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The Prophet could not sufficiently express the greatness of the calamity, except by expressing his astonishment. He then assumes the person of one who on seeing something new and unexpected is filled with amazement. It was indeed a thing incredible; for as it was a place chosen for God to dwell in, and as the city Jerusalem was not only the royal throne of God, but also as it were his earthly sanctuary, the city might have been thought exempted from all danger. Since it had been said,“
Here is my rest for ever, here will I dwell,” (Psalms 132:14,)
God seemed to have raised that city above the clouds, and to have rendered it free from all earthly changes. We indeed know that there is nothing fixed and certain in the world, and that the greatest empires have been reduced to nothing; but, the state of Jerusalem did not depend on human protection, nor on the extent of its dominion, nor on the abundance of men, nor on any other defenses whatever, but it was founded by a celestial decree, by the promise of God, which is not subject to any mutations. When, therefore, the city fell, uprooted from its foundations, so that nothing remained, when the Temple was disgracefully plundered and then burnt by enemies, and further, when the king was driven into exile, his children slain in his presence, and also the princes, and when the people were scattered here and there, exposed to every contumely and reproach, was it not, a horrible and monstrous thing?
It was not, then, without reason that the Prophet exclaimed, How! for no one could have ever thought that such a thing would have happened; and then, after the event, no one with a calm mind could have looked on such a spectacle, for innumerable temptations must have come to their minds; and this thought especially must have upset the faith of all — “What does God mean? How is it that, he has promised that this city would be perpetual? and now there is no appearance of a city, and no hope of restoration in future.” As, then, this so sad a spectacle might not only disturb pious minds, but also upset them and sink them in the depths of despair, the Prophet exclaims, How! and then says, How sits the city solitary, which had much people! Here, by a comparison, he amplifies the indignity of the fact; for, on the one hand, he refers to the flourishing state of Jerusalem before the calamity, and, on the other hand, he shews how the place had in a manner been turned into darkness. For this change, as I have said, was as though the sun had fallen from heaven; for the sun has no firmer standing in heaven than Jerusalem had on earth, since its preservation was connected with the eternal truth of God. He then says that this city had many people, but that now it was sitting solitary. The verb to sit, is taken in Hebrew in a good and in a bad sense. Kings are said to sit on their thrones; but to sit means sometimes to lie prostrate, as we have before seen in many places. Then he says that Jerusalem was lying solitary, because it was desolate and forsaken, though it had before a vast number of people.
He adds, How is she become, etc.; for the word how, אכה, aike, ought to be repeated, and applied to both clauses. How, then, is she become as a widow, who was great among the nations! (123) He says that Jerusalem had not only been full of citizens, but had also extended its power through many nations; for it is well known that many contiguous nations were tributary to it under David and Solomon. And to the same purpose is what follows, She who ruled among provinces is become tributary! that is, is become subject to a tribute. This phrase is taken from Deuteronomy 28:0, for the prophets were wont freely to borrow expressions from Moses, that chief teacher and prophet, as we shall presently see again.
We now then see the meaning of the Prophet. He wonders at the destruction of the city Jerusalem, and regarded it as a prodigy, which not only disturbed the minds of men, but in a manner confounded them. And by this mode of speaking he shews something of human infirmity; for they must be void of all feeling who are not seized with amazement at such a mournful sight. The Prophet then spoke not only according to his own feelings, but also according to those of all others; and he deplored that calamity as it were in the person of all. But he will hereafter apply a remedy to this astonishment For when we thus exaggerate evils, we at the same time sharpen our grief; and thus it happens that we at length become overwhelmed with despair; and despair kindles rage, so that men clamor against God. But the Prophet so mourned, and was in such a way amazed, that he did not yet indulge his grief nor cherish his amazement; but as we shall see, he restrained himself, lest the excess of his feelings should carry him beyond due bounds. It then follows, —
(123) The word is not repeated in the early Versions, nor by Blayney and Henderson. The word איכה, means properly, “Whence thus?” and it may be rendered, “How is this?” and the passage would be more emphatic, —
1. How is this? alone sits the city, that was full of people! Like a widow is she that was great among nations! A princess among provinces is under tribute!
2. Weeping she weeps in the night, and her tear on her cheek! None to her a comforter of all her lovers! All her friends have deceived her, they are become her enemies!
These were the various things which created astonishment in the Prophet. — Ed.
Jeremiah still pursues the same subject, for he could not have spoken briefly and in a few words of things so bitter and mournful; and he seems to have felt deeply the ruin of his own country. And when we wish to penetrate into the hearts of those whose sorrow we desire to alleviate, it is necessary that they should understand that we sympathize with them. For when any one stronger than another seeks to mitigate another’s grief, he will be disregarded if what he adduces seems to proceed from an unfeeling barbarity. Had, then, Jeremiah spoken as it were in contempt., he could have hardly hoped for any fruit from his teaching, for the Jews would have thought him void of all human feelings. This, then, is the reason why he bewails, as one of the people, the calamity of the city. He did not, however, dissemble in any degree in the history he related; but we know that God’s servants, while they speak in earnest, do not yet forget prudence; for they regard in this respect what is useful; and their doctrine ought in a manner to be so regulated as to produce effect on the hearers.
He then says that the weeping of Jerusalem was continual; for he says first, Weeping she wept, and then, in the night; by which words he means that there was no intermission. For the night is given us for rest, and God intends some relaxation to men by the interchange of nights and days. When, therefore, the Prophet says that Jerusalem, weeping, wept in the night, he intimates that her sorrow, as I have stated, was continual. Then he adds, her tears are on her cheeks. Some render it jaws, but improperly; the word לחי, lachi, indeed means a jaw, but it is to be taken for cheeks, or cheek-bones. Then he means that tears were so profuse as to wet the whole face. It is possible in weeping to restrain tears; but when they flow over the whole face and cover the cheeks, it is an evidence of great mourning. This, then, is the reason why the Prophet says that tears were on her cheeks; for he wished to shew that tears were profusely shed.
He says further, She has no comforter. And this circumstance ought to be noticed, for nothing is more seasonable in grief than to have friends near us to shew us kindness, to be partakers of sorrow, and to apply the consolations which may be had. But when no one feels for us in our evils, our sorrow is much more increased. The Prophet then says that there was no one seeking to soothe the griefs of Jerusalem. He adds, of all thy friends. Had Jerusalem been always forsaken, she could have borne it better when no comforter was present. For we see that miserable men are not thus soft and tender when very grievous calamities happen to them; they do not look here and there for friends to come to them, and why? because they have always been disregarded. It is, then, nothing new to them, even in the greatest adversities, to have no one to shew them any tokens of kindness. But when they who have had many friends, and thought that they would be always ready to bring them aid — when they see themselves forsaken, their sorrow becomes much more grievous. This, then, is what the Prophet means in saying, that of many friends there were none to comfort Jerusalem in her miseries.
