Jeremiah 10 Commentary, Devotional, Summary, Sermon

Jeremiah 10 Commentary

Let’s turn to Jeremiah 10 for this Jeremiah 10 commentary article…

Jeremiah 10 Commentary

In our last lesson we saw the Lord offering Judah Defeat for her Deceit. And that message was situated within the section that spans Jeremiah 7-10. And we’ve seen that the overall message of that section has been Righteousness over Ritual. And of course, that’s all within the framework of the whole book, whose message is Submit to God’s Authority and Live.

Now, our last lesson ended with God saying that the uncircumcised circumcised will be punished. Who are circumcised in their flesh but not in their heart. And in those last few verses of Jeremiah 9 the Lord mentions several of the nations around Judah at the time.

Those nations, of course, did not worship the true God of Israel. And so, I think that’s the reason why now in Jeremiah 10:1-16 the Lord warns his people to not adopt the idolatry of the surrounding nations.

The sad fact was that they had already done just this – Judah was overrun with idolatry.

So, in these verses the Lord compares and contrasts himself – the true God – with the false gods of the pagan nations around Judah.

Jeremiah 10 Commentary
Idols of Nations vs. YAHWEH of Israel

10:1 ¶ Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel:

2 Thus saith the LORD,

Learn not the way of the [heathen/nations/goyim],

and be not [dismayed/terrified/awed] at the signs [of heaven/that occur in the sky];

[for/although] the heathen are [dismayed/awed] at them.

Jeremiah 10 Commentary
Heavenly Events

So, here is where God begins his comparing himself to the idols of the nations. And as we’ll see, the comparison is not objective. It’s not as if he’s leading us in comparing two vehicles which we could purchase and one has certain strengths and weaknesses and the other is similar. No, the idols hold nothing for the people who worship them. The Lord alone is the true God.

And because the Lord is alone the living and true God, he said what we just read. Israel would not progress beyond him, as if that were possible. Here the Lord is having to tell his rebellious people that the religion of the nations wouldn’t do a thing for them.

The particular religious practice of the surrounding pagan nations that the Lord singled out in Jeremiah 10:1-2 is the attention that they would pay to signs in the heavens. Whether that be comets and eclipses and meteors – things that were more unusual and conspicuous. Or whether that be the changes of the positions of the sun and moon and stars. The pagans would put great significance on these events and even worship those heavenly bodies.

The Lord here tells Israel that this is not a practice which they should be observing. “Don’t be awed by the things going on in the sky in the way that the pagans are. Don’t follow their idolatrous practices in any way – but certainly not in their worshiping heavenly bodies and giving them the same fear that is due to the Lord alone.

Jeremiah 10 Commentary
Against Idols

But beyond the pagan religious observation of heavenly events, the Lord warns his people to not pay attention to their hand-crafted idols either in Jeremiah 10:3-5.

3 For the [customs/religion] of the people [i.e., the nations] are [vain/delusion/worthless]:

for one cutteth a tree out of the forest,

the work of the hands of [the workman/a craftsman], with the axe.

4 They [deck/decorate] it with silver and with gold;

they fasten it with nails and with hammers,

[that/so that] it [move/totter/fall over] not.

5 They [i.e., the idols] are upright as the palm tree, but speak not:

they must needs be [borne/carried], because they cannot [go/walk].

Be not afraid of them;

for they cannot do [evil/harm],

neither also is it in them to [do good/help].

What a ridiculous picture of these supposedly-powerful idols. God brings it down to such an earthly mundane level.

He walks the people through how these worthless idols are made. The guy goes into a forest and cuts down a tree. It’s a tree, man! This is no god! The guy takes an axe to it. His lowly, earthly, man-made axe. This is how he makes his god, his idol. The guy has to decorate his silly idol with gold and silver. The idol can’t do that himself of course, because he really is just a lump of wood. Then the guy who cut down the lump of wood with his man-made axe needs to hammer nails into the thing so that it doesn’t tip over. How powerful can this block of wood be if he needs human help to not tip over??

The idol can’t speak – so if it really is a God how do you know what it’s thinking or desiring from you as its worshiper?

It can’t move around on its own. It actually needs its worshipers to carry it.

