Jeremiah 10

 

שִׁמְעוּ אֶת־הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יְהוָה עֲלֵיכֶם בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל׃   10:1

Jere. 10:1   Hear the word that the Lord is speaking to you, O house of Israel!

כֹּה אָמַר יְהוָה אֶל־דֶּרֶךְ הַגֹּויִם אַל־תִּלְמָדוּ וּמֵאֹתֹות הַשָּׁמַיִם אַל־תֵּחָתּוּ כִּי־יֵחַתּוּ הַגֹּויִם מֵהֵמָּה׃   10:2

Jere. 10:2   Thus says the Lord:

                      “Do not learn of the way of the heathen,

                                and do not be dismayed by the signs of heaven,

                      for the heathen are dismayed by them.”

כִּי־חֻקֹּות הָעַמִּים הֶבֶל הוּא כִּי־עֵץ מִיַּעַר כְּרָתֹו מַעֲשֵׂה יְדֵי־חָרָשׁ בַּמַּעֲצָד׃   10:3

Jere. 10:3   “For, the carvings of the peoples?

                                It is vanity.

                      For one cuts a tree from the forest,

                               a work of the hands of a craftsman with an ax.”

The Hebrew word I translate as carvings is almost always translated by others as customs.  The venerable sages who applied the vowel points (since they do not appear in the ancient texts) presumably assumed that the root of the word tAQxu was the usual word meaning statute, custom, ordinance, etc.  However, with different vowel points under the chet (the first Hebrew letter) the word can be a verb meaning to draw, engrave, carve, imitate, etc.  As happens elsewhere in the bible, a verb is sometimes used as a noun, and I believe this is one of those situations.  I believe that Jeremiah used a play on words here which encompasses all of the meanings together.  To acknowledge my belief, I used my alternate translation to emphasize what Jeremiah might have been saying.  After all, the rest of the verse and much of the chapter relates to idols, and this makes the first part of the verse conform to the general theme of this chapter.

בְּכֶסֶף וּבְזָהָב יְיַפֵּהוּ בְּמַסְמְרֹות וּבְמַקָּבֹות יְחַזְּקוּם וְלֹוא יָפִיק׃   10:4

Jere. 10:4   “With silver and with gold he might beautify it;

                               with nails and with hammers

                      they would strengthen them so it would not wobble.”

Notice the changes in number of the third-person pronouns referring to the craftsmen and the idols.  Without much doubt, this can be attributed to either (1) the consistency the scribe sought to maintain in the poetry, or (2) the scribe’s conveying the idea of the magnitude and prevalence of the sin of idolatry.  I suspect it’s the latter.

כְּתֹמֶר מִקְשָׁה הֵמָּה וְלֹא יְדַבֵּרוּ נָשֹׂוא יִנָּשׂוּא כִּי לֹא יִצְעָדוּ אַל־תִּירְאוּ מֵהֶם כִּי־לֹא יָרֵעו   10:5

ּ וְגַם־הֵיטֵיב אֵין אֹותָם׃

Jere. 10:5   “Like a post, a carved work, are they,

                                so they cannot speak.

                     To move, they must be borne, for they cannot walk.

                                You need not be frightened by them,

                      for they cannot do evil;

                                yet also none can do good with them.”

The second Hebrew word in this verse, which I’ve translated as carved work, is translated by most translators as something like a cucumber garden.  The reason for this is indicated by the same word appearing in Isai. 1:8, which is appropriately translated as such there.  Here however, the context is different.  There Isaiah is referring to Zion.  Here Jeremiah is referring to idols.  Because of this, I feel that my alternate translation is more fitting in this context.

מֵאֵין כָּמֹוךָ יְהוָה גָּדֹול אַתָּה וְגָדֹול שִׁמְךָ בִּגְבוּרָה׃   10:6

Jere. 10:6   There is none like You, O Lord!

                                Great are You and great is Your name in might.

מִי לֹא יִרָאֲךָ מֶלֶךְ הַגֹּויִם כִּי לְךָ יָאָתָה כִּי בְכָל־חַכְמֵי הַגֹּויִם וּבְכָל־מַלְכוּתָם מֵאֵין כָּמֹוךָ׃   10:7

Jere. 10:7   Who would not fear You,

                                O King of the nations?

                      For it is appropriate for You,

                                when among all the wise men of the nations

                      and among all their royalty,

                                 there is none like You.

