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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Jeremiah 10

 

 

Verses 1-5

THE NOTHINGNESS OF THE FALSE GODS, Jeremiah 10:1-5.

Several eminent German critics have pronounced against the genuineness of the first sixteen verses of this chapter. Among these is the scholarly and evangelical Nagelsbach. Some regard the passage as interpolated from Isaiah, while others, and among them Nagelsbach, reject this theory of its origin. Upon this general question we observe:

1. The external evidence for the passage is practically perfect. It receives the unanimous testimony of the Hebrew MSS. and the ancient Versions. The partial qualification which this statement needs is, that four of the verses, namely, 6, 7, 8, and 10, are wanting in the Septuagint. But inasmuch as we meet with similar omissions everywhere in the Septuagint — it being estimated that about 2,700 of the Hebrew words in this book are unrepresented in that Version — very slight significance should attach to this fact. The only considerations which should shake our faith in the genuineness of these verses are those which come from within. And in the general it should be said, that internal evidence should be allowed to stand against clear and unanimous external testimony only when of the most positive and conclusive character. The hypothesis of ungenuineness should be accepted only when it becomes certain that no other can be admitted.

2. The reasons urged against this passage are: (a) That it interrupts the continuity of thought. But Jeremiah nowhere shows close logical coherence. The book is full of sudden and marked transitions. Its character is emotional rather than logical. (b) That the subject matter indicates a later time. But the passage is not inappropriate to any time, and especially to this one, in which idolatry was a living issue. (c) That the language differs from that ordinarily employed by Jeremiah. The opposite is the truth. The passage contains some of his characteristic expressions, such as the term vanity, for idols, day of visitation, etc., etc. (See a full list of these in Keil, in loc.) We conclude, then, that there is no sufficient ground for denying the genuineness of the passage. The eleventh verse of this chapter is in Chaldee, probably because it was a current aphorism familiar alike to the Jews and the Chaldeans, and inserted here in its popular form.


Verse 2

2. Way of the heathen — Their religious way, their worship.

Signs of heaven — Those extraordinary appearances of any kind which alarm the ignorant and superstitious.


Verse 3

3. Customs — Rather, ordinances, that is, their religious observances. These are as vain as the things on which they are based, namely, idols. The prophet now proceeds to show the vanity of idols in a passage which does, indeed, closely follow the thought of Isaiah, but is especially terse and graphic, and, when we consider that it was spoken when the popular current was setting toward idolatry, we shall feel it to be bold and effective. In the whole there is almost a vein of humour, which contrasts agreeably with Jeremiah’s accustomed pathos and sadness.


Verse 5

5. Upright as the palm tree — Rather, as a palm tree of turned work, etc. The word rendered “palm tree,” occurs besides only in Judges 4:5, where it clearly has this meaning. But as in later Hebrew, (for example, Song of Solomon 3:6; Joel 2:30, and in the Talmud,) the root yields the sense of pillar. Keil would give it that sense in this place, and so translates, as a lathe-turned pillar, etc., that is, lifeless and motionless.

This verse is peculiar to Jeremiah. There is nothing answering to it in either of the kindred passages in Isaiah. The whole passage is grotesquely faithful, and the conclusion commends itself, They cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.


Verse 6

THE INCOMPARABLE JEHOVAH, Jeremiah 10:6-11.

6. Forasmuch — A complete misapprehension of the force of the original, which is a double negative, doubtless employed for purposes of emphasis — none like unto thee. It is a fitting introduction to this strophe, (Jeremiah 10:6-11,) in which the almighty power of God is set forth in contrast with these dumb idols.


Verse 7

7. O King of nations — Mark here, as in many other Old Testament passages, the conception of God as the universal ruler of mankind, and not merely the national God of the Jews.

Doth it appertain — The subject is indefinite, as though all dignity should be included.

Wise men — “Men,” inserted by the translators, is misleading, and should not be used.

Wise ones — Whether men or gods.


