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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Jeremiah 20

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Jeremiah in the Stocks

A. Jeremiah struck and in the stocks.

1. (Jeremiah 20:1-2) Jeremiah — God’s spokesman in the stocks.

Now Pashhur the son of Immer, the priest who was also chief governor in the house of the LORD, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things. Then Pashhur struck 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.

a. Pashhur the son of Immer: This leading priest apparently did not attend Jeremiah’s dramatic sermon of the broken flask at the Valley of Hinnom. He heard about it, and did not receive it.

i. The chief governor “was apparently the immediate subordinate of the High Priest and maintained order in the area of the Temple.” (Harrison)

ii. “Pashhur in this chapter was a fairly common name; so we cannot be certain that the Pashhur in this chapter was the father of Gedaliah (Jeremiah 38:1).” (Feinberg)

iii. There were descendants of a Pashhur the priest who came back from the Babylonian exile with in the first return under Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:38).

b. Pashhur struck Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks: Jeremiah was beaten and had to endure painful public disgrace. He wasn’t only regarded as a false prophet, but surely also as a traitor, discouraging the people who still trusted in help from God or Egypt against Babylon.

i. “The expression ‘smote Jeremiah’ is a technical one, and in all likelihood means that the official scourging of ‘forty stripes save one’ was administered.” (Morgan)

ii. “The stocks (MT mahpeket, from a root ‘to distort’) were a form of scaffold in which prisoners were detained in a crooked or confined position which produced cramped muscles.” (Harrison)

iii. “The Hebrew word is formed from the verb to twist, implying that this ‘twist-frame’ clamped the victim in a position that would become increasingly distressing.” (Kidner)

c. Which was by the house of the LORD: Ironically, all this was done near the temple — the center of Pashhur’s power, and a very public place.

i. “Jeremiah was put in the stocks at the Upper Benjamin Gate — the northern gate of the upper temple court. It was one of the most conspicuous places in the city.” (Feinberg)

2. (Jeremiah 20:3-6) Jeremiah’s message to Pashhur upon his release.

And it happened on the next day that Pashhur brought Jeremiah out of the stocks. Then Jeremiah said to him, “The LORD has not called your name Pashhur, but Magor-Missabib. For thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends; and they shall fall by the sword of their enemies, and your eyes shall see it. I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall carry them captive to Babylon and slay them with the sword. Moreover I will deliver all the wealth of this city, all its produce, and all its precious things; all the treasures of the kings of Judah I will give into the hand of their enemies, who will plunder them, seize them, and carry them to Babylon. And you, Pashhur, and all who dwell in your house, shall go into captivity. You shall go to Babylon, and there you shall die, and be buried there, you and all your friends, to whom you have prophesied lies.’”

a. The next day that Pashhur brought Jeremiah out of the stocks: Pashhur, the priest and chief governor, likely thought this to be a kind and humanitarian act. He didn’t want to be overly cruel to Jeremiah and thought that he had likely learned his lesson.

b. The LORD has not called your name Pashhur, but Magor-Missabib: The meaning of the name Pashhur is sometimes given as freedom, sometimes as ease or peacefulness. The name Magor-Missabib means terror on every side. There was a startling contrast between the two names.

i. “The translation most often given for ‘Pashhur’ is ‘ease,’ ‘tranquility.’” (Feinberg)

c. I will make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends: Jeremiah showed that he did not intend to moderate his message. He boldly and plainly told the priest and chief governor that destruction was sure to come, and he would in some sense be in the center of it.

d. I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon: Jeremiah’s message was unchanged. Yahweh or Egypt or anyone else would not deliver Judah. The Babylonians would completely conquer them.

e. And you, Pashhur… You shall go to Babylon, and there you shall die: Pashhur’s position as priest and chief governor would not help him. He was one of those who prophesied lies, and he and his friends who heard him would all die in Babylon.

B. The burden of the persecuted prophet.

1. (Jeremiah 20:7-8) Jeremiah speaks to God of his own faithfulness.

