Wherefore came I forth - It would have been well had I never been born, as I have neither comfort in my life, nor comfort in my work.
In the rest of the chapter we have an outbreak of deep emotion, of which the first part ends in a cry of hope Jeremiah 20:13, followed nevertheless by curses upon the day of his birth. Was this the result of feelings wounded by the indignities of a public scourging and a night spent in the stocks? Or was it not the mental agony of knowing that his ministry had (as it seemed) failed? He stands indeed before the multitudes with unbending strength, warning prince and people with unwavering constancy of the national ruin that would follow necessarily upon their sins. Before God he stood crushed by the thought that he had labored in vain, and spent his strength for nothing.
It is important to notice that with this outpouring of sorrow Jeremiah‘s ministry virtually closed. Though he appeared again at Jerusalem toward the end of Jehoiakim‘s reign, yet it was no longer to say that by repentance the national ruin might be averted. During the fourth year of Jehoiakim, the die was cast, and all the prophet henceforward could do, was to alleviate a punishment that was inevitable.
Thou hast deceived me - What Jeremiah refers to is the joy with which he had accepted the prophetic office Jeremiah 15:16, occasioned perhaps by taking the promises in Jeremiah 1:18 too literally as a pledge that he would succeed.
Thou art stronger than I - Rather, “Thou hast taken hold of me.” God had taken Jeremiah in so firm a grasp that he could not escape from the necessity of prophesying. He would have resisted, but the hand of God prevailed.
I am in derision daily - literally, “I am become a laughing-stock all the day, i. e., peripetually.
Translate,” For as often as I speak, I must complain; I call out, Violence and spoil.”
From the time Jeremiah began to prophesy, he had had reason for nothing but lamentation. Daily with louder voice and more desperate energy he must call out “violence and spoil;” as a perpetual protest against the manner in which the laws of justice were violated by powerful men among the people.
Seeing that his mission was useless, Jeremiah determined to withdraw from it.
I could not stay - Rather, “I prevailed not,” did not succeed. See Jeremiah 20:7.
The defaming - Rather, “the talking.” The word refers to people whispering in twos and threes apart; in this case plotting against Jeremiah. Compare Mark 14:58.
Report - Rather, “Do you report, and we will report him: i. e., they encourage one another to give information against Jeremiah.
My familiars - literally, “the men of my peace” Psalm 41:9. In the East the usual salutation is “Peace be to thee:” and the answer, “And to thee peace.” Thus, the phrase rather means acquaintances, than familiar friends.
A mighty terrible one - Rather, “a terrible warrior.” The mighty One Isaiah 9:6 who is on his side is a terror to them. This change of feeling was the effect of faith, enabling him to be content with calmly doing his duty, and leaving the result to God.
For - Rather, “because they have not acted wisely (Jeremiah 10:21 note), with an everlasting disgrace that shall never be forgotten.”
This verse is repeated almost verbatim from Jeremiah 11:20.
Sing - Jeremiah‘s outward circumstances remained the same, but he found peace in leaving his cause in faith to God.
This sudden outbreak of impatience after the happy faith of Jeremiah 20:13 has led to much discussion. Possibly there was more of sorrow in the words than of impatience; sorrow that the earnest labor of a life had been in vain. Yet the form of the expression is fierce and indignant; and the impatience of Jeremiah is that part of his character which is most open to blame. He does not reach that elevation which is set before us by Him who is the perfect pattern of all righteousness. Our Lord was a prophet whose mission to the men of His generation equally failed, and His sorrow was even more deep; but it never broke forth in imprecations. See Luke 19:41-42.
The cry - is the sound of the lamentation Jeremiah 20:8; “the shouting” is the alarm of war.