Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Warning against idolatry by means of a view of the nothingness of the false gods (Jer 10:1-5), and a counter-view of the almighty and everlasting God (Jer 10:6-11) and of His governing care in the natural world. This warning is but a further continuation of the idea of Jer 9:23, that Israel's glory should consist in Jahveh who doth grace, right, and justice upon earth. In order thoroughly to impress this truth on the backsliding and idolatrous people, Jeremiah sets forth the nullity of the gods feared by the heathen, and, by showing how these gods are made of wood, plated with silver and gold, proves that these dead idols, which have neither life nor motion, cannot be objects of fear; whereas Jahveh is God in truth, a living and everlasting God, before whose anger the earth trembles, who has created the earth, and rules it, who in the day of visitation will also annihilate the false gods.
(Note: This whole passage is declared by Movers (de utr. rec. Jer. p. 43), de W., Hitz., and Ng. to be spurious and a late interpolation; because, as they allege, it interrupts the continuity, because its matter brings us down to the time of the Babylonian exile, and because the language of it diverges in many respects from Jeremiah's. Against these arguments Kper, Haev., Welte, and others have made a Stand. See my Manual of Introd. 75, 1. - By the exhibition of the coherence of the thought given in the text, we have already disposed of the argument on which most stress is laid by the critics referred to, the alleged interruption of the connection. How little weight this argument is entitled to, may over and above be seen from the fact that Graf holds Jer 9:22-25 to be an interpolation, by reason of the want of connection; in which view neither Movers preceded him, nor has Hitz. or Ng. followed Him. The second reason, that the subject-matter brings us down to the time of the exile, rests upon a misconception of the purpose in displaying the nothingness of the false gods. In this there is presupposed neither a people as yet unspotted by idolatry, nor a people purified therefrom; but, in order to fill the heart with a warmer love for the living God and Lord of the world, Israel's own God, the bias towards the idols, deep-seated in the hearts of the people, is taken to task and attacked in that which lies at its root, namely, the fear of the power of the heathen's gods. Finally, as to the language of the passage, Movers tried to show that the whole not only belonged to the time of the pseudo-Isaiah, but that it was from his hand. Against this Graf has pronounced emphatically, with the remark that the similarity is not greater than is inevitable in the discussion of the same subject; whereas, he says, the diversity in expression is so great, that it does not even give us any reason to suppose that the author of this passage had the pseudo-Isaiah before him when he was writing. This assertion is certainly an exaggeration; but it contains thus much of truth, that along with individual similarities in expression, the diversities are so great as to put out of the question all idea of the passage's having been written by the author of Isa 40-56. In several verses Jeremiah's characteristic mode of expression is unmistakeable. Such are the frequent use of הבל for the idols, Jer 10:3 and Jer 10:15, cf. Jer 8:19; Jer 14:22, and עת פּקדּתם, Jer 10:15, cf. Jer 8:12; Jer 46:21; Jer 50:27, neither of which occurs in the second part of Isaiah; and הובישׁ, Jer 10:14, for which Isaiah uses בּושׁ, Isa 42:17; Isa 44:11. Further, in passages cognate in sense the expression is quite different; cf. Jer 10:4 and Jer 10:9 with Isa 40:19-20; Isa 41:7, where we find ימּוט instead of יפיק, which is not used by Isaiah in the sense of "move;" cf. Jer 10:5 with Isa 46:7 and Isa 41:23; Jer 10:12 with Isa 45:18. Finally, the two common expressions cannot prove anything, because they are found in other books, as שׁבט נחלתו, Jer 10:16 and Isa 63:17, derived from Deu 32:9; or יהוה צבאות , which is used frequently by Amos; cf. Amo 4:13; Amo 5:27, Amo 5:8; Amo 9:6, cf. with Jer 33:2. - Even נסך in the sense of molten image in Jer 10:14, as in Isa 41:29; Isa 48:5, is found also in Dan 11:8; consequently this use of the word is no peculiarity of the second part of Isaiah.)
