1:19; Jeremiah 15:20; comp. Isaiah 41:10).

a. Jeremiah’s persecutors will not prevail, (Jeremiah 15:15; comp. Deuteronomy 32:35-36).

b. Having acted so unwisely, they will be put to shame; eternal dishonor will be their lot, (Jeremiah 17:18; Jeremiah 23:40).

3. Having re-committed his cause to the Lord of hosts (comp. Psalms 62:8), Who tests the righteous and sees the desires of their hearts (Jeremiah 11:20; Jeremiah 17:10; Psalms 7:9), he now calls for divine vengeance upon his oppressors, (vs. 12; comp. Psalms 59:10).

4. Then there actually bursts forth from his lips a doxology of praise for deliverance! (vs. 13; comp. Jeremiah 31:7; Jeremiah 15:21; comp. Psalms 34:6). He knows that God is faithful!

Verses 14-18


1. The birth of a child in Israel was an occasion for great joy, and was considered an evidence of divine favor.

2. In a mood of defeat and despair, however, Jeremiah does not so view the day of his own birth.

3. Rather, he pronounced a curse upon: a. The day of his birth, (vs. 14; comp. Job 3:3-6), and b. The person who brought the news to his father.

4. He even wishes that his life might have been extinguished while he was still within his mother’s womb!

5. Since life has brought him nothing but trouble, shame, reproach and perplexity, he wonders why he was ever born! (vs. Jeremiah 18; Jeremiah 15:10; comp. Psalms 102:1-11).

6. Though one may be tempted to charge Jeremiah with cowardice, or lack of faith, he must remember that this secret of the prophet’s innermost being would never have been known had he not chosen to confide in us!

7. John Bright, in his excellent work entitled "The Kingdom of God" (p. 119-120), sets forth the real secret of Jeremiah’s personality.

"Here, indeed, we learn what -faith really is: not that smug faith which is untroubled by questions because it never asked any; but that true faith which has asked all the questions and received very few answers, yet has heard the command, Gird up your loins! Do your duty! Remember your calling! Cast yourself forward upon Godl

"in this connection, it would seem, Jeremiah refutes the popular, modern notion that the end of religion is an integrated personality, freed of its fears, its doubts, and its frustrations. Certainly Jeremiah was not integrated personality ... But the summons of faith is neither to an integrated personality nor to the laying by of all questions, but to the dedication of personality - with all its fears and questions -to its duty and destiny under God."

8. We do not know how God dealt with the prophet’s complaint; we do know that, from this furnace of affliction, Jeremiah emerged a stronger and Christ-like person: "a fortified city, an iron pillar, and a bronze wall" - never again to register such complaint against the Lord, (Jeremiah 1:18; comp. Job 23:10). And we may well profit from his experience!

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Jeremiah 20". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/jeremiah-20.html. 1985.
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