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Jeremiah, Chapter 20
THEME: Jeremiah's persecution and prophecies during Zedekiah's reign
Such plain dealing as Jeremiah used in the foregoing chapter, one might easily foresee, if it did not convince and humble men, would provoke and infuriate them; and that it did. We see (1). Jeremiah persecuted by Pashur for preaching that sermon (v. 1,2). (2). Pashur threatened for so doing, and the word which Jeremiah had preached confirmed (v. 3-6). (3). Jeremiah complains to God about it and the other examples of hard measure that he had since he began to be a prophet, and the serious temptations he had struggled with (v. 7-10), lodging his appeal with Him, not doubting that he shall yet praise Him, by which it appears that he had much grace (v. 11-13) and yet irritable, cursing the day he was born (v. 14-18). He had sad reminders of all the corruption, for he was a man subject to like passions as we are.
When Jeremiah went down to Tophet and broke the bottle as the Lord had told him to do, the message he gave to the people of Judah was that they were going into captivity. Josiah, the great and good king, is dead, and he has been followed by Jehoahaz and Jehoiakim. Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, is now on the throne. He is the worst and the weakest of all the kings who ever ruled Judah. It is during his reign that the Babylonian captivity prophesied by Jeremiah will take place.
We will now see a change take place in the life and ministry of Jeremiah. When he gives out the Word of God, he is adamant, like a rock, he is strong and he is uncompromising, but as a man, he has a very tender heart. When his friend Josiah died, Jeremiah wept for him (2 Chron.35:25). The three evil kings who followed Josiah reject the ministry of Jeremiah in a very definite way. Jeremiah is given a brushoff, and his messages are absolutely ignored, but he has not yet been persecuted personally. As we come to chapter 20, we will find Jeremiah being personally and physically persecuted for the first time. Up until now it has just been threats.
Jeremiah Persecuted by Pashur for Preaching That Sermon (Jer. 20:1-2)
Jer. 20:1 Now Pashur the son of Immer the priest, who was also chief governor in the house of the LORD, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things. (KJV)
The course of Immer was the sixteenth course of the priests (1 Chr.24:14). Pashur was the descendant of Immer, one of the original governors of the sanctuary and of the house of God, twenty-four in all, sixteen of the sons of Eleazar and eight of the sons of Ithamar (1Chr 24:14). This Pashur is not the same as Pashur, son of Melchiah (Jer. 21:1). The captains (Lk 22:4) seem to have been over the twenty-four guards of the Temple, and had only the right of apprehending any who were guilty of crime within the Temple; but the Sanhedrim had the judicial power over such delinquents (Jer. 26:8,10,16).
Pashur was his son, descended from him through many generations. It is not for us to know, nor very easy to determine, in what sense he is called the chief governor in house of the LORD, 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. It is certain he was no high priest, for then he could not have been one of the course of Immer.
Heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things . . . he either heard Jeremiah himself, which is most likely, or somebody told him what Jeremiah had prophesied in the Temple, which was within his charge and jurisdiction.
Jer. 20:2 Then Pashur smote Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the high gate of Benjamin, which was by the house of the LORD. (KJV)
Then Pashur smote Jeremiah the prophet . . . it is not said how he struck him, although some think it was with his fist, as the false prophet struck Micaiah (1 Ki.22:24). Others think that Pashur, he or others acting on his authority, delivered 40 lashes (Deut. 25:3), to the prophet. To strike a prophet is a very serious thing.
And put him in the stocks that were in the high gate of Benjamin . . . some say the stocks fastened Jeremiah’s hands, feet and neck in holes, bending the body in a distorted posture, causing severe pain. Others say the meaning of the term stocks (Jer.29:26), is not clear. It may refer to a device used to restrain the prophet or it could be a cell or dungeon (2 Chr.16:10).
Which was by the house of the LORD . . . the high gate of Benjamin is the northern gate of the upper Temple court.
*****Smote means strike or beat. Pashur probably had him whipped, and maybe they actually locked Jeremiah up with leg chains. It is not stated. It appears this Pashur was in charge of keeping order in the court of the LORD. This would have given him a great lee-way to do as he wished. He, like the priests and others in authority, did not like the message Jeremiah brought. The others had never physically attacked Jeremiah however.
