Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, July 18th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 10

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Verses 1-5

The Folly of Idolatry

Constantly the call to hear the word that the LORD is speaking is heard, also now again (Jeremiah 10:1). That call is made to the “house of Israel”, that is, all who belong to it, wherever they are, in the land or in the scattering. The Word is to govern all our thoughts and actions.

If we do not listen to the Word, we will learn the way of the nations (Jeremiah 10:2). Not learning the way of the nations means for us not to let the world influence our thinking (Romans 12:2). If the world does gain influence in our thinking, it will be seen in our behavior, in the things we pursue. We then shift the source of information about life from the Bible to idols.

The nations scour the heavens to observe signs from which they can make out the future. We call this astrology, which is thus condemned here. How many Christians are there who take note of horoscopes? Behind this are frightening demons, powers that “terrify”. For God’s people, from heaven comes what comes from God and He gives good to His people.

It is great folly to follow the methods of the nations, for they are nonsensical methods (Jeremiah 10:3). Paying attention to signs and not to what God says is nonsensical. Just look at how the nations operate. They worship wood that they
1. first cut from the forest themselves
2. and then worked on it and refurbished it into a god.
3. Then they decorated it with precious materials of creation (Jeremiah 10:4).
4. Finally, they nailed this god with their own hands in such a way that it could not totter or fall.
5. Later, they also put a royal robe on him (Jeremiah 10:9).

They should take a good look at it. Isn’t it too silly to have any respect for or expect help from a piece of wood that can’t even keep itself going, let alone its worshipers? Can they not see that such a god looks like a scarecrow (Jeremiah 10:5)? You have to be as dumb as a bird to be frightened by such an inanimate skeleton.

Such gods cannot do anything at all. They cannot say a word to comfort someone. They cannot take a step to come to the aid of someone in trouble. Instead, they themselves are a burden to be borne. Yet man bows down to it. What folly to pay any attention to such a god and become afraid of it, as if it could do anything, for better or worse. Yet it still happens today, for example, with a crucifix and other attributes that the roman catholic church sells and people walk around with.

God mocks the idols here (Isaiah 40:18-Proverbs :; Isaiah 41:7Isaiah 44:9-Proverbs :; Isaiah 46:5-Judges :). The sarcasm drips off. That seems out of place in our age of tolerance. But we must show no respect for idols. They are ridiculous, idiotic. To entrust yourself to them and expect anything from such idiocy is even more idiotic.

If someone does not have a personal relationship with the living God through faith in Jesus Christ, it does not mean that he has no need of a god. Such a person submits to a substitute god and replaces true worship with false worship. The result is idolatry. We see this in the worship of the pope and sports heroes, for example. We also see it in the worship of matter. Man’s greed indicates that he is an idolater. God’s Word speaks of “greed, which amounts to idolatry” (Colossians 3:5).

Verses 6-16

The Majesty of God

Then comes the great contrast. Alternately, these verses speak of the utter idiocy of the idols, their absolute worthlessness and deadness, and in contrast to this the all-transcending glory of the LORD Who works mightily. Opposite the foolish idols, those nullities, Jeremiah places the absolute majesty of the LORD (Jeremiah 10:6). No one is equal to Him. He is indescribably great and His Name is great in might. His Name contains all that He is. That gives peace to everyone who believes. He is the “King of the nations” – not just of Israel (Romans 3:29) – and only He inspires fear (Jeremiah 10:7). No wise man of the nations compares to Him.

In Jeremiah 10:8-1 Samuel :, the absurdity of the peoples worshiping their self-made and decorated objects is pointed out once again. The material needed to make an idol was taken from somewhere on earth. The idols are made by craftsmen, but those people are also foolish for believing in such a big lie. It is artful work with an evil purpose. The teaching of the idols is worth as much as the wood of which those gods are made.

Opposed to idolaters and their works is the God of truth (Jeremiah 10:10). Through Him we know the truth about all things. He is the true God, He is true in all His judgments and actions. He is also “the living God”. Through Him life came into being and through Him we know life. He is also “the eternal King”, He governs and controls everything always and everywhere. Nothing is out of His control. This makes Him the judging God, Who does not let sin go unpunished.

There are three contrasts here:
1. the idols are false, God is true;
2. the idols are dead, God is the living God;
3. the idols are transient, they perish, God is eternal.

Jeremiah must point out to the people that God will completely wipe out the idols (Jeremiah 10:11). These are idols to which creative power is attributed, but which, of course, have brought nothing into being. The belief in causes outside of God by which creation is said to have been brought about is thereby designated as idolatry. Behind the idols are demons. The theory of evolution is a teaching of demons.

He, the living God, and not some idol, is the Creator and Sustainer of all His works (Jeremiah 10:12; Psalms 135:5-2 Kings :; Psalms 135:15-Esther :). His works show the great contrast with the impotence and folly of the idols, which are also merely territorial gods, gods with a very limited sphere of authority. Thus He made the earth by His power and established the world by His wisdom. The heavens, which the idolaters look to for signs, He has stretched out by His understanding.

We see here three features of God as Creator:
1. the earth, matter, was made by an act (speaking) of “His power”;
2. the world, the ordering and arrangement of the earth as a place for man to dwell, is the work of “His wisdom”;
3. the stretching out of the heavens as a tent over the earth He has done by “His understanding”.

His word is His might. When He speaks, something always happens (Jeremiah 10:13; cf. Psalms 33:9). His voice is heard in the various natural phenomena, to which Jeremiah refers here (cf. Job 37:2-Leviticus :). We say “it rains”, but here we read that God makes His voice sound and then there is “a tumult of waters in the heavens”. The idols of the nations are captives of nature. God is not. He disposes of nature and determines its course (Job 28:24-Ezekiel :).

