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Incorrigible Judah 8:4-10:25
The twin themes of Judah’s stubborn rebellion and her inevitable doom tie this section of miscellaneous messages together. The section contains mostly poetic material, and the prophecies bear the marks of Jehoiakim’s early reign (perhaps shortly after 609 B.C.).
The prophet again directed his Israelite audience to hear the message that Yahweh had for them. There were people in Judah who were venerating idols: who needed to hear this message.
A satire on idolatry 10:1-16
This scathing exposé of the folly of idolatry resembles several polemics in Isaiah (cf. Isaiah 40:18-20; Isaiah 41:6-7; Isaiah 44:9-20; Isaiah 46:5-7). Jeremiah 10:12-16 appear again in Jeremiah 51:15-19.
"Why did so easy a target as idolatry need so many attacks in the Old Testament? Jeremiah 10:9 suggests one reason: the appeal of the visually impressive; but perhaps Jeremiah 10:2 goes deeper, in pointing to the temptation to fall into step with the majority." [Note: Kidner, p. 56.]
A study of the architecture of the passage reveals alternating assertions about idols (Jeremiah 10:2-5; Jeremiah 10:8-9; Jeremiah 10:11; Jeremiah 10:14-15) and Yahweh (Jeremiah 10:6-7; Jeremiah 10:10; Jeremiah 10:12-13; Jeremiah 10:16). The effect produced by this structure is contrast.
"Theologically these verses are of great significance, for they set Yahweh apart from every other object of worship. . . . As Lord of the covenant Yahweh demanded total unswerving loyalty from his subjects. Any attempt to share allegiance to him with another merited judgment, for it amounted to a rejection of the covenant. In that case the curses of the covenant became operative." [Note: Thompson, p. 326.]
He warned his people not to be disciples of the Gentile nations, specifically not to let the celestial phenomena-that the nations looked to for guidance-frighten them. The nations regarded abnormalities in the heavens as divine signs, and held them in awe, particularly unusual phenomena such as comets, meteors, and eclipses. But it was Yahweh who controlled these things (cf. Genesis 1:14; Habakkuk 3:4; Habakkuk 3:11).
The worship of the Gentiles was an empty delusion. They worshipped only wood, cut from the forest, that a craftsman shaped with a tool. These gods were no more than pieces of wood.
They decorated their idols with precious metal and nailed them in place so they would not fall over. How ridiculous it is to worship something that cannot even keep itself upright, much less its devotees!
These idols were similar to scarecrows, whose only power is to frighten birds. They did not speak to command, counsel, or comfort their worshippers. They could not walk to come to the aid of their devotees. People had to carry them; they were burdens to be borne rather than bearers of their suppliants’ burdens. God’s people should not fear them because they do neither harm nor good. They are "do-nothing" gods.
Yahweh, on the other hand, is unique among the deities that people worship. He is great, and He had a reputation for acting mightily.
People naturally fear Him (cf. Jeremiah 10:5) because He is the sovereign over all nations. Most of the ancients believed that idols only had authority over certain geographical territories. Yahweh is also wiser than any wise men anywhere.
So-called wise men from the nations who worship a wooden idol are really stupid and foolish (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:21). Their disciplined worship is just a delusion accomplishing nothing.
The idolaters imported silver from Tarshish in the far west, probably Tartessus in Spain, and gold from Uphaz (location unknown). Instead of place names, some translators believed refined silver and pure gold are in view. Some ancient versions substituted Ophir, a site in southern Arabia, for Uphaz. Craftsmen and goldsmiths then glorified these images that had no glory of their own. They dressed the idols up like little kings with royal-colored fabrics, but that did not make them kings since they were merely manmade artifacts.
Yahweh is the true God; idols are false gods. He is alive; they are dead, really nonexistent. He is the King who lives forever; they are only temporary and destructible. He controls the earth and makes it quake when He is angry; they have no power at all. The nations are unable to endure His indignation when He manifests it; the idols have no indignation and are impotent to manifest any feelings whatsoever.
