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Dead and worthless idols made by human hands should never compete for our loyalty and affections with the power and majesty of the unique living and eternal God. What an indictment of God’s people that they would ever exchange the glory of their Creator and King for the impotence of tottering pieces of wood. Yet the spiritual leaders themselves have been instrumental in scattering God’s flock and subjecting it to the type of devastation you imagine to be reserved for pagan nations.


the end of Jeremiah’s temple sermon that started in Chap. 7


(:1) Call to Attention

“Hear the word which the LORD speaks to you, O house of Israel.”

Constable: This scathing expose of the folly of idolatry resembles several polemics in Isaiah (cf. Isaiah 40:18-20; Isaiah 41:6-7; Isaiah 44:9-20; Isaiah 46:5-7). Jeremiah 10:12-16 appear again in Jeremiah 51:15-19.

Mackay: While the designation “house of Israel” may refer to the northern kingdom, these words are addressed to Judah and Jerusalem as the remaining representatives of the covenant people as in 9:26. In this way there is a suitable link back to the preceding discussion of circumcision, the mark of the true covenant people.

A. (:2) Fear of Idols Characterizes Pagans

“Thus says the LORD, ‘Do not learn the way of the nations, And do not be terrified by the signs of the heavens although the nations are terrified by them;’”

Believers are not to live like pagans; don’t be inquiring after the signs of the heavens

Mackay: “terrified” – a strong word denoting inability to act or think things through because of outside pressure. . . They could not free themselves from the notion that these supposed gods could and would act malevolently in their lives. That explains the emphasis in this polemic on the reality, originality and power of the Lord. It is an attempt to meet the needs of the people in their insecurity over against the dominant interpretation of events in the world as propagated by the pagan thinking of their culture and environment.

Pagans live in fear all the time – terrified by their astrological fortunes – should be fearing the Lord instead

Calvin: He then mentions the error in which the Chaldeans and the Egyptians were involved; for they were, we know, very attentive observers of the stars. And this is expressly stated, because the Jews despised God’s judgments, and greatly feared what were foolishly divined. For when any one, by looking at the stars, threatened them with some calamity, they were immediately terrified; but when God denounced on them, as with the sound of a trumpet, a calamity by his Prophets, they were not at all moved.

Constable: He warned his people not to be disciples of the Gentile nations, specifically not to let the celestial phenomena-that the nations looked to for guidance-frighten them. The nations regarded abnormalities in the heavens as divine signs, and held them in awe, particularly unusual phenomena such as comets, meteors, and eclipses. But it was Yahweh who controlled these things (cf. Genesis 1:14; Habakkuk 3:4; Habakkuk 3:11).

Feinberg: Idol worship was attended by elaborate ritual, motivated by demonic power, and accompanied by moral looseness. . .

B. (:3-5a) Exposure of the Delusional Value of Idols

1. (:3) Man-made

“For the customs of the peoples are delusion; Because it is wood cut from the forest, The work of the hands of a craftsman with a cutting tool.”

Who is greater? The craftsman or the idol he crafts? We pride ourselves on not being like these foolish pagans, but we continue to worship idols today

Brian Bell: Def. of Idol: That on which I set my Attention & Affection, & that for which I am willing to Sacrifice for. {It becomes a substitute for God}; Quoting Tozer: “Idolatry is the entertaining of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him!” We want to get God down to where we can use him – At least we’ll know where He is when we need Him! – We want a God we can in some measure control – We develop a God who is a composite of all the religious people we’ve seen – The best people we’ve known or heard about, & all the sublime ideas we’ve entertained!

2. (:4) Decorated and Propped Up to Appear Something They Are Not

“They decorate it with silver and with gold; They fasten it with nails and with hammers So that it will not totter.”

Idols can’t stand on their own; they have no inner reality and power — just external trappings.

3. (:5a) Lifeless, Mute and Powerless

“Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field are they, And they cannot speak;

They must be carried, because they cannot walk!”

Constable: These idols were similar to scarecrows, whose only power is to frighten birds. They did not speak to command, counsel, or comfort their worshippers. They could not walk to come to the aid of their devotees. People had to carry them; they were burdens to be borne rather than bearers of their suppliants” burdens. God’s people should not fear them because they do neither harm nor good. They are “do-nothing” gods.

C. (:5b) Fear of Idols Falsely Inconsistent with Their Impotency

“Do not fear them, For they can do no harm, Nor can they do any good.”

Why be loyal to an idol? There is nothing to gain.


A. (:6-9) Contrast Between the Lord and Idols in Their Essence

1. (:6-8) Uniqueness of Majestic God

“There is none like Thee, O LORD; Thou art great, and great is Thy name in might. Who would not fear Thee, O King of the nations? Indeed it is Thy due! For among all the wise men of the nations, And in all their kingdoms, There is none like Thee.”