The nothingness of the false gods. - Jer 10:1. "Hear the word which Jahveh speaketh unto you, house of Israel! Jer 10:2. Thus saith Jahveh: To the ways of the heathen use yourselves not, and at the signs of the heaven be not dismayed, because the heathen are dismayed at them. Jer 10:3. For the ordinances of the peoples are vain. For it is wood, which one hath cut out of the forest, a work of the craftsman's hands with the axe. Jer 10:4. With silver and with gold he decks it, with nails and hammers they fasten it, that it move not. Jer 10:5. As a lathe-wrought pillar are they, and speak not; they are borne, because they cannot walk. Be not afraid of them; for they do not hurt, neither is it in them to do good."
This is addressed to the house of Israel, i.e., to the whole covenant people; and "house of Israel" points back to "all the house of Israel" in Jer 9:25. עליכם for אליכם, as frequently in Jeremiah. The way of the heathen is their mode of life, especially their way of worshipping their gods; cf. ἡ ὁδὸς, Act 9:2; Act 19:9. למד c. אל, accustom oneself to a thing, used in Jer 13:21 with the synonymous על, and in Psa 18:35 (Piel) with ל. The signs of heaven are unwonted phenomena in the heavens, eclipses of the sun and moon, comets, and unusual conjunctions of the stars, which were regarded as the precursors of extraordinary and disastrous events. We cannot admit Hitz.'s objection, that these signs in heaven were sent by Jahveh (Joe 3:3-4), and that before these, as heralds of judgment, not only the heathen, but the Jews themselves, had good cause to be dismayed. For the signs that marked the dawning of the day of the Lord are not merely such things as eclipses of sun and moon, and the like. There is still less ground for Ng.'s idea, that the signs of heaven are such as, being permanently there, call forth religious adoration from year to year, the primitive constellations (Job 9:9), the twelve signs of the zodiac; for תּחתּוּ( נחת), to be in fear, consternari, never means, even in Mal 2:5, regular or permanent adoration. "For the heathen," etc., gives the cause of the fear: the heathen are dismayed before these, because in the stars they adored supernatural powers.
The reason of the warning counsel: The ordinances of the peoples, i.e., the religious ideas and customs of the heathen, are vanity. הוּא refers to and is in agreement with the predicate; cf. Ew. 319, c. The vanity of the religious ordinances of the heathen is proved by the vanity of their gods. "For wood, which one has hewn out of the forest," sc. it is, viz., the god. The predicate is omitted, and must be supplied from הבל, a word which is in the plural used directly for the false gods; cf. Jer 8:19; Deu 32:21, etc. With the axe, sc. wrought. מעצד Rashi explains as axe, and suitably; for here it means in any case a carpenter's tool, whereas this is doubtful in Isa 44:12. The images were made of wood, which was covered with silver plating and gold; cf. Isa 30:22; Isa 40:19. This Jeremiah calls adorning them, making them fair with silver and gold. When the images were finished, they were fastened in their places with hammer and nails, that they might not tumble over; cf. Isa 41:7; Isa 40:20. When thus complete, they are like a lathe-wrought pillar. In Jdg 4:5, where alone this word elsewhere occurs. תּמר means palm-tree (=תּמר); here, by a later, derivative usage, = pillar, in support of which we can appeal to the Talmudic תּמּר, columnam facere, and to the O.T. תּימרה, pillar of smoke. מקשׁה is the work of the turning-lathe, Exo 25:18, Exo 25:31, etc. Lifeless and motionless as a turned pillar.
(Note: Ew., Hitz., Graf, Ng. follow in the track of Movers, Phniz. i. S. 622, who takes מקשׁה se acc. to Isa 1:8 for a cucumber garden, and, acc. to Epist. Jerem. v. 70, understands by תּמר מקשׁה the figure of Priapus in a cucumber field, serving as a scare-crow. But even if we admit that there is an allusion to the verse before us in the mockery of the gods in the passage of Epist. Jerem. quoted, running literally as follows: ὧσπερ γὰρ ἐν οἰκυηράτῳ προβασκάνιον οὐδὲν φυλάσσον, οὕτως οἱ θεοὶ αὐτῶν εἰσὶ ξύλινοι καὶ περίχρυσοι καὶ περιάργυροι; and if we further admit that the author was led to make his comparison by his understanding מקשׁה in Isa 1:8 of a cucumber garden; - yet his comparison has so little in common with our verse in point of form, that it cannot at all be regarded as a translation of it, or serve as a rule for the interpretation of the phrase in question. And besides it has yet to be proved that the Israelites were in the habit of setting up images of Priapus as scare-crows.)
