1 # Jr 29.1,2. This is a copy of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent to the people of Judah and Jerusalem, just before the king of Babylonia took them as captives to the city of Babylon. The letter contains the message God sent Jeremiah to tell them.
Worship Only the Lord
2You have sinned against God! That's why King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia#2 King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia: Ruled 605–562 b.c. is taking you as captives to Babylon. 3You will be forced to live there a very long time—as long as seven generations. Then God will lead you home in peace.
4While you are in Babylon, you will see people carrying around idols made of silver and gold and wood. The people worship these so-called gods out of fear that something terrible might happen if they refuse. 5Don't act like these heathens or be frightened into worshiping their idols. 6When you see crowds worshiping idols, tell yourselves to worship only the Lord, 7and God's angel will help you.
Idols Are Not Gods
8Idols are not really gods—they can't even talk! They are covered with gold and silver, and their tongues were carved out of wood. 9People make gold crowns like the ones young women love to wear, and they put these crowns on their idols. 10Sometimes the priests steal the gold and silver from these idols and spend it on themselves 11or give it to temple prostitutes.#11 prostitutes: Young women sometimes served as prostitutes in the worship of foreign gods, but the Lord had forbidden the people of Israel and Judah to worship in this way (see Deuteronomy 23.17,18).
People dress up their idols as if they were human, even though they are nothing but chunks of silver or gold or wood. 12They cannot even protect themselves from rust and decay.#12 decay: One possible meaning for the difficult Greek text. They are decorated with purple robes, 13but someone needs to wipe off their faces when dust from the temple settles on them. 14These idols hold a scepter#14 scepter: A decorated rod, often made of gold, that a king held in his hand as a sign of his royal power. in their hands, just like human judges, yet these idols have no power to punish any criminal. 15Some of them even hold small swords or axes, but they cannot defend themselves from being destroyed in war or stolen. 16All of this proves that idols are not gods. So don't fear them!
Idols Cannot Protect Themselves
17A broken dish is useless! 18And so are the idols in the temples. They can't see, because their eyes are covered with the dust that people stir up when they walk. These idols are locked up in their temples like prisoners about to be put to death for committing a crime against the king. They can't protect the temples, so the priests must close the heavy doors and lock them with bolts to keep robbers out. 19The priests light more lamps in honor of the idols than they do for themselves, yet the idols can't see even one of them. 20These idols are nothing but wood, just like the beams in the temple, and their insides and their clothes are eaten by worms and insects. They don't even know 21when the smoke in the temple makes their faces black. 22Bats, swallows, and other birds perch on their heads and bodies, and cats sleep on them. 23All this proves that idols are not gods. So don't fear them!
Idols Are Not Alive
24-25No matter how much money it took to make these idols, there is no life in them. They didn't feel a thing when they were being made out of melted gold poured into molds—even the gold used to make them beautiful must be polished before it shines.#24,25 even the gold … shines: One possible meaning for the difficult Greek text. 26They are so helpless that they must be carried around—they can't walk on their own.
People who worship idols are put to shame, 27because whenever an idol falls, someone has to pick it up. And after someone sets it back up, the idol cannot move itself anywhere. Even if an idol starts to lean, it cannot straighten itself up.
Offering gifts to an idol is no better than giving gifts to a dead body.#27 Offering gifts … dead body: Or “People offer gifts to these idols just as they do to people who have died.” 28The priests sell the sacrifices that have been offered to these idols and spend the money on themselves. And their wives use salt to preserve any leftover meat from the sacrifices, then save it for their own use, instead of giving it to the poor. 29Women who are having their monthly periods or who have just given birth are even allowed to touch the sacrifices offered to these idols.#29 Women … idols: This was forbidden by the Law of Moses (see Leviticus 12.1-8). Such things prove that idols are not gods. So don't fear them!
Idols Cannot Help Anyone
30How could these idols of silver and gold and wood ever be gods, when women are allowed to make offerings to them?#30 women … them: In ancient Israel, it would have been unacceptable for women to offer sacrifices in the temple. 31The priests shave their beards and hair when they mourn, then they go to the temples in torn clothes, where they sit with their heads uncovered. 32They moan and shout in the temples of these idols, just as some people do at a funeral. 33They even take some of the idols' clothes and give them to their own wives and children. 34You see, it doesn't matter how anyone treats these idols—they cannot reward or punish in return.