O LORD, You induced me, and I was persuaded;
You are stronger than I, and have prevailed.
I am in derision daily;
Everyone mocks me.
For when I spoke, I cried out;
I shouted, “Violence and plunder!”
Because the word of the LORD was made to me
A reproach and a derision daily.

a. You are stronger than I, and have prevailed: Jeremiah explained to God that he was compelled to his prophetic work. He had not desired it or pursued it, yet God prevailed upon him to take on this prophetic work.

i. You induced me: “The verb seduce (pata) occurs in Exodus 22:16 (cf. Judges 16:5) in a law regarding sexual seduction. Jeremiah seems to be saying that he had understood his relationship to Yahweh to be something like a marriage bond but it was now claimed that he had been deceived, enticed by Yahweh, who had used him and tossed him aside.” (Thompson)

b. I am in derision daily; everyone mocks me: Perhaps Jeremiah spoke in light of his recent experience of being set in the public stocks (Jeremiah 20:1-2). Stuck in the stocks, he was the object of mockery and derision, even as Jesus would later endure similar humiliation.

c. The word of the LORD was made to me a reproach and a derision daily: As a faithful messenger of the Lord, it was difficult for Jeremiah to endure the reproach and derision that came to the one who prophesied coming judgment and catastrophe for Judah.

i. “Because Jeremiah’s words remained unfulfilled for so long, people just ridiculed him whenever he spoke about the future.” (Harrison)

2. (Jeremiah 20:9-10) Jeremiah resolves to stop his prophetic work.

Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him,
Nor speak anymore in His name.”
But His word was in my heart like a burning fire
Shut up in my bones;
I was weary of holding it back,
And I could not.
For I heard many mocking:
“Fear on every side!”
“Report,” they say, “and we will report it!”
All my acquaintances watched for my stumbling, saying,
“Perhaps he can be induced;
Then we will prevail against him,
And we will take our revenge on him.”

a. I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name: Jeremiah had to bear a painful price to remain a faithful messenger of God. On many occasions, he contemplated either giving up or changing the message.

i. “This, said Latimer in a like case, was a naughty, a very naughty, resolution.” (Trapp)

ii. “It has often been observed that Jeremiah’s doubts were never expressed in public. Outwardly he was the firm, unyielding prophet of the Lord, conveying faithfully the divine will to his people. But when alone with God, the tensions of his position were revealed.” (Cundall)

b. But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones: Many times Jeremiah wanted to give up, but he couldn’t.

  • He couldn’t because he dealt with God’s word.
  • He couldn’t because that word lived in his heart.
  • He couldn’t because that word burned in his heart like fire.
  • He couldn’t because that word pressed against his very being, as if it were shut up in his bones, requiring great energy to hold in (I was weary of holding it back).

i. “He found out the impossibility of denying his call. He learned that it was irreversible and that God’s word was irrepressible.” (Feinberg)

ii. “Under the stress and strain of his sufferings, he was tempted to abandon the work, to refuse to speak any more in the name of Jehovah. But when he attempted thus to find release from suffering in silence, it was impossible; for such silence became more intolerable than suffering.” (Morgan)

c. I could not: Though it cost him much pain and humiliation, Jeremiah could not not preach God’s word, and preach it faithfully. It wasn’t only that Jeremiah was compelled to preach — there were many unfaithful preachers and prophets in his time. Jeremiah was compelled to preach a message faithful to God.

i. “We have sometimes been weary in God’s service; but oh, it would be a greater weariness if we were dismissed from it. To speak is an awful responsibility and weight; but not to speak would be impossible.” (Meyer)

ii. “This is the burden of the Word of Jehovah. Perhaps only those who have experienced it can understand it. To publish that word at times brings suffering; but to refrain brings far more terrible suffering. Paul understood this when he said, ‘Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel.’” (Morgan)

d. For I heard many mocking: They mocked Jeremiah’s message of fear and coming catastrophe. They waited for his stumbling, hoping an unfaithful life would invalidate the message, and then they could take their revenge on him.

i. Fear on every side! “The whisperings were either plots against his life or the sarcastic use of magor missabib as a nickname for Jeremiah.” (Harrison)

ii. “They called Jeremiah Magor-Missabib, ‘terror on every side.’ In other words, they took his rebuke of Pashhur and used it against him.” (Ryken)

3. (Jeremiah 20:11-12) Jeremiah’s confidence in God.

But the LORD is with me as a mighty, awesome One.
Therefore my persecutors will stumble, and will not prevail.
They will be greatly ashamed, for they will not prosper.
Their everlasting confusion will never be forgotten.
But, O LORD of hosts,
You who test the righteous,
And see the mind and heart,
Let me see Your vengeance on them;
For I have pleaded my cause before You.

a. But the LORD is with me as a mighty, awesome One: Despite the pain and difficulty of his work and his many enemies, Jeremiah found confidence in Yahweh as a mighty, awesome One. God’s might and awe was a greater fact than his pain, humiliation, rejection, and beatings. God became bigger and his misery became smaller.

b. Therefore my persecutors will stumble, and will not prevail: The mighty God would work for and protect His faithful messenger. Jeremiah would realize that God was his shield and his great reward (Genesis 15:1).

c. O LORD of hosts, You who test the righteous, and see the mind and heart: Jeremiah was content to leave the matter to God and His wisdom and strength. The Judge of all the earth would do right.