Not to be able to speak is to be without life; not to walk, to take not a single step, i.e., to be without all power of motion; cf. Isa 46:7. The Chald. paraphrases correctly: quia non est in iis spiritus vitalis ad ambulandum. The incorrect form ינּשׂוּא for ינּשׂאוּ is doubtless only a copyist's error, induced by the preceding נשׂוא. They can do neither good nor evil, neither hurt nor help; cf. Isa 41:23. אותם for אתּם, as frequently; see on Jer 1:16.
The almighty power of Jahveh, the living God. - Jer 10:6. "None at all is like Thee, Jahveh; great art Thou, and Thy name is great in might. Jer 10:7. Who would not fear Thee, Thou King of the peoples? To Thee doth it appertain; for among all the wise men of the peoples, and in all their kingdoms, there is none at all like unto Thee. Jer 10:8. But they are all together brutish and foolish; the teaching of the vanities is wood. Jer 10:9. Beaten silver, from Tarshish it is brought, and gold from Uphaz, work of the craftsman and of the hands of the goldsmith; blue and red purple is their clothing; the work of cunning workmen are they all. Jer 10:10. But Jahveh is God in truth, He is living God and everlasting King; at His wrath the earth trembles, and the peoples abide not His indignation. Jer 10:11. Thus shall ye say unto them: The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, these shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens."
In this second strophe Jahveh is contrasted, as the only true God and Lord of the world, with the lifeless gods. These there is no need to fear, but it behoves all to fear the almighty God, since in His wrath He can destroy nations. When compared with Psa 86:8, the מן in מאין seems redundant - so much so, that Ven. pronounces it a copyist's error, and Hitz. sets it aside by changing the vowels. The word as it stands contains a double negation, and is usually found only in dependent clauses with a strong negative force: so that there is none. Here it has the same force, but at the beginning of the sentence: none at all is as Thou; cf. Ew. 323, a. Great is Thy name, i.e., the manifestation of Thee in the world, in Thy government of the earth. "In (or with) might" belongs to "great:" great with might, displaying itself in acts of might; cf. Jer 16:21. Who would not fear Thee? a negative setting of the thought: every one must fear Thee. King of the nations; cf. Psa 22:29; Psa 47:8; Psa 96:10. יאתה from יאה, ἁπ. λεγ.. equivalent to נאה (whence נאוה), to be seemly, suitable. Among the wise men of the peoples none is like Thee, so as that any should be able to make head against Thee by any clever stroke; cf. Isa 19:12; Isa 29:14. Nor is there in any kingdom of the peoples any one like Jahveh, i.e., in might. It is not merely earthly kings that are meant, but the gods of the heathen as well. In no heathen kingdom is there any power to be compared with Jahveh. We are led here to think also of the pagan gods by Jer 10:8, where the wisdom and almighty power of the living God are contrasted with foolishness and vanity of the false gods. בּאחת is not: in uno = in una re, sc. idololatria (Rabb.); nor is it, as Hitz. in most strained fashion makes it: by means of one thing, i.e., by (or at) a single word, the word which comes immediately after: it is wood. אחת is unquestionably neuter, and the force of it here is collective, = all together, like the Chald. כחדא. The nominative to "are brutish" is "the peoples." The verb בּער is denom. from בּעיר, to be brutish, occurring elsewhere in the Kal only in Psa 94:8, Ezek. 21:36; in the Niph. Jer 10:14, Jer 10:21, Jer 51:17; Isa 19:11. כּסל as verb is found only here; elsewhere we have כּסיל, foolish, and כּסל, folly (Sol 7:1-13 :25), and, as a verb, the transposed form סכל. The remaining words of the verse make up one clause; the construction is the same as in Jer 10:3, but the sense is not: "a mere vain doctrine is the wood," i.e., the idol is itself but a doctrine of vanities. In this way Ew. takes it, making "wood" the subject of the clause and מוּסר the predicate. מוּסר הבלים is the antithesis to מוּסר יהוה, Deu 11:2; Pro 3:11; Job 5:17. As the latter is the παιδεία of the Lord, so the former is the παιδεία of the false gods (הבלים, cf. Jer 8:19). The παιδεία of Jahveh displayed itself, acc. to Deu 11:2, in deeds of might by means of which Jahveh set His people Israel free from the power of Egypt. Consequently it is the education of Israel by means of acts of love and