Jeremiah 20:1-18

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“Passhhur the son of Immer, the priest,” heard YHWH’s message of judgment that Jeremiah proclaimed regarding Jerusalem and its inhabitants. If “son of Immer” identified him as a descendant (not a direct son) of Immer, this would mean that he was a member of the sixteenth priestly division that was instituted during the reign of King David. (1 Chronicles 24:1, 6, 14) Pashhur occupied a responsible position as “chief officer” (“appointed leader” or superintendent [LXX]) in the “house [or temple] of YHWH.” In that capacity, he apparently had the authority to administer punishment to fellow members of priestly descent (like Jeremiah) for misconduct. (20:1)

After hearing Jeremiah prophesy, Pashhur beat him, probably meaning that he ordered that he be beaten with a rod up to the maximum limit of 40 strokes. (Compare Deuteronomy 25:2, 3.) As an additional punishment, he had Jeremiah confined in “stocks.” The Hebrew word rendered “stocks” is mahpéketh and is considered to be derived from a root that can mean “turn,” “bend,” or “distort.” This suggests that the device was designed to restrain a person in an unnatural bent or distorted position. The Septuagint contains a form of the word katarráktes, which may designate some means for restraining or confining a person. According to the Hebrew text, the implement for punishment was located at the “upper Gate of Benjamin,” the open area near that gate. Another name for this gate may have been the “Sheep Gate,” the northeast entrance to Jerusalem and the means of access into the temple area from the north. This would fit the additional description that linked the Gate of Benjamin to the “house [or temple] of YHWH.” The Septuagint refers to the means of restraint as being at the “gate of the house set apart, the upper, which was at the house of the Lord.” In a location where worshipers would be passing into the outer temple court, Jeremiah doubtless would have been exposed to ridicule from those who hated him for his prophesying. (20:2)

The next day Pashhur released Jeremiah from the stocks. At that time Jeremiah said to him, “Not Pashhur, but Magor-Missabib [Fright All Around (Exiled One [LXX])], does YHWH call your name.” This name suggested that he would experience fright or terror from the horrors that he would see coming from every side. (20:3) Explaining the significance of the name Magor-Missabib, Jeremiah continued, “For thus says YHWH, Look, I will make you a terror to yourself and all your friends [or supporters], and they will fall by the sword of their enemies while your eyes will see [it], and all Judah [the entire realm of the kingdom of Judah] I will give into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he will carry them [the survivors] captive to Babylon, and will slay them with the sword.” Nebuchadnezzar was the king of Babylon who conquered the kingdom of Judah and destroyed the Jerusalem, including the magnificent temple that King Solomon had built centuries earlier. (20:4; see the Notes section.) Through Jeremiah, YHWH declared, “I will give all the wealth [the strength (LXX) of this city [Jerusalem] and all its toil [all the products of those who labored], and all its valuable possessions, and all the treasures of the kings of Judah [that they had accumulated during their respective reigns (all the treasures of the king of Judah [LXX]) into the hand of their enemies [the hands of his enemies (LXX)]. And they [their enemies] will plunder them, and seize them, and take them to Babylon.” Nothing of any value would remain after the conquest of Jerusalem. (20:5; see the Notes section.)

Jeremiah made known YHWH’s message of judgment against Pashhur and also the reason for the punishment. “And you, Pashhur, and all those dwelling in your house [his entire household] will go into captivity, and you will go to Babylon, and there you will die, and there you will be buried [far away from the God-given land], you and all your friends [or supporters] to whom you prophesied falsehood.” Pashhur contradicted the word of YHWH that Jeremiah proclaimed, insisting that the kingdom of Judah would not be left in a desolated state, that Jerusalem and the temple would not be destroyed, and that there would be no exile for those who then resided in the land. (20:6)

The mistreatment, abuse, and mockery to which Jeremiah had been subjected greatly disheartened him. In his distress, he complained bitterly against YHWH. “You have seduced me, YHWH, and I was seduced. You are stronger than I, and you have prevailed.” When the call to serve as YHWH’s prophet came to him, Jeremiah felt inadequate and was reluctant to accept the commission. (1:6) His complaint suggests that he believed that YHWH had overpowered him in not permitting him to turn down service as his prophet. He was left without a choice, for YHWH’s strength was superior to his. In his despair of what had happened to him for being overpowered to accept the commission, Jeremiah said, “I have become a laughingstock all the day” [or continually]; everyone is ridiculing me.” (20:7)

Whenever Jeremiah would proclaim the word of YHWH, he would cry out. The substance of the message he would shout out was, “Violence and destruction,” indicating that violent action would be taken against the disobedient people, that the land would be devastated, and that the towns and cities, including Jerusalem, would be destroyed. This unpopular message made Jeremiah an object of persistent ridicule, and he expressed himself to this effect. “For the word of YHWH has become for me a reproach and a derision all day long.” (20:8; see the Notes section.)

