The mute persons at the temple for Bel (Bar 6:40-6:41)

“Besides,

Even the Chaldeans themselves

Dishonor these gods.

When they see

Someone who cannot speak,

They bring Bel.

They pray to Bel

That the mute

May speak,

As though Bel

Were able

To understand.

Yet they themselves

Cannot perceive this.

They abandon them.

They have no sense.”

The Chaldeans dishonored their own gods. Whenever they saw a mute person, they would bring the god Bel to them. Then they would pray to Bel to make him speak, as if this false god could understand. But then they would leave him or her there with Bel with no response, because these worshipers of Bel had no sense themselves.   Bel was the term used for the Babylonian god Marduk, or Lord. It also was used for many gods in the region. This may have been the start of the use of Lord for the God of Israel, Yahweh.

The weakness of these false idol gods (Bar 6:36-6:40)

“These gods cannot

Save anyone

From death.

They cannot rescue

The weak

From the strong.

They cannot

Restore sight

To the blind.

They cannot

Rescue anyone

Who is in distress.

They cannot

Take pity

On a widow.

They cannot

Do good

To an orphan.

These things

Made of wood,

Overlaid with gold

Or silver,

Are like stones

From the mountain.

Those who serve them

Will be put to shame.

Why then must

Anyone think

That they are gods?

Why call them gods?”

This diatribe against false gods continued with an attempt to show how impotent these gods are, since they cannot save anyone from death. They cannot rescue the weak from the strong. They cannot restore sight to the blind. They cannot rescue anyone in distress. They cannot take pity on a widow nor do any good for an orphan. They are made of wood, covered with gold or silver, like stones from a mountain. They cannot help those who worship them. They will be put to shame. How can anyone think that they are gods or call them gods? They are useless.

The futile activities of these temple priests (Bar 6:33-6:35)

“The priests

Take some

Of the clothing

Of their gods

To clothe

Their wives

Or their children.

Whether one does

Evil

To them

Or good,

They will not be able

To repay it.

They cannot

Set up a king.

They cannot

Depose a king.

Likewise

They are not able

To give

Either wealth

Or money.

If one makes a vow

To them,

Then does not

Keep it,

They will not

Require it.”

These priests of the temple take some of the clothing from their gods to give to their wives and children. Whether anyone does good or evil to them, they are not able to return the favor or resist. They are unable to set up or depose a king as the God of Israel can. They seem to have no control over wealth or money. If someone makes a vow, they do not require them to keep their vows.

Like a funeral (Bar 6:31-6:32)

“In these temples

Of false gods,

The priests sit

With their clothes

Torn.

Their heads

Are shaved.

Their beards

Are shaved.

Their heads

Are uncovered.

They howl.

They shout

Before their gods

As some do

At a funeral banquet.”

The priests of these false idol gods sit in the temples with their clothes torn, as if in mourning. They have their heads and beards shaven with nothing to cover their heads. The Israelite and Judean priests always covered their heads, and they normally did not shave their beards. These priests of the false gods, on the other hand, howled and shouted before the images of their gods. They acted like they were at a funeral meal for their dying gods.

Females touching these idol gods (Bar 6:29-6:30)

“Sacrifices to these idol gods

May even be touched

By women

In their period

Or at childbirth.

Since you know

By these things

That they are not gods,

Do not fear them!

How can they

Be called gods?

Women serve meals

For these gods

Of silver,

Of gold,

Of wood.”

This author points out his anti-feminism by saying that these cannot be true gods if women are involved with them. The sacrifices to these gods were being touched by women, even those in their period or childbirth, which was considered to be unclean from the Hebrew perspective. After all, only men were able to be priests at the Temple in Jerusalem of the true God. These are not true gods because women would serve meals for these gods of silver, gold, and wood. How can you call them gods? Do not be afraid of them!

The caretakers of the idol gods (Bar 6:26-6:28)

“Those who serve

These idol gods

Are ashamed.

If any of these gods

Fall to the ground,

They themselves

Must pick them up.

If anyone sets them upright,

These gods

Cannot move themselves.

If they are tipped over,

They cannot straighten themselves.

Gifts are placed

Before them

Just as before the dead.

The priests sell

The sacrifices

That are offered

To these gods.

They use the money themselves.

