Jeremiah 20 Commentary

Jeremiah 20 Commentary

Enjoy this free digital Jeremiah 20 commentary published by…

Today we’ll be finishing the section that consists of Jeremiah 18-20. In Jeremiah 18 we saw the action and plot revolving around a potter. In Jeremiah 19 everything had to do with a pot. And now in Jeremiah 20 we finally become acquainted with a man named Pashur who is violent and aggressive and doesn’t care for Jeremiah’s message from the last chapter.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Offensive Message

So, let’s witness the aggression and subsequent judgement of this man named Pashur in Jeremiah 20:1-6.

KJV Jeremiah 20:1 ¶ [Now/When] Pashur the son of Immer the priest, who was also chief [governor/officer/of security] in the house of the LORD, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things.

What things? What did Jeremiah prophesy that Pashur heard? And I break in here because this verse expects you to know what things Pashur heard but it doesn’t tell you in this chapter.

We learned that in Jeremiah 19. God had Jeremiah take a hardened clay pot and smash it in front of the religious and lay leaders of Judah. Then Jeremiah was to tell those leaders that Judah would be smashed in a similar way for their lack of repentance.

It was a controversial message – a confrontational message – and a message directly from the mouth of the living God.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Pashur’s Reaction

Well, when Pashur heard that message, Jeremiah 20:2…

2 Then Pashur [smote/had beaten/had flogged] Jeremiah the prophet,

and put him in the stocks that were in the [high/upper] gate of Benjamin, which was by the house of the LORD.

This is so frustrating. Here we have this Pashur. He’s supposed to be a someone in the Lord’s Temple – an important person. He’s charged with governing in some way the Temple – the only place on earth that true religion had a chance. Right? Where else would you go on earth at this time in world history to hear the words of the only true God? It’s the Temple.

And this man, who’s been given some level of authority in this holy place and whom you’d expect to be one who is concerned with the desires of the one who ultimately owns that place – the Lord – well, this man reacts in a most despicable way to this message from the true Governor of that Temple.

God intended for his words of warning to be heard and heeded. He demanded repentance. But what did he get from Pashur? Certainly not repentance. Not humble obedience. No, the man beat Jeremiah and put him in chains in the Temple.

What arrogance. It reminds me of New Testament times. Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, came and he received this same treatment from those who should have been spiritual leaders of God’s people. The apostles also after Jesus suffered persecution at the hands of the Jewish religious leaders.

So, yes, Pashur’s actions are shocking. But they’re only a continuation of a practice that would be repeated again and again by unbelieving Jewish religious leaders.

By the way, I hope Pashur’s actions make you a little angry. I think this is one intention of God making this book 52-chapters long. He’s laid out his complaint against Judah. He’s shown himself to be merciful to them. He gives us this narrative to demonstrate the hardened wickedness of these people. He’ll show us more and more for another 30-some chapters!

We have such a tendency to side with people over God. We have a tendency to conceive in our minds that the Lord is unfair or too harsh or whatever else. But one reason God gave us the book of Jeremiah and the humongous section of the Bible known as the Prophets – one reason he gave us so much here is to exonerate himself and to justify his actions to would-be critics.

If you can walk away from the story of Pashur and his blindness and hardness of heart, then God’s going to give you the rest of the book of Jeremiah and the rest of the prophets to try to get it through to you just how awful and just how deserving of punishment his people were.

So, if Pashur makes you angry, good. The story is having its intended effect on you.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Release

OK, so Pashur responds to God’s message by beating and imprisoning his messenger. What happens next? Jeremiah 20:3…

3 [And it came to pass on the morrow/On the next day/But the next day], that Pashur [brought forth/released] Jeremiah [out of/from] the stocks.

Now, Pashur might have thought that Jeremiah learned his lesson, but actually the prophet has another grave message from God.

Then said Jeremiah unto him,

The LORD hath not called thy name Pashur, but [Magormissabib/“Terror is Everywhere”].

We’ve seen this term “Magor Missabib” before in this book. It appears seven times in the Old Testament – once in Psalm 31:14, once in Lamentations 2:22, and five times in Jeremiah.

Let’s quickly read those references to get an idea of what the Lord is saying with this phrase.

Psalm 31 is a lament psalm. Psalm 31:13 associates Magor-Missabib with the slander and violent deadly plots of enemies. “KJV Psalm 31:13 For I have heard the slander of many: fear was on every side: while they took counsel together against me, they devised to take away my life.”

