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Idolatry Has Brought Ruin on Israel


Hear the word that the L ord speaks to you, O house of Israel. 2Thus says the L ord:

Do not learn the way of the nations,

or be dismayed at the signs of the heavens;

for the nations are dismayed at them.


For the customs of the peoples are false:

a tree from the forest is cut down,

and worked with an ax by the hands of an artisan;


people deck it with silver and gold;

they fasten it with hammer and nails

so that it cannot move.


Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field,

and they cannot speak;

they have to be carried,

for they cannot walk.

Do not be afraid of them,

for they cannot do evil,

nor is it in them to do good.



There is none like you, O L ord;

you are great, and your name is great in might.


Who would not fear you, O King of the nations?

For that is your due;

among all the wise ones of the nations

and in all their kingdoms

there is no one like you.


They are both stupid and foolish;

the instruction given by idols

is no better than wood!


Beaten silver is brought from Tarshish,

and gold from Uphaz.

They are the work of the artisan and of the hands of the goldsmith;

their clothing is blue and purple;

they are all the product of skilled workers.


But the L ord 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.


11 Thus shall you say to them: The gods who did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens.



It is he who made the earth by his power,

who established the world by his wisdom,

and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.


When he utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens,

and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth.

He makes lightnings for the rain,

and he brings out the wind from his storehouses.


Everyone is stupid and without knowledge;

goldsmiths are all put to shame by their idols;

for their images are false,

and there is no breath in them.


They are worthless, a work of delusion;

at the time of their punishment they shall perish.


Not like these is the L ord, the portion of Jacob,

for he is the one who formed all things,

and Israel is the tribe of his inheritance;

the L ord of hosts is his name.


The Coming Exile


Gather up your bundle from the ground,

O you who live under siege!


For thus says the L ord:

I am going to sling out the inhabitants of the land

at this time,

and I will bring distress on them,

so that they shall feel it.



Woe is me because of my hurt!

My wound is severe.

But I said, “Truly this is my punishment,

and I must bear it.”


My tent is destroyed,

and all my cords are broken;

my children have gone from me,

and they are no more;

there is no one to spread my tent again,

and to set up my curtains.


For the shepherds are stupid,

and do not inquire of the L ord;

therefore they have not prospered,

and all their flock is scattered.



Hear, a noise! Listen, it is coming—

a great commotion from the land of the north

to make the cities of Judah a desolation,

a lair of jackals.



I know, O L ord, that the way of human beings is not in their control,

that mortals as they walk cannot direct their steps.


Correct me, O L ord, but in just measure;

not in your anger, or you will bring me to nothing.



Pour out your wrath on the nations that do not know you,

and on the peoples that do not call on your name;

for they have devoured Jacob;

they have devoured him and consumed him,

and have laid waste his habitation.


Jeremiah enters here on a new subject. Though he had, no doubt, taught this truth often, yet I consider it as distinct from what has gone before; for he begins here a new attack on those superstitions to which the Jews were then extremely addicted. He exhorts them first to hear the word of Jehovah; for they had so hardened themselves in the errors which they had derived from the Gentiles, and the contagion had so prevailed, that they could not be easily drawn away from them. This, then, is the reason why he used a sort of preface, and said, Hear ye the word of Jehovah, which he speaks to you, O house of Israel 11     Here the preceding lecture ends in the original; but in order to keep the chapters distinct, this section has been transferred to the present lecture. A similar arrangement is adopted as to the last lecture in this volume. — Ed.

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. But it will be better to examine the very words of the Prophet, as then we shall more plainly see the drift of the whole.

Learn not, he says, the way of the nations The Hebrew grammarians take אל, al את at. 22     The Sept. and Vulg. render it “according” — κατὰjuxta. It is omitted in the Syr. Blayney renders the line thus: —
   “Unto the way of the heathen conform ye not.”

   We may view it as a negative, thus: —

   “No, the way of the heathen learn not.”

   But it is most probable a typographical error for את as Jeremiah so writes at least in two other instances, Jeremiah 2:23, and Jeremiah 12:16. — Ed
Way, we know, is everywhere taken for all those customs and habits by which human life is regulated, He then forbids them to pay attention to the rules of life observed by the Gentiles. And one thing he specifies, Be not terrified by celestial signs. He afterwards shews how vain were the practices of the Gentiles; being devoted to idols, they worshipped them in the place of God, though framed by the skill of man. But there are other words added, For the heathens are terrified by them There is a threefold exposition of this clause. Some take כי, ki, properly a causative, in the sense of כ, caph, which denotes likeness, “as the Gentiles are terrified by them.” Others regard it as an adversative, “though,” and כי, ki, has often this meaning. There are also others who give this explanation, “For it is the case with the Gentiles, that they are terrified by them;” as though God had said, that it was extremely absurd in the Jews to be terrified by celestial signs, for they ought to have left this folly, or rather madness, to the Gentiles, as God regarded them as wholly blind. Let us now come to the subject.

Learn not, he says, the way of the Gentiles This is a general precept. The law was to the Jews a rule which was sure, and prescribed to them the limits of duty; they ought, therefore, to have followed what God taught them in his law, and not to have turned aside either to the right hand or to the left, according to what Moses also had said. But as human minds are always wanton, they were very desirous of knowing what the Gentiles observed; but whenever this wantonness possesses men’s minds, they necessarily blend darkness with light. It was then, for this reason, that Jeremiah reminded them, that nothing was to be learnt from the Gentiles; as though he had said, “Ye ought to be satisfied with the simple doctrine of the law; for unless ye are content with having God as your teacher, ye will necessarily go astray: unless, then, ye seek wilfully to err, keep the way which is pointed out to you in the law, and turn not aside to the rites and practices of the Gentiles.”