chastenings, or, taken more generally, the divine leading and guidance of the people. Such a παιδεία the null and void gods could not give to their worshippers. Their παιδεία is wood, i.e., not: wooden, but nothing else than that which the gods themselves are - wood, which, however it be decked up (Jer 10:9), remains a mere lifeless block. So that the thought of Jer 10:8 is this: The heathen, with all their wise men, are brutish; since their gods, from which they should receive wisdom and instruction, are wood. Starting from this, Jer 10:9 continues to this effect: However much this wood be decked out with silver, gold, and purple raiment, it remains but the product of men's hands; by no such process does the wood become a god. The description of the polishing off of the wood into a god is loosely attached to the predicate עץ, by way of an enumeration of the various things made use of therefore. The specification served to make the picture the more graphic; what idols were made of was familiar to everybody. מרקּע, beat out into thin plates for coating over the wooden image; cf. Exo 39:3; Num 17:3. As to תּרשׁישׁ, Tartessus in Spain, the source of the silver, see on Eze 27:12. Gold from Ophir; אוּפז here and Dan 10:5 is only a dialectical variety of אופיר, see on Kg1 9:27. As the blue and red purple, see on Exo 25:4. חכמים, skilful artisans, cf. Isa 40:20. They all, i.e., all the idols.
Whereas Jahveh is really and truly God. אלהים (standing in apposition), God in truth, "truth" being strongly contrasted with "vanity," and "living God" (cf. Deu 5:23) with the dead gods (Jer 10:5, Jer 10:8); and everlasting King of the whole world (cf. Psa 10:16; Psa 29:10; Exo 15:18), before whose wrath the earth trembles and the peoples quake with terror; cf. Nah 1:5; Joe 2:11; Psa 97:5. לא יכלוּ (written as in Jer 2:13), they hold not, do not hold out, do not endure.
Jer 10:11 is Chaldee. But it must not be regarded as a gloss that has found its way into the text, on the grounds on which Houb., Ven., Ros., Ew., Hitz., Gr., etc., so regard it, namely, because it is Chaldee, and because there is an immediate connection between Jer 10:10 and Jer 10:12. Both the language in which the verse is written, and the subject-matter of it, are unfavourable to this view. The latter does not bear the character of a gloss; and no copyist would have interpolated a Chaldee verse into the Hebrew text. Besides, the verse is found in the Alexandrian version; and in point of sense it connects very suitably with Jer 10:10 : Jahveh is everlasting King, whereas the gods which have not made heaven and earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens. This the Israelites are to say to the idolaters. ארקא is the harder form for ארעא. The last word, אלּה, is Hebrew; it does not belong to שׁמיּא, but serves to emphasize the subject: the gods - these shall perish. Jeremiah wrote the verse in Chaldee, ut Judaeis suggerat, quomodo Chaldaeis (ad quos non nisi Chaldaice loqui poterant) paucis verbis respondendum sit, as Seb. Schm has remarked. The thought of this verse is a fitting conclusion to the exhortation not to fear the gods of the heathen; it corresponds to the 5th verse, with which the first strophe concludes the warning against idolatry The Israelites are not only not to fear the null and void gods of the heathen, but they are to tell the heathen that their gods will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.
The third strophe. - In it the almighty power of the living God is shown from His providential government of nature, the overthrow of the false gods in the time of judgment is declared, and, finally, the Creator of the universe is set forth as the God of Israel. - Jer 10:12. "That made the earth by His power, that founded the world by His wisdom, and by His understanding stretched out the heavens. Jer 10:13. When He thundering makes the roar of waters in the heavens, He causes clouds to rise from the ends of the earth, makes lightnings for the rain, and brings the wind forth out of His treasuries. Jer 10:14. Brutish becomes every man without knowledge; ashamed is every goldsmith by reason of the image, for falsehood is his molten image, and there is no spirit in them. Jer 10:15. Vanity are they, a work of mockery; in the time of their visitation they perish. Jer 10:16. Not like these is the portion of Jacob: the framer of (the) all is He, and Israel is the stock of His inheritance: Jahveh of hosts is His name."
