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The Lord, not Idols, is the Only Worthy Object of Worship

10 You people of Israel,[a] listen to what the Lord has to say to you.

The Lord says:

“Do not start following pagan religious practices.[b]
Do not be in awe of signs that occur[c] in the sky
even though the nations hold them in awe.
For the religion[d] of these people is worthless.
They cut down a tree in the forest,
and a craftsman makes it into an idol with his tools.[e]
He decorates it with overlays of silver and gold.
He uses hammer and nails to fasten it[f] together
so that it will not fall over.
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.”[g]

I said,[h]

“There is no one like you, Lord.[i]
You are great,
and you are renowned for your power.[j]
Everyone should revere you, O King of all nations,[k]
because you deserve to be revered.[l]
For there is no one like you
among any of the wise people of the nations nor among any of their kings.[m]
The people of those nations[n] are both stupid and foolish.
Instruction from a wooden idol is worthless![o]
Hammered-out silver is brought from Tarshish[p]
and gold is brought from Ufaz[q] to cover those idols.[r]
They are the handiwork of carpenters and goldsmiths.[s]
They are clothed in blue and purple clothes.[t]
They are all made by skillful workers.[u]
10 The Lord is the only true God.
He is the living God and the everlasting King.
When he shows his anger the earth shakes.
None of the nations can stand up to his fury.
11 You people of Israel should tell those nations this:
‘These gods did not make heaven and earth.
They will disappear[v] from the earth and from under the heavens.’[w]
12 The Lord is the one who[x] by his power made the earth.
He is the one who by his wisdom established the world.
And by his understanding he spread out the skies.
13 When his voice thunders,[y] the heavenly ocean roars.
He makes the clouds rise from the far-off horizons.[z]
He makes the lightning flash out in the midst of the rain.
He unleashes the wind from the places where he stores it.[aa]
14 All these idolaters[ab] will prove to be stupid and ignorant.
Every goldsmith will be disgraced by the idol he made.
For the image he forges is merely a sham.[ac]
There is no breath in any of those idols.[ad]
15 They are worthless, mere objects to be mocked.[ae]
When the time comes to punish them, they will be destroyed.
16 The Lord, who is the inheritance[af] of Jacob’s descendants,[ag] is not like them.
He is the one who created everything.
And the people of Israel are those he claims as his own.[ah]
His name is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”[ai]

Jeremiah Laments for and Prays for the People Soon to be Judged

17 “Gather your belongings together and prepare to leave the land,
you people of Jerusalem who are being besieged.[aj]
18 For the Lord says, ‘I will now throw out
those who live in this land.
I will bring so much trouble on them
that they will actually feel it.’[ak]
19 And I cried out,[al] ‘We are doomed![am]
Our wound is severe!’
We once thought, ‘This is only an illness.
And we will be able to bear it.’[an]
20 But our tents have been destroyed.
The ropes that held them in place have been ripped apart.[ao]
Our children are gone and are not coming back.[ap]
There is no survivor to put our tents back up,
no one left to hang their tent curtains in place.
21 For our leaders[aq] are stupid.
They have not sought the Lord’s advice.[ar]
So they do not act wisely,
and the people they are responsible for[as] have all been scattered.
22 Listen! News is coming even now.[at]
The rumble of a great army is heard approaching[au] from a land in the north.[av]
It is coming to turn the towns of Judah into rubble,
places where only jackals live.
23 Lord, we know that people do not control their own destiny.[aw]
It is not in their power to determine what will happen to them.[ax]
24 Correct us, Lord, but only in due measure.[ay]
Do not punish us in anger or you will reduce us to nothing.[az]
25 Vent your anger on the nations that do not acknowledge you.[ba]
Vent it on the peoples[bb] who do not worship you.[bc]
For they have destroyed the people of Jacob.[bd]
They have completely destroyed them[be]
and left their homeland in utter ruin.”


