Jeremiah 10
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Chs. 7–10. Address delivered by Jeremiah at the gate of the Temple

The first question to be answered in regard to these chapters as a whole is the date to which they are to be referred, whether to the reign of Josiah or Jehoiakim. This seems to be answered by ch. 26, for while its Jeremiah 7:1-6 have a marked resemblance to these, it is expressly stated (Jeremiah 7:1) to have been delivered in the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim (b.c. 608–7). Others (e.g. Wellhausen and Marti) place it as early as the crisis brought about by the death of Josiah at Megiddo (b.c. 608), but accepting the date in Jeremiah 26:1, we may conclude that the two are respectively a longer and shorter summary of the same discourse, while the latter adds (Jeremiah 26:7-24) the danger which resulted to the prophet and his rescue. The announcement that the fate of the Temple should be that which had befallen Shiloh (Jeremiah 7:8 ff., Jeremiah 26:4 ff.), while helping to identify the two discourses, accounts sufficiently for their hostile reception. Irregularities in metre or its absence in Jeremiah 7:4 to Jeremiah 8:3, compel Du. with his rigid metrical theories to make most of this section to be post-Jeremianic, while he also holds that there are considerable interpolations in the whole section. As Co. points out, however, we can hardly suppose that Jeremiah spoke, as well as wrote, in metre, and we may well nave here in substance his oral prophecy, not yet put into metrical form. It accords with the later date that (a) Jeremiah seems to be now dwelling not at Anathoth but at Jerusalem, since he is told not as in Jeremiah 2:2 to “go and cry,” etc. but simply (Jeremiah 7:2) to “stand in the gate of the Lord’s house,” etc.; (b) idolatry is represented as practised openly in the streets of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 7:17 f.) and in the Temple itself (Jeremiah 7:30); (c) children are burned in the valley of Topheth in honour of Molech (Jeremiah 7:31).

The discourse has five natural divisions. (a) Jeremiah 7:1 to Jeremiah 8:3, Denunciation for shameless idolatry and pollution of the very Temple. (b) Jeremiah 8:4 to Jeremiah 9:1, Forecast of punishment as the result of sin. (c) Jeremiah 9:2-26, Judah’s corruption described. Her consequent sufferings. The recognition of Jehovah alone secures the weal of any nation. (d) Jeremiah 10:1-16, The folly of idolatry. (e) Jeremiah 10:17-25, Exile is at hand. Appeal to Jehovah even in punishing to remember mercy.

Chs. Jeremiah 7:1 to Jeremiah 8:3. Contrast between real and false grounds for confidence. Warning of approaching judgements

This section may be broken up as follows. (i) Jeremiah 7:1-2. Introduction. (ii) Jeremiah 7:3-7. The guarantee for Judah’s security is not, as she imagines, the existence of the Temple, but loyalty to Jehovah. (iii) Jeremiah 7:8-11. Can it be that occasional worship of Him in the intervals of profligacy suffices to give them a sense of security? (iv) Jeremiah 7:12-15. Let them take warning from the fate of Shiloh and the northern kingdom. (v) Jeremiah 7:16-20. The people are past interceding for: their idolatry is too gross. (vi) Jeremiah 7:21-28. They have never realised that from the first God’s demands were not for sacrifices but for holiness of life. (vii) Jeremiah 7:29 to Jeremiah 8:3. Topheth, the scene of idolatrous excesses, shall also be that of terrible retribution.

Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel:
Ch. Jeremiah 10:1-16. The folly of idolatry

It is now generally recognised that this passage is a later insertion, for (a) it breaks the connexion between Jeremiah 9:1-22 and Jeremiah 10:17 ff.; while by its omission the train of thought in the former is carried on smoothly in the latter; (b) elsewhere the people have been rebuked for being already devoted to idolatry (Jeremiah 7:18; Jeremiah 7:31), but here they are addressed as sincere and convinced worshippers of Jehovah, and are warned against imagining that idols are possessed of any real power, a warning which would be well adapted to the circumstances of the exiles in Babylon, surrounded as they were with its elaborate idol worship; (c) elsewhere Jeremiah’s argument is, “Expect no help from vain gods; they cannot save you” (Jeremiah 2:28, Jeremiah 11:12); here the argument is, “Do not fear them, they cannot harm you.” See LOT. p. 254. This does not indeed preclude the possibility that the passage is one which the prophet himself addressed at a later date to his brethren in captivity, and in fact it contains certain of his expressions, viz. vain, vanity, as applied to idols (Jeremiah 10:3; Jeremiah 10:15), in the time of their visitation (Jeremiah 10:15). But the style generally is not that of Jeremiah, and resembles that of the second Isaiah (chs. 40–66), so that it may at any rate be attributed to that period. The MT. is an expansion of the original form of the Hebrew. This is shewn both by the superiority in logical sequence exhibited on the whole (but see on Jeremiah 10:10) by the text of the LXX in the way of omission as well as change of order (see on Jeremiah 10:5-8; Jeremiah 10:10), and by the smoothness of metre which results from the adoption of the Greek form of text. Co. points out that we then have from Jeremiah 10:2 onwards a series of clauses arranged in triplets, presenting a clear and well articulated connexion of thought. So too Gi. (in Jeremias Metrik) with slight differences in detail. Du. shortens the passage still further. We may add that Baruch, ch. 6 (The Epistle of Jeremy) is partly an amplification of this passage by one who was very familiar with particulars of the idolatry as practised at Babylon.

