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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Jeremiah 10

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. X.

The unequal comparison of God and idols. The prophet exhorteth to flee from the calamity to come: he lamenteth the spoil of the tabernacle by foolish pastors: he maketh an humble supplication.

Before Christ 600.


Verse 1

Jeremiah 10:1. Hear ye the word, &c.— Jeremiah continues his denunciations against Judah: he said at the conclusion of the preceding chapter, that the Lord would punish, without distinction, all those who offended him, Jews as well as Gentiles. He here informs them, that if they would avoid this vengeance of the Lord, they must quit their impieties, and have nothing to do with the superstitious practices of idolaters. See Calmet.


Verse 2

Jeremiah 10:2. Learn not the way of the heathen It is well-known, that the Chaldeans and Egyptians were remarkable for their attention to astrology; and therefore the prophet here exhorts the Jews, that when they were to live among those people, they should pay no regard to the predictions which they might utter from the heavenly bodies, whereby they terrified the people with the apprehension of impending evils. Instead of, for the heathen are dismayed, we may read, although the heathen, &c.


Verse 3

Jeremiah 10:3. The people The nations.


Verse 5

Jeremiah 10:5. They are upright, &c.— For they are like the trunk of the palm-tree, &c. Houb. "They are inflexible, immoveable, fixed, without action or motion, like the trunk of a palm-tree;" a comparison which admirably suits the ancient statues seen in Egypt and elsewhere, before the art of sculpture attained the perfection which it afterwards did in Greece. See Calmet.


Verse 6

Jeremiah 10:6. Forasmuch, &c.— There is nothing comparable to thee, O Lord; thou art great, and great is thy name in power. Houb.


Verse 7

Jeremiah 10:7. For to thee doth it appertain That is, according to some, to thee doth it appertain to be feared. Houbigant renders it, For the government becomes thee, because amongst all the wise men of the nations, &c.


Verse 8

Jeremiah 10:8. But they are altogether brutish, &c.— But they are altogether foolish, and have received the instruction of those which are nothing but wood. Houb.

The stock is a doctrine of vanities The true meaning and force of this passage seems to have escaped the notice of all the commentators, except Blayney. מוסר musar, 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 the person from whom its origin was derived. There is, therefore, an energy and pointedness in this short sentence, at least equal, in my opinion, to whatever has been said upon 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 ficulnus,* &c. (Hor. Sat. lib. I. sat. Jeremiah 8:1.) cuts with greater severity.

* In days of yore our godship stood, A very worthless log of wood. FRANCIS.


Verse 9

Jeremiah 10:9. Tarshish, and—Uphaz Tarshish was a place at this time celebrated through all the East for its commerce. Calmet has endeavoured to prove, in his dissertation upon Ophir, that the gold of Uphaz was the same with that of the river Pison; and Bochart supposes Uphaz to be the same with Ophir in India, near Zeilan, a place famous for gold.

Blue and purple is their clothing The splendor and magnificence of dress seems among the ancients to have consisted very much in the richness of the colours; the art of dying to perfection, which was esteemed a matter of great skill, being known and practised by very few. The excellency 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 expensive luxury. See Ezekiel 27:7; Ezekiel 27:24.


Verse 11

Jeremiah 10:11. Thus shall ye say, &c.— 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 presignifying that they should be the captives of the Chaldees.


Verse 13

Jeremiah 10:13. When he uttereth his voice, &c.— "When the Almighty utters his voice, or sends his thunders abroad, the clouds immediately precipitate in torrents of rain; and as God causes the vapours to ascend 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 which might result from the scorching heat of the former," See Psalms 29:3; Psalms 29:11; Psalms 135:7 and the note. In Job, mention is made of the treasures of the snow and hail, chap. Jeremiah 38:22. Virgil, by a figure very similar to this, describes AEolus as keeping the winds and storms confined in caves:

———whose tyrant binds The blust'ring tempests, and reluctant winds: Their rage imperial Eolus restrains With rocky dungeons, and enormous chains. AEN. I. ver. 52.