  1. Jeremiah 10:1 tn Heb “house of Israel.”
  2. Jeremiah 10:2 tn Heb “Do not learn the way of the nations.” For this use of the word “ways” (דֶּרֶךְ, derekh) compare, for example, Jer 12:16 and Isa 2:6.
  3. Jeremiah 10:2 tn Heb “signs.” The words “that occur” are supplied in the translation for The Hebrew word translated here as “things that go on in the sky” (אֹתוֹת, ʾotot) refers to unusual disturbances such as eclipses, comets, meteors, etc., but also to such things as changes in position of the sun, moon, and stars in conjunction with the changes in seasons (cf. Gen 1:14). The people of Assyria and Babylonia worshiped the sun, moon, and stars, thinking that these heavenly bodies had some hold over them.
  4. Jeremiah 10:3 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. Cf. 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.”
  5. Jeremiah 10:3 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 (הוּא, hu’, “it,” functioning as subject for an understood verb) 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: “for a tree from the forest, one cuts it down, a work of hands of a craftsman with the chisel.”
  6. Jeremiah 10:4 tn The pronoun is plural in Hebrew, referring to the parts.
  7. Jeremiah 10:5 tn Heb “And it is not in them to do good either.”
  8. Jeremiah 10:6 tn The words “I said” are not in the Hebrew text, but there appears to be a shift in speaker. Someone is now addressing the Lord. The likely speaker is Jeremiah, so the words “I said” are supplied in the translation for clarity.
  9. Jeremiah 10:6 tn The form that introduces this line has raised debate. The form מֵאֵין (meʾen) normally means “without” and introduces a qualification of a term expressing desolation, or it means “so that not” and introduces a negative result (cf. BDB 35 s.v. II אַיִן 6.b). Neither of these nuances fit either this verse or the occurrence in v. 7. BDB 35 s.v. II אַיִן 6.b.γ notes that some have explained this as a strengthened form of אַיִן (ʾayin), which occurs in a similar phrase five other times (cf., e.g., 1 Kgs 8:23). Though many, including BDB, question the validity of this solution, it is probably better than the suggestion that BDB gives of repointing to מֵאַיִן (meʾayin, “whence”), which scarcely fits the context of v. 7, or the solution of HALOT 41 s.v. I אַיִן, which suggests that the מ (mem) is a double writing (dittograph) of the final consonant from the preceding word. That would assume that the scribe made the same error twice (also in v. 7) or was influenced the second time by the first erroneous writing.
  10. Jeremiah 10:6 tn Heb “Great is your name in power.”
  11. Jeremiah 10:7 tn Heb “Who should not revere you…?” The question is rhetorical and expects a negative answer.
  12. Jeremiah 10:7 tn Heb “For it is fitting to you.”
  13. Jeremiah 10:7 tn Heb “their royalty/dominion.” This is a case of substituting the abstract “royalty, royal power” for the concrete “kings” who exercise it.
  14. Jeremiah 10:8 tn Or “Those wise people and kings are…” It is unclear whether the subject is the “they” of the nations in the preceding verse, or the wise people and kings referred to there. The text merely has “they.”
  15. Jeremiah 10:8 tn Heb “The instruction of vanities [worthless idols] is wood.” The interpretation of this line is a little uncertain. Various proposals have been made, most of which involve radical emendation of the text. For some examples see J. A. Thompson, Jeremiah (NICOT), 323-24, fn 6. However, this is probably a case of the bold predication discussed in GKC 452 §141.d, some examples of which may be seen in Ps 109:4 (“I am prayer”) and Ps 120:7 (“I am peace”).
  16. Jeremiah 10:9 tc Two Qumran scrolls of Jeremiah (4QJera and 4QJerb) reflect a Hebrew text that is very different than the traditional MT from which modern Bibles have been translated. The Hebrew text in these two manuscripts is similar to that from which LXX was translated. This is true both in small details and in major aspects where the LXX differs from MT. Most notably, 4QJera, 4QJerb and LXX present a version of Jeremiah about 13% shorter than the longer version found in MT. One example of this shorter text is Jer 10:3-11 in which MT and 4QJera both have all nine verses, while LXX and 4QJerb both lack vv. 6-8 and 10, which extol the greatness of God. In addition, the latter part of v. 9 is arranged differently in LXX and 4QJerb. The translation here follows MT, which is supported by 4QJera.