But notice where the persecution originates . . . it began in organized religion. In today’s world, the Word of God is being hurt and hindered the most by the organized, liberal church which rejects the TRUE Word of God. They will go along with those who boast of their brotherhood, their love for everyone, and their broad-mindedness. But they have NO love for, and are NOT broad-minded when it comes to accepting someone who stands firm in the Word of God. That is when their broad-mindedness and love disappears. The physical persecution of Jeremiah began in the organized religion of his day. BEWARE!!! Find a church where the Gospel of Jesus Christ is taught.
Jer. 20:3 And it came to pass on the morrow, that Pashur brought forth Jeremiah out of the stocks. Then said Jeremiah unto him, The LORD hath not called thy name Pashur, but Magormissabib. (KJV)
If Pashur thought he would silence Jeremiah, he soon learned he did not!
Then said Jeremiah unto him, The LORD hath not called thy name Pashur, but Magormissabib . . . with his first breath after he was released, Jeremiah boldly announced the new name that the LORD had placed upon Pashhur, Magormissabib . . . which means ‘terror on every side’ and is often used by Jeremiah (6:25; 20:3, 10; 46:5; 49:29; Lam. 2:22). The details of that terror are in verses 4 and 6. This was a very bold thing to say to the person who had authority to put you back in chains. Pashur is given a name that symbolizes the great terror that will come upon Judah and Jerusalem, the Hebrew word Magormissabib.
*****Maybe by this time the crazed priest thought he had done more than he could justify by the Law, for if Jeremiah was a false prophet, the judgment of him belonged not to him, but to the Sanhedrim; he could do nothing but to smite him. Maybe he brought him forth in order to bring him before the Sanhedrim; but it does not seem that he did that. Although Jeremiah's following words to him might be thought insulting enough, if he had planned any formal charge against him. It seemed that he had no more to say to Jeremiah, but Jeremiah (to whom God had appeared in the prison that night, while he was alone, had revealed to him what end this hot-headed priest should come to) and Jeremiah had something to say to Pashur. The LORD’S meaning was, that Pashur would no longer be called by men Pashur, which means, as some say, a noble, flourishing priest; or, as others, one who by his authority makes others tremble; but Magormissabib, means fear and terror on all sides.
Magormissabib . . . quite a name, and it means terror on every side. Jeremiah is telling Pashur that there is terror in store for him and for everyone connected with him.
Jer. 20:4 For thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will make thee a terror to thyself, and to all thy friends: and they shall fall by the sword of their enemies, and thine eyes shall behold it: and I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall carry them captive into Babylon, and shall slay them with the sword.
God now explained the name of Magormissabib, threatening to fill this wicked priest with terror, that he and all his friends would be terrified, reflecting upon his most miserable state and condition; and his friends, from whom he might possibly expect some relief, would be as miserable as he would be; and it should be an addition to his misery, that his eyes would see it, see his whole country ruined, some being slain by the sword of the king of Babylon, others by him carried into captivity.
*****This is now the prophecy that Jeremiah will stress again and again: the southern kingdom is going into captivity, and nothing can stop it. God has said that it would not help if even Moses or Samuel were alive to help pray (Jer.15:1). It is too late. The people have gone too far in their rejection of God, and as has been revealed by the actions of the present king and the two who have been on the throne ahead of him.
We really need to consider what has happened to Jeremiah. He has been ignored and rejected, but up to this point he has not been persecuted physically. But now he is, and because of all this . . . we must remember that the message he brings to the people is breaking his own heart. It seems to me that he felt that he had failed, and he decides he will turn in his resignation to the LORD. We cannot help but feel his pain. He is not uncaring or unmoved by what is happening. He feels all this, very deeply, and it is draining his strength. With all that he has been through with these wicked people, I don’t see how he puts up, with it all.
Jer. 20:5 Moreover I will deliver all the strength of this city, and all the labours thereof, and all the precious things thereof, and all the treasures of the kings of Judah will I give into the hand of their enemies, which shall spoil them, and take them, and carry them to Babylon. (KJV)
This is just the repetition of what God bad often threatened, the perfect ruin of Jerusalem, and the land of Judah.
