|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
10:1-16 The prophet shows the glory of Israel's God, and exposes the folly of idolaters. Charms and other attempts to obtain supernatural help, or to pry into futurity, are copied from the wicked customs of the heathen. Let us stand in awe, and not dare provoke God, by giving that glory to another which is due to him alone. He is ready to forgive, and save all who repent and believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ. Faith learns these blessed truths from the word of God; but all knowledge not from that source, leads to doctrines of vanity.
Verse 2. - The way of the heathen. "Way" equivalent to "religion" (comp. ὁδὸς, Acts 9:2, etc.). Be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; alluding to the astrological calculations based upon extraordinary appearances in the sky. Diodorus Siculus remarks 2:30) - and his statement is fully confirmed by the Babylonian cuneiform tablets - that "the appearance of comets, eclipses of the sun and moon, earthquakes, and in fact every kind of change occasioned by the atmosphere, whether good or bad, both to nations and to kings and private individuals [were omens of future events]." A catalogue of the seventy standard astrological tablets is to be found in the third volume of the British Museum collection of inscriptions. Among the items we read, "A collection of twenty-five tablets of the signs of heaven and earth, according to their good presage and their bad;" and again, "Tablets [regarding] the signs of the heaven, along with the star (comet) which has a corona in front and a tail behind; the appearance of the sky," etc. There can hardly be a doubt that the prophetic writer had such pseudo-science as this in his eye (see Professor Sayce, 'The Astronomy and Astrology of the Baby. Ionians, with translations of the tablets,' ere, in the Transactions of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, 3:145-339).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Thus saith the Lord, learn not the way of the Heathen,.... Of the nations round about them, particularly the Chaldeans; meaning their religious ways, their ways of worship, their superstition and idolatry, which they were very prone unto, and many of which they had learned already; and were in danger of learning more, as they were about to be dispersed in divers countries, and especially in Chaldea, which was a very superstitious and idolatrous nation:
and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; by which are meant, not any extraordinary signs, such as are predicted in Joel 2:30, and by our Lord, as signs of the last destruction of Jerusalem, and of his coming, and of the end of the world, Matthew 24:3, but ordinary signs, which are no other than the sun, and moon, and stars, which are set up for signs and seasons, and days and years, Genesis 1:14, and as long as they are observed as signs of places and of times, it is well enough; but if more is attributed unto them, as portending things future, and as having an influence on the birth and death, dispositions and actions of men, when in such a conjunction, situation, and position, it is wrong; which is what is called judicial astrology, and to which the Chaldeans were much addicted, and is here condemned; nor should men possess themselves with fears with what shall befall them on such accounts, since all things are under the determination, direction, and influence of the God of heaven, and not the signs of them; especially they should not be so observed as to be worshipped, and to be so awed by them as to fear that evil things will befall, if they are not; and to this sense is the Syriac version, "the signs of the heavens do not worship, or fear". Jarchi interprets them of the eclipses of the luminaries, which may be thought to forbode some dreadful things (l):
for the Heathen are dismayed at them; which is a reason why the people of God should not, because it is a Heathenish fear; or, "though the Heathen" (m), &c.; though they are frightened at such and such conjunctions and positions of the stars, and fear that such and such dreadful things will follow; and never regard the supreme Being and first cause of all things; yet such who have the knowledge of the true God, and a revelation of his will, ought not to be terrified hereby; see Isaiah 47:13. This text is brought to prove that the Israelites are not under any planet (n); since the Heathens are dismayed at them, but not they.
(l) Vid. T. Bab. Succa, fol. 29. 1.((m) "quamvis consterni soleant", Vatablus. (n) T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 156. 1.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
2. Eichorn thinks the reference here to be to some celestial portent which had appeared at that time, causing the Jews' dismay. Probably the reference is general, namely, to the Chaldeans, famed as astrologers, through contact with whom the Jews were likely to fall into the same superstition.
way—the precepts or ordinances (Le 18:3; Ac 9:2).
signs of heaven—The Gentiles did not acknowledge a Great First Cause: many thought events depended on the power of the stars, which some, as Plato, thought to be endued with spirit and reason. All heavenly phenomena, eclipses, comets, &c., are included.
one cutteth a tree, &c.—rather, "It (that which they busy themselves about: a sample of their 'customs') is a tree cut out of the forest" [Maurer].
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