Verse 14

Jeremiah 10:14. Every man is brutish in his knowledge Or, according to some, Every man is made foolish by his knowledge. "The most skilful maker of statues and idols is convinced hereby of his folly; for if he were truly wise, how could he worship any thing so weak and vain?" What follows seems to favour this interpretation. See Jeremiah 10:8.


Verse 16

Jeremiah 10:16. The Portion of Jacob Upon the principles of heathen theology, every nation was committed to the care and superintendency of its own tutelary god, which was styled its portion, on account of the peculiar relation which was supposed to subsist between them. The portion of Jacob, therefore, is the same as the God of Jacob, he who had taken upon himself the guardianship and protection of that family. But he was distinguished from all the rest, who were falsehood and vanity all of them, having no other existence than as lifeless images, the work of deluded men; whereas he was the creator of the universe, of all that exists; and that there might be no room to mistake the Being intended, he is farther characterized as he who had made choice of Israel for the special object of his concern, had marked him out for his own possession, as with a measuring rod; and to whom the name of JEHOVAH belonged. Oh, how little did they know or value their privileges!


Verse 17

Jeremiah 10:17. Gather up thy wares That is, "Collect to Jerusalem all that you have valuable in the country: fly thither for refuge, with your best effects; for the enemy will soon extend himself all over your land, and render it desolate." The Vulgate translates the word כנעתךֵ kinatheik, which we render wares, by confusion; meaning the idols, the causes of their disgrace and confusion: "Cause them," says the prophet, "to be assembled together, and brought into the city, to defend it for you against the enemy." See Calmet.


Verse 18

Jeremiah 10:18. Behold, I will sling, &c.— Behold, I will inclose as in a net the inhabitants of this land; and will surround them with a siege, that they may perceive me to be their avenger. Houb. That they may find it so, is read by some, That they may find me; "That, driven to distress, they may seek me, call upon me, and recover my favour." See chap. Jeremiah 29:13-14.


Verse 19

Jeremiah 10:19. Woe is me, &c.— The prophet here 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. See the following verse.


Verse 22

Jeremiah 10:22. Bruit A noise or report: that is, the news of the approach of Nebuchadnezzar's army.


Verse 23

Jeremiah 10:23. O Lord, I know, &c.— "Thou rulest, O Lord, all events; all that happens comes to pass through an effect of thy adorable providence. It is not in man to hinder that which hath been once absolutely resolved by thee: so that since, Lord, thou art pleased to make us feel the awful effects of thy justice, chastise us; but spare my weakness: Correct me, but with judgment, not in thine anger," Jeremiah 10:24. Again: "I know, O Lord, that man, left to himself, cannot lead himself into good by the power of nature: that all he has and all he does of good, he derives from thy mercy." Theodoret and others explain it 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 enterprize, proceed only from thee: but deliver us, O Lord, from this terrible enemy; and if we have merited chastisement, may we receive it at thine hand! Punish us as a father, and not as a judge." See Calmet.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, As they were shortly to be carried captives to Babylon, a place most remarkably given to idolatry, superstition, and judicial astrology, there was need to guard them against the temptations to which they would be there exposed.