All the strength of this city . . . their military men, and their riches.
And all the labours thereof . . . and all the fruit of their labors.
And all the precious things thereof, and all the treasures of the king of Judah . . . all their plate and jewels, the rich furniture of their houses, and whatsoever was laid up in their treasures as rare and valuable. All the treasures of the kings of Judah will God give into the hand of their enemies. Which they in successive reigns had been laying up in store for years together (Isa. 39:6).
Which shall spoil them, and take them, and carry them to Babylon . . . make a prey of them, seize them as their property, and carry them away with them.
*****It seems from this, that Pashur had put great importance on material things. God will take all of them away from him. All of the things he was so proud of would be carried back to Babylon as spoil. Jeremiah would be respected for taking a stand before Pashur, thisungodly man with much worldly power and he would prophesy these things to him. Babylon would make a spoil and a prey of everything he and all the others had.
Jer. 20:6 And thou, Pashur, and all that dwell in thine house shall go into captivity: and thou shalt come to Babylon, and there thou shalt die, and shalt be buried there, thou, and all thy friends, to whom thou hast prophesied lies. (KJV)
And thou, Pashur, and all that dwell in thine house shall go into captivity . . . mainly he and his family would not escape.
And thou shalt come to Babylon . . . he would be brought there, although very much against his will.
And there thou shalt die, and shalt be buried there . . . in a defiled land, for all other countries were considered defiled by the Jews. And to be buried in such a land was a curse; and so it is here threatened as such.
Thou, and all thy friends . . . that is, those that would escape the sword (Jer. 20:4).
To whom thou hast prophesied lies . . . this shows the reason of all this threatened destruction to him and his friends . . . prophesied lies, specifically that God would not possibly leave this land without prophets, priests, and teachers (Jer.18:18; 5:31).
*****Not only because Pashur had so badly treated Jeremiah, a TRUE prophet of the LORD, but because he was a false prophet, and his friends had listened to his lies, and refused to believe those prophecies that came from the LORD Himself, by Jeremiah.
It seems that Pashur will live to be taken captive in Babylon and be killed there. He will not even be buried in his native land. He and all of his friends will die and be buried in Babylon. Jeremiah not only prophesies his doom, but calls him a liar as well. He had been prophesying that all was well, that it was a lie, and Jeremiah tells him so. From these words it is clear that Pashur assumed prophetic functions. Most likely, he and his friends formed a political party in Jerusalem appealing for an alliance with Egypt. Pashur claimed to be a prophet; but he had falsely assumed the prophetic office; and for that he was worthy of death.
Jeremiah impatient with their treachery and contempt (Jer. 20:7-10)
Jer. 20:7 O LORD, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived: thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed: I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me. (KJV)
The following part of the chapter to the end of it contains a complaint or prayer of the prophet to the LORD, made as some think, during his imprisonment by Pashur, but the certain time is not known.
O LORD, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived . . . the verb translated deceived is a strong one and can be translated seducedd. Some say that it could be thou hast persuaded me, or thou hast allured or enticed me, as it is translated (Ex.22:16; Jdg.14:15; 1 Ki. 22:21-22; Ps.78:36; Pro.1:10; 16:29). It means to remove a man from his own opinion, or change his mind. That is no doubt the meaning here. LORD, I was not fond of being a prophet, by Your Words I changed my mind.
Thou art stronger than I and hast prevailed . . . but You prevailed against me. Jeremiah at first tried to exempt himself to God. Jer. 1:6-9 Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child. 7 But the LORD said unto me, 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. 8 Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD.
9 Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. (KJV) . . . I really think that this is all that is here meant by deceiving . . . God's overruling of Jeremiah contrary to his own feelings.
I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me . . . he complains that now he was in this office where every one mocked and ridiculed him, and that was because of his faithful discharge of the office to which God had called him.
