Jeremiah 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.”

The continuation of the preceding narrative. Pashur the son of Immer. This man

belonged to the sixteenth of the sacerdotal families or classes (I Chronicles 24:14).

Another of the same name is referred to in ch. 21:1 (see note). The one here mentioned

was “chief overseer” (there were several inferior overseers, II Chronicles 31:13); the

eminence of the position appears from the fact that Zephaniah, Pashur’s successor

(ch.29:26), is second only to the high priest (ch.52:24).


2   “Then Pashur smote Jeremiah the prophet,” - Pashur, being charged with

the police of the temple, smites Jeremiah, i.e. causes stripes to be given him (a legal

punishment, Deuteronomy 25:3; compare II Corinthians 11:24), “and put him in

the stocks” - literally, that which distorts — some instrument of punishment which

held the body in a bent or crooked position (compare ch.29:26). The “stocks” were

sometimes kept in a special house (II Chronicles 16:10); these mentioned here,

however, apparently stood in public, “that were in the high gate of Benjamin,

which was by the house of the LORD.” The gate, then, was one of the temple

gates, and is called “the upper” to distinguish it from one of the city gates which

bore the same name (ch. 37:13; 38:7). It is presumably the same which is called

the new gate of the Lord’s house” (ch. 26:10; 36:10), as having been

comparatively lately built (II Kings 15:35).


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.”

Symbolic change of name. Not... Pashur, but Magormissabib;

i.e. terror on every side. There is probably no allusion to the (by

no means obvious) etymology of Pashur. Jeremiah simply means to say that

Pashur would one day become an object of general horror (see on vv. 10).


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.”


5  Moreover I will deliver all the strength of this city,” - rather, the stores –

and all the labors thereof,” - rather, the fruits of labor; i.e. the profits.

 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.”


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.” - (compare ch.14:13). Pashur, then, claimed to be

a prophet.  Compare the prophecy against Shebna (Isaiah 22:15-19).

Since we find, in ch. 29:26, Pashur’s office occupied by another, it is probable

that the prediction was fulfilled by the captivity of Pashur with Jehoiachin.



                                                Pashur (vs. 1-6)


At length the smoldering opposition to Jeremiah breaks out into open

persecution. Hitherto, though he has been answered by words (ch. 18:18) and

threatened with violence, no overt act has been committed. Secret enemies have

elaborated dark designs, which are alarming enough but come to no serious issue.

But now violent hands are laid upon the prophet; and it is not an obscure band of

illegal conspirators who contrive evil against him, but the official head of the

temple guards formally arrests him and executes upon him the recognized

punishment of a criminal. This action bears testimony to the excitement produced

by the burning words of the discourse in the valley of Hinnom. So overawing

were the utterances of the prophet that no one dared to touch him then; but

when he confirmed them in the temple courts the circumstances were altered,

and, either from alarm or from rage, Pashur, the chief of the temple police, laid

hold of the prophet and brought him to severe punishment. The conduct of

Pashur and the fate that is threatened him deserve our careful examination.


                                    THE CONDUCT OF PASHUR


  • Pashur was a priest and of high rank in the service of the temple of

Jehovah. Such a man should have been able to recognize a true

prophet of Jehovah as his fellow-servant. Yet he was first in persecuting

him. Official religious positions are no guarantees for spiritual wisdom.

But it is scandalous when the professed leaders of the Church are

foremost in resisting the declaration of Divine truth and the execution

 of the will of God.


  • Pashur was a responsible officer of justice. Such a man should not have

allowed himself to be carried away by a flood of popular indignation,

influences of class jealousy, or impulses of personal spite, Judicial crimes

are always the most atrocious crimes. They poison justice at its very

Fountain, they abuse high trusts, they disorganize society!  (In my

view, I see the Judicial System of the United States performing these

very things in a very anti-Christly way – I reiterate – “poison justice

and “disorganize society” - CY -2011)


  • Pashur replied to the words of prophecy with the arm of force. He could

not answer Jeremiah, so he attempted to repress him. Unable to refute the

arguments of the prophet, he endeavored to restrain the utterance of them.

Here we recognize the folly, the injustice, and the cruelty of such

persecution: the folly, for to silence a voice is not to destroy the unpleasant

truth it declares; injustice, for nothing can be more unfair than to do

violence to a man for uttering words which we cannot deny to be true;

and cruelty, for it is a man’s duty to make known what he believes to be

important truths.


