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JEREMIAH CHAPTER 20
Pashur, smiting Jeremiah.for this prophecy, receiveth a new name, and a fearful doom, Jeremiah 20:1-24.20.6. Jeremiah’s impatience under their treachery and contempt, Jeremiah 20:7-24.20.10. He rejoiceth in hope of vengeance, Jeremiah 20:11-24.20.13. Curseth his birth, Jeremiah 20:14-24.20.18.
The course of Immer was the sixteenth course of the priests, as we read in 1 Chronicles 24:14.
Pashur was his son, that is, descended from him through many generations. It is neither much material for us to know, nor very easy to determine, in what sense he is called the
chief governor of the temple, whether he was deputy to the high priest, or the head of his course, which at that time waited in the temple, or had some place as captain of the temple, to take notice of any disorders should be committed there, contrary to the law. Certain it is he was no high priest, for then he could not have been one of the course of Immer.
Heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things; either he heard Jeremiah himself, (which is most probable,) or somebody told him what Jeremiah had prophesied in the temple, which was within his charge and jurisdiction.
Then Pashur smote Jeremiah; it is not said how he struck him, though some think it most probable that it was with his fist, as the false prophet struck Micaiah, 1 Kings 22:24. We are as uncertain what is here meant by
stocks, whether such an engine as is in use amongst us to punish offenders, which we call by that name; or, as others. an engine like our pillory, where malefactors are fastened by the necks; or, as others, with three holes, one for the neck of the offender, one for each hand; or whether merely a prison, where he was kept all night a prisoner; the Hebrew word will not determine us further than that it was a place of restraint, and where that will not determine, other conjectures are as uncertain as needless. There is as much uncertainty as to the place where this prison or these stocks were; we are told it was near the temple, and
in the high gate of Benjamin; but whether this was a gate belonging to the temple that opened toward that part of the country which was the lot of Benjamin, or a gate of the city that opened that way, whether in the inner wall or outer wall, whether called the high gate, because nearer the temple, or upon some other account, are nice and curious speculations, the determination of which is of no moment for us to know.
Possibly by this time the mad-brained priest thought he had done more than he could justify by law, for if he were a false prophet, the judgment of him belonged not to him, but to the sanhedrim; he had nothing to do to smite him. Possibly he brought him forth in order to his bringing him before the sanhedrim; but it doth not appear that he did so, though Jeremiah’s following words to him might reasonably be thought provocative enough, if he had designed any formal charge against him. He had it seemeth no more to say to Jeremiah, but Jeremiah (to whom God had appeared in the prison that night, while he was separated from communion with men, and revealed to him what end this hot-headed priest should come to) had something to say to him. God’s meaning was, not that he should by men be no longer called Pashur, (for doubtless after this he was called by the same name he had before,) but his state and condition should not answer the name Pashur, which signifies, as some say, a noble, flourishing priest; or, as others, one who by his authority maketh others to tremble; but
Magor-missabib, that is, fear and terror on all sides.
God now expoundeth the name of Magor-missabib, threatening to fill this wicked priest with terrors, that he and all his friends should be affrighted, reflecting upon his most miserable state and condition; and his friends, from whom he might possibly expect some relief, should be as miserable as he; and it should be an addition to his misery, that his eyes should see it, and see his whole country ruined, some being slain by the sword of the king of Babylon, others by him carried into captivity.
This is but the repetition of what God bad often threatened, viz. the perfect ruin of Jerusalem, and the land of Judah.
All the strength of this city; their military men, or rather their riches.
And all the labours thereof; and all the fruit of their labours.
And all the precious things thereof, and all the treasures of the king of Judah; and whatsoever was valuable in their eyes, or in the eyes of the greatest persons amongst them. The Babylonians should make a spoil and a prey of them all.
Those that teach others to disobey the commandments of God seldom escape that vengeance which cometh upon them who are seduced by them.
Pashur was one whose office it was to have taught others the fear of the Lord. and obedience to his will; he teacheth them what was false, and is not patient to hear the will of God. Jeremiah tells him he should feel the truth of it, for he himself should be one of those who should be carried into captivity, and should die there, out of his own country, and be buried there, and this should be the portion of all his friends, whom he had seduced by his false and lying prophecies.
