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Jeremiah 10:1 Hear the word which Yahweh speaks to you, house of Israel!- This is no mere formal introduction, a standard rubric. It is a desperate appeal for repentance.

Jeremiah 10:2 Thus says Yahweh, Don’t learn the way of the nations, and don’t be dismayed at the signs of the sky; for the nations are dismayed at them-
There was still hope that there could be a miraculous last minute deliverance of Jerusalem, as had happened in the time of Hezekiah. The surrounding nations had all been "dismayed" and destroyed (2 Kings 19:26). Judah were not to be like them; but they were following their astrology, and the results of that "dismayed" them. They were desperately 'learning' the religion of those who were about to destroy them, rather than learning God's way through repentance (Jer. 9:23,24). They should instead have been dismayed at Jeremiah's prophetic words; and to have seen the connection with the frequent exhortations not to be dismayed but to possess the Kingdom (Dt. 1:21; Josh. 1:9 etc.). Jeremiah had been commanded not to be dismayed (Jer. 1:9 s.w.); he was to be their example, as is every preacher to be the word made flesh. "Dismay" was a punishment from God upon them (Jer. 17:18) but as with all Divine judgments, this was just an extension of what the people had done to themselves. For they had dismayed themselves.

Many Babylonian cuneiform tablets are in the British Museum in London. They claim that "the appearance of comets, eclipses of the sun and moon, earthquakes, and in fact every kind of change occasioned by the atmosphere, whether good or bad, both to nations and to kings and private individuals [were omens of future events]". The British Museum collection of inscriptions lists "A collection of twenty-five tablets of the signs of heaven and earth, according to their good presage and their bad... Tablets [regarding] the signs of the heaven, along with the star (comet) which has a corona in front and a tail behind; the appearance of the sky". Judah were desperately trying to learn the astrology of the Babylonians as the Babylonian army approached. But they are being told this was all nonsense.

Jeremiah 10:3 For the customs of the peoples are vanity; for one cuts a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman with the axe-
Judah were bidden look at things from a bird's eye view, and to perceive how bizarre is idolatry. All idolatry is vanity because it is the work of human hands. The way of spirituality is to accept God's work rather than the work of our own hands. They were 'learning' the astrology of the Babylonians who were about to destroy them (:2); and now they were accepting the "statutes" or "customs" of those people, taking on the yoke of a new law and religious system in the name of Yahweh worship. And thereby ignoring His law.

Jeremiah 10:4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it not move-
This alludes to very similar language in Is. 40:20; 41:7. See on :5. "Deck" is the word used of how the Jews tried to make themselves attractive to the other nations by as it were 'dressing themselves up' (Jer. 4:30). They did this through worshipping their idols. This confirms the impression that on the eve of destruction, they were turning to the idols of their attackers rather than to Yahweh.

Jeremiah 10:5 They are like a palm tree, of turned work, and don’t speak-
"Turned work" is a word only used about the beaten work of the tabernacle (Ex. 25:18,31,36 etc.). We will suggest on :9 that they were building a new kind of tabernacle for their idols.

They must be carried, because they can’t walk. Don’t be afraid of them; for they can’t do evil, neither is it in them to do good- This is quoting from Is. 46:7. There are many points of similarity between Jeremiah and Isaiah, because the miraculous deliverance of Jerusalem from the Assyrian siege in Isaiah's time could still be replicated at Jeremiah's time. But afterwards, Hezekiah dropped the baton, and so later Isaiah goes on to lament how the Babylonians would come and destroy Judah, and how the people would turn to idolatry and persecute the true prophets. This was now coming true in Jeremiah's time. Is. 45:5-7 in the same context puts all this another way in saying that Yahweh is the source of good and evil [in the sense of disaster], light and darkness- rather than the Babylonians gods of good and evil.