*****Jeremiah often allows the reader to see his inner turmoil in the midst of his continuous persecution. It will not do to attempt to soften the language as some have suggested. There are times when God’s children can be so overcome by circumstances that he says things that at best, are stupid (read Psalm 73). The verb translated deceived is a strong one and I think here it can be translated seduced (Ex.22:16; Jdg.14:15; 1 Ki. 22:21-22; Ps.78:36; Pro.1:10; 16:29)
Jeremiah complains that God had overpowered him when He called him. But God had warned him of all that he would face right from the start. Jer. 1:18 For, behold, I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brasen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land. (KJV) And had reassured His prophet on several occasions: Jer. 11:18 And the LORD hath given me knowledge of it, and I know it: then thou shewedst me their doings. (KJV) Jer. 12:17 But if they will not obey, I will utterly pluck up and destroy that nation, saith the LORD. (KJV) . . . Also see Jer.15:10-21 and 17:7-18).
However black the circumstance is, or may seem, the believer must trust in the LORD’S abiding Presence with him. Jos. 1:5 There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. (KJV) Heb. 13:5-6 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. 6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. (KJV)
Maybe this speaks of Jeremiah not wanting to be a prophet in the first place, but the LORD made Jeremiah a prophet anyway. He is feeling sorry for himself, because no one likes him. Not only do they not like Jeremiah, but they laugh at him and say he is not a TRUE prophet. Dear one, they did not like Jesus either! We must stand firm in our trust.
Mat. 10:22 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. (KJV)
John 15:18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. (KJV)
Jer. 20:8 For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the LORD was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily. (KJV)
For since I spake, I cried out . . . since I first began to be a prophet, I have faithfully discharged my prophetic office, and did it willingly and with eagerness.
I cried violence and spoil . . . some understand this of the violence he experienced: others say it was of the acts of injustice and violence that was found among the people, where he cried out against them: others understand it as a condemnation of the judgment he prophesied that violence and spoil was coming to them.
Because the word of the Lord was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily . . . because of the disrespect and ridicule with which they treated him. But others think that it would be better translated surely than because, as it is in many texts (Isa. 60:9; 63:16). It is not much different which way we translate it, for it appears from 2 Chr. 36:16, that these people's mocking of God's messengers, despising His Words, and abusing His prophets, and was one great reason that the wrath of God was coming upon them; and it is certain that Jeremiah was made such a disrespect and mockery to them. This was not a message Jeremiah would have chosen to bring. There was great gloom and doom in the message he brought. God put the words in Jeremiah's mouth, and Jeremiah spoke them, but every day was hard for him because of the message he brought. They all hated Jeremiah because of the message. We must remember Jeremiah was just a young man.
*****Several things had contributed to this. The message was not one of blessing, but of punishment and destruction. In addition, the years had slipped by, and the false prophets were screaming that the TRUE prophecies of men like Isaiah and Jeremiah were not true, because none of the destruction they had prophesied had yet come upon Jerusalem; and they were shouting that the prophecies were false because they had not been fulfilled. We must also remember that one day is as a thousand years with the LORD (2 Pet. 3:8). The people much preferred to put their trust in the false prophets, and it seems that they took up all of the cries of violence and destruction, and terror on every side, and attached them to Jeremiah as a nickname. Here comes old ‘Violence and Destruction’; here comes old ‘Terror on Every Side’!
Jeremiah had simply misunderstood God’s Promises, for God had not promised no protection from persecution and hatred of men, He only promised that Jeremiah would prevail (Jer.1:17-19). God certainly knew this man; because despite Jeremiah's bitter lament, he did indeed prevail, he was victorious! Jeremiah complained about his lot in life, but he is still loyal, obedient and submissive to God's will. May we all be wise and learn from this.
Jer. 20:9 Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.
Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name . . .there was daily contempt and criticism that the prophet saw himself exposed to for preaching against the sin and wickedness of the people. It was a great temptation for him to lay down his job as a prophet, but he spoke of this only in his heart. I am sure that he had many such thoughts, with more being added with each new day. But he knew he was not able to do what was in his thoughts, he knew in his heart that he must go on serving the LORD.
But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones . . .in his heart was a force, a pressure to go on, when a revelation came at any time from the LORD to him, it was like a fire in his bones, which he must quench by speaking what God had revealed to him.