After having given them a general command not to turn aside from the plain doctrine of the law, he specifies one thing in particular, Be not terrified by celestial signs, that is, “Do not suppose that prosperity or adversity depends on the position or aspect of the stars.” There seems, however, to be here some inconsistency, for he mentions the stars as signs; it hence follows that something is intimated by their position; and Moses also says, that the sun and moon, and all the stars, (and especially the planets,) would be for signs. There are, at the same time, in the firmament, twelve signs by which astrologers especially make their calculations. Since then God has, from the beginning of the creation, appointed what they call the fixed stars in the firmament, as well as the planets, to be for signs, the Prophet seems not to have done right in forbidding the Jews to fear such signs; for these signs in the heavens are not the vain fictions of men, but what God has created and appointed; and we have already stated that the stars are not called signs through the foolish conceit of men, but this character was given them by God himself when they were first created; and if the stars presage to us either prosperity or adversity, it follows that they ought to be dreaded by us.

But the Prophet here does not use the word signs in its proper meaning; for he refers not to its true origin, but accommodates himself to the notions which then prevailed; 33     Blayney gives a similar explanation — “The sun, moon, and stars are said indeed to have been created and set in the firmament for ‘signs.’ (Genesis 1:14) But hereby is meant, that they should serve as natural marks, serving to distinguish, by their periodical revolutions and appearances, the various times and seasons; which, however, is a very different use from that of prognosticating future events, or causing any alteration in the fortunes of men.” — Ed. and we must bear in mind what I have already said, that the Egyptians and Chaldeans were much given to that astrology, which is called at this day judiciary. The word itself may be allowed; but it has been long ago profaned by wicked and unprincipled men, whose object has been to make gain by mere falsehoods. There is no doubt but that the Egyptians and the Chaldeans were true astrologers, and understood the art, which in itself is praiseworthy; for to observe the stars, what else is it, but to contemplate that wonderful workmanship, in which the power, as well as the wisdom and goodness of God, shines forth? And, indeed, astrology may justly be called the alphabet of theology; for no one can with a right mind come to the contemplation of the celestial framework, without being enraptured with admiration at the display of God’s wisdom, as well as of his power and goodness. I have no doubt, then, but that the Chaldeans and the Egyptians had learned that art, which in itself is not only to be approved, but is also most useful, and contains not only the most delightful speculations, but ought also to contribute much towards exciting in the hearts of men a high reverence for God. Hence Moses was instructed from his childhood in that art, and also Daniel among the Chaldeans. (Acts 7:22; Daniel 1:17, 20.) Moses learned astrology as understood by the Egyptians, and Daniel as known by the Chaldeans; but the art among them was at that time much adulterated; for they had mingled, as I have already said, foolish divinations with the true and genuine science.

As then the Prophet’s meaning seems evident, the truth remains fixed, that the sun, and moon, and other planets, and the fixed stars in the firmament, are for signs. But we must notice also here the purpose for which God intended the sun and moon to be signs. His purpose was, that the lunar course should complete one month, and that the solar course should complete one year. And then the twelve signs were designed to answer another purpose: for when the sun is in Cancer it has not the same power and influence as when it is in Virgo; and it differs as to the other signs. In short, as to the order of nature, the stars, the planets, as well as the fixed stars, are to us for signs. We number the years by the solar course, and the months by the lunar; and then the sun, with respect to the twelve signs, introduces the spring, then the summer, then the autumn, and lastly the winter. There are other purposes; but we include in one sentence whatever can be said of the celestial signs, when we say, that they have a reference to the order of nature. Whosoever, then, seeks to make more of these signs, confounds the order established by God, as the Chaldeans formerly did, and also the Egyptians, when they sought to ascend higher than reason warranted: they tried to conjecture by the position of the stars what would be the fates of all nations; and then they dared to come down to the cases of individuals. Hence arose the casters of nativities. Then they first began more anxiously to philosophize, that the sun, when in a certain sign, portends the death of an only son, and happy events to another. But these are things, as we have said, which are beyond the usual order of nature. That there is to be, for instance, summer and winter, this is natural and common; but that there is to be war between one nation and another, this is not by the usual order of things, nor takes place according to what nature appoints, but through the ambition and avarice of men. The hidden providence of God, indeed, rules; but we speak of causes, which ought to be understood by us, and which can be comprehended by us, for they are within the reach of our understanding. It must at the same time be observed, that the course of the stars is in itself of no moment; for we see that God varies the seasons: there is not the same state of weather; we have no winters and no summers exactly alike; there is no year which is not dissimilar to the former; and the third which follows, differs from the second.

We hence, then, learn that God has so formed and ordered the sun, and the moon, and all the stars, that he himself still governs and changes the seasons as it pleases him. In this way we account for sterilities, and pestilences, and other things of this kind. When the air seems temperate, pestilence prevails, the year is less fruitful, and men are famished, and no cause appears. Then this diversity in nature itself shews that God has not resigned his power to the stars, but that he so works by them, that he still holds the reins of government, and that he, according to his own will, rules the world in a way different from what even the acutest can divine by the stars. Yet this is no reason why we should deny to them the office which I have mentioned. But they who exceed the limits fixed by God, and seek to form conjectures respecting war in this country and peace in that countrymthey who thus seek to learn from the stars what is beyond the order of nature, blend heaven and earth together. The Prophet, no doubt, intended to condemn this madness when he forbade the Jews to attend to the celestial signs so as to dread them.

But the reason also must be noticed, why the Prophet so severely condemned that fear which prevailed among the Gentiles: it was for this, because when the opinion prevailed that all events depended on the stars, the fearof God was removed, and nothing was ascribed to his judgments, faith was extinguished, and prayer to God, and all the ordinances of religion, were reduced to nothing. For all the astrologers, who falsely assume so honorable a name, yea those unprincipled men, who add to their impostures the name of judiciary astrology, hold and maintain, that a judgment respecting man’s life ought to be formed by the horoscope, as though the fortune of every one depended on the stars. When, therefore, any one is born at a certain hour, this or that condition, according to them, awaits him. Thus they imagine that there is a fate, or some necessity, which holds a man bound to the influence of the sun, moon, and stars: for he was born when the sun was in the tail of that sign or in the head of another; his birth portends such and such fortune; he will live but a short time, or he will live long. Thus they judge. And they go still farther, and pronounce on every occurrence, “Such will be the issue of this expedition; this during the year will be unhappily undertaken, but that will succeed.” Afterwards, when nativity is not taken into an account, they subject the whole human race to the uncontrollable influence of the stars: “See, if you undertake this business on such a day, you will succeed; but if you begin before mid-day, the issue will be unsuccessful.” Thus they divine concerning the whole life of man with regard to each of his actions: but God never intended the stars to be signs for such purposes.

Now, as I have said, it hence follows that God does not rule, and that thus faith is extinguished, and all the exercises of religion are reduced to nothing. For whosoever is persuaded that he is bound by necessity, because the horoscope is of such a character, he must necessarily die at such an hour, and necessarily die of a certain kind of death, — will any one who has this conviction call on God? will he commend his life to his keeping? And then, when any adversity happens, who will bear it as a punishment for his sins? Will he acknowledge that he is called to judgment by God? And if he should prosper, will he be led to sing praises to God?

We hence see that this divination extinguishes all religion; for there will be no faith, there will be no recognition of punishment, no acknowledgment of God’s blessings, and no concern for sin, whenever this diabolical error possesses our minds, — that we are subject to the stars, that such and such is our nativity, and that the stars portend some kind of death every day and every moment. This, then, is what is especially intended by the Prophet in forbidding the Jews to be terrified by the celestial signs; for the Chaldeans, no doubt, prophesied that they should have a new empire; and thus they frightened the miserable Jews: “It is all over with us, for the astrologers among the Chaldeans have so spoken; and on the other hand the Egyptians see also that this has been foreshewn by the position of the stars.” Thus it happened that the Jews became, as it were, wholly lifeless. Nor did they remember what God had so often, and for so many years, threatened by his Prophets to do, in case they continued to provoke his wrath. Of God’s judgment they made no account; and yet the persuasion, that the Chaldeans announced a judgment by the stars, and that there would be some convulsion, filled them with terror and amazement. Hence the Prophet, in order to lead them to repentance, as well as to faith, which are the two essentials of religion, and include in them the perfection of true wisdom, speaks thus to them in effect, “Fear not the stars, but fear God.” For there is implied a contrast between God and the stars; as though he had said, “When any adversity happens to you, know that you are chastised by God’s hand, who is a just avenger of sins.” This was to teach them repentance; it was to shew them that they justly suffered, because they had been perverse in their wickedness. Then follows the other fact, that though the stars threatened calamity and destruction, they were to flee to God’s mercy and never doubt of their safety, provided he was propitious to them. We now then understand the Prophet’s object in telling them not to fear the stars.

More things might be said, but! study brevity as far as I can; and I trust that I have briefly included what is sufficient for the understanding of this passage. There are many, I know, at this day foolishly curious, and hence wish some account to be made of judiciary astrology; and this delirium has taken possession of some pious men and really learned: but we see what God here declares by his servant. And I wonder that some are thus credulous as to the stars, who yet speak with extreme subtlety on free-will. They would have the events of things fortuitous, they would have it that men act freely in both ways, and they hate and abhor fate; and yet they confine God as it were in a prison, and would have the stars to rule. This is to me a prodigy, not a sign. But all these things I leave. Let the plain doctrine of the Prophet be deemed sufficient by us, when he says, that we are not to be terrified by signs, for it belongs to the Gentiles to be thus terrified; for I am disposed to take this meaning, — that the Prophet says that this was a kind of blindness which belonged to them: “Leave,” he says, “this folly to the Gentiles; it is no wonder that they labor under so many errors and delusions, for celestial truth has never shone upon them; but it becomes you to fear God and to rely on his mercy.” It follows —

The Prophet seems to break off his subject, and even to reason inconclusively; for he had said in the last verse, “Learn not the rites of the Gentiles, and fear not the celestial signs;” and he now adds, Because the rites of the Gentiles are vanity; for wood they cut down from the forest. He seems then, as though forgetting himself, to have passed off to idols. But we must observe, that the Jews were influenced by that ancient opinion, that the Chaldeans and the Egyptians were alone wise, and that they had acquired a fame of this kind among all nations. We find also that heathen writers, when speaking of the origin of the sciences, trace them up to the Chaldeans and the Egyptians; for with them, it is said, have originated astrology and all the liberal sciences. The Jews then, no doubt, allowed so much authority to the Chaldeans and the Egyptians, that their minds, being possessed by that prejudice, could discern nothing aright. The Prophet then shakes off from them this stupidity, and shews how foolish they were, who yet would have themselves to be alone deemed wise, and regarded others, compared with themselves, as barbarous and ignorant. We now then see why the Prophet connects idolatry with that false and spurious astrology which he had mentioned.

He says, Laws: the word, חקות, chekut, means strictly, statutes. The word, חק chek, signifies to decree, or to write; and hence decrees are called חקות, chekut. The word Law is general; and one of those which are special and often occurs in Scripture, is the statute. Some render it “Edict;” and the verb means to publish by edict. But this word is often applied to ceremonies and rites. He then says, that the rites of the nations were vanity.

He then proves this, Because they cut for themselves trees from the forest; and after having polished them by art, they think them to be gods. How detestable was this madness, to think that a tree, cut from the forest, was a god, as soon as it assumed a certain form or shape! As then a madness, so great and so monstrous, prevailed among the Chaldeans and the Egyptians, what right knowledge or judgment could have been in them? The Jews then were very foolish in thinking that they were very clear — sighted. “They are,” he says, “brute animals; for it is wholly contrary to reason to suppose that a god can be made from a dead piece of wood. When, therefore, the Chaldeans and the Egyptians amaze and astonish you through the influence of a false opinion, derived from nothing, that they are alone wise, do ye not see that ye are doubly and trebly mad? for where is their wisdom, when they thus make gods from trunks of trees?”

We now then perceive the design of the Prophet: but as these circumstances have not been considered by interpreters, they have only elicited a frigid doctrine and gathered some general thoughts. But when any one rightly and carefully examines the design of the Prophet, he will find how important is what he teaches; and no one can otherwise rightly understand what Jeremiah means.

A tree then does one cut, etc.: he uses the singular number. 44     This is not correct, the verb is plural, and there is no different reading. The Vulgate has led Calvin and our translators astray here. The other versions never changed the form of the sentence. The verse may be thus rendered, —
   3. Verily, the customs of the nations are very vanity; For a tree from the forest they cut down, — The work of the hands of the worker with the ax!