In point of form, "that made the earth," etc., connects with "Jahveh God," Jer 10:10; but in respect of its matter, the description of God as Creator of heaven and earth is led up to by the contrast: The gods which have not made the heaven and the earth shall perish. The subject to עשׂה and the following verbs is not expressed, but may be supplied from the contrasted statement of Jer 10:11, or from the substance of the several statements in Jer 10:12. The connection may be taken thus: The true God is the one making the earth by His power = is He that made, etc. As the creation of the earth is a work of God's almighty power, so the establishing, the founding of it upon the waters (Psa 24:2) is an act of divine wisdom, and the stretching out of the heavens over the earth like a tent (Isa 40:22; Psa 104:2) is a work of intelligent design. On this cf. Isa 42:5; Isa 44:24; Isa 45:18; Isa 51:13. Every thunder-storm bears witness to the wise and almighty government of God, Jer 10:13. The words לקול are difficult. Acc. to Ew. ֗307, b, they stand for לתּתּו קול: when He gives His voice, i.e., when He thunders. In support of this it may be said, that the mention of lightnings, rain, and wind suggests such an interpretation. But the transposition of the words cannot be justified. Hitz. has justly remarked: The putting of the accusative first, taken by itself, might do; but not when it must at the same time be stat. constr., and when its genitive thus separated from it would assume the appearance of being an accusative to תּתּו. Besides, we would expect לתת קולו rather than לתּתּו קול. קול תּתּו cannot grammatically be rendered: the voice which He gives, as Ng. would have it, but: the voice of His giving; and "roar of waters" must be the accusative of the object, governed by תּתּו. Hence we must protest against the explanation of L. de Dieu: ad vocem dationis ejus multitudo aquarum est in caelo, at least if ad vocem dationis is tantamount to simul ac dat. Just as little can לקול taken by itself mean thunder, so that ad vocem should, with Schnur., be interpreted by tonitru est dare ejus multitudinem aquae. The only grammatically feasible explanation is the second of those proposed by L. de Dieu: ad vocem dandi ipsum, i.e., qua dat vel ponit multitudinem aquarum. So Hitz.: at the roar of His giving wealth of waters. Accordingly we expound: at the noise, when He gives the roar of waters in heaven, He raises up clouds from the ends of the earth; taking, as we do, the ויּעלה to be a ו consec. introducing the supplementary clause. The voice or noise with which God gives the roar or the fulness of waters in the heaven, is the sound of the thunder. With this the gathering of the dark thunder-clouds is put into causal connection, as it appears to be to the eye; for during the thunder we see the thunder-clouds gather thicker and darker on the horizon. נשׂיא, the ascended, poetic word for cloud. Lightnings for the rain; i.e., since the rain comes as a consequence of the lightning, for the lightning seems to rend the clouds and let them pour their water out on the earth. Thunder-storms are always accompanied by a strong wind. God causes the wind to go forth from His store-chambers, where He has it also under custody, and blow over the earth. See a like simile of the store-chambers of the snow and hail, Job 38:22. From ויּעלה onwards, this verse is repeated in Psa 135:7.
In presence of such marvels of divine power and wisdom, all men seem brutish and ignorant (away from knowledge = without knowledge), and all makers of idols are put to shame "because of the image" which they make for a god, and which is but a deception, has no breath of life. נסך, prop. drink-offering, libamen, cf. Jer 7:15; here molten image = מסּכה, as in Isa 41:29; Isa 48:5; Dan 11:8. Vanity they are, these idols made by the goldsmith. A work of mockings, i.e., that is exposed to ridicule when the nullity of the things taken to be gods is clearly brought to light. Others: A work which makes mockery of its worshippers, befools and deludes them (Hitz., Ng.). In the time of their visitation, cf. Jer 6:15.
