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Jeremiah 20


(The parentheses represent poetic literary units)

    (19:1-20:6)   (19:1-20:6)
Pashhur Persecutes Jeremiah The Word of God to Pashhur   Jeremiah's Conflict With Pashhur the Priest  
20:1-6 20:1-6 20:1-6 20:1-6 20:1-6
Jeremiah's Complaint Jeremiah's Unpopular Ministry Selections From the 'Confessions' of Jeremiah Jeremiah's Complaints to the Lord Jeremiah's Fifth and Sixth Personal Laments
  20:13     20:13

READING CYCLE THREE (see introductory section)


This is a study guide commentary,which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



1When Pashhur the priest, the son of Immer, who was chief officer in the house of the Lord, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things, 2Pashhur had Jeremiah the prophet beaten and put him in the stocks that were at the upper Benjamin Gate, which was by the house of the Lord. 3On the next day, when Pashhur released Jeremiah from the stocks, Jeremiah said to him, "Pashhur is not the name the Lord has called you, but rather Magor-missabib. 4For thus says the Lord, 'Behold, I am going to make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends; and while your eyes look on, they will fall by the sword of their enemies. So I will give over all Judah to the hand of the king of Babylon, and he will carry them away as exiles to Babylon and will slay them with the sword. 5I will also give over all the wealth of this city, all its produce and all its costly things; even all the treasures of the kings of Judah I will give over to the hand of their enemies, and they will plunder them, take them away and bring them to Babylon. 6And you, Pashhur, and all who live in your house will go into captivity; and you will enter Babylon, and there you will die and there you will be buried, you and all your friends to whom you have falsely prophesied.'"

20:1 "Pashhur" There are several people in the OT with this name.

1. In this text a priest whose task was to maintain order in the temple (cf. 29:26), vv. 1,2,3,6.

2. Another priest in Jeremiah's day, but with a different father, 21:1; 38:1; Neh. 11:12.

3. Another person in Jer. 38:1 (two Pashhurs in this verse).

4. Head of a post-exilic family, Ezra 2:38; 10:22; Neh. 7:41; 10:4; 11:12.

KB 980 quotes two authors who speculate that Pashhur is an Egyptian name (cf. JPSOA marginal note), "son of Horus." If so, this is a strange name for a priest of YHWH (possibly part of a pro-Egyptian faction). Most scholars simply say the meaning is unknown.

Jeremiah renames him "terror on every side," cf. vv. 3-6.

▣ "heard Jeremiah prophesying these things" This goes back to chapter 18 or 19, or both.

20:2 Although YHWH promised to protect Jeremiah (cf. 1:18-19), it did not mean he would not emotionally and physically suffer!

▣ "beaten" Probably in the fashion of Deut. 25:2-3. Jeremiah would have been labeled "a wicked man" (i.e., false prophet, cf. Deut. 13:1-5).

▣ "stocks" This word (BDB 246) refers to wooden bars with holes in them for the hands, feet, and neck. These holes were spread widely apart to increase pain and discomfort. The pain was both physical and mental! In II Chr. 16:10 a false prophet was put in them (or it). Jeremiah was being treated as a "false prophet." This is what bothered him so badly!

The JPSOA translates this word as "cell" and sees it as a small room of confinement. The LXX also has "dungeon," but "stocks" in a footnote.

20:4-6 These verses describe the terror (BDB 159 II).

1. his friends will die by the invaders' (i.e., Babylon), sword, while you watch

2. Judah's remaining population will be exiled to Babylon

3. all the wealth of Jerusalem (including the temple) will be carried to Babylon

4. Pashhur and his family will be exiled and die in Babylon


20:4 "hand" See Special Topic at 1:9.

20:6 "you have falsely prophesied" Exactly how this priestly temple official "prophesied" is uncertain. But he would bear the curse of Deut. 13:1-5 for it! The false prophecy was related to the stability of the temple and Jerusalem (possibly quoting Isaiah's message to Hezekiah, i.e., Isaiah 36-39). It was a message of hope and faith, but at this point in time, it was not YHWH's message (cf. 14:14-16)!