Jeremiah 6:25 has the Lord speaking through the prophet and warning the citizens of Judah of danger from their enemies. That passage links the concept of danger from enemies with Magor-Missabib. “KJV Jeremiah 6:25 Go not forth into the field, nor walk by the way; for the sword of the enemy and fear is on every side.”

Then of course we have our passage for today. Jeremiah 20:3-6 links Magor-Missabib with destruction from the enemies of Judah that we’ll read about in a few minutes.

Later in this chapter in Jeremiah 20:10 we have Jeremiah giving a lament where he links Magor-Missabib with slander and violent plots against himself from his enemies – just like we saw in Psalm 31.

Jeremiah 46:5 has the Lord speaking. And there he again connects Magor-Missabib with military defeat from enemies. “KJV Jeremiah 46:5 Wherefore have I seen them dismayed and turned away back? and their mighty ones are beaten down, and are fled apace, and look not back: for fear was round about, saith the LORD.”

Jeremiah 49 is speaking of coming judgement on the nations that surrounded Judah at that time. One of those nations spoken of there is told that enemies would come and defeat them and take their things. “KJV Jeremiah 49:29 Their tents and their flocks shall they take away: they shall take to themselves their curtains, and all their vessels, and their camels; and they shall cry unto them, Fear is on every side.”

Finally, Lamentations 2:22 links Magor-Missabib with the destruction that finally did come to Jerusalem from their enemies. “KJV Lamentations 2:22 Thou hast called as in a solemn day my terrors round about, so that in the day of the LORD’S anger none escaped nor remained: those that I have swaddled and brought up hath mine enemy consumed.”

So, Magor-Missabib is consistently used as a phrase in the context of imminent danger from enemies – whether they be one’s own countrymen or foreigners.

And that’s the message for Pashur – this man who persecuted Jeremiah and ignored the Lord’s message though him. Destruction is coming to you, Pashur, from your enemies.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Magor-Missabib Fleshed Out

Now, the Lord spells out the details of that threat of Magor-Missabib in the next several verses.

4 For thus saith the LORD,

Behold, I will make thee [a terror to thyself/terrified], [and to all/and] thy friends [i.e., of what’s to come]:
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/away as exiles] into Babylon,
and shall slay them with the sword.

5 Moreover I will [deliver/hand over] all the [strength/wealth] of this city,
and all the [labours/produce/fruits of the labor] thereof,
and all the [precious/costly/prized] [things/possessions] thereof,
and all the treasures of the kings of Judah will I give into the hand of their enemies,
which [i.e., the enemies] shall [spoil/plunder/seize as plunder] [them/these things],
and take them [i.e., away], and [carry/bring] 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.

And we weren’t told that Pashur was a prophet, but apparently through his affiliation with the Temple in his position of authority he was involved in supposedly giving God’s messages to the people. You wonder if maybe he was in the group of folks who were assuring the Judeans that they were safe because God’s Temple was in their midst – do you remember that emphasis that the Lord through Jeremiah had to correct? Maybe that was Pashur’s false message.

Well, so much for Pashur. Now that Jeremiah the prophet has suffered at his hands and then delivered God’s message of destruction to him, he’s out of the picture for the rest of the chapter. But Jeremiah remains in focus now for the rest of this chapter.

And so in Jeremiah 20:7-18 we see Jeremiah delivering a lament psalm. And we see him say some really bitter things.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary |  Invocation/Lament

He starts with a very short invocation and then the lament portion of his lament psalm – the reasons for his complaining.

7 O LORD, thou hast [deceived/coerced into being a prophet] me,
and I [was deceived/allowed you to do it]:

thou [art stronger than I/overcame my resistance],
and hast prevailed [i.e., over me]:

This is Jeremiah lamenting the fact that he was called into the prophetic ministry. His reference to being deceived is probably best translated as “coerced”. Jeremiah is looking back to the events described in Jeremiah 1 where the Lord called Jeremiah into the office of prophet. Do you remember how Jeremiah argued a little bit with God at that point? He told God that he was just a youth. But God “overcame” his objection. God “prevailed” over him. In that sense, you could say that God “coerced”. And Jeremiah went along with it. Jeremiah was originally looking for a way out. But he was ultimately willing to do God’s will.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | God’s Will

And you typically associate doing God’s will with temporal blessing and glory. But that’s not what Jeremiah experienced. Rather…

I [am/have become] [in derision/a laughingstock] [daily/all day long/constantly],
every one [mocketh/ridicules] me.

And he’s receiving ridicule and derision for the sole reason that he’s proclaiming God’s word – which was at that time a message of destruction unless people repent.