וּבְאַחַת יִבְעֲרוּ וְיִכְסָלוּ מוּסַר הֲבָלִים עֵץ הוּא׃   10:8

Jere. 10:8   Also they can be definitely barbarous

                                and they can be foolish.

                      A tree, it is the practice of vanities.

I imagine the pronouns they in this verse refer back to the wise men and royalty of the previous verse.  Foolish and barbarous, says the Lord, to build and worship idols.

כֶּסֶף מְרֻקָּע מִתַּרְשִׁישׁ יוּבָא וְזָהָב מֵאוּפָז מַעֲשֵׂה חָרָשׁ וִידֵי צֹורֵף תְּכֵלֶת וְאַרְגָּמָן לְבוּשָׁם   10:9

 מַעֲשֵׂה חֲכָמִים כֻּלָּם׃

Jere. 10:9   Silver platework from Tarshish is brought,

                               and gold from Uphaz,

                      product of a craftsman and the hands of a founder.

                               Blue and purple are their garments;

                      all of them are the work of cunning men.

וַיהוָה אֱלֹהִים אֱמֶת הוּא־אֱלֹהִים חַיִּים וּמֶלֶךְ עֹולָם מִקִּצְפֹּו תִּרְעַשׁ הָאָרֶץ וְלֹא־יָכִלוּ גֹויִם זַעְמֹו׃   10:10

Jere. 10:10   But the Lord is the true God;

                               He is the living God and the everlasting King.

                        The earth will tremble because of His “wrath,”

                                and nations will not endure His “anger.”

כִּדְנָה תֵּאמְרוּן לְהֹום אֱלָהַיָּא דִּי־שְׁמַיָּא וְאַרְקָא לָא עֲבַדוּ יֵאבַדוּ מֵאַרְעָא וּמִן־תְּחֹות שְׁמַיָּא אֵלֶּה׃   10:11

Jere. 10:11   “You shall speak to them like this:  ‘The gods who did not create the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under these heavens.’”

I suppose Jeremiah is quoting the Lord’s instructions to him in this verse.  Others have supposed that the verse came from a line in a letter he wrote, and thus it would be his own words, and the quotation marks would be placed differently.  I think it’s more likely that it was as I assumed.  He refers to the Lord throughout this chapter; why would he at this point quote from a letter of his?

עֹשֵׂה אֶרֶץ בְּכֹחֹו מֵכִין תֵּבֵל בְּחָכְמָתֹו וּבִתְבוּנָתֹו נָטָה שָׁמָיִם׃   10:12

Jere. 10:12   He fashioned the earth with His power,

                                establishing the world by His wisdom,

                        and with His understanding

                                stretched out the heavens.

לְקֹול תִּתֹּו הֲמֹון מַיִם בַּשָּׁמַיִם וַיַּעֲלֶה נְשִׂאִים מִקְצֵה (אֶרֶץ) [הָאָרֶץ] בְּרָקִים לַמָּטָר עָשָׂה וַיֹּוצֵא   10:13

 רוּחַ מֵאֹצְרֹתָיו׃

Jere. 10:13   His voice gives Him an abundance of water in the heavens

                               and He raises up vapors from the ends of the earth;

                        He fashions lightning for the rain

                               and brings forth the wind from His storehouses.

A heh prefix is missing from the word for earth (in the parentheses).  The correction is shown in the brackets.

נִבְעַר כָּל־אָדָם מִדַּעַת הֹבִישׁ כָּל־צֹורֵף מִפָּסֶל כִּי שֶׁקֶר נִסְכֹּו וְלֹא־רוּחַ בָּם׃   10:14

Jere. 10:14   Every man is stupid because of perception;

                               every smelter is sucked up by idols.

                        For fraudulent are his molten images,

                               as there is no spirit in them.

הֶבֶל הֵמָּה מַעֲשֵׂה תַּעְתֻּעִים בְּעֵת פְּקֻדָּתָם יֹאבֵדוּ׃   10:15

Jere. 10:15   They are vanity, the work of delusions.

                                In the time of their functioning they shall fizzle.

לֹא־כְאֵלֶּה חֵלֶק יַעֲקֹב כִּי־יֹוצֵר הַכֹּל הוּא וְיִשְׂרָאֵל שֵׁבֶט נַחֲלָתֹו יְהוָה צְבָאֹות שְׁמֹו׃   10:16

Jere. 10:16   The Portion of Jacob is not like these;

                                for He is the Creator of all,

                        and Israel is the scepter, His possession;

                               The Lord of hosts is His name.

אִסְפִּי מֵאֶרֶץ כִּנְעָתֵךְ (יֹשַׁבְתִּי) [יֹשֶׁבֶת] בַּמָּצֹור׃   10:17

Jere. 10:17   Gather up your bundle from the land,

                                dwell in siege!

The word in parentheses is thought to be in error.  However, its form parallels that of the first word in the verse, which is feminine imperative.  I assume this is also feminine imperative in accordance with its original spelling, and have translated it appropriately.  As such, it is not an error.

כִּי־כֹה אָמַר יְהוָה הִנְנִי קֹולֵעַ אֶת־יֹושְׁבֵי הָאָרֶץ בַּפַּעַם הַזֹּאת וַהֲצֵרֹותִי לָהֶם לְמַעַן יִמְצָאוּ׃   10:18

Jere. 10:18   For thus says the Lord:  “Behold, I hurl forth the inhabitants of the land at this time and cause distress for them that they might learn.”

אֹוי לִי עַל־שִׁבְרִי נַחְלָה מַכָּתִי וַאֲנִי אָמַרְתִּי אַךְ זֶה חֳלִי וְאֶשָּׂאֶנּוּ׃   10:19

Jere. 10:19   “Woe is me for My ‘pain!’

                                 Grievious is My ‘wound.’

                        But I say,

                                 ‘Indeed, this is a grief and I must bear it.’”

אָהֳלִי שֻׁדָּד וְכָל־מֵיתָרַי נִתָּקוּ בָּנַי יְצָאֻנִי וְאֵינָם אֵין־נֹטֶה עֹוד אָהֳלִי וּמֵקִים יְרִיעֹותָי׃   10:20

Jere. 10:20   “My tabernacle is spoiled and all My cords are torn.

                                 My children have abandoned Me

                        and there are no more of them.

                                There is none to stretch forth My tent any more

                        or to set up My curtains.”

כִּי נִבְעֲרוּ הָרֹעִים וְאֶת־יְהוָה לֹא דָרָשׁוּ עַל־כֵּן לֹא הִשְׂכִּילוּ וְכָל־מַרְעִיתָם נָפֹוצָה׃   10:21

Jere. 10:21   For the shepherds are stupid;

                                 and they have not sought the Lord.

                        Therefore they shall not prosper,

                                 as all their flocks are scattered.

קֹול שְׁמוּעָה הִנֵּה בָאָה וְרַעַשׁ גָּדֹול מֵאֶרֶץ צָפֹון לָשׂוּם אֶת־עָרֵי יְהוּדָה שְׁמָמָה מְעֹון תַּנִּים׃   10:22

Jere. 10:22   The sound of the news, behold, arrives,

                                 and a great quaking,

                         out of the land of the north

                                 to make the cities of Judah a desolation,

                         a den of serpents.

יָדַעְתִּי יְהוָה כִּי לֹא לָאָדָם דַּרְכֹּו לֹא־לְאִישׁ הֹלֵךְ וְהָכִין אֶת־צַעֲדֹו׃   10:23

Jere. 10:23   I know, O Lord,

                                 that one’s way is not humanity’s;

                        it is not for a person's walk,

                                 then, to direct his step.

This verse contains some difficult Hebrew, and is not easy to translate.  The general meaning seems to be that of a plea by Jeremiah for the Lord’s compassion on Israel.  In the next two verses he continues this seeming plea, urging the Lord to punish him in Israel’s place but not too harshly, and to direct His “fury” towards the nations that will conquer and destroy Judah.

יַסְּרֵנִי יְהוָה אַךְ־בְּמִשְׁפָּט אַל־בְּאַפְּךָ פֶּן־תַּמְעִטֵנִי׃   10:24

Jere. 10:24   Admonish me, O Lord,

                                 but with judgment,

                        not in Your “anger,”

                                 lest You bring me to nothing.

שְׁפֹךְ חֲמָתְךָ עַל־הַגֹּויִם אֲשֶׁר לֹא־יְדָעוּךָ וְעַל מִשְׁפָּחֹות אֲשֶׁר בְּשִׁמְךָ לֹא קָרָאוּ כִּי־אָכְלוּ   10:25         ּ וַיְכַלֻּהוּ וְאֶת־נָוֵהוּ הֵשַׁמּוּ׃

Jere. 10:25   Pour out Your “fury”

                               against the heathen who do not know You

                        and upon the nations who do not call on Your name,

                               for they swallow Jacob

                        and devour him and consume him

                               and his habitation they make desolate.

 

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