  17. Jeremiah 10:9 tn This is a place of unknown location. It is mentioned again in Dan 10:5. Many emend the word to “Ophir” following the Syriac version and the Aramaic Targum. Ophir was famous for its gold (cf. 1 Kgs 9:28; Job 28:16).
  18. Jeremiah 10:9 tn The words “to cover those idols” are not in the text but are implicit from the context. They are supplied in the translation for clarity.
  19. Jeremiah 10:9 tn The words “They are” are not in the text. The text reads merely, “the work of the carpenter and of the hands of the goldsmith.” The words are supplied in the translation for clarity.
  20. Jeremiah 10:9 tn Heb “Blue and purple their clothing.”
  21. Jeremiah 10:9 sn There is an ironic pun in this last line. The Hebrew word translated “skillful workers” is the same word that is translated “wise people” in v. 7. The artisans do their work skillfully but they are not “wise.”
  22. Jeremiah 10:11 tn Aram “The gods who did not make…earth will disappear…” In conformity with contemporary English style, the sentence is broken up in the translation to avoid a long, complex English sentence.
  23. Jeremiah 10:11 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 that was later incorporated into the text. Both R. E. Clendenen (“Discourse Strategies in Jeremiah 10, ” JBL 106 [1987]: 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 Lord and idols in vv. 2-16. God gives Israel a message for the nations in the lingua franca of the time. Holladay shows that the passage is a very carefully constructed chiasm (see accompanying study note). This fact argues that “these” at the end is the subject of the verb “will disappear,” not an attributive adjective modifying heaven. He also makes a very good case that the verse is poetry and not the prose that it is rendered in the majority of modern English This passage is carefully structured and placed to contrast the Lord, who is living and eternal (v. 10) and made the heavens and earth (v. 12), with the idols, who did not and will disappear. It also has a very careful, concentric structure in the original text where “the gods” is balanced by “these,” “heavens” by “from under the heavens,” and “the earth” by “from the earth.” In the very center, “did not make” is balanced and contrasted by “will disappear.” The structure is further reinforced by the sound play/wordplay between “did not make” (Aram לָא עֲבַדוּ [laʾ ʿavadu]) and “will disappear” (Aram יֵאבַדוּ [yeʾvadu]). This is the rhetorical climax of Jeremiah’s sarcastic attack on the folly of idolatry.
  24. Jeremiah 10:12 tn The words “The Lord is” are not in the text. They are implicit from the context. They are supplied in the translation here because of possible confusion about who the subject is due to the parenthetical address to the people of Israel in v. 11. The first two verbs are participles and should not merely be translated as the narrative past. They are predicate nominatives of an implied copula intending to contrast the Lord, as the one who made the earth, with the idols, which did not.
  25. Jeremiah 10:13 tn Heb “At the voice of his giving.” The idiom “to give the voice” is often used for thunder (cf. BDB 679 s.v. נָתַן Qal.1.x).
  26. Jeremiah 10:13 tn Heb “from the ends of the earth.”
  27. Jeremiah 10:13 tn Heb “he brings out the winds from his storehouses.”
  28. Jeremiah 10:14 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.
  29. Jeremiah 10:14 tn Or “nothing but a phony god”; Heb “a lie/falsehood.”
  30. Jeremiah 10:14 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.
  31. Jeremiah 10:15 tn Or “objects of mockery.”
  32. Jeremiah 10:16 tn The words “The Lord who is” are not in the text. They are supplied in the translation for clarity. For the significance of the words after them see the study note that In the phrase the inheritance of Jacob’s descendants, “inheritance” could be translated “portion.” Applied to God here, the phrase has its background in Joshua’s division of the land of Canaan (Palestine), where each tribe received a land portion except the tribe of Levi, whose “portion” was the Lord. As the other tribes lived off what their portion of the land provided, the tribe of Levi lived off what the Lord provided, i.e., the tithes and offerings dedicated to him. Hence to have the Lord as one’s portion, one’s inheritance, is to have him provide for all one’s needs (see Ps 16:5 in the context of vv. 2, 6, and Lam 3:24 in the context of vv. 22-23).
