What we find in our passage today is the prelude to what might have been the lowest emotional valley that the prophet Jeremiah ever walked through. After Jeremiah had broken the bac-buc (remember that?), i.e. the flask symbolizing the coming judgment, word of his creative display of the forthcoming invasion had apparently gotten around and the religious establishment wasn’t exactly ready to commend it. In fact one man, Pashur the son of Immer, the priest who was also chief governor in the house of the LORD, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things (vs.1) and he resolved to do something about it. Even though Jeremiah’s message was true, Pashur couldn’t stand to hear it. Who did Jeremiah think he was? What would become of the morale of the people if the incessant cries of judgment went unstopped? These were likely some of the thoughts that went through Pashur’s hard head.
So, having arms too short to smote the most high God, Pashur struck Jeremiah the prophet (vs.2a), perhaps with his fist or since the same word is used in Deuteronomy 25:3 to speak of the forty lashes that a wicked man would receive as a punishment under the Mosaic law, Jeremiah may have borne stripes in a manner similar to his soon coming Savior. He was, if you will, being conformed to the image of Christ, experiencing a foretaste of His Lord’s sufferings before He was incarnated. Furthermore, like the apostle Paul, who was put in the stocks of a Philippian prison, so Pashur put him [Jeremiah] in the stocks that were in the high gate of Benjamin which (vs.2b), notice the irony, was by the house of the LORD (vs.2c).
The word for “stocks” has a root that means twisting – this, then, may connote both the cruelty of Pashur and the pain of Jeremiah. The stocks spoken of here might have been something more like a ‘torture rack’ than merely some form of containment. As is seen later on in this chapter, this likely took Jeremiah by surprise. He knew that the people of the land would fight against him (1:19a) but when the LORD told him that they would not prevail (1:19b) he likely thought that meant moments like this wouldn’t happen. But prevailing didn’t mean painlessness. Jeremiah joined the long line of those before and after him that would be persecuted but, in the final analysis, prevail; while Pashur joined the long line of those before and after him who would persecute but not prevail. And God Himself was about to remind Pashur of that.
So perhaps after his conscience was afflicted for the way in which he treated Jeremiah, it happened on the next day that Pashur brought Jeremiah out of the stocks(vs.3a). And when he did, perhaps he thought he taught Jeremiah a thing or two, and that Jeremiah learned his lesson, but upon his release Jeremiah said to him, “The LORD has not called your name Pashur, but Magor-Missabib” (vs.3b). The quote continues but we’ll pause there for a moment to see what was being said. The name Pashur, it is believed, meant ‘peacefulness’ or ‘ease’ – a name not fitting this man; the Lord had a different name for him: Magor-Missabib – which meant ‘terror on every side’, a name which is explained in the verses that followed:
4 For thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends; and they shall fall by the sword of their enemies, and your eyes shall see it. I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall carry them captive to Babylon and slay them with the sword. 5Moreover I will deliver all the wealth of this city, all its produce, and all its precious things; all the treasures of the kings of Judah I will give into the hand of their enemies, who will plunder them, seize them, and carry them to Babylon. 6 And you, Pashhur, and all who dwell in your house, shall go into captivity. You shall go to Babylon, and there you shall die, and be buried there, you and all your friends, to whom you have prophesied lies.’ ” (vs.4-6)
If Pashur entertained any thoughts that Jeremiah would cease and desist, such erroneous suppositions were quickly corrected. God’s Word was like a fire shut up in his bones. It was as though, in a certain sense, he had no choice. There was an inward compulsion that caused Jeremiah’s continuing. The call was hard. The night in the stocks was painful. But God wasn’t going to let His prophet go (or resign – see later verses). Pashur, on the other hand, along with all who dwelt in his house would go – to Babylon (vs.6a). And there, along with friends and everyone else to whom he prophesied lies, he would die (vs.6b).
See, in the short term, Jeremiah looked like the loser and Pashur looked like the winner. Jeremiah looked like a false prophet while the judgment tarried and Pashur looked like he was telling the truth. Jeremiah looked like his name should have been ‘terror on every side’ and Pashur looked peaceable. But that would change. Jeremiah would be shown to have been a faithful and true prophet when terror on every side did arrive. And while the valley would indeed be low, and while Jeremiah’s pain and weeping were by no means finished, his end was peace. Stocks and stripes couldn’t keep him from finishing his course, just as flogging and crucifixion couldn’t keep our Savior from finishing His.