Jeremiah 20:7

7. O Lord, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived; thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed: I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me.

7. Decepisti me, Jehova, et deceptus sum; vim intulisti mihi, itfuisti superior; fui in ludibrium toto die, (vel, quotidie, hoc est, assidue;) omnes subsannant me.


Some think that these words were not spoken through the prophetic Spirit, but that Jeremiah had uttered them inconsiderately through the influence of a hasty impulse; as even the most eminent are sometimes carried away by a hasty temper. They then suppose the Prophet, being overcome by a temptation of this kind, made this complaint, to God, "What! Lord, I have followed thee as a leader; but thou hast promised to me what I do not find: I seem, then, to myself to be deceived." Others give even a harsher explanation, -- that the Prophet had been deceived, according to what is said elsewhere,

"I the Lord have deceived that Prophet." (Ezekiel 14:9.)

But there is no doubt but that his language is ironical, when he says that he was deceived. He assumes the character of his enemies, who boasted that he presumptuously prophesied of the calamity and ruin of the city, as no such thing would take place. The Prophet here declares that God was the author of his doctrine, and that nothing could be alleged against him which would not be against God himself; as though he had said that the Jews contended in vain, under the notion that they contended with a mortal man; for they openly carried on war with God, and like the giants furiously assailed heaven itself. He then says that he was deceived, not that he thought so; for he was fully satisfied as to himself; nor had he only the Spirit of God as a witness to his calling, but also possessed in his heart a firm conviction of the truth he delivered. But as I have already said, he relates the words of those who, by opposing his teaching, denied that he was God's servant, and gave him no credit as though he was only an impostor.

But this mode of speaking is much more striking than if he had said in plain terms, "Lord, I am not deceived, for I have only obeyed thy command, and have received from thee whatever I have made public; nor have I presumptuously obtruded myself, nor adulterated the truth of which thou hast made me the herald: I have, then, faithfully discharged my office." If the Prophet had thus spoken, there would have been much less force in his words than by exposing in the manner he does here the blasphemies of those who dared to accuse God, and make him guilty by arraigning his servant as a false prophet.

We now, then, understand why he spoke ironically, and freely expostulated with God, because he had been deceived by him; it was that the Jews might know that they vomited forth reproaches, not against a mortal man, but against God himself, who would become the avenger of so great an insult.

Were any one to ask whether it became the Prophet to make God thus his associate, the answer would be this, -- that his cause was so connected with God's cause, that the union was inseparable; for Jeremiah speaks not here as a private individual, much less as one of the common people; but as he knew that his calling was approved by God, he hesitated not to connect God with himself, so that the reproach might belong to both. God, indeed, could not be separated from his own truth; for nothing would be left to him, were he regarded as apart from his word. Hence a mere fiction is every idea which men form of God in their minds, when they neglect that mirror in which he has made himself known, Nay more, we ought to know that whatever power, majesty, and glory there is in God, so shines forth in his word, that he does not appear as God, except his word remains safe and uncorrupted. As, then, the Prophet had been furnished with a sure commission, it is no wonder that he so boldly derides his enemies and says, that God was a deceiver, if he had been deceived. To the same purpose is what Paul says,

"If an angel come down from heaven and teach you another Gospel, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1:8)

Certainly Paul was inferior to the angels, and we know that he was not so presumptuous as to draw down angels from heaven, and to make them subservient to himself; no, by no means; but he did not regard what they might be; but as he had the truth of the Gospel, of which he was the herald, sealed in his heart, he hesitated not to raise that word above all angels. So now Jeremiah says, that God was a deceiver, if he was deceived: how so? because God would deny himself, if he destroyed the truth of his word.

We now, then, perceive that the Prophet did not exceed what was right, when he dared to elevate himself, so as to become in a manner the associate of God, that is, as to the truth of which God was the author and he the minister.

But from this passage a useful doctrine may be gathered. All who go forth to teach ought to be so sure of their calling, as not to hesitate to appeal to God's tribunal whenever any dispute happens. It is indeed true, that even the best servants of God may in some things be mistaken, or be doubtful in their judgment; but as to their calling and doctrine there ought to be that certainty which Jeremiah exhibits to us here by his own example.