Their wives likewise

Preserve some of the meat

With salt.

But they give none of it

To the poor

Or the helpless.”

Next this author attacks those who take care of these idol gods. These caretakers were themselves ashamed. If any of these gods fell to the ground, they must pick them up. They have to set these gods upright since they cannot move themselves. If these idols are tipped over, they cannot up right themselves. In other words, there has to be someone around these false idol gods, because if anything happens to them, these caretakers have to straighten things out. Gifts are placed before these images, just like gifts for the dead. However, these caretaker priests often sell the sacrifices that were offered to these gods. Then they would use the money for themselves. Their wives likewise would preserve some of the meat with salt. However, they gave none of it to the poor or the helpless.

These gods have no feeling (Bar 6:24-6:26)

“As for the gold

That these idol gods wear

For beauty,

It will not shine

Unless someone

Wipes off the tarnish.

Even when

They were being cast,

They had no feeling.

They are bought

Without regard to cost.

But there is no breath

In them.

Having no feet,

They are carried

On the shoulders of others.

They reveal

To all humans

Their worthlessness.”

This author’s diatribe against the false idols continues with an accusation that these idols have no feelings. They wear gold for beauty, but it will not shine unless someone else wipes off its tarnish. As these idols were cast in an iron furnace, they had no feelings while this was going on. However, money is not a problem with creating these idols. Even so, these expensive idol images have no breath and no feet. They have to be carried on the shoulders of others. Thus they reveal to everyone that they are worthless.

The strange creatures in the foreign temples (Bar 6:20-6:23)

“The idols are just

Like a beam

In the temple.

It is said

That their hearts

Are eaten away,

When crawling creatures

From the earth

Devour them,

Along with their robes.

They do not notice

When their faces

Have been blackened

By the smoke

Of the temple.

Bats,

Swallows,

Birds,

As well as cats

Alight on their bodies

As well as their heads.

From this

You will know

That they are not gods.

So do not fear them!”

This author elaborates about the conditions that idols have in the foreign temples. They are just like wooden beams in the temple. Their hearts are being eaten away by crawling creatures that devour them along with their precious robes. These false idols do not even notice when their faces become blackened by the smoke in the temple. There are all kinds of creatures all over them. Bats, cats, swallows, and other birds have landed on their heads and bodies. Thus they should know that these are not really gods. Thus, there is nothing to fear from them.

Security in the foreign temples (Bar 6:18-6:19)

“Just as the gates

Are shut

On every side

Against anyone

Who has offended a king,

As though under sentence

Of death,

So the priests make

Their temples secure

With doors,

With locks,

With bars,

So that they may not be

Plundered

By robbers.

They light more lamps

For them

Than they light for themselves,

Even though their gods

Can see none of them.”

In an interesting bit of irony, this author points out that the foreign temples have a lot of security, as if the temples were in prison. These temples are like someone who has offended a king. They have gates on all sides of them, as if they are awaiting a death sentence. Their temple priests have secured their temples with doors, locks, and bars because they are afraid that robbers will come into the temple and steal things from it. They have so much light in the temple for themselves, rather than for their gods who cannot see anything anyway, with or without light.

The useless gods (Bar 6:12-6:18)

“These gods

Cannot save themselves

From rust.

They cannot save themselves

From corrosion.

When they have been dressed

In purple robes,

Their faces are wiped

Because the dust

From the temple

Is thick upon them.

One of them

Holds a scepter

Like a district judge.

But he is unable

To destroy

Anyone who offends him.

Another has a dagger

In his right hand.

Another has an axe.

But these gods cannot

Defend themselves

From war

Or robbers.

From this,

It is evident

That they are not gods.

So do not fear them!

Just as someone’s dish

Is useless

When it is broken,

So are their gods

When they have been

Set up in the temples.

Their eyes are full

Of the dust

Raised by the feet

Of those who enter.”

This author says that these gods cannot save themselves from rust or corrosion. Even when they have been dressed in purple robes, someone has to wipe their faces because of the thick dust from the temple. If they have a scepter like a district judge, they are unable to destroy anyone who offends them. If they have a dagger or an axe, they cannot defend themselves from war or robbers. It is quite evident that these useless colorful idols are not gods at all. So there is nothing to fear from them. They are like useless broken dishes.