Jeremiah 10:6 There is none like You, Yahweh; You are great, and Your name is great in might-
The supreme, ultimate greatness of Yahweh meant that all claims of other gods were worth nothing. This continues the allusions to later Isaiah, this time to Is. 46:9. See on :5.

Jeremiah 10:7 Who should not fear You, King of the nations? For it is appropriate for You; because among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their royal estate, there is none like You-
It was the prophetic potential that Israel and Judah would repent together, return from captivity, and re-establish the Kingdom of God in Israel under a Messianic ruler, with the surrounding nations also repentant and acceptant of Israel's God. "Who should not..." accept Yahweh out of the nations? We marvel how with Israel so deeply resistant to God's purpose at this point, still the prophets allude to this massive potential. See on :11. This was not fulfilled at the time, but this passage is quoted in Rev. 15:4 as having ultimate fulfilment in the last days.

Jeremiah 10:8 But they are together primitive and foolish: the instruction of idols! It is but a stock-
The idea that a piece of wood could teach God's people is mocked; but this is in the context of how :1,2 have condemned Judah for earnestly seeking to "learn" the religious ways of Babylon. They stood in front of a piece of wood in order to be taught by it. "Primitive" translates a word which effectively means 'kindling wood' (s.w. Ex. 35:3). They were wooden, and would be the kindling which brought about the final burning of Jerusalem. See on Jer. 11:16.

Jeremiah 10:9 There is silver beaten into plates which is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz, the work of the artificer and of the hands of the goldsmith; blue and purple for their clothing; they are all the work of skilful men-
Silver, plates, gold, blue, purple and the work of skilled craftsmen is all language reminiscent of the construction of the tabernacle and high priestly robes. The new religious system and laws which they were desperately learning (see on :1,2) was a quasi law of Moses. And yet it was done in the name of Yahweh worship; this explains the similarities, and also how the people also called to Yahweh at this time. See on :5,12,20.

Jeremiah 10:10 But Yahweh is the true God; He is the living God and an everlasting King-
A bald statement, urging the Jews on the eve of destruction to quit their idolatry and return wholeheartedly to Yahweh. He was alive, whereas the idols were just dead wood (:8). He would last for ever, whereas the idols of that age, as of every age, stand only for a short time.

At His wrath the earth trembles, and the nations are not able to withstand His indignation- The earth / land of Israel along with the nations was to be judged. Perhaps a literal earthquake was in view, as mentioned in many of the prophets. It was the prophetic intention that the judgment of Babylon and her coalition would follow soon after their judgment of Israel. This didn't happen as intended, because the lack of repentance precluded the scenario happening then. But as the book of Revelation makes clear, this will all come true in the last days.

Jeremiah 10:11 You shall say this to them: The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, these shall perish from the earth, and from under the heavens-
This verse stands out from those around it in that it is written in Chaldee. Perhaps this was intended to be sent and spoken to the Babylonians. To curse a nation's gods was the ultimate insult. And this is what Jeremiah was doing. And he says this when Judah were desperately learning the religion of the Babylonians (:1,2) in the hope that it would save them from Babylon. But the hope also was that Babylon and the surrounding nations would repent and come to Yahweh; see on :7. The Babylonians worshipped the heavenly bodies; but they were worshipping the created rather than the creator.

Jeremiah 10:12 He has made the earth by His power, He has established the world by His wisdom, and by His understanding has He stretched out the heavens-
This contrast between the idols and Yahweh as the creator of all things is typical of the later part of Isaiah; see on :5. The language of setting up ("established", literally 'to make stand erect') and stretching out suggests that the heavens and earth are a tent or tabernacle. This alludes to how the Jews were desperately constructing a tabernacle to idols; see on :9,20.

