They cut down a tree in the forest,
and a craftsman makes it into an idol with his tools. 2
10:4 He decorates it with overlays of silver and gold.
He uses hammer and nails to fasten it 3 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.” 4
10:11 You people of Israel should tell those nations this:
‘These gods did not make heaven and earth.
Every goldsmith will be disgraced by the idol he made.
For the image he forges is merely a sham. 8
There is no breath in any of those idols. 9
When the time comes to punish them, they will be destroyed.
1 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.”
2 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.”
3 tn The pronoun is plural in Hebrew, referring to the parts.
4 tn Heb “And it is not in them to do good either.”
5 tn Aram “The gods who did not make…earth will disappear…” The sentence is broken up in the translation to avoid a long, complex English sentence in conformity with contemporary English style.
6 tn This verse is in Aramaic. It is the only Aramaic sentence in Jeremiah. Scholars debate the appropriateness of this verse to this context. Many see it as a gloss added by a postexilic scribe which was later incorporated into the text. Both R. E. Clendenen (“Discourse Strategies in Jeremiah 10,” JBL 106 : 401-8) and W. L. Holladay (Jeremiah [Hermeneia], 1:324-25, 334-35) have given detailed arguments that the passage is not only original but the climax and center of the contrast between the
sn This passage is carefully structured and placed to contrast the
7 tn Heb “Every man.” But in the context this is not a reference to all people without exception but to all idolaters. The referent is made explicit for the sake of clarity.
8 tn Or “nothing but a phony god”; Heb “a lie/falsehood.”
9 tn Heb “There is no breath in them.” The referent is made explicit so that no one will mistakenly take it to refer to the idolaters or goldsmiths.
10 tn Or “objects of mockery.”