JEREMIAH CHAPTER 10.
A Warning against Idolatry.
THE NOTHINGNESS OF IDOLS. — V. 1. Hear ye the word which the Lord speaketh unto you, O house of Israel! those who now survived as the representatives of the former great nation. V. 2. Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, in becoming accustomed to their idolatrous worship, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven, filled with the fear which caused the Gentile nations to associate various perils with the movements of comets, with the occurrence of eclipses, and other phenomena; for the heathen are dismayed at them, since they revered supernatural powers in the various constellations. This warning is now further substantiated by a description of idolatrous customs. V. 3. For the customs of the people are vain, literally, "the precepts of the nations," what they fix for people to follow, "are breath, nothingness"; for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, literally, "for wood is it," that is what the object of their worship amounts to, "hewn out of the forest," the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. That is a fair sample of the objects of worship chosen by the heathen - a log felled in the woods and fashioned by an ax. V. 4. They deck it with silver and with gold, with ornaments of precious metals; they fasten it with nails and with hammers that it move not, for that is the only way in which the idol, supposed to be a god, can retain his upright position. V. 5. They, the idols, are upright as the palm-tree, they are like a statue of turned work, resembling a palm-tree, but speak not, Ps. 115, 5, for all their possessing a mouth; they must needs be borne, carried about from one place to another, because they cannot go, they are unable to walk. Be not afraid of them, standing in awe of any power which they are said to possess; for they cannot do evil, they can do no one any harm, neither also is it in them to do good, they cannot bring blessings or benefits upon any of their worshipers, since they are simply dead. Cp. Is. 41, 7-10. 23. V. 6. Forasmuch as there is none like unto Thee, O Lord, literally, "not a particle of anything," this being the strongest possible denial of any power in any other god besides Jehovah; Thou art great, and Thy name is great in might, His essence is made known in works of His almighty power. V. 7. Who would not fear Thee, O King of nations? For to Thee doth it appertain, to Him alone does it properly pertain, namely, that He is to be feared, is to be respected and revered by all men, forasmuch as among all the wise men of the nations and in all their kingdoms there is none like unto Thee. No matter where a person searches for a god who might stand a comparison with Jehovah, the quest will be useless: He alone is the one becoming object of worship. V. 8. But they are altogether brutish and foolish, the heathen are all alike in their stupidity, they have sunk to the level of brutes because they have severed their connection with the true God; the stock is a doctrine of vanities, or, "the instruction of vanities is - wood"; the very idols from whom, according to their lights, they hope to receive instruction are wood and therefore unable to give understanding. V. 9. Silver spread into plates is brought from Tarshish, from Tartessus in Spain, whose gold mines were well known in the ancient world, and gold from Uphaz, or Ophir, 1 Kings 9, 27, the work of the workman, beaten into the form of a thin covering by the goldsmith, and of the hands of the founder, the artist in precious metals; blue and purple is their clothing, made of the finest cloth, Ex. 25, 4; they are all the work of cunning men, of craftsmen possessing a very high degree of skill. The thought evidently is this: No matter how the idolaters strive to give their statues the semblance of living and mighty beings by ornamenting them in this fashion, they still remain idols and cannot be elevated to the position of gods. V. 10. But the Lord, Jehovah, the covenant God, is the true God, His whole essence being truth over against the nothingness of the idols, and an everlasting King, Ruler of the universe forever; at His wrath the earth shall tremble, shrinking back in terror before His living wrath, and the nations shall not be able to abide His indignation, to endure even the smallest expression of His anger. V. 11. Thus shall ye say unto them, the Jews being given an argument in the very tongue of Aramaic idolaters who were trying to seduce them to commit idolatry, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, those upon whom the heathen relied in their foolishness, even they shall perish from the earth, disappear into nothingness, and from under these heavens. The import, then, of the Lord's warning is this: not only should the Jews feel no fear of the heathen idols, but they should declare to the Gentiles that their supposed gods would soon be forgotten. Over against the weakness and nothingness of the heathen idols the almighty power of the one true God is now once more proclaimed, v. 12. He hath made the earth by His power, He hath established the world by His wisdom, Ps. 136, 5. 