For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2003 James Melough 

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.”


Pashur, who was in charge of the Temple, means increasing of white (linen); and Immer he hath said, the meaning of his name

pointing to the same outward self-righteousness as marked the Pharisees, the Lord’s bitterest enemies; and the meaning of Immer pointing to him as one who ought to have been a spokesman for God validating Jeremiah’s words; but clearly both were the enemies of God and of those who belonged to Him.  Nor has it ever been different: organized religion has always been the inveterate foe of faith.


According to the Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary Pashur was of the same order and of the same family as Jeremiah himself.


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.”


How closely the treatment of the servant paralleled that of the Master, for “smote” is literally “flogged, whipped or scourged”!  Before the Lord was led off to a mock trial by Pilate we read that, “One of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand...” John 18:22, and again, “Then did they (the priests) spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands, Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee” Mt 26:67-68. 


His being put in the stocks exposed the prophet to the taunting and abuse of the ribald multitude, the very same cruelty to which the Lord was exposed in the midst of the soldiers of Pilate and Herod.


“... which was by the house of the Lord.”  All that the prophet was made to suffer was under the hypocritical pious pretext of preserving God’s honor, the same travesty being the purported purpose for the abuse to which the religious leaders subjected the Lord on the night of His betrayal.


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 Magomissabib, (meaning fear from round about).”


The haughty ruler of God’s earthly house was soon to be toppled from his high position, to suffer a far more terrible fate than that to which he had arrogantly consigned Jeremiah: he would be carried captive into Babylon where he would die.  And so was it with the generation of priests who dared to sit in judgment upon Christ.  Just thirty-eight years later, in AD 70, those of them who were still living were either slaughtered or led off captive by the Romans, the descendants of the few of the people who escaped being still found today scattered amongst the Gentiles, except for the few who have begun to return to Palestine since 1948.


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.”


He who had not feared to affront God and abuse His servant would himself be filled with terror, as would be also his friends, when he and they were dragged off into captivity and death in Babylon.

And in this God would have us catch a glimpse of what will be in the impending Tribulation, for in idolatrous Judah’s becoming the captive of Babylon, where all false religion originated, no scripturally taught reader will have difficulty seeing what will be in the impending Tribulation when the world’s religious systems will return to their home in the great harlot one-world church that will then have dominion over the whole world, terror-stricken Pashur and the captive Judahites representing those who will then discover the awful and eternal folly of having rejected Divine truth, and having believed lies.


20:5.  “Moreover I will deliver all the strength of this city, and all the labors 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.”


If verse 4 is the typological foreshadowing of what will be in the Tribulation, then verse 5 continues the symbolic description of that same period.  As literal Babylon carried away all the precious things of Jerusalem and Judah in the days of Jeremiah, so in the Tribulation will the evil system represented by Babylon seize all that is spiritually precious, and impose upon a doomed world the compulsory worship of the Beast.


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.”


Pashur’s lie was that God would never forsake Israel, and that He would never leave her without prophets, priests, and teachers.


This seems to continue the symbolic picture we have been viewing in the previous verses.  Apostate Israel and equally apostate Christendom will be compelled to receive the mark of the Beast and to worship him, thus damning their own souls to eternal death.  Their having “prophesied lies” is the equivalent of the evil activity of today’s Christendom.  It too teaches lies by denying man’s need of a new spiritual birth to save him from hell and fit him for heaven, and by declaring the coming of an age of universal peace brought about by human effort, thus contradicting God Who has declared the very opposite: the destruction of the present evil world system in the now imminent Great Tribulation.  


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.”


The symbolic picture presented in verses 4-6 gives place to the complaint of the prophet that God had deceived him, and that he had allowed himself to be deceived because God was stronger than he, and had compelled him to prophesy what had produced only derision instead of repentance on Judah’s part.


We tend to view the prophets as men of iron who were impervious to all the things that so easily cause us to be afraid, discouraged, disappointed, embarrassed.  They weren’t.  Concerning Elijah, for example, it is written that he “was a man subject to like passions as we are,” James 5:17.  They were ordinary men, but men who obeyed God no matter what the cost to themselves.  God’s work would be better done were we impelled by the same resolve to obey His commands.


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.”


Jeremiah continued to plead that since he had first begun to deliver God’s warnings of “violence and spoil,” i.e., of impending judgment for rebel Judah, he himself had been the constant butt of their malice and mockery.  Nor has anything changed, for those who today declare the coming of judgment, make themselves also the objects of the world’s scorn and hatred.


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.”


Having exhausted his own endurance he soliloquized that he would cease to be God’s messenger any more, but the result was that the undelivered message was like a fire blazing in his own heart, and the effort to refrain from declaring it was worse than having to suffer the mockery of the people, so that he was unable to adhere to his resolve to keep silent.


