Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible
JEREMIAH CHAPTER 10
They are forbid to be afraid of the tokens of heaven, and consult idols, which are vain, Jeremiah 10:1-5, and not to be compared with the majesty and power of God, who is Jacob’s portion, Jeremiah 10:6-16. The Babylonians destroy the temple; the brutish pastors and the flocks are scattered, Jeremiah 10:17-22. The prophet’s humble supplication, Jeremiah 10:23-25.
Here begins another sermon, i.e. most probably relating to Jechonias and the Jews, that were already in captivity.
Israel; the ten tribes.
Learn not the way of the heathen: the Jews being to live among the Chaldeans in their captivity, where many of them were already, the prophet in this sermon admonisheth them against the superstitions of the Chaldean idolatries, which he understands here by
heathen, who were also much addicted to astrology, and esteemed it the original of sciences; the customs and their manners he calls here their way, as is frequent in Scripture, Leviticus 18:3 20:23.
Be not dismayed at the signs of heaven: this was a practice and study so common among them, that judicial astrologers, of what nation soever, were generally termed Chaldeans; a practice so hateful to God, that sometimes he positively prohibits it, Deuteronomy 18:10,14, and sometimes in a way of scorn and derision sarcastically sends them to such, Isaiah 47:13, and often labours to persuade against it; for though astronomy be not only lawful, but useful, as being subject to reason and the rules of art, whereby many actions of human life are directed, and guided, and proportioned, yet judiciary astrology is indeed originally diabolical and heathenish; and though God do suffer their predictions sometimes to fall out right, yet it is to punish the curiosity of the inquirer.
For the heathen are dismayed at them: q.d. Leave this to heathens; it doth not become God’s people, who do wholly depend upon him; for indeed the heathen, as many ignorant Christians do to this day, were more afraid of the signs of heaven and astrological predictions than of God, and what is foretold in his word of prophecy, as if things were governed rather by the influence of the stars than the providence of God; not but that we may be affected with such preternatural appearances in the world, which God doth extraordinarily cause to appear, as some tokens of his approaching judgments, Joel 2:30,31 Mt 24:7 Luke 21:11.
The customs of the people are vain, i.e. such courses, institutions, idolatrous customs, and ceremonies as these, that many people follow, they are vain, and it is a foolish and wicked thing that any that profess the true God should give heed to such lying vanities.
One cutteth a tree out of the forest: here he annexeth their idolatry to their astrology: q.d. They cut down timber to make the images and representations of these stars and planets that they fear and worship as gods, either in memorial of them, when they could not see them, or else upon a superstitious conceit that the stars which they worshipped did by some magic art convey some virtue or spirit into these statues or images; or rather, he doth set forth the folly of the heathen, that whereas for the matter of them, they are but a piece of wood, a tree out of the forest; and as to the form of them, no other than the carver, a sorry man, is pleased to put them into by his axe, which I suppose is here put for any cutting tool of the artist whereby he shapes it; yet they are afraid of these, as if they were gods, Isaiah 40:20. See Poole "Jeremiah 8:2".
A further description of their workmanship, having no other comeliness but what they confer upon it, and they no greater security or certainty of it than as they can with hammer and nail make it fast, and fix it to some place, the wooden god being not able to preserve itself from falling; therefore it is rather to be meant of fastening to some wall or pillar, than of fastening their parts together, because they seem to be cut out of one entire piece, and therefore need it not.
They are upright as the palm tree; the nature of which is to grow upright and tall, without any branchings, till it comes to the top, thereby possibly representing majesty.
But speak not; looking as if they were about to speak, standing in a speaking posture; but have not a word to utter, being only dumb stocks, wooden gods.
They must needs be borne, because they cannot go; they move no further or faster than you lift them, either when you go to set them up, or upon any occasion of removal, as stiff as stakes, being indeed but sticks.
Be not afraid of them; they can do you no more harm than the signs of heaven could do; they are but dead stocks. The heathens worshipped some idols that they might do them good, and others that they might do them no harm; but God tells them here, they can do neither good nor harm, as in the next words; they can neither punish nor reward; they can neither hurt their enemies, nor help their friends: by this the true God will be distinguished from idols, that he alone can foretell things to come, and he alone can reward or punish, Isaiah 48:5, and therefore the prophet endeavours to turn them off from their idols to the true God.