Jeremiah was sensitive and naturally retiring, yet was bold in the conviction of

truth, the sense of duty, and the consciousness of the Divine presence. Pashur’s

policy proved a failure. Jeremiah was not silenced by scourge and stocks.


Pashur was to see the words of the Jeremiah verified by experience. (It reminds

me of the words of Micaiah to Zedekiah in I Kings 22:25 – “Behold, thou shalt

see in that day, when thou shalt go into an inner chamber to hide thyself.” – CY –

2011)  Pashur tried to silence the warning voice; but could not stay the

approaching evil. They who have rejected warnings will be dismayed and

confounded when they see them realized in facts.


Pashur was to witness the calamity of his nation. Probably there was a

genuine love of his country in this man. His attack on Jeremiah may have

been influenced by a sincere desire for the national welfare. But if so he

had put his country before his God. His punishment would come in the

humiliation of his nation. Patriotism is no excuse for resisting the will of

God. The godless patriot may be punished by seeing the troubles that are

brought on his country through its irreligion.


The next seven verses is a lyric passage, expressing the conflict in the prophet’s

mind owing to the mockery and the slander which his preaching has

brought upon him, and at the same time his confidence of victory through

the protection of Jehovah.


7   “O LORD, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived:” - rather, thou

 didst entice me, and I let myself be enticed. Jeremiah refers to the hesitation he

originally felt to accepting the prophetic office (ch.1.). The verb does not mean “to

deceive,” but “to entice” (so rendered in v. 10, Authorized Version), or “allure.”

The same word is used in that remarkable narrative of “the spirit” who offered

 to “entice” (Authorized Version, to “persuade”) Ahab to “go up and fall at

Ramoth-Gilead” (I Kings 22:21). The expression implies that all events are, in

some sense, caused by God, even those which are, or appear to  be, injurious to

the individual - “thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed:” – rather, thou

didst take hold on me, and didst prevail. The expression is like “Jehovah spake

thus to me with a grasp of the hand” (Isaiah 8:11) - “I am in derision daily,

every one mocketh me.”


Many have entered God’s service with much confidence in the joy and but little

anticipation of the trouble it would bring. Ultimately the servants of God will triumph,

and the trouble will be all forgotten and swallowed up in victory. But if the darker

experience were clearly revealed at first, it would throw such a shadow over the

future that the ultimate triumph would be scarcely thought of, and thus a more false

idea of the whole course of life would be produced than that which comes from

hiding from us some of its darker scenes.


If the trouble must be faced it need not be anticipated (Matthew 6:34). If God

hides approaching trouble from us He does not forget to provide against it. He

takes the burden of it upon Himself, so that when the trouble is revealed the grace

 to endure it is also revealed.  Moreover, on the whole, the blessedness of the

service of God vastly outweighs its distresses. If the alarm of the latter drove us from

the service, the result would be loss to ourselves. It is, therefore, merciful in God

to condescend to our weakness and thus lead us on through partial views of

truth until we are strong enough to grasp the whole. Still, when the

prospect of trouble is revealed it should be faced. Something of this must

be considered by us or we may make an ignominious failure. Jeremiah was

warned of opposition. Christ discouraged rash, heedless enthusiasm (Luke 9:57-58),

and bade men count the cost of his service.  We should believe that a great reward

 in heaven will compensate for the patient endurance of these brief earthly troubles.

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a

 far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”(II Corinthians 4:17)


8   “For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil;” -  rather, For

as often as I speak, I must shout; I must cry, Violence and spoil; I can take up

no other tone but that of indignant denunciation, no other theme but that of the acts

of injustice constantly committed (not merely, nor indeed chiefly, against the prophet

himself) -“because the word of the LORD was made (rather, is made) a reproach

unto me, and a derision, daily.”


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, etc.; rather, And when I say, I will not make mention of Him, etc.,

then it becometh (i.e. I am conscious of a feeling) in my heart as a burning fire shut

up in my bones; and I weary myself to hold it in, but cannot. The prophet has

repeatedly been tempted to withdraw from the painful duty, but his other and higher

self overpowers these lower bayings for peace and quiet. The fire of the Divine

wrath against sin burns so fiercely within him that he cannot help resuming

 his work.