There is not yet a doubt but that he indirectly reproved Jerusalem; and by אהבים, aebim, he understood lovers, as we have seen in other places; for as they thought themselves safe by means of ungodly treaties, the prophets say that they were like harlots who everywhere prostitute themselves and make gain by their lasciviousness, and allure lovers on every side. It was, therefore, right of the Prophet to remind the Jews in this place of that wickedness, even that they had conciliated at one time the Egyptians, at another, the Assyrians, like an impudent woman, who is not satisfied with her own husband, but draws lovers from all quarters. However this may be, he no doubt understands by friends those who confederated with them; and who were these? even those with whom the Jews had connected themselves, having disregarded God; for they had been sufficiently warned by the prophets not to form connections with the heathens. But, at. the same time, Jeremiah sets forth the atrocity of the thing by saying that there was none of all her friends a comforter to Jerusalem, because all her friends had acted perfidiously. It follows, —
Interpreters apply this, but in my view improperly, to the captivity of the people; on the contrary, the Prophet means that the Jews had been scattered and sought refuges when oppressed, as they were often, by the tyranny of their enemies, and then by degrees he advances to their exile; for he could not have said all things at the same time. Let, then, the order in which he speaks be observed: before he bewails their exile, he says that Judah had been scattered; for many, fleeing the cruelty of enemies, went into voluntary exile. We have before seen that many concealed themselves with the Moabites; nor is there a doubt but that many went into Egypt: in short, there was no country in which some of the Jews were not fugitives.
The real meaning, then, of the Prophet here is, that the Jews had migrated, that is, had left their own country and fled to other countries, because they were subjected to miseries and cruel servitude.
Some take the words in a passive sense, even that Judah migrated, because they had inhumanly oppressed their servants. But I suspect what has led them astray, they thought that exile is meant here; and then one mistake produces another; for it would have been absurd to say, that the Jews had migrated into exile on account of affliction, and had migrated willingly; for we know that they were violently driven by the Chaldeans. They did not, then, willingly migrate. When these two things could not be connected, they thought that the cruelty of the Jews is what is referred to, which they had exercised towards their own brethren. But the migration of which the Prophet speaks is improperly applied, as I have said, to the captivity; but on the contrary, he means those who had removed into different parts of the world, because this was more tolerable than their condition in their own country. And we hence learn how severely they had been harassed by the Chaldeans, for they had willingly fled away, though, as we know, exile is hard. We then conclude that it was a barbarous and a violent oppression, since the Prophet says, that the Jews thus went into exile of their own accord, and sought hiding-places either in Egypt or in the land of Moab, or among other neighboring nations. (124)
He afterwards adds another evil, that they never found rest; and lastly, that they had been taken by their enemies between straits, so that no escape was possible. It must have been a sad condition for the people to live in a foreign land; for we know that such a precarious life differs but little from death; and there were no contiguous nations by whom the Jews were not hated. When they then fled to such people, it was no small evil. But when they had nowhere a quiet abode, the indignity was still greater, and this is what the Prophet now refers to. But when we flee and tremblingly turn here and there, it is one of the greatest of evils to fall into the hands of enemies, and to be taken by them when we are enclosed as it were between two walls, or in a narrow passage, as some explain the word. It follows, —
(124) Blayney and Horsley agree in this view; but Gataker, Henry, and Henderson take the previous view, that is, that Judah went to exile on account of the oppression they practiced, and the multiplied servitude they exacted, especially the servitude or slavery to which servants were subjected, as recorded in Jeremiah 34:0. What confirms this view is the word “Judah,” which, as it implies the greater part, could not be applied to the comparatively few who voluntarily migrated.
3. Removed is Judah for oppression and for much servitude; She dwells among nations without finding rest; All her pursuers seized her in the straits.
The Targum paraphrases “oppression” by mentioning orphans and widows, and “servitude,” by referring to what servants were subjected to, as related in Jeremiah 34:0. These were sins for which the Jews had often been threatened with banishment. “Pursuers” rather than “persecutors;” and to be “seized in (or, between) the straits,” is, as Lowth says, a metaphor taken from hunters, who drive the game to narrow places, from which there is no escape.
Houbiqant proposes to connect “oppression and servitude” with the following words, and not with the preceding, —
Removed is Judah; for oppression and for much servitude, She dwells among the nations without finding rest.—
Jeremiah refers here to another cause of sorrow, that the worship of God had ceased, it having been interrupted; nay, it seemed to have become extinct for ever. He then says that the ways of Sion mourned, because none came to the feasts. The words are figurative, for we know that feelings belong not to ways; but the Prophet ascribes feeling to what is inanimate. And this sort of personification is more emphatical than if he had introduced the people as mourning. But when the Jews saw that God’s worship had fallen, it was more grievous than to find themselves bereaved of children or of wives, or plundered of all their goods; for the more precious God’s worship was to them, and the more religion was thought of, in which consisted the eternal salvation of their souls, the more severe and mournful was it to see the Church, so scattered, that God could no longer be worshipped and invoked.
It is indeed true that God’s worship was not tied to ceremonies; for Daniel never ceased to pray, and he was heard no less in his exile than if he came to the sacrifices with great solemnity to make an offering in the Temple. This is no doubt true; but as God had not in vain instituted these duties and rites of religion, the Prophet exhibits the thing itself by its symbols. As, then, feasts were testimonies of God’s grace, it was the same as though the Jews were called together by a standard being lifted up, and as though God appeared in the midst of them. Hence the Prophet, referring to these external symbols, shews that the worship of God had in a manner ceased.
Her gates are solitary, or desolate; her priests are in mourning, her virgins in afflictions; she is in bitterness. (125) Now this passage reminds us, that when God afflicts his Church, however grievous it may be to see innocent men slain, blood shed promiscuously, the sexes, men and women, killed indiscriminately; and though it be a sad spectacle to see houses robbed and plundered, fields laid waste, and al! things in a confusion, yet when all these things are compared with the abolition of God’s worship, this passage reminds us that all these things ought to appear light to us. Though David greatly deplored his condition, because he was banished from the Temple, and did not as usual lead thither the assembly, when he was not the only one ejected from the sanctuary of God; yet when the sanctuary itself was destroyed, together with the altar, when there were no sacrifices, no thanksgiving, no praises; in short, no prayer, it was surely much more bitter.
