Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2003 James Melough
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.
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
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.
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
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,”
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.
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
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.
be the day wherein I was born: let not the day wherein my mother bare me be
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.
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
“...the cry in the morning,
and the shouting at noontide” refer to the terrifying sounds of battle.
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.”
“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.