Jeremiah 20

Chapter twenty closes the first major section of this book and finishes the story started in chapter eighteen. Jeremiah’s life had been threatened multiple times, but Jeremiah 20:1-6 records a specific example of what Jeremiah faced. Passhur, the priest in charge of Temple security, heard Jeremiah’s message in chapter 19, so he had Jeremiah beaten and imprisoned. 1 Upon his release the next day, Jeremiah announced that Jehovah had declared Passhur’s name to be “Terror is Everywhere,” because God’s judgment on him and his family would be waiting around every corner. They would survive the attack on Jerusalem, only to die in exile in Babylon.

Jeremiah 20:7-18 contains an uncharacteristic complaint from Jeremiah. He had complained before about those who were attacking him, but here he basically attacked God, blaming him for Jeremiah’s situation. He accused God of coercing him into being a prophet, saying that he was not able or willing enough to say refuse God (Jeremiah 20:7). His message of destruction had made him a laughingstock, and even when he intended to keep silent, the message would not let him. 2 In Jeremiah 20:10 he claimed that he was living the curse he had just put on Passhur, that there was terror everywhere around him. Even his “friends” were just waiting for him to fail. Even though Jeremiah acknowledged that God would eventually deliver him and punish his enemies, he still cursed the day he was born and the doctor who announced his birth instead of aborting him. So this first section (chapters 1-20) begins with God choosing and commissioning Jeremiah to be his prophet and ends with Jeremiah trying to quit his calling, something nearly every Christian deals with at some point in their lives.

Notes:

  1. Many of Paul’s teachings reflect those of Jeremiah. More than just the continuity of Scripture, one wonders if Paul felt a personal connection to the weeping prophet because of the many sufferings he experienced in his own ministry (e.g., Acts 16:23-24).
  2. Jeremiah’s statement that the message was “like a burning fire shut up in my bones” (NASB) has often been used by preachers and evangelists to emphasize their passion to preach. For Jeremiah, this was a negative thing; he had to deliver it, even though he did not want to.

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