Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
Jeremiah, on account of his prophesying evil concerning Judah and Jerusalem, is beaten and imprisoned by Pashur, chief governor of the temple, Jer 20:1, Jer 20:2. On the following day the prophet is released, who denounces the awful judgments of God which should fall upon the governor and all his house, as well as upon the whole land of Judah, in the approaching Babylonish captivity, Jer 20:3-6. Jeremiah then bitterly complains of the reproaches continually heaped upon him by his enemies; and, in his haste, resolves to speak no more in the name of Jehovah; but the word of the Lord is in his heart as a burning flame, so that he is not able to forbear, Jer 20:7-10. The prophet professes his trust in God, whom he praises for his late deliverance, Jer 20:11-13. The remaining verses, which appear to be out of their place, contain Jeremiah's regret that he was ever born to a life of so much sorrow and trouble, Jer 20:14-18. This complaint resembles that of Job; only it is milder and more dolorous. This excites our pity, that our horror. Both are highly poetical, and embellished with every circumstance that can heighten the coloring. But such circumstances are not always to be too literally understood or explained. We must often make allowances for the strong figures of eastern poetry.
Pashur - chief governor - Pashur was probably one of the chief priests of the twenty-four classes.
Put him in the stocks - Probably such a place near the gate as we term the lock-up, the coal-hole; or it may mean a sort of dungeon.
The Lord hath not called thy name Pashur - Security on all sides. This name thou hast had, but not by Divine appointment.
But Magor-missabib - Fear on every side. This name hath God given thee; because, in the course of his providence, thou shalt be placed in the circumstances signified by it: thou shalt be a terror to thyself.
And thou, Pashur-shall go into captivity - Thou shalt suffer for the false prophecies which thou hast delivered, and for thy insults to my prophet.
O Lord, thou hast deceived me - Thou hast promised me protection; and, lo! I am now delivered into the hands of my enemies. These words were probably spoken when Pashur smote him, and put him in prison.
I think our translation of this passage is very exceptionable. My old Bible reads, Thou laddist me aside Lord; and I was lad aside. The original word is פתיתני pittithani, thou hast persuaded me, i.e., to go and prophesy to this people. I went, faithfully declared thy message, and now I am likely to perish by their cruelty. As the root פתה pathah signifies to persuade and allure as well as to deceive, the above must be its meaning in this place. Taken as in our Version it is highly irreverent. It is used in the same sense here as in Gen 9:27 : God shall enlarge (persuade, margin) Japheth; and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem.
I cried violence and spoil - This was the burden of the message thou didst give me.
I wilt not make mention of him - I will renounce the prophetic office, and return to my house.
As a burning fire shut up in my bones - He felt stings of conscience for the hasty and disobedient resolution he had formed; he felt ashamed of his own weakness, that did not confide in the promise and strength of God; and God's word was in him as a strongly raging fire, and he was obliged to deliver it, in order to get rid of the tortures which he felt from suppressing the solemn message which God had given. It is as dangerous to refuse to go when called, as it is to run without a call. On this subject, see on Jer 1:6 (note).
Report - and we will report it - Let us spread calumnies against him every where; or let us spread reports of dangers coming upon him, that we may intimidate him, and cause him to desist.
But the Lord is with me as a mighty terrible one - Thus was he, by his strong confidence in the strong God, delivered from all his fears, and enabled to go on comfortably with his work.
Sing unto the Lord - He was so completely delivered from all fear, that although he remained in the same circumstances, yet he exults in the Divine protection, and does not fear the face of any adversary.
Cursed be the day wherein I was born - If we take these words literally, and suppose them to be in their proper place, they are utterly inconsistent with that state of confidence in which he exulted a few minutes before. If they are the language of Jeremiah, they must have been spoken on a prior occasion, when probably he had given way to a passionate hastiness. They might well comport with the state he was in Jer 20:9. I really believe these verses have got out of their proper place, which I conjecture to be between the eighth and ninth verses. There they will come in very properly; and might have been a part of his complaint in those moments when he had purposed to flee from God as did Jonah, and prophesy no more in his name. Transpositions in this prophet are frequent; therefore place these five verses after the eighth, and let the chapter end with the thirteenth, and the whole will form a piece of exquisite poetry, where the state of despair and the hasty resolutions he had formed while under its influence, and the state of confidence to which he was raised by the succouring influence of God, will appear to be both illustrative of each other, and are touched with a delicacy and fervor which even a cold heart must admire. See Job 3:3 (note), and the notes there. The two passages are very similar.
A man child is born - Borun is to thee a knave child. - Old MS. Bible. This is the old English word for man or servant; and is so used by Wiclif, Rev 12:6.
And let him hear the cry - Let him be in continual alarms.
Wherefore came I forth - It would have been well had I never been born, as I have neither comfort in my life, nor comfort in my work.