14 Jeremiah then returned from Topheth, where the Lord had sent him to prophesy, and stood in the court of the Lord’s temple and said to all the people, 15 “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Listen! I am going to bring on this city and all the villages around it every disaster I pronounced against them, because they were stiff-necked and would not listen to my words.’”
20 When the priest Pashhur son of Immer, the official in charge of the temple of the Lord, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things, 2 he had Jeremiah the prophet beaten and put in the stocks at the Upper Gate of Benjamin at the Lord’s temple. 3 The next day, when Pashhur released him from the stocks, Jeremiah said to him, “The Lord’s name for you is not Pashhur, but Terror on Every Side. 4 For this is what the Lord says: ‘I will make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends; with your own eyes you will see them fall by the sword of their enemies. I will give all Judah into the hands of the king of Babylon, who will carry them away to Babylon or put them to the sword. 5 I will deliver all the wealth of this city into the hands of their enemies—all its products, all its valuables and all the treasures of the kings of Judah. They will take it away as plunder and carry it off to Babylon. 6 And you, Pashhur, and all who live in your house will go into exile to Babylon. There you will die and be buried, you and all your friends to whom you have prophesied lies.’”
(Jeremiah 19:14 – 20:6 NIV)
From yesterday’s passage, the Lord instructed Jeremiah to buy a pot from the potter, gather up the leaders, and go to the Valley of Ben Hinnom. This purchase and use of the pot was to be another symbolic act carried out in front of the Jewish people to illustrate God’s judgment. The Lord then instructed Jeremiah to shatter the pot on the ground, thus showing that Judah was spiritually beyond repair, just like the pot was physically beyond restoration.
In today’s text, the Lord directs Jeremiah to proceed directly from the Valley of Ben Hinnom to the Lord’s Temple to repeat the same message of God’s judgment of destruction upon His people. This time, the message was not limited to the leaders Jeremiah took with him to the Valley of Ben Hinnom; the message was to all the people in the Temple.
While there is a chapter break between 19:15 and 20:1, there is no break in the chronology of events. When Jeremiah preaches his message in the Lord’s Temple, the priest in charge of security immediately has Jeremiah arrested, beaten, and thrown in the stocks.
It is important to note the “why” of Jeremiah’s arrest. Having come from the Valley of Ben Hinnom (renamed the Valley of Slaughter by the Lord), he most likely would have been considered “ceremonially unclean” because of the nature of the place (death). By God’s command, if you were ceremonially unclean, you were not allowed into the Lord’s Temple. You would be required to go through a ceremonial cleansing before being allowed back into the Lord’s temple.
Instead of the Lord’s reason for Jeremiah’s expulsion from the Temple, the priest Pashhur has Jeremiah arrested for his message (which ironically came from the Lord). The religious leaders have crossed a new line, and Jeremiah’s fears are coming true. Jeremiah had been paying the price socially and psychologically for preaching the Lord’s messages; now he is paying the price physically for his faithfulness to the Lord.
In verse 2, Pashhur puts Jeremiah in stocks. The Hebrew word is unclear; this could refer to a small cell near the gate to the city, or it could refer to a restraint device in the open near the city gate. In either case, Jeremiah was physically harmed (beaten), then forced into a restraining device that caused physical discomfort because of the position of his body. Likely symptoms were muscle cramping and being forced to stand or kneel in a back-breaking position to breathe. In addition to the physical trauma, Jeremiah also suffered public humiliation, as the location of his restraint was near the main traffic way in and out of the city for all to see and hurl their abuse.
When the priest releases Jeremiah the following morning, Jeremiah curses the priest for his actions by giving him a new name and telling of his fate. The arresting official will be arrested; instead of being restrained overnight, Pashhur will be exiled to Babylon for the remainder of his days and will die in exile. Instead of being the one handing out justice, Pashhur will see justice brought upon all his friends and his nation, and there will be nothing that he can do to stop the terrible chain of events.
May we remember that Jeremiah’s suffering for his faithfulness to the Lord was a foreshadowing of the suffering Christ suffered on our behalf at the hands of His captors.
May we remember that as we follow Christ, we will encounter trials and suffering like Jeremiah. We may not feel the rod of physical punishment on our backs, but we might experience the loss of friendships and the abusive words of others.
May we remember Jesus’ words:
“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
(John 16:33 NIV, Jesus speaking)