  33. Jeremiah 10:16 tn Heb “The Portion of Jacob.” “Descendants” is implied, and is supplied in the translation for clarity.
  34. Jeremiah 10:16 tn Heb “And Israel is the tribe of his possession.”
  35. Jeremiah 10:16 tn Heb “Yahweh of Armies.”sn For this rendering of the name for God and its significance see 2:19 and the study note there.
  36. Jeremiah 10:17 tn Heb “you who are living in/under siege.” The pronouns in this verse are feminine singular in Hebrew. Jerusalem is being personified as a single woman. This personification carries on down through v. 19, where she speaks in the first person. It is difficult, however, to reflect this in a meaningful translation without being somewhat paraphrastic like this.
  37. Jeremiah 10:18 tn The meaning of this last line is somewhat uncertain: Heb “I will cause them distress in order that [or with the result that] they will find.” The absence of an object for the verb “find” has led to conjecture that the text is wrong. Some commentators follow the lead of the Greek and Latin versions which read the verb as a passive: “they will be found,” i.e., be caught and captured. Others follow a suggestion by G. R. Driver (“Linguistic and Textual Problems: Jeremiah,” JQR 28 [1937-38]: 107) that the verb be read not as “they will find” (יִמְצָאוּ [yimtsaʾu] from מָצָא [matsaʾ]) but “they will be squeezed/ drained” (יִמְצוּ [yimtsu] from מָצָה [matsah]). The translation adopted assumes that this is an example of the ellipsis of the object supplied from the context (cf. E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 8-12). For a similar nuance for the verb “find” = “feel/experience” see BDB 592 s.v. מָצָא Qal.1.f and compare the usage in Ps 116:3.
  38. Jeremiah 10:19 tn The words “And I cried out” are not in the text. It is not altogether clear who the speaker is in vv. 19-25. The words of vv. 19-20 would best be assigned to a personified Jerusalem who laments the destruction of her city (under the figure of a tent) and the exile of her citizens (under the figure of children). However, the words of v. 21, which assign responsibility to the rulers, do not fit well in the mouth of the people but do fit Jeremiah. The words of v. 22 are very appropriate to Jeremiah, being similar to the report in 4:19-20. Likewise, the words of v. 23, which appear to express man’s incapacity to control his own destiny and his resignation to the fate which awaits him, in the light of v. 24 seem more appropriate to Jeremiah than to the people. There has been no indication elsewhere that the people are resigned to their fate or willing to accept their punishment. Though the issue is far from resolved, a majority of commentators see Jeremiah as the speaker, so identifying himself with their fate that he speaks as though he were this personified figure. It is not altogether out of the question, however, that the speaker throughout is personified Jerusalem, though no known commentator takes that view. For those who are interested, the most thorough discussion of the issue is probably found in W. McKane, Jeremiah (ICC), 1:230-35, especially 233-35. Rendering the pronouns throughout as “we” and “our” alleviates some of the difficulty, but some speaker needs to be identified in the introduction to allay any possible confusion. Hence I have opted for what is the majority view.
  39. Jeremiah 10:19 tn Heb “Woe to me on account of my wound.” The words “woe to” in many contexts carry the connotation of hopelessness and of inevitable doom (cf. 1 Sam 4:7, 8; Isa 6:5), hence a “deadly blow.” See also the usage in 4:13, 31; 6:4 and the notes on 4:13. For the rendering of the pronouns as “we” and “our” here and in the verses to follow see the preceding note.