And I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay . . . Jeremiah’s calling instilled a compelling urgency to proclaim God’s Word even when he wanted to stop because of all the harassment from these wicked people. The Apostle Paul expressed this same urgency in the New Testament. Woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel (1 Cor. 9:16). It seems that if Jeremiah did try to stop bringing the prophecies, God would not let him. They burned in his heart until he had to tell what God had told him. He was compelled to prophesy. He had to do what God called him to do.
*****What Jeremiah is saying is: The message is breaking my heart, and all it has done is bring persecution from the religious rulers and rejection of the people. But when he made an effort to resign, he found that the Word of God was in his bones like a fire, and he had to speak out. He could not hold back the words the LORD gave him.
Such determination to speak Truth should be the mark of any one who is bringing the Word of God. Your heart must be in your work. If you really love God and love the Word of God, something inside of you drives you to give it out. I personally know that for a fact.
You can understand the conflict that is going on in Jeremiah’s heart, and he humors himself in something that seemed to have been a habit with God's men in the Old Testament. He does something that Jonah, Job and Elijah did. He sings the old song that will not do him any good. It is the religious blues: Why was I born? A lot of people in today’s world sing that song.
Jer. 20:10 For I heard the defaming of many, fear on every side. Report, say they, and we will report it. All my familiars watched for my halting, saying, Peradventure he will be enticed, and we shall prevail against him, and we shall take our revenge on him. (KJV)
For I heard the defaming of many, fear on every side . . . the defaming or abuse of the enemy on every side (Ps.31:13) tempted him to think of prophesying no more.
Report, say they, and we will report it . . . the wicked people spread lies about him everywhere; they spread reports of dangers coming upon him, hoping to terrify him, and would cause him to stop. Jeremiah's opponents were many, he would hear them whispering as he walked by. It seems that he had so often used the expression Magormissabib or terror on every side, that it had become a nickname used sarcastically: There goes old Magormissabib.
All my familiars watched for my halting . . . not only strangers, but those that he thought were friends, from whom he might have expected kindness. Those that pretended to be most courteous, watched for chances to do him mischief and lay in wait for him.
Saying, Peradventure he will be enticed, and we shall prevail against him . . . they wanted nothing more than that he might be enticed to speak or do something which they might make a matter of an accusation.
And we shall take our revenge on him . . . that they might satisfy their hatred for him. This hath always been the logic of wicked men; both Job and David made complaints much like this Job 19:19; Ps.31:13; 55:12-14). So it was with Christ Jesus Himself (Mat.12:14; 21:46; 26:3-4; 27:22; Lk.19:14). The same evil spirit which possessed wicked men in Jeremiah’s time, has always been found in wicked men in all former times. This should be a great comfort to God’s people when they are under like stressful conditions. Wicked men of all times have persecuted the prophets and all those who are faithful to bring the TRUE Word of God to His people.
*****Jeremiah here gives a reason why he thought of giving up his work as a prophet, his ears were continually filled with the accusations and insults of those who criticized him. He had fear of them because there were so many traps laid for him, so many plans invented against him. They not only took all advantages against him, but they hunted for anything they could do to cause him harm. They were always making up false stories about him. They would say, report, and we will send it abroad.
Not only strangers, but those that he thought he might have expected the kindness from. Those that pretended to be courteous, laid in wait for him to do something new that would anger them. It seems everyone thought the prophet was either insane or power hungry. They would not believe him. They conspired to stop him anyway they could. They all wanted to get even with him for his terrible prophecies.
He rejoices in hope of vengeance (Jer. 20:11-13)
Jer. 20:11 But the LORD is with me as a mighty terrible one: therefore my persecutors shall stumble, and they shall not prevail: they shall be greatly ashamed; for they shall not prosper: their everlasting confusion shall never be forgotten. (KJV)
But the LORD is with me as a mighty terrible one . . . the LORD, Whom the prophet calls the mighty and terrible one, declares 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 my persecutors shall stumble, and they shall not prevail . . . so he says, the Lord is with me; for that was the Promise of God to this prophet, when he first started the prophetical office (Jer.1:8), Be not afraid of their faces; for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord. So, from that time he knew, that although he had many that pursued his life, yet they would stumble in their ways of violence, and would not prevail (Jer.15:20; 20:10).
