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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Jeremiah 10

 

 

Verse 1-2

Jeremiah 10:1-2. Hear ye the word, &c. — The prophet continues his remonstrances and exhortations to Judah. He said, at the conclusion of the preceding chapter, that the Lord would punish, without distinction, all the ungodly and unrighteous Jews, as well as Gentiles. He here informs them that if they would avoid this vengeance of the Lord they must quit their idolatries and other impieties, and have nothing to do with the superstitious practices of the Gentile nations. Learn not the way of the heathen — Their manner of life or customs. And be not dismayed at the signs of heaven — “The Chaldeans, among whom the Jews were destined to live in captivity, were particularly addicted to astrology, and attributed to the heavenly bodies a considerable influence over human affairs. This naturally tended to beget a religious dread and awe of those objects, from whence so much good or evil was supposed to be derived. The sun, moon, and planets are said indeed to have been set in the firmament for signs. Genesis 1:14. But hereby is meant, that they should serve, as natural marks, to distinguish, by their periodical revolutions and appearances, the various times and seasons; which, however, is a very different use from that of prognosticating future events, or causing an alteration in the fortunes of men.” — Blaney.


Verses 3-5

Jeremiah 10:3-5. One cutteth down a tree, &c. — The prophet here exposes the folly of men’s worshipping the work of their own hands, by arguments similar to those which are used by Isaiah 44:10-20; where see the notes. They are upright,&c. — They are like the trunk of the palm-tree — Houb. “They are inflexible, immoveable, fixed, without action or motion, like the trunk of a tree: a comparison which admirably suits the ancient statues seen in Egypt and elsewhere, before the art of sculpture attained the perfection which it afterward did in Greece.” — Calmet. Dr. Waterland’s translation of this verse is, They are of just proportion, as a pillar, but they speak not; carried they must be, for go they cannot. Be not afraid of them — They can do you no more harm than the signs of heaven could do. The heathen worshipped some idols in order that they might do them good, and others, that they might do them no harm: but God tells them here, that as they cannot do evil, so neither is it in them to do good. See note on Isaiah 41:23. They can neither punish nor reward; they can neither hurt their enemies nor help their friends. By this the true God will be distinguished from idols, in that he alone can foretel things to come, and he alone can reward or punish.


Verse 6-7

Jeremiah 10:6-7. Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee — This verse would be better rendered, O Lord, thou art great, so that there is none like unto thee, and thy name is great, because of thy might. Who would not fear thee? — Rather, who would not reverence, or stand in awe of thee? For to thee doth it appertain — That is, as some interpret the phrase, To thee doth it appertain to be feared and reverenced; to thee fear and reverence are due. The Hebrew, however, may be rendered, Who would not fear thee when he shall come, or draw near to thee? accordingly Blaney translates the verse thus: Who will not fear thee, O king of nations, when he shall approach unto thee? Forasmuch as among all the wisest of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like unto thee — On the clause, among the wisest of the nations, he observes, “These words may signify, either all those nations which were most distinguished for the cultivation and improvement of their rational faculties; or else those sage individuals among them, from whose learning and philosophy some better notions of God and religion might have been expected than from the rude and illiterate vulgar. And yet the fact was, that all their boasted wisdom and knowledge had failed of leading them to an object of worship, in any degree corresponding with the infinite perfections and majesty of the divine nature.”


Verse 8

Jeremiah 10:8. But they are altogether brutish — Or, all alike brutish. They that make images, saith the psalmist, Psalms 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.


Verse 9

Jeremiah 10:9. Silver spread into plates — To cover the images, and make them appear as if made of massy silver; is brought from Tarshish — A port of Spain, to which the merchants of Tyre and Sidon traded; of which place see note on Isaiah 2:16. And gold from Uphaz — The Syriac, Chaldee, and Theodotion read, from Ophir, which Bochart supposes to be here meant; namely, Ophir in India, near Zeilan, a place famous for gold. Blue and purple are their clothing — “The splendour and magnificence of dress seem, among the ancients, to have consisted very much in the richness of the colours; the art of dying which to perfection, was esteemed a matter of great skill, being known and practised by very few. The excellence of the Tyrian purple is celebrated by both sacred and profane authors. And the blue, which from many passages of Scripture we find to have been in great request, was also imported from remote countries as an article of elegant and expensive luxury.” They are all the work of cunning men — “If, in the preceding verse, the insignificance of the idols was argued from the vile and perishable matter out of which they were composed; the same is inferred in this from their being indebted to the art and labour of man for all their costly ornaments, their splendid outward show. In short, the whole of them, says the prophet, internal and external, is the work of skilful men. Upon what ground then could the thing formed pretend to a nature more excellent than its former?” — Blaney.


