The power of Yahweh’s word (Jer 23:28-23:29)

“‘Let the prophet

Who has a dream

Tell the dream.

But let the one

Who has my word,

Speak my word faithfully.

What has straw

In common with wheat?’

Says Yahweh.

‘Is not my word

Like fire?’

Says Yahweh.

‘Is not my word

Like a hammer

That breaks

A rock in pieces?’”

Yahweh, via Jeremiah, issued a series of oracles about the power of his word. If a prophet had a dream, let him tell that dream. However, anyone who had the word of Yahweh should also speak the word faithfully. Straw is dried up and useless, but wheat or grain is full of nourishment. The word of Yahweh was like fire or a hammer that could break any rock into pieces.

False wooden idols (Jer 10:3-10:5)

“The customs of the people

Are false.

A tree from the forest

Is cut down.

It is worked with an ax

By the hands of an artisan.

People deck it with silver.

They deck it with gold.

They fasten it with a hammer.

They fasten it with nails.

Thus it cannot move.

Their idols are

Like scarecrows in a cucumber field.

They cannot speak.

They have to be carried.

They cannot walk.

Do not be afraid of them!

They cannot do evil.

It is not in them to do good.”

This section is a lot like that of Second Isaiah, especially chapters 40-44, against false human made idol gods. Thus this probably also comes from the later exilic times. Many people have this false custom of idol worship. He reminded them that these wooden idols come from a tree. Someone cut down the tree in the forest. Then an artisan or wood carver axed or created an image with a hammer and nails. Then they put silver and gold on it. Thus these false wooden idols cannot move. They are more like a scarecrow in a cucumber patch. They cannot talk or walk, since they have to be carried around. No one should be afraid of these scarecrow idols, since they cannot do any evil to you. However, they also cannot do any good for you either. Once again, this is an argument against the false wooden idol gods and their human makers.

The artisans (Sir 38:27-38:30)

“Every master artisan

Labors by night

As well as by day.

Those who cut the signets of seals,

Each is diligent

In making a great variety.

They set their heart

On painting a lifelike image.

They are careful

To finish their work.

The smith sits by the anvil.

He is intent on his iron-work.

The breath of the fire

Melts his flesh.

He struggles

With the heat of the furnace.

The sound of the hammer

Deafens his ears.

His eyes are

On the pattern of the object.

He sets his heart

On finishing his handiwork.

He is careful

To complete its decoration.

The potter sits at his work.

He turns the wheel

With his feet.

He is always deeply concerned

Over his products.

He produces them in quantity.

He moulds the clay with his arm.

He makes it pliable with his feet.

He sets his heart

To finish the glazing,

He takes care

In firing the kiln furnace.”

Sirach then explained in detail about the various skilled artists who work day and night to finish their creative works. First, there were those who made the various colorful painted seals as lifelike as possible. Then there were the blacksmiths who worked in iron with a hammer, anvil, and a hot furnace that affected their hands, ears, and eyes. Finally, there was the potter who made lots of different products. He molded the clay with his hands and feet. He finished it off by glazing it in the kiln furnace. All these artisans worked diligently until they completed their products.