Forasmuch; this particle Nj min, is to be taken here causally, and refers either to what goes before, showing there is no comparison between God and idols; or rather, to what follows, as the ground and reason of all due subjection to God, as in the next verse.
Thy name is great, or, thou art transcendently great,
in might, i.e. though idols may have something of a name in the world among the heathen, yet there was nothing of their real power or might seen; or if the devil might act something through them to delude the world, yet nothing to be compared with that might that hath manifested itself in God’s works, Psalms 106:8 111:6. All the works of idols are either none, or feeble and weak, Jeremiah 10:8.
Who would not fear thee, O King of nations? he is called a great King, Malachi 1:14: q.d. Thou, by whom all nations are governed, and all affairs in them disposed, and by none else, who would worship any but thee, or be afraid of any but thee, seeing it is fit for, and therefore can belong to, none besides? as in the next words; it is thy right and due. Or, Who can be so stupid as not to acknowledge one Supreme Being, and this to be but one? as, among the heathens, Socrates, Plato, Seneca, and divers others did; and therefore is it not a prodigious thing that any should so withhold the truth in unrighteousness, be so gross as to worship many gods?
Among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like unto thee: q.d. If you search among all their wise men and philosophers, all the great men and rulers, in their kingdoms; for these the heathens were wont to worship as gods after death, wise men for their wisdom, and kings for their power; you will find none to compare with God, either for wisdom or power; their wise men are but as so many fools.
They are altogether brutish: the awe that the idol doth impress upon carnal men’s minds, and thereby taking them off from a due apprehension of the essence of God, doth keep them between such hope and fear, that they become as senseless and as inapprehensive of any true worship as brutes.
And foolish; not only some of them, but even all, both Jews and Gentiles: q.d. I need not stand to particularize, but take them altogether, they are become stupid idolaters, and have drank in the most gross superstitions of the Gentiles, as Romans 1:19,21.
The stock; a synecdoche put for all sorts of idols, of what materials soever; and a metonymy of the matter, to render them contemptible, either as deluding the ignorant, or in themselves considered; they are mere vain, foolish, helpless things.
Is a doctrine of vanities; the Hebrew word musar is taken for bad instruction, Proverbs 16:22: q. d. It is an easy matter to prove them very fools and brutish, when they look upon a stock, a piece of wood, to be their god, which hath neither knowledge nor providence, and therefore must needs be a doctrine of vanity, when they think to be taught devotion by images, which is a teacher of lies; that saith to the dumb stone, It shall teach, Habakkuk 2:18,19; like that doctrine of devils first broached by Pope Gregory, who first commended Serenus bishop of Massilia for not permitting images to be worshipped, but reproved him for throwing them out of the church, because they serve for ornaments and laymen’s books, which since hath been received as a catholic doctrine, that images are laymen’s books.
Silver spread into plates; it was not wood washed with gold, nor massy silver or gold, but covered over with plates of silver or gold, Exodus 39:3.
From Tarshish; from some remote place, probably from Spain, whence the best gold came; Tarshish is the proper name of a sea-town in Cilicia, Ezekiel 27:12,25 Jon 1:3; and being a noted port, from whence they had passage to Africa, India, and other remote countries, it is usually put for the ocean, and may as well signify from any place beyond the sea. If you take it properly, then possibly it is noted as the best silver coming from thence, as Uphaz for the best gold; for though we read also of gold coming from thence, 1 Kings 10:22 2 Chronicles 9:21, yet where the most proper commodities of it are mentioned we read of no gold, Ezekiel 27:12, unless what seems rather to be brought thither, Jeremiah 10:22.
Gold from Uphaz, i.e. probably the best gold, coming from thence in those days, as the best silver from Tarshish, and that here was the best gold is probable from Daniel 10:5. There are various conjectures at what place this points at, whether the same with Phas, or Fez, by an aphaeresis, or Ophir, a place not far from Tarshish; and divers other places are conjectured; and some think it refers to no place at all, but to point at the excellency of the gold only. But it is not the design that this comment should swell with things rather conjectural than profitable, it is enough to know that this place intends the purest gold.