This lamentation of the Prophet ought then to be carefully noticed, when he says, that the ways of Sion mourned, that no one went up to the feasts. What follows I pass over; I shall hereafter dwell more on these things when we advance towards the end of the narrative.
(125) Participles are used throughout this verse, which express the present state of things, —
The ways of Sion are mourning, for none are coming to the feasts; All her gates are made desolate, her priests are sighing; Her virgins are afflicted, and she, bitterness is to her.—
He first says that her enemies had become the head; and by this expression he doubtless means power; and this way of speaking he borrowed from Moses, for these are his words,“
Thou shalt be the head and not the tail, in a high place, not obscure.” (Deuteronomy 28:13.)
He then says, that enemies were the head, that is, ruled over them. And the opposite of that is to be understood, even that they had become the tail, that is, were under the feet as it were of their enemies. And he says that her enemies had acted successfully, even because Jehovah had afflicted her. He here laments after the common practice, as ungodly men are wont to do; but he mixes instruction with his mourning, and shews that God, in a state of things so turbulent and confused, appeared as a righteous judge. He then recalled them to the consideration of God’s hand, when he said that her enemies had acted successfully, because God had afflicted her. Jerome renders the words, “because Jehovah hath spoken.” He derives the verb from הגה, ege, which means to speak or to meditate. But this is an evident mistake, as we shall find another presently in this very chapter. There is no doubt but that the Prophet intimates that the cause of all evils was, that God had afflicted her, even on account of the greatness of her impieties, or of her sins. He now then begins to shew that there is no reason why the Jews should be swallowed up with grief and despair, if only they considered whence their evils proceeded. He thus begins to call their attention to God’s judgment. This indeed of itself would not have been sufficient; but he afterwards points out a fruitful source of consolation. But we shall see these things mentioned in their due order.
He continues the same subject. He says here that the daughter of Sion was denuded of all her ornaments. Now, we know what was the honor or dignity of that people; for Moses, in order to set forth the greatness of God’s grace, exclaims,“
What nation so illustrious under heaven!” (Deuteronomy 4:7.)
As, then, the singular gifts of God had been conferred on that people, it was a very sad spectacle to see that city, which once possessed the highest glory, robbed of all its honor and covered with disgrace, as we shall hereafter see. He then says that all her glory was taken away from the daughter of Sion.
Now, there is no need to enumerate all the kinds of honor or glory which belonged to the city Jerusalem. But it may be said first, that God had chosen there a habitation for himself; and then a sacerdotal kingdom was there, — the people were holy to God — they were his heritage, — there God had deposited his covenant, — he deemed all the Jews his children, and his will was that they should in return count him as their Father. As, then, they had been enriched with so many ornaments and so superior, it is no wonder that the Prophet deplored the state of the city when stripped of all its glory.
He then adds, that her princes were like famished harts for harts, as they are by nature swift, when pressed by want run as though they were flying. Since then the swiftness of that animal is so great, the Prophet says that the princes, who were wont to walk with so much gravity and to carry the appearance of great authority, had become swift, like harts oppressed with hunger; for they also labored under the want of everything. (127) He adds that at length they went away, that is, they fled before their pursuers without strength. He intimates by these words that they dared not to contend with their enemies, but that they were so frightened that they fled, and thus proved that they were wholly disheartened and lifeless. It follows, —
(127) The idea here is somewhat different: the princes are compared to harts reduced and enfeebled by famine, so that they were driven by their enemies like a herd of tame cattle. — Ed.
He confirms the former verse when he says, that Jerusalem remembered her desirable things when she was afflicted by God’s hand, and reduced to extreme want. And he in-intimates by these words, that when Jerusalem was in its splendor, it did not sufficiently consider the blessings of God; for the despisers of God cram themselves with whatever flows from his bounty, and yet do not acknowledge him; for ingratitude is like an abyss which absorbs all the fullness of God’s blessings. Then the Prophet intimates that when Jerusalem flourished in wealth and in abundance of all things, when it was adorned with singular gifts, she became as it were inebriated, and never considered as she ought to have done, the benefits which God had bestowed on her. And now, when she was reduced to want and surrounded with extreme miseries, she remembered her desirable things, even the glory before mentioned; for by desirable things he means those gifts in which Jerusalem excelled as long as God manifested himself as a bountiful Father towards it.
I wonder how all have given this version, “Jerusalem remembered the days,” etc. Some rightly explain the passage, but all agree in giving a wrong version. But the meaning is sufficiently evident, Jerusalem remembered her desirable things in the days of her affliction and of her want, or of her groaning, or of her transmigration; for some derive the word from רוד, rud, which means to complain, or to migrate. Hence they render it “exile,” or migration. But others render it “complaint.” Others, again, derive it from מרד, mered, which sometimes means to fail, and render it “want,” or indigence. Why some have translated it “iniquities” I know not, and there is no reason for such a version. I do not approve of “complaint;” exile or want is the best word. (128)
The days of affliction he more clearly expresses, when he says, When the people fell into the hand of the enemy, and there was no helper. We now see what the Prophet means, even that Jerusalem was as it were roused from her lethargy when God afflicted her. For as the drunken, after being satiated, so sleep in their excess that they know and feel nothing, but seem half dead; so prosperity inebriated Jerusalem for a long time; but being at length awakened, she perceived whence she had fallen. As long, then, as she stood in her high place of honor, she did not consider God’s indulgence towards her; but after she was stripped of all her blessings, and became deeply afflicted, she then remembered her desirable things, that is, she at length began to perceive what she had lost, because she had fallen from the grace of God.
We may hence gather a useful doctrine; for what the Prophet relates of Jerusalem is seen almost in all mankind; but we must beware lest this should be true of us. For God has not only in a common manner dealt liberally hitherto with us, but he has also been pleased to favor us with evidences of favor even more than paternal; he has separated us from the unbelieving, and has bestowed on us many of his blessings. Let us now, then, take heed lest we become stupid while God deals liberally with us; but, on the contrary, let us learn to appreciate the blessings of God, and consider the end for which they have been given us, otherwise what is said here of Jerusalem will happen to us; for being too late awakened, we shall know that we were happy when God shewed himself a father to us. We see the same thing exemplified in Adam the first man; for though God adorned him with excellent gifts, yet being not content with his lot, he wished to exalt himself beyond due limits; after he fell and was reduced to extreme want, he then began to know what he had previously been, and what he had become through his fall. (Genesis 1:26.) But as this testimony of the Prophet is peculiarly suitable to the Church, let us know that we are warned by the example of Jerusalem, so that when God shews to us his bounty, his gifts ought as they deserve, to be valued, lest when too late we shall at length begin to acknowledge how desirable had been our previous condition. Then, in a word, Jeremiah here reproves the stupidity of the people, who did not know how desirable was their state, until they were deprived and plundered of all their blessings. He also says, from the days of old. By these words he probably intimates that the course of God’s kindness had been perpetual; for God had not for a short time been bountiful to that people, but had shewed them favors successively and continually.