The following part of the chapter to the end of it containeth a complaint or prayer of the prophet unto God, made (as some think) during his imprisonment by Pashur, but the certain time is not known. Our translators here might have translated the word פִּתִּיתַנִי more favourably than
thou hast deceived me. It might have been, thou hast persuaded me, or, thou hast allured or enticed me, as it is translated, Judges 14:15; 1 Kings 22:21,1 Kings 22:22; Exodus 22:16; Proverbs 1:10; Proverbs 16:29; Psalms 78:36. The word signifies no more than by words to remove a man from his own opinion. That is, doubtless, the sense here: Lord, I was not fond of this employment as a prophet, by thy words I was removed from my own opinion of myself; which might be spoken by the prophet without any reflection upon God; it only signifieth his undertaking the office of a prophet at God’s command, not out of any ambition of his own.
Thou art stronger than I and hast prevailed; but thou prevailest against me. Jeremiah at first excused himself to God, as we read, Jeremiah 1:6; he said Ah, Lord God! behold, I am a child, and cannot speak; but the Lord prevailed upon him, replying, Jeremiah 1:7, Say not, I am a child; for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Jeremiah 1:9, The Lord put forth his hand, and touched his mouth, and said, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. This is all that is here meant by deceiving, viz. God’s overruling of him contrary to his own inclinations.
I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me; he complaineth that now he was in this office every one mocked him and derided him, and that for the faithful discharge of that office to which God had called him.
For since I spake, I cried out: if the particle be translated since, as we translate it, the meaning is, Since I first began to be a prophet, I have faithfully discharged my prophetical office, and that with some warmth and zeal.
I cried violence and spoil: some understand it of the violence which he himself experienced: others understand it of those acts of injustice and violence which were found amongst the people; he cried out against them: others understand it as a denunciation of judgment; he prophesied that violence and spoil was coming upon them.
Because the word of the Lord was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily; because of that scorn and derision with which they treated him. But others think that it were better translated surely than because, as it is in many texts, Isaiah 60:9; Isaiah 63:16, &c. It is not much material which way we translate it, for it appeareth, from 2 Chronicles 36:16, that this people’s mocking of God’s messengers, despising his words, and misusing his prophets, was one great cause of the wrath of God coming upon them; and it is certain that Jeremiah was made such a scorn and derision to them.
Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name: this daily scorn and reproach which the prophet saw himself exposed unto, for preaching against the sin and wickedness of the people, was a sore temptation upon him to lay down his employment as a prophet. He did not speak this openly, but he spoke it in his heart, he had (as he confesseth) many such thoughts in his breast. But he saith he was not able to do what he thought to do, he found in his heart a constraint to go on, that when a revelation came at any time from God unto him, it was like a fire in his bones, which he must quench by uttering what God had revealed to him.
The prophet here rendereth a reason why he thought of giving over his work as a prophet, his ears were continually filled with the obloquies and reproaches of such as reproached him, and besides he was afraid on all hands, there were so many traps laid for him, so many devices devised against him. They did not only take all advantages against him, but they sought advantages and invited others to raise up false stories of him. They said to men like themselves, Raise but you the report, we will blow it abroad.
All my familiars watched for my halting; not only strangers, but those that I might have expected the greatest kindness from, those that pretended most courteously, watched for opportunities to do me mischief and lay in wait for my halting.
Saying, Peradventure he will be enticed, and we shall prevail against him; desiring nothing more than that I might be enticed to speak or do something which they might make matter of a colourable accusation.
And we shall take our revenge on him; that so they might satisfy their malice upon me. This hath always been the genius of wicked men; Job and David both made complaints much like this, Job 19:19; Psalms 31:13; Psalms 55:12-19.55.14. Thus it fared with Christ himself. The same spirit which yet possesseth wicked men was found in wicked men in all former times. And this ought to be a great relief to the people of God under the like measures, to consider that the servants are not above their Lord, and wicked men thus of old persecuted the prophets.