   Then verbs in the plural number follow in the next verse, —

   4. With silver and with gold they beautify, With nails and with hammers they fasten them, So that none may move them

   The verb for “move” is in Hiphil; it means in Kal to totter, “that none may cause them to totter.”

   But the Septuagint have rendered the verb “cut down” as a passive participle, כרות, transposing the ו; and Venema takes this as the proper reading, — “For a tree from the forest is cut down.” But this does not run well with the following verse. The nations or heathens, is the nominative to all the verbs.

   Venema renders the last line of the fourth verse, —

   That nothing may make them to reel.

   He considers that לא means often “nothing;” but it means also sometimes, “none,” or no one. — Ed
He then adds, the work of the hands of the artificer by the ax He shews that nature itself is changed through the false imagination of men; for as soon as it takes a new form, it seems to be no longer a tree. The tree, while it grows, when it produces fruit, is not worshipped as God; but when it is cut down, the dead and dry trunk is substituted in the place of God: for what reason? even because the ax has been applied. Some render it “hatchet,” hache, ou doloire, which is the same; for there is no ambiguity in the meaning: they cut down trees from the forests; and then after the tree was formed by the ax and worked by the hands of the artificer, what follows was done to it —

He goes on with the same subject, and borrows his words from the forty — fourth chapter of Isaiah (Isaiah 44); for the passage is wholly similar. Jeremiah, being later, was induced to take the words from his predecessor, that his own nation might be more impressed, on finding that the same thing was said by two Prophets, and that thus they had two witnesses.

He then says that these wise men, who filled the Jews with wonder and astonishment, adorned their images, or statues, with silver and gold, and afterward fixed them with nails and with hammers, that they might not move Some refer the last word to the metal, “that the pieces might not come off,” as the verb sometimes means to depart. But the simpler meaning is, that the statues were fixed by nails and hammers, that they might not be moved. Then the Prophet adds by way of concession, They are indeed erect as the palm-trees; and thus there appears in them something remarkable: but they speak not; and then, being raised they are raised, that is, they cannot move themselves; for they cannot walk Then he says, Be not afraid of them; for they do no evil, nor is it in their power to do good

We now see what the Prophet meant to teach us, — that the wisdom of the Chaldeans, and also of the Egyptians, was celebrated throughout the world, and also so blinded the Jews, or so enraptured, them, that they thought that nothing proceeded from them but what deserved to be known and esteemed. In order therefore to remove and demolish this false notion, he shews that they were beyond measure foolish; for what could have been more sottish than to think that the nature of a tree is changed as soon as it receives a new form? How? By the hand of the artificer. Can it be in the power of man to make a god at his will? This is a folly which heathen authors have derided. Horace has this sentence: —

“When the workman was uncertain whether to make a bench or Priapus, He chose rather to make a god.” 55     Cum faber incertus scanmum faceretne Priapm, Maluit esse Demu.” Hor. Lib. 1, Sat. 8.

That poet, as he dared not generally to condemn the madness which then prevailed, indirectly shewed how shameful it was to make a log of wood a god, because the workman had given it a form. The very richest worshipped a wooden god, while he despised the artificer! He who would not have condescended to give the workman a cup of water, yet prostrated himself befbre the god which the workman had made! This then is what our Prophet now says, “Behold, with silver and gold do they adorn trunks of trees; they indeed stood up, for they are erect statues;” and he compares them to palm-trees, because they stood high: and he says, “but they speak not; they are raised up, for they have no life; hence fear them not:” and then he adds, “They cannot do evil, and it is not in their power to do good.”

The Prophet seems to speak improperly when he says that they were not gods, because they could do no evil; for it is wholly contrary to the nature of the only true God to do evil: but the Prophet, according to what is common, uses the word for the infliction of punishment. God, then, is said to do evil, not because he does harm to any one, not because he does wrong to any mortals, but because he chastises them for their sins. And it is a way of speaking derived from the common judgment of man, for we call those things evils which are afflictions to us; for famine, diseases, poverty, cold, heat, disgrace, and things of this kind, are called afflictions or adversities. Now, the Prophet says, that the idols of the Gentiles, or their fictitious gods, do no evil, that is, they have no power to inflict punishment on men. And this is taken from Isaiah. God uses there a twofold argument, while claiming divinity to himself alone: he says,

“I alone am he who foresees and predicts future things;”

and hence I am God alone; and then he says,

“I alone am he who do good and evil;”

hence I alone am God. (Isaiah 45:22; Isaiah 48:3, 5.) He says, that he doeth evil, because he is the Judge of the world. We hence see that this expression is not to be taken in a bad sense, but, as I have said, it is to be taken in a sense used by men; for we consider and call those punishments, with which God visits us, evils. It follows —

As the truth respecting the gods of the heathens, that they are mere figments, would be useless and of no moment, were not the knowledge of the, true God added, the Prophet now introduces God himself. And there is another reason; for no one could know that these wooden and stony gods are of no account, were not the truth respecting the true God to shine forth. Whosoever does not understand that there is a God, and does not know who or what he is, can never be really influenced by this truth, that the gods of the heathens are demons, and that all their superstitions are sacrilegious.

We now then perceive why the Prophet turns to the true God: it was, that the brightness of God’s glory might dissipate the darkness in which the Gentiles were involved, and also, that true religion might really influence the hearts of men, so that by acknowledging the one true God, to whose power we ought to submit, they might not only despise and repudiate all idols, but also hate and abhor them. The rest to-morrow.

The Prophet exclaims, Who will not fear thee? This question is very emphatical, as though he indignantly rebuked the stupidity of all those who acknowledged not the only true God, as if he had said, “Whence is it that thou art not feared throughout the whole world? Surely were there a spark of right knowledge in men, they would acknowledge thee as the only true God, and having found this truth, would submit to thy power. When, therefore, men invent for themselves various gods, and when every one is led here and there without any judgment, it is a monstrous thing; for when the subject is pressed on the attention of the rudest, they confess that there, is some supreme deity, and are at length constrained to allow that there is but one true God; whence then is it that there is such a multitude and variety of gods in the world? How is it that they who hold this principle — that God ought to be worshipped — fall away, and adopt many gods, and never can determine who the true God is, or how he is to be worshipped?” We now understand the object of the Prophet in exclaiming, as through astonishment, Who will not fear thee, the King of nations?

