Jeremiah 20:14-16
14. Cursed be the day wherein I was born: let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed.

14. Maledietus dies, quo natus sum (in eo, sed abundat;) dies quo peperit me mater mea, non sit benedictus:

15. Cursed be the man who brought tidings to my father, saying, A man child is born unto thee; making him very glad.

15. Maledictus vir, qui nuntiavit patri meo, dicendo, Natus est tibi filius masculus; quoniam (vel, quando) laetificavit eum (hoc est, cum vellet exhilarare patrem meum.)

16. And let that man be as the cities which the LORD overthrew, and repented not: and let him hear the cry in the morning, and the shouting at noontide;

16. Et sit vir ille quasi urbes quas perdidit Jehova, et non poenituit, et audiat clamorem mane, et tumultum tempore meridiano, (hoc est, in meridie ipsa.)

It seems, as I have said, that the Prophet was inconsistent with himself; from joy and thanksgiving he immediately passed into curses and execrations; what could have been less appropriate? If we say that he was tried by a new temptation, yet this seems by no means satisfactory, though it is in this way that interpreters commonly untie the knot. But it seems to me a levity unworthy of the holy man to pass suddenly from thanksgiving to God into imprecations, as though he had forgotten himself. I, therefore, doubt not but that the Prophet here relates how grievously he had been harassed by his own thoughts. The whole of this passage, then, is connected with thanksgiving, for he amplifies the deliverance which he has just mentioned, that is, that he had been brought back, as it were, from the lower regions. Thus he recites, in the latter passage, what had before happened to him, as though he had said, "When I now declare that I have been rescued by God from the hand of the wicked, I cannot sufficiently express the greatness of that favor, until I make it more clearly known to all the godly how great and how dreadful agonies I suffered, so that I cursed my birth-day, and abhorred everything that ought to have stimulated me to give praise to God."

In short, the Prophet teaches us here that he was not only opposed by enemies, but also distressed inwardly in his mind, so that he was carried away contrary to reason and judgment, by turbulent emotions which even led him to give utterance to vile blasphemies. For what is here said cannot be extenuated; but the Prophet most grievously sinned when he became thus calumnious towards God; for a man must be in a state of despair when he curses the day in which he was born. Men are, indeed, wont to celebrate their birth-day; and it was a custom which formerly prevailed, to acknowledge yearly that they owed it to God's invaluable goodness that they were brought forth into vital light. As then it is a reason for thanksgiving, it is evident that when we turn to a curse what ought to rouse us to praise God, we are no longer in a right mind, nor possessed of reason, but that we are seized as it were with a sacrilegious madness; and yet into this state had the Prophet fallen. [17]

We may then here learn with what care ought every one of us to watch himself, lest we be carried away by a violent feeling, so as to become intemperate and unruly.

At the same time I allow, and it is what we ought carefully to notice, that the origin of his zeal was right. For though the Prophet indirectly blamed God, we ought yet to consider the source of his complaint; he did not curse his birth-day because he was afflicted with diseases, or because he could not endure poverty and want, or because he suffered some private evils; no, nothing of this kind was the case with the Prophet; but the reason was, because he saw that all his labor was lost, which he spent for the purpose of securing the wellbeing of the people; and further, because he found the truth of God loaded with calumnies and reproaches. When, therefore, he saw the ungodly thus insolently resisting him, and that all religion was treated with ridicule, he felt deeply moved. Hence it was that the holy man was touched with so much anguish. And we hence clearly see, that. the source of his zeal was right.

But we are here reminded how much vigilance we ought to exercise over ourselves; for in most instances, when we become weary of life, and desire death, and hate the world, with the light and all the blessings of God, how is it that we are thus influenced, except that disdain reigns within us, or that we cannot with resignation bear reproaches, or that poverty is too grievous to us, or that some troubles press on us too heavily? It is not that we are influenced by a zeal for God. Since, then, the Prophet, who had no regard to himself nor had any private reason either of gain or of loss, became yet. thus exasperated and so very vehement, nay, seized with so violent a feeling, we ought surely to exercise the more care to restrain our feelings; and though many things may daily happen to us, which may produce weariness, or overwhelm us with so much disdain as to render all things hateful to us, we ought yet to contend against such feelings; and if we cannot, at the first effort, repress and subdue them, we ought, at least, according to the example of the Prophet, to learn to correct them by degrees, until God cheers and comforts us, so that we may rejoice and sing a song of thanksgiving.


[17] The greatest difficulty in this passage is the connection. That Jeremiah should have cursed his birthday is what can be accounted for, as in the case of Job. Nature, even in the best of men, sometimes utters its own voice. But how he came to do this immediately after having thanked God for his deliverance, seems singular. The explanation of Calvin, that he relates what had passed in his mind, while he was confined by Pashur, is plausible, and has been adopted by Grotius, Gataker, Cocceius, and Henry. Grotius considered, "I had said," to be understood at the beginning of the fourteenth verse. Adam Clarke thought that the words have been transposed, and that the five last verses ought to come in between the eighth and the ninth verse: and he says what is true, that there are many transpositions in this book. Houbigant, approved by Horsley, thought the right place for these verses is between the sixth and the seventh verse. But these transpositions are not satisfactory. Venema's notion is, that Jeremiah does not speak in his own name, but in the name of Pashur. Having described in the previous verse his own ease, the protection he found from God, he describes in these verses the wretchedness and misery of his persecutor, and introduces him as cursing his birth-day, etc. But this is very far-fetched and fanciful. Scott acknowledges the transition to be very extraordinary, but yet thinks that the Prophet describes what had passed through his own mind, and says that the experience of good men proves that such sudden changes occur. "An experimental acquaintance with our hearts," he says, "and the variations of our passions, under sharp trials, as encouraging or discouraging thoughts occur to our minds, will best enable us to understand it." This is probably the right view of the subject. The Prophet, indeed, acknowledged God's kindness in saving his life, and invited others to join him in praising him: yet when he considered his circumstances, he gave way to his own natural feelings. -- Ed.

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