Jeremiah 19:1-13, 19:14-20:18
Having just been to the Potter’s House, beholding the scene, now Jeremiah is commanded to “get a Potter’s earthen bottle”, bring the ancients of the people and priests, and go forth to “the Valley of Hinnom” to proclaim the word of the Lord (Jer. 19:1-2). Remember, my reader, persecution was on the rise and Jeremiah’s life was on the line. Notably, though, when persecution was on the rise and plots of murder were in the works, the ancients of the people were of a softer countenance toward Jeremiah. They went with Jeremiah in compliance to hear the word! This was not the first time such a softness existed in the hearts of the eldest of Jews (“And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last…” – John 8:9). Where, of all places, did they go? The Valley of Hinnom was in a place also called “Tophet”, the same place that the idolaters of Israel did wickedly sacrifice their children unto devils, observing doctrines of devils, and, consequentially, this was where Josiah did famously dig up the bones of the Apostate Priesthood and burn them upon the forbidden altars to profane them (2 Chron. 28:3, 33:6, Jer. 7:31-32, 2 Kings 23:10)! Because of these things, and especially Josiah’s valiant act of profanation, that place which was already unclean became exceedingly unclean in the eyes of the people. Thus when God foretold the fate of the people and Nation to be like as that of Tophet (Jer. 19:11-13), it was contemptible news indeed! So awful was the suffering which was to come that the unspeakable was spoken of, a horror unimaginable! What was it? God said, “I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they shall eat every one the flesh of his friend in the siege and straitness, wherewith their enemies, and they that seek their lives, shall straiten them” (Jer. 19:9). To be thus reduced into animal-like depravity and immorality so as to eat your own children was, fittingly, comparable to the utter desecration which took place at Tophet, the Valley of Hinnom, with the unburied bodies of men sprawled upon the countryside.
Returning from Tophet, Jeremiah “stood in the court of the LORD’s House” and prophesied (Jer. 19:14-20:18). By this time, the prophecy of utter destruction and desecration pronounced in the Valley of Hinnom (before the ancient priests, mind you) did likely reach the ears of the younger generation of Priests who were still employed in the service of the Temple, Pashur being one of them. In due order therefore (“they began at the ancient men” – Ezek. 9:6), Jeremiah came to prophesy the same message as was uttered at the Valley (Jer. 19:14-15), only now in the Temple courts, of course, where the Chief Governor in the House of the LORD stood to be confronted (Jer. 20:1). How did the company of young priests respond? “The Pashur smote Jeremiah the Prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the High Gate of Benjamin, which was by the House of the LORD” (Jer. 20:2). Jeremiah stayed their all night long until on the morrow he was brought forth and released. Pashur and the Priesthood meant to do Jeremiah some harm and disfavor, both to his body and to his reputation… but this evil did not prevail to dissuade God’s Prophet, though he was made to waver for a little while.
Fearfully, by the time that Pashur came to release Jeremiah in the morning, the word of the LORD was on his lips for the man, Pashur. “And it came to pass on the morrow, that Pashur brought forth Jeremiah out of the stocks. Then said Jeremiah unto him, The LORD hath not called thy name Pashur, but Magor-missabib” (Jer. 20:3). The LORD proceeded to directly threaten and ensure the terror and death that would come upon Pashur and all his companions not many days hence! And, furthermore, the captivity of the people of Judah in the hand of the King of Babylon (Jer. 20:4). Speaking to Pashur, God said, “I will make thee a terror to thyself and to all thy friends” (Jer. 20:4), and, “thou shalt come to Babylon, and there thou shalt die, and shalt be buried there, thou, and all thy friends, to whom thou hast prophesied lies” (Jer. 20:6). We see here that Pashur was not only a prominent authority, being the Chief Governor, but he was also a false prophet who won the hearts of his companions to the side of deception and lies.
After this striking exchange, and Jeremiah went his way a free man for the time, the inspired text gives us a parenthetical look into the wavering of Jeremiah during his tormenting, wearisome, and painful hours in the stocks (Jer. 20:7-18). Note, my reader, this was not a prison or a jail, Jeremiah’s confinement was by an instrument of public humiliation and punishment and he was position “in the High Gate of Benjamin which was by the House of the LORD” (Jer. 20:2). In other words, Jeremiah was put on display in a highly trafficked area where all those who traversed the Temple did pass by. In this situation, Jeremiah evidently lamented, saying: “I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me”, “the word of the LORD was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily”, “I heard of the defaming of many, fear on every side”, “all my familiars watched for my halting” (Jer. 20:7, 8, 10). Remember, Jeremiah was from Anathoth, a City of Priests, and he himself was a priest, so when he said, “all my familiars watched for my halting”, he is certainly describing his family members and friends, fellow priests, who hoped for Jeremiah’s recantation of his false prophesyings, so they thought. While railing upon him and defaming him, and watching on, the familial priests said: “Peradventure he will be enticed, and we shall prevail against him, and we shall take our revenge on him” (Jer. 20:10). At this time, no doubt, Jeremiah was overtaken in worldly sorrow. He felt deceived and betrayed by the LORD, wrongfully so (Jer. 20:7). He, like other prophets, sinfully mourned his life and wished to die (Jer. 20:14-18; Moses: Num. 11:15; Jonah: Jonah 4:3; Elijah: 1 Kings 19:4; Job: Job 3:1-26). With such a heart, also, he spoke wrongly of the LORD when he said, “Thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived” (Jer. 20:7). Why did Jeremiah feel deceived? The Lord promised to Jeremiah, “they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee” (Jer. 1:19). Jeremiah supposed that this meant that he would never suffer the stocks or public humiliation and the like, but he did and he would. God was testing the prophet, as Jeremiah later confessed, “O LORD of hosts, that triest the righteous, and seest the reins and the heart” (Jer. 20:12). During the long hours of confinement (so they seemed to Jeremiah), Jeremiah wavered and even vowed to walk the course of disobedience, saying, “I will not make mention of Him, nor speak any more in His Name” (Jer. 20:9). Certainly this did not happen, as soon as Pashur arrived at Jeremiah’s stocks on the morrow the word of the LORD was proceeding forth from the Prophet’s lips. What happened? Jeremiah explained, “BUT His word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary of forbearing, and I could not stay” (Jer. 20:9). As it were, the Spirit of God forced Jeremiah into the way of righteousness. The Spirit of God forced the goodly confessions, “BUT the LORD is with me as a mighty terrible One: therefore my persecutors shall stumble, and they shall not prevail…” (Jer. 20:11), even though the Prophet had not reached a full understanding of his own way in the sight of the LORD. In similar situations of confusion in the future, Jeremiah would one day hear the word, “Call unto Me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jer. 33:3), for, indeed, there was something that Jeremiah was not understanding!