4. (Jeremiah 20:13) Praising the Mighty God.

Sing to the LORD! Praise the LORD!
For He has delivered the life of the poor
From the hand of evildoers.

a. Sing to the LORD! Praise the LORD: The prophet’s heart overflowed with praise. He received the sweet strength found in true fellowship with God.

b. He has delivered the life of the poor from the hand of the evildoers: It wasn’t as if Jeremiah’s pain or problems were over. There was still much to come. Yet still, he was confident in the victory and deliverance of the LORD.

5. (Jeremiah 20:14-18) Grief and depression again.

Cursed be the day in which I was born!
Let the day not be blessed in which my mother bore me!
Let the man be cursed
Who brought news to my father, saying,
“A male child has been born to you!”
Making him very glad.
And let that man be like the cities
Which the LORD overthrew, and did not relent;
Let him hear the cry in the morning
And the shouting at noon,
Because he did not kill me from the womb,
That my mother might have been my grave,
And her womb always enlarged with me.
Why did I come forth from the womb to see labor and sorrow,
That my days should be consumed with shame?

a. Cursed be the day in which I was born: With startling suddenness, Jeremiah slipped back into grief and depression, wishing that he had never been born.

i. “The whole poem in its final setting comes strangely from the lips of one who had taken his divine call so seriously. Rarely has the question ‘Why was I ever born?’ been asked so tellingly. To his cry of distress and poignant question Yahweh gave no answer. But what answer could he give?” (Thompson)

ii. “These verses do belong together. They may not belong together by logic, but who says the life of the soul is always logical? Jeremiah’s curses follow his praises because that is the way it was during his dark night of the soul.” (Ryken)

iii. Let that man be like the cities which the LORD overthrew: “The cities are Sodom, Gomorrah, and the other cities of the plain (cf. Genesis 19:24-28).” (Harrison)

b. Why did I come forth from the womb to see labor and sorrow: There was a purpose of God in setting this section of grief immediately after the section of faith and triumph — to show that trusting God did not make it all easy or triumphant for Jeremiah. The battle remained and reliance upon God had to be constant.

i. Jeremiah thought his problems would be over if he was never born. The problem was that God called him before he was born or even conceived: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations (Jeremiah 1:5). “Jeremiah traced his troubles back to the womb. But he did not go back far enough! God could trace his promises back before the womb.” (Ryken)

ii. Consumed with shame: “The shame he refers to is that of his inability to avert the catastrophe threatening his people.” (Feinberg)

iii. “This section depicts a man loudly complaining about his lot in life, yet showing that he is still in submission, loyal and obedient to God’s will.” (Harrison)

iv. “If ever one’s morale as a servant of God touches rock-bottom, we may reflect that Jeremiah has been there before, and has survived.” (Kidner)

© 2021 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik — ewm@enduringword.com


  1. Cundall, Arthur E. "Jeremiah: Daily Bible Commentary" (Psalms-Malachi) (London: Scripture Union, 1973)
  2. Feinberg, Charles L. "Jeremiah: The Expositor's Bible Commentary" Volume 6 (Isaiah-Ezekiel) (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1985)
  3. Harrison, R.K. "Jeremiah and Lamentations: An Introduction and Commentary" Volume 20 (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries) (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, 1973)
  4. Kidner, Derek "The Message of Jeremiah" (The Bible Speaks Today Series) (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1987)
  5. Meyer, F.B. "Our Daily Homily: Isaiah-Malachi" Volume 4 (Westwood, New Jersey: Revell, 1966)
  6. Morgan, G. Campbell "Searchlights from the Word" (New York: Revell, 1926)
  7. Ryken, Philip Graham "Jeremiah and Lamentations: From Sorrow to Hope" (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2001)
  8. Thompson, J.A. "The Book of Jeremiah" (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1980)
  9. Trapp, John "A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments" Volume 3 (Proverbs to Daniel) (Eureka, California: Tanski Publications, 1997)

Updated: August 2022

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