When her people fell, etc. It was a heavier misery, because they had so long flourished. It is added, Seen, her have enemies, they laughed at her Sabbath, or at her cessation, which I do not dislike. But they who render it “leisure,” or idleness, either pervert or too much obscure the meaning of the Prophet. In the word “cessation,” there is an irony, for the enemies did not simply laugh at cessation, but did so in mockery, as they took this opportunity to taunt them for their religion. We know that the Sabbaths of the Jews were always hated by the heathens; and they were thereby subjected to many reproaches; for by way of reproach they called the Jews Sabbatharians. And when they wished ignominiously to traduce the whole service of God, as under the law, they named it “Sabbaths.” There is, then, no doubt but that the heathens reproachfully taunted the Jews because they observed the Sabbath; “See, now is the time to worship God.” And we also see that God upbraided the Jews in a similar way by saying,“
Until the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths.” (Leviticus 26:43.)
For when the Jews had the opportunity and leisure (when no enemies molested them) to observe the worship of God, they contemptuously profaned the Sabbaths. As, then, God’s worship had been so disgracefully neglected by them, God said, “The land itself shall in your stead keep the Sabbath;” how? it shall not be ploughed, it shall not bring forth fruit. (Leviticus 26:34.) That cessation was called by God Sabbath, but not without a taunt; for he cuttingly reproved the Jews for having violated the Sabbaths, as was also done by Jeremiah, (Jeremiah 17:22.) (129)
It then appears to me probable that taunts were cast by enemies against the Jews, that they might now have a long and a continual Sabbath, while the city was deserted and no one dwelt there. For it would have been cold and unmeaning to say that the enemies laughed at the cessation of it. The Prophet would have no doubt used a different word, if his purpose had been to point out the blasphemy of enemies as to God’s worship. The enemies then saw and laughed at her cessation; but this cessation they called by way of reproach Sabbatharian. It follows, —
(128) The versions and the Targ. are evidently wrong here, and are not consistent with one another. There is no meaning except ב be considered as understood before ימי, “days.” The only difference among critics is about the meaning of מרוד. There is no different reading. It is rendered “rejections — ἀπωσμῶν,” by the Sept. , “prevarication” by the Vulg. , and “punishment” by the Syr Parkhurst and Blayney derive it from ירד, to come down, to descend. It means the descending or abasement’s to which Jerusalem had been subjected, and has the same meaning in Lamentations 3:19. “In the days of her affliction and of her abasement’s.” — Ed
(129) There are in this verse four lines, while there are only three in all the rest; but there is no ground for supposing an interpolation, as some have thought; for it is found in every Hebrew copy and in the versions, and the Targum. As to the last word, it is rendered by the Sept. , “habitation,” or according to the Alexandrian copy, “emigration;” by the Vulg. “sabbaths;” and by the Syr. “sorrow.” The word is nowhere found to signify the Sabbath. It is either from שבה, to lead captive, as Parkhurst thinks, and means captivity, emigration; or from שבת, to cease, to come to an end, according to Blayney and Henderson, and may be rendered “discontinuance,” i.e. , as a nation or a state, or “ruin.” But the former meaning agreeing with the Sept. is to be preferred, —
When fall did her people, and she had no helper, See her did oppressors, they laughed at her captivity.—
Here the Prophet expresses more clearly and strongly what he had briefly referred to, even that all the evil which the Jews suffered proceeded from God’s vengeance, and that they were worthy of such a punishment, because they had not lightly offended, but had heaped up for themselves a dreadful judgment, since they had in all manner of ways abandoned themselves to impiety. This is the substance of what is said. We hence learn that the Prophet did not compose this song to lament the calamity of his own country as heathens were wont to do. An example of a heathen lamentation we have in Virgil: —“
Come is the great day and the unavoidable time Of Dardania: we Trojans have been; Ilium has been, And the great glory of the Teuerians: cruel Jupiter has to Argos Transferred all things: the Danai rule in the burnt city.” (130)
He also repeats the same sentiment in other words: —“
O country! O Ilium, the house of the gods! and the famous for war, The camp of the Dardanidans! cruel Jupiter has to Argos Transferred all things.” (131)
He thus mourns the destruction of Troy; but he complains of the cruelty of God, and calls Him cruel Jupiter, because he was himself enraged, and yet the speaker was Pantheus the priest of Apollo. We hence see how the unbelieving, when they lament their own calamities, vomit forth blasphemies against. God, for they are exasperated by sorrow. Very different is the complaint of the Prophet from that of the ungodly; for when he deplores the miseries of his people, he at the same time adds that God is a righteous avenger. He does not then accuse God of cruelty or of too much rigor, but reminds the people to humble themselves before God and to confess that they justly deserved all their evils.
The unbelieving do indeed sometimes mingle some words, by which they seem to give glory to God; but they are evanescent, for they soon return to their perverseness. They are sometimes moderate, “If thou art turned by any entreaties.” In that case they expostulate with God:, as though he were deaf to the prayers of his servants. At length they break out into open blasphemies, —“
After it seemed good to the gods to subvert the affairs of Asia And the undeserved nation of Priam.” (132) —
They regarded the nation which had been cut off unworthy of such a punishment; they called it an undeserved nation. Now, then, we perceive what is the difference between the unbelieving and the children of God. For it is common to all to mourn in adversities; but the end of the mourning of the unbelieving is perverseness, which at length breaks out into rage, when they feel their evils, and they do not in the meantime humble themselves before God. But the faithful do not harden themselves in their mourning, but reflect on themselves and examine their own life, and of their own accord prostrate themselves before God, and willingly submit to the sentence of condemnation, and confess that God is just.
We hence now see how the calamity of the Church ought to be lamented by us, even that we are to return to this principle, that God is a just avenger, and does not punish common offenses only, but the greatest sins, and that when he reduces us to extremities, lie does so on account of the greatness of our sins, as also Daniel confessed. For it was not in few words that he declared that the people were worthy of exile and of the punishment which they suffered; but he accumulated words,
We have sinned, we have acted impiously, we have done wickedly, we have been transgressors.” (Daniel 9:5.)