We know that the true God was then despised by the heathens; and we also know that his law was regarded with contempt, and even els an abomination: What then does this question mean? even what I have already stated: The Prophet indignantly says, that it was a monstrous thing, bordering on madness, that men paid no regard to the only true God, but went astray after their own foolish devices. And he calls him the King of the nations, not that the nations submitted to his authority, but because he manifested evidences of his power everywhere, which might have induced the rudest to shew him reverence, were they not extremely stupid. We then see that this is not said to the honor of the nations, but on the contrary, that their ingratitude might be exposed to shame in not honoring God, who manifested his power among them.

Then follows what confirms this: For to thee it belongs; for among all the wise of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, from no time has there been one like to thee He says that it belongs to God, that is, that all the world should fear him. Some render יאתה iate, as a noun, and take it as signifying “honor;” and others render it “government,” or authority; but this cannot be received. He then says, it belongs to God. What? Some say, “glory or dominion belongs to thee.” But it must be referred to the beginning of the verse: there is here a figure called Zeugma, and the meaning is, God deserves this, that is, to be feared by all. H.e then speaks of fear, and says that it belongs to God. What is meant is, that the glory of God shines so much as to be sufficient to arrest and engage all the thoughts of men, and that they are therefore extremely stupid when they pass by and forsake him, and turn to their own devices, and invent gods according to their own fancies. 77     This verse is omitted in the Septuagint. The sentence, “To thee it belongs, is in the Vulgate and Syriac, “Thine is the honor;” and in theTargum and Arabic, “Thine is the kingdom.” Blayney gives this version, —
   “When he shall approach unto thee.”

   But this has hardly a meaning here, and far less has the rendering of Horsley,

   “Surely unto thee shall be the coming;”

   i.e.,” The general coming, the universal resort.” The bishop saw predictions everywhere. The explanation of Calvin is the most satisfactory. The act mentioned in the preceding clause, “fear,” is to be understood as the nominative case. — Ed.

The Prophet then confirms what we have already said — that all men who worship not nor fear the only true God are detestable beings, because so much of his glory shines forth, that renders all bound to acknowledge him. It then follows, that those who are carried away into various superstitions are to the last degree stupid and brutish; for God renders his glory conspicuous everywhere, so that it ought to engage and occupy the thoughts of all men; and it would do so were they not led away by their own vanity.

We hence also learn that the pretext of ignorance made by unbelievers is wholly vain. There are those who on the first view seem to be excusable for their error, as they have not been taught, and never understood who the true God is; but yet there is in them the blame of neglect as well as of wickedness, for they wilfully neglect and despise the only true God. As then the unbelieving take delight in their errors, they are to be held guilty. And this is what the Prophet means by saying that God was worthy of glory — the glory of being feared by all: and this he more fully confirms when he says, “Among all the wise, and in all kingdoms,” that is, among all the princes who seemed to excel in wisdom in governing the world, “no other God could be found throughout all the ages.”

He repeats again the word מאין main, of which we spoke yesterday. 88     All the versions and the Targum, as in the former instance, do not regard the מ as a preposition, but render the word by “none,” or no one. — Ed It is the same as though the Prophet had said, “Let all the wise men and philosophers come forth, let all those counsellors who assume great wisdom appear, and let them adduce whatever they can allege; doubtless God will ever defend his own glory against all their frivolous arguments, so that they must depart confounded; nor shall they be able, however willing they may be, to bring any solid objection against him.” By these words, then, the Prophet intimates that it is vain to boast of philosophic reasons, and that the counsels of princes, who esteem themselves very acute in civil affairs, will be adduced in vain; for all will be covered with shame, and be constrained to be silent, when God makes known his glory. Indeed the glory of God appears everywhere so conspicuously, that the rudest ought to perceive it, that the wise, who fly above the heavens as philosophers, who search all the secrets of nature, do not understand what is, as they say, abroad in the open air; for God manifests himself to the simple, and even to children. We now perceive the design of the Prophet, when he says, From no times has been found any like to God, not only among the vulgar or common men, but among the wise, and princes, and kings’ counsellors. He afterwards adds —

The Prophet shews here, in one sentence, that the wisest in the whole world could be proved guilty of the greatest madness, or of a twofold folly, because they willingly worshipped the trunks of trees, and they worshipped stones; for Under one kind he includes the other. There is no one, he says, however intelligent, who does not approve of the superstitions of the people, who does not bend the knee before a wood or a stone. There have been, indeed, a few in the world who ridiculed such sottishhess, but no one dared openly to condemn it, and no one introduced anything better. And even the Platonics hold that the Greeks had not without reason invented gods like men; and they say that there was not so much judgment among the barbarians as to form such ideas of the gods as were suitable to their nature. However this may have been, it is evident that the grossest superstitions of the nations were ever approved by all their wise men.

The Prophet then shews that there was no need of a long discussion to discover the vanity of the wise; In one, in one thing, he says; and there is emphasis in this word, when he says, In one thing they are foolish and fatuitous; for there is to be understood a contrast, as though he had said, “I will not here join together many heads of accusation against them to expose their folly, one thing is sufficient; this one sentence is enough to condemn them, — that wood is the teaching of vanities.” 99     The word באחת is rendered by the Versions and the Targum, alike, equally or together. Literally, “in one,” that is, altogether. Calvin rather refines here. The verse may be thus rendered, —
   But they are together brutish and stupid; The teaching of vanities the wood is.

   Literally, “the wood it,” but as Gataker says, the pronoun is often used in Hebrew for the substantive verb. The phrase is elliptical, no unusual thing in Hebrew. It may be thus, rendering in full, —

   The teaching of vanities, is the teaching of the wood,
or respecting the wood.

