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The Oxford Study Bible Study Bible supplemented with commentary from scholars of various religions.

Chapter 6

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1 a 6:1 etc. The chapter and verse numbering is that of the Authorized (King James) Version, in which this forms chapter 6 of Baruch. A COPY of a letter sent by Jeremiah to the captives who were to be taken to Babylon by the king of the Babylonians; it conveys a message entrusted to him by God.

2 IT is because of the sins you have committed in the sight of God that you are being led away captive to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Babylonians. 3Once you are in Babylon, your stay there will be long; it will last for many years, up to seven generations; afterwards I will lead you out from there in peace.

4In Babylon you can now see gods carried on men's shoulders, gods made of silver, gold, and wood, which fill the nations with awe. 5You must be careful, then, never to become like those foreigners. Do not be overawed by the gods when you see them in the midst of a procession of worshippers, 6but say in your hearts, ‘To you alone, O Lord, is worship due.’ 7For my angel will be with you; your lives will be in his care.

8The idols are plated with gold and silver. They have tongues fashioned by a craftsman: they are a sham and cannot speak. 9The people take gold and make crowns for the heads of their gods, as one might for a girl fond of finery. 10Sometimes the priests filch gold and silver from their gods and spend it on themselves; 11they will even give some to the temple prostitutes. They dress up the idols in clothes like human beings, their gods of silver, gold, and wood; 12but the gods, decked in purple though they are, cannot protect themselves against corrosion and moth. 13The dust in the temple lies thick upon them, so that their faces have to be wiped clean. 14Like the ruler of a land, the god holds a sceptre, yet he has no power to put to death anyone who offends him. 15In his right hand he has a dagger and an axe, yet he is powerless to save himself from war and pillage. 16Clearly they are not gods; therefore have no fear of them.

17These gods, sitting in their temples, are of no more use than a broken pot. Their eyes get filled with dust from the feet of those who come in. 18And just as the court of the guardhouse is barricaded when a traitor awaits execution, so the priests secure their temples with doors and bolts and bars to guard against pillage by robbers. 19The priests light lamps, more than they need for themselves—yet the idols can see none of them. 20They are like one of the beams of the temple, but, as men admit, their hearts are eaten out, for creatures crawl from the ground and devour both them and their vestments without their being aware of it. 21Their faces are blackened by the smoke in the temple. 22Bats and swallows and birds of all kinds perch on their bodies and heads, and cats do likewise. 23From all this you may be sure that they are not gods; therefore have no fear of them.

24Though embellished with gold plating, the idols will not shine unless someone rubs off the tarnish. Even when being cast they felt nothing. 25They were bought regardless of price, but there is no breath in them. 26As they lack feet they are carried on men's shoulders, which proclaims to all how worthless they are. 27Even those who serve them are put to shame because, if ever an idol topples to the ground, it does not get up by itself; nor, if anyone sets it up again, can it move by its own effort; and if it is tilted it cannot straighten itself. To set an offering before them is like setting it before the dead! 28The sacrifices made to gods are sold by the priests, who spend the proceeds on themselves. Their wives are no better; they take portions of the sacrifices and cure the meat, and give no share to the needy or helpless. 29These offerings are handled by women who are menstruating or by mothers fresh from childbirth. Be assured by this that they are not gods; have no fear of them.

30For how can they be called gods, these gods of silver, gold, and wood, when it is women who serve them food? 31In the temples are seated the priests, shaven and shorn, with their clothes rent and their heads uncovered. 32They shout and howl before these gods of theirs, like mourners at a funeral feast. 33The priests clothe their wives and children with vestments they stripped from the gods. 34Should anyone do the gods either injury or service they are incapable of repaying it. They cannot set up or depose a king; 35so too they are quite unable to bestow wealth or money. Anyone making a vow to them and failing to honour it will never be called to account. 36They will never save anyone from death, never rescue the weak from the strong, 37never restore the sight of the blind, or rescue a person in distress. 38They neither pity the widow nor befriend the fatherless. 39They are like blocks from the quarry, these wooden things plated with gold and silver, and all who serve them will be discredited. 40How then can anyone suppose them to be gods or call them so?

