Jeremiah 10:8
But they are altogether brutish and foolish: the stock is a doctrine of vanities.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(8) Altogether.—Literally, in one, probably in the sense in one word, in one fact, sc., that which follows in the next clause.

The stock is a doctrine of vanities.—Better, inverting the subject and predicate, the teaching of vanities (i.e., of idols) is a word, or is a log. That is all it comes to; that one word is its condemnation.

Jeremiah 10:8. But they are altogether brutish — Or, all alike brutish. They that make images, saith the psalmist, Psalm 115:8, are like unto them, equally stupid and insensible. The stock is a doctrine of vanities — Or lies. The use of images in worship is grounded on a false and foolish opinion, that God is like the work of men’s hands, and that images have some divine power lodged within them, and in this opinion it has a direct tendency to confirm the ignorant. Hence an image is called by Habakkuk, A teacher of lies. Instead of the stock, &c., Dr. Waterland reads, Vain institutions! very wood! Blaney, in consistency with his interpretation of the 7th verse, given above, renders this, But they, when they approach, (namely, to worship,) are stupid and sottish, the very wood itself being a rebuker of vanities. On which he observes, “The contrast is thus strongly marked between the true God, and the objects of heathen superstition. The servants of the former, when they approached him in their devotions, could not but be impressed with a reverential awe of a being so transcendently glorious. But those who drew near to worship the latter, manifested the greatest stupidity, in not discovering what was so obvious to common apprehension, the gross unworthiness of the objects to which their adorations were addressed.” On the latter clause, The very wood itself, &c., he remarks, “The true meaning and force of this passage seem to have escaped the notice of all the commentators. מוסר, (which our translators render doctrine,) properly signifies rectifying, or correcting, a false notion by just reproof; and by vanities are meant idols, so called from their being of no real use or advantage to those who had recourse to their assistance. And this unprofitableness of the idol, the very dull and senseless matter, says the prophet, out of which it was formed, is capable of demonstrating. But the rebuke, strictly speaking, is not directed to the idol, but to those who had not sense to perceive, that all the efforts of human art could never change an inanimate log of wood into an animated being, possessed of power and intelligence far surpassing those of the person from whom its origin was derived. There are, therefore, an energy and pointedness in this short sentence, at least equal to whatever has been said on the same subject by the most spirited writer, whether sacred or profane. Not even the keen raillery of the Roman satirist in those celebrated lines, olim truncus eram, &c., cuts with greater severity.” See note on Isaiah 44:12, &c.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.Brutish - Jeremiah 10:21 and foolish Theirs was the brutishness of men in a savage state, little better than mere animals: their folly that of stupidity.

The stock ... - Rather, the instruction of idols is a piece of wood. That is what they are themselves, and "ex nihilo nihil fit" (from nothingness, nothing is made).

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).

They are altogether brutish: the awe that the idol doth impress upon carnal men’s minds, and thereby taking them off from a due apprehension of the essence of God, doth keep them between such hope and fear, that they become as senseless and as inapprehensive of any true worship as brutes.

And foolish; not only some of them, but even all, both Jews and Gentiles: q.d. I need not stand to particularize, but take them altogether, they are become stupid idolaters, and have drank in the most gross superstitions of the Gentiles, as Romans 1:19,21.

The stock; a synecdoche put for all sorts of idols, of what materials soever; and a metonymy of the matter, to render them contemptible, either as deluding the ignorant, or in themselves considered; they are mere vain, foolish, helpless things.

Is a doctrine of vanities; the Hebrew word musar is taken for bad instruction, Proverbs 16:22: q. d. It is an easy matter to prove them very fools and brutish, when they look upon a stock, a piece of wood, to be their god, which hath neither knowledge nor providence, and therefore must needs be a doctrine of vanity, when they think to be taught devotion by images, which is a teacher of lies; that saith to the dumb stone, It shall teach, Habakkuk 2:18,19; like that doctrine of devils first broached by Pope Gregory, who first commended Serenus bishop of Massilia for not permitting images to be worshipped, but reproved him for throwing them out of the church, because they serve for ornaments and laymen’s books, which since hath been received as a catholic doctrine, that images are laymen’s books. But they are altogether brutish and foolish,.... In comparison of the Lord, there is no knowledge and wisdom in them, this is a certain fact; they are verily brutish and foolish; or they are one and all so, there is not a wise man among them: or, "in one thing they are brutish" (r), &c.; namely, in their idolatry; however wise they may be in other respects, in this they are foolish: or, to give no more instances of their brutishness (s) and folly, this one is sufficient, even what follows,

the stock is a doctrine of vanities; or what they teach persons, as to worship the trunk of a tree, or any idol of metal, or of wood, is a most vain and foolish thing, and argues gross stupidity and folly, and proves them to be brutish, and without understanding.