Verse 8

8. The stock, etc. — Rather, the teaching of idols is wood. They themselves are wood, and nothing can proceed from them better than what is in them. The special point of this sentence, at once so keenly satirical and so truly philosophical, is this: Their shaping, polishing, decking, and plating would seem to be for the purpose of getting something more precious than wood. As they look upon their finished god, decked out with his trappings of gold and silver, they forget his genesis, and think of him as something else than he really is. And so the prophet condenses all the possibilities of the case into a single sentence; and then, as if in the way of individual justification, he hastily runs over the process of the manufacture of idols.


Verse 9

9. Tarshish — Generally supposed to have been located in the south of Spain. It is thought from the context to have been an opulent and cultured city.

Uphaz — Thought by Gesenius and Keil to be a dialectical variety of Ophir, and the Targum and the Syriac Version so treat it. Others, however, regard it as a distinct name. It occurs elsewhere only in Daniel 10:5.


Verse 12

MANIFESTATIONS OF JEHOVAH’S ALMIGHTINESS, Jeremiah 10:12-16.

12. Power… wisdom… discretion — This enumeration of the natural attributes of God as exhibited in the material creation is interesting. They are graded one above the other in true logical order. As through a window we look through this verse, and see how the revelations of God in his word and in his works are one; or if, in any sense, they are two, they are still harmonious. First, “power,” and its product is the dead earth; then “wisdom,” and its product is the organized world; finally, “discretion,” or constructive skill, and its product is the universe, with all its adjustments and the mutual adaptations of its various parts.


Verse 13

13. When he uttereth his voice — Every thunderstorm becomes a declaration of God. There is some question as to the exact translation of this verse, though none at all as to its general meaning. A literal rendering of the first clause, retaining the words and idiom just as they stand in the original, would be, At the voice of his giving a roar of waters in the heavens. The remainder of the verse answers to Psalms 135:7, but is probably original here, and quoted there.


Verse 14

14. Every man is brutish — In the presence of such exhibitions of God only the brutish and besotted can find satisfaction in idols.


Verse 15

15. Work of errors — Rather, of mockery; a thing that deserves only ridicule and contempt, and brings it upon all its votaries.


Verse 17

MISERY OF THE PEOPLE, Jeremiah 10:17-25.

17. Gather up, etc. — From the presentation of idolatry the prophet now returns to the main subject. With characteristic abruptness he calls upon the people to get ready for their march into captivity.

Thy wares — Literally, thy bundle; not articles of merchandise, but articles for necessary use, such as could be hastily caught up and carried about the person.

Inhabitant of the fortress — Rather, thou that sittest in siege.


Verse 18

18. I will sling out — Compare Isaiah 22:17-18.

This once — Literally, this time; implying that in contrast with other and more partial judgments the grand catastrophe is hastening on.

That they may find it so — The meaning is doubtful, but this, on the whole, seems preferable. The word rendered distress means to press hard, to close in. The thought, then, is, I will press them hard, (as into a strait place.) that they may find them.


Verse 19

19. Woe is me — From this to the end of the chapter the prophet speaks in the name of the congregation — the Jewish Church. We hear her lamentation, and her prayer for mercy to herself and for judgment on her enemies.


Verse 20

20. Tabernacle — As though even at this time the tent was the ordinary dwelling.

Cords — Those which stayed the tent.

Children… are not Matthew 2:13.


Verse 21

21. Pastors are… brutish — Compare Jeremiah 2:8, etc.

Shall not prosper — Rather, have not dealt wisely, and hence their flocks shall be scattered.


Verse 22

22. The noise of the bruit, etc. — Better, a voice is heard; behold it cometh, a great commotion from the north country (literally, the land of midnight) to make the cities of Judah desolate, an abode of jackals. See Jeremiah 9:11.


Verse 23-24

23, 24. It is not in man… to direct his steps — A beautiful and spiritual prayer, the language of humility and penitence, of humble dependence on God, and of earnest supplication for his favour.

Correct… with judgment — That is, in such measure as will best correct the evil.


Verse 25

25. With very slight difference this verse is identical in language with Psalms 79:6-7.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Jeremiah 10:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/jeremiah-10.html. 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, September 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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