The work of the workman, and of the hands of the founder: thus, saith he, the artificer takes it, and each, according to his art, shapes it and adorns it; fits the silver and the gold for it.
Blue and purple is their clothing: expositors differing about the materials out of which they were dyed, do differ also in the colours, which here are called blue and purple; the dispute is not worth the while in a vulgar comment, they that will may consult the English Annotations. Either this relates to the further adorning those rich idols of silver and gold; or it implies other artists, such as shape, or sew silk or cloth, woollen or linen, made use of to make these garments for those idols of more inferior materials, as wood or stone, the other being sufficiently beautified without them.
They are all the work of cunning men, i.e. the choicest men in their respective arts were picked out for this work, that there might be nothing wanting as to exactness, richness, and curiosity; all this the prophet speaks the more to ridicule their idols, as if all this would put any thing of power, virtue, or excellency in them, still deest aliquit intus.
The Lord is the true God: q. d. All these are but false gods: Jehovah is the alone true God; they are but lies, and the teachers of lies. God is truth itself, and that both in regard of his essence, as it is ascribed to Christ, 1 John 5:20; and also in regard of his faithfulness, Numbers 23:19 Psalms 31:5.
He is the living God; these are all but dead stocks and stones, Jehovah is the only living God, having life in himself, and giving life to all things else, John 5:21,26. Hence these idols are not only more base than any other creature, but even viler than the matter itself of which they are made.
An everlasting King: these, though accounted kings, and countenanced by kings, yet both they and their kings do all perish; time devours them all with worm or rust, or by injuries and violence offered to them, as in the next verse; but none of these or any thing else can affect the true God, he is
At his wrath the earth shall tremble; he can with his look or frown make the foundations of the heaven and the earth to shake, whereas these stocks can move them no more than they can themselves, which is not one hair’s breadth from their stations.
The nations shall not be able to abide his indignation; not able either to stop it or bear it, but must stoop and fall under it, Psalms 76:7; the wicked will not be able to stand in judgment, Psalms 1:5.
Say unto them, viz. to your great lords, the Babylonians, when they shall solicit you to worship idols.
The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth: this seems to have some allusion to a saying common among those Greeks that held one supreme Deity, Let him that saith he is a god make another world. Here is noted both how frail they are,
they shall perish; and how weak they are, they could not make
the heavens or the earth. This verse is writ in the Chaldean tongue, and not in the Hebrew, that when they came among them that did worship their idols, they might openly and plainly profess the true God in that language, which the enemies understood better than they did the Hebrew, and that in such kind of bold language as this; Let all those gods perish from off the earth, and under the heavens, that were not able to make either. It is an imprecation upon their idols.
In this and the next verse the prophet enumerates some particulars wherein he is transcendently above all creatures which he hath made, much more above idols, which are the works of man’s hands.
The earth, Acts 14:15, i.e. the whole globe, consisting of waters as well as earth.
By his power: it must needs speak an almighty power to make such a vast body; where would the idols have found materials of which to have composed such a body and bulk? the true God was not at a loss, he drew them out of nothing, and commanded them into a being by the word of his power, Genesis 1:1.
He hath established the world by his wisdom; either he hath made it firm, solid, and unmovable, i.e. off from its basis, or rather centre; (for it is out of our sphere and province here to meddle either with the fixation or the motion of it, that is left to the old and new philosophers to dispute among themselves;) or else by establishing we understand he hath appointed it its use, or hath prepared it to be every way subservient to the inhabitants thereof, both as to delight in prospect, and varieties of recreation, by its ornamental parts in mountains, little hills, woods, meadows, fields, &c., and necessity to accommodate man and beast with all things useful, both for habitation and provision, to sustain the natural life, and to praise and magnify the founder of it, Genesis 1:11,12; all which cannot choose but greatly manifest the unsearchable wisdom of God. And hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion: these are
stretched out, i.e. expanded and spread over our head, through the whole circumference of the earth, with all their glorious furniture, and varieties of motions, moving regularly in their several orbs, i.e. not varying the least degree, either in time or space, from the order and law that God hath set them, even in those which are more eccentric and erratic; which must needs argue an unparalleled skill and understanding in God, which the word discretion doth here properly signify, Exodus 36:1 Job 12:13; all which are his handiwork, and do declare his glory, Psalms 19:1.