He afterwards adds, Thou hast constrained me. By saying that he had been deceived, he meant this, -- "O God, if I am an impostor, thou hast made me so; if I have deceived, thou hast led me; for I have derived from thee all that I have; it hence follows, that thou art in fault, and less excusable than I am, if there be anything wrong in me." Afterwards, as I have said, he enlarges on this, -- that God constrained him; for he had not coveted the prophetic office, but being constrained, undertook it; for he could not have rejected or cast off the burden laid on him. He then expresses two things, -- that he had brought no fancies of his own, nor invented anything of what he had said, but had been the instrument of God's Spirit, and delivered what he had received as from hand to hand: this is one thing. And then he adds, -- that had he his free choice, he would not have undertaken the prophetic office; for he had been drawn as it were by constraint to obey God in this respect. We now then perceive the meaning of Jeremiah.

Were any to ask, whether it could be deemed commendable in the Prophet thus constrainedly to undertake his office; to this the plain answer is, -- that a general rule is not here laid down, as though it were necessary for all to be thus unwillingly drawn. But though Jeremiah might not have been faultless in this respect., yet he might have justly testified this before men. And we have seen at the beginning, that when God appointed him a teacher to his Church, he refused as far as he could the honor,

"Ah! Lord," he said, "I know not how to speak."
(Jeremiah 1:6)

Though then he was constrained by God's authority, and as it were, led by force, and though he may have shewed in this respect that he was not free from fault or weakness; yet he might have rightly pleaded this against his enemies.

He then says, that he was a scorn continually, and was derided by all. The Prophet no doubt tried here to find out whether any portion of the people was still reclaimable; for to hear that God was charged with falsehood, that the Prophet's office was rendered void by the wilfulness and audacity of men, was much calculated to rouse their minds. When, therefore, they heard this, they must surely have been terrified, if they had a particle of true religion or of right knowledge. Hence the Prophet wished to make the trial, whether there were any remaining who were capable of being reclaimed. But his object also was to shew, that their wickedness was inexpiable, if they continued wickedly and proudly to oppose his doctrine.1

And we ought carefully to notice this; for this passage has not only been written, that we may be instructed in the fear of God; but the Holy Spirit continually proclaims against all despisers, and openly accuses them, that they offer to God the atrocious insult of charging him with falsehood and deception. Let us then know that a dreadful judgment is here denounced on all those profane men who despise God's word and treat it with derision; for the Holy Spirit by the mouth of Jeremiah openly proclaims, as I have said, before God's tribunal, that God is made by them a liar. It afterwards follows, --

1 I find none agreeing with Calvin in his view of this verse; nor many with our version in rendering the first verb "deceived." So is the Septuagint, but the Vulgate, Syriac, and Targum have "enticed." In other parts it is rendered in our version "enticed," "allured," and "persuaded." Blayney has "allured," but Gataker and Lowth prefer "persuaded;" and this wholly comports with the view the Prophet gives of his calling in the first chapter, to which he evidently refers, and also with what follows in this verse. He was unwilling to undertake the office, but he was induced to do so by what God said to him. There was nothing like deception in the case; for God had previously told him of the difficulties he would have to encounter. And then he adds, that he was "constrained," which I consider to be the meaning of the next verb. He had been persuaded by reasons and promises, and constrained by authority. I would render the verse thus, --

7. Thou didst persuade me, O Jehovah, and I was persuaded; Thou didst constrain me, and didst prevail: I am become a derision every day; The whole of it are jeering me.

The "it" refers to the city where he was, and of which he speaks at the end of the last chapter; for this chapter is but a continuation of the narrative. What he relates there of the fate of the city drew the attention and excited the rage of Pashur. After having spoken of what Pashur did, Jeremiah gives utterance here to his complaints.

Blayney renders the last line thus, and is approved by Horsley, --

Ridicule hath spent its whole force upon me.

All the versions and the Targum regard hlk, not as a verb, but as signifying "all," or every one; and the proposed rendering is too refined. -- Ed.