Dave Durant: Jews would have connected wisdom not with science and technology and institutes of higher learning but with a great king like Solomon who was able to rule with justice and righteousness. (1 Kings 3)

Thompson: The incomparability of Yahweh is a theme that is writ large in the OT. He is incomparable, great in himself and great in his name (or character). Whereas idols derive their status and authority solely from human sources, Yahweh derives his position and authority from himself alone. He stand unique. That being so, the prophet can say, Who should not fear thee, King of the nations, for this is thy due?

2. (:8-9) Futility of Man-Made Idols

“But they are altogether stupid and foolish In their discipline of delusion– their idol is wood! Beaten silver is brought from Tarshish, And gold from Uphaz, The work of a craftsman and of the hands of a goldsmith; Violet and purple are their clothing; They are all the work of skilled men.”

B. (:10-16) Contrast Between the Lord and Idols in Their Effectiveness

1. (:10) The True God Lives and Should be Feared

“But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth quakes, And the nations cannot endure His indignation.”

Three Affirmations about God:

– The only True God

– The Living God

– The Everlasting King

Calvin: He sets truth here in opposition to vanities. He had said that wood was the teaching of vanities; he now says, God is eternal truth; that is, he has no need of adventitious ornaments; they mask, he says, the idols of the heathens, they are clothed and adorned; but these things have nothing real in them: Jehovah is God the truth; that is, God borrows nothing from anything else, but is satisfied with himself, and his power possesses of itself sufficient authority. God then is truth, and God, he says, is life. After having said that God has real and solid glory in himself, he adds another proof, taken from what is known to men, even that God is life; for though God is in himself incomprehensible, yet he not only sets before our eyes evidences of his glow, but he also renders himself in a manner the object of feeling, as Paul says in Acts 14:17. What he means is, that though men were blind, they could yet by feeling find out God. Though the blind have no sight, yet they can find their way by feeling; they go round a hall or a room, and by feeling find the door; and when they wish to enter into a room, they find the door by the same means. But there is no need, says Paul, for us to depart from ourselves; for whosoever will examine himself will find God within; for in him we live and move and have our being. (Acts 17:28.) Were we then to object and say, that God is incomprehensible, and that we cannot ascend to the height of his glory, doubtless there is life in us, and as we have life, we have an evidence of his divinity; for who is so devoid of reason as to say that he lives through himself? Since then men live not of themselves, but obtain life as a favor from another, it follows that God dwells in them.

Chuck Smith: Nature of the substitutes for God.

1. Brutish and foolish.

2. Stock doctrine of vanities.

3. There is no breath in them.

Contrasted with true God – vs. 10.

1. True God.

2. Living God.

3. Everlasting King.

4. Powerful, wise, discrete – vs. 12

Mackay: “trembles” – This brings out the fact of human accountability to the Lord. He is the one whose anger at sin and at the conduct of the nations is something that must be taken into account, because he has absolute power to enforce his decrees.

2. (:11-13) The Lifeless Idols Will Perish While the True God Demonstrates His Power

a. (:11) Lifeless Idols Will Perish

“Thus you shall say to them, ‘The gods that did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens.’”

David Guzik: Vs. 11 may have been a popular anti-idolatry proverb or saying of that time, quoted in Aramaic. It is the only verse in Jeremiah in Aramaic, a language quite similar to Hebrew.

Thompson: (v. 12) The power, wisdom, and understanding of Yahweh are set in striking contrast to the weakness, foolishness, and witless character of the idols. Yahweh alone stand sovereign over the whole created universe (cf. Isa. 40:12-17).

Parunak: Note the chiastic structure:

The gods

who heaven

and earth

did not make (abadu)

shall perish (y”badu)

from the earth

and from under heaven,

these [gods].

b. (:12-13) True God Demonstrates His Power

(1) (:12) Power Demonstrated in Creation

“It is He who made the earth by His power, Who established the world by His wisdom; And by His understanding He has stretched out the heavens.”

(2) (:13) Power Demonstrated in Nature

“When He utters His voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, And He causes the clouds to ascend from the end of the earth; He makes lightning for the rain, And brings out the wind from His storehouses.”

Ryken: This is a beautiful psalm written to praise a beautiful God. In it Jeremiah provided an outline for an entire Sunday school class on the doctrine of God, covering the uniqueness, power, sovereignty, wisdom, truth, eternity, creation, and providence of God.

3. (:14-16) Only the True God Grants a Lasting Inheritance

a. (:14-15) Idol Worshipers are Stupid

“Every man is stupid, devoid of knowledge; Every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols; For his molten images are deceitful, And there is no breath in them. They are worthless, a work of mockery; In the time of their punishment they will perish.”

Thompson: Three succinct phrases in vs. 15 describe the idols. They are a nonentity, a work of delusion; at the time of their reckoning they will perish. It is a final devastating demolition of these worthless things.

b. (:16) God Worshipers Enjoy a Lasting Inheritance

“The portion of Jacob is not like these; For the Maker of all is He, And Israel is the tribe of His inheritance; The LORD of hosts is His name.”

Parunak: YHWH is incomparable in his creative power and care of his people. Here God’s creation and administration are mingled together: ABAB. In his relation to his people, he is their portion and they are his inheritance; they belong to one another. In view of his power, he is the one who has created everything, and thus is the Lord of (the heavenly) hosts. None among the pagan gods can compare with him.

