New European Commentary


About | PDFs | Mobile formats | Word formats | Other languages | Contact Us | What is the Gospel? | Support the work | Carelinks Ministries | | The Real Christ | The Real Devil | "Bible Companion" Daily Bible reading plan

Deeper Commentary


Jeremiah 20:1 Now Pashhur the son of Immer the priest, who was chief officer in the house of Yahweh, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things- "Pashhur" means 'liberated'. This may well have been his title; he was preaching liberty to act as they naturally wanted. God's response was to proclaim a liberty to the sword and to destruction for such people (Jer. 34:17). He was the equivalent of the New Testament false prophets who taught that we can continue in sin that grace may abound (Rom. 6:1). See on Jer. 21:1.

Jeremiah 20:2 Then Pashhur struck Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the upper gate of Benjamin, which was in the house of Yahweh-
In this Jeremiah was a type of the Lord Jesus, indeed more than this- Jeremiah might have been a potential Messiah figure of some sort, but Judah rejected him. The way the servant is beaten and has his hair pulled out (Is. 50:4-11) reminds us of how the prophet Jeremiah was treated the same way by the Jews when his message was rejected (Jer. 20:2; Jer. 37:15). "Stocks" is LXX "dungeon".

Jeremiah 20:3 It happened on the next day, that Pashhur brought forth Jeremiah out of the stocks. Then Jeremiah said to him, Yahweh has not called your name Pashhur, but Magormissabib-
LXX "Not Pashhur, but Exile".  GNB "Terror everywhere" connects with :4, "I will make you a terror...". And the same phrase is used in :10; the terror everywhere would be due to Pashhur. He appears to have been the chief false prophet and is singled out for particular mention and condemnation.

Jeremiah 20:4 For thus says Yahweh, Behold, I will make you a terror to yourself, and to all your friends-
As noted on :3, this was to be the meaning of his new name, hence he was a terror to himself.

And they shall fall by the sword of their enemies, and your eyes shall see it; and I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall carry them captive to Babylon, and shall kill them with the sword- As explained on Jer. 10:18, not "all Judah" went to Babylon, in fact only a minority of them. Again we see God's pole of pity and grace overpowering the pole of judgment within His personality. But the tension and struggle between those poles were very real for Him, as they were within His representative Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 20:5 Moreover I will give all the riches of this city, and all its gains, and all the precious things of it, yes, all the treasures of the kings of Judah will I give into the hand of their enemies; and they shall make them a prey, and take them, and carry them to Babylon-
This alludes to Isaiah's words to Hezekiah, that all his wealth and royal descendants would be taken to Babylon as punishment for his pride and refusing to act as the intended Messianic ruler of the restored kingdom was meant to. And yet here the fault for that is blamed upon Pashhur and those who believed him. We reflect how all God's actions and judgments are a careful calculation, taking multiple factors into account, and are far from being a swipe in anger at those who displease Him.

Jeremiah 20:6 You, Pashhur, and all who dwell in your house shall go into captivity; and you shall come to Babylon, and there you shall die, and there you shall be buried, you, and all your friends, to whom you have prophesied falsely-
  We wonder why Pashhur wasn't killed but died having seen the suffering and death of those to whom he had falsely prophesied. This was likely extra punishment for the man; to have died by the sword in Jerusalem would have been a lesser judgment. And this is how the condemnation of the wicked will work out at the last day; the grades of punishment will be in terms of seeing the result of their actions, rather than in degrees of heat or torture as classically imagined.    

Jeremiah 20:7 Yahweh, you have seduced me, and I was seduced; You are stronger than me, and I am overcome: I am become a laughing-stock all the day, every one mocks me-
See on Ez. 14:9. Despite the unity of spirit between God and the prophets, the prophets weren’t always forced to say the words. Jeremiah didn’t want to say them at times, the weariness of it all got on top of him; and yet he felt unable to walk away, just as God felt with Israel. But there were times when he outright rebelled. Jer. 20:7 is made a mess of in most translations, because the obvious translation is simply too shocking. Jeremiah complains: “O Lord, thou hast seduced me [s.w. Ex. 22:16 of a man seducing a woman], and I am seduced; thou hast raped me [s.w. Dt. 22:15] and I am overcome” (Rabbi Abraham Heschel’s translation). Here is Jeremiah saying that he was attracted by God, he was seduced by Him, but then the whole thing became too much- he felt his soul had been raped. And yet in Jer. 15:16 he says that he had found God’s word and eaten it, and as a result, “I am called by thy name, O Lord”- the language of a woman marrying and taking her husband’s name (Is. 4:1). The word of God was his “joy [and] delight”- two words used four times elsewhere in Jeremiah, and always in the context of the joy of a wedding (Jer. 7:34; 16:9; 25:10; 33:11). Jeremiah saw his prophetic task as actually a marriage to God, an inbreathing of His word and being, to the point that he could say that he personally was “full of the wrath / passion of God” (Jer. 6:11). A prophet could only be incensed if God was incensed (Num. 23:8)- such was the bond between them. No wonder these men felt alone amongst men. They had a relationship with God which others couldn’t enter into, which totally affected their lives and beings. The preacher / testifier of Jesus knows something of this spirit of prophecy. But in Jer. 20:7, Jeremiah felt he had been raped and not married. He resented the complete takeover of his heart. See on :10.

