The makers of the false god idols (Bar 6:45-6:47)

“These false idol gods

Are made

By carpenters

Or goldsmiths.

They can be nothing

But what the artisans

Wish them to be.

Those who make them

Will certainly not live

Very long themselves.

How can the things

That are made

By them

Be gods?

They have left

Only lies

With reproach

For those

Who come after.”

This author points out that carpenters and goldsmiths made these false idol gods. The idol gods are what these artisans wanted them to be. Besides all these craftsmen who made these idols will not live long anyway. How then can these things made by finite humans be infinite gods? These false idol makers leave only lies and reproach for those who come after they die.

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The captives and the poor (Jer 52:15-52:16)

Nebuzaradan,

The captain of the guard,

Carried into exile

Some of the poorest

Of the people.

He took into exile

The rest of the people

Who were left in the city,

He took into exile

The deserters

Who had defected

To the king of Babylon,

Together with the rest

Of the artisans.

But Nebuzaradan,

The captain of the guard,

Left some of the poorest people

Of the land,

To be vinedressers

Or tillers of the soil.”

Once again, this is very close to 2 Kings, chapter 25. The king of Babylon did not come himself, but he sent the captain of his bodyguard, Nebuzaradan, to take all the people as captives. This included those who had deserted to the Chaldeans as well as those left in the city. However, he gave some poor people the vineyards and fields to work. This might be a problem when the exiles return. However, here, unlike the 2 Kings narrative and the earlier Jeremiah story of chapter 39, he also took the some of the poor people. This seems odd, since the next sentence talks about leaving the poor people to take care of the vineyards and till the soil. There was no mention of them getting fields and vineyards as in the earlier Jeremiah story. Also here there is a mention of artisans that was lacking in the other presentations.

The letter to the exiles (Jer 29:1-29:1)

“These are the words

Of the letter

That the prophet Jeremiah

Sent from Jerusalem

To the remaining elders

Among the exiles.

It was also sent to

The priests,

The prophets,

Including all the people

Whom King Nebuchadnezzar

Had taken into exile

From Jerusalem

To Babylon.

This was after King Jeconiah,

With the queen mother,

The court officials,

The leaders of Judah,

The leaders of Jerusalem,

The artisans.

With the smiths

Had departed from Jerusalem.”

Apparently Jeremiah wrote a letter to the elders from the first exile in 598 BCE. He sent this letter, like many of Yahweh’s oracles addressed to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, who went to Babylon during the first exile in 598 BCE. King Nebuchadnezzar had taken them from Jerusalem to Babylon. It is hard to tell whether this letter still exists in any form or when it was composed, but probably between 598-587 BCE. King Jeconiah or King Coniah or King Jeconiah of Judah had ruled for only a couple of months when King Nebuchadnezzar removed him in 598 BCE in favor of his uncle King Zedekiah or King Mattaniah (598-587 BCE). At that time, King Jeconiah’s mother, the wife of King Jehoiakim or King Eliakim (609-598 BCE), as well as the court officials and leaders of Judah and Jerusalem went into exile. With them also went the main artisans and iron workers of Jerusalem. Thus the remnant in Jerusalem was like a puppet government for King Nebuchadnezzar. Like the preceding chapter, this is a different numbered chapter in the Greek translation of the Septuagint, chapter 36, not chapter 29 as here.

The first exile of Judah (Jer 24:1-24:1)

“King Nebuchadnezzar

Of Babylon

Had taken into exile

From Jerusalem

King Jeconiah,

The son of Jehoiakim,

Of Judah,

Together with

The officials of Judah,

The artisans

With the smiths.

He had brought them

To Babylon.”

This is the exile of King Coniah, King Jeconiah, or King Jehoiachin, as he was called. King Jehoiakim or King Eliakim was killed in 598 BCE. Thus his son, King Coniah, King Jeconiah, or King Jehoiachin, who was 18 years old, took over for 3 months as king, before he was taken away into the Babylonian captivity by King Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 BCE), where he lived for over 25 years there. His uncle, King Zedekiah or King Mattaniah (598-587 BCE) took over for him. At that time, they took some of the officials of Judah with some artisans or craftsmen as well as the blacksmiths and other skilled workers. They were all brought to Babylon. However, the final exile was not to happen until 11 years later, since King Jeconiah’s uncle King Zedekiah or King Mattaniah ruled in Jerusalem from 598-587 BCE as a vassal of King Nebuchadnezzar.