He “causes the clouds to ascend from the end of the earth” to make clouds of them that pour rain on the earth. He also made the lightning flashes that accompany them. He also “brings out the wind from His storehouses” (cf. Job 38:22). This omnipotence over nature is the omnipotence of its Creator, which is the Lord Jesus through Whom God made the worlds (Proverbs 30:4; Hebrews 1:2; John 1:1-Leviticus :; Colossians 1:16).

If we think about the comparison of the LORD with the idols, we see that the prophet is not only saying here that the LORD is the Creator of the matter from which the idols are made. He also draws attention here to the natural phenomena that show that the LORD is the God Who sets nature in motion. But the greatest is that He is the Living God Who wraths and exercises wrath.

How stupid man is to exchange that exalted, all-transcending and governing God for a molten image that is “deceitful” (Jeremiah 10:14). Man who is “devoid of knowledge” of the true, living, eternal God resorts to falsehood. He goes to a goldsmith to put together a god for him. What that blacksmith makes is to his own shame. It is peasant deception. In the image there is not a whiff of breath, not a trace of life. How can you expect any activity from that. This is really very stupid.

Do they not see that what the hands of the blacksmith have made is “worthless”, empty, hollow, totally without substance (Jeremiah 10:15)? And not only that. An idol is also a work of mockery. You can only mock it, that’s all. How ridiculous it is to expect anything from an idol. Finally, such a god has an expiration date. You can only believe in it for a limited time, because a time of punishment will come and then he will perish, along with his worshipers. Then he becomes what he always was: nothing (cf. 1 Corinthians 8:4-Joshua :).

Against this is the imperishable “portion of Jacob”, which is the LORD Himself (Jeremiah 10:16). He made everything, He is “the Maker of all”. In the midst of it all, He took Israel as His inheritance (Exodus 19:5-Joshua :). In spite of all their deviation and sin, that remains. Only “the LORD of hosts” can conceive and do such a thing. It is the Name that indicates that all the powers in the universe are subject to Him. He will not let anything or anyone deny or dispute His connection with Jacob and Israel, no matter how much He must judge them for their unfaithfulness and rejection of Him, as the following verses show.

Verses 17-22

Banishment for Sinful Israel

The tone of the prophet changes again. The LORD calls Jerusalem – “you who dwell under siege” – to prepare for their exile (Jeremiah 10:17; cf. Ezekiel 12:3-Nehemiah :). They should just grab together what they need for the exile. They may feel safe in their fortress, but that is a false sense of security.

The LORD is going to make His people suffer the consequences of their unfaithfulness by slinging them away (Jeremiah 10:18). Their removal to Babylon will take place with the force and speed of a stone being slinged away, without being able to resist it, just as a stone does not resist being slinged away. The LORD will afflict them with the terrors of exile. Then they will experience the truth of all the warnings given to them by the LORD.

Upon hearing these words, Jeremiah cringes (Jeremiah 10:19). He makes himself one with those who refuse to listen to his message and are therefore judged. He loves his people so much that he feels God’s judgments on His people pressing down on him like a sickness, which he must bear, with no hope of cure (cf. Nahum 3:19).

Because of God’s judgment, he lost everything where he found rest and companionship (Jeremiah 10:20). By that can be meant the temple, but also Jerusalem and the whole land. The ropes, the connections, what holds everything together, have been broken. No one has a hold on anything anymore. There is also no one who can effect a change for the better, who can stretch out the tent again and set up the curtains again. No one can restore what has been lost. So great is the devastation and desolation.

Jeremiah does know the cause. The shepherds, the leaders of the people, kings like Jehoiakim and Zedekiah and lower administrators, have not sought the LORD (Jeremiah 10:21). They did not consult Him and then it is impossible to act wisely. Their wrong example has scattered the whole people like a flock. The unity is gone.

The terrifying sound of impending judgment follows (Jeremiah 10:22). Rumor reaches the city that the armies of Babylon have invaded the land in the north. The consequences are clear. They will make the cities of Judah a desolation. People will no longer be able to live there. They will become abodes of jackals.

Verses 23-25

Prayer for the People

Jeremiah, who here makes himself one with the people, expresses that he knows that it is not man who determines his own way, but the LORD (Jeremiah 10:23; Proverbs 20:24; Psalms 37:23; Proverbs 16:9). Man is totally dependent on Him, even if he resists Him. Whoever comes to that understanding and accepts it has found the way back to Him. The result is rest for the soul and trust in Him, while also recognizing that punishment is deserved.

The realization that God leads and governs all things brings about surrender to Him. It is not meant to eliminate responsibility, but to see that everything is in His hand. He determines the course of events and not man in his rebellion against God’s will. Just as a captain casts his anchor not inside the ship but outside the ship, so man must not expect his salvation from himself but from the Lord. He must not learn the way of men without God (Jeremiah 10:2), but he must learn to walk the way of the Lord.

With the recognition of God’s righteous actions also comes the question of punishment or discipline or correction (Jeremiah 10:24). Again, Jeremiah makes himself one with the people. The question is not asked in pride. It is a question asked in the realization that if we get what we deserve, there will be nothing left of us. Then we will be at the bottom of grace and we will be able to see His correction as an evidence of grace.

If it is about total judgment, it must be on people who do not know God and do not call upon Him, and who have abused His people (Jeremiah 10:25). If judgment is already so severe on those who are close to Him, how severe must it be on those who reject Him (Proverbs 11:31; cf. 1 Peter 4:17).

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Jeremiah 10". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/jeremiah-10.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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