Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Him. The folly of exposing one’s life, without necessity, to such imminent danger at sea, is great; though much less than to confide in idols, (Calmet) which are commonly made of more corruptible wood than ships. (Worthington)
Ver. 3. Waves. Of the Red sea, (Vatable) through which the Israelites passed, (Worthington) or rather hast taught navigation to Noe[Noah], (ver. 6.) and enabled him to build the finest vessel that ever appeared.
Ver. 5. Saved. Before the invention of the compass, long voyages were deemed the effects of rashness, or of great confidence in Providence. (Calmet)
Ver. 7. Cometh. By which Noe[Noah] was preserved, (Cornelius a Lapide) or criminals are executed. (Jansenius) — The author foretells the redemption of mankind on the cross. (Worthington) (Galatians iii. 13.) (St. Augustine, City of God chap. xv. 26; St. Ambrose, Psalm cxviii. ser. 8.)
Ver. 12. Fornication. Invention of idols brought people to give way to spiritual fornication, and corruption of manners. (Worthington) — They freely practised what was sanctioned by the example of their gods. (St. Augustine, City of God ii. 7., and 3 Kings xiv. 24., and 4 Kings xxiii. 7, 3.) (Calmet)
Ver. 13. Beginning. Truth is always prior to falsehood. (Haydock) — Josephus (Jewish Antiquities i. 4.) says, idolatry commenced in the 8th generation, and the Jews assert, under Enos. “Then began the name of God to be profaned,” as the Chaldean, &c., translate, Genesis iv. 26. (St. Jerome, q. Heb.) — The corruption of morals was the natural consequence, ver. 12. — Ever. Christ shall destroy them. (Calmet)
Ver. 15. Servants. This was at first done privately, and made the way for public idolatry. Calvin attempts to refute this assertion, maintaining that Laban’s idols were more ancient, and not images. But this argument is nugatory, as theraphim may be rendered either images, (Protestants, 1552.) or idols. (Protestants, 1603.) The latter version is preferable, as Laban called them his gods, and the Greek and Latin have idols. It is also certain, that Ninus set up the image of his father, Jupiter Belus, to be honoured by the people, before Abraham’s time; and the fathers agree, that the making of images in memory of the dead, was the first occasion of idolatry. (St. Chrysostom, hom. 87. in Matthew; St. Jerome in Osee ii., &c.) (Worthington) — Nimrod ordered divine honours to be paid to his deceased son. (Gul. Paris. Leg.) — Yet this fact is not certain. Diophante, the Lacedemonian, assigns the same origin to idolatry as is here given. (Grotius)
Ver. 18. Ignorant. The arts of sculpture and painting may be prejudicial, (Calmet) and were therefore banished by Moses from his republic, (Philo) as the Jews were so prone to idolatry, chap. xv. 4. The case is different with us. (Haydock)
Ver. 21. Name. It cannot with propriety be given to any but God. (Worthington) — The Jews explain this of the name Jehovah, which they will never pronounce. (Calmet)
Ver. 23. Children. This was done by the Chanaanites, Hebrews, &c., chap. xii. 23., and Isaias lvii. 5. — Hidden. The sacrifices of Ceres, Bacchus, &c., were performed in the dark, and horrible impurities were committed, Ephesians v. 12. — Madness. Before they be initiated in the mysteries of Ceres, or prostitute themselves in honour of the deities of impurity, (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities xviii. 4.) in the very temples. Quo non prostrat femina templo? (Juvenal ix.) (Calmet) — Many crimes proceed from idolatry. (Worthington)
Ver. 28. Mad. Like the Bacchanalian women, running crowned with serpents, and eating raw flesh. — Lies. The delusions of the devil, or the fraud of priests. — Easily. Those who believe not in religion, or in the power of him by whom they swear, can give no security by an oath. They fear no harm, ver. 29. Yet they are perjured if they believe Jupiter, for example, to be a god, (St. Augustine, ep. 54. ad Pub.) and if they do not, they are impious; abusing an oath, which is in itself sacred. (Calmet)
Ver. 31. Just. Literally, “the punishment of sinners always walketh about,” &c. (Haydock) — “The stone does not hear thee speaking, but God punishes the deceiver.” (St. Augustine) — The pagans supposed that their idols sometimes punished perjury. (Juvenal, Sat. viii.) — It is God who does it. (Calmet)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The beginning of worshipping idols: and the effects thereof.