As in the former verse he relates God’s unspeakable power and wisdom in his creating and fixing the stated order of things; so here he further sets it forth in his providential ordering and disposing their accidents.
When he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters; i.e. either at his command, when he is pleased to call for the rain; or rather, when he thundereth in the heavens, Job 37:4,5 Psa 77:18: though it often rains when it thunders not, and thunders when it rains not, yet when it rains and thunders the rain usually falls more forcibly from the clouds, and in more sudden plenty, as it were a more immediate consequent of it.
The heavens, viz. the lowest heaven, the region of the air.
The vapours; exhalations, whether wet or dry, causing wind or rain, by the ascending whereof the lower heavens gather them into clouds, which, when full and burdened, descend in showers for the conveniences of the earth and springs.
He maketh lightnings with rain: though fire and water be contrary, yet it opens the clouds to make way for the rain, and is produced in the midst of waters, all which is wonderful.
And bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures; which, partly, notes that it is secret and hidden, as coming from the caverns and hollow parts of the earth; no man knows from whence they come, or whither they go, John 3:8; and it is wonderful to observe how suddenly at a calm time the winds will rise how they will whirl about, how various, unconstant, and contrary in their motions; and partly, the plenty, both for vehemency and continuance, signified also by treasures, the plenty of snow and hail being thus expressed, Job 38:22; and partly, that it is at his disposal to bring out of his treasure when he pleases. See Psalms 135:7.
Every man is brutish in his knowledge: some limit it to the makers of these idols, that can employ their arts and wits to no better purpose than to frame such stocks into gods; this suits the next expression. Men are bewitched and besotted by these things, so as to see no more into their folly than if they were brutes; and the reason that it hath taken such root may be, because of men’s so much admiring the art of carving and painting, or rather through their ignorance: q.d. It is for want of knowledge and understanding that men are thus brutish, Isaiah 44:18.
Every founder is confounded by the graven image; either it shall turn to his reproach; or rather, he shall see his folly, and shall be ashamed of it when he shall discover it, that ever he should make such a thing, and trust in it, and expose it to be adored by others.
His molten image is falsehood; it is not that which it pretends to be, but a deceitful thing, a lie; they turn the truth of God into a lie, Romans 1:25.
There is no breath in them; they have nothing of life in them; nay, that very vegetative life that once was in their stocks is now lost; much less are they spirits sent down from heaven.
They are vanity, and the work of errors; either in their rise, as springing from men of corrupt minds, or the foundation of them; a metonymy of the effect; teachers and encouragers of lies, Habakkuk 2:18; things rather to be scoffed at and derided, than adored and worshipped; and it is expressed in the plural number, to note the multiplicity of them.
In the time of their visitation they shall perish; when God shall have a controversy with them, shall come to reckon with Babylon and her idols, they and their worshippers shall be destroyed, alluding possibly to the manner of the pagan conquests, who were wont to carry away both persons and the idols of the country, and either break them to pieces, or burn them; thus were they served by, the Persians: see on Isaiah 46:1. This possibly may be spoken by way of encouragement to the Jews, that took offence at the Chaldean idols that were set up in their sight; that God may strengthen their patience he tells them he visits them in mercy, and their enemies in judgment; he will destroy those idols.
The portion of Jacob; a periphrasis for the true God, who vouchsafeth to be the portion of his people and to be so called, Deuteronomy 32:9 Psalms 16:5, and many other places, because he is in covenant with his people in the Messiah, whose co-heirs are as dear to him as a portion is that descends to a man by inheritance; and he tells you his name in the close of the verse, Isaiah 47:4, one who hath the whole host of heaven and earth at his disposal.
He is the former of all things; idols are things framed and formed, but God is the former of all things, the Maker of heaven and earth.
Israel is the rod of his inheritance; so called, because the portions and inheritances of Israel were measured by a line, reed, or rod, and therefore called the
rod of his inheritance, Deuteronomy 32:9 Psalms 74:2, and because they were his by a continual line of succession; beside Israel is jbv schebet, the rod or sceptre of his inheritance, because God did set up his kingdom in Israel.