Besides, even the Chaldaeans themselves bring these idols of theirs into disrepute; 41for when they see a dumb man without the power of articulate speech, they bring him into the temple and ask Bel to give him speech, as if Bel could understand. 42Because they themselves are void of understanding, they do not see the folly of it and abandon their idols. 43The women sit in the street with cords round them, burning bran for incense; and when one of them has been drawn aside by a passer-by and she has lain with him, she taunts her neighbour, who has not been thought as attractive as herself and whose cord has not been broken. 44Everything to do with these idols is a sham. How then can anyone suppose them to be gods or call them so?

45They are the products of the carpenter and the goldsmith; they can be nothing but what the craftsmen intend them to be. 46Even their makers' lives cannot be prolonged; how then can the things they make be gods? 47It is a disgraceful sham they have bequeathed to posterity. 48If war or disaster overtakes the idols, the priests discuss among themselves where they can hide with their gods. 49How then can anyone fail to see that these are not gods, when they are powerless to save themselves from war or disaster? 50Since they are nothing but wood plated all over with gold and silver, they will in such times be recognized for the shams they are. 51To every nation and king it will be evident that these are not gods but the work of human hands, with no divine power in them whatsoever. 52Will anyone still not admit that they are not gods?

53They cannot set up a king over a country; they cannot provide rain; 54they cannot decide a case or redress an injustice b 6:54 cannot…injustice: some witnesses read cannot judge in their own cause, or redress an injustice done them. . They are as helpless as crows tossed about in mid-air. 55When fire breaks out in a temple belonging to those wooden gods all gilded and silvered, their priests will run for safety, but the gods will go up in flames like timbers. 56They cannot offer resistance to king or enemy. How then can anyone accept or believe that they are gods?

57They cannot save themselves from thieves and robbers, these wooden gods, plated with gold and silver. 58Any able-bodied person can strip them of their gold and silver and make off with the vestments in which they are arrayed; they can in no way help themselves. 59Better a king who displays his courage than such a sham god, better a household pot that serves its owner's purpose, better even the door of a house that keeps the contents safe, or a wooden pillar in a palace!

60Sun and moon and the stars that shine so brightly are sent to serve a purpose, and they obey. 61So too, when the lightning flashes, it is seen far and wide. Likewise the wind blows in every land. 62When God commands the clouds to travel over all the world, they accomplish their task; 63and fire, when it is sent down from above to consume mountains and forests, carries out his bidding. But idols are not to be compared with any of these, either in appearance or in power. 64It follows they are not to be considered gods or given that name, since they are incapable of pronouncing judgement or of conferring benefits on mankind. 65Being assured, therefore, that they are not gods, have no fear of them.

66They wield no power over kings, either to curse or to bless; 67and they cannot provide the nations with signs in the heavens, either by shining like the sun or by giving light like the moon. 68Wild beasts are better off; they at least can save themselves by taking cover. 69From first to last there is no evidence that they are gods; so banish all fear of them.

70These wooden gods of theirs, all plated with gold and silver, give no better protection than a scarecrow in a bed of cucumbers. 71They are like a thorn bush in a garden, a perch for every bird, or like a corpse cast out in the dark. Such are their wooden gods, with their plating of gold and silver! 72The purple and fine linen c 6:72 fine linen: prob. mng; Gk marble. rotting on them proves that they are not gods; in the end they will themselves be eaten away, to the disgrace of the land.

73Better, then, to be upright and have no idols, for such a one will be in no danger of disgrace.

Notes:

a 6:1 etc. The chapter and verse numbering is that of the Authorized (King James) Version, in which this forms chapter 6 of Baruch.

b 6:54 cannot…injustice: some witnesses read cannot judge in their own cause, or redress an injustice done them.

c 6:72 fine linen: prob. mng; Gk marble.

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