6; 93, 1, and hath stretched out the heavens by His discretion, spreading out the firmament by His unlimited skill and understanding. V. 13. When He uttereth His voice, when He causes it to thunder, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens, or, "a heaving of waters in the heavens," as the clouds come rolling along in heavy masses, and He causeth the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth, to form the clouds of the storm; He maketh lightnings with rain and bringeth forth the wind out of His treasures, out of His storehouses. Thus thunder, lightning, clouds, rain, and storm are named as evidences of Jehovah's almighty powers in the tempest. V. 14. Every man is brutish in his knowledge, they are all stupid in their skill and understanding, as they fashion their idols; every founder is confounded by the graven image, every artist who makes idols is put to shame by the work of his own hands; for his molten image is falsehood, their casting, what they fashion, is a lie, and there is no breath in them, they lack all evidence of life. V. 15. They are vanity, a vapor, nothingness, and the work of errors, of deceit and mockery, causing their worshipers to be mocked and derided when the nothingness of the idols becomes evident; in the time of their visitation they shall perish, that is, when God shall punish the idol-worshipers, the idols themselves shall likewise perish. V. 16. The Portion of Jacob is not like them, that is, Jehovah, the Portion of the true Church forever, does not in any way resemble the dead idols against which He warns His people; for He is the Former of all things, the Fashioner of the universe, and Israel is the rod of His inheritance, the tribe or nation which He has chosen as His possession. "The Lord of hosts" is His name, He alone is the almighty God, to whom the armies of the heavens, the angels and all the heavenly host, are subject, the Lord and Ruler of the whole world from everlasting to everlasting.
THE PROPHET’S LAMENTATION AND PRAYER. — V. 17. Gather up thy wares out of the land, O inhabitant of the fortress, literally, "Collect thy bundle from the earth, thou that sittest in the distress of the siege," the summons being issued to the entire nation of the Jews, in preparation for their being led into exile. V. 18. For thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will sling out the inhabitants of the land at this once, both the suddenness and the violence of their removal to Babylon being brought out, and will distress them, bring them into dire straits, that they may find it so, feel and experience the bitterness of His oppression. V. 19. Woe is me for my hurt! so the prophet cries out in the name of Judah, bewailing its calamity. My wound is grievous, incurable! But I said. Truly, this is a grief, the desolation of the land and the captivity of the people being the suffering which Judah now had to endure, and I must bear it. This is a yielding to the inevitable, not a frank declaration of guilt. V. 20. My tabernacle is spoiled, and all my cords are broken, the picture being that of a tent which is being ruined, due to the fact that its guy-ropes are torn, all setting forth the desolation of the land; my children are gone forth of me, and they are not, this bereavement being the height of Judah's visitation on the part of the Lord; there is none to stretch forth my tent any more and to set up my curtains, the reference being to the pitching of the tent by extending and coupling its individual covers, a further description of the desolation of the land. V. 21. For the pastors, the rulers and leaders of the people, are become brutish, gone down to the level of irrational beasts, and have not sought the Lord, this fact explaining their growing stupidity; therefore they shall not prosper, they could not rule or effect any reforms with the proper wisdom, and all their flocks shall be scattered, their subjects dispersed in exile. V. 22. Behold, the noise of the bruit is come, the report that the threatened invasion is about to begin, and a great commotion out of the north country, the tumult of an advancing army, to make the cities of Judah desolate and a den of dragons, a habitation of jackals. With this situation facing Judah, the prophet utters a prayer in the name of the congregation. V. 23. O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself, it is not in the power of any person to determine his way and manner of living nor the trend of his life's vicissitudes; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord directs it; man proposes, but God disposes. V. 24. O Lord, correct me, but with judgment, with a moderation guided by the exact demands of the case, in order to lead the repentant sinner on the way of righteousness; not in Thine anger, as in the case of obstinate sinners, lest Thou bring me to nothing. V. 25. Pour out Thy fury upon the heathen that know Thee not, although they are now God's instruments in the punishment of Israel, and upon the families that call not on Thy name, all the nations which have joined hands against Israel; for they have eaten up Jacob and devoured him and consumed him, the heaping of synonyms picturing the intense hatred with which they set about to destroy the Lord's people, and have made his habitation desolate. Believers will at all times humble themselves under the chastisement of the Lord, trusting firmly that He intends not their destruction, but their salvation.