Nor was the Prophet satisfied without this enumeration, for he saw how great the impiety of the people had been, and how mad had been their obstinacy, not for a few years, but for that long time, during which they had been warned by the prophets, and yet they repented not, but always became worse and worse. Such, then, is the mode of speaking adopted here.
He says that she was made a commotion, that is, that she was removed from her country. There seems to be implied a contrast between the rest which had been promised to the Jews, and a wandering and vagrant exile; for, as we have seen, the Jews had not only been banished, but they had nowhere a quiet dwelling; it was even a commotion. This may at the same time be referred to the curse of the law, because they were to be for a commotion — for even the unbelieving shook their heads at them. But the word, נידה, nide, ought properly to be applied to their exile, when the Jews became unfixed and vagrant. (133) It is added, that she was despised and treated reproachfully by all who before esteemed and honored her. This also did not a little increase the grievousness of her calamity; she had been repudiated by her friends, by whom she had before been valued and honored. The reason is mentioned, because they saw her nakedness. But the word properly means turpitude or ignominy. It is at length added, that she even groaned and turned backward; that is, that she was so oppressed with grief, that there was no hope of a remedy; for to turn backward means the same as to be deprived of all hope of restoration. (134) It now follows, —
Venit summa dies et ineluctabile tempus Dardaniae: fuimus Troes; fuit Ilium et ingens Gloria Teucrorum: ferus omnia Jupiter Argos Transtulit: incensa Danai dominantur in urbe .” Virg. AEn. 2.
O patria! O divum domus Ilium! Et inclyta bello Moenia Dardanidum! Ferus omnia Jupiter Argos Transtulit .” — AEn 2.
Postquam res Asiae, Priamique everterre gentem Immeritam visum Superis .” — Virg. AEn. 3.
(133) “Fluctuation,” by the Sept. ; “instable,” by the Vulg. : “vagrant,” or wandering, by the Targ. ; and “horror”, by the Syr. The verb means to remove; and the reference here is evidently to banishment, and not to uncleanness, as some take it, because the noun is sometimes so taken, persons being removed from society on account of uncleanness. — Ed.
(134) “To turn back” or backward, is a phrase which some regard as expressive of shame, as those who feel shame recede from the public view and hide themselves. — Ed.
He continues here, as I think, the same subject; he had said at the end of the last verse that turpitude or baseness had been seen at Jerusalem; and now he says that it was on the very fringes or skirts. The Prophet seems to allude to menstruous women who hide their uncleanness as much as they can; but. such a thing is of no avail, as nature must have its course. In short, the Prophet intimates that the Jews had become filthy in no common degree, being so afflicted that their uncleanness appeared on their skirts. This seems to be the Prophet’s meaning. Interpreters think that Jeremiah speaks of the sins of the people, but they are mistaken; for I doubt not but that the reference is to their punishment. They say that filthiness was on the skirts, because the people had shamelessly prostituted themselves to all kinds of wickedness, and that they remembered not their end, because they had become altogether foolish, according to what is said in the song of Moses,“
O that they were wise, and would foresee their end? (Deuteronomy 32:29.)
But let any one duly consider the design of the Prophet, and he will readily agree with me that he speaks not of guilt, but on the contrary of punishment. (135)
The Prophet then says that the reproach of the Jews was on their skirts, because they could not hide their disgrace, For shame often makes men to hide their evils and silently to bear them, because they are unwilling to expose themselves to the mockery of their enemies. But the Prophet says that the miseries of the people could not be kept hidden, but that they appeared to all, as the case is with women subject to an overflow — it issues forth to the extremities of their garments.
And when he says that she remembered not her end, I understand this to mean, that the Jews were so overwhelmed with despair, that they did not raise up their thoughts to God’s promises; for it is no ordinary source of comfort, and what even common sense dictates to us, to take breath in extreme evils, and to extend our thoughts farther, for misery will not always oppress us — some change for the better will happen. As then men are wont thus to sustain themselves in adversities, he says that the Jews remembered not their end; that is, they were so demented by their sorrow, that they became stupified, and entertained no hope as to the future. In short, by these words, he denotes extreme despair; for the Jews were so stupified that they could not raise up their minds to any hope.
And the reason is expressed, because they had come down wonderfully, that is, because they had been cast down in an extraordinary manner. A noun is here put instead of an adverb, and in the masculine gender, צפלאים pelaim; sometimes we have פלאות, p elaut, but in the same sense. He then says that the Jews had sunk as it were miraculously; but by a miracle he means a prodigy, the word being taken in a bad sense; then miraculously has Jerusalem come down. It hence followed that it succumbed under its miseries, so that it could not turn its thoughts to any hope, nor think of another end; but. became stupid in its miseries, as men usually become desperate, when they think that there is no deliverance for them. He repeats what he had said before, that there was no comforter
These things ought to be carefully observed, for Satan at this day uses various means to lead us to despair. In order to avert us from all confidence in the grace of God, he sets before us extreme calamities. And when sorrow lays such hold on our minds, that the hope of grace does not shine forth, from that immoderate sorrow arises impatience, which may drive us to madness. Hence it comes that we murmur, and then clamor against God. As, then, at this day Satan supplies materials to harass our minds, that we may succumb under our griefs, let us bear in mind what the Prophet says, that Jerusalem, which was then the only true Church of God in the world, was overwhelmed with so many and so great evils, that she remembered not her end. This, indeed, ought to be understood of external circumstances, for God no doubt sustained the minds of the godly, and always so mitigated their grief that they had regard to their end. But the reference is to the people in general, and also to the outward appearance of things, when the Prophet says that the Jews remembered not their end.
He now encourages them to pray, and suggests words to them, for he speaks as in the person of all : See, Jehovah, my affliction, for the enemy hath highly exalted himself. Though the Prophet here represents the Church, yet he exhorts them no doubt, according to the obligations of his office, to entertain good hope, and encourages them to pray, for true and earnest prayer cannot be offered without faith; for when the taste of God’s grace is lost, it cannot be that we can pray from the heart; and through the promises alone it is that we can have a taste of God’s paternal goodness. There is, then, no doubt but that the Prophet here promises a sure deliverance to the Jews, provided they turned to God, and believed and were fully persuaded that he would be their deliverer.