Quite other is the portion of Jacob, i.e., the God who has fallen to the lot of Jacob (the people of Israel) as inheritance. The expression is formed after Deu 4:19-20, where it is said of sun, moon, and stars that Jahveh has apportioned (חלק) them to the heathen as gods, but has taken Israel that it may be to Him לעם נחלה; accordingly Israel is in Deu 32:9 called חלק יהוה, while in Psa 16:5 David praises Jahveh as מנת־חלקו. For He is the framer הכּל, i.e., of the universe. Israel is the stock of His inheritance, i.e., the race which belongs to Him as a peculiar possession. שׁבט נחלתו is like חבל נחלתו, Deu 32:9; in Psa 74:2 it is said of Mount Zion, and in Isa 63:17 it is used in the plural, 'שׁבטי נ, of the godly servants of the Lord. The name of this God, the framer of the universe, is Jahveh of hosts - the God whom the hosts of heaven, angels and stars, serve, the Lord and Ruler of the whole world; cf. Isa 54:5; Amo 4:13.
The captivity of the people, their lamentation for the devastation of the land, and entreaty that the punishment may be mitigated. - Jer 10:17. "Gather up thy bundle out of the land, thou that sittest in the siege. Jer 10:18. For thus hath Jahveh spoken: Behold, I hurl forth the inhabitants of the land this time, and press them hard, that they may find them. Jer 10:19. Woe is me for my hurt! grievous is my stroke! yet I think: This is my suffering, and I will bear it! Jer 10:20. My tent is despoiled, and all my cords are rent asunder. My sons have forsaken me, and are gone: none stretches forth my tent any more, or hangs up my curtains. Jer 10:21. For the shepherds are become brutish, and have not sought Jahveh; therefore they have not dealt wisely, and the whole flock is scattered. - Jer 10:22. Hark! a rumour: behold, it comes, and great commotion from the land of midnight, to make the cities of Judah a desolation, an abode of jackals. - Jer 10:23. I know, Jahveh, that the way of man is not in himself, nor in the man that walketh to fix his step. Jer 10:24. Chasten me, Jahveh, but according to right; not in Thine anger, lest Thou make me little. Jer 10:25. Pour out Thy fury upon the peoples that know Thee not, and upon the races that call not upon Thy name! for they have devoured Jacob, have devoured him and made an end of him, and laid his pastures waste."
In Jer 10:17 the congregation of the people is addressed, and captivity in a foreign land is announced to them. This announcement stands in connection with Jer 9:25, in so far as captivity is the accomplishment of the visitation of Judah threatened in Jer 9:24. That connection is not, however, quite direct; the announcement is led up to by the warning against idolatry of vv. 1-16, inasmuch as it furnishes confirmation of the threat uttered in Jer 10:15, that the idols shall perish in the day of their visitation, and shows besides how, by its folly in the matter of idolatry, Judah has drawn judgment down on itself. The confession in Jer 10:21 : the shepherds are become brutish, points manifestly back to the description in Jer 10:14 of the folly of the idolaters, and exhibits the connection of Jer 10:17-25 with the preceding warning against idolatry. For "gather up," etc., Hitz. translates: gather thy trumpery from the ground; so that the expression would have a contemptuous tone. But the meaning of rubbish cannot be proved to belong to כּנעה; and the mockery that would lie in the phrase is out of place. כּנעה, from Arab. kǹ, contrahere, constipare, means that which is put together, packed up, one's bundle. The connection of אסף and מארץ is pregnant: put up thy bundle and carry it forth of the land. As N. G. Schroeder suspected, there is about the expression something of the nature of a current popular phrase, like the German Schnr dein Bndel, pack up, i.e., make ready fore the road. She who sits in the siege. The daughter of Zion is meant, but we must not limit the scope to the population of Jerusalem; as is clear from "inhabitants of the land," Jer 10:18, the population of the whole land are comprised in the expression. As to the form יושׁבתי, see at Jer 22:23. אספּי with dag. lene after the sibilant, as in Isa 47:2. "I hurl forth" expresses the violent manner of the captivity; cf. Isa 22:17. "This time;" hitherto hostile invasions ended with plundering and the imposition of a tribute: Kg2 14:14; Kg2 16:5; Kg2 18:13. - And I press them hard, or close them in, למען ימצאוּ. These words are variously explained, because there is no object expressed, and there may be variety of opinion as to what is the subject. Hitz., Umbr., Ng., take the verb find in the sense of feel, and so the object צרה would easily be supplied from the verb הצרתי: so that they may feel it, i.e., I will press them sensibly. But we cannot make sure of this meaning for מצא either from Jer 17:9 or from Ecc 8:17, where know (ידע) and מצא are clearly identical conceptions. Still less is Graf entitled to supply as object: that which they seek and are to find, namely, God. His appeal in support