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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 20

Bridgeway Bible CommentaryBridgeway Bible Commentary

Verses 1-6


The broken pot (19:1-20:6)

In another acted parable Jeremiah, carrying an earthenware pot in his hand, took the leaders of Jerusalem to a place outside the city walls where old pottery was dumped. This was in the valley where the Judeans once sacrificed their children to Molech and carried out other pagan rites (19:1-2; see 7:30-34 and section, ‘Tophet and the Valley of Hinnom’).
Through their leaders, the people of Judah are told that in this valley, where they have killed their children, they themselves will be killed. The place had been named the Valley of Hinnom, but the prophet announces that in the future it will be called the Valley of Slaughter (3-6). When the Babylonians finally destroy Jerusalem, many Judeans will be slaughtered in this valley, while those who remain in the besieged city will be so near to starvation that they will eat their own children (7-9).
Jeremiah then smashed the pot, to symbolize God’s coming judgment on Jerusalem. The city will be smashed, destroyed. Tophet, which is already unclean through its association with idolatry, will become a dump for corpses. The defilement of Tophet will be the measure of Jerusalem’s defilement (10-13).
Having made his announcement at the site of the coming slaughter, Jeremiah returned to the temple, where he repeated the announcement of judgment (14-15). Pashhur, the chief officer of the temple, furious at Jeremiah’s words, arrested him, flogged him and imprisoned him for the night (20:1-2). But Jeremiah would not be silenced. He boldly announced that Pashhur himself would see the people slaughtered and the city plundered and destroyed. After that, Pashhur would be taken off to humiliating captivity in Babylon, where he would die (3-6).

Verses 7-18


Jeremiah complains again (20:7-18)

The prophet feels that God has not been fair to him. God has called him to be a prophet against his personal wishes, then, when he faithfully announces God’s message, the people mock and curse him (7-8). If he decides to keep quiet he finds he cannot, for God’s word burns within him and he must proclaim it. Even his friends have turned against him and now treacherously plot his downfall (9-10). When he remembers that God is on his side, he is assured that his enemies will not overcome him (11-13); but when he thinks about his own bitter experience of life, he wishes he had never been born (14-18).

Jeremiah’s inner conflicts

An examination of the preceding chapters shows that Jeremiah was a true patriot who loved his people and his country dearly (8:18-9:1; 14:19-22). No one could honestly doubt his loyalty. He was filled with unspeakable sorrow when he had to announce his country’s overthrow and urge his fellow Judeans to submit to the enemy (4:19-22; 10:17-21; 14:17-18; 17:16-17). He was deeply hurt when accused of being a traitor (37:13; 38:1-6); he preferred rather that people heed his warnings and repent, and so avoid the threatened calamity (7:5-7; 13:15-17; 26:16-19; 36:1-3).
The false prophets, by contrast, assured the people of safety, victory and peace. They knew that as long as they spoke words that pleased the people, they would receive suitable financial rewards (6:13; 8:11). Jeremiah wished for peace too, but he knew that there could be no peace as long as the people continued in their stubborn rebellion against God. He became increasingly distressed as he saw that the people’s optimism, encouraged by the false prophets, would result in disappointment (7:1-15; 14:13-18; 23:9).
Much as it hurt him to announce these divine judgments to his people, Jeremiah did it faithfully as God’s messenger (20:8-10). How great, then, was his agony of spirit as the people turned against him (11:19; 18:18). In bitterness he turned to God, arguing with God because of the cruel reward he received in return for his devoted loyalty (12:1-4; 15:10-12,17-18; 20:14-18). God rebuked his servant for this self-pity, though at the same time he gave him added strength for the greater conflicts that lay ahead (12:5-6; 15:19-21).
These experiences of Jeremiah emphasized the reality and importance of an individual’s personal relationship with God. Those with no personal fellowship with God did not truly know God, even though they may have called themselves prophets (23:18,21-22). But those who sought God with the whole heart found him (29:13).
Jeremiah foresaw the day when this close relationship with God would be experienced by all God’s people. God would make a new covenant, one characterized not by a community’s conformity to a religious system, but by an individual’s personal relationship with himself (31:31-34).

Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Jeremiah 20". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bbc/jeremiah-20.html. 2005.
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