Bible Review 10:6, December 1994

Jeremiah’s Polemic Against Idols

What archaeology can teach us

By Philip J. King

Biblical archaeology envisions a dialogue between artifacts and the scriptural text. In many ways archaeology can provide the context that brings the text to life. Recently I completed a book on Jeremiah and archaeology in which I fill in the background of the prophet’s entire work.1 Here we will look at a single passage where the prophet, dripping with sarcasm, delivers a satire on idolatry, ridiculing idols as worthless contrast to Israel’s omnipotent God.

This famous passage from Jeremiah 10 (see the sidebar “The Lord of the House of Israel versus Foreign Gods [Jeremiah 10:1–16]”) has received much linguistic analysis, and the several versions we have differ considerably. The Hebrew textus receptus (the Masoretic text) is longer than the old Greek text (the Septuagint or LXX). My own view, and that of many distinguished scholars, is that the Hebrew text is sound; therefore that version will form the basis of this discussion.

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