How a carpenter makes false idols (Wis 13:11-13:16)

“A skilled woodcutter

May saw down a tree

That is easy to handle.

He skillfully strips off all its bark.

Then with pleasing workmanship

He makes a useful vessel

That serves life’s needs.

He burns the castoff pieces of his work.

Thus he prepares his food.

He eats his fill.

But he takes a castoff piece

From among them,

That is useful for nothing,

A crooked stick,

Full of knots.

He carves with care in his leisure.

He shapes it with skill gained in idleness.

He forms it in the likeness of a human being.

He makes it like some worthless animal.

He gives it a coat of red paint.

He colors its surface red.

He covers every blemish in it with paint.

Then he makes a suitable niche for it.

He sets it in the wall.

He fastens it there with iron.

He takes thought for it.

Thus it may not fall.

Because he knows

That it cannot help itself.

It is only an image.

It has need of help.”

This is a satirical description of how these false images were made by a skilled woodcutter or carpenter. Obviously this carpenter makes some useful vessels for eating and other purposes. He takes a tree and strips the bark. He then burns the left over wood for cooking. However, he may take some of this useless crooked knotted wood and carve some images in his spare time. He will probably make an image of a human (εἰκόνι ἀνθρώπου) or an animal. Then he will paint it red to cover all the blemishes. After that, he will fasten it with iron on a wall niche in an area so that it will not fall off. He knows that his carved image needs help to sit on a wall. Clearly there is nothing divine about this process or the resulting useless image (εἰκὼν).

33 thoughts on “How a carpenter makes false idols (Wis 13:11-13:16)

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