Idols aren't able to help anyone become king or take away a king's power. 35They can't make people rich or force them to pay for not keeping a promise. 36These idols cannot keep anyone from dying or protect the weak from the strong. 37They can't give sight to a blind person or rescue someone from danger 38or show mercy to widows and orphans. 39These idols are nothing but chunks of wood covered with gold and silver. They are no more powerful than stones dug from a mountain, and all who worship them will be put to shame. 40Only a fool would think that these idols should be called gods!
The Babylonians Are Foolish Enough To Worship Idols
The Babylonians dishonor their own gods by deserting them when they are unable to help. For example, when the Babylonians see a person who cannot talk, they ask the god Bel to heal that person, as if Bel can really hear and understand. 41#Is 46.1. But when the Babylonians realize these gods have no sense, they just leave them.#41 them: One possible meaning for the difficult Greek text of verse 41.
42Some Babylonian women wrap cords around their heads as a decoration,#42 Babylonian women … decoration: One possible meaning for the difficult Greek text. then they sit along the roads, burning incense and offering themselves as prostitutes.#42 prostitutes: See the note at verse 11. 43And after one of them returns from sleeping with a stranger, that prostitute makes fun of the one sitting next to her for not being pretty enough to be chosen.
44Everything the Babylonians do to serve their idols is useless. How could anyone ever believe that idols are gods?
Idols Are Made by Humans
45Idols are made by woodworkers and metalworkers, and so the idols always turn out to be exactly what the workers want. 46These workers are humans and die like everyone else. 47How could they ever make a god? The only thing they can leave for future generations is deceit and disgrace.
48When war or trouble comes, priests must decide where they will go to escape and hide with their so-called gods. 49The idols cannot save themselves from war or trouble because they aren't gods.
50Idols are nothing more than wood covered with gold and silver. Someday people will finally realize that they are fake. 51People from every nation, including kings, will know that these powerless idols were made by human hands. 52Everyone will realize that they are not gods.#52 gods: One possible meaning for the difficult Greek text of verse 52.
Idols Are Powerless
53Idols don't have the power to make someone king or to send rain. 54They can't make their own decisions or free a person who has been wronged. They are powerless 55and as useless as crows flying through the air.
If a temple catches on fire, the priests will run to safety. But since the idols are merely wood covered with gold or silver, they will burn like logs.
56Since idols cannot oppose an enemy or a king, it's foolish to believe they are gods.
57These wooden idols covered with silver and gold cannot even protect themselves from thieves, 58who strip off the silver and gold, as well as the clothes. All of it can be easily carried off by robbers because these false gods can do nothing to stop them.
59Anything is better than an idol, including a brave king, a household pot, a door that protects things in a house, or a wooden column in a palace. All these are more useful than false gods.
60-61The sun, moon, and stars, as well as the lightning and the wind, all do what they are supposed to do. 62-63And when God tells clouds to cover the earth or commands fire to burn forests, they also obey. But idols cannot do a thing! 64No one should ever believe that idols are gods. They can't help anyone or make decisions about justice. 65You know they are not gods, so why fear them?
66Idols cannot punish or bless kings, 67and they can't make strange things happen in the sky. They don't shine like the sun or the moon. 68Even wild animals are better off than idols—at least they can run to protect themselves from danger. 69Nothing shows that these idols are gods. So don't fear them!
70The Babylonian gods are pieces of wood covered with gold and silver, and they are as helpless as a scarecrow guarding a cucumber patch. 71They are like a thornbush that birds use as a place to perch or like a dead body thrown out into the darkness. 72The purple linen#72 linen: One possible meaning for the difficult Greek text. robes they wear will rot—this also proves they are not really gods. Someday the idols themselves will waste away to nothing, and they will be a disgrace to their worshipers.
73People who do right have no use at all for idols. And these people are better off, because they will never be put to shame.