1. They must not learn the ways of the heathen nations, nor follow their works. From the aspect of the heavens, from eclipses, and the conjunction of the planets, the astrologers pretended to foretel the fate of kingdoms, and the destiny of men; and their predictions, heard with superstitious awe, terrified the heathen: but they must shew no regard to these prognostications, much less pay divine honours to the sun, moon, and stars, as these men did. Nor must they join in their idolatry, and the vain customs or ceremonies of religion which they used. A senseless log is the object of their adoration, cut from the wood, and squared by the carpenter; and, however decked with gold and silver, and adorned with costliest robes of blue and purple, yet is it unable to stand without being nailed and fastened, or to move without being carried. It can neither hear the prayer of its votaries, nor speak a word in answer to their requests. Such a doctrine of vanities is the stock, a work of errors and falsehood; which must deceive and disappoint those who are so infatuated as to expect aught from it: unable alike to do good or evil, and therefore in no wise to be made the object either of fear or hope. Altogether brutish and foolish are the worshippers, and equally brutish the maker in his knowledge, who vainly conceits that the work of his hands can be possessed of divinity. Every founder is confounded, who, after all his pains to make his god, can receive no benefit from him: for how should they convey life, or any of the blessings of it, to others, which have no breath in them, inanimate in themselves? yea, so far from helping others, that they are unable to help themselves? and in the time of their visitation these gods, who have made neither the heaven nor the earth, shall perish, with their senseless devotees.

2. The prophet directs them to the only proper object of their worship, fear, and love; and that is, the glorious JEHOVAH, the only living and true God.

[1.] There is none like unto him] He is without a rival, and above all comparison: none can either bestow such mercies or inflict such miseries as he. O Lord, thou art great; transcendently great and glorious in his adorable perfections, and all his works of creation, providence, and grace; and thy name is great, exalted far above all blessing and praise. Who would not fear thee, O king of nations? whose kingdom ruleth over all, the work of whose hands the whole creation is, and therefore by right he should be universally feared and worshipped: for to thee doth it appertain, and to thee alone: to place that fear and offer that worship elsewhere, argues both deep impiety and senseless stupidity. For none in wisdom, none in power, among earth's mightiest sons, with him can be compared. Note; (1.) God's eternal power and godhead, by the works of creation, are so declared to all the world, as to leave idolaters without excuse. (2.) The more we contemplate the unsearchable greatness and glory of our God, the more shall we be filled with reverence and godly fear, and lost in wonder and adoration.

[2.] He is the only true God, and all pretenders to deity besides are false and counterfeit. He is the living God, or Gods, the Trinity in Unity, having life in and of himself, whilst all creatures receive theirs from him, and idols are dead and inanimate. He is an everlasting king, subsisting from all eternity, ruling over all, and of his dominion there is no end, while these are all the creatures of yesterday, and hourly running to decay. Note; If God be our king, it behoves us to see that we approve ourselves faithful subjects, dependent on his protection, devoted to his service.

[3.] He is the Creator, Governor, and Judge of all. He hath made the earth by his power, suspended in the vast expanse; and yet so firm, that it cannot be moved from the place where God hath appointed it to perform its revolutions; and in the beautiful disposition of all things in it his infinite wisdom as well as power appears; and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion, as a canopy over us, decked with those bright luminaries which peculiarly display his glory. At his will, the whole machine is governed: he speaks; the heavens lower, the vapours rise, the lightnings flash, the thunders roll, the rain descends, the tempests roar, and all under his control. When he cometh forth in judgment, at his wrath the earth shall tremble, afraid to meet the judge upon his throne, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation; if his wrath be kindled, yea, but a little, it will burn to the nethermost hell. Most justly, therefore, doth he claim, and we are bound to pay, our worship, adoration, and service to him, and him alone.

[4.] He is the portion of Jacob, and therefore they are under peculiar obligations to adore and serve him. He has showered upon them his blessings on every side: he is the former of all things, and not like idol vanities; and Israel is the rod of his inheritance, separated for his peculiar service; the Lord of Hosts is his name, his distinguished title, forasmuch as he doeth whatsoever pleaseth him in the hosts of heaven, as well as among the inhabitants of the earth. Note; (1.) They who have God for their portion, cannot wish for more; for he is able to do for them exceeding abundantly above all they can ask or think. (2.) God's Israel—the church of the faithful—are his inheritance; for they who choose him for their God, he delights in as his people; and his love and favour are better than the life itself.

