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Jeremiah 10


(The parentheses represent poetic literary units)

A Satire On Idolatry Idols and the True God   Idolatry and True Worship Idols and the True God
10:11 10:11 10:11 10:11 10:11
      A Hymn of Praise to God  
  The Coming Captivity of Judah   The Coming Exile Panic in the Country

READING CYCLE THREE (see introductory section)


This is a study guide commentary,which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. There is a literary unit from chapters 7 through 10 which deals with Judah's sin and YHWH's judgment.


B. The poems of Jeremiah are arranged, not by date, but by

1. word plays

2. themes


C. This chapter has many similarities with both Deuteronomy and Isaiah. Two examples:

1. the rare word (BDB 903 I), "cucumber field," v. 5 (cf. Isa. 1:8)

2. the phrase, "none is like You," v. 6 reflects Deut. 33:26 (see Special Topic at 1:5)



1Hear the word which the Lord speaks to you, O house of Israel.
2Thus says the Lord,
"Do not learn the way of the nations,
And do not be terrified by the signs of the heavens
Although the nations are terrified by them;
3For the customs of the peoples are delusion;
Because it is wood cut from the forest,
The work of the hands of a craftsman with a cutting tool.
4They decorate it with silver and with gold;
They fasten it with nails and with hammers
So that it will not totter.
5Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field are they,
And they cannot speak;
They must be carried,
Because they cannot walk!
Do not fear them,
For they can do no harm,
Nor can they do any good."

10:1 "Hear the word" this is the Hebrew word Shema (BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal imperative), which means "to hear so as to do." It is a recurrent demand in Jeremiah (cf. 2:4; 5:21; 6:19; 7:2,23; 10:1; 11:2,4,6; 13:15; 17:20; 19:3; 21:11; 22:2; 31:10; 38:20; 42:15; 44:24,26; 49:20; 50:45). YHWH is communicating; His people are not listening and obeying!

▣ "house of Israel" The title "Israel" in Jeremiah is so confusing because it is used in several senses. See Special Topic at 2:3.

10:2 "Do not learn the way of the nations" Chapter 10 addresses the folly of idolatry. It reflects the metaphors and sarcasm of Isaiah (cf. Isa. 2:20; 31:7; 40:18-20; 41:7; 44:9-20; 45:16; 46:5-7). God had given them the way in which they should walk (cf. Lev. 18:3; Deut. 12:30), but they chose the way (i.e., lifestyle) of idolatry. This is even reflected in v. 2 by a seeming allusion to the Babylonian astral deities (i.e., "signs of the heavens," cf. Isa. 47:13).

There are two Qal imperfects used in a jussive sense (negated).

1. learn - BDB 540, KB 531

2. be terrified - BDB 369, KB 365

The pagan nations, without a knowledge of YHWH, were terrified (BDB 369, KB 365, Qal imperfect) by the astrologers (cf. Isa. 47:12-14). Superstitions are powerful instruments in the hand of Satan to frighten, intimidate, and control humans!

10:3 "delusion" This is the term "nothingness" or "vanity" (BDB 210, KB 236, cf. 2:5; 14:22; II Kgs. 17:15). It is quite often used to describe the idols (cf. Deut. 32:21), which were nonentities made by human hands. They had no power to act, in contradistinction to YHWH who acts for His people! Idols cannot hear, see, or act, but they are used by Satan to trick humans from knowing and following the only true God and His Messiah (cf. Eph. 6:10-18).


10:5 "Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field" This is an allusion to idols described as scarecrows. Some translate this as "upright as a palm tree" (NKJV, Peshitta). The LXX omits it.

▣ "They must be carried" This is an infinitive absolute and an imperfect verb from the same root (BDB 669, KB 724) used for intensity.

▣ "Do not fear them" This is a Qal imperfect (BDB 431, KB 432) used in a jussive sense. Fear can be paralyzing!

Notice those who know YHWH should not fear because the idols

1. cannot harm you

2. cannot do you good

They are non-existent (cf. Isa. 41:23-24). Fear YHWH (cf. v. 7)!

6There is none like You, O Lord;
You are great, and great is Your name in might.
7Who would not fear You, O King of the nations?
Indeed it is Your due!
For among all the wise men of the nations
And in all their kingdoms,
There is none like You.
8But they are altogether stupid and foolish
In their discipline of delusion-their idol is wood!
9Beaten silver is brought from Tarshish,
And gold from Uphaz,
The work of a craftsman and of the hands of a goldsmith;
Violet and purple are their clothing;
They are all the work of skilled men.
10But the Lord 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.

10:6 "There is none like You" This is an emphasis on the uniqueness of YHWH. It is an affirmation of monotheism (see Special Topic at 1:5). There was only one God (cf. v. 10). The Septuagint omits vv. 6-8 and 10. This omission is also in the Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts.

