The people take these words and actions seriously because they understand something about the power of words and actions. In other words, Jeremiah isn’t just acting out another object lesson for the people; this is God’s declaration that the time has truly come for judgment to begin. God’s words, when spoken by His prophet, create this new reality. When the clay cannot be reworked, more drastic measures are taken. Judah will now be broken.
20 When the priest Pashhur (son of Immer, chief officer of the temple guard) heard what Jeremiah was prophesying, 2 he had the prophet beaten and put in the stocks[a] at the upper Benjamin gate near the temple, a place where everyone in the city could see this painful and embarrassing spectacle. 3 The next morning, Pashhur released him from the stocks, hoping Jeremiah had learned his lesson. Instead, this is what he heard from the prophet:
Jeremiah: The Eternal no longer knows you by the name Pashhur. He has renamed you Magor-missabib, which means “terror on every side.” 4 And these are the words the Eternal has spoken of you: “Certainly I am going to make you a symbol of terror—to yourself and to all your loved ones. You will see those close to you die in battle against the enemy. I will give all of Judah over to the king of Babylon, who will make them either casualties of war or prisoners of war. 5 I will also give the wealth of Jerusalem over as plunder to this enemy. The resources and treasures of this city and Judah’s kings will be taken and carted off to Babylon. 6 And you Pashhur, along with your entire household, will be taken to Babylon and become exiles. You and your friends who have heard your lies will never see home again; you will all die in exile in Babylon and be buried there.”
7 O Eternal, You deceived me into being Your prophet,
and I went along and allowed it to happen!
Your strength is too much for me,
and so You win; I speak Your words.
Just look at what I have become: a laughingstock;
all day long people mock me.
8 The only words coming out of my mouth
are loud cries of “Violence and destruction!”
It is the Eternal’s words—Your words—
that bring me insults and jokes all day long.
9 But when I tell myself, I’ll never mention Your name
or speak for You again, it’s no use.
The word of God burns in my heart; it is like fire in my bones.
I try to hold it all in, but I cannot.
10 I hear the crowds whispering behind my back and mocking my prophecies:
“‘Terror is everywhere we turn,’ he says. Let’s report him for breaking some law.”
Even my trusted friends are waiting for me to make a mistake:
“Maybe he will be deceived,
and then we’ll win, take control, and have our revenge on him.”
11 But I am not alone. The Eternal is here with me.
He stands beside me, as a dreaded warrior.
That is why my tormentors will fail so miserably. They cannot win.
Their humiliation and permanent dishonor will be remembered for all time.
12 Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies, You test the righteous;
You see my deepest thoughts; You know my heart.
Let me see Your vengeance exacted against these people.
for I am trusting my cause, my future to You.
13 Sing to the Eternal God!
Praise the Eternal now for what He will soon do.
For a troubled soul is snatched from the hands of the wicked.
14 Cursed be the day I was born—
cursed, not blessed is the day my mother gave birth to me.
15 Cursed be the man who told my overjoyed father,
“You have a son.”
16 May he be as cursed as the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah,
which the Eternal decimated without a care.
Let him hear cries for help in the morning.
Let him recoil at the shouts of war at noon,
17 For he did not kill me before I was born
so my mother’s womb would become my grave—
my mother’s womb forever enlarged.
18 Why was I ever born? To watch such tragedy?
To feel such sorrow? To live my days in utter shame?
- 20:2 Meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain.