14. Every man is brutish in his knowledge; every founder is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them.
14. Stultus est omnis homo a scientia (vertunt alii, praescientia; sed perperam, meo judicio,) pudefactus est omnis conflator a sculptili; quia mendacium conflatile, et non est spiritus in illis.
Some too refinedly explain the beginning of this verse -- that their own subtlety or wisdom, which they arrogate, infatuates men, according to what Paul says, that men become vain in their minds, when they form an idea of God according to their own imagination. (Romans 1:21.) But the Prophet speaks more plainly, for he says, that all artificers were foolish. The word lrnowledge is not to be taken here for knowledge of truth, but for the knowledge of artificers, whether carpenters or blacksmiths, or those who either melted or grayed or formed gods of wood, stone, and silver, as we may learn from the second clause of the verse. There is no difficulty as to what is meant, if we duly consider the words of the Prophet; he expresses the same thing in two ways; foolish, he says, are all our artificers; then he specifies one sort, every founder or melter, etc. We hence see that the Prophet does not use the word knowledge according to its strict meaning, but extends it to skill in workmanship.1
But when he says that the artizans were foolish, he connects with them, no doubt, all the worshippers of false gods; but he reprobates their knowledge, who applied whatever skill and knowledge they had to so vain a purpose. Bellold, he says, the worker in gold, and every other artificer, think that they are very ingenious when they elegantly form an idol; they spend all their wits on so vain a thing; what is this but folly? But they think that they make a god by their own hands; yet they cannot change the nature of gold and silver. It is the form only that they add; but this form contains no life. Hence he subjoins, There is no spirit in them. He had said before, that they who formed the graven image would be ashamed, or convicted of folly; for he had called them foolish and brutish. Now, reb, bor, in Hiphil, means to be foolish; but the noun means a brute animal. Hence he reproachfully compares these illustrious artizans, who gained repute by the elegant forms they gave to their gods, to asses, and oxen, and other brute animals. Some render Kon , nusak, "covering;" but it signifies, I doubt not, a molten image; for he repeats what he had said, that the founders would be ashamed of the graven image. In short, He says, that the molten image was falsehood, for there was in, them no spirit. He changes the number, but the meaning is evident.
We have seen before that idols were said to be the teaching of vanities; for they were extremely deceived, and became wholly foolish, who ascribed the glory of God to wood and stone. The heathens might say, that they had never thought such a thing; but facies proved that they were liars and made only vain pretences; for why did they place confidence in their idols? -- why did they bow down before them? -- why did they address to them prayers and supplications? They then believed that God was present in the visible form. Now the Prophet says, that this was the teaching of vanities; because they who made a figure or image of God thought that he was like to gold and silver, and that he had some affinity to dead elements, destitute of reason and understanding. For the same purpose he now adds, that the molten image is falsehood; why? because the truth of God is turned into falsehood, as Paul says, (Romans 1:25.)
It is, therefore, a monstrous absurdity when men imagine that wood or stone is an image of God; for there is no similarity, nor can such a thing enter into man's mind without a grievous and an atrocious indignity being offered to God. The reason also is to be noticed, For there is no spirit in them. God, so to speak, is the life of all things living; now, to call a dead thing an image of God, a thing in which there is no mind nor life, is it not to turn light into darkness? This reason, then, ought to be remembered by us; and it is a sufficient refutation of all such errors, when the Prophet says, that there is no spirit in idols, that is, in wood, stone, gold, and silver, and that they are therefore a He; for God will not have himself to be compared to dead things, without mind and life. He then adds --
14. Brutish has every man become by his knowledge; Disgracefully has every founder done as to the graven image, For deception is his cunning; And no spirit is in them.
To render the different parts of this verse correspondent, it is necessary to take sybwh as a Hiphil. The connection is between the first and last line, and between the two middle lines. Eyery man, both the carver and the founder, or melter, were brutish, in employing their knowledge and skill in making idols or images, because there was, after all their toil, no spirit, no life in them. Then the founder acted shamefully in taking the carved thing or image, to cover it with gold or silver, because what he melted was a mere deception.
This verse is no prediction, but a representation of the extreme folly and stupidity of idol -- makers. This is confirmed by the following terse. -- Ed.