Verse 10

Jeremiah 10:10. But the Lord — Hebrew, Jehovah, is the true God — A very different being from these idols. He is the living God — Images are dead and senseless things; but Jehovah is life itself, and the author and fountain of life and understanding; and all creatures that live, live in and by him. And an everlasting King — The absolute monarch over all creatures, their owner and ruler, having an incontestable right both to command and to dispose of them. And the counsels of his kingdom were from everlasting, and the continuance of it will be to everlasting. He is the king of eternity. The idols whom they call their kings are but of yesterday, and will soon be abolished; and the kings of the earth, that set them up to be worshipped, will themselves be in the dust shortly; but the Lord shall reign for ever, thy God, O Zion, unto all generations. At his wrath the earth shall tremble — Even the strongest and stoutest of the kings of the earth, nay, the earth itself, as firmly as it is fixed, when he pleases, is made to quake, and the rocks to tremble. And the nations, though they join together to contend with him, and unite their force against him, shall be found utterly unable, not only to resist, but even to abide his indignation.


Verse 11

Jeremiah 10:11. Thus shall ye say unto them — “This verse is in the Chaldee language, and it appears here as a kind of parenthesis. Houbigant thinks that the most probable reason why it is here inserted in the Chaldee, and not in the Hebrew, is, that Jeremiah prescribes to the Jews what they shall answer in living among idolaters, and using the Chaldee language; hereby prescribing that they should be the captives of the Chaldees.” — Dodd. The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth — And therefore they are no gods, but the usurpers of the honour due to him only who did make them; shall perish from the earth, &c. — Shall perish of course, because they are vanity, formed of perishing materials; and shall perish by his righteous sentence, because they are rivals with him who made all things. Here the prophet foretels that there shall be a final period put to idolatry. God hath already blotted out the names of many of the heathen idols, as an earnest of the utter destruction of the rest in his due time.


Verse 12-13

Jeremiah 10:12-13. He hath made the earth, &c. — Here follows a noble and lofty description of God’s power and providence, whereby he sets forth his infinite pre-eminence above all the dead and senseless idols of the world. When he uttereth his voice, &c. — When he gives the word of command, and signifies his will and pleasure: see Job 38:34. Or, when he sends forth his thunder, called in Scripture the voice of God, the clouds immediately precipitate in torrents of rain, which, coming upon the ground that was scorched with heat before, not only cools and refreshes it, but renders it fruitful in all kinds of vegetable productions. He maketh lightnings with rain — And as he causes the vapours to ascend up in clouds from every quarter of the earth, so he joins two contrary things together, ordaining great flashes of lightning to break forth with the rain; the latter, by its moisture, preventing the ill effects that might otherwise proceed from the heat of the former. And bringeth forth the winds out of his treasures — As there is occasion for them, directing them all in such measures, and for such uses, as he thinks fit. In other words, “He makes great and mighty winds to come from unknown places and causes, as if he brought them out of a hidden treasure, or repository, where they had been laid up till he had occasion for them.” — Lowth.


Verse 14-15

Jeremiah 10:14-15. Every man is brutish in his knowledge — This is spoken of the makers of idols, whose skilfulness as workmen made them foolish enough to attempt to make gods, and who afterward acted still more foolishly in worshipping them, when they knew they were but the work of their own hands. The founder is confounded by the graven image — Or, ashamed, as הבישׁsignifies. For it can afford no help, nor do any good, to those who worship it; and therefore is a disgrace to the workman who pretends to make it a god, that could hear the prayers offered to it, and send help to its worshippers. His molten image is falsehood — That is, those are no less deceived who expect help from a molten image, than they who expect it from a false, lying man. They are the work of errors — The making of them is owing to men’s erroneous notions of the nature of God. In the time of their visitation they shall perish — The time will come when God will execute vengeance upon idolaters, and utterly destroy their idols.