8 For [since/each time/whenever] I [spake/speak], I [cried out/cry aloud/must cry out (with the next verb)],
I [cried/proclaim] violence and [spoil/destruction] [i.e., are coming!];

because the word of the LORD [was made/has resulted in] [a reproach/insults] [unto/for] me,
and a derision, [daily/all day long].

So, Jeremiah has worked through this in his heart. If he speaks God’s word, people hate him and mock him and try to kill him.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Stay Silent?

So, what happens if he stops speaking God’s word? If he remains silent concerning the destruction to come? Jeremiah reviews that way of thinking in Jeremiah 20:9.

9 [Then/But if/Sometimes] I [said/think],

[“]I will not [make mention of/remember] [him/his message],
nor speak any more [in his name/as his messenger].[”]

[But/Then/But then] his [word/message] [was/becomes] [in mine heart/inside of me]
as a burning fire shut up in my [bones/heart and soul],

and I was weary [with/of] [forbearing/holding it in],
and I [could not stay/cannot endure it/cannot contain it].

So, if God’s given you a message and you’re discouraged by people’s response, there’s a temptation to just stop giving it. And things were a little different for Jeremiah from how they are for us. But we New Covenant Christians know what it’s like to have a message. And you probably know of situations where you have unfortunately withheld God’s message of future destruction unless people repent and turn to his Son Jesus Christ. And do you feel a little like Jeremiah? Like it’s just a weariness to hold in the message you were given? Well, if you can identify with that, you have some understanding of Jeremiah’s emotions regarding this task of giving God’s message to people who don’t want to hear it.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Slander

Well, Jeremiah seems to come back to the reason for his wanting to remain silent in Jeremiah 20:10. People slandering him and looking for him to stumble.

10 For I heard the [defaming/whispering] of many,
[fear/terror] on every side[./!] [i.e., this is what they’re saying or this is how Jeremiah feels]

[Report/Denounce], say they,
[and/yes] [we will report/let us denounce] [it/him].

All my [familiars/trusted friends/so-called friends] watched for my [halting/fall], saying,
[Peradventure/Perhaps] he will be [enticed/deceived/enticed into slipping up],
[and/so that] we shall prevail against him,
and we shall take our revenge on him.

So, that’s Jeremiah’s lament. The realities that are causing him to despair.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Confidence

But the prophet turns to express his confidence in the Lord in Jeremiah 20:11.

11 But the LORD is with me [i.e., to help me] as [a mighty terrible one/a dread champion/an awe-inspiring warrior]:

therefore my persecutors shall [stumble/fail], and they shall not prevail [i.e., over me]:

they shall be [greatly/utterly/thoroughly] [ashamed/disgraced]; for they [shall not prosper/have failed/did not succeed]:

their everlasting [confusion/disgrace] shall never be forgotten.

The Lord promised to be with the prophet to deliver him at least twice so far in this book. And that’s the basis of Jeremiah’s confidence – the Lord’s promised presence.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Petition

Now, Jeremiah moves to the petition section of his lament psalm.

12 But, O LORD of hosts,
that [triest/test] the righteous,
and seest the [reins/mind] and the heart,

let me see thy vengeance on them:

for unto thee have I [opened/set forth] my cause.

So, Jeremiah is calling on God to punish those who have persecuted him. Again, he’s not taking his own vengeance. He’s bringing it to the Lord and letting him do what he’s already promised he would do to these people who refuse to repent.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Praise

Then Jeremiah gives his praise in Jeremiah 20:13.

13 Sing unto the LORD,
praise ye the LORD:

for he [hath delivered/rescues] the soul of the [poor/needy one/oppressed]
from the hand of evildoers.

Now, we had a series on the first twenty or so psalms. And in that series we discovered the ingredients of a lament psalm. There were five. And we’ve seen all five already in this lament psalm of Jeremiah in Jeremiah 20:7-13.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | But…Five More Verses

But we’ve got five more verses left. And the content of these verses is probably some of the most depressing material contained in the book of Jeremiah. The prophet really lets us into his heart at this point.

He just got done with his lament psalm ending on a note of praise. He expressed his confidence in God as the dread champion who would defend him and destroy the opposition.

And now, this. What sounds like the deepest depression and bitterness a man could express.

There’s hyperbole at work in what we’re about to read. Now, remember, hyperbole is not exaggeration. It’s not falsehood. What it is, is emotional truth. And that emotional truth might not line-up exactly with factual objective truth. But it’s true on the emotional level.