These foolish man made idols (Jer 10:8-10:9)

“They are stupid.

They are foolish.

The instruction given by idols

Is no better than wood.

Beaten silver is brought

From Tarshish.

Gold is brought

From Uphaz.

They are the work

Of the artisans.

They are the work

Of the hands of the goldsmiths.

Their clothing is blue.

Their clothing is purple.

They are all the product

Of skilled men.”

Jeremiah remarks that the false idol gods are stupid and foolish. Any instruction from them is like instruction from a piece of wood. Their silver is from Tarshish, the big ship building place somewhere on the Mediterranean Sea. Usually the gold is from Ophir, but here it is from an unknown place only mentioned here called Uphaz, that may be another name for Ophir. They even have blue and purple clothing. Obviously these false idols are the work products of skilled humans, both artisans and goldsmiths.

The unique ornamented vestments of Aaron (Sir 45:10-45:13)

“The sacred vestments were

Gold,

Violet,

And purple.

They were the work of an embroiderer.

Aaron had the oracle of judgment,

The Urim and the Thummim.

They had twisted crimson,

The work of a craftsman.

There were precious stones

Engraved like signet seals.

There was a setting of gold,

The work of a jeweler.

This was a commemoration

In engraved letters,

Of each of the tribes of Israel.

He had a gold crown upon his turban.

This was inscribed

Like a signet seal with

‘Holiness.’

This was a distinction to be prized.

This was the work of an expert.

This was the delight for the eyes,

As this was richly adorned.

Before him,

Such beautiful things did not exist.

No outsider ever put them on.

Only his sons put this on.

Only his descendants perpetually put this on.”

The colorful vestments of Aaron were made of embroidered gold, violet, and purple. The artisans had made these crimson yarns. The Urim and Thummim were sacred oracles, in the pouch of the breastplate of judgment, according to Exodus, chapter 28. Aaron would carry the names of the Israelites and the judgment of the Israelites, when he went into the holy place. This unmentioned breastplate had precious stones engraved seals of the 12 tribes in settings of gold. He had a gold crown on his head that was on the top of his turban with gold flower designs. On the top of it was engraved “holiness” or as in Exodus, “Holy to Yahweh.” These highly artistic works were a delight to the eye since nothing like it existed anywhere before. Nobody, but Aaron and his sons could wear these vestments. Eventually, these became the sacred vestments of the Temple high priest.

The guilt of the idol makers (Wis 15:9-15:13)

“But the workers are not concerned

That mortals are destined to die.

Their life is brief.

But they compete with workers

In gold.

They compete with workers

In silver.

They imitate workers

In copper.

They count it as a glorious thing

To mold counterfeit gods.

Their heart is ashes.

Their hope is cheaper than dirt.

Their lives are of less worth than clay.

Because they failed to know

The one who formed them.

They failed to know

Who inspired them with active souls.

They failed to know

Who breathed a living spirit into them.

They considered our existence an idle game.

They considered our life a festival held for profit.

They say one must get money

However one can,

Even by base means.

For these persons,

More than all others,

Know that they sin

When they make from earthy matter fragile vessels,

When they make graven images.”

These idol makers do not care about their short lives. They are competing with other artisans making gold, silver, and copper molded items. They are making counterfeit gods. They have hearts (καρδία αὐτοῦ) like ashes and hope cheaper than dirt (γῆς). Their lives are less worthy than their own clay images. They do not know the one who formed them. They do not know the one who inspired them with a living soul (ψυχὴν). They do not know that their living spirit (πνεῦμα ζωτικόν) came from God. They consider life to be an idle game or a festival played for profit. They maintain that they need money, so that even a low base means (πορίζειν) is okay. More than others, they know that they are sinning. They make these vessels and carved images from mere earth.