Or imagine this: A man is preparing for a trip. He’s about to board a ship that must sail through rough waves. So the man cries out for protection to a little piece of wood that is even more flimsy than the boat that will carry him. Desire for profit led to the ship’s planning, and wisdom was the artisan who built it, but your watchful guidance, Father, pilots the ship. You made a way in the sea, a sure path through strong waves. You have shown us that you can rescue us from anything, so that even those who have no skill can put out to sea. Your will is that the works of your wisdom be fruitful. This is the only reason in the end why humans can entrust their lives to cheap pieces of wood and can reach land safely by riding the breaking surf on a ship that is no more than a raft. Near the beginning, at a time when proud giants were being destroyed, the hope of the world escaped on just such a raft. This was how the genetic character[a] of a new generation survived for the world to come. They were steered the whole way by your hand. Praised be the wood by means of which it has now become possible for us to do what is right!

But idols made by human hands are cursed, as are those who make them. Those who make them are cursed because they make them. The idols are cursed because, though made of corruptible material, people call them gods. Both are equally hateful to God: the godless craftsmen and the products of their godlessness. 10 The thing that has been produced will be punished along with the one who produced it. 11 Therefore, God will come in judgment on the nation’s idols, for they have turned a part of God’s creation into something that God hates. They have produced stumbling blocks for the well-being of humans, a trap set to spring when the feet of the foolish step on it. 12 The very notion of idols was the beginning of immoral sexual activity. The invention of idols ruined human life. 13 In the beginning, idols didn’t exist, and they won’t last forever. 14 They came into the world through the empty-headed imaginings of humans. Therefore, they’ll come to a quick end.

15 Imagine a father overcome with grief at the untimely death of his child. In his grief, he makes an image of the child. The person who was once a corpse he now honors as a god. He passes it on to those under his authority, along with certain mysteries and special ceremonies. 16 As time goes by, his godless custom becomes tradition. Eventually, his custom becomes law, and rulers order the people to worship these carved images.

17 These rulers, moreover, lived far away from most of their subjects. So because the people couldn’t pay their respects in person, they imagined what the ruler looked like and made an image of their honored leader. By their diligent efforts, they were thus still able to shower the king with their flattery. 18 But the artist’s desire to be recognized for his work also incited the fools to an ever greater intensity of worship. 19 Perhaps out of a desire to please the person in power, the artist makes the most of his artistic skill to fashion an even more beautiful and perfect image. 20 The masses, charmed by the object’s workmanship, now begin to consider the object worthy of their worship, where not long before they had only honored the person as a human being.

21 In this way idolatry becomes a trap for one’s life. Whether it is because of a father’s misfortune or because people are ordered to do so, stones and plants begin to be called by the name that was never supposed to be shared with anything or anyone else.

22 Then, as if it weren’t enough that they should err concerning the knowledge of God, other things follow. When living ignorantly in the midst of great war, people call such evil things peace. 23 Then, in the celebration of secret religious ceremonies involving the ritual murder of children or in hidden mysteries or in the mad orgies of strange worship practices, 24 people stop keeping their lives and their marriages pure. Instead, one person plots to kill another by lying in ambush. Another person causes grief by becoming sexually involved with another person’s spouse. 25 Everything becomes a confused mix of blood, murder, theft, and deception. Corruption, breaking one’s word, upheaval, false pledges—all these things abound. 26 What is good is shouted down. Favors are forgotten. Entire beings are stained with guilt. Legitimate genealogy is lost. Marriage is thrown into confusion. Adultery and promiscuity abound.

27 The worship of nameless idols is the origin of all evil—its cause as well as its result. 28 People begin to party so wildly that they all go mad. They prophesy lies. They live in such a way that everything they do is wrong. They bear false witness, 29 but because they have entrusted themselves into the hands of lifeless idols, they don’t expect any harm to come from swearing false pledges. 30 A double judgment will hunt them down—first, because they acted wickedly toward God when they gave their attention to idols; and second, because they made solemn pledges falsely out of contempt for what was holy. 31 It isn’t the power of the things by which they made these solemn pledges but justice that will pursue them until it punishes them for doing wrong.


  1. Wisdom 14:6 Or seed or DNA