Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel:
Jer 10:1-25. Contrast between the Idols and Jehovah. The Prophet's Lamentation and Prayer.
1. Israel—the Jews, the surviving representatives of the nation.
Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
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].
For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.
They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.
4. fasten … move not—that is, that it may stand upright without risk of falling, which the god (!) would do, if left to itself (Isa 41:7).
They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.
5. upright—or, "They are of turned work, resembling a palm tree" [Maurer]. The point of comparison between the idol and the palm is in the pillar-like uprightness of the latter, it having no branches except at the top.
speak not—(Ps 115:5).
cannot go—that is, walk (Ps 115:7; Isa 46:1, 7).
neither … do good—(Isa 41:23).
Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O LORD; thou art great, and thy name is great in might.
6. none—literally, "no particle of nothing": nothing whatever; the strongest possible denial (Ex 15:11; Ps 86:8, 10).
Who would not fear thee, O King of nations? for to thee doth it appertain: forasmuch as among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like unto thee.
7. (Re 15:4).
to thee doth it appertain—to Thee it properly belongs, namely, that Thou shouldest be "feared" (taken out of the previous "fear Thee") (compare Eze 21:27). He alone is the becoming object of worship. To worship any other is unseemly and an infringement of His inalienable prerogative.
none—nothing whatever (see on Jer 10:6; Ps 89:6).
But they are altogether brutish and foolish: the stock is a doctrine of vanities.
8. altogether—rather, "all alike" [Maurer]. Even the so-called "wise" men (Jer 10:7) of the Gentiles are on a level with the brutes and "foolish," namely, because they connive at the popular idolatry (compare Ro 1:21-28). Therefore, in Daniel and Revelation, the world power is represented under a bestial form. Man divests himself of his true humanity, and sinks to the level of the brute, when he severs his connection with God (Ps 115:8; Jon 2:8).
stock is a doctrine of vanities—The stock (put for the worship of all idols whatever, made out of a stock) speaks for itself that the whole theory of idolatry is vanity (Isa 44:9-11). Castalio translates, "the very wood itself confuting the vanity" (of the idol).
Silver spread into plates is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz, the work of the workman, and of the hands of the founder: blue and purple is their clothing: they are all the work of cunning men.
9. Everything connected with idols is the result of human effort.
Silver spread—(See on Isa 30:22; Isa 40:19).
Tarshish—Tartessus, in Spain, famed for precious metals.
Uphaz—(Da 10:5). As the Septuagint in the Syrian Hexapla in the Margin, Theodotus, the Syrian and Chaldee versions have "Ophir," Gesenius thinks "Uphaz" a colloquial corruption (one letter only being changed) for "Ophir." Ophir, in Ge 10:29, is mentioned among Arabian countries. Perhaps Malacca is the country meant, the natives of which still call their gold mines Ophirs. Heeren thinks Ophir the general name for the rich countries of the south, on the Arabian, African, and Indian coasts; just as our term, East Indies.
But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.
10. true God—literally, "God Jehovah is truth"; not merely true, that is, veracious, but truth in the reality of His essence, as opposed to the "vanity" or emptiness which all idols are (Jer 10:3, 8, 15; 2Ch 15:3; Ps 31:5; 1Jo 5:20).
living God—(Joh 5:26; 1Ti 6:17). He hath life in Himself which no creature has. All else "live in Him" (Ac 17:28). In contrast to dead idols.
everlasting—(Ps 10:16). In contrast to the temporary existence of all other objects of worship.
Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens.
11. This verse is in Chaldee, Jeremiah supplying his countrymen with a formula of reply to Chaldee idolaters in the tongue most intelligible to the latter. There may be also derision intended in imitating their barbarous dialect. Rosenmuller objects to this view, that not merely the words put in the mouths of the Israelites, but Jeremiah's own introductory words, "Thus shall ye say to them," are in Chaldee, and thinks it to be a marginal gloss. But it is found in all the oldest versions. It was an old Greek saying: "Whoever thinks himself a god besides the one God, let him make another world" (Ps 96:5).
shall perish—(Isa 2:18; Zec 13:2).
these heavens—the speaker pointing to them with his fingers.
He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion.
12. Continuation of Jer 10:10, after the interruption of the thread of the discourse in Jer 10:11 (Ps 136:5, 6).
When he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens, and he causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures.
13. Literally, "At the voice of His giving forth," that is, when He thunders. (Job 38:34; Ps 29:3-5).
waters—(Ge 1:7)—above the firmament; heavy rains accompany thunder.
vapours … ascend—(Ps 135:7).
Every man is brutish in his knowledge: every founder is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them.
14. in his knowledge—"is rendered brutish by his skill," namely, in idol-making (Jer 10:8, 9). Thus the parallel, "confounded by the graven image," corresponds (so Jer 51:17). Others not so well translate, "without knowledge," namely, of God (see Isa 42:17; 45:16; Ho 4:6).
They are vanity, and the work of errors: in the time of their visitation they shall perish.