10  For I heard the defaming of many, fear on every side. Report, say

they, and we will report it.” -  For I heard, etc.; rather, For I have heard the

whispering of many; there is terror on every side. Inform (say they), and let

 us inform against him. This gives us the reason for Jeremiah’s momentary

inclinations to silence. He was surrounded by bitter enemies, who were no longer

content with malicious words, but urged each other on to lay an information

against him with the authorities as a public criminal. The first clause agrees

verbatim with part of Psalm 31:13 (this is one of the psalms attributed,

by a too bold conjecture, to Jeremiah). “There is terror on every side” (see

above, v. 3, and also note on ch. 6:25) means “everything about me inspires

 me with terror”- “All my familiars” – literally, all the men of my peace; i.e.

all those with whom I have been on terms of friendship (same phrase, ch. 38:22) –

watched for my halting,” - i.e. either laid traps for me or waited for me to commit

some error for them to take advantage of. (Compare the degradation of the modern

media in their frenzies to promote ideas in our day much like these enemies of

Jeremiah did then – I find it interesting that the Bible exposes all such “satanic

influencesin a manner that we can understand! - CY – 2011)  The phrase,

my halting,” is borrowed (?) from  Psalm 35:15; 38:17 (Hebrew) - “saying,  

Peradventure he will be enticed,” -  i.e. – to say something on which a charge

of treason can be based - “and we  shall prevail against him, and we shall

take our revenge on him.”


The names of those spying on Jeremiah are not given; we know little of their

characters and actions; yet the despicable conduct here ascribed to them proclaims

them to have been of low and shallow natures. A spy can persecute a prophet. A gnat

can sting a lion. Mean and despicable creatures that can do little good have

considerable power of doing harm. This shows the great need of Providence to

restrain the outrages of wickedness which are so easily executed.


They were numerous. The prophet stood alone beset on every side with malicious

spies.  How difficult to be faithful in that dreadful solitude of a crowd of unsympathizing

persons!  They were Jeremiah’s familiar acquaintances. Religious and political

differences separate the best of friends.  Jesus was betrayed by one of His

disciples!  When a man’s own near acquaintances turn against him the very ground

he stands upon seems to be breaking away from beneath his feet. Such men have

peculiar power for harm.


The persecution of spies must have been peculiarly harassing.  It was done behind

Jeremiah’s back, their reports were false and misrepresented the truth; their work

was constant, as they were always watching Jeremiah, and their behavior was

malicious in trying to take advantage of Jeremiah in an unguarded moment.


11  But the LORD is with me as a mighty terrible one:” -  rather, as a

formidable warrior.  They shall not prevail. This was in fact, the Divine promise to

Jeremiah at the outset of his ministry (ch.1:19) - “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.”


Jeremiah took refuge in God.  God sees “the reins and the heart  (v.12);

God is righteously watchful of all that His creatures say and do and in the end

will justify His servants and reward the unrighteous.  “The eyes of the Lord

are upon the righteous, and His ears are open unto their cry.  The face

of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance

of them from the earth.”  Psalm 34:15-16)


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.”  Repeated, with slight variations, from ch.11:20.


13   “Sing unto the LORD, praise ye the LORD: for He hath delivered

the soul of the poor from the hand of evildoers.”  In the confidence of faith

Jeremiah sees himself already delivered. He writes in the style of the psalmists,

who constantly pass from the language of prayer to that of fruition.


Jeremiah closes his prayer with praise. No sooner has he asked for God’s help than

he feels so assured of receiving it that he anticipates it in imagination, and breaks forth

into grateful song as though he were already enjoying it. This is a proof of genuine faith.

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”

 (Hebrews 11:1). It influences our whole being — the imagination among other faculties

so that it enables us to conceive the good thing trusted for so vividly and so

confidently that the thought of it affects the mind just as strongly as if we saw the object

with our eyes and grasped it in our hands. Such an effect is a test of the earnestness and

faith of prayer. Some people could not be more surprised than by receiving the

 exact answer to their prayers.


Jeremiah was not delivered immediately. His life was beset with danger to the end.

After the time to which our text refers, he met with worse troubles than any that had

hitherto befallen him. The Christian must not expect a sudden and perfect escape

from all distress and temptation the moment he prays to God for help. Perfect

deliverance can only come with the conquest of the last enemy, death.

(Isaiah 25:6-9;  I Corinthians 15:52-58) -“Now is our salvation”our perfect

deliverancenearer than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11), but it is

not yet enjoyed.


It is, nevertheless, a blessing for which we may be truly thankful at once.

For it is positively assured to the Christian. The heir of a great inheritance

may rejoice in his prospects, though for the present he is in want. But

earthly pleasures of hope are checked by fears of possible disappointment.

The buds may be nipped by frost; the promising young man may break

down before achieving any great work. Nevertheless God is too powerful,

as well as too faithful, TO FAIL IN FULFILLING HIS PROMISES!  