If we stick with the translation "deceived", then we conclude that Jeremiah feared God had deceived him (Jer. 20:7 AV)- showing he knew such a thing was possible. Dt. 13:1-3 warns Israel not to believe prophets whose prophecies came true although they taught false doctrines, because they may have been raised up to test their obedience.

Jeremiah 20:8 For whenever I speak, I cry out Your word-
LXX "For I will laugh with my bitter speech" sounds as if Jeremiah is sarcastically saying that he will laugh along with his mockers. His attitude seems so bitter and resentful of his being mocked that it is not altogether correct.


I cry, Violence and destruction! But the word of Yahweh is made a reproach to me and a derision all the day- "Reproach... and a derision" is quoting verbatim from Ps. 44:13; 79:4, which speak of how God's people became just this because of their sins. Jeremiah identifies with Israel, and yet feels that this is how he is treated by Israel. And he clearly minded it; he was very sensitive to being mocked. Yet through this experience he was enabled to identify with how Israel were to be made to their neighbours. Nothing is ever wasted in the Divine ecology.

Jeremiah 20:9 If I say, I will not make mention of Him, nor speak any more in His name; then there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with forbearing, and I can’t-
This could as well be translated as meaning that Jeremiah did decide not to make mention of Him nor speak any more. We get the impression that at this point he had had enough, he was a reluctant if not rebellious prophet. And yet because the writing of God’s Word is a result of God’s will rather than human desire, he was “carried along by the Holy Spirit” so that he had no choice in the matter. Peter describes this idea of the Bible writers being ‘carried along’ with the same Greek word used in Acts 27:17,27 about a ship being ‘driven’ by the wind, out of control. Mic. 2:7 comments that truly inspired prophets can’t be stopped from speaking forth God’s word, because God’s Spirit controlling them can’t be constrained. Those men were truly ‘carried along’. And yet in Jeremiah's case, he was also willing, and his spirit was that of God on so many points. Perhaps therefore it was not that he was irresistibly forced to prophesy; the fire he felt within may not simply have been that of Divine inspiration forcing him, but the passion he felt for his people, which made him return to being a willing mouthpiece.

Jeremiah 20:10 For I have heard the defaming of many, terror on every side-
"Terror everywhere (GNB) / on every side" is one meaning of "Magormissabib "in :3. The terror to come upon Judah was partly because of their defamation of Jeremiah, who had spoken God's word to them.

Denounce, and we will denounce him, say all my familiar friends, those who watch for my fall-  LXX "Conspire ye, and let us conspire together against him". But Jeremiah has just been assured that all such plots would come to nothing (Jer. 18:18,23; 19:7). In this low moment he appears to have lost his faith in that promise, although it returns in :11. His "familiar friends" were literally those of his family, the men of Anathoth, his fellow priests (Jer. 11:21).

Perhaps he will be persuaded, and we shall prevail against him, and we shall take our revenge on him- Clearly Jeremiah was being set up in some kind of trap, being persuaded to say or so things which would ensnare him. The language here of traps and faithless "familiar friends" is that of the Messianic Psalms. His heart was clearly in those Psalms, and this makes him even more a type of Christ. "Persuaded" is the same word as "seduced" in :7. He felt on one hand seduced by God, and then bitterly disappointed; and yet seduced by the false prophets too, although he resisted that. Possibly some kind of sexual seduction was offered to him.


Jeremiah 20:11 But Yahweh is with me as an awesome mighty one-
"Awesome mighty one" is literally 'an oppressor'. Jeremiah felt at times that God had seduced him and taken him over (:7) and he apparently resented that. His language seems inappropriate, but he speaks so often in depression and states his feelings without much apparent effort at self-controlling them.

Therefore my persecutors shall stumble, and they shall not prevail; they shall be utterly disappointed, because they have not dealt wisely- This was exactly as promised in Jer. 18:18,23; 19:7. But in :10 Jeremiah temporarily lost his faith in this and despaired. He is so human and so imaginable.