Verse 16

Jeremiah 10:16. The portion of Jacob is not like them — There is no comparison between senseless idols and the great Creator of all things, who has chosen the posterity of Jacob for his peculiar people, and has promised to be their God, and that they should always have an especial interest in his favour, if they continued steadfast in their worship of, and obedience to, him. The rod of his inheritance — Is an expression taken from the first division of the land of Canaan, when the inheritance of each tribe and family was meted out with a line or rod.


Verse 17-18

Jeremiah 10:17-18. Gather up thy wares, &c. — That is, as some explain it, “Collect to Jerusalem all that you have valuable in the country; flee thither for refuge with your best effects; for the enemy will soon extend himself over all your land, and render it desolate.” Or, rather, the prophet, returning to his former denunciations against Jerusalem, warns her to move her effects, and prepare for going into captivity; for, though she thought herself secure, as dwelling in a place of great strength and well fortified, yet her enemies should prevail and take it: compare Ezekiel 12:3. Behold, I will sling out the inhabitants at this once — I will, at one stroke, remove the whole body of this people out of their native country: see 1 Samuel 25:29. And I will distress them that they may find it so — Or, that they may find my threatenings to be true. This implies, that though they had been often saved by God’s providence from hostile attacks, they would, however, on this occasion, find it otherwise.


Verse 19-20

Jeremiah 10:19-20. Wo is me for my hurt — The prophet here again pathetically laments the overthrow of his country, and, either in his own person or in that of his country, bewails the plundering and desolation of the cities and houses, as if they were so many shepherds’ tents, to which he compares them, Jeremiah 10:20. But I said, This is a grief, and I must bear it — Blaney thinks the prophet here suggests motives of patience and consolation to his country, in regard to the evils that were coming upon her, putting the words of this and the following verses into her mouth, and making her observe, first, That her affliction, though great, would yet be found tolerable; secondly, That she had less reason to complain of what she suffered, as it was no other than might have been expected from the misconduct of those who had the direction of her affairs, Jeremiah 10:21; and, lastly, That she was not without hope in the mercy of God, who, upon the humble supplication of his people, might be moved to mitigate their chastisement, and to turn his hand against the heathen that oppressed them, Jeremiah 10:24. My children are gone from me, and are not, &c. — My inhabitants are gone into captivity, and will return hither no more, so that they are the same to me as if they were dead. There is none to set up my curtains — They will never be able to contribute any thing to the restoration of my former state.


Verse 21-22

Jeremiah 10:21-22. For the pastors are become brutish — The prophet pursues the foregoing metaphor, and says, that the reason why the tents are destroyed, is because the shepherds, meaning the governors, both civil and ecclesiastical, had, like so many brute creatures, forgotten God and their duty to him, and thereby engaged the people committed to their charge in idolatry, and in all manner of wickedness, which had ended in ruin to themselves and their flocks. And have not sought the Lord — Have neither made their peace with him nor addressed their prayers to him; they have had no eye to him and his providence in their management of affairs, have neither acknowledged the judgment nor expected the deliverance to come from his hand. Observe well, reader, those are brutish people that do not seek the Lord, that live without prayer and without God in the world: they are unworthy of the name of rational beings. But the state of a people is indeed deplorable when their pastors, that should feed them with knowledge and understanding, are themselves thus brutish. And what is the consequence? Therefore they shall not prosper — None of their attempts for the public safety shall succeed. How, indeed, can those expect to prosper who do not take God along with them in their ways? And when the pastors are brutish, what else can be expected but that all their flocks should be scattered? for if the blind lead the blind both will fall into the ditch. Behold, the noise of the bruit is come — The word bruit here signifies noise, or rumour, which is the meaning of the Hebrew, שׁמועה. This is explained in the following clause to be that of the tumultuary invasion of the country by the Chaldeans from the north, of which notice had been repeatedly given. Blaney translates the verse, Hark! a noise! Behold, it advanceth, even a great commotion from the north country. To make the cities of Judah a desolation, a dwelling-place for dragons.