Jeremiah 10:13 When He utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, and He causes the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; He makes lightnings for the rain, and brings forth the wind out of His treasuries-
This could refer to a literal thunderstorm that burst over Jerusalem as Jeremiah was speaking. The waters which arose from the ends of the land represented the nations arising from the boundaries of eretz Israel, who were to come in judgment upon Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 10:14 Every man has become primitive and without knowledge; every goldsmith is disappointed by his engraved image; for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them-
This is the ultimate end of all idolatry, of all life lived without total devotion to God- disappointment. Life is only in Yahweh; both eternal life, and meaningful life now. The same word for "disappointed" is used of what would happen to the idols of Babylon (Jer. 50:2). Just before the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem, the Jews within the city were making those very same idols, and would be disappointed in them just as Babylon was to be. It was the idols who were primitive and without knowledge (:8); and those who make and worship idols become like unto them, also "primitive..." (Ps. 115:8). The desire to worship is built within the human condition. And we become like what we worship. It is therefore critically important to worship the right thing.

Jeremiah 10:15 They are vanity, a work of delusion-
It is emphasized in Jer. 10:15, 16 that the God of Jacob is not an idol, nor is He created by an 'errorist'- using the same rare Hebrew word concerning Jacob being a 'deceiver' in Gen. 27:12. Jacob was a 'deceiver', and for much of his life did not accept Yahweh as his God, preferring the idols of the land (Gen. 28:20,21). Yet Jer. 10:15,16 says that idols are made by 'deceivers', and the God Jacob believed in was not an idol like this. God is almost turning everything upside down to frame a weak, faltering Jacob as the very opposite. And He will do likewise with every one of the true Israel. 

In the time of their visitation they shall perish- The same words are used of how ultimately Babylon itself would realize this about its own idols (Jer. 51:18). All idols fail at their point of critical testing; the Babylonians should have learnt from the way their idols never saved Jerusalem from destruction. Here we see God's wonderful hope, that even Babylon would repent. We give up on people far too easily compared to Him. The common prophetic idea of "the day / time of visitation" is applied by Peter to the day of the Lord's return and the final judgment (1 Pet. 2:12). All these prophetic possibilities never quite came about in their day; but they will do, in the last day.   


Jeremiah 10:16 The portion of Jacob is not like these-
See on :15.
Jacob inherits God, having Him as his portion; and God inherits Israel / Jacob. We see here the mutuality intended between God and Israel. This is yet another reflection of God's recognition that finally, Jacob fulfilled his promise to make Yahweh his God (Gen. 28:20). The lessons of Jacob's name change were finally learnt.

For He is the former of all things; and Israel is the tribe of His inheritance: Yahweh of Armies is His name- It was the prophetic hope that Judah and the ten tribe kingdom would unite as one in the restored kingdom of God in Israel. "Israel" is therefore described here as a singular tribe.

Jeremiah 10:17 Gather up your wares out of the land, you who live under siege-
"Wares" is literally "bundle"; the idea is that the siege would end with the people going into captivity with just a bundle of belongings. This prophecy was given in the very last moments of opportunity, whilst the people were besieged.

Jeremiah 10:18 For thus says Yahweh, Behold, I will sling out the inhabitants of the land at this time, and will distress them, that they may feel it-
But in wrath, God remembered mercy. For not all the inhabitants of the land were taken into captivity. Only the ruling classes were.
The Babylonians, unlike the Assyrians, didn't practice mass deportations. They removed the leadership of subjected peoples, and appointed locals as the leaders under their control. This is what they did to Judah, taking the royal family and priesthood into captivity, and establishing Gedaliah as puppet governor (Jer. 40: 7; 2 Kings 25:2) along with some local Jewish "elders" (Lam. 5:12), with Mizpeh rather than Jerusalem as the capital.  Ezra 9:7 is clear that it was "our kings and our priests [who] have been delivered" into captivity. The Babylonians saw no economic purpose in bringing masses of unskilled peasant farmers into captivity in their cities. It's been estimated that at least 90% of Judah were peasant farmers; and these, the impoverished masses, were left in the land and not deported (Jer. 52:16; 2 Kings 25:12). See on Ez. 11:15. The Babylonian policy regarding deportation and management of conquered lands is described in N.P. Lemche, Ancient Israel: A New History of Israelite Society (Sheffield: JSOT, 1988) and D.L. Smith, The Religion of the Landless: The Social Context of the Babylonian Exile (Bloomington, IN: Meyer Stone, 1989). God did not therefore scatter all the people quite as He intended. There is archaeological evidence for continued agricultural activity in the land after the deportations. And Jer. 41:5 seems to speak of men coming to the Jerusalem temple from Shechem and Shiloh, in the ten tribe area, in order to offer grain offerings at the site of the temple. Presumably the altar had been destroyed, hence no animal sacrifices are mentioned. It has been suggested that the book of Lamentations was written as part of a temple ritual or at least material to be recited at the site of the temple. See on Jer. 12:4; 13:19.