For they shall not prosper. . . they would be ashamed of what they had done, for prosper they would not; for they acted like fools, and did not deal prudently for themselves (Isa.52:13).
Their everlasting confusion shall never be forgotten . . . they would come to a rebuke and humiliation, and their reproach would not be a lasting, perpetual reproach that would not be forgotten.
*****This was not only written for that generation, but for all generations that are yet to come, and has been made good in the experience of all ages past. The persecutors of God's ministers have found that God has been with His ministers according to His Promise (Mat.28:20). If they stumble in their way, they will at last prevail. They shall be greatly ashamed, for they shall not prosper . . . when the wicked see their schemes are defeated, and they do not succeed, they shall be filled with shame and confusion. They do not act as wise, but a fool’s part, and therefore shame will be the result of it.
Every word that Jeremiah brought to these people from God will happen. Jeremiah was being persecuted as he served the LORD. God is a very present help, especially to those who are in His service. God will punish those who persecute Jeremiah. Nothing good will come to them. It is a dangerous thing to persecute those in service for God.
Jer. 20:12 But, O LORD of hosts, that triest the righteous, and seest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto thee have I opened my cause. (KJV)
But, O LORD of hosts, that triest the righteous . . . that try their faith and patience, in order to the further purify their souls. The LORD can and does increase of these and all their other graces, for all who are aware of them, and of every cause in which they are interested. And who does not judge in their favor with partiality.
And seest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them . . . this is his prayer against his enemies, it is much the same as we saw in: Jer. 11:20 But, O LORD of hosts, that judgest righteously, that triest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto thee have I revealed my cause. (KJV) . . . In fact, this whole verse is pretty much the same as that. David prophesied that the righteous would rejoice when they saw the vengeance that God would bring on His enemies (Ps.58:10).
For unto thee have I opened my cause . . . as to a just judge, who will not fail to do me justice. Jeremiah had been persecuted so much for so long, that now he asks he LORD to let him see the punishment He has in store for those who persecuted him. He will see it, because he will remain in Jerusalem during the siege of the Babylonians.
*****The prophet seems in this petition to show himself as a man, a man like Elijah, who was subject to the same passions as other men (1 Ki.19:9-14; Jam.5:17). But, although the LORD sometimes by his wisdom causes vengeance to come upon His enemies and His people's enemies in their sight, whether we should pray for it, is the question.
Jer. 20:13 Sing unto the LORD, praise ye the LORD: for he hath delivered the soul of the poor from the hand of evildoers. (KJV)
The prophet’s spirits rise higher here, from prayer to praise. It is not certain whether this was a rejoicing of faith or of him coming to his senses. This is a grateful thank You Lord, for the LORD delivering him out of the hand of Pashur, or some other enemies, or a rejoicing in the certain belief that God would deliver his life out of the hands of these wicked men.
There is a lesson here for all of us! It teaches us our duty, to give the LORD the honor and glory for all our deliverances from the hands of wicked men, and it teaches us to rejoice in the hope of those things of which we have no present possession.
Jeremiah Curses his birth (Jer. 20:14-18)
Jer. 20:14 Cursed be the day wherein I was born: let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed. (KJV)
Cursed be the day wherein I was born . . . Jeremiah says it was the beginning of sorrows and to all his misery. It is a wish that he had never been born. Judas in Hell has reason to wish so (Mat.26:24), but no man on Earth has reason to wish it.
Let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed . . . Jeremiah did indeed suffer during his torture at the hands of Pashur. He felt deserted even by God Himself . . . but this could not be called a sin; because the Holy Christ Jesus Himself cried from the Cross, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Mat.27:46; Mk.15:34).
*****This sudden change of the prophet's style makes some 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 of a very excessive passion, to show us, that although Jeremiah was a great man, he was still just a man, burdened with infirmities, weakness and similar passions as all other men. We find Job in a similar passion (Job 3:3). These great failures of God's people stand in Scripture, as rocks in the sea appear, to remind mariners to keep away, not to run into them.
