Jeremiah 10


This is God versus idols. It shows the stupidity of idols. This whole chapter was written shortly before the Babylonian capture of Jerusalem for the first time. And at that time, they were well into idolatry. One of the things they would do was to chop down a tree, carve it into some shape, and worship it as their god! They needed to be told, over and over again, that this was ridiculous. So, this was another warning.

And because this chapter mentions the nearness of a Babylonian invasion, it was appropriate that Jeremiah should give the people another dramatic warning not only about their existing idolatry but especially of the idolatry that they were sure to face in Babylon.

Some people believe that Jeremiah took this description of idols almost word for word from Isaiah’s chapters 40-44. I agree it’s similar, but they were, after all, talking about the same thing that was happening amongst their people, so wouldn’t expect it to be much different!

I do like, in particular, one extract from Isaiah on the subject, from chapter 44 Isaiah says that a man cuts down a tree and in verse 16, ‘Half of the wood he burns in the fire, over he prepares his meal and warms himself. From the rest he makes his god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, ‘Save me, you? are my god.’

They know nothing. They understand nothing.

‘Hear what the LORD says to you, people of Israel. This is what the LORD says: ‘Do not learn the ways of the nations or be terrified by signs in the heavens, though the nations are terrified by them. For the practices of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel.’ Jeremiah 10:1-3

There is absolutely no way that Jeremiah could have made it any clearer. It was to help the Jews to reject the idol worship that they would encounter in Babylon.

‘They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails, so it will not totter. Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm, nor can they do any good.’ No one is like you, LORD; you are great, and your name is mighty in power. Who should not fear you, King of the nations? This is your due. Among all the wise leaders of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like you. They are all senseless and foolish; they are taught by worthless wooden idols. Hammered silver is brought from Tarshish and gold from Uphaz. What the craftsman and goldsmith have made is then dressed in blue and purple—all made by skilled workers. But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King. When he is angry, the earth trembles; the nations cannot endure his wrath. ‘Tell them this: ‘These gods, who did not make the heavens and the earth, will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.’ Jeremiah 10:4-11

Jeremiah described the foolishness of idol making. Idols cannot speak or go anywhere. They can do nothing. They are stupid and foolish. The only power of an idol, or fetish, is in the minds of those who make them. And this is the point. Idols are made in order to reinforce the misguided minds of those who make and honour them. They are physical representations of those who are ignorant of the true and living God.

God was not only the king of Israel but all nations of the world. Since He is the king of the nations, then all nations should give honour to Him. He is the source of wisdom and knowledge. The god that is represented by every idol can be understood simply because the idol god is the product of the human mind. But the God who created all things is beyond our full comprehension. Men make idol gods. But the God of all things created the minds of men.

‘But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding. When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar; he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth. He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses. Everyone is senseless and without knowledge; every goldsmith is shamed by his idols. The images he makes are a fraud; they have no breath in them.’ Jeremiah 10:12-14

Jeremiah lists here the three things that God used in preparing a home for human creation.

1. The earth by His power.

2. By His wisdom he founded the world as a dwelling place for humans. And

3. He stretched out the heavens by His understanding, i.e. provided an atmospheric shield to protect humans from radiation, etc.

Every thunderstorm is a witness to the might, power and wisdom of God.

‘Every goldsmith is ashamed by his idols’. Any person who can see the violence and strength of a thunderstorm, and then worship an idol made of wood or stone, a production of his own hands, as his god, has no intelligence whatsoever.

‘They are worthless, the objects of mockery; when their judgment comes, they will perish. He who is the Portion of Jacob is not like these, for he is the Maker of all things, including Israel, the people of his inheritance—the LORD Almighty is his name.’ Jeremiah 10:15-16

These verses emphasise that man-made idols are only worthy of contempt. The almighty, living God, who created the heavens and the earth, and contrasted here with the idols.

‘Gather up your belongings to leave the land, you who live under siege. For this is what the LORD says: ‘At this time I will hurl out those who live in this land; I will bring distress on them so that they may be captured.’ Woe to me because of my injury! My wound is incurable! Yet I said to myself, ‘This is my sickness, and I must endure it.’ My tent is destroyed; all its ropes are snapped. My children are gone from me and are no more; no one is left now to pitch my tent or to set up my shelter. The shepherds are senseless and do not inquire of the LORD; so, they do not prosper and all their flock is scattered. Listen! The report is coming—a great commotion from the land of the north! It will make the towns of Judah desolate, a haunt of jackals.’ Jeremiah 10:17-22

In the very sad picture that is shown here, Jerusalem is compared to tent-dwellers. Here is a mother whose tent has been destroyed and her children taken from her. Nobody is left to help her blame is on the leaders who didn’t ask God for any help.

Then the scene changes. Destruction is approaching from the north. Jeremiah’s sorrow over the fate of the people is so great. In fact, he has identified himself with this so much that it seems as if the destruction is his own.

‘LORD, I know that people’s lives are not their own; it is not for them to direct their steps. Discipline me, LORD, but only in due measure—not in your anger, or you will reduce me to nothing. Pour out your wrath on the nations that do not acknowledge you, on the peoples who do not call on your name. For they have devoured Jacob; they have devoured him completely and destroyed his homeland.’ Jeremiah 10:23-25

This is known as Jeremiah’s prayer. According to the Jews, only the Gentiles should suffer God’s wrath and punishment. After all, weren’t they, the Jews, God’s chosen people? So, in his prayer. Jeremiah poured out his wrath and indignation upon the Gentiles who were the cause of Judah s problems.

Let me give you a little advanced history here. History shows us that Jeremiah’s prayer was captivity, God made it possible for all who wanted, to go back to Judah. But Babylon was ruthlessly destroyed by the Medo-Persians.

Deity and idolatry are contrasted, basically, God is mocking, having a good laugh at the idols. Psalm 115:1-9 is a good parallel passage.

Let us look at some contrasts.

Deity and idolatry

          God is the creator                                 Man is a creator of idols

      God’s works are superior                               Man’s are inferior

God is king over the earth                        Man simply occupies it

God reigns over the nations                  Man dishonours God’s reign

God is a maker                                      Man is a failure

God guides                       Man doesn’t know which way to take

Contrast God and idols

                      God is all wise                                      idols are empty

                     God is powerful                                 idols are powerless

                        God is living                                       idols are lifeless

God speaks                                         idols are dumb

God is all-sufficient                                idols are deficient

No wonder the people are confused, trusting in these idols. And that is why they are going into captivity.

Go To Jeremiah 11



"'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the LORD."