Verse 23

Jeremiah 10:23. O Lord, I know, &c. — The prophet now turns to God, and addresses himself to him, finding it to little purpose to speak to the people. It is some comfort to poor ministers, that, if men will not hear them, God will; and to him they have liberty of access at all times. Let them close their preaching with prayer, as the prophet here does, and then they will have no reason to complain that they have laboured in vain. That the way of man is not in himself — The prophet must here be considered as acknowledging the superintendence and dominion of the divine providence; that by it, and not by their own will and wisdom, the affairs both of nations and particular persons are directed and governed. His words in this verse, taken in connection with the following, may be thus paraphrased: Thy providence, O Lord, superintends all events; all that happens comes to pass through thy permission or appointment. It is not in man to hinder that which has been once resolved on in thy decrees. We know, therefore, that it is not in our power to divert those judgments which are coming upon us, but thou canst moderate and limit them as thou pleasest. If, then, it be thy will that we should feel the awful effects of thy justice, chastise us, but spare our weakness; correct us, but with judgment, not in thine anger, &c. Theodoret applies this to Nebuchadnezzar, and explains the passage thus: “We know, O Lord, that the prince whom thou sendest against us comes not without thy orders; that the success of his arms, and the good fortune of his enterprise, proceed only from thee: but deliver us, O Lord, from this terrible enemy; and if we have merited chastisement, may we receive it at thy hand. Punish us as a father, and not as a judge.” The words, however, are applicable to us all, as well as to Nebuchadnezzar and the Jews. We are not at our own disposal, nor able to direct our own way by our own wisdom, either in matters temporal or spiritual. Nor are we at liberty to choose what line of life we please, or to ensure to ourselves the success and prosperity we may desire. We are under God’s government, and at his disposal, and have continual need of his direction, and of the influence of his grace, without which we shall certainly err from the right way, and shall neither choose nor perform what is truly and lastingly good, and for our happiness.


Verse 24

Jeremiah 10:24. O Lord, correct me — I do not entirely deprecate all chastisement; I know we deserve correction, and am willing to accept it; persuaded that it is necessary for our purification and amendment; but let it be with judgment — That is, in measure, with moderation, and in wisdom; not more than is necessary; not in thine anger — How severe soever the correction be, let it come from thy love, and be designed for our good, and made to work for good; not to bring us to nothing, but to bring us to thyself. Let it not be according to the desert of our sins, but according to the designs of thy grace. Blaney justly observes here, that the word משׁפשׂ, translated judgment, “properly signifies, that calm and dispassionate judgment, which stands opposed to the hasty sallies of anger and furious revenge. And, though the latter cannot actually exist in God, it is sometimes, however, nominally attributed to him, whenever the effects of his displeasure are so violent as to stop nothing short of utter ruin; although such a proceeding may be justifiable upon the most solid principles of reason and equity. As, therefore, to punish with anger, implies an unrelenting rigour and severity; so, to correct with judgment, admits the use of such moderation as is consistent with the sinner’s personal safety, while it promotes his reformation.”


Verse 25

Jeremiah 10:25. Pour out thine indignation upon the heathen, &c. — Let thy justice be made known, by bringing an exemplary punishment upon the Chaldeans and their allies, (see Jeremiah 1:15,) who do not acknowledge thy providence, but ascribe all their successes to their idols: for they have eaten up Jacob, &c. — See note on Jeremiah 6:3. This prayer, it must be observed, did not proceed from a spirit of malice or revenge in the prophet, nor was it intended to prescribe to God on whom he should execute his judgments, or in what order; but, 1st, It is an appeal to his justice; as if he had said, Lord, we are a provoking people, but are there not other nations that are more so? And shall we only be punished?

2d, It is a prediction of God’s judgments upon all the impenitent enemies of his church and kingdom. If judgment begin thus at the house of God: what shall be the end of those that obey not his gospel? 1 Peter 4:17.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Jeremiah 10:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/jeremiah-10.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, September 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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