Even with an everlasting dishonour which shall never be forgotten- Eternal shame is a common condemnation of the wicked. Seeing they will be long dead and gone, it is us, the accepted, who by God's grace will recall the terrible shame of the rejected throughout our eternity. Their shame will be so terrible; and hence their anger will likewise be.

Jeremiah 20:12 But, Yahweh of Armies, who tests the righteous, who sees the heart and the mind-
The 'testing' of Judah was to be through melting them in the furnace of Jerusalem, caused by the fire of Babylonian judgment (Jer. 9:7; Zech. 13:9). We learn here that the essential purpose of that was to try / test / purify / reveal their heart and mind; for that was and is of utterly paramount importance to God.

Let me see Your vengeance on them- But when he did see this, he bitterly laments over it, in Lamentations. We must be careful what we ask for, lest we receive it. There is more information about Jeremiah's feelings about his persecutors at Jer. 20:10-12. The book of Jeremiah isn't arranged chronologically, and it seems Jer. 11:20 refers to the same time as Jer. 20:10-12.

For to You have I revealed my cause- The fact God sees and knows all means that we might as well open our lives up before Him in prayer and meditation. Jeremiah "revealed my cause" before the Lord because he knew that God "tests the heart and the mind". This may be why men like Jeremiah were somewhat 'rough' with God; whatever they felt about God, they told Him. They so knew that God knew their thoughts... there was and is no point in saying fine words to God in prayer, whilst feeling harder about Him in ones heart. "Revealed my cause" is legal language, used also in Jer. 11:20. He feels that his prayer is an approach to the throne of God, and he seeks justice and judgment from Him- vengeance on his false accusers. Prayer is indeed a foretaste of the judgment; we come boldly before the throne of grace just as we shall likewise come boldly before that throne at the last day.


Jeremiah 20:13 Sing to Yahweh, praise Yahweh; for He has delivered the soul of the needy from the hand of evildoers-
This is typical of the almost bi-polar nature of Jeremiah; ecstatic praise after desperation and almost collapse of faith earlier in this chapter, and then in the next verse, having suicidal thoughts. Maybe he was not bi-polar but simply going through the mood swings that were perhaps inevitable to anyone who was representative of both God and Israel. And his internal conflict between these two poles, of judgment and grace, also reflected those within God, as brought out in Hosea, where His "repentings" are unbearable for Him (Hos. 11:8). See on Jer. 18:23.

Jeremiah 20:14 Cursed is the day in which I was born: don’t let the day in which my mother bore me be blessed-
Jer. 20:14-18 is quoting from the depression of Job in Job 3:3-12. Whilst Jeremiah was in a sense wrong to have these suicidal thoughts, and was denigrating his own ministry which was from God, even in those low moments he turned to Biblical precedent. He recalled there was another man who had been betrayed by his friends and misrepresented by them.

Jeremiah 20:15 Cursed is the man who brought news to my father saying, A boy is born to you; making him very glad-
The quotation from Job 3:3-12 is not exact. We wonder whether Jeremiah had only verbally recalled from memory those words, hence the discrepancies; or whether he was quoting from an earlier version which under inspiration was edited during the exile into its current form.

Jeremiah 20:16 Let that man be as the cities which Yahweh overthrew, and didn’t relent: and let him hear a cry in the morning, and shouting at noontime-
This is alluding to Sodom and Gomorrah. It seems an awful imprecation to bring down upon the head of an innocent messenger of decades previously. Jeremiah here surely is in depression, quoting Job's depressed words without pausing to put meaning into those words. We have noted often how he does this about his enemies, and then in Lamentations laments how his imprecations actually came true.

Jeremiah 20:17 because God didn’t kill me from the womb; and so my mother would have been my grave, and her womb always great-
This idea that the naturally aborted child remained within the mother is of course medically inaccurate, but the Bible doesn't carry inspired footnotes which point out the scientific inaccuracies of the recorded statements. We need to remember this when we encounter the language of demons being used to describe mental illness and their cure in the New Testament.

Jeremiah 20:18 Why came I forth out of the womb to see labour and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame?
- GNB "to end my life in disgrace?". God had promised to preserve Jeremiah's life, so this is definitely Jeremiah in weakness. But this 'end of life' may refer to his plans to commit suicide. He was a man called to do God's work, as we all are. His despising of his life is therefore deeply wrong. But it is recorded as comfort for us as we reflect upon words written or spoken in depression. Just as Job's words quoted here were not held against Job, and at the end he is commended for having spoken rightly about God. It seems that God does cut some slack to the feelings of depressed people. And we should likewise.