   What they taught respecting the wooden idols was “vanities,” that is, very or extremely vain; for so the plural often means. The version ofBlayney, after Castellio, and approved by Horsley, is the following, —

   “The very wood itself being a rebuker of vanities.”

   But it is a sentiment not suitable to this place. The most strict meaning of מוסר is restraint, and not rebuke; it often means teaching or instruction. — Ed
We have stated what the Prophet means,meven that all the wise, who together with the vulgar worshipped gods made of wood and stone, were very foolish: but we must notice the import of the expression, The teaching of vanities is the wood. It is, as we have said, an instance of a part being put for the whole; for under “wood” Jeremiah includes statues of stone, and others made of different materials; as though he had said, “Every form or effigy, representing a god, is the teaching of vanities.” He takes this as granted; and yet there had been, as we have lately stated, a great and fierce contention among the wise men on this subject; but the Prophet deigned not to contend or seriously to dispute with them, for the thing itself was sufficiently evident, that is, that nothing can be more absurd than to worship the trunk of a tree or a stone.

Now we may from this passage draw a general truth, — that when men seek to represent God under any visible form, they give way to the delusions and impostures of Satan. Well known is that sentence of Gregory to Serenus, the Bishop of Marseilles, when that good man cast down the images which he saw led to ungodly worship, and purged the churches of Marseilles from such pollutions: Gregory, though a pious man, yet wrote very foolishly — that Serenus acted rightly and wisely in forbidding images to be worshipped, but that he yet acted inconsiderately by emptying the churches of them; for “they are,” he said, “the books of the simple:” this is the conclusion of his epistle. And it is ever in the mouth of Papists — that images are the books of the simple. At the same time I would they retained this truth avowed by Gregory, that they ought not to be worshipped. They worship and adore them, as it is well known, in the place of God. But as I have already said, that answer of Gregory was puerile and foolish: for we hear what the Prophet says, — that in wood and stone and in every outward representation there is vanity, as Habakkuk also in the second chapter, where He speaks of idols, calls an idol the teacher of vanity. Every statue, every image, by which foolish men seek to represent God, is a teacher of falsehood. So our Prophet says, — that the teaching of vanities is found in all statues, because God is thus misrepresented; for what can be in a wood or stone that is like the infinite power of God, or his incomprehensible essence and majesty? Men, therefore, offer a serious affront to God when they thus deform him, as Paul also in Romans 1:25, says, — that the truth was thus changed into falsehood, that is, when he is supposed to have anything like to what external and dead figures have; as the same Paul further reasons in Acts 17:29, when he says, Do ye think that God is like to wood or stone, to silver or gold? And his argument was at that time suitable; for he had to do with heafilens: he did not refer to the law, though he might have quoted a passage in Deuteronomy, where God reminded the people that he so appeared to them that they saw no similitude; and he might have referred to the testimonies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and of the other Prophets; but as he addressed heathens, even the Athenians, he says, “One of your poets has said, that we are the offspring of God:” if we are then, He says, the offspring of God, do ye not draw God down from his celestial throne, when ye seek to delineate him according to your fancies, and suppose that he lies hid in wood or stone, in silver and gold? For some life appears at least in men, they are endued with mind and intelligence, and so far they bear some likeness to God: but a dead wood and stone, which are void of sense, — gold also and silver, which are metals without reason, which have no life, — what affinity, He says, can these have to God? This subject might be more copiously handled; but I merely explain what the Prophet means, and also shew the import of his doctrine, and how it may be applied for general instruction. It now follows —

The Prophet, anticipating what might be said, refers to the splendor and pomp of idols, and declares that all was frivolous and extremely puerile. Whence was it that the world shewed so much honor to idols, except that their pomp dazzled the eyes of men? The devil has also by this artifice ever deluded the unbelieving; for he has exhibited in idols something that involved men’s minds in darkness.

The Prophet then assails these foolish imaginations, and says, Silver is brought from Tharsis, that is, from Cilicia; for so the Scripture designates that transmarine country, which lies opposed to Judea; and we know that Cilicia was over against Judea; for the Mediterranean Sea intervenes between Syria and Cilicia; and the sea of Tharsis is what they call that part which extended towards Cilicia and Asia Minor. The Prophet then says; that it was brought from a far country. Well, he says, the fact is so; and then it is added that gold was brought from Uphaz Some have explained this last word wrongly, by saying that it means pure or fine gold; but it appears from this place and many others, that it is the name of a country, that is, Persia, or one not far from Persia: it was at least a country eastward of Judea. He then says, gold is brought from Uphaz; and he mentions the workmanship, the work of the artificer; that is, it is not silver and gold in its rude state; but they are so elegantly wrought, that they readily attract the eyes of men. Then he adds the hands (he speaks in the plural number) of the melter; that is, the silver and gold were melted and were made to assume a certain form; and then art was employed, which gave an increased polish to these forms which came out of the furnace. He afterwards says, The hyacinth and purple are their vestments; that is, it is not enough to have the precious metal, and that cast into an elegant and lovely form, but it must be clothed in purple and hyacinth. He says in the last place, that the work was that of the wise; that is, skillful men were chosen, who could in the most perfect manner give expression to every lineament; in short, nothing was left undone. 1010     The verse is literally thus, —
   9. Silver extended, from Tarsis it is brought, And gold from Uphaz, — The work of the artizan And of the hands of the founder; Blue and purple their garments, — The work of the wise, all of them.

   The Septuagint and Arabic have “Mophaz;” the Vulgate, “Ophaz;” the Syriac and the Targum, “Ophir.” Probably the same country is meant, and that it had two names. “Blue” is rendered “hyacinth,” violet-color, by all the versions and the Targum.

   “Uphaz,” according to Bochart, was a country near the Ganges in India, and the same with Ophir. — Ed.