We now, then, see what is the right way of teaching, even that men are to be humbled, and that their just condemnation is to be set before them, and that they are also to be encouraged to entertain hope, and a hand is to be stretched out to them, that they may pray to God, and not hesitate in extreme evils not only to hope for but even to request aid from him. This is the order observed by the Prophet; we must learn in adversities ever to come down to ourselves, and to acknowledge our guilt; and then when we are sunk deep, we must learn to elevate our minds by faith that thence prayer may arise by which our salvation is to be attained.
One thing has escaped me; the Prophet, in order to obtain favor, says, that enemies had greatly exalted themselves. And this deserves a special notice; for what seems to occasion despair to us, ought, on the contrary, to encourage us to entertain good hope, that is, when enemies are insolent and carry themselves with great arrogance and insult us. The greater, then, is their pride and the less tolerable, with more confidence may we call on God, for the Holy Spirit has not in vain taught us this truth, that God will be propitious to us when enemies thus greatly exalt themselves, that is, when they become beyond measure proud, and immoderately indulge themselves in every kind of contempt. It follows —
(135) “She carries the marks of her sins in the greatness of her punishment,” is Lowth’s remark, which seems to favor this view. — Ed.
The Prophet again deplores the profanation of all sacred things; and this complaint, as I have said, proceeded from the bitterest sorrow; for though it was a sad thing for the faithful, to lose all their property, to wander in exile and to suffer the want of all things, yet it must have been more grievous to them to see the Temple polluted, and all religion exposed to shame. This calamity, then, the Prophet again deplores, when he says that enemies had stretched forth their hand against all desirable things. Now, by desirable things, he does not mean riches, nor anything that belongs to the condition of an earthly and fading life, but those invaluable treasures which God had deposited with the chosen people. The enemy, then, had extended his hand against the altar, against the table, against the ark of the covenant, against all the sacred vessels.
Then this indignity was increased, because Jerusalem saw the heathens entering into her sanctuary; for the pronoun is in the feminine gender. But the sanctuary of Jerusalem was God’s Temple for, though properly speaking, it was alone God’s sanctuary, it was yet at the same time the sanctuary of the people, because God had not caused the Temple to be built for his own benefit, but rather for the benefit of his people. What God, then, had consecrated for himself is rightly called the sanctuary of the people. He still increases the indignity, because God had forbidden the heathens to enter the sanctuary; but they had violently rushed in there. They did not, however, enter for the sake of worshipping God, for it was his command to keep them from the holy assembly; but they had by force entered for the purpose of violating the Temple, and also of abolishing the whole worship of God, and of exposing religion to all kinds of mockery. (136)
(136) The verse may be thus rendered, —
His hand has the oppressor expanded over all her desirable things; Indeed she saw it: nations entered her sanctuary; Though thou hast commanded this, “They shall not come to thine assembly.”“
The desirable things” were sacred things, and might be so rendered. To expand the hand over them was to seize them, to take possession of them. — Ed.
The Prophet here complains that all the citizens of Jerusalem were constantly groaning through want and famine. He first says, that all were sighing. The word “people” is collective, and hence he uses the plural number, נאנחיםץ , nanechim. Then he says that they were all sighing; but he expresses also the reason, because they were seeking bread. To seek bread is indeed common to all; but by this word he intimates extreme want., as though he had said, that they begged their bread. He then compares them to beggars, who go about here and there to seek bread.
He says also, that they gave the most precious things for meat, to recover the soul. Here he refers more clearly to famine, for he says that in a manner they suffered want. Others render the last clause, “to refresh the soul,” which is not unsuitable. But the Prophet no doubt meant to denote a deficiency as to the support of life, when he said, that they gave whatever precious thing they had to restore their souls, as it were from death to life.
A prayer follows, See, Jehovah, and look, for I am become vile. We said yesterday, that the complaints which humbled the faithful, and, at the same time, raised them to a good hope, and also opened the door to prayers, were dictated by the Spirit of God. Otherwise, when men indulge in grief, and torment themselves, they become exasperated; and then to be kindled by this irritation is a kind of madness. The Prophet, therefore, in order to moderate the intensity of sorrow, and the raging of impatience, recalls again the faithful to prayer. And when Jerusalem asks God to see and to look, there is an emphasis intended in using the two words; and the reason given does also more fully shew this, because she had become vile; (137) so that the Church set nothing else before God, to turn him to mercy, but her own miseries. She did not, then, bring forward her own services, but only deplored her own miseries, in order that she might obtain the favor of God. It follows, —
(137) That is, she was treated as vile or worthless: “dishonored” is the S ept. — Ed.
The beginning of the verse is variously explained. Some read it interrogatively, “Is it nothing to you who pass by the way?” Others more simply, “I see that I am not cared for by you; to you my sorrow is nothing.” Some again read thus, “Let it not be a sorrow to you;” and others, “Let not sorrow be upon you,” that is, let not what I have happen to you; so that it is a prayer expressive of benevolence.
What I prefer is the interrogation, Is it nothing to you who pass by the way ? for the letter, ה, He, the note of a question, is often omitted. But were it read affirmatively, the meaning would not be unsuitable: “It does not concern you who pass by,” as though Jerusalem, in its lamentations, felt grieved that all those who passed by were not touched either with pity or with sorrow. (138)
But she addressed those who passed by, that she might more fully set forth the greatness of her calamity. For. had she directed her words to neighbors alone, there would not have been so much force in them; but when she spoke to strangers, she thus shewed that her calamity was so great, that it ought to have roused the sympathy of men from the remotest parts, even while on their journey. And she asks them to look and see. The order is inverted, for she said before, “See, Jehovah, and look.” Then Jerusalem asked God, first to turn his eyes to see her calamities, and then attentively to notice them: but now for another purpose she says, look ye and see, that is, consider how evident is my calamity, which otherwise might have been in a measure hidden from you. Look ye, she says, is there a sorrow like my sorrow? she adds, which is come to me: some render the words actively, “which Jehovah has brought on me;” but the other version is more correct, for it is more literal. Jerome’s rendering is, “who has gleaned me;” and צעלל olal, means sometimes to glean, nor do I wish to reject this interpretation. But what follows is incorrectly rendered, as in a former instance, by Jerome, “of which Jehovah has spoken:” for he derived the verb, as before stated, from הגה, ege; but it comes from יגה, ige, as it is evident from the letter ו, vau, being inserted. There is then no doubt but that the Church intimates that God was the author of that sorrow which she deplored.
And it is necessary to know this, lest men should be carried away into excesses in their mourning, as it frequently happens. For the majesty of God imposes a check, when we perceive that we have to do with him. Simple and bare knowledge of this is not, indeed, sufficient, for, as it has been said, the ungodly, while they know that their sorrows proceed from God, yet murmur against him: but it is nevertheless the beginning of patience and meekness when we have a regard to God. It was, then, for this reason that Jerusalem said that she had been afflicted by God.