7O Lord, You have deceived me and I was deceived;
You have overcome me and prevailed.
I have become a laughingstock all day long;
Everyone mocks me.
8For each time I speak, I cry aloud;
I proclaim violence and destruction,
Because for me the word of the Lord has resulted
In reproach and derision all day long.
9But if I say, "I will not remember Him
Or speak anymore in His name,"
Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire
Shut up in my bones;
And I am weary of holding it in,
And I cannot endure it.
10For I have heard the whispering of many,
"Terror on every side!
Denounce him; yes, let us denounce him!"
All my trusted friends,
Watching for my fall, say:
"Perhaps he will be deceived, so that we may prevail against him
And take our revenge on him."
11But the Lord is with me like a dread champion;
Therefore my persecutors will stumble and not prevail.
They will be utterly ashamed, because they have failed,
With an everlasting disgrace that will not be forgotten.
12Yet, O Lord of hosts, You who test the righteous,
Who see the mind and the heart;
Let me see Your vengeance on them;
For to You I have set forth my cause.
13Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord!
For He has delivered the soul of the needy one
From the hand of evildoers.

20:7-13 This is another complaint/lament. Even those called by God experience doubt and fear! He feels that YHWH has

1. deceived him - BDB 834, KB 984, Piel perfect and Niphal imperfect (this is an intensified form of a strong verb often used of seduction; it refers to his call in chapter 1)

2. overcome him - BDB 304, KB 302, Qal perfect

3. prevailed against him - BDB 407, KB 410, Qal imperfect

The results (cf. vv. 7-8) are that

1. he has become a laughingstock all day long (cf. 48:26,39; Lam. 3:14)

2. everyone mocks him (cf. Lam. 3:14)

3. he is reproached

4. he is derided

Verst 10 describes the fear he feels as he hears people whispering their curses.

1. he has described his own situation by the very words YHWH used to rename Pashhur (i.e., "terror on every side!")

2. they denounce him

3. his friends are watching for him to fall

4. they hope to prevail against him

5. they hope to take revenge against him

Since the current canonical structure of Jeremiah is an anthology of his poetic messages, vv. 7-13 are obviously placed here because of the "catch-word" Magor-missabib of vv. 3 and 10 (cf. 6:25; 46:5; 49:29).

20:9 Jeremiah tries to express both the pain and joy of being YHWH's spokesperson. Remember this is highly figurative poetry.

1. he tries to forget YHWH

2. he tries not to speak His words anymore

But he cannot! They are like a burning fire shut up in his bones. He cannot hold them back. He must speak (cf. Amos 3:8).

Many of us who feel called to preach/teach/share know these thoughts and feelings.

20:11 Verse 11 describes YHWH as "a dreaded champion" (BDB 150 and BDB 792, cf. 1:8,19; 15:20). Notice what happens to those who oppose him.

1. they will stumble

2. they will not prevail

3. they will be utterly ashamed

4. they will not succeed

5. they will have an everlasting disgrace

6. they will not be forgotten in their shame


20:12 Jeremiah describes YHWH.

1. You test the righteous.

2. You see the mind (i.e., kidneys)

3. You let me present my cause to You (cf. 11:20).


20:13 This verse starts with two imperatives.

1. sing to the Lord - BDB 1010, KB 1479, Qal imperative

2. praise the Lord - BDB 237, KB 248, Piel imperative

This adulation is because YHWH has delivered the soul of the needy one from the hand of evil doers.

What a wild swing of emotions is expressed in these verses. From complete discouragement in YHWH in v. 7 to joyous praise in v. 13. This wild swing continues in the next poem (vv. 14-18). Jeremiah was a highly emotional person.


14Cursed be the day when I was born;
Let the day not be blessed when my mother bore me!
15Cursed be the man who brought the news
To my father, saying,
"A baby boy has been born to you!"
And made him very happy.
16But let that man be like the cities
Which the Lord overthrew without relenting,
And let him hear an outcry in the morning
And a shout of alarm at noon;
17Because he did not kill me before birth,
So that my mother would have been my grave,
And her womb ever pregnant.
18Why did I ever come forth from the womb
To look on trouble and sorrow,
So that my days have been spent in shame?

20:14-18 These verses continue the lament begun in 15:10. Remember these are hyperbolic poetic images! The questions are "Why is he so sad? Is it his personal life or the terrible judgment coming to Judah and Jerusalem?"

20:16 The first two lines refer to YHWH's destruction of the cities of the plain in Gen. 19:24-28.

Some suggest that "man" be emendated to "day," but there is no textual or versional evidence.


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