The absurdity of idolatry. (1-16) Destruction denounced against Jerusalem. (17-25)
Verses 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.
Verses 17-25 The Jews who continued in their own land, felt secure. But, sooner or later, sinners will find all things as the word of God has declared, and that its threatenings are not empty terrors. Submission will support the believer under every grief allotted to him; but what can render the load of Divine vengeance easy to be borne by those who fall under it in sullen despair? Those cannot expect to prosper, who do not, by faith and prayer, take God with them in all their ways. The report of the enemy's approach was very dreadful. Yet the designs which men lay deep, and think well formed, are dashed to pieces in a moment. Events are often overruled, so as to be quite contrary to what we intended and expected. If the Lord has directed our steps into the ways of peace and righteousness, let us entreat him to enable us to walk therein. Say not, Lord, do not correct me; but, Lord, do not correct me in anger. We may bear the smart of God's rod, but we cannot bear the weight of his wrath. Those who restrain prayer, prove that they know not God; for those who know him will seek him, and seek his favour. If even severe corrections lead sinners to be convinced of wholesome truths, they will have abundant cause for gratitude. And they will then humble themselves before the Lord.
Jeremiah 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.
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 ( Leviticus 18:3 , Acts 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].
4. fasten . . . move not--that is, that it may stand upright without risk of falling, which the god (!) would do, if left to itself ( Isaiah 41:7 ).
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--( Psalms 115:5 ).
cannot go--that is, walk ( Psalms 115:7 , Isaiah 46:1 Isaiah 46:7 ).
neither . . . do good--( Isaiah 41:23 ).
6. none--literally, "no particle of nothing": nothing whatever; the strongest possible denial ( Exodus 15:11 , Psalms 86:8 Psalms 86:10 ).
7. ( Revelation 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 Ezekiel 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 Psalms 89:6 ).
8. altogether--rather, "all alike" [MAURER]. Even the so-called "wise" men ( Jeremiah 10:7 ) of the Gentiles are on a level with the brutes and "foolish," namely, because they connive at the popular idolatry (compare Romans 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 ( Psalms 115:8 , Jonah 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 ( Isaiah 44:9-11 ). CASTALIO translates, "the very wood itself confuting the vanity" (of the idol).
9. Everything connected with idols is the result of human effort.
Tarshish--Tartessus, in Spain, famed for precious metals.
Uphaz--( Daniel 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 Genesis 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.
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 ( Jeremiah 10:3 Jeremiah 10:8 Jeremiah 10:15 , 2 Chronicles 15:3 , Psalms 31:5 , 1 John 5:20 ).
living God--( John 5:26 , 1 Timothy 6:17 ). He hath life in Himself which no creature has. All else "live in Him" ( Acts 17:28 ). In contrast to dead idols.
everlasting--( Psalms 10:16 ). In contrast to the temporary existence of all other objects of worship.
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" ( Psalms 96:5 ).
shall perish--( Isaiah 2:18 , Zechariah 13:2 ).
these heavens--the speaker pointing to them with his fingers.
12. Continuation of Jeremiah 10:10 , after the interruption of the thread of the discourse in Jeremiah 10:11 ( Psalms 136:5 Psalms 136:6 ).
13. Literally, "At the voice of His giving forth," that is, when He thunders. ( Job 38:34 , Psalms 29:3-5 ).
waters--( Genesis 1:7 )--above the firmament; heavy rains accompany thunder.
vapours . . . ascend--( Psalms 135:7 ).
14. in his knowledge--"is rendered brutish by his skill," namely, in idol-making ( Jeremiah 10:8 Jeremiah 10:9 ). Thus the parallel, "confounded by the graven image," corresponds (so Jeremiah 51:17 ). Others not so well translate, "without knowledge," namely, of God (see Isaiah 42:17 , 45:16 , Hosea 4:6 ).
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] ( Jeremiah 10:11 ).
16. portion--from a Hebrew root, "to divide." God is the all-sufficient Good of His people ( Numbers 18:20 , Psalms 16:5 , 73:26 , Lamentations 3:24 ).
not like them--not like the idols, a vain object of trust ( Deuteronomy 32:31 ).
former of all things--the Fashioner (as a potter, Isaiah 64:8 ) of the universe.
rod of his inheritance--The portion marked off as His inheritance by the measuring rod ( Ezekiel 48:21 ). As He is their portion, so are they His portion ( Deuteronomy 32:9 ). A reciprocal tie (compare Jeremiah 51:19 , Psalms 74:2 , Margin). Others make "rod" refer to the tribal rod or scepter.
17. wares--thine effects or movable goods ( Ezekiel 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.
18. sling out--expressing the violence and suddenness of the removal to Babylon. A similar image occurs in Jeremiah 16:13 , 1 Samuel 25:29 , Isaiah 22:17 Isaiah 22:18 .
at this once--at this time, now.
find it so--find it by experience, that is, feel it ( Ezekiel 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" ( Numbers 23:19 , Ezekiel 6:10 ).
19. Judea bewails its calamity.
wound--the stroke I suffer under.
I must bear--not humble submission to God's will ( Micah 7:9 ), but sullen impenitence. Or, rather, it is prophetical of their ultimate acknowledgment of their guilt as the cause of their calamity ( Lamentations 3:39 ).
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 ( Jeremiah 4:20 ).
cords--with which the coverings of the tent are extended.
21. pastors--the rulers, civil and religious. This verse gives the cause of the impending calamity.
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 ( Jeremiah 1:15 ).
23. Despairing of influencing the people, he turns to God.
way of man not in himself--( Proverbs 16:1 , 20:24 , James 4:13 James 4:14 ). 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 ( Isaiah 10:5-7 ; compare Jeremiah 10:19 ).
that walketh--when he walketh, that is, sets out in any undertaking.
direct . . . steps--to give a prosperous issue to ( Psalms 73:23 ).
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 ( Jeremiah 30:11 , Psalms 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. Psalms 79:6 Psalms 79:7 , 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 ( Zechariah 1:14 Zechariah 1:15 Zechariah 1:21 ).