(r) "in hoc uno Munster", Tigurine version; "et certe in una quadem re obbrutescunt", Piscator. So Jarchi and Abarbinel. (s) The Talmudists seem to take the word to have the signification of burning; for the sense of these words being asked, it is replied, there is one thing that burns the wicked in hell; what is it? idolatry; as it is here written, "a doctrine of vanities is the stock."

But they are altogether senseless and foolish: the stock is a {e} doctrine of vanities.

(e) Because the people thought that to have images was a means to serve God, and to bring them to the knowledge of him, he shows that nothing more displeases God, nor brings man into greater errors and ignorance of God: and therefore he calls them the doctrine of vanity, the work of errors, Jer 10:15. Hab 2:18 calls them the teachers of lies: contrary to that wicked opinion, that they are the books of the lay people.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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.Verse 8. - Brutish and foolish. In fact, the original meaning of the idolatrous religions had begun, probably, to fade, and the worship of Bel and Nebo had become (as the worship of the Egyptian gods became at a later period) increasingly formal and ritualistic. The stock is a doctrine of vanities; rather, an instruction of vanities; i.e. all that the idols can teach is vanities. Against this is the plural ("vanities," not vanity); it is more natural (and also more in accordance with usage; comp. Genesis 41:26, Hebrew) to render, the instruction of the vanities is wooden ("vanities" has the constant technical sense of "idols;" see Jeremiah 8:19; Jeremiah 14:22; Deuteronomy 32:21; Psalm 31:6). The clause then furnishes a reason for the folly of the heathen; how should they attain to more than a "wooden" knowledge, when the idols themselves are but wood? A bitter truth in an ironical form. The nothingness of the false gods. - Jeremiah 10:1. "Hear the word which Jahveh speaketh unto you, house of Israel! Jeremiah 10:2. Thus saith Jahveh: To the ways of the heathen use yourselves not, and at the signs of the heaven be not dismayed, because the heathen are dismayed at them. Jeremiah 10:3. For the ordinances of the peoples are vain. For it is wood, which one hath cut out of the forest, a work of the craftsman's hands with the axe. Jeremiah 10:4. With silver and with gold he decks it, with nails and hammers they fasten it, that it move not. Jeremiah 10:5. As a lathe-wrought pillar are they, and speak not; they are borne, because they cannot walk. Be not afraid of them; for they do not hurt, neither is it in them to do good."

This is addressed to the house of Israel, i.e., to the whole covenant people; and "house of Israel" points back to "all the house of Israel" in Jeremiah 9:25. עליכם for אליכם, as frequently in Jeremiah. The way of the heathen is their mode of life, especially their way of worshipping their gods; cf. ἡ ὁδὸς, Acts 9:2; Acts 19:9. למד c. אל, accustom oneself to a thing, used in Jeremiah 13:21 with the synonymous על, and in Psalm 18:35 (Piel) with ל. The signs of heaven are unwonted phenomena in the heavens, eclipses of the sun and moon, comets, and unusual conjunctions of the stars, which were regarded as the precursors of extraordinary and disastrous events. We cannot admit Hitz.'s objection, that these signs in heaven were sent by Jahveh (Joel 3:3-4), and that before these, as heralds of judgment, not only the heathen, but the Jews themselves, had good cause to be dismayed. For the signs that marked the dawning of the day of the Lord are not merely such things as eclipses of sun and moon, and the like. There is still less ground for Ng.'s idea, that the signs of heaven are such as, being permanently there, call forth religious adoration from year to year, the primitive constellations (Job 9:9), the twelve signs of the zodiac; for תּחתּוּ( נחת), to be in fear, consternari, never means, even in Malachi 2:5, regular or permanent adoration. "For the heathen," etc., gives the cause of the fear: the heathen are dismayed before these, because in the stars they adored supernatural powers.

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