Jeremiah Chapter 20
If one was to encapsulate chapter 20 the answer is in verses 7-9. Using the C.E.V. translation:
Jer 20:7 You tricked me, LORD, and I was really fooled. You are stronger than I am, and you have defeated me. People never stop sneering and insulting me.
Jer 20:8 You have let me announce only destruction and death. Your message has brought me nothing but insults and trouble.
Jer 20:9 Sometimes I tell myself not to think about you, LORD, or even mention your name. But your message burns in my heart and bones, and I cannot keep silent.
CEV= Contemporary English Version
Jeremiah says God tricked him, that God only allowed him to bring messages of a negative nature, and finally Jeremiah says he tries to understand his prophesying call to warn Judah of their doom, and get it all out of his mind. But…Your message (to me) burns within my heart and bones and I cannot keep silent, (even if I really tried).
How God supposedly tricked him is an unknown. It may mean Jeremiah’s idea of prophesying would bring about a confession and a return to God by his fellow Judeans. That didn’t happen. It only got him into trouble with the political and religious leaders AND the general population. Even Jeremiah’s so-called friends and neighbors didn’t like his messages very much. This is where we get the idea and phrase, “with friends like these who needs enemies?”
Since the name “Pashhur” (v1) was as common a name back then as is the name “Bob” today, we cannot for certain identify which “Pashhur” is being discussed. We know he is the son of Immer and that he had something to do with the high offices of the Temple or Sanhedrin. It may be the one identified by this archeological Clay Bulla discovery of the official seal of Gadeliah who too is identified as a son of Immer. Truth is we simply don’t know if this Pashhur was the father of Gedalia. Note the clay bulla says “Ha-Cohen.” Ha in Hebrew is the word ‘THE’. Cohen means priest. So the emblem would say Gedaliah is a son of a (high) priest.
The culture and political sway of that time in Judah was something similar to street gangs, if I can take such a liberty to parallel them. The Temple officials had police powers around the Temple. Anyone violating Temple laws while on Temple grounds would pay a Temple price for his or her violation. Jeremiah was prophesying against the Temple agents and priests as to their sinful neglect of the one and only true God and did so inside and on the Temple grounds. Street gangs have their “territory” and exercise authority within these defined boundaries.
To keep our attempts of records and histories straight, think about this. Jeremiah’s father was the prophet and Kohen-Gadol (High Priest) Hilkiah. This by family and default made Jeremiah a Levite descended from Aaron. Jeremiah began his prophecies in the thirteenth year of King Josiah’s reign. The prophet Zephaniah and the prophetess Hulda also lived at that time. This means Jeremiah was a Levite by birth and contemporary prophet with Zephania and Hulda. This gave him rights to the Temple that others did not have. However, Pashhur still punished him for speaking out as a prophet and against the stance of the ranking Temple priests.
Jeremiah was put into stocks by Pashhur near the Gate of Benjamin which itself is within the Temple “block” and center of power of Pashhur. This Gate of Benjamin is NOT the South African rock band called by that name. “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). Pashhur released him the next day but only to the scorn of Jeremiah. The prophet told Pashhur his name would be changed to reflect his actions. God changed his name according to verse 3, to Magor-Missabib meaning “terror on every side.” This itself was a prophecy. Jeremiah told Pashhur that any and all who came alongside him from now on be it friend, family or neighbor, s/he would suffer terror at the hands of the Babylonians. All would die soon or at the hands of the Babylonians in Babylon.
In verse 6 (CEV) it reads…”Pashhur, you are guilty of telling lies and claiming they were messages from me. That’s why I (God) will have the Babylonians take you, your family, and your friends as prisoners to Babylonia, where you will all die and be buried.”
It is in the next verse where Jeremiah says God tricked him. He thought (actually had hoped) that his prophesying would bring change, but it didn’t. It brought pain to Jeremiah instead. And…since he now realized his preaching was pointless, he wondered why he had even been born. But, after have a good and basic accusing discussion with God, Jeremiah comes to his senses in verse 12 but then reverts back to the “woe is me” syndrome in verse 14. In actuality it isn’t Jeremiah just cursing the day he was born but more of a full love for his people and the *dead end message he was appointed to deliver. He figures if he had not been born, the message would not have been or needed to be delivered to Judah.
*Dead end message…this is a parallel prophecy to New Testament End Time. People will simply reject the Word of God as it won’t fit their life style then. However, there is no commandment or even a suggestion that those alive and Christian at this End Time should cease to witness for God.
We see this at the end of verse 15…”a son [Jeremiah] is born to you making him (his father) very glad.” There was to be nothing glad or wonderful about Jeremiah’s calling and life. It would be a life of struggle, message of bad news, the end of a kingdom (Judah), and great death and sorrow; just as will be true during the Great Tribulation. Jeremiah does not mean it would have been better for him personally to have not been born, but for his people of Judah…so he hoped. Even though he knew his purpose in life, one might say the birth of Jeremiah concerning Judah was a bad omen. Once again we see the messenger being hated and the message simply ignored. This too happened to Jesus in the New Testament. He carried a message that was ignored by many of his own people (Jews) and hated by the same type of religious and secular leadership of that time. In the case of Jesus, he is both the messenger and the purpose of the message; i.e. the messenger-message.
Let me conclude this article with the issue raised by Jeremiah in verses 9 & 10. When we are called of God while on earth and the Holy Spirit is active in our lives, it is more miserable to deny our work for HIM than it is to simply fulfill our calling. It becomes a Life worth Living as Bill Gaither puts it in one of his songs. Here is a summary of Jeremiahs thought process as concerns rejecting doing the will of God:
- Jeremiah couldn’t because he dealt with God’s word.
- Jeremiah couldn’t because that word lived in his heart.
- Jeremiah couldn’t because that word burned in his heart like fire.
- Jeremiah 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)
- “He found out the impossibility of denying his call. He learned that it was irreversible and that God’s word was irrepressible.” (Feinberg)
- “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)
In our next chapter, the Judean leadership now turns to Jeremiah for salvation from the besieging Babylonians (Chaldeans). God shows no mercy as we will explain in chapter 21 of Jeremiah.