But the Prophet, though he concedes generally to the unbelieving that they added whatever could add beauty to their idols, yet declares that they were mere trumperies: they are puppets, he says; for man, who is a mortal, cannot make a god: and then, what can art and the toil and labor of man do in this respect? can he change the nature of things? can he make a god from wood and stone? and when a vestment covers the idol of gold or of silver, can it raise it above the heavens, that it may attain a new divinity? We hence see that the Prophet mentions all that was done, that he might taunt the heathens and ridicule their fatuitous trifles; for in their idols there was nothing real, nothing that could be dependd upon. He then subjoins —

The Prophet here exults and triumphs in the name of his God, as though he had overcome and put to flight the erroneous notions of the heathens: for he had spoken, as it appears, contemptuously of their gross errors, and shewed that the wise men of the world were extremely sottish, who were so charmed with wood and stone. He now highly extols the glory of God, and says, But Jehovah is God; that is, let the nations worship their gods, let them recite fables as to their power, and falsely ascribe to them many miracles; but Jehovah, he says, is God When all things are faithfully examined, it will appear evident that He is the only true God, and all the gods of the heathens will of themselves vanish into nothing. This then is the meaning of the Prophet, as though he had said, God himself is sumcient to put to flight all the errors of the heathens, when his majesty appears; for so great is its brightness that it will reduce to nothing whatever the world admires.

He then adds truth. 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. 1111     The verse, literally rendered, is as follows: —
   “But Jehovah, God the truth he, God the life and King eternal;
At his wrath tremble will the earth, And not bear will the nations his indignation.”

   It is usual in Hebrew to put nouns for adjectives; divested of this peculiarity, and the future being taken for the present, the verse would run thus:

   “But Jehovah, the true God is he, The living God and King eternal;
At his wrath tremble does the earth, And the nations cannot bear his indignation.”

   “The true God,” and “the living God,” is the version of the Vulgate and of the Targum; but that of the Syriac and Arab., “the God of truth,” and “the God of the living,” but no doubt incorrect. — Ed.

Now, then, the Prophet, after having spoken of God’s essence, descends to what is more evident. And doubtless it is a real knowledge of God, not when we speculate in the air as philosophers do, but when we know by experience that there is one true God — how? because we exist. We exist not of ourselves, but in and through another, and that is, through the one true God. It hence follows that human life is a clear proof of one supreme God. God then is life and the King of ages For as the world has also been made, as years succeed years, and as there is in this revolution variety and yet such perfect order, who does not see in all this the glory of God? Now, then, we also perceive why the Prophet calls God the King of ages

He then adds, Through his fury tremble will the earth, and the nations will not sustain his wrath As he could not succeed with the heathens, He warns liere the Jews not to provoke the wrath of God, who will be the Judge of the whole world, and will destroy the unbelievers, however blind in darkness they may be. He then warns the Jews not to close their eyes to the glory, which had been more fully open to them. But the Gentiles might by the works of nature have known God, and were inexcusable; yet, the knowledge of him was made plain to the Jews by the law. For this reason Jeremiah says, “Even though unbelievers now boldly despise God, yet when he shall appear as the Judge of the world, the whole earth must of necessity tremble, and will not be able to bear his presence, though they now proudly reproach true religion.”

But it was not without reason that the Prophet took so much pains on this subject; for the ten tribes had been driven into exile, and the Assyrians and Chaldeans triumphed over God himself, as though he had been overcome, inasmuch as he did not defend the kingdom of Israel, which was under his care and protection; and the miserable Israelites could not but despond when they found themselves so distressed, and cruelly treated and oppressed by the most shameless tyranny; for what could they have thought, but that they had not been the objects of God’s care, and that his promises were vain, or that he possessed no sufficient power to preserve them? It is, then, for this reason that the Prophet now so highly extols the power and glory of God, that is, that their calamities might not deject them and lay prostrate the faith of those who thought that they were forsaken.

And this will be more evident from the following verse, where the Prophet uses the Chaldee language; and this is the only verse in the whole book written in Chaldee; and the Chaldee differs much from the Hebrew. We have seen before that Daniel wrote in Chaldee, when he spoke of things pertaining to the Chaldeans; but when he addressed his own people and announced prophecies, belonging especially to the Church of God, he wrote in Hebrew. Hence the book of Daniel is written in Hebrew, except in those parts which he wished to be understood by the Chaldeans; and so does the Prophet in this place.

Now, the reason why he bids the Israelites to speak in the Chaldee language is, because they had been led into exile, and were mingled with the Assyrians and Chaldeans. He then required from those despised exiles an open and a bold confession, as though he had said, “Even though ye are now in the most miserable bondage, and though the Chaldeans disdainfully oppress you, as if ye were slaves, yet proclaim the glory of God and shrink not from an open confession of your religion, and say to them, in contempt of all their idols, perish must your gods from the earth and from under heaven, for they have not made heaven nor the earth.” We now understand the meaning of the Prophet. But the rest I shall defer until tomorrow.

Jeremiah speaks now again in Hebrew, for he on purpose spoke in Chaldee, to shew that the ungodly were not to be given way to, if they blasphemed and wantonly derided the holy name of God. But as it is necessary that the confession of the mouth should proceed from faith, as fruit from the root, the Prophet here reminds the Israelites that there is but one true God; for, besides him who created the earth, set in order the world, and extended the heavens, there is no other to be found. Since, then, this cannot be said except of one, it follows that all the deities which the world devises for itself, are false and mere inventions of Satan, by which he deludes mankind. And doubtless no one can courageously oppose such errors, except he who believes in the one true God. We know that there were formerly some among the philosophers who jocularly and facetiously ridiculed the delirious notions of the vulgar; but no one in earnest undertook this cause, nor could they take upon themselves the defense of God’s glory, for he was unknown to them. It is therefore necessary, as I have said, that we should be really and truly grounded in the faith before the building can be carried on; for the profession, by which we ascribe glory to God, is, as it were, the superstructure, but faith, concealed within the heart, is the foundation.

We now then understand the Prophet’s design in saying, that there is but one, who made the earth. He speaks indeed concisely; but what tie says has more force, when he does not mention God’s name, but sets before us his power, as though he had said, “There is one, there is one, who has created the earth; there is one, who has set in order the world and extended the heavens; as these things cannot be ascribed to many, it follows that men are very absurd in imagining that there are various gods.”