2nd, We have,

1. The threatened ruin of Judah and Jerusalem. To secure their goods from the Chaldean army, the Jews are here represented as gathering them together, and conveying them to the fortress of Zion; but they will find it no place of safety. As a stone out of a sling, so easily, so violently should they be cast out of their land and city, and sink into the depths of distress, that they may find it so, as the prophets have spoken, to whose word they refused to attend. Note; They who have mocked at hell and damnation, as bugbears designed to awe the minds of the superstitious, will, to their cost, find it so, that these are dreadful realities. 2. A mournful lamentation is made over their calamities: which some regard as the language of Zion bemoaning herself, but rather may be the words of the prophet affected at the view of their miseries, and sympathizing with them. Woe is me for my hurt, or my breach, when the walls of Jerusalem were battered down, the Chaldeans entered, and terribly massacred the inhabitants; but I said, Truly, this is a grief, and I must bear it; it was bitter indeed, but he desired to submit with patience: my tabernacle is spoiled, both the city and temple, and all my cords are broken, so that the ruin is irreparable. My children are gone forth of me into captivity, and none left to repair the desolation. And no wonder their affairs are so desperate, when the pastors are become brutish; the rulers in church and state, instead of attempting to prevent, hastened their ruin by their sin and folly; they have not sought the Lord in any of their distresses, but left him far above out of their sight, therefore they shall not prosper; no attempts to secure themselves shall succeed, and all their flocks shall be scattered; their enemies shall prevail, and that suddenly. Behold, the noise of the bruit is come, intelligence of the Chaldean army advancing; a great commotion out of the north country, from Babylon, to make the cities of Judah desolate, and a den of dragons, a righteous retaliation upon those who made them a den of thieves. Note; (1.) In our afflictions God permits us to complain, but he forbids us to murmur. (2.) When the pastors are brutish, no marvel that the people are blind. (3.) They who live without prayer, and seek not to God for counsel and help, must needs err from the right way, and perish in their sins.

3. Though the people have no ears to hear his preaching, God hath an ear to hear his prayer, and therefore to him the prophet looks up.

[1.] He acknowledges God's over-ruling providence and guidance in all the affairs of men. O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps: a superior power controls his thoughts and designs, and an unseen hand guides his steps, as was the case of Nebuchadnezzar in this invasion, and more generally may be applied to all mankind. Whatever schemes we form, the event is not in our own power: when we mean only to pursue our own purposes, God leads us insensibly to fulfil his designs; therefore, amidst all our contrivances, we must entirely refer ourselves to him for the success, conscious that we have no power of ourselves, without the divine grace and aid, to help ourselves. The Lord must dictate, guide, support, and prosper us, and then we shall walk aright.

[2.] In the name of the people, he intreats the removal or alleviation of their heavy judgments. O Lord, correct me, for that they must expect, and acknowledge it to be their just desert; but with judgment, in measure; not in thine anger, as the wrath of an enemy, but in love, as the chastisement of a father, lest thou bring me to nothing; for if his wrath be kindled, yea, but a little, who can abide it? Note; (1.) Correction from God is kindness; and his rod, however grievous for the time to the flesh, we must not wish to have removed till it has done its work. (2.) God's afflictions on his people are designed not to bring them to nothing, but to bring them to himself and to glory.

[3.] He beseeches God to remember their oppressors, and to recompence them according to the work of their hands. Pour out thy fury upon the heathen that know thee not; true believers are corrected in mercy; but God's enemies are to be destroyed in wrath; and upon the families that call not on thy name, the nations of the ungodly, who neither know nor worship the true God; for they have eaten up Jacob, and devoured him, and consumed him, and have made his habitation desolate; which, though God hath permitted as their just punishment, does not at all lessen the guilt and malice of their enemies who persecute them maliciously. Note; (1.) Families who live without prayer are to be accounted heathens. (2.) Ignorance of God is the inlet to all sin. (3.) When God hath corrected his people, he often turns the rod, and leaves on the instruments that he employs the severest marks of his indignation.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Jeremiah 10:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/jeremiah-10.html. 1801-1803.

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Friday, November 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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