The passage may be summarized thus. (i) Jeremiah 10:1-5. Be not led away by heathen beliefs. The phenomena seen in the sky have no element of divinity about them. The gods are nothing beyond the materials put together by workmen. They are speechless, and incapable of movement. They are powerless both for good and for harm. (ii) Jeremiah 10:6-16. Jehovah is not as these. He is the supreme God, Creator of the heavens and of the world, and Wielder of the powers of nature. The peoples of the earth may well tremble before Him, who has created all things and has chosen Israel for His own.

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. the signs of heaven] heavenly portents, such as comets, meteors, or eclipses, an allusion to the Babylonian love of astrology.

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.
3. customs] lit. as mg. statutes. The expression is strange in this connexion. Probably the word in MT. has suffered corruption, but no substitute commanding general acceptance has been found. It is clear, at any rate, that the reference is to idols.

one cutteth a tree] the mg. is to be preferred.

workman] better, craftsman, as Deuteronomy 27:15.

They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.
4. The idol is covered with plates of silver and gold, and secured to its place.

move] lit. shake. Cp. Isaiah 40:20; Isaiah 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. palm tree, of turned work] Substitute mg., comparing, as above, Bar 6:70 (“scarecrow”). See introd. note for this attitude towards idols.

From “they must needs” to “do good” is placed after Jeremiah 10:9 in LXX. This suggests that these clauses have their origin in marginal glosses, to the insertion of which at different places in the text by copyists the Hebrew and the Greek bear testimony.

Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O LORD; thou art great, and thy name is great in might.
6. There is none] This sense can only be got by omitting the first letter in MT. The omission can, however, be justified, as it may be an accidental repetition by a scribe of the last letter of Jeremiah 10:5. Keeping the Hebrew consonants with a slight change of vowels, we get the sense “Whence is any like unto thee!” The same difficulty arises in Jeremiah 10:7.

6–8. Omitted, most probably rightly, by LXX. See above.

6–16. See summary at commencement of the ch.

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. to thee doth it appertain] rather, as mg. it beseemeth thee.

But they are altogether brutish and foolish: the stock is a doctrine of vanities.
8. together] rather, all together, one and all.

the instruction … a stock] lit. the instruction of idols is wood, i.e. “is no better than the idol itself: idolatry is destitute of moral or spiritual force,” Dr. Possibly MT. needs emendation, as the expression is a strange one.

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. A description of the process of the making of idols out of silver and gold, and the robing of them in expensive garments. There is probably in both MT. and LXX corruption such as cannot now be fully disentangled. The first part of the v. is likely to be a gloss.

Tarshish] probably Tartessus in Spain, for the mineral products supplied by Tarshish to Tyre, silver, etc. (Ezekiel 27:12), were exactly those in which Spain was rich. In Strabo’s time the port had ceased to exist; hence the confusion as to the locality.

Uphaz] unknown, read Ophir (as mg.) with some texts of LXX, Targ., Syr. Its position is disputed, but was probably in S.E. of Arabia. See HDB.

blue and purple] the richness of the idols’ clothing matches that of the materials which compose them.

cunning] See on Jeremiah 9:17.

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. LXX omit, but there is more to be said for MT. here than in the cases above. As Jeremiah 10:11 is clearly a gloss, Jeremiah 10:12 would be very abrupt without an introduction of this kind.

the true God] better (as mg.) God in truth.

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. The v. is not Hebrew, but Aramaic. Either it is a marginal note, subsequently introduced into the text, where it interrupts the connexion of Jeremiah 10:10; Jeremiah 10:12, or it was designed by the prophet to supply the exiles with a form of answer when solicited to share in idolatrous practices. In the former case, inasmuch as the word for “earth” appears here in two distinct (non-Hebraic) forms, both of which are found in the Assuan papyri (see Intr. i. § 17 note), it has been conjectured to be an insertion on the part of some member of the Jewish colony in Egypt.

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, 13. The creation of all things, and in particular the phenomena of the tempest, are appealed to as signs of Jehovah’s supremacy.

12–16. Repeated Jeremiah 51:15-19.