The prophet recovering himself out of his fit of passion, encourageth himself in his God, whom he calls the
terrible one, so declaring his faith in the power of God, as one able to save him, and in the promise and good-will of God toward him; therefore he saith,
The Lord is with me; such was the promise of God to this prophet, when he first undertook the prophetical office, Jeremiah 1:8, Be not afraid of their faces; for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord. From hence he concludeth, that though he had many that pursued after his life, yet they should stumble in their ways of violence, and should not prevail; that they should either be ashamed of what they had done, or be brought to shame for what they had done; for
prosper they should not; or, they acted like fools, and did not deal prudently for themselves (so this word is translated, Isaiah 52:13).
Their everlasting confusion shall never be forgotten; they should come to a reproach and ignominy, and their reproach should not be like his, for a time, but it should be a lasting, perpetual reproach that should not be forgotten. This was not only written for that generation, but for all generations that are yet to come, and hath been made good in the experience of all ages past. The persecutors of God’s ministers have found that God hath been with his ministers according to his promise, Matthew 28:20, and that they have stumbled in their way, and not at last prevailed; that they have not acted prudently for their own good, and the good of their families; that a perpetual ignominy clave to the memory of those who have been employed in this work. There stands to this day a blot upon the memory of them who persecuted Isaiah, Jeremiah, &c., the apostles, and such faithful ministers as have been since their time.
Seest the reins and the heart: the prophet had, Jeremiah 17:10, spoken unto God under this notion; here he appealeth to him as such, who therefore must needs see as well the prophet’s sincerity as his enemies’ malice.
Let me see thy vengeance on them: for his prayer against his enemies, it is of the same nature with what we met with Jeremiah 11:20, indeed this whole verse is the same with that. David, Psalms 58:10, prophesieth that the righteous should rejoice when they see the vengeance which God brings on his enemies. But yet the prophet seems in this petition to have showed himself a man (as the apostle speaks of Elijah) subject to like passions with other men; for although God sometimes by his providence causeth vengeance to come upon his and his people’s enemies in their sight, yet whether they may absolutely pray for it is a question. See Poole "Jeremiah 11:20".
The prophet here riseth higher, from prayer to praise: it is not certain whether this was a rejoicing of faith or of sense; a thanksgiving to God upon his deliverance out of the hand of Pashur, or some other enemies, or a rejoicing in the sure belief that God would deliver his life out of the hands of these wicked men. If we take it in the latter sense, it teacheth us our duty, to give God the honour of all our deliverances from the hands of wicked men. If in the former sense, it showeth us the power of faith, which being the substance of things not seen, and evidence of things but hoped for, showeth us things to come as if already present, and teacheth us to rejoice in the hope of those things of which we have no present possession.
This sudden change of the prophet’s style maketh both Mr. Calvin, and some other good interpreters, think that these words proceeded from Jeremiah rather as a repetition of a former passion, into which the abuses of his enemies had put him, than as the immediate product of his spirit at this time. Whenever they were spoken, they speak a very extravagant passion, to show us, that though Jeremiah was a great man, yet he was but a man, encompassed with infirmities, and subject to like passions with other men. We find Job in the like passion, Job 3:3. These great failures of God’s people stand in Scripture, as rocks in the sea appear, to mind mariners to keep off them, not to run upon them.
Parents are usually rejoiced when a son is born to them.
the cities he means those cities mentioned Genesis 19:25, Sodom and Gomorrah; by
the cry in the morning and shouting at noon, he means the shouts and noises that enemies make when they break in upon a place in a hostile manner.
These various expressions do only let us see to what a tide passion swelled in this good man’s heart, and teach us how much need we have to pray to be delivered from our own passions. Jeremiah’s leaving these things recorded by himself, is one instance of what is brought as a rational argument to prove that only men wrote the Scriptures by inspiration from God, they would never else have recorded their own gross failings, men commonly writing for their own honour, not to their own defamation.
These words let us know the prophet’s temptation to these extravagant eruptions of passion; it was the reproach, and shame, and affliction which he endured for the faithful discharge of his ministry; which both lets us see the goodness of God towards those whom he spareth as to these trials, and what need we have under them to keep a watch upon our own hearts. These records also of holy writ are useful to us, if at any time we be overtaken with such errors, to comfort us, in that they are not such spots but have been found in the faces of God’s fairest ones; and to make us charitable towards such as we may see sometimes overborne with the like temptations.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Jeremiah 20". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany