Take another look.
1Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel:
2Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
3For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.
4They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.
5They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.
I wanted to share some findings that I have made concerning Jeremiah chapter 10, the first five verses. One critical thing to remember when studying scripture is, that you must pay attention to paragraph marks! A good study bible will have paragraph marks (looks like the mathematical symbol for pi), this is very important, it will prevent you from injecting scripture from other topics into your specific verses of study. When we look at the first five verses of Jeremiah chapter 10, note that the paragraph ends after verse five. I’ve seen where folks will take a verse from later in the text, and try to use it in the interpretation of these five verses, very dangerous.
- In verse one, we are told to listen, because the Lord is speaking to us. (pay attention! The Lord is telling us something important!)
- In verse two, the Lord gives us a commandment, “learn not…”, don’t practice this heathen custom. In this same sentence is a key clue! The heathen are doing this because of a certain sign in the heavens, winter solstice. The winter solstice festival started on the solstice and ended on New Year’s day, what we now call the twelve days of Christmas.
- In verse three, we begin the description, a custom where a tree is cut from the forest.
- In verse four, they fasten the tree upright so that it will not fall over, and it’s lavishly decorated. (When you watch the TV special “Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer”, look for the part where they decorate the tree, Burl Ives sings “Silver & gold”!)
- In verse five, we are told that it is upright and can not speak and can not walk, its needs must be met (you better water it!) And we are told not to be afraid of it, it is a false god and has no power.
It’s easy to see how the Christian tradition of celebrating the birth of Christ on December 25th, and the traditions of winter solstice merged together over time. Because Christmas took place right in the middle of the twelve day festival, people began to associate the tree, the celebration of Christ’s birth, and the twelve days all as one holiday.
Why these verses are not describing a wooden carving, as some have suggested.
- No wooden carving that I’m aware of is linked with the signs in the heavens (winter solstice).
- The original Hebrew text uses the word “ets” (found in a Hebrew-Chaldee dictionary as #6086), which means “a tree from it’s firmness”. Clearly this is not a post or plank, but a tree from the forest. (roots give a tree it’s firmness, so we know it’s a tree). Some translations use the words “chisel” and “forming”, this is describing tree trimming, once a very popular part of the tree tradition.
- Wooden carvings aren’t typically fastened upright, they usually sit on their own.
- It’s needs must be met, what ‘needs’ does a wooden carving have? You have to add water to the tree.
More info on heathen tree customs: askelm.com/doctrine/d911101.htm
12 day winter solstice festival: candlegrove.com/solstice.html
Setting the date of Christmas in the middle of a pagan festival: wilstar.com/xmas/xmassymb.htm
Hebrew word for tree: htmlbible.com/sacrednamebiblecom/kjvstrongs/STRHEB60.htm