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

Chapter 14

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1Again, the man who gets ready for a voyage and plans to set his course through the wild waves invokes a piece of wood more fragile than the ship which is to carry him. 2Desire for gain invented the ship, and the shipwright with his skill built it a 14:2 and the shipwright … built it: other witnesses read and wisdom was the shipwright who built it. ; 3but your providence, Father, is the pilot, for you have given it a pathway through the sea and a safe course among the waves, 4showing that you can save from every danger, so that even the inexpert can put to sea. 5It is your will that the things made by your wisdom should not lie unused; and therefore people entrust their lives even to the frailest spar, and passing through the billows on a mere raft come safe to land. 6So in the beginning, when the proud race of giants was being brought to an end, the hope of mankind escaped on a raft and, piloted by your hand, bequeathed to the world a new breed of people. 7While a blessing is on the wood through which right prevails, 8the wooden idol made by human hands is accursed, and so is its maker —he because he made it, and the perishable thing because it was called a god. 9Equally hateful to God are the godless and their ungodliness; 10the doer and the deed will both be punished. 11Therefore retribution will fall on the idols of the heathen, because although part of God's creation they have been made into an abomination, to make people stumble and to catch the feet of the foolish. 12The devising of idols is the beginning of immortality; they are an invention which has blighted human life. 13They did not exist from the beginning, nor will they be with us for ever; 14superstition brought them into the world, and for good reason a speedy end is in store for them.

15Some father, overwhelmed with untimely grief for the child suddenly taken from him, made an image of his child and honoured thenceforth as a god what was once a dead human being, handing on to his household the observance of rites and ceremonies. 16Then this impious custom, established by the passage of time, was observed as law. Or again, graven images came to be worshipped at the command of despotic princes. 17When people could not do honour to such a prince before his face because he lived too far away, they made a likeness of that distant face, and produced a visible image of the king they sought to honour, in order that by their zeal they might gratify the absent prince as though he were present. 18Then the cult grows in fervour as those to whom the king is unknown are spurred on by ambitious craftsmen. 19In his desire, it may be, to please the monarch, a craftsman skilfully distorts the likeness into an ideal form, 20and the common people, beguiled by the beauty of the workmanship, take for an object of worship him whom lately they honoured as a man. 21So this becomes a snare in the life of a people: enslaved by mischance or misgovernment, they confer on stocks and stones the name that none may share.

22Then, not content with crass error in their knowledge of God, people live in the constant warfare of ignorance and call this monstrous evil peace. 23They perform ritual killing of children and secret ceremonies and the frenzied orgies of unnatural cults; 24the purity of life and marriage is abandoned; and a man treacherously murders a neighbour or by corrupting his wife breaks his heart. 25All is chaos —bloody murder, theft and fraud, corruption, treachery, riot, perjury, 26honest folk driven to distraction; ingratitude, depravity, sexual perversion, breakdown of marriage, adultery, debauchery. 27For the worship of idols, whose names it is wrong even to mention, is the beginning, the cause, and the end of every evil. 28People either indulge themselves to the point of madness, or pass off lies as prophecies, or live dishonest lives, or break their oath without scruple. 29They perjure themselves and expect no harm because the idols they trust in are lifeless. 30But judgement will overtake them on two counts: both because in their devotion to idols they have thought wrongly about God, and also because in their contempt for religion they have deliberately perjured themselves. 31It is not any power in what they swear by, but the nemesis of sin, that ever pursues the transgressions of the wicked.

Notes:

a 14:2 and the shipwright … built it: other witnesses read and wisdom was the shipwright who built it.

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