John T. Willis

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Jeremiah's Bitterest, Sixth, Final Complaint--Jeremiah 20:7-18

After his conflict with Pashhur, the chief officer [priest] at the Jerusalem temple, Jeremiah utters his final complaint, recorded in Jeremiah 20:7-18. This complaint falls into three parts: 20:7-10, 11-13, 14-18.

I. Jeremiah bitterly complains that Yahweh has not been faithful as he promised. Jeremiah 20:7-10.
a. Jeremiah accuses Yahweh of "enticing" him to preach Yahweh's message. When Yahwh first called Jeremiah, Jeremiah strongly resisted, but Yahweh persuaded him to preach, and assured Jeremiah that Yahweh would be with him (Jeremiah 1:4-10). But now that Jeremiah is doing exactly what Yahweh instructed him to do, he was in the midst of great threats, troubles, sufferings, afflictions, and disasters. Yahweh "forced" Jeremiah to preach against Jeremiah's will. All the people of Yahweh have made Jeremiah a "laughingstock." Everyone "mocks" at him. 20:7.
b. Jeremiah has tried to avoid the responsibilities Yahweh has laid on him. First, he determined to preach just one oracle or sermon of HOPE, but when he opens his mouth, Yahweh forces him to cry out: "Violence and destruction!" Yahweh is about to overthrow his sinful people through the Babylonians. 20:8.
c. Second, Jeremiah determined not to preach any more at all. But Yahweh enters into his inner being and FORCES Jeremiah to preach against Jeremiah's will. Jeremiah is very upset because he has to preach against his will. 20:9.
d. Everywhere around Jeremiah, people are whispering: "Magor-missabib"="Terror on every side," a boomerang of Jeremiah's message in 6:25; 20:3. All his close friends are seeking ways to bring revenge on Jeremiah. 20:10.

II. All the time, Jeremiah is confident that SOMEHOW Yahweh will be "with" him. Jeremiah 20:11-13.
a. All alone, Jeremiah turns to Yahweh alone. He declares that Yahweh is WITH him like a dread warrior, and thus Jeremiah's persecutors will stumble and fall. 20:11.
b. Jeremiah declares that Yahweh tests the righteous and see the heart and mind. Therefore, he begs Yahweh to bring retribution on his enemies. 20:12.
c. Then, Jeremiah bursts into song, and calls for all around to sing and praise to Yahweh, because he has delivered the needy from evildoers. 20:13.

III. Jeremiah concludes by wishing that he had never been born. Jeremiah 20:14-18.
a. Jeremiah 20:14-18 is very similar to the bitter complaint of Job recorded in Job 3. A careful reader will find many lines that are essentially the same.
b. Jeremiah declares: CURSED be the day I was born, when his mother gave birth and his father proclaimed to everyone that Jeremiah was born. 20:15-17.
c. But now that Jeremiah was born and is now alive, daily he faces only toil and sorrow and shame. 20:18.

Did Yahweh approve of this bitter complaint of Jeremiah? Similar texts like Jeremiah 15:15-21 suggest Yahweh was extremely disappointed about Jeremiah's feelings and declarations. At the same time, Yahweh WANTS all people to come to him to openly share their feelings and doubts and failures so Yahweh can deal with them.

All of us have had these feelings. This is healthy IF we turn to God for guidance and help as we grow to be more like he is.

Share YOUR feelings and problems and issues with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


  • John, I have been trying to reach you about the Psalter Commentary project. Please write me at or call me at 476-2772. I have a May 8 deadline with ACU Press, and I need to get your responses to the edits I sent. Please, please contact me.

    Mark Shipp

    By Blogger Mark Shipp, at 12:19 PM  

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