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Why did Jeremiah say, “Cursed be the day I was born” (Jeremiah 20:14)?

cursed be the day I was born

Jeremiah, sometimes called the “weeping prophet,” had a difficult ministry. So difficult, in fact, that he one day exclaimed, “Cursed be the day I was born! May the day my mother bore me not be blessed!” (Jeremiah 20:14).

God had warned Jeremiah in advance that the prophetic ministry would be hard. God told him that those to whom he was sent would fight against him, yet God would deliver him (Jeremiah 1:19). In the midst of the persecution, God would make Jeremiah like a fortified city, an iron pillar, and a wall of bronze (Jeremiah 1:18). Jeremiah presented a message of judgment, telling the people that exile in Babylon was inevitable (Jeremiah 19). That was a very unpopular message, and the leaders of his day took steps to silence Jeremiah.

Pashhur the priest, “the official in charge of the temple of the Lord, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things, [and] he had Jeremiah the prophet beaten and put in the stocks” (Jeremiah 20:1–2). After pronouncing judgment on the persecuting priest (Jeremiah 20:4–6), Jeremiah cried out in frustration to God. Jeremiah lamented that proclaiming God’s Word was resulting only in reproach and ridicule (Jeremiah 20:7–8). Jeremiah felt deceived by God, as Jeremiah perhaps expected a better reception. Jeremiah’s frustration was so deep that he wailed, “Cursed be the day I was born!” (Jeremiah 20:14).

Jeremiah wanted to stop prophesying, but he could not. Jeremiah explained that, if he didn’t proclaim what God had told him, the word would be like a burning fire inside of him (Jeremiah 20:9). Like Paul would later remark, “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16). Jeremiah knew he had to fulfill his ministry even though it involved great personal difficulty. He knew that enemies were plotting against him and looking for his destruction (Jeremiah 20:10). Still, Jeremiah understood that God was with him and that the persecutors would not ultimately prevail (Jeremiah 20:11). He longed to see God’s justice on those who had persecuted him (Jeremiah 20:12). Jeremiah knew that God was the One who could deliver (Jeremiah 20:13).

Despite that knowledge, Jeremiah’s present condition was bitter. The persecution was severe, and the pain was real. Jeremiah cries out, “Cursed be the day I was born!” (Jeremiah 20:14), and he laments everything about that day (Jeremiah 20:14–16). He even wished that the person who brought the news of his birth to his father would have killed Jeremiah instead of helping him to be born (Jeremiah 20:17). “Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow,” Jeremiah asks, “and to end my days in shame?” (Jeremiah 20:18).

It seemed that Jeremiah had temporarily forgotten the instruction and preparation God had given. God had warned Jeremiah, but that didn’t ease the pain or difficulty of his ministry. Similarly, those who seek to serve God faithfully today can also encounter great difficulties. Paul warned Timothy that all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus would be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). Jesus warned His disciples that if people hated Jesus they would also hate the ones who followed Him (John 15:18).

While we may never encounter enough difficulty in ministry to say, “Cursed be the day I was born,” we can learn from Jeremiah’s example. Even though Jeremiah was in agony at times because of the ministry God gave him, he persevered and faithfully proclaimed God’s Word. Jeremiah saw the destruction of the city and the people he loved. While he lamented (writing the book called Lamentations), Jeremiah also recognized that even in the greatest difficulties God’s lovingkindness never ceases, and His faithfulness is great (Lamentations 3:21–24). Jeremiah’s hope was in God. He knew that God was good to those who wait for Him (Lamentations 3:25).

When we feel, as Jeremiah did, that we could say, “Cursed be the day I was born,” we should also recognize, like Jeremiah, that God is faithful. Patient, persevering trust in Him is rewarded.

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Questions about Jeremiah

Why did Jeremiah say, “Cursed be the day I was born” (Jeremiah 20:14)?
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This page last updated: January 23, 2023