of this to passages like Psa 32:6; Deu 4:27 and Deu 4:29, proves nothing; for in such the object is manifestly suggested by the contest, which is not the case here. A just conclusion is obtained when we consider that הצרתי contains a play on בּמּצור in Jer 10:17, and cannot be understood otherwise than as a hemming in by means of a siege. The aim of the siege is to bring those hemmed in under the power of the besiegers, to get at, reach them, or find them. Hence we must take the enemy as subject to "find," while the object is given in להם: so that they (the enemy) may find them (the besieged). Thus too Jerome, who translates the disputed verb passively: et tribulabo eos ut inveniantur; while he explains the meaning thus: sic eos obsideri faciam, sicque tribulabo et coangustabo, ut omnes in urbe reperiantur et effugere nequeant malum. Taken thus, the second clause serves to strengthen the first: I will hurl forth the inhabitants of this land into a foreign land, and none shall avoid this fate, for I will so hem them in that none shall be able to escape.
This harassment will bring the people to their senses, so that they shall humble themselves under the mighty hand of God. Such feelings the prophet utters at Jer 10:19., in the name of the congregation, as he did in the like passage Jer 4:19. As from the hearts of those who had been touched by their affliction, he exclaims: Woe is me for my breach! i.e., my crushing overthrow. The breach is that sustained by the state in its destruction, see at Jer 4:6. נחלה, grown sick, i.e., grievous, incurable is the stroke that has fallen upon me. For this word we have in Jer 15:18 אנוּשׁה, which is explained by "refuseth to be healed." ואני introduces an antithesis: but I say, sc. in my heart, i.e., I think. Hitz. gives אך the force of a limitation = nothing further than this, but wrongly; and, taking the perf. אמרתּי as a preterite, makes out the import to be: "in their state of careless security they had taken the matter lightly, saying as it were, If no further calamity than this menace us, we may be well content;" a thought quite foreign to the context. For "this my suffering" can be nothing else than the "hurt" on account of which the speaker laments, or the stroke which he calls dangerous, incurable. אך has, besides, frequently the force of positive asseveration: yea, certainly (cf. Ew. 354, a), a force readily derived from that of only, nothing else than. And so here: only this, i.e., even this is my suffering. חלי, sickness, here suffering in general, as in Hos 5:13; Isa 53:3., etc. The old translators took the Yod as pronoun (my suffering), whence it would be necessary to point חלי, like גּוי, Zep 2:9; cf. Ew. 293, b, Rem. - The suffering which the congregation must bear consists in the spoliation of the land and the captivity of the people, represented in Jer 10:20 under the figure of a destruction of their tent and the disappearance of their sons. The Chald. has fairly paraphrased the verse thus: my land is laid waste and all my cities are plundered, my people has gone off (into exile) and is no longer here. יצאני construed with the accus. like egredi urbem; cf. Ge. 54:4, etc. - From "my sons have forsaken me" Ng. draws the inference that Jer 10:19 and Jer 10:20 are the words of the country personified, since neither the prophet could so speak, nor the people, the latter being indeed identical with the sons, and so not forsaken, but forsaking. This inference rests on a mistaken view of the figure of the daughter of Zion, in which is involved the conception of the inhabitants of a land as the children of the land when personified as mother. Nor is there any evidence that the land is speaking in the words: I think, This is my suffering, etc. It is besides alleged that the words give no expression to any sense of guilt; they are said, on the contrary, to give utterance to a consolation which only an innocent land draws from the fact that a calamity is laid upon it, a calamity which must straightway be borne. This is neither true in point of fact, nor does it prove the case. The words, This is my suffering, etc., indicate resignation to the inevitable, not innocence or undeserved suffering. Hereon Graf remarks: "The suffering was unmerited, in so far as the prophet and the godly amongst the people were concerned; but it was inevitable that he and they should take it upon their shoulders, along with the rest." Asserted with so great width, this statement cannot be admitted. The present generation bears the punishment not only for the sins of many past generations, but for its own sins; nor were the godly themselves free from sin and guilt, for they acknowledge the justice of God's chastisement, and pray God to chasten them בּמשׁפּט, not in anger (Jer 10:24). Besides, we cannot take the words as spoken by the prophet or by the godly as opposed to the ungodly, since it is the sons of the speaker ("my sons") that are carried captive, who can certainly not be the sons of the godly alone.
