Is there any connection between the tree mentioned in Jeremiah 10 and the Christmas tree?

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Is there any connection between the tree mentioned in Jeremiah 10 and the Christmas tree?

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The symbolism of Jeremiah 10 is briefly explained in this excerpt from our Bible study aid Holidays or Holy Days: Does It Matter Which Days We Observe?  :

Regrettably, the Israelites failed to permanently heed God’s warning. Time and time again they let their fascination with the religious practices of those around them get the better of them as they lapsed into idolatrous worship.

Around 600 B.C. God gave three more warnings against this kind of behavior. First, through the prophet Jeremiah, God said, ‘ Do not learn the way of the Gentiles; do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven, for the Gentiles are dismayed at them’ (Jeremiah 10:2 Jeremiah 10:2Thus said the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
American King James Version×
). Here God cautioned His people against following the gentile (non-Israelite) practices of worshiping the heavenly bodies (like the sun on Dec. 25) and against astrology in general.

In the following verses (Jeremiah 10:3-5 Jeremiah 10:3-5 3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cuts a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. 4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. 5 They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.
American King James Version×
), God describes some of their idolatrous customs. They cut a tree from the forest, shaped it with an ax and overlaid it with precious metals. Although this account is specifically referring to the making of an idol (Jeremiah 10:6-8 Jeremiah 10:6-8 6 For as much as there is none like to you, O LORD; you are great, and your name is great in might. 7 Who would not fear you, O King of nations? for to you does it appertain: for as much as among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like to you. 8 But they are altogether brutish and foolish: the stock is a doctrine of vanities.
American King James Version×
), God’s command, ‘Do not learn the way of the Gentiles,’ applies to all pagan customs. Christmas trees, mistletoe and colorful lights that come from pagan winter-solstice celebrations, rabbits and Easter eggs as fertility symbols, and demonic concepts at Halloween, all fit this prohibition. In giving this instruction against learning the way of the gentiles, God wanted His people to avoid the type of sin their forefathers had committed with the golden calf.

A more extensive explanation of Jeremiah 10 is found in the UCG Bible Commentary :

In this chapter, God makes it very clear: “Learn not the way of the heathen…for the customs of the peoples are vain” (Jeremiah 10:2-3 Jeremiah 10:2-3 2 Thus said the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. 3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cuts a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax.
American King James Version×
, KJV), stressing His total rejection of practices adopted from other religions even if they are intended to honor Him. For God is never honored by disobedience. We can read Deuteronomy 12:29-32 Deuteronomy 12:29-32 29 When the LORD your God shall cut off the nations from before you, where you go to possess them, and you succeed them, and dwell in their land; 30 Take heed to yourself that you be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before you; and that you inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. 31 You shall not do so to the LORD your God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hates, have they done to their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods. 32 What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: you shall not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
American King James Version×
and 2 Corinthians 6:14 2 Corinthians 6:14Be you not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion has light with darkness?
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along with these verses.

God first points out here that pagans were “dismayed at the signs of heaven” (Jeremiah 10:2 Jeremiah 10:2Thus said the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
American King James Version×
). As believers in astrology, they considered their lives to be controlled by celestial events. Today, it is no different among the huge number of people who make daily decisions based on their horoscopes. This practice is utterly condemned by God. Even if astrological forces existed—which they do not—the Almighty Creator and Ruler of the universe would have power over them.

Worse still, the sun, moon, planets and stars were actually  worshiped  by ancient nations—and their movements were used to determine times for worship. Again, this was all based on fear and superstition. For instance, the winter solstice was observed because the sun reached its lowest zenith on that day, the shortest day of the year. It was believed that worship, fires and sacrifices were needed to encourage and boost the sun god back to his higher station. Afterward, the people celebrated the rebirth of the sun.

Indeed, the sun god was understood to have been born of his mother goddess around the time of the winter solstice—in fact, by the reckoning of various ancient cultures, on December 25. Evergreen plants and trees were used in this particular worship because they seemed to retain life through the winter months. These customs have continued down to our day in the form of the Christmas tree and decorations of holly and mistletoe.

Continuing then in Jeremiah 10:3-5 Jeremiah 10:3-5 3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cuts a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. 4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. 5 They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.
American King James Version×
, at least in the King James, New King James or Jewish Publication Society translations, the Christmas tree must surely come to mind. However, many mainstream Christian scholars, and other Bible versions, identify the objects addressed in this section as wooden poles or idols. That is certainly possible. In fact, it may even be likely if the word translated ‘workman’ in Jeremiah 10:3 Jeremiah 10:3For the customs of the people are vain: for one cuts a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax.
American King James Version×
can only mean a skilled craftsman and if the word translated ‘ax’ here can mean a carving tool, as some have rendered it. The exact meaning of the verse remains unclear.

Interestingly, it should be noted that the Hebrew word translated ‘wooden idol’ in Jeremiah 10:8 Jeremiah 10:8But they are altogether brutish and foolish: the stock is a doctrine of vanities.
American King James Version×
, ets, is normally translated ‘tree’ in the Bible. Notice God’s instruction back in Deuteronomy 16:21 Deuteronomy 16:21You shall not plant you a grove of any trees near to the altar of the LORD your God, which you shall make you.
American King James Version×
: ‘You shall not plant for yourself any tree [ ets ], as a wooden image [ asherah ], near the altar which you build for yourself to the LORD your God.’