Jeremiah 10:19 Woe is me because of my hurt! my wound is grievous: but I said, Truly this is my grief, and I must bear it-
This was Jeremiah's pained interjection, but as often, we find his feelings are those of God. And so here in a context where the first person pronouns clearly refer to God and not Jeremiah, we read: “Woe is me for my hurt! My wound is grievous… truly this is a grief, and I must bear it. My tabernacle is spoiled… my children are gone forth… there is none to stretch forth my tent” (Jer. 10:18-20). This is the almost unbelievable extent of God’s pain and hurt for His people. Truly did it hurt God more than His children knew to punish them. "Hurt" is literally 'breaking'. God was broken by His people's behaviour. It is the word often used of the breaking up of Jerusalem and Judah (Jer. 4:6,20 etc.); but this as it were broke the heart of God (see on Jer. 8:21). The deadly, "grievous" wound suffered by Judah was felt by God as His "grief" (Jer. 6:7). We have a window here onto how the Father felt the sufferings of His Son, when "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself". To explain that as simply meaning "Jesus = God" is to miss so much that it is a tragic misinterpretation. The judgment sufferings for sin were thereby felt by the God who brought them. The very words for 'bearing grief' are used in Is. 53:4 of how the Lord Jesus bore the griefs of condemned Israel, and indeed all the people of God. For all have sinned and merit condemnation. Jeremiah at this point knew those essential feelings of the Messianic saviour figure, which were also the feelings of God. "I must bear it" would then be Jeremiah's desire to try to bear their condemnation, as ultimately only the Lord Jesus could do for Israel. He sees himself as the lamb led to slaughter in Jer. 11:19.

Jeremiah 10:20 My tent is destroyed, and all my cords are broken: my children are gone forth from me, and they are no more: there is none to spread my tent any more, and to set up my curtains-
God speaks of the tabernacle rather than the temple because it seems from :9 that they were constructing another tabernacle, but to the gods of Babylon. We noted on :9,12 that God had set up His tabernacle / tent just as He had stretched out the skies at creation. But the Jews were building another tabernacle to other gods. They had taken down Yahweh's tent thereby, and so God was as it were left homeless, able to identify with those left homeless. We deduce from the argument here how Almighty God is in a sense "in need of man", as Avraham Heschel put it. He had nobody to spread out His tent- He, the God who spread out the skies of the cosmos by His great power.

Jeremiah 10:21 For the shepherds are become primitive, and have not inquired of Yahweh: therefore they have not prospered, and all their flocks are scattered-
Those who ought to have set up the tabernacle in :20 were the priests and Levites, and they had turned away from Yahweh. This was especially hard for Jeremiah to utter, seeing he was from a priestly family. The shepherds, the priests, became "primitive", the same word used of the idols themselves in :8,14. They became like that which they worshipped (Ps. 115:8). Any shepherd / teacher should themselves be ever 'inquiring' of Yahweh. But they instead were learning all they could about idol worship (:1,2). They did not 'prosper', Heb. 'understand'; and so new pastors were needed, who would teach understanding (Jer. 3:15 s.w.).