Mackay: the idea of the Oord as the portion of his people is common (Pss. 16:5; 73:26; 119:57; 142:5; Lam. 3:24).


A. (:17-18) Helpless and Vulnerable – Cast out and exposed to oppression by enemies

“Pick up your bundle from the ground, You who dwell under siege! For thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I am slinging out the inhabitants of the land at this time, and will cause them distress, That they may be found.’”

Gather up whatever you can carry in your backpack because you are going to be driven away

Albert Barnes: I will project you with violence from your country. I will send you all into captivity. This discourse, from Jeremiah 10:17, is supposed to have been delivered in the eleventh year of Jehoiakim.

B. (:19-22) Hurting — Broken, Scattered and Destroyed

1. (:19) Broken Body Metaphor

“Woe is me, because of my injury! My wound is incurable. But I said,

‘Truly this is a sickness, And I must bear it.’”

Thompson: The simplest way to understand these verses is to see in them the anguished cry of Jeremiah, who is so deeply identified with his people that his own lament can be equated with the lament of the nation.

2. (:20) Broken Tent Metaphor

“My tent is destroyed, And all my ropes are broken; My sons have gone from me and are no more. There is no one to stretch out my tent again Or to set up my curtains.”

Parunak: The enemy has spoiled the tent (stolen anything of value), and then collapsed it by cutting the tent ropes.

3. (:21) Scattered Flock Metaphor

“For the shepherds have become stupid And have not sought the LORD;

Therefore they have not prospered, And all their flock is scattered.”

Parunak: The shepherd should be protecting the flock from wild animals. Instead, he has become like a wild animal himself; his animality manifests itself in rejection of the word of the Lord.

4. (:22) Coming Judgment Promised

“The sound of a report! Behold, it comes– A great commotion out of the land of the north– To make the cities of Judah A desolation, a haunt of jackals.”

Parunak: The enemy is coming from the north, to reduce Jerusalem’s stone houses to a pile of rubble where only lizards can live.

C. (:23-25) Humbled – Seeking Mercy and Vengeance

1. (:23-24) Plea for Mercy in Context of Family Correction

“I know, O LORD, that a man’s way is not in himself; Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps. Correct me, O LORD, but with justice; Not with Thine anger, lest Thou bring me to nothing.”

No longer in control; the independent spirit of arrogance has been crushed

Mackay: Jeremiah is pleading for divine action because what has happened to the people has not been solely determined by them, but has come upon them because of external and uncontrollable factors. He is not presenting the people as guiltless in the situation, but rather helpless and in need of divine intervention form the one who really directs and controls the circumstances of life.

Constable: The prophet confessed that people do not have the wisdom to direct their own steps in safe and successful paths (cf. Psalm 37:23; Proverbs 3:5-6; Proverbs 16:9; Proverbs 20:24).

Brian Bell: 3 Arguments of Mercy:

[1] God must remember they are weak humans who don’t know how to run their lives. Maybe thinking of Ps.103:13,14 “As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.”

[2] If God gave them what they deserved, they’d be destroyed!

Ps.103:10 “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities.”

Or Ezra 9:13 “And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, since You our God have punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and have given us such deliverance as this”

[3] The nations attacking Judah deserve punishment for seeking to destroy God’s chosen people.

2. (:25) Plea for Vengeance Against Devouring Pagan Nations

“Pour out Thy wrath on the nations that do not know Thee, And on the families that do not call Thy name; For they have devoured Jacob; They have devoured him and consumed him, And have laid waste his habitation.”

Vengeance belongs to God.

Parunak: Finally we come to the response to 9:25-26. God cannot treat Judah just like the other nations. Judah is the nation who knows him; who calls on his name. He must defend her against the pagans who abuse and destroy her. Indeed, today, 2600 years after Jeremiah, the Babylonians and Assyrians, the nations who took Israel captive, are long gone, but the Jews continue as a distinctive racial group. He brought the nation back from captivity, and destroyed those who had abused them. Ezek. 36:21-32, God does this, not for their sake, but for the sake of his name which is upon them.

Kidner: This final prayer (:23-25) is one to sharpen our perception in three areas at least:

– first, about our collective blindness on our own, or at any rate our limited field of vision as we pick our way with our eyes down, without even an agreed destination, let alone a route.

– Secondly, about our individual need to be rectified and schooled by God, seeing the deep affront to him (24b) of our unresponsiveness.

– Thirdly, standing back from verse 25, we see the difference between the quite proper prayer of the Old Testament for judgment on the infidel and the oppressor, and the prayer in this day of grace for their salvation.


Thompson: In that lay Jeremiah’s dilemma. His heart told him to plead for divine mercy; but logic pointed to the inevitability of judgment on Judah also (cf. Amos 5:18-20). That Israel also should need to be punished in the way prescribed for the Gentiles was the tragic result of centuries of unrestrained apostasy and the rejection of Yahweh’s covenant and its demands.