And it is added, In the day of the indignation of his wrath. Here the Prophet wished to express the grievousness of God’s vengeance, by mentioning the indignation of wrath. Some render חרום, cherun, “fury;” but as the word “fury” is too harsh, the word “indignation,” or great heat ( excandescentia) is not unsuitable. We must, however, bear in mind the design of the Prophet, which was to shew that God’s vengeance had been so dreadful, as though his wrath had all been on a flame against Jerusalem: and this is more fully confirmed in the following verse, —
(138) It is evidently taken as לו by the Sept. , the Vulg. , and the Targ. ; but as a negative by the Syr. , and the sentence is taken as a question: and this gives the best meaning. — Ed
The Prophet proceeds with the same subject, that God’s vengeance had raged most dreadfully agsinst Jerusalem. But employing a metaphor she says, that fire had been sent to her bones. They who interpret bones of fortified places, weaken the meaning of the Prophet. I take bones in their proper sense, ss though it was said, that God’s fire had penetrated into the inmost parts. This way of speaking often occurs in Scripture. By bones is denoted strength or valor. Hence David sometimes deplored, that his bones were vexed or troubled. (Psalms 6:2.) And Hezekiah said in his song“
As a lion he hath broken my bones.” (Isaiah 37:13.)
In the same sense the Prophet now says, that fire had been sent by God, which ruled in his bones, that is, which not only burnt the skin and the flesh, but also consumed the bones. רדה, rede, means also to take away or to receive: but as the former rendering is most commonly taken, I am disposed to follow it — that fire ruled in his bones
There is another similitude added, that God had spread a net before her feet; and thus he had taken away every means of escape. She intimates (for it is Jerusalem who speaks) that she had been ensnared by God’s judgments, so that she was bound over to ruin, as though she had fallen into toils or snares. It is stated in the third place, that she was desolate all the day, so that she sorrowed perpetually. By all the day is meant continually. It is then said, that she sorrowed without end, beyond measure, because she had been turned back by the nets of God, and her bones had been consumed by celestial fire: for the expression from above, ממרום, memerumn, is emphatical, for the Prophet means that it was no common or human burning; because what is ascribed to God exceeds what is human or earthly. It is, then, as though he had said, that it had been such a vengeance as betokened the dreadful power of God; for it was the same as though God had thundered from heaven. We now perceive the import of the words. It follows, —
Here, again, Jerusalem confesses that God had been justly displeased. She had ascribed to God’s vengeance the evils which she suffered; but now she expresses the cause of that displeasure or wrath. Hence she says, that the yoke of her iniquities had been bound in God’s hand. Though interpreters explain the words, yet they touch not the meaning of the Prophet; for they consider not that there is a continued metaphor. We ought then to bear in mind the two clauses, — that God’s hand held the yoke tied, and also that the yoke was bound around the neck of Jerusalem. As when a husbandman, after having tied a yoke to oxen, holds a rein, and folds it rotund his hand, so that the oxen not only cannot throw off the yoke, but must also obey the hand which holds the reins; so also it is said, that the yoke of iniquities was fastened: “I bear the yoke,” she says, “but it is tied, and so fastened, that it cannot be shaken off; and then, however furious I may be, or kick, God holds the tied yoke by his own hand so as to constrain me to bear it.”
We now, then, see the design and import of the Prophet’s words, that God was justly incensed against Jerusalem, and had justly used so much severity. Expressed at the same time is the atrocity of the punishment, though wholly just; for, on the one hand, Jerusalem complains that a yoke was laid on her neck, tied and fastened, and also that it was tied by the hand of God, as though she had said, that she was under such a constraint, that there was no relaxation. On the one hand, then, she bewails the grievousness of her calamity; and on the other, she confesses that she fully deserved what she suffered; and thus she accused herself, lest any should think that he clamored against God, as is commonly the case in sorrow. (139)
It is added, He hath made to fall, or weakened, etc. The verb כשל, cashel, in Hilphil, means, as it is well known, to stumble, or to cause to stumble or fall. He hath, then, weakened my strength; the Lord hath given me up into the hand of my enemies, from whom I shall not be able to rise; that is, he hath so subjugated me, and so laid me prostrate under the hands of my enemies, that there is no hope of rising again. Were any one to ask, “Why then does she pray, and again will pray often?” the answer is, that when she says here, that she will not be able to rise again, the reference is made to the outward state of things: in the meantime, the grace of God is not taken to the account. and this goes beyond all human means. She then says, that according, to the thoughts of the flesh, she had no hope, because there appeared to be no means of rising. But yet she did not despair, but that God would at length, by His almighty power, cause her to rise from fatal ruin. And this is a mode of speaking that ought to be borne in mind; for hope sees things which are hidden. But at the same time the faithful speak according to the common appearance of things, and when they seem to despair, they regard what falls under their own observation and judgment. So then Jerusalem now says that she could not rise, except God manifested his extraordinary power, which far exceeds all human means. It follows, —
(139) All the versions agree in rendering נשקד in the sense of watching; and when they agree, there is a strong presumption that they are right. And all agree as to על being a preposition, and not a noun, “yoke,” except the Vulg., which hardly gives any meaning. The Rabbins have invented a new meaning for the verb, which it has in no other place, and some have followed them. It is rendered impersonally by the Sept. , “there has been watching,” but by the Vulg. , “he hath watched.” To “watch over transgressions,” is similar to “watch upon (or over) the evil,” in Daniel 9:14; it is to watch over them in order to punish them. The whole verse I render thus, —
14. He hath watched over my transgressions, by his hand they are twined; His yoke is upon my neck, he hath made to fail my strength; Yea, given me hath the Lord into the hands of the oppressor, I cannot stand.
The word “hands” is in a construct form, which shews that there is a word left out. “I cannot stand,” i.e., against the oppressor; I cannot resist. The future is used in the sense of the present; literally it is, “I shall not be able to stand,” or resist. So it is exactly in Welsh; it is the future, but understood as expressing what is present.
In the first line, “his hand” is connected in all the versions with “twined,” or wreathed together. — Ed.
She first says, that all her valiant men had been trodden underfoot. Now we know how much the Jews trusted in their men even to the very time when they were wholly subdued. As then they had shewed so much insolence and pride towards the prophets, it hence became a cause of greater sorrow, when Jerusalem herself saw that she was destitute of every protection, and that her valiant men were trodden under foot. She says, in the midst of me. And this ought to be observed; for if they had fallen on the field of battle, if they had been taken in the fields by their enemies, such a thing would not have been so grievous: but that they had been thus laid prostrate, in the very bosom of the city, was indeed a token of vengeance from above. We now see that this circumstance was not superfluous, that all the valiant men of Jerusalem were laid prostrate in the midst of her.
