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Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
Jeremiah, on account of his prophesying evil concerning Judah and Jerusalem, is beaten and imprisoned by Pashur, chief governor of the temple, Jeremiah 20:1, Jeremiah 20:2. On the following day the prophet is released, who denounces the awful judgments of God which should fall upon the governor and all his house, as well as upon the whole land of Judah, in the approaching Babylonish captivity, Jeremiah 20:3-6. Jeremiah then bitterly complains of the reproaches continually heaped upon him by his enemies; and, in his haste, resolves to speak no more in the name of Jehovah; but the word of the Lord is in his heart as a burning flame, so that he is not able to forbear, Jeremiah 20:7-10. The prophet professes his trust in God, whom he praises for his late deliverance, Jeremiah 20:11-13. The remaining verses, which appear to be out of their place, contain Jeremiah's regret that he was ever born to a life of so much sorrow and trouble, Jeremiah 20:14-18. This complaint resembles that of Job; only it is milder and more dolorous. This excites our pity, that our horror. Both are highly poetical, and embellished with every circumstance that can heighten the coloring. But such circumstances are not always to be too literally understood or explained. We must often make allowances for the strong figures of eastern poetry.
1Now Pashur the son of Immer the priest, who was also chief governor in the house of the LORD, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things.
Pashur - chief governor - Pashur was probably one of the chief priests of the twenty-four classes.
2Then 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.
Put him in the stocks - Probably such a place near the gate as we term the lock-up, the coal-hole; or it may mean a sort of dungeon.
3And 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.
The Lord hath not called thy name Pashur - Security on all sides. This name thou hast had, but not by Divine appointment.
But Magor-missabib - Fear on every side. This name hath God given thee; because, in the course of his providence, thou shalt be placed in the circumstances signified by it: thou shalt be a terror to thyself.
4For 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.
5Moreover 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.
6And 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.
And thou, Pashur-shall go into captivity - Thou shalt suffer for the false prophecies which thou hast delivered, and for thy insults to my prophet.
7O 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.
O Lord, thou hast deceived me - Thou hast promised me protection; and, lo! I am now delivered into the hands of my enemies. These words were probably spoken when Pashur smote him, and put him in prison.
I think our translation of this passage is very exceptionable. My old Bible reads, Thou laddist me aside Lord; and I was lad aside. The original word is פתיתני pittithani, thou hast persuaded me, i.e., to go and prophesy to this people. I went, faithfully declared thy message, and now I am likely to perish by their cruelty. As the root פתה pathah signifies to persuade and allure as well as to deceive, the above must be its meaning in this place. Taken as in our Version it is highly irreverent. It is used in the same sense here as in Genesis 9:27 : God shall enlarge (persuade, margin) Japheth; and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem.
8For 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.
I cried violence and spoil - This was the burden of the message thou didst give me.
9Then 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.
I wilt not make mention of him - I will renounce the prophetic office, and return to my house.
As a burning fire shut up in my bones - He felt stings of conscience for the hasty and disobedient resolution he had formed; he felt ashamed of his own weakness, that did not confide in the promise and strength of God; and God's word was in him as a strongly raging fire, and he was obliged to deliver it, in order to get rid of the tortures which he felt from suppressing the solemn message which God had given. It is as dangerous to refuse to go when called, as it is to run without a call. On this subject, see on Jeremiah 1:6 (note).
10For 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.
Report - and we will report it - Let us spread calumnies against him every where; or let us spread reports of dangers coming upon him, that we may intimidate him, and cause him to desist.
11But 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.
But the Lord is with me as a mighty terrible one - Thus was he, by his strong confidence in the strong God, delivered from all his fears, and enabled to go on comfortably with his work.
12But, 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.
13Sing unto the LORD, praise ye the LORD: for he hath delivered the soul of the poor from the hand of evildoers.
Sing unto the Lord - He was so completely delivered from all fear, that although he remained in the same circumstances, yet he exults in the Divine protection, and does not fear the face of any adversary.
14Cursed be the day wherein I was born: let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed.
Cursed be the day wherein I was born - If we take these words literally, and suppose them to be in their proper place, they are utterly inconsistent with that state of confidence in which he exulted a few minutes before. If they are the language of Jeremiah, they must have been spoken on a prior occasion, when probably he had given way to a passionate hastiness. They might well comport with the state he was in Jeremiah 20:9. I really believe these verses have got out of their proper place, which I conjecture to be between the eighth and ninth verses. There they will come in very properly; and might have been a part of his complaint in those moments when he had purposed to flee from God as did Jonah, and prophesy no more in his name. Transpositions in this prophet are frequent; therefore place these five verses after the eighth, and let the chapter end with the thirteenth, and the whole will form a piece of exquisite poetry, where the state of despair and the hasty resolutions he had formed while under its influence, and the state of confidence to which he was raised by the succouring influence of God, will appear to be both illustrative of each other, and are touched with a delicacy and fervor which even a cold heart must admire. See Job 3:3 (note), and the notes there. The two passages are very similar.
15Cursed be the man who brought tidings to my father, saying, A man child is born unto thee; making him very glad.
A man child is born - Borun is to thee a knave child. - Old MS. Bible. This is the old English word for man or servant; and is so used by Wiclif, Revelation 12:6.
16And 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;
And let him hear the cry - Let him be in continual alarms.
17Because 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.
18Wherefore came I forth out of the womb to see labour and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame?
Wherefore came I forth - It would have been well had I never been born, as I have neither comfort in my life, nor comfort in my work.