Jeremiah instructed his audience to say that these idols would perish, because they were human creations rather than the divine Creator. This is the only Aramaic verse in Jeremiah.
"The Tg [Targum] prefaces Jeremiah 10:11 with these words: ’This is the copy of the letter which the Prophet Jeremiah sent to the leaders of the exile in Babylon: "If the Chaldeans say to you, worship our idols, then answer them as follows."’ This suggests that Jeremiah 10:11 was a shortened version of a letter sent by Jeremiah to Jehoiachin and the other exiles in Babylon [where Aramaic was spoken] between 598 and 587 B.C. (compare Jeremiah 29:1-32)." [Note: Kelley, p. 160. The Targums were interpretive translations of portions of the Hebrew Scriptures into Aramaic, which increasingly replaced the Hebrew language following the Babylonian captivity.]
Another possibility is that this verse represents a well-known saying that someone, perhaps an Aramaic speaker, added to the text under divine inspiration. [Note: Thompson, p. 330.]
Yahweh is the Creator. His power, wisdom, and understanding were responsible for creating and establishing the universe.
He is responsible for the rains and storms, even the lightning, on the earth. He summons the winds from His celestial storehouse with a mere word, and they blow on the earth. The Canaanites attributed all these powers to Baal. Every thunderstorm testifies to the omnipotence of Yahweh.
Everyone who worships idols is stupid and ignorant (cf. 1 Corinthians 8:4-6). Their inability to do anything shames those who glorify them.
Idols have no worth. They mock those who make them by their silence. And they are unable to defend themselves, so they perish whenever the true God chooses to humiliate them.
Yahweh, the God who gave Himself in a special relationship to such an unworthy person as Jacob, is not like the idols because He is the Creator. He adopted Israel as His special treasure among the nations (Exodus 19:5-6). He is Yahweh Almighty.
Jeremiah called those living during the siege of Jerusalem to pack their bags. He often warned his hearers of the coming invasion by speaking as if the enemy were attacking. Consequently it is very difficult, if not impossible, to date these prophecies unless they contain a more specific indication of their historical origin.
A lament over the coming exile 10:17-25
The Lord had announced that He was going to send Jerusalem’s citizens away soon, as a shepherd throws a stone out of his sling. This would be a very distressing experience for them, but it would bring them to their senses.
The people, for whom the prophet spoke, bewailed their calamity, viewing it as an incurable injury that the Lord had inflicted on them. Yet they realized that there was no escape from it, and they had to endure the experience.
Their homes lay in ruins, and there was no one to help them rebuild them. Jerusalem, as a pitiful tent-dwelling mother, had lost her home and her children.
Israel’s leaders, political and spiritual, had foolishly forsaken the Lord and His covenant, so they became failures, and their people scattered like sheep (cf. Ezekiel 34).
The report of a great commotion in the north had reached Jerusalem. An invader was coming, who threatened to destroy the towns of Judah so thoroughly that only jackals (or wolves) would inhabit them.
"There is not a single known case where a town of Judah proper was continuously occupied through the exilic period." [Note: W. F. Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine, p. 142.]
In view of the coming invasion, Jeremiah prayed to Yahweh. Earlier God had told him not to pray that He would stop the invasion (Jeremiah 7:16; cf. Jeremiah 11:14; Jeremiah 14:11-12). But here the prophet did not pray for that, but for God to correct him (and Judah), and for Him to judge the nations. He prayed for himself as a representative of the nation.
The prophet confessed that people do not have the wisdom to direct their own steps in safe and successful paths (cf. Psalms 37:23; Proverbs 3:5-6; Proverbs 16:9; Proverbs 20:24).
He invited the Lord to correct him, to lead him in the proper way, but to do it with justice (without undue severity). If the Lord corrected him in anger, as the prophet (and his people) deserved, he would die. Jeremiah was probably speaking for his people, as well as for himself, in this prayer.
The Lord’s anger should find its object in the nations that did not know Him, and did not pray to Him-but devoured, consumed, and desolated God’s people-as despicable as the Judeans were (cf. Psalms 79:6-7).
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Jeremiah 10". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/
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