Jeremiah 10:22 The voice of proclamation, behold, it comes, and a great commotion out of the north country-
The word for the "rushing" noise of the cherubim wheels in Ezekiel is used elsewhere about the noise of the chariots of Israel's enemies and the Babylonian invasion (Jer. 10:22; 47:3; Nah. 3:2). The Angelic armies of Heaven were therefore revealed on earth in the chariots of Babylon; it was both Babylon and the Angelic cherubim behind them who took Judah captive, and who could also return them to their land. Hence the stress in Ezekiel's vision that the wheels of the cherubim were on the earth / land. Clearly enough, the things that go on in our lives, even those things which appear as brutal and tragic as the Babylonian chariots were to Judah, are not random machinations of men; they are, in some unfathomable way, under the direct control of a God of love, who only means to do us good at our latter end.

To make the cities of Judah a desolation, a dwelling place of jackals- As explained on Jer. 9:10, this didn't completely happen to the extent here prophetically envisaged. The jackal comes to eat what the lion has left in the carcase; the idea was that after the lions of Babylon had finished with Jerusalem, there would be others who came to totally destroy her. But this didn't historically happen, because it seems God relented from the full execution of His wrath. The language here of Jerusalem's destruction into heaps haunted by jackals is applied to Babylon (Jer. 51:37). What latter day Babylon does to Jerusalem shall be done to her; and that is the theme of the book of Revelation, where the seals of judgment upon Israel become the vials of judgment upon the beast system.

Jeremiah 10:23 Yahweh, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man who walks to direct his steps-
The passage from :23-25 could be a prayer of Jeremiah, who recognizes his own sinfulness on a personal level. In this case we see how he prayed despite being asked by God not to pray (Jer. 7:16; 11:14; 14:7). But it could also be the wish or even fantasy of God for the repentance of the people; these are the words He imagines an individual repentant Israelite saying. The idea is perhaps that man cannot direct his path whilst he is walking; he must firstly direct his steps, and then walk accordingly. The way of Adam (Heb.) would allude to how Adam could not direct his own way back to the tree of life; the Angel cherubim would keep that way and direct man upon it (Gen. 3:24). Jeremiah sees the exile of Judah to the east as the driving out of Adam eastward from Eden, the same eretz Israel. And he knew now that it would not be of man, of Israel as it was not of Adam, to get back; it required the Angel cherubim to bring them back. And that was just the message of Ezekiel at this same time and context. It is Yahweh alone who can direct the steps of man (same words in Prov. 16:9).

Jeremiah 10:24 Yahweh, correct me, but in measure: not in Your anger, lest you bring me to nothing-
If this is a personal prayer of Jeremiah on behalf of the people, then perhaps God did hear; because He did indeed correct them "in measure" (s.w. Jer. 30:11 "I will correct you in measure, and not leave you altogether unpunished"), but the full extent of His prophesied anger [such as the destruction of all animal and human life in the land by fire] was not carried out. Judah were not literally 'brought to nothing'. This was in response to Jeremiah's prayer here- to correct / punish [s.w.] Judah, but not bring them to nothing. The same phrase "bring to nothing" is found in Jer. 30:19, where God promises that He will not bring Judah to nothing. This was in direct response to Jeremiah's prayer here. Jeremiah here is praying as representative of all Israel, just as he personally says "Amen" to the offer of the new covenant in Jer. 11:5.

Jeremiah 10:25 Pour out Your wrath on the nations that don’t know You, and on the families that don’t call on Your name: for they have devoured Jacob, yes, they have devoured him and consumed him, and have laid waste his habitation
- This could mean that although those nations were used by God to execute judgment, they were willing and eager to abuse Israel, and so were to be punished. Or perhaps they went beyond their commission, and it was for this that they were punished (Is. 10:6,7; 47:6; Zech. 1:15). Yet we could read Jeremiah here as out of step with God's hope that even Babylon would repent; and failing to realize the extent to which Judah deserved their punishments.