There are a number of references in Scripture to Asherah—understood to be an idol representation of the goddess Ashtoreth or Astarte, the mother goddess referred to in Scripture as the ‘queen of heaven’ (mentioned in the highlights on Jeremiah 7:1-27 Jeremiah 7:1-27 1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, 2 Stand in the gate of the LORD’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the LORD, all you of Judah, that enter in at these gates to worship the LORD. 3 Thus said the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. 4 Trust you not in lying words, saying, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, are these. 5 For if you thoroughly amend your ways and your doings; if you thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor; 6 If you oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: 7 Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever. 8 Behold, you trust in lying words, that cannot profit. 9 Will you steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you know not; 10 And come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations? 11 Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, said the LORD. 12 But go you now to my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel. 13 And now, because you have done all these works, said the LORD, and I spoke to you, rising up early and speaking, but you heard not; and I called you, but you answered not; 14 Therefore will I do to this house, which is called by my name, wherein you trust, and to the place which I gave to you and to your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh. 15 And I will cast you out of my sight, as I have cast out all your brothers, even the whole seed of Ephraim. 16 Therefore pray not you for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear you. 17 See you not what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 18 The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings to other gods, that they may provoke me to anger. 19 Do they provoke me to anger? said the LORD: do they not provoke themselves to the confusion of their own faces? 20 Therefore thus said the Lord GOD; Behold, my anger and my fury shall be poured out on this place, on man, and on beast, and on the trees of the field, and on the fruit of the ground; and it shall burn, and shall not be quenched. 21 Thus said the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Put your burnt offerings to your sacrifices, and eat flesh. 22 For I spoke not to your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices: 23 But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people: and walk you in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well to you. 24 But they listened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward. 25 Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt to this day I have even sent to you all my servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them: 26 Yet they listened not to me, nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck: they did worse than their fathers. 27 Therefore you shall speak all these words to them; but they will not listen to you: you shall also call to them; but they will not answer you.
American King James Version×
). ‘From the Biblical references, it appears that Asherah is referred to in three manifestations: (1) as an image, probably a statue or figurine representing the goddess herself; (2) as a tree; and (3) as a tree trunk. The latter two are, in effect, symbols of the goddess’ (Ruth Hestrin, ‘Understanding Asherah: Exploring Semitic Iconography,’ Biblical Archaeology Review, Sept.-Oct. 1991, p. 50). Indeed, the phrase ‘under every green tree’ (Deuteronomy 12:2 Deuteronomy 12:2You shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which you shall possess served their gods, on the high mountains, and on the hills, and under every green tree:
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), is used a number of times in Scripture to denote a pagan sacred place—that is, not just trees but evergreen trees.

Jeremiah 10 is indeed talking about the setting up of idols. But what many fail to realize in reading through the chapter is that sometimes trees themselves were set up by ancient pagans as idols. Depending on the exact meaning of the words translated workman and ax in the chapter, a carved idol or an actual tree could be meant. Both were cut from the forest, with stands fashioned to keep them fixed and upright but still able to be moved and set up anywhere (Jeremiah 10:3-5 Jeremiah 10:3-5 3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cuts a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. 4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. 5 They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.
American King James Version×
). Both, in the ancient world, were decorated with silver and gold and draped with costly fabrics (Jeremiah 10:4 Jeremiah 10:4They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.
American King James Version×
and Jeremiah 10:9 Jeremiah 10:9Silver spread into plates is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz, the work of the workman, and of the hands of the founder: blue and purple is their clothing: they are all the work of cunning men.
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). With tree idols, idolatrous metal ornaments were sometimes fashioned and hung from the branches—which Jeremiah 10:9 Jeremiah 10:9Silver spread into plates is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz, the work of the workman, and of the hands of the founder: blue and purple is their clothing: they are all the work of cunning men.
American King James Version×
could be describing. Yet the verse could alternatively be a reference to metal adornments for a carved idol.

In direct disobedience to God, the Jews under Manasseh actually set up an asherah in honor of Baal, the son and husband of Ashtoreth (see 2 Kings 21:3 2 Kings 21:3For he built up again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he reared up altars for Baal, and made a grove, as did Ahab king of Israel; and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them.
American King James Version×
). Indeed, such was used in surrounding cultures to honor the sun-god Baal and his mother on the birthday of the sun, December 25—which is when this abomination of Manasseh may have taken place, in imitation of neighboring societies. Even if that’s not exactly what Manasseh did, it is rather likely that such decorated trees in winter would have been part of the Jews’ worship of Baal, as in other cultures.

More amazing to consider is the fact that in the syncretistic blending of religions, Baal (‘Lord’) was identified with the true Lord. Thus, the apostate Jews, in copying pagan worship customs, may well have set up decorated evergreen trees to worship the birthday of the true Lord—the One who later came to earth as Jesus Christ! And the Lord called their adoption of such customs to honor Him an abomination. Indeed, He still does.

While people today do not worship trees when they set up Christmas trees or other evergreen decorations such as holly and mistletoe, they are nevertheless using accoutrements of past idolatry to supposedly honor God. Yet the true God will have none of it. He sees it as disobedience and rebellion—and idolatrously clinging to tradition over His direct commandments. For anything that comes before the true God is an idol, whether we literally bow down to it or not. Indeed, it is even possible that modern Christmas trees are intended by Jeremiah’s words—particularly when we consider that this may be, as it seems to be on some level, an end-time prophecy to the ‘house of Israel’ that speaks of God’s coming wrath on the nations and the destruction of all idolatry (compare Jeremiah 10:1 Jeremiah 10:1Hear you the word which the LORD speaks to you, O house of Israel:
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, Jeremiah 10:10-11 Jeremiah 10:10-11 10 But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation. 11 Thus shall you say to them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens.
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, Jeremiah 10:15 Jeremiah 10:15They are vanity, and the work of errors: in the time of their visitation they shall perish.
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). For in the end time, the Israelite nations are not setting up wooden Asherah poles. But every winter, there are millions and millions of Christmas trees. And even if Christmas trees are not directly intended by the prophecy, the principle is the same.