▣ "You are great, and great is Your name" "Great" (BDB 162) is used often in Deuteronomy of YHWH (cf. Deut. 3:24; 5:24; 9:26; 11:2; 32:3). Jeremiah often uses the phrasing and terminology of Deuteronomy.

10:7 "King of the nations" YHWH is not just the God of Abraham's seed but the God of creation (see Special Topic at 1:5)! He is the only true God (cf. v. 10)!

This emphasis on YHWH as the only true God is difficult to communicate to a post-modern worldview which depreciates absolutes. Yet, this is the question! It is true or it is false. The biblical worldview rests on this basic affirmation.

10:8 This verse is very difficult to translate, but it seems that the Hebrew is referring to the fact that the Israelites were getting their information and knowledge from a dead stump.

10:9 "Tarshish" This was a city in the far west, possibly Spain or Sardinia. Some say it is just a mythological place to describe something far, far away (cf. the book of Jonah and Ezek. 27:12).

▣ "And gold from Uphaz" "Uphaz" (מאופז, BDB 20) is found only here and in Dan. 10:5 as a place name. From I Kgs. 9:28 a place called "Ophir" (פאופיר, BDB 20, cf. Isa. 13:12) has "gold" (cf. Targums, Peshitta, REB). It possibly means "pure" or "fine" gold, thereby functioning as an adjective.

▣ "Violet and purple are their clothing" These were very expensive dyes in the ancient world, originally coming from Phoenicia. It is simply a way of asserting that no matter how richly or royally they robed their idols, they were still just human-made, inanimate objects!

▣ "They are all the work of skilled men" The NET Bible (p. 1316, #17) points out the contrast between

1. the wise men of the nations

2. the skilled craftsmen

Both use the same root (BDB 314). These idol makers are skillful craftsmen, but they are not wise. True wisdom cannot worship a man-made idol!

10:10 "the Lord is the true God" The Hebrew word (BDB 54) for truth emphasizes trustworthiness and dependability. See Special Topic at 3:12.

▣ "the living God" This seems to reflect the covenant name for God, YHWH, which is from the Hebrew verb "to be" (cf. Exod. 3:14). See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY at 1:2.

Notice the ways YHWH is characterized.

1. there is none like You, vv. 6,7

2. You are great, v. 6

3. King of the nations, v. 7

4. the true God, v. 10

5. the living God, v. 10

6. the everlasting King, v. 10 (cf. #3)

7. the creator, vv. 12-13

8. the Maker of all is He, v. 16

9. the captain of the armies of heaven (i.e., Lord of hosts), v. 16

YHWH is the God who creates, hears, sees, and acts. The idols are non-existent. They cannot move, hear, see, or act. They will be destroyed! YHWH is the true, real, live, eternal One! (see SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM at 1:5).

11Thus you shall say to them, "The gods that did not make the heavens and the earth will perish from the earth and from under the heavens."

10:11 This verse is in Aramaic. It is the only verse in Jeremiah in Aramaic (also note Ezra 4:8-6:18; 7:12-26; Dan. 2:4-7:28). Why one Aramaic verse should appear in the midst of a Hebrew book is uncertain. Some of the theories are:

1. The rabbis say that it was part of a letter sent to King Jehoiachin in captivity in Babylon.

2. It was an anti-polytheistic proverb.

3. It was an exorcism formula.

4. It was a marginal note, later inserted into the text (TEV, NEB).


12It is He who made the earth by His power,
Who established the world by His wisdom;
And by His understanding He has stretched out the heavens.
13When He utters His voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens,
And He causes the clouds to ascend from the end of the earth;
He makes lightning for the rain,
And brings out the wind from His storehouses.
 14Every man is stupid, devoid of knowledge;
Every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols;
  For his molten images are deceitful,
And there is no breath in them.
15They are worthless, a work of mockery;
In the time of their punishment they will perish.
16The portion of Jacob is not like these;
For the Maker of all is He,
And Israel is the tribe of His inheritance;
The Lord of hosts is His name.

10:12-16 This is a passage about God as creator. In this passage it is He who gives and controls water, which was a very important theological issue in the agricultural Ancient Near East. Water was part of the Babylonian creation myth and the Canaanite creation myth. The Canaanite god, Ba'al, was supposedly the storm god that provided water (i.e., life). Contrary to both of these myths, YHWH is the creator, sustainer, and provider of rain and water.

10:12 "It is He who made the earth by His power,

Who established the world by His wisdom" This is an emphasis on God as creator (cf. v. 16). Verses 12-16 are repeated in Jer. 51:15-19. The theological assertion that YHWH established the world by "wisdom" comes from Pro. 8:22-31. This is the OT background for John 1:1-14.

10:14-15 These verses continue the ridicule of idols (cf. vv. 3-5). The term "breath" is a play on the term for spirit (cf. Ezekiel 37).


10:16 "The portion of Jacob is not like these" This refers to the God of Jacob (cf. Ps. 73:26). Jacob's name was changed to Israel (cf. Gen. 32:28).

▣ "Israel is the tribe of His inheritance" The KJV has "the rod of His inheritance." This refers to the rod as a means of measurement or a standard. However, most English translations follow NASB.

17Pick up your bundle from the ground,
You who dwell under siege!
18For thus says the Lord,
"Behold, I am slinging out the inhabitants of the land
At this time,
And will cause them distress,
That they may be found."

10:17-18 This strophe starts with an imperative, "pick up your bundle" (BDB 62, KB 72, Qal imperative) which denotes the imminence of the Babylonian exile. It shows that the Israeli people would go into exile with only that which they could carry; that God is the One who pronounced this judgment because of their sin, not because Marduk was a greater and stronger deity!

10:18 The last line has several translation options.

1. NASB - "that they may be found"

2. MT, NKJV - "that they may find it so" (from אצמ, BDB 592)

3. NRSV, Peshitta - "that they may find me!"

4. TEV- "until not one is left"


NET Bible - "that they shall feel it"

6. LXX- "that your plague may be discovered"

7. REB, NEB - "squeeze them dry" (from מצה, BDB 594)

8. NIV - "that they may be captured" 

Apparently the line refers to the fact that none shall escape capture and exile. Context and word root are the two most helpful ways to determine meaning in poetry.

19Woe is me, because of my injury!
My wound is incurable.
But I said, "Truly this is a sickness,
And I must bear it."
20My tent is destroyed,
And all my ropes are broken;
My sons have gone from me and are no more.
There is no one to stretch out my tent again
Or to set up my curtains.
21For the shepherds have become stupid
And have not sought the Lord;
Therefore they have not prospered,
And all their flock is scattered.
22The sound of a report! Behold, it comes-
A great commotion out of the land of the north-
To make the cities of Judah
A desolation, a haunt of jackals.

10:19-22 This strophe of lament is similar to Jer. 8:18-22. It seems to reflect the heart of God through the words of Jeremiah. However, the nation is personified. The land suffers from mankind's sin (cf. Deuteronomy 27-28; Rom. 8:18-22). There is a series of nomadic metaphors here, particularly related to the "tent" and "flocks."

10:19 Jeremiah uses sickness or wounds as a metaphor for sin (cf. 30:17), as does Isaiah 1:5-6; 53:5; Ps. 103:3 (note the synonymous parallelism). These verses cannot be used as a promise of physical healing.


The last line of v. 19 can have several translation options (i.e., different vowels).


NJV, JPSOA - "I must bear it"

2. NRSV- "If this is the worst, I can bear it"

3. TEV- "we thought this was something we could endure!"

Number 1 is the people's resignation of Divine judgment. Number 2 is a belittling of the judgment. I think #1 fits the context best.

10:21 "shepherds" This (BDB 944 I) refers to spiritual leaders (cf. 2:8,16; 3:15; 6:3; 12:10; 22:22; 23:1,2,4; 25:34-36; 50:6; 51:23; Ezek. 34:3).

10:22 "A great commotion out of the land of the north" This refers to the coming exile. The north was an idiom for invasion since this was the only route that invaders from the Fertile Crescent (i.e., Mesopotamia) could take because of the desert directly to the east of Palestine.

23I know, O Lord, that a man's way is not in himself,
Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps.
24Correct me, O Lord, but with justice;
Not with Your anger, or You will bring me to nothing.
25Pour out Your wrath on the nations that do not know You
And on the families that do not call Your name;
For they have devoured Jacob;
They have devoured him and consumed him
And have laid waste his habitation.

10:23-25 This is a closing prayer for mercy as the prophet speaks on behalf of the people. See Special Topic at 7:16.

10:23 "a man's way is not in himself;

Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps" This is an affirmation of the truth that God is in control of all things. Humans must trust in Him (cf. Pro. 3:5,6; Ps. 37:23; 66:8,9).

10:24 "Correct me, O Lord" This is a Piel imperative (BDB 415, KB 418, cf. 2:19). It is the emphasis on God as parent (cf. Pro. 3:12; Ps. 103:6-14; Heb. 12:5-13). God is a disciplining parent; He disciplines for the purpose of maturity in righteousness.

10:25 The prophet's prayer to God continues and pleads that He will judge (lit. "pour out," BDB 1049, KB 1629, Qal imperative) the nations which He used to judge His people (cf. Ps. 79:6-7). The ultimate goal of creation is to know YHWH and have a world that reflects His character.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. What metaphor or analogy does Jeremiah use in chapter 8 to describe Judah's reluctance to repent?

2. Why are the graves opened in chapter 8?

3. Who are the scribes in chapter 8?

4. Who is speaking in 8:18-9:16?

5. List the judgments that God will send on Judah in chapter 9.

6. Describe Jeremiah's understanding of circumcision and its purpose.

7. List the reasons for the futility of idolatry found in chapter 10.

8. List the attributes of YHWH in chapter 10.

9. Why did God allow His people to be exiled!