The Bible – Old Testament
A copy of the letter which Jeremiah sent to those who were being led captive to Babylon by the king of the Babylonians, to convey to them what God had commanded him:
For the sins you committed before God, you are being led captive to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Babylonians.
When you reach Babylon you will be there many years, a period seven generations long; after which I will bring you back from there in peace.
And now in Babylon you will see borne upon men’s shoulders gods of silver and gold and wood, which cast fear upon the pagans.
Take care that you yourselves do not imitate their alien example and stand in fear of them,
when you see the crowd before them and behind worshiping them. Rather, say in your hearts, “You, O LORD, are to be worshiped!”;
for my angel is with you, and he is the custodian of your lives.
Their tongues are smoothed by woodworkers; they are covered with gold and silver-but they are a fraud, and cannot speak.
People bring gold, as to a maiden in love with ornament,
and furnish crowns for the heads of their gods. Then sometimes the priests take the silver and gold from their gods and spend it on themselves,
or give part of it to the harlots on the terrace. They trick them out in garments like men, these gods of silver and gold and wood;
but though they are wrapped in purple clothing, they are not safe from corrosion or insects.
They wipe their faces clean of the house dust which is thick upon them.
Each has a scepter, like the human ruler of a district; but none does away with those that offend against it.
Each has in its right hand an axe or dagger, but it cannot save itself from war or pillage. Thus it is known they are not gods; do not fear them.
As useless as one’s broken tools
are their gods, set up in their houses; their eyes are full of dust from the feet of those who enter.
Their courtyards are walled in like those of a man brought to execution for a crime against the king; the priests reinforce their houses with gates and bars and bolts, lest they be carried off by robbers.
They light more lamps for them than for themselves, yet not one of these can they see.
They are like any beam in the house; it is said their hearts are eaten away. Though the insects out of the ground consume them and their garments, they do not feel it.
Their faces are blackened by the smoke of the house.
Bats and swallows alight on their bodies and on their heads; and cats as well as birds.
Know, therefore, that they are not gods, and do not fear them.
Despite the gold that covers them for adornment, unless someone wipes away the corrosion, they do not shine; nor did they feel anything when they were molded.
They are bought at any price, and there is no spirit in them.
Having no feet, they are carried on men’s shoulders, displaying their shame to all; and those who worship them are put to confusion
because, if they fall to the ground, the worshipers must raise them up. They neither move of themselves if one sets them upright, nor come upright if they fall; but one puts gifts beside them as beside the dead.
Their priests resell their sacrifices for their own advantage. Even their wives cure parts of the meat, but do not share it with the poor and the weak;
the menstruous and women in childbed handle their sacrifices. Knowing from this that they are not gods, do not fear them.
How can they be called gods? For women bring the offerings to these gods of silver and gold and wood;
and in their temples the priests squat with torn tunic and with shaven hair and beard, and with their heads uncovered.
They shout and wail before their gods as others do at a funeral banquet.
The priests take some of their clothing and put it on their wives and children.
Whether they are treated well or ill by anyone, they cannot requite it; they can neither set up a king nor remove him.
Similarly, they cannot give anyone riches or coppers; if one fails to fulfill a vow to them, they cannot exact it of him.
They neither save a man from death, nor deliver the weak from the strong.
To no blind man do they restore his sight, nor do they save any man in an emergency.
They neither pity the widow nor benefit the orphan.
These gilded and silvered wooden statues are like stones from the mountains; and their worshipers will be put to shame.
How then can it be thought or claimed that they are gods?
Even the Chaldeans themselves have no respect for them; for when they see a deaf mute, incapable of speech, they bring forward Bel and ask the god to make noise, as though the man could understand;
and they are themselves unable to reflect and abandon these gods, for they have no sense.
And their women, girt with cords, sit by the roads, burning chaff for incense;
and whenever one of them is drawn aside by some passer-by who lies with her, she mocks her neighbor who has not been dignified as she has, and has not had her cord broken.
All that takes place around these gods is a fraud: how then can it be thought or claimed that they are gods?
They are produced by woodworkers and goldsmiths, and they are nothing else than what these craftsmen wish them to be.
Even those who produce them are not long-lived;
how then can what they have produced be gods? They have left frauds and opprobrium to their successors.
For when war or disaster comes upon them, the priests deliberate among themselves where they can hide with them.
How then can one not know that these are no-gods, which do not save themselves either from war or from disaster?
They are wooden, gilded and silvered; they will later be known for frauds. To all peoples and kings it will be clear that they are not gods, but human handiwork; and that God’s work is not in them.
Who does not know that they are not gods?
They set no king over the land, nor do they give men rain.
They neither vindicate their own rights, nor do they recover what is unjustly taken, for they are unable;
they are like crows between heaven and earth. For when fire breaks out in the temple of these wooden or gilded or silvered gods, though the priests flee and are safe, they themselves are burnt up in the fire like beams.
They cannot resist a king, or enemy forces.
How then can it be admitted or thought that they are gods? are safe from neither thieves nor bandits, these wooden and silvered and gilded gods;
those who seize them strip off the gold and the silver, and go away with the clothing that was on them, and they cannot help themselves.
How much better to be a king displaying his valor, or a handy tool in a house, the joy of its owner, than these false gods; or the door of a house, that keeps safe those who are within, rather than these false gods; or a wooden post in a palace, rather than these false gods!
The sun and moon and stars are bright, and obedient in the service for which they are sent.
Likewise the lightning, when it flashes, is a goodly sight; and the same wind blows over all the land.
The clouds, too, when commanded by God to proceed across the whole world, fulfill the order;
and fire, sent from on high to burn up the mountains and the forests, does what has been commanded. But these false gods are not their equal, whether in beauty or in power;
so that it is unthinkable, and cannot be claimed, that they are gods. They can neither execute judgment, nor benefit man.
Know, therefore, that they are not gods, and do not fear them.
Kings they neither curse nor bless.
They show the nations no signs in the heavens, nor are they brilliant like the sun, nor shining like the moon.
The beasts which can help themselves by fleeing to shelter are better than they are.
Thus in no way is it clear to us that they are gods; so do not fear them.
For like a scarecrow in a cucumber patch, that is no protection, are their wooden, gilded, silvered gods.
Just like a thornbush in a garden on which perches every kind of bird, or like a corpse hurled into darkness, are their silvered and gilded wooden gods.
From the rotting of the purple and the linen upon them, it can be known that they are not gods; they themselves will in the end be comsumed, and be a disgrace in the land.
The better for the just man who has no idols: he shall be far from disgrace!