He says that God created the earth by his power He alludes to the solid state of the earth. The philosophers indeed hold that the earth stands naturally in the middle of creation, as it is the heaviest element; and the reason they give that the earth is suspended in mid-air, is, because the center of the world attracts what is most heavy; and these things indeed they wisely discuss. Yet we must go further: for the center of the earth is not the main part of creation; it hence follows that the earth has been suspended in the air, because it has so pleased God. When, therefore, the Prophet commends God’s power in fixing the earth, he refers to its firm state.

He then adds, There is one who hath by his wisdom set the world in order He does not indeed say that He is one, but this is what is implied. Though the term תבל, tabel, is taken for the earth, it has yet a wider meaning. The Prophet, I have no doubt, includes in it at least the sea. And we know that the Spirit has not spoken in the Law and the Prophets with rigorous exactness, but in a style suited to the common capacities of men. He says then that the world was set in order by God’s wisdom: for it is wonderful how the waters mingle with the earth, and yet retain their own habitation, and are restrained from covering the earth: in the earth also itself there is amazing variety; we see in one part mountains, in another small hills; there are meadows, forests, and fields for corn. Indeed, man’s industry contributes to this variety; but we see how God hath fitted the earth for different purposes, here then shines forth the wonderful wisdom of God. When again he speaks of the heavens, he says, that they have been expanded by God’s knowledge, He indeed employs various expressions, but he means the same thing, — that God’s singular wisdom may be seen in the earth and in the heavens.

Some connect the following verse and explain the verb נטה nuthe, differently, — that God extends the heavens when he covers them with clouds; for the verb תתו, tatu, which means the same thing, follows: but the infinite mood is often to be taken for the preterite. As then this is a strained explanation, and too far-fetched, I reject it. The Prophet, no doubt, speaks of the original formation of the heavens: for when God covers the heavens with clouds, their true form does not appear; besides, the meaning of the verb is perverted, when taken to express the obscuring of the heavens by clouds. They who will impartially examine the passage, will be ready to admit, that the Prophet speaks of the expanding of the heavens. So the Scripture everywhere sets forth God’s wisdom as displayed by this wonderfill workmanship; and the heaven is said to have been expanded over the earth, so that it covers it around. (Psalm 104:6.)

Now, though Jeremiah mentions only the word “heavens,” yet he includes the wonders which appear in them, such as that the sun performs its daily course — that it changes its track daily — that the planets have two motions — that they appear in different parts — and that the sun seems now to ascend and then to descend. In short, Jeremiah here extols all the secrets of astrology, when he says, that the heavens have been expanded by God, and expanded with singular and incomparable wisdom. Though, then, he only briefly touches on this wonderful workmanship of God, yet he would have us carefully to dwell on it in our meditations; for all errors and all fancies will soon vanish, when we duly consider the power and wisdom of God, as manifested in the creation of the heavens and of the earth, and in the order observable in the world.

The Prophet then descends to the other works of God, to those which are changeable, for there is in nature a perpetual constancy as to the heavens and the earth; and there are many things subject to changes; as when God darkens the air, when he raises winds, when he pours down rain. These things happen not according to the settled order of the world of which he had spoken. We see then that the Prophet has hitherto referred to the fixed and regular government of the world, to what had been done at the creation. But now, as I have said, he sets before us things of another kind, — that God gives or sends forth, by his voice, abundance of waters from the heavens Some render המון emun, “sound;” but it is, on the contrary, to be taken for “multitude,” or abundance. Moreover, he takes “voice” for thunder: for though it often rains without thunder, yet when God thunders from heaven, there is a sudden change, which not only disturbs the air, but also fills us with dread. As then in this sudden and unexpected change the power of God more strikingly appears, the Prophet says, At his voice he gives abundance of waters

He then says, he makes elevations to ascend; for we see that vapours arise from the earth and ascend upwards. Philosophers shew how this happens: but yet the power of God cannot be excluded, when we say that anything is done according to nature. For we hence more clearly see what the Prophet means, that is, that God has so set in order the world, that when he causes vapours to ascend, he shews that he rules in the heavens and on the earth. And he adds, from the extremity of the earth: for we see that vapors rise at a distance and immediately spread over our heads. Is not this wonderful? And were we not accustomed to such a thing, it could not but fill us with admiration. The Prophet then rouses men here from their torpor, that they may learn to consider what is presented to their view. He goes on and says, creating or making lightnings for the rain, or with the rain: for ל, lamed, is taken by some, as though he had said, that lightnings are mingled with rain: and doubtless we see that these things, fire and rain, are contrary to one another; yet fire generates water, and it dwells also in the midst of a mass of waters: it rains, and yet the air is at the same time kindled with lightnings. Since then God thus mingles contrary things, and makes fire the origin and the cause of rain, is it not so wonderful that it is sufficient, to move the very stones? How great then must be the stupidity of men, when they attend not to so conspicuous a work of God, in which they may see the glory of his wisdom as well as of his power!

He then says, that God brings forth the wind from his treasures He calls hidden places the treasures of God; for whence the winds except from the caverns of the earth? Since, then, the earth, where it is hollow, generates winds, rightly does the Prophet say, that they were the bidden treasures of God. The philosophers also find out the cause why the winds arise from the earth; for the sun attracts vapors and exhalations; from vapors are formed clouds, snows, and rains, according to the fixed order of the middle region of the air. From the exhalations also are formed the thunders, lightnings, the comets also, and the winds; for the exhalations differ from the vapours only in their lightness and rarity, the vapors being thicker and heavier. Then from vapor arises rain; but the exhalation is lighter, and not so thick; hence the exhalations generate thunders as well as winds, according to the heat they contain. How, then, is it that the same exhalation now breaks forth into wind, then into lightnings? It is according to the measure of its heat; when it is dense it rises into the air; but the winds vanish and thus disturb the lower part of the world. These are the things said by philosophers; but the chief thing in philosophy is to have regard to God, who brings the winds out of his treasures, for he keeps them hidden. We wonder that the wind rises suddenly when it is quite calm; who ought not to acknowledge that winds are formed, and are sent here and there at God’s pleasure? And hence in Psalm 104:4, they are called the swift messengers of God,

“who makes spirits his messengers.”

It follows: —

VIEWNAME is study