In view of the ridicule and hostility he had to endure for making known the word or message of YHWH, Jeremiah considered not mentioning him (not naming the name of the Lord [LXX]) and not speaking any more “in his name.” But, “in his heart” or his inner self, he felt as though the message was like a “burning fire shut up [flaming (LXX)] in [his] bones,” and he became weary in his efforts to hold it in (was “weakened on all sides” [LXX]). He found that he simply could not stop proclaiming the word of YHWH. The Septuagint indicates that he could not endure it. (20:9)

Jeremiah heard the “whispering” or “defamation” of many. It appears that they derisively repeated his words, “Terror all around. They expressed their intent against him, saying, “Report, let us report [against] him.” Every man who had been at “peace” with Jeremiah or on friendly terms with him was so no longer but watched for his “limping,” stumbling, fall, or anything that they could use against him. Their reasoning was, “Perhaps he can be deceived [or tricked], and we can prevail against him and take our revenge on him.” They would have liked to see Jeremiah dead. (20:10; see the Notes section.)

Like a formidable warrior, YHWH was with Jeremiah. Therefore, he was confidant that his persecutors would “stumble and not prevail.” They would experience shame, for they would not succeed. Jeremiah’s enemies would come to have lasting dishonor, disgrace that would never be forgotten. (20:11; see the Notes section.)

Jeremiah recognized “YHWH of hosts” (the God with hosts of angels in his service [the “Lord” (LXX)]) as truly knowing the person who is righteous or upright and as never being deceived by outward appearances. YHWH tests or examines the righteous one and has intimate knowledge regarding him, for he sees the individual’s “kidneys and heart,” penetrating the secret self or the feelings and emotions and the inner self and thought. The implication appears to be that Jeremiah was confident that YHWH knew him to be upright and in no way deserving the murderous hatred that had been directed against him. Therefore, with a clean conscience, he could make his petition that he might see YHWH’s vengeance upon his enemies, for he had committed his cause to YHWH. (20:12)

Apparently in view of the deliverance from his enemies that he had experienced, Jeremiah is quoted as saying, “Sing to YHWH, praise YHWH, for he has delivered the soul [or life] of the needy [or afflicted] one from the hand [or power] of evildoers.” The rescue that YHWH had effected should have occasioned singing in expression of thanksgiving and praise for all that he had done. (20:13)

The expressions of Jeremiah that follow indicate that he was disheartened and in great distress because of the mistreatment and ridicule to which he was subjected. He cursed the very day on which he was born, and then added, “May the day my mother bore me not be blessed [longed for (LXX)].” (20:14) Jeremiah even cursed the man who brought the good news to his father that a son had been born to him, causing his father to rejoice. (20:15) Regarding this man, he said, “Let that man be like the cities that YHWH overthrew [in wrath (LXX)] without pity [or regret].” Apparently these cities were Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, for their fiery destruction is attributed directly to YHWH. (Genesis 19:23-25; Deuteronomy 29:22; Jeremiah 50:40; Amos 4:11) Jeremiah continued with his expression of a curse on the man, wanting him to have no respite from distress. In the morning, he should hear an outcry, and an alarm at noon. The outcry and alarm probably relate to developments during a military siege. (20:16)

Jeremiah was so downcast that he would have preferred to be dead. He cursed the man who announced his birth because that person did not kill him in the womb, letting his mother be his grave and her womb be pregnant for all time to come. (20:17)

In view of the misery, abuse, and insult he experienced, Jeremiah could not understand why he had even come into existence. He expressed himself to this effect with a rhetorical question. “Why did I come forth from the womb to see toil and sorrow and [to have] my days end [or spent] in shame?” (20:18)


For the fulfillment of the prophetic words in verses 4 and 5, see 2 Kings 25:1-21; 2 Chronicles 36:17-21; Jeremiah 52:4-27.

The Septuagint rendering of verse 8 differs from the reading of the Hebrew text. “For I will laugh with my bitter word [or message]. ‘Rebellion and misery,’ I will call out, because the word of the Lord became to me for a reproach and for mockery all my days.”

According to the Septuagint rendering of verse 10, Jeremiah “heard the defamation of many” who were gathered all around him. They would say, “Join together, let us join together against him, all the men, his friends. Watch [or give heed to] his thought, whether he can be deceived and we can prevail against him and take our revenge on him.”

The rendering of verse 11 in the Septuagint differs somewhat from the reading of the Hebrew text. “And the Lord [was] with me like a mighty warrior. Therefore, they pursued and were not able to perceive [possibly anything valid against Jeremiah]. They were shamed exceedingly, for they did not perceive their dishonor, which will not be forgotten for eternity.”