1 Again, another designing to sail, and beginning to make his voyage through the raging waves, calleth upon a piece of wood more frail than the wood that carrieth him.
2 For this the desire of gain devised, and the workman built it by his skill.
3 But thy providence, O Father, governeth it: *for thou hast made a way even in the sea, and a most sure path among the waves,
4 Shewing that thou art able to save out of all things, yea, though a man went to sea without art.
5 But that the works of thy wisdom might not be idle: therefore men also trust their lives even to a little wood, and passing over the sea by ship, are saved.
6 *And from the beginning also, when the proud giants perished, the hope of the world fleeing to a vessel, which was governed by thy hand, left to the world seed of generation.
7 For blessed is the wood, by which justice cometh.
8 *But the idol that is made by hands, is cursed, as well it, as he that made it: he because he made it; and it because being frail it is called a god.
9 But to God the wicked and his wickedness are hateful alike.
10 For that which is made, together with him that made it, shall suffer torments.
11 Therefore there shall be no respect had even to the idols of the Gentiles: because the creatures of God are turned to an abomination, and a temptation to the souls of men, and a snare to the feet of the unwise.
12 For the beginning of fornication is the devising of idols: and the invention of them is the corruption of life.
13 For neither were they from the beginning, neither shall they be for ever.
14 For by the vanity of men they came into the world: and therefore they shall be found to come shortly to an end.
15 For a father being afflicted with bitter grief, made to himself the image of his son, who was quickly taken away: and him who then had died as a man, he began now to worship as a god, and appointed him rites and sacrifices among his servants.
16 Then, in process of time, wicked custom prevailing, this error was kept as a law, and statues were worshipped by the commandment of tyrants.
17 And those whom men could not honour in presence, because they dwelt far off, they brought their resemblance from afar, and made an express image of the king, whom they had a mind to honour: that by this their diligence, they might honour as present, him that was absent.
18 And to the worshipping of these, the singular diligence also of the artificer helped to set forward the ignorant.
19 For he being willing to please him that employed him, laboured with all his art to make the resemblance in the best manner.
20 And the multitude of men, carried away by the beauty of the work, took him now for a god, that a little before was but honoured as a man.
21 And this was the occasion of deceiving human life: for men serving either their affection, or their kings, gave the incommunicable name to stones and wood.
22 And it was not enough for them to err about the knowledge of God, but whereas they lived in a great war of ignorance, they call so many and so great evils peace.
23 *For either they sacrifice their own children, or use hidden sacrifices, or keep watches full of madness,
24 So that now they neither keep life, nor marriage undefiled, but one killeth another through envy, or grieveth him by adultery:
25 And all things are mingled together, blood, murder, theft, and dissimulation, corruption and unfaithfulness, tumults and perjury, disquieting of the good,
26 Forgetfulness of God, defiling of souls, changing of nature, disorder in marriage, and the irregularity of adultery and uncleanness.
27 For the worship of abominable idols is the cause, and the beginning and end of all evil.
28 For either they are mad when they are merry: or they prophecy lies, or they live unjustly, or easily forswear themselves.
29 For whilst they trust in idols, which are without life, though they swear amiss, they look not to be hurt.
30 But for both these things they shall be justly punished, because they have thought not well of God, giving heed to idols, and have sworn unjustly, in guile despising justice.
31 For it is not the power of them, by whom they swear, but the just vengeance of sinners always punisheth the transgression of the unjust.
3: Exodus xiv. 22.
6: Genesis vi. 4. and vii. 7.
8: Psalm cxiii. 4.; Baruch vi. 3.
23: Deuteronomy xviii. 10.; Jeremias vii. 6.