Let’s read it.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Curse the Day

First, he wishes the day of his birth to be cursed.

14 Cursed be the day wherein I was born:

let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed.

Then Jeremiah wishes the man who brought the news of his birth to his father to be cursed.

15 Cursed be the man who brought tidings to my father, saying,

A [man child/baby boy] is born unto thee;
making him very [glad/happy].

And he doesn’t stop there. He continues focusing on this man who brought his father the glad news of his birth.

16 And let that man be as the cities which the LORD [overthrew/destroyed],
and [repented/relented/showed mercy] not:

Which is probably a reference to Sodom and Gomorrah.

and [let him/may he] hear [the/an] [cry/outcry/cry of distress] in the morning,
and [the/a] [shouting/shout of alarm/battle cry] at [noontide/noon];

And that’s probably a reference to the coming punishment that God is promising for his rebellious people. That man will probably be among those who suffer at the hands of Babylon.

And at this point I wonder if Jeremiah’s mother or father is alive at this point. But unfortunately, I think the Scripture doesn’t inform us of that.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Heavy

And here’s where it gets really heavy. Jeremiah gives the reason that this bearer-of-good-news, this man he’s been talking about so much, why he should be like Sodom and Gomorrah and Judah in their destruction. Why?

17 Because he [slew/killed] me not [from the womb/before birth];
[or/so] that my mother [might/would] have been my grave,
and her womb to be always great with me.

So, as awful as this is, Jeremiah is dabbling with the thought that it would have been better for him if he was aborted before birth. That’s how miserable he was.

Now, again, this is hyperbole. It’s emotional truth. This is how Jeremiah is feeling about his situation. And in this case this emotional truth actually contradicts what Jeremiah himself would really believe about the sanctity of human life.

And this reference to his mother’s womb ties back to Jeremiah 1. Remember God’s statement there? Before I formed you in the – what? – womb, I knew you. God called Jeremiah to be a prophet before he was formed by God in his mother’s womb. And therefore, perhaps Jeremiah is imagining that the only way he could have escaped this hard life of his as a prophet would have been to be aborted before birth.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | End of Psalm

And so, Jeremiah ends Jeremiah 20 thusly…

18 Wherefore came I forth out of the womb
to [see/look on/experience only] [labour/trouble] and [sorrow/grief],
that my days should be [consumed/spent] [with/in] shame?

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | What’s to Come

And with that we finish this three-chapter section dealing with a Potter, a Pot, and Pashur.

And at this point we enter new territory in the book of Jeremiah. Two main changes are introduced in the next section of this book that we’ll start dealing with next time.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Babylon

First, the foreign enemy is finally identified as Babylon. Remember that so far in this book we haven’t seen mention of who exactly this enemy would be. We’ll see in the remaining chapters of this book that the coming army is identified as Babylon.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Surrender

Second, so far the Lord has held out the option of repentance to his people as a means by which they won’t have to be destroyed and exiled. But starting in the next section of this book that option apparently doesn’t exist anymore. From now on, the Jews’ only option would be to submit to Babylon. There’s no way that God will let them stay in their land anymore. But the Lord is still gracious and merciful and will allow the Judeans to live if they submit to his authority by submitting to Babylon.

So, that’s what’s to come. We’ll start seeing those new developments next time, Lord-willing.


  1. Neha Samson says:

    This has been the best commentary i have read so far… Simple and yet impactful.

    Also I was so confused as why would God tell me to read Jeremiah… and through your commentary, it’s started making more sense.

    I’m found this page for 21st chapter and now i’m binge-reading all the commentaries you have to offer. thank you and God bless youuuu!!!


  2. Ernest Nhamo says:

    I had a book on the New and Old Testament Survey that l mysteriously lost in 2006. It would give detail more like the way you do. Ever since this is the first time l have found a “book” commentary in this case that explains scripture the way you do. Thank you so much.


  3. Remy says:

    Your commentary is very clear… Such a great help for me, understanding His story, our God’s story. Thank you so much for the shared wisdom


  4. Kathy says:

    This has been very uplifting for me and I agree with the other commenters. I got off on a couple other subjects even from this – the “fear all around” and the “vermilion” – as many years ago I studied the Psalm 22:6 phrase “I am but a worm”. I wanted to know why my Lord was a worm. But it’s the tola-ath worm, not maggot. Very interesting study. The vermilion line roused my curiosity in that the red paint was from the kermes worm and I had remembered that from my study. I like all the replacement words for sure. I do that when explaining scripture lessons to children. Thanks again for your hard work. I will continue to study.


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