  40. Jeremiah 10:19 tn Some interpret this as a resignation to the punishment inflicted and translate, “But I said, ‘This is my punishment, and I will just need to bear it.’” This is unlikely given the meaning and usage of the word rendered “sickness” (חֳלִי, kholi), the absence of the pronoun “my,” and the likelihood that the particle אַךְ (ʾak) means “only” rather than “indeed” (cf. BDB s.v. אַךְ 2.b and compare its usage in v. 24).sn What is being referred to here is the feeling, encouraged by the false prophets, that the ill fortunes of the nation were just temporary setbacks and everything would soon get better (cf. 6:14; 8:11).
  41. Jeremiah 10:20 tn Heb “My tent has been destroyed and my tent cords have been ripped apart.” For a very similar identification of Jeremiah’s plight with the plight of the personified community, see 4:20 and the notes there.
  42. Jeremiah 10:20 tn Heb “my children have gone from me and are no more.”sn What is being referred to is the exile of the people of the land. This passage could refer to the exiles of 605 b.c. or 597 b.c. but more probably anticipates the exile of 588 b.c., since the “tent,” (i.e., the city) is pictured as torn down. The picture of devastation and desolation here should be contrasted with that in Isa 54:2-3.
  43. Jeremiah 10:21 tn Heb “the shepherds.”
  44. Jeremiah 10:21 tn Heb “They have not sought the Lord.”sn The idiom translated sought the Lord’s advice quite commonly refers to seeking the Lord’s guidance through a prophet. See for example Exod 18:15; 1 Sam 9:9; 1 Kgs 22:8. It would not exclude consulting the law.
  45. Jeremiah 10:21 tn Heb “all their flock (or “pasturage”).”sn This verse uses the figure of shepherds for rulers, and that of sheep for the people ruled. It is a common figure in the Bible. See Ezek 34 for an extended development of this metaphor.
  46. Jeremiah 10:22 tn Heb “The sound of a report, behold, it is coming.”
  47. Jeremiah 10:22 tn Heb “coming, even a great quaking.”
  48. Jeremiah 10:22 sn Cf. Jer 6:22.
  49. Jeremiah 10:23 tn Heb “Not to the man his way.” For the nuance of “fate, destiny, or the way things turn out” for the Hebrew word “way,” see Hag 1:5, Isa 40:27 and probably Ps 49:13 (cf. KBL 218 s.v. דֶּרֶךְ 5). For the idea of “control” or “hold in one’s power” for the preposition “to,” see Ps 3:8 (cf. BDB 513 s.v. לְ 5.b[a]).
  50. Jeremiah 10:23 tn Heb “Not to a man the walking and the establishing his step.”
  51. Jeremiah 10:24 tn Heb “with justice.”
  52. Jeremiah 10:24 tn The words, “to almost nothing” are not in the text. They are implicit from the general context and are supplied by almost all English versions.
  53. Jeremiah 10:25 tn Heb “know you.” For this use of the word “know” (יָדַע, yadaʿ) see the note on 9:3.
  54. Jeremiah 10:25 tn Heb “tribes/clans.”
  55. Jeremiah 10:25 tn Heb “who do not call on your name.” The idiom “to call on your name” (directed to God) refers to prayer (mainly) and praise. See 1 Kgs 18:24-26 and Ps 116:13, 17. Here “calling on your name” is parallel to “acknowledging you.” In many locations in the OT “name” is equivalent to the person. In the OT, the “name” reflected the person’s character (cf. Gen 27:36; 1 Sam 25:25) or his reputation (Gen 11:4; 2 Sam 8:13). To speak in a person’s name was to act as his representative or carry his authority (1 Sam 25:9; 1 Kgs 21:8). To call someone’s name over something was to claim it for one’s own (2 Sam 12:28).
  56. Jeremiah 10:25 tn Heb “have devoured Jacob.”
  57. Jeremiah 10:25 tn Or “have almost completely destroyed them”; Heb “they have devoured them and consumed them.” The figure of hyperbole is used here; elsewhere Jeremiah and God refer to the fact that they will not be completely consumed. See for example 4:27; 5:10, 18.