The cause of this calamity is that the shepherds, i.e., the princes and leaders of the people (see on Jer 2:8; Jer 3:15), are become brutish, have not sought Jahveh, i.e., have not sought wisdom and guidance from the Lord. And so they could not deal wisely, i.e., rule the people with wisdom. השׂכּיל is here not merely: have prosperity, but: show wisdom, deal wisely, securing thus the blessed results of wisdom. This is shown both by the contrasted "become brutish" and by the parallel passage, Jer 3:15. מרעיתם, their pasturing, equivalent to "flock of their pasturing," their flock, Jer 23:1.
The calamity over which the people mourns is drawing near, Jer 10:22. Already is heard the tremendous din of a mighty host which approaches from the north to make the cities of Judah a wilderness. קול שׁמוּעה is an exclamation: listen to the rumour, it is coming near. From a grammatical point of view the subject to "comes" is "rumour," but in point of sense it is that of which the rumour gives notice. Graf weakens the sense by gathering the words into one assertory clause: "They hear a rumour come." The "great commotion" is that of an army on the march, the clattering of the weapons, the stamping and neighing of the war-horses; cf. Jer 6:23; Jer 8:16. From the land of midnight, the north, cf. Jer 1:14; Jer 4:6, etc. "To make the cities," etc., cf. Jer 4:7; Jer 9:10. - The rumour of the enemy's approach drives the people to prayer, Jer 10:23-25. The prayer of these verses is uttered in the name of the congregation. It begins with the confession: Not with man is his way, i.e., it is not within man's power to arrange the course of his life, nor in the power of the man who walks to fix his step (וbefore הכין merely marking the connection of the thought: cf. Ew. 348, a). The antithesis to לאדם and לאישׁ is ליהוה, with God; cf. Psa 37:23; Pro 16:9 : Man's heart deviseth his way, but Jahveh establisheth the steps. The thought is not: it is not in man's option to walk in straight or crooked, good or evil ways, but: the directing of man, the way by which he must go, lies not in his own but in God's power. Hitz. justly finds here the wisdom that admits: "Mit unserer Macht ist nichts getan," - man's destiny is ordained not by himself, but by God. Upon this acquiescence in God's dispensation of events follows the petition: Chasten me, for I have deserved punishment, but chasten בּמשׁפּט, acc. to right, not in Thine anger; cf. Psa 6:2; Psa 38:2. A chastening in anger is the judgment of wrath that shall fall on obstinate sinners and destroy them. A chastening acc. to right is one such as is demanded by right (judgment), as the issue of God's justice, in order to the reclamation and conversion of the repentant sinner. "Lest Thou make me little," insignificant, puny; not merely, diminish me, make me smaller than I now am. For such a decrease of the people would result even from a gentle chastisement. There is no comparative force in the words. To make small, in other words, reduce to a small, insignificant people. This would be at variance with "right," with God's ordained plan in regard to His people. The expression is not equivalent to: not to make an utter end, Jer 30:11, etc. The people had no call to pray that they might escape being made an utter end of; thus much had been promised by God, Jer 4:27; Jer 5:10. - God is asked to pour forth His fury upon the heathen who know not the Lord nor call upon His name, because they seek to extirpate Jacob (the people of Israel) as the people of God, at this time found in Judah alone. The several words in Jer 10:25 suggest the fury with which the heathen proceed to the destruction of Israel. The present verse is reproduced in Psa 79:6-7, a psalm written during the exile, or at least after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans; but in the reproduction the energetic expansion of the "devoured" is omitted.