Jer. 20:15 Cursed be the man who brought tidings to my father, saying, A man child is born unto thee; making him very glad. (KJV)
Cursed be the man . . . this servant of God fell into sinful despair, and he questioned the wisdom and purpose of God, for which he should have been thankful. It is almost as if Jeremiah though that his life has been of no good to anyone. We must remember that his father was a priest. It was a blessing in a Jewish family for a man child to be born.
Jer.20:16 And let that man be as the cities which the LORD overthrew, and repented not: and let him hear the cry in the morning, and the shouting at noontide; (KJV)
By the cities, he means Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen.19:24-25); 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 violent manner.
Jer. 20:17 Because he slew me not from the womb; or that my mother might have been my grave, and her womb to be always great with me. (KJV)
These different expressions only show us to what passion swelled in this wonderful man's heart, and teach us just how much need we have to pray to be delivered from our own passions when things go wrong. Jeremiah's leaving us these words, recorded by himself, is an instance of what is brought as a rational argument to prove that men wrote the Scriptures by inspiration from God (2 Tim.3:16), for they would never have recorded their own gross failings, because men normally write for their own honor and glory, not to bring disgrace or shame on themselves.
Jer. 20:18 Wherefore came I forth out of the womb to see labour and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame? (KJV)
These words let us know the prophet's plea to these extravagant eruptions of passion; it was the affliction, reproach and shame which he endured as he faithfully discharged his ministry. It allows us to see the goodness of God towards those whom He spares as to these trials, and what a need we all have under these trials to keep a watch on our own hearts. These records that are in the Holy Word of God, are useful to us, that when (not if) any time we are overtaken with such faults, they can comfort us, in that they are such faults that have been found in God's fairest ones; and to make us show love and mercy to such as we may see at times with the similar temptations.
*****It is an old story: Why was I born? Elijah crawled under a juniper tree and said:
1 Ki. 19:4 But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers. (KJV)
Job wanted to die and cursed the day he was born. Job 3:1 After this opened Job his mouth, and cursed his day. (KJV)
Jonah was downhearted about everything, and he also wanted to die. Jon. 4:3 Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live. (KJV)
To wish that you had not been born is about as stupid as anything you could wish for. Why not go to the LORD in prayer and ask for help instead? You can crawl in a corner and say that you want to die when things get really bad . . . but you are not going to die by wishing it.
Jeremiah is really feeling down, and when we consider what He has been through, you wish that you could put your arm around him and in some way encourage him. He is so discouraged; yet his heart yearns to give out the Word of God.
It was against the Mosaic Law for one to curse one's parents; and Jeremiah was very careful to avoid such a capital offense. He did not curse his mother, but the day he was born. He did not curse his father, but the man who brought news of his birth to his father (Lev.20:9; 24:10-16).
The explanation which we have here proposed for the mention of such awful curses almost the same as: Jer. 20:11-13 But the LORD is with me as a mighty terrible one: therefore my persecutors shall stumble, and they shall not prevail: they shall be greatly ashamed; for they shall not prosper: their everlasting confusion shall never be forgotten.
12 But, O LORD of hosts, that triest the righteous, and seest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto thee have I opened my cause. 13 Sing unto the LORD, praise ye the LORD: for he hath delivered the soul of the poor from the hand of evildoers. (KJV) . . . Jeremiah here relates what went through his mind while he was confined by Pashur and that explanation is reasonable. Looking back on his long life of preaching and pleading with Judah to repent and turn to the LORD, it seemed clear to the prophet that his life had been totally wasted; and it was that sense of failure that no doubt caused his feelings of despondency when he thought about it.
During his torture at the hands of Pashur, Jeremiah really felt deserted. And even God Himself could not call it a sin; for the Holy Christ Jesus Himself cried from the Cross, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Mat.27:46; Mk.15:34). But the solemn imprecations and curses leveled against the day he was born, which was a blessing, and a day of rejoicing, must fall into the category of sinful words which every thoughtful person should hate. Yet, it is certain that God forgave him.
Chapters 21 through 29 contain the prophecies delivered during the reign of Zedekiah, the last king of Judah. This will bring us right down to the time of the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity. There is not a harsher message than the one Jeremiah gives in chapters 21 and 22.
Book of Jeremiah
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