So are you really going to fear something like this? A piece of wood chopped down by a man who then carves it and puts metal on it and has to make sure it doesn’t fall over? It can’t talk and it can’t walk. Are you really going to fear this thing, Israel? You shouldn’t!

The thing can’t do any good or any evil. It can’t harm and it can’t help. Don’t fear it.

And don’t learn these ways of the nations that are so worthless!

Jeremiah 10 Commentary

But the God of Israel isn’t like this, according to Jeremiah 10:6-7.

6 Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O LORD;

thou art great, and thy name is great [in might/for your power].

7 Who would not [fear/revere] thee, O King of nations?

for to thee doth it appertain [i.e., that fear/reverence is due You]:

forasmuch as among all the wise men of the nations,

and in all their kingdoms [i.e., and their kings],

there is none like unto thee.

The Lord is completely unique. There is none like him. He’s great and so is his reputation – his name.

Jeremiah 10 Commentary
Who Fears the Lord?

Jeremiah asks “who wouldn’t fear you?” And there are two ways to answer that question.

The first is how Jeremiah wants us to respond. Who wouldn’t fear the Lord? Well, nobody, that’s who! Everyone should fear the Lord.

But what’s the second way to answer this question of “who wouldn’t fear the Lord?” Well, not many in Israel actually did fear the Lord. Not many in our day do.

And that’s a shame because as Jeremiah says, this fear, this reverence, this sense of awe is due him – “to thee doth it appertain” he says. This fear is what we, his creatures, owe him, our Creator.

Jeremiah 10 Commentary
YAHWEH Utterly Unique

Just think about it. As Jeremiah says, there is none like the Lord anywhere. Just look among the nations. Look at their supposed “wise-men”. Look at their kings. As mighty and highly-thought of as they are, they pale in comparison to the might and wisdom of the God of Israel.

Jeremiah 10 Commentary
Idols Again

And in fact, the wise-men of the nations – that we’ve just been talking about – are wise in name only. Jeremiah makes and then justifies that assertion in Jeremiah 10:8-9.

8 But they are altogether [brutish/stupid] and foolish:

the [stock/wood] is a doctrine of vanities [the instruction of vanities is wood – instruction from a wooden idol is worthless!].

9 [Silver spread into plates/beaten silver/hammered-out silver] is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz [i.e., to cover the idols],

the work of [the workman/a craftsman/carpenters], and of the hands of [the founder/a goldsmith]:

[blue/violet] and purple is their clothing:

they are all the work of [cunning/skilled] men.

So, what wisdom can professing wise men have when they worship dumb idols?

Jeremiah 10 Commentary

Now, contrast the folly and worthlessness of those idols to the only-true, all-powerful, ever-living, and – most sobering of all – really angry Lord of Israel in Jeremiah 10:10.

10 But the LORD is the [ie, only] true God,

he is the living God, and an everlasting king:

at his wrath the earth [shall tremble/quakes/shakes],

and the nations [shall not be able to abide/cannot endure] his [indignation/fury].

Jeremiah 10 Commentary
Idols Once More

And as a result of the wrath of this only-real Deity – the Lord of Israel – all the worthless fake idols that are competing with him for the hearts of his people will perish according to Jeremiah 10:11.

11 ¶ Thus shall ye [i.e., Israel] say unto them [i.e., the nations],

The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth,

even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens. [Only verse in Jer in Aramaic; chiasm; poetic]

This statement then apparently was intended to be uttered by Israel to the pagan nations – “ye” would be Israel. This was God’s desire for his people Israel – that they utter these words to their heathen neighbors.

The false gods of the pagans will be destroyed from the very places they had no business in creating. But how sad that Israel never seemed to fulfill this intention of the Lord. From the very get-go they’re worshiping these very idols that can do nothing for them. They get the Law from God and a few hours later they’re engaged in idolatry. They enter the Promised Land and maybe just a few short years later they’re adopting these false gods of the surrounding pagan nations.

And now here in Jeremiah’s day, about 1000 years after the giving of the Law and the entering into Canaan, God is still expressing this desire for them to be to him a nation of priests – of mediators between him and the world. But Israel failed then and it’s still failing. And God is using the Church now in this capacity. How are we doing? He’ll use Israel again in the future. But for now, if we don’t do this, no one will.

Let me mention two interesting features of this verse before we move on.

