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Jeremiah 10:1-5

Context
The Lord, not Idols, is the Only Worthy Object of Worship

10:1 You people of Israel, 1  listen to what the Lord has to say to you.

10:2 The Lord says,

“Do not start following pagan religious practices. 2 

Do not be in awe of signs that occur 3  in the sky

even though the nations hold them in awe.

10:3 For the religion 4  of these people is worthless.

They cut down a tree in the forest,

and a craftsman makes it into an idol with his tools. 5 

10:4 He decorates it with overlays of silver and gold.

He uses hammer and nails to fasten it 6  together

so that it will not fall over.

10:5 Such idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field.

They cannot talk.

They must be carried

because they cannot walk.

Do not be afraid of them

because they cannot hurt you.

And they do not have any power to help you.” 7 

1 tn Heb “house of Israel.”

2 tn Heb “Do not learn the way of the nations.” For this use of the word “ways” (דֶּרֶךְ, derekh) compare for example Jer 12:16 and Isa 2:6.

3 tn Heb “signs.” The words “that occur” are supplied in the translation for clarity.

sn The Hebrew word translated here “things that go on in the sky” (אֹתוֹת, ’otot) refers both to unusual disturbances such as eclipses, comets, meteors, etc., but also to such things as the changes in the position of the sun, moon, and stars in conjunction with the changes in seasons (cf. Gen 1:14). The people of Assyria and Babylonia worshiped the sun, moon, and stars, thinking that these heavenly bodies had some hold over them.

4 tn Heb “statutes.” According to BDB 350 s.v. חֻקָּה 2.b it refers to the firmly established customs or practices of the pagan nations. Compare the usage in Lev 20:23; 2 Kgs 17:8. Here it is essentially equivalent to דֶּרֶךְ (derekh) in v. 1, which has already been translated “religious practices.”

5 sn This passage is dripping with sarcasm. It begins by talking about the “statutes” of the pagan peoples as a “vapor” using a singular copula and singular predicate. Then it suppresses the subject, the idol, as though it were too horrible to mention, using only the predications about it. The last two lines read literally: “[it is] a tree which one cuts down from the forest; the work of the hands of a craftsman with his chisel.”

6 tn The pronoun is plural in Hebrew, referring to the parts.

7 tn Heb “And it is not in them to do good either.”



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