The prophet now enters upon another subject, and probably begins another sermon.
Gather up thy wares, i.e. every thing thou hast any advantage by, not only thy domestic concerns, but all thy traffic and merchandise, wherever thou hast any concerns in the land, as men use to do in case of invasion by an enemy, to secure them. It seems to be a sarcasm, or kind of military derision.
O inhabitant of the fortress: this is understood by some as spoken to the Babylonians, that they should make provision for their escape, their idols being not able to save them; but this seems to be remote from the prophet’s meaning. It is rather therefore directed to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that being the chief place of security in Judea, and by a synecdoche to all other places that they promised themselves security in; the approaching destruction being to pass through the whole country.
I will sling out; it notes with how much violence, and speed, and with ease the Chaldeans shall hurry away the people into Babylon, as the stone doth swiftly and violently pass which is thrown out of a sling, with so much ease, and therefore it is said at at this once; I will not delay, but make one thorough quick work of it; noting not only the time, but implying the clear riddance the he would make of them, 2 Chronicles 36:17-19: they had been often assaulted by enemies, and sometimes they redeemed themselves, sometimes delivered by God, their enemies being sometimes divided; but it should not be so now, but all swept away. That they may find it so; that they may see I am in good earnest, that I have not only said it, but they shall find that I will execute it; and though they would never believe it, yet they shall actually find the truth of my threatenings. See Jeremiah 5:12,13 Eze 6:10.
Here the prophet doth not so much express his own sorrow, though that be great, as personate the sorrow and complaint that the land, i.e. the people of the land, manifest. or at least ought to do; which because they do not, causeth no little grief in the prophet himself, who cannot but be affected with their condition, which he calls not only a hurt, but a wound, and both of them very grievous.
But I said, Truly this is a grief, and I must bear it; or rather, but I better considered it, and said within myself, I were as good be silent; it is indeed a grief grievous in itself, and grievous that I must smother it, and not complain, but it is my duty to bear it patiently. There is in this expression a double necessary preparation to repentance, viz.
1. An acknowledgment that they had deservedly brought the judgment upon themselves, and that therefore,
2. They would patiently bear it; and it doth imply something of their stupidity: q.d. We could not have imagined the damage could have been so very great, but now we see how it is, we will patiently bear the indignation of the Lord, because we have sinned against him. If this be not the meaning, then it is a further obstinate persisting in their rebelling: q.d. Seeing it must be so, truly it is very grievous, but I am bound now to bear it and rub through it as well as I can; a further persisting in their pertinacy, but I incline most to the former sense.
He proceeds in his prosopopoeia to bring in the land, or the inhabitants thereof, enumerating their calamities, and by a metaphor sets out the overthrow of the land, or Jerusalem, by the breaking of the
cords of a tabernacle, the use whereof is to fasten it on every side to stakes in the ground, which cords being broken the tabernacle falls, implying all the supports of city and country were gone, nothing but desolation to be expected. See Jeremiah 4:20.
My children are gone forth of me; either the inhabitants of the land, or the lesser cities, being frequently called daughters, viz. the Chaldeans have snatched them away from me, and carried them into captivity.
They are not; of the phrase and meaning of it see Jeremiah 31:15. There is none to stretch forth my tent any more, i.e. it is irrevocable, I am without all help, either for defence or beauty, or any thing to regain my pristine state, which he chooseth to describe hereby, continuing this metaphor rather than any other, of a shepherd’s tent; possibly insinuating the ground of it to arise principally from their pastors, the neglect both of their civil and ecclesiastical governors, which the next verse favours.
The pastors are become brutish; not that the prophet takes off all blame from the people, but that he layeth it chiefly upon the rulers of church and state; for so is pastor taken frequently. See Jeremiah 23:1-3,
And have not sought the Lord; not sought unto him, and taken him into their counsels.
Therefore they shall not prosper: the prophet gives the reason why nothing went well with them, namely, because there was no regard had to godliness, without which we cannot expect a blessing upon any thing.
