Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
The breaking of the bottle Jer. 20 had been done so solemnly before witnesses of such high position, and its meaning had been so unmistakeably proclaimed in the temple, that those in authority could endure such proceedings no longer. Roused therefore to anger by the sight of the listening crowds, Pashur, the deputy high priest, caused Jeremiah to be arrested, inflicted upon him the legal 40 stripes except one, and made him pass a night in the stocks, exposed to the jeers of the scoffers, at the most public gate of the temple. Apparently, it was Jeremiah's last public prophecy in Jehoiakim's reign, and was the cause why in the fourth year of that king it was no longer safe for him to go to the house of Yahweh Jer 36:5. It is probable also that Jehoiakim's scroll ended with the prophecy of the potter's vessel, and the account of the contumelies to which the prophet had in consequence been exposed. One prophecy, however, at least in our present book, is of a later date, that of the linen girdle Jer. 13.
Pashur, the father probably of the Gedaliah mentioned in Jer 38:1, was the head of the 16th course (shift) of priests (marginal reference); the other Pashur Jer 21:1 belonged to the fifth course, the sons of Melchiah. Both these houses returned in great strength from the exile. See Ezr 2:37-38.
Chief governor - Or, "deputy governor." The Nagid or governer of the temple was the high priest Ch1 9:11, and Pashur was his Pakid, i. e., deputy (see Jer 1:10 note). Zephaniah held this office Jer 29:26, and his relation to the high priest is exactly defined Kg2 25:18; Jer 52:24. The Nagid at this time was Seraiah the high priest, the grandson of Hilkiah, or (possibly) Azariah, Hilkiah's son and Jeremiah's brother Ch1 6:13, Ezr 7:1.
Jeremiah the prophet - Jeremiah is nowhere so called in the first 19 chapters. In this place he thus characterizes himself, because Pashur's conduct was a violation of the respect due to the prophetic office.
The stocks - This instrument of torture comes from a root signifying to "twist." It thus implies that the body was kept in a distorted position. Compare Act 16:24.
The high gate ... - Rather, "the upper gate of Benjamin in the house of Yahweh (compare Kg2 15:35);" to be distinguished from the city gate of Benjamin leading toward the north.
Magor-missabib - See Jer 6:25 note. Jeremiah uses it no less than five times, having probably adopted it as his watchword from Psa 31:13.
A terror to thyself, and to all thy friends - Jeremiah plays upon the meaning of Magormissabib saying that Pusbur would be a terror to all around. It is remarkable that he prophesies no evil of Pashur Jer 20:6. His was to be the milder fate of being carried into captivity with Jehoiachin, and dying peaceably at Babylon Jer 20:6, whereas his successor Zephaniah was put to death at Riblah Jer 52:24, Jer 52:27. His punishment probably consisted in this. He had prophesied "lies." When then he saw the dreadful slaughter of his countrymen, Jehoiakim put to death, his young son dragged into captivity, and the land stripped of all that was best, his conscience so condemned him as the guilty cause of such great misery that in the agonies of remorse he became a terror to himself and his friends.
All the strength - "All the stores."
The labors - The gains of the citizens.
Thou hast prophesied lies - Pushur belonged to the warlike party, whose creed it was, that Judaea by a close alliance with Egypt might resist the arms of Assyria.
In the rest of the chapter we have an outbreak of deep emotion, of which the first part ends in a cry of hope Jer 20:13, followed nevertheless by curses upon the day of his birth. Was this the result of feelings wounded by the indignities of a public scourging and a night spent in the stocks? Or was it not the mental agony of knowing that his ministry had (as it seemed) failed? He stands indeed before the multitudes with unbending strength, warning prince and people with unwavering constancy of the national ruin that would follow necessarily upon their sins. Before God he stood crushed by the thought that he had labored in vain, and spent his strength for nothing.
It is important to notice that with this outpouring of sorrow Jeremiah's ministry virtually closed. Though he appeared again at Jerusalem toward the end of Jehoiakim's reign, yet it was no longer to say that by repentance the national ruin might be averted. During the fourth year of Jehoiakim, the die was cast, and all the prophet henceforward could do, was to alleviate a punishment that was inevitable.
Thou hast deceived me ... - What Jeremiah refers to is the joy with which he had accepted the prophetic office Jer 15:16, occasioned perhaps by taking the promises in Jer 1:18 too literally as a pledge that he would succeed.
Thou art stronger than I - Rather, "Thou hast taken hold of me." God had taken Jeremiah in so firm a grasp that he could not escape from the necessity of prophesying. He would have resisted, but the hand of God prevailed.
I am in derision daily - literally, "I am become a laughing-stock all the day, i. e., peripetually.
Translate," For as often as I speak, I must complain; I call out, Violence and spoil."
From the time Jeremiah began to prophesy, he had had reason for nothing but lamentation. Daily with louder voice and more desperate energy he must call out "violence and spoil;" as a perpetual protest against the manner in which the laws of justice were violated by powerful men among the people.
Seeing that his mission was useless, Jeremiah determined to withdraw from it.
I could not stay - Rather, "I prevailed not," did not succeed. See Jer 20:7.
The defaming - Rather, "the talking." The word refers to people whispering in twos and threes apart; in this case plotting against Jeremiah. Compare Mar 14:58.
Report ... - Rather, "Do you report, and we will report him: i. e., they encourage one another to give information against Jeremiah.
My familiars - literally, "the men of my peace" Psa 41:9. In the East the usual salutation is "Peace be to thee:" and the answer, "And to thee peace." Thus, the phrase rather means acquaintances, than familiar friends.
Enticed - literally, "persuaded, misled," the same word as "deceived Jer 20:7." Compare Mar 12:13-17.
A mighty terrible one - Rather, "a terrible warrior." The mighty One Isa 9:6 who is on his side is a terror to them. This change of feeling was the effect of faith, enabling him to be content with calmly doing his duty, and leaving the result to God.
For ... - Rather, "because they have not acted wisely (Jer 10:21 note), with an everlasting disgrace that shall never be forgotten."
This verse is repeated almost verbatim from Jer 11:20.
Sing - Jeremiah's outward circumstances remained the same, but he found peace in leaving his cause in faith to God.
This sudden outbreak of impatience after the happy faith of Jer 20:13 has led to much discussion. Possibly there was more of sorrow in the words than of impatience; sorrow that the earnest labor of a life had been in vain. Yet the form of the expression is fierce and indignant; and the impatience of Jeremiah is that part of his character which is most open to blame. He does not reach that elevation which is set before us by Him who is the perfect pattern of all righteousness. Our Lord was a prophet whose mission to the men of His generation equally failed, and His sorrow was even more deep; but it never broke forth in imprecations. See Luk 19:41-42.
The cry - is the sound of the lamentation Jer 20:8; "the shouting" is the alarm of war.