This faithful man’s dilemma surely rebukes the ease with which we excuse ourselves from warning men of the need to save themselves from hell by repenting and trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.  Our constant prayer ought to be for Jeremiah’s commitment and courage.


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.”


“... defaming” may be also translated, “whispering against him,” “secretly plotting evil against him,” and his knowledge of their murderous plotting struck fear into his heart, for he knew that they sought his life. 


“Report, say they, and we will report it.”  Like hawks they listened to his every word, and encouraged others to do the same, so that they might find some excuse to execute him.  The distress thus caused the prophet furnishes a better understanding of what it must have meant for the Lord to be the object of the same murderous hatred of a later generation of that same rebellious nation.


“All my familiars watched for my halting,” is the announcement of the fact that those who had once been his friends watched with the same malicious expectation for something that would furnish an excuse to kill him. 


Their hope that he would be enticed means that they hoped to entrap him by finding in his words an excuse to destroy him, and again we see the foreshadowing of what the Lord suffered at the hand of their descendants. 


This is more, however, than the record of Judah’s hatred of Jeremiah: it is also the revelation of the fact that the faithful preaching of the Gospel will evoke the same angry response from the natural man today.  The only way to enjoy the friendship of this godless world is to be unfaithful to the Lord by refusing to obey His command, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” Mk 16:15.


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.”


The extremity of the prophet’s emotions is indicated in the swift transition from despair to exultation, and return to hopeless dejection.  Here he seems to have taken his eye off circumstances and focused it instead upon God, and what transformation that changed look had brought to his outlook!  With his gaze fixed on the omnipotent Jehovah, his enemies were seen in proper perspective: they were feeble wretches whose brief moment of power was soon to be superseded by shame and torment, first on earth, then in hell, and eternally in the lake of fire.


There is no better antidote for despair than to fix our gaze on God, and view every circumstance of life in the light of eternity, remembering His promise, “All things work together for good to those who love God,” Ro 8:28.


20:12.  “But, O Lord of hosts, that triest (tests) the righteous, and seest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto thee have I opened (committed) my cause.”


Jeremiah appears to have been well aware that God tests the faith of every believer in the same way as the assayer tests gold to refine it by removing the dross.  God’s testing is to reveal the reality of faith, and to refine it.


His fitness to conduct that testing is declared in the assurance that He also sees or knows what is in the reins (kidneys), i.e., the mind (the ancients believed the kidneys to be the seat of the intellect), “and the heart” (believed by the ancients to have been the seat of the emotions).  God knows not only our thoughts, but also the motive prompting our every act.


The prophet, knowing that his own thoughts and motives were known by God, as were also those of his enemies, could leave his case in God’s hands knowing that he would be vindicated and his enemies condemned.  We should so live as to be able to commit our cause to God with the same assurance.


20:13.  “Sing unto the Lord, praise ye the Lord: for he hath delivered the soul of the poor from the hand of evildoers.”


The prophet’s contemplation of God’s ability to execute perfect justice impelled the joyful exclamation recorded here, so that he could speak of his anticipated deliverance as already accomplished.


His exhortation to sing and to praise the Lord declares the joy that filled his heart even in the face of the bitter hatred of those to whom he preached; and lest we be tempted to consider his exhortation impossible to obey, we should remember what is recorded of two other faithful servants of a later day.  Paul and Silas, their backs lacerated from lashing, and their feet fastened in the stocks, at midnight, in the darkness and squalor of an eastern prison, “... prayed, and sang praises unto God,” Ac 16:25.


20:14.  “Cursed be the day wherein I was born: let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed.”


The extreme agitation of the prophet’s soul, however, is revealed in yet another descent from the heights of joy to the depths of dark despair, so that he considered the day of his birth to have been more worthy of cursing than blessing. 


The believer who hasn’t had a similar experience at some point in his life is rare.


20:15.  “Cursed be the man who brought tidings to my father, saying, A man child is born unto thee; making him very glad.”


Clearly Jeremiah wasn’t pronouncing a literal curse, but rather expressing his own present despair and agitation of soul in  extravagant language appropriate to his troubled state of mind, and enabling us to better gauge the depths of his misery.


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;”


Whether the cities mentioned were Sodom and Gomorrah is neither indicated nor important.  The lament continues to be the hyperbolic expression of soul trouble that transcends description by ordinary language.


“... repented not” means “without mercy.”


“...the cry in the morning, and the shouting at noontide” refer to the terrifying sounds of battle.


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.”


20:18.  “Wherefore came I forth out of the womb to see labor and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame?”


This continues his lament that he had ever been born, his present misery overshadowing every other event of his life so that he wished himself dead.  How many others of God’s people have experienced similar despair only eternity will reveal.

[Jeremiah 21]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough