Jeremiah 20
Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
Now Pashur the son of Immer the priest, who was also chief governor in the house of the LORD, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things.
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.

Jeremiah 20:7–18


This passage contains an outbreak of the deepest sorrow, called forth by the persecutions, whose object Jeremiah was, both in general and specially in the bad treatment just received (20:2, 3; comp. 11:18; 15:15; 18:18 sqq.). The close connection of the passage with the preceding context is evident, as it seems to me from the words Magor-missabib in Jer 20:10. For the application of this expression to the prophet is certainly most easily explained by the application which he himself had made of it in so pregnant a manner and to so prominent a personage as Pashur. If we further consider that to pass a night in the stocks must have been a fearful torture, and that it was the first time that the prophet had had to suffer bodily ill-treatment, we must admit that the historical epoch was perfectly adapted for the production of such a lamentation. It should, moreover, be observed that there is no superscription or designation of this effusion asWord of the LORD.” From this it follows that the prophet himself ascribes to this passage only a subjective and private character. The passage may be divided into two parts: 1. Jer 20:7-13. Here the prophet rises from his lament on account of the persecution which had come upon him against his will to the expression of the most joyful hope. 2. Jer 20:14–18. Here the feeling of sorrow, nay of despair, gets the upper hand, and the prophet sinks into a state of the most utter grief and despondency.



7          Thou didst persuade me,1 Jehovah, and I was persuaded:

Thou didst lay hold of me2 and didst prevail over me.

I am become a derision daily; every one mocketh me.

8     For as often as I speak or cry,3

I must cry concerning violence and ill-treatment;

For the word of Jehovah is made to me a scorn and derision the whole day.

9     And if I say,4 I will no more make mention of him,

Nor speak henceforth in his name,

It becomes in my heart like a burning fire, shut up5 in my bones,

And I weary myself with refraining, and cannot.

10     For I hear the talking of many:

Terror round about! “Announce! We will announce it!”

All who are obligated to be at peace with me watch for my halting:—

“Perhaps he will allow himself to be taken!

Then we will overpower him and take our revenge on him.”

11     But Jehovah is with me as a mighty hero;

Therefore my persecutors will stumble and not prevail.

They shall be grievously put to shame, because they have effected nothing,

With eternal disgrace, which is not forgotten.

12     But Jehovah Zebaoth tries justly;6 he sees reins and heart.

I shall see thy vengeance on them,

For on thee have I devolved my suit.

13     Sing to Jehovah, praise Jehovah,

For he has saved the soul of the poor from the hand of evil doers.


The prophet first calls to mind that he had not thrust himself into the prophetic office, but undertaken it with reluctance (Jer 20:7a). That his objections were well founded is shown by the result, for he has reaped nothing in return for his proclamation of the divine word but scorn and derision (Jer 20:7 b–8). But when he attempted to divest himself of the prophetic vocation, he found this impossible; there was an impulse from within, which burned like a fire and threatened to consume him unless he were relieved (Jer 20:9). And yet his ministry did not cease to be ruinous to him. He hears how the words of his prophecy, as “Terror round about” (20:3), are turned against him in derision, and used in denunciation of the prophet. Yea, even such as should be well disposed towards him watched curiously to spy out some false step, by which they might obtain the satisfaction of their feeling of revenge (Jer 20:10). He then consoles himself with the hope that everlasting shame will be the portion of his enemies (Jer 20:11), and that he will be avenged by God, the true knower of hearts (Jer 20:12). Finally in the anticipation of being heard, he breaks out into a summons to praise God as the Saviour of the poor (Jer 20:13).

Jer 20:7 and 8. Thou didst persuade him … the whole day. On the subject-matter, comp. 1:5 sqq.

Jer 20:9. And if I say … and cannot. The prophet describes his experience, when, having undertaken the prophetic calling, he attempts to escape from it. He had the feeling as if a fire were burning within him, which having no outlet would consume him, to which, therefore, he was obliged to give an outlet by expressing what was inwardly communicated to him. Comp. 6:11; Am. 3:8.—I weary myself. Comp. 9:4; 15:6.

Jer 20:10-13. For I hear … evil-doers.כִּיFor in Jer 20:10, cannot possibly refer immediately to Jer 20:9. It rather presupposes a similar thought to that to which the parallel כִּי in Jer 20:8 refers, and which is contained in Jer 20:7b. We must, therefore, supply after Jer 20:9a thought of this kind: since the cause remains, the effect also remains (namely, that indicated in 7b). How far this is the case, is shown in the following sentence.—Talk, דִּבָּה is fama, rumor, public talk, report (comp. Gen. 37:2; Num. 13:32; 14:36, 37; Prov. 10:18; 25:10). That it is a secretly circulated, softly whispered rumor, neither follows from the etymology (which is pretty uncertain; comp. FUERST’SConcordance with his Lexicon), nor from the connection of the passage where it occurs.—Terror, etc. Magor-missabib. The expression occurs in 6:25; afterwards also in 46:5; 49:29 coll. Lam. 2:22, besides Ps. 31:14. Since the discourse to which 6:25 belongs, is older than Jer 19 and 20, the prophet did not use the expression in 20:3 for the first time, but only as a repetition of one previously used. In this passage the expression may be understood as only an ironical quotation. For 1. The form of the expression is not such that it can be designated as a popular form of threatening. מגור, magor, is not only a comparatively rare word, but one which belongs exclusively to poetic and prophetic phraseology; it occurs only eight times in the Old Testament, and except once in Isa. (31:9 in another connection), only in the formula here used, six times in Jeremiah and in Ps. 31:14. 2. The expression is evidently one peculiar to Jeremiah, as is clear from what has been stated; in addition to which may be remarked, that Ps. 31. contains so many elements peculiar to the style of Jeremiah or related to it, that the question whether Jeremiah was not its author is fully justified. As it can scarcely be doubted that those scoffers applied his own phrase to the prophet, it is further in the highest degree probable that they did this from an occasion on which it had been used by the prophet not by the way, but in a pregnant manner. This latter was, however, the case when Jeremiah changed the name of so important a personage as Pashur into Magor-missabib. The question is of subordinate interest in what sense they applied the expression to the prophet; whether it was as a menace against him, or as a reproach for his hostile disposition towards the community. Probably they wished to unite both.—All who are obligated, etc. Comp. 22:22; Ob. 8; Psalm 41:10.—Watch for my halting.צֶלַע in the meaning of “side,” according to which “who cover my side” would be in apposition.—Friends [literally: men of my peace], from the want of a predicate, gives no sense [though adopted by SCHMID, SCHNURRER, EICHHORN, and GESENIUS]. Doubtless it is, as in Ps. 35:15, claudicatio, tottering, making a false step. For שָׁמַר in the sense of “to watch for, to lie in wait,” see Ps 56:7; 71:10; Job 10:14; 13:27.—Overpower him. Comp. 1:19; 15:20.—My persecutors. Comp. 15:15; 17:18.—Not prevail. Comp. 5:22; 3:5—Effect nothing. Comp. Comm. on 10:21.—Eternal disgrace. Comp. 23:40.—But Jehovah (Jer 20:12). Comp. 11:20.—Justly, צַדִּיק might be accusative. But from the parallel with 11:20, we perceive that it is intended to define more particularly the action predicated. The sense is also more satisfactory, if it is not merely said, what the Lord sees, but also how He sees it.—Sing, etc. A hymn of the hopeful man, who by faith possesses that which is still future (Heb. 11:1).


[1]Jer 20:7.—פתיתני. The construction is like וַיהוָֹה הוֹדִיעַנִי וָאֵדָעָה, 11:18.

[2]Jer 20:7.—חזק, transitive as in 1 Kings 16:22; 1 Chron. 28:20.

[3]Jer 20:8.—According to the Masoretic punctuation, אֶזֶעָק is connected as asyndeton with הָמָם וָשׁד ,אֲדַּבֵּר depending on אֶקְרָא, as an accusative. This punctuation is supported on the fact that the latter phrase frequently occurs in this connection: 6:7; Am. 3:10; Ezek. 45:9. In itself it would certainly be allowable and more in accordance with the sense to consider the later sentence as apodosis of the former.

[4]Jer 20:9.—On the form of the conditional sentence, comp. NAEGELSB. Gr., § 85 a, etc.

[5]Jer 20:9.—עצר, being in apposition to אֵשׁ בֹּעֶרֶת, is to be rendered as neuter: inclusum aliquid. Comp. NAEGELSB. Gr., § 60, 4.

[6]Jer 20:12.—[HENDERSON: The Trier of the righteous.—S. R. A.]

Cursed be the day wherein I was born: let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed.


14          Cursed be the day wherein I was begotten!

Let not the day, wherein my mother bare me, be blessed!

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

A son is born to thee, a man child!—making him very glad.

16     And let that man be as the cities which the Lord overthrew without mercy,

And let him hear the cry in the morning and alarm of war at noontide,

17     Because he slew me not in the womb;

So that my mother might have been my grave,

And her womb have remained always gravid.

18     Wherefore came I forth from the womb,

To see labour and sorrow and my days consumed in shame?


The prophet curses the day of his begetting and the day of his birth (Jer 20:14). He further curses the man, who brought to his father the first news of his birth (Jer 20:15). He wishes that this man may be like Sodom and Gomorrah (Jer 20:16), because he did not kill him in the womb and thus prevent his birth (Jer 20:17). Finally he breaks out again into a lamentation:—O why must I be born to a life of misery and shame (Jer 20:18)? Two questions here arise. 1. Is such a cursing in the mouth of a prophet to be justified? 2. Is it in place in this connection immediately after the hopeful words in Jer 20:11–13? As to the first question, as a preliminary all those arbitrary interpretations are to be rejected, which understand by the day which Jeremiah curses, not the day of his birth, but some other day, especially some future day, as that of the destruction of Jerusalem (as according to Jerome the older Rabbins),—or which suppose that Jeremiah speaks not in his own name, but in the name of others (perditorum hominum),—or which suppose that Jeremiah complains here not of external but internal trials, or of the perversity of the people (CALVIN), or that he gives an account of a trial which he had endured previously (in explanation of אֵבִיוֹן, Jer 20:13, on account of whichאֲשֶׁר אָמַרִתִּי or אֹמֵר is to be supplied before Jer 20:14. SEB. SCHMIDT). It should be observed that this entire passage from Jer 20:7 onwards, is not proclaimed by the prophet as a word of Jehovah (Comp. 1 Cor. 7:25). He gives us merely a true reflex of his human feeling. Who can dispute the possibility of a man like Jeremiah having such temptations of indignation and despair? Is it not human? Do the men of God cease to be men? Think of that man of God, Job, whose words evidently (3:3 sqq.) hovered before the mind of the prophet. It is further to be observed, that the cursing is merely a rhetorical form. It has no object. The long past day of his birth is as little an object, to which the curse might really attach itself as the man who announced to the father the birth of his son,—who in reality, probably, never existed. For were men witnesses of confinements? Is it not of purpose that the prophet speaks of a man, and not of a woman? Therefore CHRYSOSTOM says concerning Job: “inanimatis facit injuriam” (GHISL II., S. 523). Finally, however, it must be admitted, as SEB. SCHMIDT sets forth, that it manifests an infirmity on the part of the prophet. FÖRSTER even says: “Grande hoc et inexcusabile prophetæ peccatum est.” And indeed the sinfulness of it consists partly in the high degree of impatience and ill-humor, which is here manifested, and partly in the form in which it displays itself. If this may be regarded as rhetorical hyperbole, yet this mode of expression is not New Testament, Christian, evangelical. We find here, too, somewhat of the spirit of the Ben-Hargem, to whom Christ said: Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of (Luke 9:55). Comp. the DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL remarks on 18:20. The second question, whether this outbreak of indignation suits, the connection, or is supposable as following Jer 20:11–13, is answered by many in the negative. EWALD even places Jer 20:14–18 before Jer 20:7. GRAF regards it as an independent fragment, a further development of 15:10, which is placed here only on account of its agreement in purport with Jer 20:7–10. Now it must certainly be admitted that an outbreak of ill-humor such as this, after Jer 20:13, is in a high degree remarkable. But observe the following points: 1. It is not necessary to suppose that Jer 20:14–18 contain the expression of a state of mind, which followed immediately on that joyous state described in the previous context. There may have been a pause, a transition. None the less does the prophet portray the occurrences in his own mind with perfect correctness. He gives us to understand that his stare of comfort did not long continue, but soon made way for its opposite. 2. This arrangement of the psychological tableaux corresponds also to the course of history: the prophet never attained in this life to the enjoyment of outward peace. If he had now and then a moment of rest and of hope, it was soon past. Jer 20:18 corresponds only too exactly to the actual tenor of his life.

Jer 20:14. Cursed be the day … be blessed. Even R. SALOMO and ABARBANEL, in order to avoid tautology took ילדתי in the sense of beget. They add that Jeremiah was begotten on the day that Manasseh killed the prophets of the Lord (2 Kings 21:16). Moreover comp. 15:10; Job 3:3 sqq.

Jer 20:15-18. Cursed be the man … consumed in shame. The Rabbins say this man was Pashur.—Brought tidingsבָּשַׁר with accusatives of the person, 1 Sam. 31:9; 2 Sam. 18:19.—As the cities, etc. Allusion to Gen. 19:25—In the morning … at noontide = unceasingly, without any breathing pause. Comp. Ps. 55:18.—In [A. V.: from] the womb. מרהם. Comp. Job 3:11. The preposition מִן, on account of the following sentence, cannot be = from—away, but is used here in accordance with that idiom, by which the terminus a quo is used for the terminus in quo, or in quem. Comp. מִקֶדֶם, eastwards. Gen. 11:2. [Eng. Vers. “from the east”—S. R. A]. נָם מִמֶּרְהָקhe flees into the distance. Isa. 17:13; Prov. 7:19; NAEGELSB.Gr., § 112, 5 d. The man may be regarded equally well with Jehovah [HENDERSON], as the subject of slew, especially if we remember that the whole description is not of a historical but rhetorical character. Comp. Ps. 31:10. [“While destitute of the sublime imagery employed by Job, this passage is not surpassed in pathos; there is a unity and condensation throughout which heighten its poetical beauty.” HENDERSON.—S. R. A.].

Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bible Hub
Jeremiah 19
Top of Page
Top of Page