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.

How can you compare God with idols? (Isa 40:18-40:20)

“To whom then will you liken God?

What likeness compares with him?

An idol?

A workman casts it.

A goldsmith overlays it with gold.

He casts for it silver chains.

As a gift,

One chooses mulberry wood.

Wood that will not rot.

He seeks out a skilful artisan

To set up an image

That will not topple.”

Second Isaiah wants to know how you can compare God to false idols. Now a workman casts the idol and puts gold and silver over it. Or he may choose a mulberry bush wood that would not rot. He then carves an image and makes it so that it will not fall. How are these things comparable to the one true God? This is a fairly common theme in the second half of Isaiah, so that it might have been a serious problem.

The false worship of the dead (Wis 14:15-14:16)

“A father,

Consumed with grief

At an untimely bereavement,

Made an image of his child,

Who had been suddenly taken from him.

Now he honored him as a god,

What was once a dead human being.

He handed on to his dependents

Secret rites

With initiations.

Then the ungodly custom,

Grown strong with time,

Was kept as a law.

At the command of monarchs

Carved images were worshiped.”

This is an attempt to show how the development of the worship of dead came about. It seems like it all started out when a father (πατήρ) lost his son prematurely. He made an image of his dead child, but then he honored him as god (ὡς Θεὸν). He then handed down to his dependents mysterious secret rituals with various initiation sacrificial ceremonies (μυστήρια καὶ τελετά). This ungodly custom later became a law (ὡς νόμος), so that even monarchs wanted carved images worshipped.