Jeremiah 10 Commentary

First, it’s the only verse written in Aramaic in the book of Jeremiah. Just this verse.

Jeremiah 10 Commentary

It’s also written in chiastic form – like an “X”. “Heavens” – “Earth”. Then “Earth” – “Heavens”. It might seem like a small thing for us, but if nothing else it makes for a more memorable saying. Changing the order in which the same basic thing is said makes it a little more interesting. You don’t expect it to be said in a different way. But all of a sudden the order is changed!

Jeremiah 10 Commentary

OK, so the false gods will perish. They had nothing to do with the creation of creation and so from that creation they will perish.

In contrast, we have the Lord, both the creator of all creation and the provider of all provisions on display in Jeremiah 10:12-13.

12 [He/The Lord] hath made the earth by his power,

he hath established the world by his wisdom,

and hath stretched out the heavens by his [discretion/understanding].

That’s his creating creation. Now for his providing provisions in Jeremiah 10:13.

13 When he uttereth his voice [i.e., like thunder], there is a [multitude/tumult] of waters in the heavens,

and he causeth the [vapours/clouds] to ascend from the ends of the earth;

he maketh lightnings with rain,

and bringeth forth the wind out of his [treasures/storehouses].

The Lord of Israel created everything. He also sends the rain and wind that are a means of provision for that creation of his. He does it all!

Jeremiah 10 Commentary

And yet the pagan nations and the Israelites who were thinking and behaving no differently than them thought that worthless false gods like Baal were sending that rain. And because of that, God in Jeremiah 10:14-15 comes right out and calls people like this “stupid” – well, “brutish” in the KJV, which is basically the same thing.

14 Every man [i.e., who is an idolater] is [brutish/stupid] in his knowledge:

every [founder/goldsmith] is [confounded/put to shame/disgraced] by the graven image:

for his molten image is [falsehood/deceitful/a mere sham],

and there is no breath in them.

15 They are [vanity/worthless], and the work of [errors/mockery]:

in the time of their [visitation/punishment] they shall perish.

So, this is the parting word regarding idols in this section. They will perish and the ones involved in making them will be disgraced.

Jeremiah 10 Commentary

But in contrast, those who trust in the Lord will not be ashamed – because they worship the one who made all things and is in control of everything, according to Jeremiah 10:16.

16 The portion of Jacob is not like them:

for he is the [former/maker] of all things;

and Israel is the [rod/tribe] of his inheritance:

The LORD of hosts is his name.

And that ends these 16 verses of contrast between idols and the true and living God.

Jeremiah 10 Commentary
Verses 17-25 & Exile

And now, with that first major section of Jeremiah 10 completed, the Lord gets back to threatening his rebellious unrepentant people with exile for the rest of Jeremiah 10.

Jeremiah 10 Commentary
Verses 17-18

The Lord tells the people that he’s going to exile them out of the land in Jeremiah 10:17-18.

17 Gather up thy [wares/bundle/belongings] [out/off/and get out] of the [land/ground],

O inhabitant of the [i.e., beseiged] fortress.

18 For thus saith the LORD,

Behold, I will sling out the inhabitants of the land at this [once/time],

and will distress them, that they may [find it so/be found/actually feel it].

Jeremiah 10 Commentary
Verse 19

Then the people are pictured as lamenting this coming exile in Jeremiah 10:19.

19 [Woe is me/We are doomed!] for my [hurt/injury]!

my wound is [grievous/incurable]:

but I [i.e, once] said, Truly this is a [grief/sickness/illness],

and I [must/am able to] bear it.

I’ll try to explain what Jeremiah 10:19 is portraying the people of Judah as coming to recognize in the future.

Imagine having a cough. This cough continues for a few days. And meanwhile you’re thinking “I can handle this. This sickness should go away in a few more days.” But the cough continues. And it continues. And so you finally go to the doctor. And you expect him to give you maybe some cough medicine. But he breaks the news to you that you have stage four lung cancer. And it’s the kind of cancer for which there is very little hope of survival.

This is what the rebels of Judah would recognize some day. The minor issues – the small-scale enemy invasions, economic problems, the fact that you have a prophet who claims to speak for the Lord bothering you about your sin, and such – all of that was a foretaste of something much more horrible and deadly.

Instead of having a manageable sickness, the people of Judah would come to realize all too late that they have a mortal wound. It’s incurable.