All their flocks shall be scattered, i.e. all that have been committed to their care shall be carried unto Babylon, and divers of them dispersed abroad into several countries for their sakes.
The prophet had divers times sounded this alarm in their ears, but to very little purpose; his words seemed but as idle tales, they believed him not: he speaks of it partly as one conceiving what dreadful commotions and concussions would be upon the land by the clattering of arms, prancings and neighings of horses, sounding of trumpets, and rattling of chariots, making as it were the earth to shake under them, when that vast army of the Chaldeans should furiously break in upon them. Partly, insinuating an antithesis, opposing the voice of God’s prophets, that had so often spoken of this, but they would not hear, against this dreadful noise, which they should not but hear, and see, and feel too. So that they that would not learn of God’s prophets shall be sent to harder masters, that shall teach them in a manner as Gideon did the men of Succoth, Jude 8:16.
The north country: see Jeremiah 1:14 5:15.
A den of dragons. See Poole "Jeremiah 9:11"
The prophet finding that all he could say prevailed nothing upon this people, but they rather grew worse, he turns himself to God. How far these words concern Pelagianism, or free-will, either one way or other, or whether at all, concerns not this comment; they seem literally to be the words of the prophet, relating either to himself and other holy men: q.d. It is not in our power, neither do we presume, to stop this decree of thine against Judea: or else to the enemies in general, or Nebuchadnezzar in particular: q.d. We know all their marches and designs are of thine appointing, and all their achievements of thine ordering, it is thy providence that directs every step they take against this land, without whom no counsels shall prosper, who alone turnest men’s hearts which way thou pleasest, Proverbs 21:1, who canst bring men on, or turn them back, as thou seest good, Isaiah 37:29, so that no man’s way is properly his own, to give them what success he will: or to the people, whereby he doth tacitly insinuate that all the counsels and measures they think to take, whether by their own strength at home, or confederacies and alliances abroad, will avail nothing; however they may think to escape by some devices or stratagems of their own, it is to no purpose, God can overturn all in a moment, when men think their counsels are ripe, and they want nothing but execution: or lastly, as others think, this is by way of petition: q.d. Lord, we know it is not in our power to divert these judgments that are coming upon us by the Chaldeans, but thou canst moderate and limit them as thou pleasest; seeing all their designs are ordered by thy providence, they cannot do any thing against us without thy permission: this the next verse seems to favour.
O Lord, correct me: q.d. Seeing thou wilt bring the Chaldeans upon us to punish us for our sins, let it be a correction only, not a destruction and utter ruin.
But with judgment; let it be in measure, in judgment, i.e. in wisdom, proportioning it as a father toward his children, Jeremiah 30:11; for so the Hebrew mishpat signifies, and thus judgment is taken, Isaiah 30:18. We refuse not correction, but we cast ourselves upon thee, therefore in the midst of judgment remember mercy.
Not in thine anger; the reason of this he gives in the next clause; lest if thou shouldst let out thy fury. upon me, thou wouldst
bring me to nothing, i.e. thou wouldst utterly consume me, or make me few, as Heb., that I should be no more a people, never lift up the head again.
Pour out thy fury upon the heathen: this may imply both petition, that God would do so, and prediction, that God will certainly do so, which toward the close of the prophecy we find was fulfilled, God first sending the king of Babylon to overthrow divers of the heathen nations, and then Babylon itself destroyed with a great destruction. He will make a difference between us and the heathen, such as
know thee not, i.e. such as do not acknowledge and own thee for their God: the phrase is frequent; 1 Samuel 2:12 Job 18:21 2 Thessalonians 1:8: the sense is expressed here in the next words, that do not call on thy name. That call not on thy name; a synecdoche, one part of worship put for the whole: q.d. If thou wilt be pouring out thy fury, the effects of it be to thine enemies, not unto thine own people, who worship thee.
For they have eaten up Jacob, and devoured him, and consumed him, and have made his habitation desolate: here he gives a reason as a motive to God why he should do so; which words see explained on Psalms 79:5-7, whence they are taken, and possibly Jeremiah himself was the author of that Psalm after the city was destroyed, and he carried into Egypt; and for the phrase of devouring him, see Jeremiah 8:16.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Jeremiah 10". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24