Jeremiah 20

The Word Made Fresh

1When Pashhur son of Immer, the head priest of the temple, heard what Jeremiah was saying, 2he had him arrested and beaten and put in the stocks at the Upper Gate of Benjamin at the LORD’s temple. 3He released Jeremiah the next morning. Jeremiah said to him, “The LORD’s name for you isn’t Pashhur, but Magor-Misabib (“Terror on all sides”). 4This is what the LORD says: ‘I will make you a terror to yourself and all your friends, and they will all fall by the sword of their enemies while you watch. Then I will give Judah into the hands of the king of Babylon. He will have them taken by force to Babylon and there they will be killed by the sword. 5I will place all the wealth of Jerusalem, everything of value, including the treasures of the kings of Judah, into the hands of their enemies. Their enemies will plunder them and take them captive to Babylon. 6You, Pashhur, and your entire household, will be taken as captives to Babylon, and that is where you will die and be buried, along with all your friends, for your prophesies are all false.’”

7LORD, you have tempted me and overpowered me
I gave in to you and you have come out on top.
I am now a laughingstock every day –
everybody makes fun of me.
8Whenever I speak I have to cry out and shout loudly,
“Violence! Destruction!” because the LORD’s word
has brought me nothing but derision and reproach
9If I say, “I will not mention the LORD
nor ever again speak in the LORD’s name,”
there arises something inside me        
like a fire burning in my bones
until I can no longer hold it in.
10I can hear the whispers –
“Terror is all around us! We must denounce him!”
My closest friends expect me to stumble, saying,
“Maybe we can entice him and prevail against him
and take our revenge on him.”
11But the LORD is with me as a dreaded warrior,
and that is why those who persecute me will fail and not succeed.
They will be deeply ashamed,
and they will have to live with eternal dishonor.
12LORD Almighty, you constantly test the righteous.
You see what’s in their hearts and in their minds.
Let me witness your retaliation against them,
for I have placed my cause in your hands.

13Sing to the LORD! Praise the LORD!
The LORD has rescued the lives of those in need
from the hands of the evil ones.

14I curse the day on which I was born.
Don’t bless the day my mother brought me into this world.
15I curse whoever brought the glad news to my father
that a child, his son, had been born.
16Let that man who brought the news
be like the cities the LORD overthrew without pity.
Let him hear the of cry alarm in the morning and again at noon
17because he didn’t end my life in the womb
so that my mother might be my grave and her pregnancy never end.
18Why was I born? All I have ever seen is suffering and misery.
My days are filled with shame.


1-6: We meet Jeremiah’s primary adversary, the chief priest Pashhur. He is offended by Jeremiah’s shenanigans and has him arrested and put in stocks overnight as a public humiliation. But next morning Jeremiah is anything but cowed. He gives Pashhur a scathing moniker, “Terror-all-around”, and blasts him with a prediction that he will be exiled to Babylon along with the rest of Jerusalem and all the country’s wealth. This is the first time Babylon has been specifically mentioned.

7-10: Jeremiah’s complaint: he has done everything God has told him to do, but has gotten only punishment and denunciation for it. Yet he finds that he cannot refuse God’s bidding.

11-13: He has a resurgence of faith that God will protect him and not allow his enemies to prevail.

14-18: Unexpectedly, he returns to the despair with which the chapter began. We hear in these verses an echo of Job (see Job 3:1-3, 9-11).


Religious leaders are not always the best representatives of God. Sometimes they are too absorbed in their own troubles. Your best protection is prayer and continuous study of God’s Word. Don’t take “religious” pronouncements at face value.