Jeremiah 10 Commentary
Verse 20

The people will also come to realize that — in addition to their own lives — their progeny will be taken from them. And they recognize that this will have a devastating effect on them in Jeremiah 10:20.

20 My [tabernacle/tent] is [spoiled/destroyed],

and all my [cords/ropes] are broken:

my children [are gone forth of/have gone from] me,

and they are not [i.e., coming back]:

there is none to stretch forth my tent any more,

and to set up my curtains.

So, the people are pictured as coming to realize that they have no one to take care of them in old age or take up the family lineage because so many of their children will be destroyed.

And, again, as always, God is using this to plead with the people to turn from the sin that’s bringing God’s judgement on them.

Jeremiah 10 Commentary
Verse 21

Now, it’s hard to tell who’s speaking in Jeremiah 10:21. The Lord and Jeremiah both would certainly agree with the statement made there. But it could also be a statement of the people as they come to understand how awful their situation really had become.

In the future, the people would recognize the reality of Jeremiah 10:21.

21 For the [pastors/shepherds/leaders] are become [brutish/stupid],

and have not sought the LORD [i.e., his advice]:

therefore they [shall not prosper/do not act wisely],

and all their [flocks/people for whom they’re responsible] shall be scattered.

This then is one major reason for the downfall of the people. The leaders – for Israel it was their king, their priests, and their prophets – all of their leaders had led them astray.

How important good leadership is, folks. You and I cannot do without it. We need good and godly leadership. Flocks scatter and do not prosper without a shepherd. And in the Lord’s providence he’s given his people leaders in our life in multiple areas. We do well to heed that leadership.

Jeremiah 10 Commentary
Verse 22

Well, in the future as I say the people will come face to face with this invading army from the north that will exile them from their land. That event is foretold in Jeremiah 10:22.

22 Behold, the [noise/sound] of the [bruit/report – nothing to do with “brutish” above but pronounced the same way, maybe the KJV translators being creative? Only time out of 27 where it’s translated as “bruit”] is come,

and a great commotion out of the north country,

to make the cities of Judah desolate,

and a [den/haunt/dwelling place fit only for] of [dragons/jackals].

Jeremiah 10 Commentary
Verses 23-25

And then to close this chapter and this section in Jeremiah, we have someone addressing the Lord in Jeremiah 10:23-25.

23 O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself [i.e., people don’t control their own destiny]:

it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps [i.e., it’s not in our power to determine what will happen to us].

24 O LORD, correct me,

but with [judgment/justice/due measure];

not in thine anger,

lest thou bring me to nothing.

25 Pour out thy [fury/wrath] upon the [heathen/nations] that [know/acknowledge] thee not,

and upon the families that [call not on thy name/don’t worship you]:

for they have eaten up Jacob,

and devoured him, and consumed him,

and have made his habitation desolate.

Let’s try to get at who is making this statement at the end of Jeremiah 10.

Is it the Lord? No. OK, that was an easy one.

What about Jeremiah? I think that’s as good of an idea as any. The attitude seems right for Jeremiah. He’s acknowledging God’s justice. He’s pleading for God’s mercy. He’s acknowledging God’s sovereignty. He’s rightly angry at the nations whom God is going to use as an instrument of punishing his people.

And isn’t that an interesting prayer at the end of this section? “Lord, I acknowledge your righteous judgement of your people. But Lord, please don’t let those idolaters – those who worship those worthless idols we spoke of in the first part of Jeremiah 10 – don’t let them get away unpunished either.

And toward the end of this book we’ll see a section where the Lord denounces several nations and foretells of destroying them along with his punishing his own people. And we’ll hear him say that he’s going to use Babylon to destroy all these nations. But the last nation the Lord ends up addressing is Babylon itself. They won’t get away unpunished. This prayer here at the end of Jeremiah 10 will be answered by the Lord.

Jeremiah 10 Commentary
Idolatry and Exile

So, that’s Jeremiah 10 – Idolatry and Exile.

And that finishes Jeremiah 7-10 – Righteousness Over Ritual. And of course that’s all within the context of the message of this book – Submit to God’s Authority and Live. Next time, we’ll start the section that covers Jeremiah 11-12 where we’ll hear about Covenant and Conspiracy.

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