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. when he uttereth his voice, etc.] The sense is plain, though the form of the Hebrew in MT. is peculiar, and hence the alternative in mg. at the sound of his giving an abundance of waters, continuing, when he causeth or (simply), he causeth. Thunder, torrential rain, lightning, and winds mark Jehovah’s supremacy over the elements of the storm.

maketh lightnings for the rain] probably meaning, pierceth with his flash the clouds, so that they pour their contents upon the earth. For the v. cp. Psalm 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. is become brutish and is without knowledge] or, as mg. is too brutish to know. MT. is open to either rendering, that of R.V. text being preferable.

is put to shame] by the contrast between Jehovah’s power over the forces of nature and the impotency of the idol.

They are vanity, and the work of errors: in the time of their visitation they shall perish.
15. delusion] rather (with mg.) mockery, bringing scorn upon those who trust in them. The last clause of the v. refers to the fate which may be expected to befall the idols when “the day of the Lord” comes. Cp. Isaiah 2:12 ff.

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. The parallelism of clauses is improved by the LXX’s omission (probably therefore rightly) of two words in MT. The LXX render accordingly, “For the former of all things is his inheritance.”

Gather up thy wares out of the land, O inhabitant of the fortress.
17. thy wares out of the land] the Hebrew word occurs here only, and is of doubtful meaning. This rendering connects it with the Hebrew root of Canaanite; the Canaanites being the merchants best known to the Hebrews. It seems to mean a few articles gathered together, rather than any considerable amount or burden. Hence it suggests hasty flight. The mg. thy bundle from the ground, derives it from a root found in Arabic and meaning, to be contracted or folded in; hence to be done up tightly. See Dr. pp. 354 f.

O thou, etc.] fem. and so collective. See on Jeremiah 4:11, Jeremiah 7:29.

O thou that abidest in the siege] i.e. thou who art in a besieged city. This is to be preferred to the reading in mg.

17, 18. Du. and Co. omit these vv., Du. rejecting 20, 21 also, while Gi. omits Jeremiah 10:18. See note on it.

17–25. Exile is at hand. Appeal to Jehovah in His wrath to remember mercy

The utterances, interrupted by Jeremiah 9:23-26, and Jeremiah 10:1-16, are now continued. The passage has apparently suffered both by corruption of MT. and by marginal glosses, afterwards incorporated with the text. It may be summarized thus.

(i) 17–22. The city is bidden hastily to prepare to be cast forth into exile as the result of impending siege. The country laments, as it lies waste. The inhabitants are carried captive, because of the folly of their rulers. The report of the invasion of the northern foe presages desolation.

(ii) 23–25. The prophet, pleading the weakness of man’s nature, prays that there may be a mitigation of Judah’s punishment, and that God’s wrath may be poured instead upon heathen nations.

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] Cp. 1 Samuel 25:29; also Isaiah 22:18.

feel] See the mg. The clause is suspicious in form, the verb having no expressed object. It is just possible, but hardly likely, that it may be corrected (by a change of vocalisation) to “that they may be found,” i.e. that disaster may overtake them. But this is a very forced sense for the expression to bear.

Woe is me for my hurt! my wound is grievous: but I said, Truly this is a grief, and I must bear it.
19. The prophet now begins a lament in the person of the nation.

my hurt] See Jeremiah 8:21.

grief] lit., as mg., sickness. “We speak only of a person as being sick; Heb. speaks also of a wound as being sick.” Dr., p. 355, where see references.

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. The land is likened to a tent overthrown and injured beyond repair.

curtains] See on Jeremiah 4:20.

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. shepherds] See on Jeremiah 2:8.

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. jackals] See on Jeremiah 9:11.

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. Man’s weakness is pleaded, either as compared with the Divine power, or, better, as prone to sin.

it is not, etc.] lit. it is not for man to walk and direct his steps.

23–25. See summary before Jeremiah 10:17. Stade, Du. and others (so Gi. in 1905, see his Metrik, p. 23) consider the passage to be the work of a supplementer. Gi. already in his Commentary (1894) surrenders Jeremiah 10:25, probably rightly, while Jeremiah 10:23-24 may at least be held doubtful. Co. agrees with Gi. as to Jeremiah 10:25, saying that, though suitable in a Maccabaean Psalm, as he considers Psalms 79 to be (where the v. is identical with Jeremiah 10:6-7), Jeremiah elsewhere holds the nations to be God’s servants, carrying out His punishments on Jerusalem. On the other hand even Du. admits that Jeremiah 10:23-24 may be Jeremiah’s own. Accordingly Co. fitly asks whether it be not possible that the prophet, forbidden though he was by Jehovah to intercede for his sinful nation (Jeremiah 7:16, Jeremiah 11:14, Jeremiah 14:7), yet felt impelled here to make one final appeal for some amount of mitigation in the penalty.

O LORD, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing.
24. correct] See on Jeremiah 2:19.

with judgement] in a judicial spirit, in measure. Cp. Jeremiah 30:11, Jeremiah 46:28.

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.
25. yea, they have devoured him] Plainly by an error of repetition in MT. In the Ps. (see above) the words are not found.

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