Therefore we should anticipate the praises of heaven on earth, sing the songs

of Zion in the strange land, and enjoy the vision of the celestial city from Beulah

heights though valleys of humiliation and waters of death may lie between.

(There was an orphanage called Beulah Heights, in McCreary County, Kentucky,

when I was a child – the next county below Pulaski in which I was born! - CY –




In the next five verses Jeremiah curses the day of his birth. The passage is a

further development of the complaint in ch.15:10, and stands in no connection

with the consolatory close of the preceding passage. There is a very striking

parallel in Job 3:3-12.


14  Cursed be the day wherein I was born: let not the day wherein my

mother bare me be blessed.  15  Cursed be the man who brought tidings to

my father, saying, A man child is born unto thee; making him very glad.”


16   And let that man be as the cities which the LORD overthrew,” - As the

cities which the Lord overthrow. It is, so to speak, the “technical term” for the

destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah which Jeremiah employs. (See for some very interesting sidelights – CY – 2011) - So deeply

imprinted was the tradition on the Hebrew mind, that a special word was appropriated

to it, which at once called up thoughts of the awful justice of God (see ch. 49:18;

50:40; Genesis 19:25; Isaiah 1:7 (?); 13:19; Amos 4:11; Deuteronomy 29:22-23) –

and repented not: and let him hear the cry in the morning, and the shouting

at noontide;” - The cry of the besieged for help; the shouting of the suddenly

appearing assailants (compare ch.15:8).


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.

18   Wherefore came I forth out of the womb to see labor and sorrow,

that my days should be consumed with shame?”



Jeremiah Cursing the Day of His Birth (vs. 14-18)



DESPAIR. Jeremiah was a prophet, a good man, a man of faith, a man of

prayer. Yet he cursed the day of his birth. Jeremiah was not without

precedents for his conduct. Jonah, Job and Elijah had regarded existence as a

curse, and cried passionately for death. Jeremiah had great provocations to

despair. His mission seemed to be a failure; his old friends had become

spies in league with his inveterate foes; he stood alone, watched, maligned,

hated, cruelly misjudged. We cannot be surprised that his patience broke

down. Though impatience and a yielding to despair are proofs of

weakness, they are far less culpable than unfaithfulness. Many would have

quietly declined the tasks which Jeremiah manfully performed, though they

led him to the verge of despair. It must be noted that, though the prophet

cursed the day of his birth, he did not flee from the mission of his life;

though he longed for death, he did not commit suicide.  (See II Samuel 17 –

Notes on Suicide – this web site – CY – 2011)


  • Such conduct is foolish, for the whole value of life is thus judged by one

            hasty thought in a mood of gloom and distress. Life is too large and

            multifarious to be estimated in this way. There are recuperative energies in

            all of us beyond what we can imagine in our moments of weakness.

            (a design of God, our Father – CY – 2011)


  • Such conduct is wrong. We are not the judges of our own lives. To

            despair is to complain of the justice of God. The mistake of Jeremiah’s

            hasty impatience is apparent when we consider the value of his life.

            Jeremiah’s life worthless! Why, it was the most valuable life of the age.

            There may be persons of whom it can be said that it were better for those

            men if they had never been born. But these are not the men who are usually

            most ready to despair of their lives. The despondent may take courage

            from the mistake of Jeremiah, and know that when they think their lives

            most worthless they may really be of most service.


  • Christianity sheds light on the purpose of sorrow. This was a profound

            mystery to the Jew, Christ has shown us the blessedness of sorrow, the

            glory of the cross, the utility of sacrifice.


  • Christianity brings new grace to help in the endurance of sorrow.

            Christians have the example of the suffering Christ, the sympathy and

            healing of the great Physician and the new baptism of the Spirit,

            to help them to endure the baptism of sorrow.


  • Christianity reveals fresh ground for confidence in God in the darkness

       of trouble.  “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world!”

            (Matthew 28:20)


  • Christianity inspires hope in the final triumph over trouble. It lifts the

            veil from eternal things and makes known the “far more exceeding and

            eternal weight of glory.”  (II Corinthians 4:17)


ü      It assures us that no true life can ultimately fail,

ü      that no true man lives in vain, that, though evil may

vaunt itself in the present,

ü      ultimately TRUTH and RIGHT SHALL TRIUMPH!



"Excerpted text Copyright AGES Library, LLC. All rights reserved.

Materials are reproduced by permission."


This material can be found at:


If this exposition is helpful, please share with others.