15. errors—deceptions; from a Hebrew root, "to stutter"; then meaning "to mock."
their visitation they—When God shall punish the idol-worshippers (namely, by Cyrus), the idols themselves shall be destroyed [Rosenmuller] (Jer 10:11).
The portion of Jacob is not like them: for he is the former of all things; and Israel is the rod of his inheritance: The LORD of hosts is his name.
16. portion—from a Hebrew root, "to divide." God is the all-sufficient Good of His people (Nu 18:20; Ps 16:5; 73:26; La 3:24).
not like them—not like the idols, a vain object of trust (De 32:31).
former of all things—the Fashioner (as a potter, Isa 64:8) of the universe.
rod of his inheritance—The portion marked off as His inheritance by the measuring rod (Eze 48:21). As He is their portion, so are they His portion (De 32:9). A reciprocal tie (compare Jer 51:19; Ps 74:2, Margin). Others make "rod" refer to the tribal rod or scepter.
Gather up thy wares out of the land, O inhabitant of the fortress.
17. wares—thine effects or movable goods (Eze 12:3). Prepare for migrating as captives to Babylon. The address is to Jerusalem, as representative of the whole people.
inhabitant of the fortress—rather, "inhabitress of the fortress." Though thou now seemest to inhabit an impregnable fortress, thou shalt have to remove. "The land" is the champaign region opposed to the "fortified" cities. The "fortress" being taken, the whole "land" will share the disaster. Henderson translates, "Gather up thy packages from the ground." Rosenmuller, for "fortress," translates, "siege," that is, the besieged city. The various articles, in this view, are supposed to be lying about in confusion on the ground during the siege.
For thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will sling out the inhabitants of the land at this once, and will distress them, that they may find it so.
18. sling out—expressing the violence and suddenness of the removal to Babylon. A similar image occurs in Jer 16:13; 1Sa 25:29; Isa 22:17, 18.
at this once—at this time, now.
find it so—find it by experience, that is, feel it (Eze 6:10). Michaelis translates, "I will bind them together (as in a sling) that they may reach the goal" (Babylon). English Version is best: "that they may find it so as I have said" (Nu 23:19; Eze 6:10).
Woe is me for my hurt! my wound is grievous: but I said, Truly this is a grief, and I must bear it.
19. Judea bewails its calamity.
wound—the stroke I suffer under.
I must bear—not humble submission to God's will (Mic 7:9), but sullen impenitence. Or, rather, it is prophetical of their ultimate acknowledgment of their guilt as the cause of their calamity (La 3:39).
My tabernacle is spoiled, and all my cords are broken: my children are gone forth of me, and they are not: there is none to stretch forth my tent any more, and to set up my curtains.
20. tabernacle is spoiled—metaphor from the tents of nomadic life; as these are taken down in a few moments, so as not to leave a vestige of them, so Judea (Jer 4:20).
cords—with which the coverings of the tent are extended.
For the pastors are become brutish, and have not sought the LORD: therefore they shall not prosper, and all their flocks shall be scattered.
21. pastors—the rulers, civil and religious. This verse gives the cause of the impending calamity.
Behold, the noise of the bruit is come, and a great commotion out of the north country, to make the cities of Judah desolate, and a den of dragons.
22. bruit—rumor of invasion. The antithesis is between the voice of God in His prophets to whom they turned a deaf ear, and the cry of the enemy, a new teacher, whom they must hear [Calvin].
north country—Babylon (Jer 1:15).
O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.
23. Despairing of influencing the people, he turns to God.
way of man not in himself—(Pr 16:1; 20:24; Jas 4:13, 14). I know, O Jehovah, that the march of the Babylonian conqueror against me (Jeremiah identifying himself with his people) is not at his own discretion, but is overruled by Thee (Isa 10:5-7; compare Jer 10:19).
that walketh—when he walketh, that is, sets out in any undertaking.
direct … steps—to give a prosperous issue to (Ps 73:23).
O LORD, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing.
24, 25. Since I (my nation) must be corrected (justice requiring it because of the deep guilt of the nation), I do not deprecate all chastisement, but pray only for moderation in it (Jer 30:11; Ps 6:1; 38:1); and that the full tide of Thy fury may be poured out on the heathen invaders for their cruelty towards Thy people. Ps 79:6, 7, a psalm to be referred to the time of the captivity, its composer probably repeated this from Jeremiah. The imperative, "Pour out," is used instead of the future, expressing vividly the certainty of the prediction, and that the word of God itself effects its own declarations. Accordingly, the Jews were restored after correction; the Babylonians were utterly extinguished.
know thee … call … on thy name—Knowledge of God is the beginning of piety; calling on Him the fruit.
heathen … Jacob—He reminds God of the distinction He has made between His people whom Jacob represents, and the heathen aliens. Correct us as Thy adopted sons, the seed of Jacob; destroy them as outcasts (Zec 1:14, 15, 21).
Pour out thy fury upon the heathen that know thee not, and upon the families that call not on thy name: for they have eaten up Jacob, and devoured him, and consumed him, and have made his habitation desolate.