It is then said that it was the fixed time, when God destroyed her chosen men, or her youth. Should it seem preferable to take מועד, muod, as meaning a congregation, I do not object; yet I do not approve of this meaning, for it seems forced. It agrees better with the context to regard it as the fixed time, the time before appointed by God to destroy all the strong men. (140)
There is then another metaphor used, — that God had trodden the winepress as to the daughter of Zion. This figure occurs elsewhere, as in Isaiah 63:1,“
Who is this that cometh from Edom? and why are his garments red?”
For the Prophet wonders how God could come forth from Edom, sprinkled with blood. God answers, “The winepress have I trod alone;” that is, because he had avenged the wrongs done to his people. For we know that the Idumeans had always been incensed against the miserable Jews. Then God, in order to shew that lie was the defender of his Church, says that he came from Edom, and was sprinkled and even made wet with blood. As when any one is red with wine after having toiled in the winepress, so also is the representation in this place. We have also seen in Jeremiah 51:33, that Babylon was like a threshing-floor. The metaphor, indeed, is different, but bears a likeness to the present. As, then, God is said to tread, or to thresh, when he afflicts any land, so he is said to tread the winepress, as here. (141) It follows, —
(140) If the word be rendered “assembly,” or congregation, the meaning is, the assembly of the Chaldeans, and an allusion, as Gataker says, is made to the calling of the people to their feasts. It is rendered “time” by the Sept. and the Vulg., but “assembly” by the Syr. To call against or upon one a fixed time, is no suitable expression. Our version is no doubt right; and with it agree Blayney and Henderson. — Ed.
(141) The words are as follows, —
The winepress has the Lord trodden as to the virgin, the daughter of Judah.
The ל sometimes means “as to,” or, with respect to. “The daughter of Judah” is in apposition with “virgin.” — Ed
He describes at large the calamities of Jerusalem. But it is no wonder that the Prophet, thus lengthened his discourse; for we know that those who are heavily oppressed never satisfy themselves with mourning and lamentations. If, indeed, we duly consider how great the evils were, the Prophet will not appear to us wordy, nor will his prolixity be wearisome to us. For when any one compares the flourishing state of Jerusalem with that desolate ruin which the Prophet laments, it will surely appear to him that no words, however many, can fully express what it really was; nay, though the expressions may seem hyperbolical, yet they do not exceed the greatness of that calamity. This point is briefly adverted to, lest any one should be wearied with those various modes of expression which the Prophet employs, when yet he might have at once said that Jerusalem was destroyed.
He says, For this will I weep. He throughout sustains the person of a woman; for Jerusalem herself speaks, and not Jeremiah. I, she says, for this will weep; mine eye mine eye! it shall descend into waters. Others read, “Waters will descend from mine eyes;” but such a rendering is too loose. I do not, then, doubt but that Jerusalem says that her eyes would be like fountains of waters. She indeed speaks in the singular number, and repeats the words, mine eye! mine eye! it shall descend, or flow as waters, that is, as though they were two fountains, because alienated from me, or far from me, is a comforter, to revive my soul (142) By these words she intimates that she was fainting, and as it were dying and that there was no one present to administer comfort, so that her soul might be revived. As it appeared before, that it is deemed an extreme evil when there is no friend to do the duty of humanity by alleviating sorrow; so now again Jerusalem repeats the same complaint, and says that all her sons were destroyed, because the enemy had prevailed. It follows, —
(142) Though the Sept. and Vulg. do not repeat the “eye,” yet the Targ. has “my two eyes,” and the Syr. , “mine eyes.” The repetition is in most copies, and it is very emphatical. See a similar instance in Jeremiah 4:9.
16. For these things I weep: mine eye! mine eye! it brings down water; For far from me is a comforter, a restorer of my life; Become desolate are my sons, for the enemy has prevailed.—
The Prophet first says that Jerusalem had expanded her hands, as a token of sorrow, or that she might seek friends from every side; for when we wish to move men to pity, we stretch forth our arms. I wonder how it came to the minds of some to say that Jerusalem had broken bread with her hands. This is extremely puerile. Some have rendered the words, that she had broken with her hands, understanding thereby that she had clapped with her hands. It is, however, a harsh mode of speaking; I retain the most suitable sense, that Jerusalem had expanded her hands. The word פרש, peresh, means also to disperse, or scatter; but the Prophet no doubt means the expansion of the hands, as though Jerusalem had said that she was like a woman lamenting her calamities, and seeking friends on every side to give her some consolation. And we may gather the meaning of the Prophet from the passage itself, S ion, it is said, by spreading hands calls her friends, and no one is a comforter: these clauses ought to be read together, that is, that Sion expanded her hands, and yet no one responded to alleviate her sorrow by consolation.
It follows, that Jehovah had commanded respecting Jacob, that through his circuits adversaries should afflict him. The Prophet again reminds us that these evils did not happen through men, but that God had resolved in this manner to punish the obstinate impiety of the people. Lest, then, the Jews should give vent to their sorrow, and ascribe it to the Chaldeans, as it was commonly done, he recalls their attention to God himself, and says that the Chaldeans, however cruel they were, yet did nothing merely through their own impulse, but through God’s command. He adds, through the circuits, that the Jews might know that there was no escape, for God held them all as though they were shut up. For we can in various ways escape from the hands of men; but when God is our enemy, we in vain seek hiding-places. The Prophet then teaches us that subterfuges did not avail the Jews, because God on every side kept them shut up.
He says at length that Jerusalem was like a menstruous woman, or was an abomination; for נדה, nede, may be rendered uncleanness, or abomination, and is often a noun substantive; and I am disposed so to render it, even that Jerusalem was regarded as filth, as though the Prophet had said that there was no humanity or moderation in the enemies of the Jews, because they were not counted as men, but as offscourings, as an abominable filth. (143)
Now, if such a thing happened to the ancient Church, let us not wonder if at this day also God should deal with us more severely than we wish. It is, indeed, a very bitter thing to see the Church so afflicted as to have the ungodly exulting over its calamities, and that God’s children should be as the refuse and filth of the world. But let us patiently bear such a condition; and when we are thus contemptuously treated by our enemies, let us know that God visits us with punishment, and that the wicked do nothing except through the providence of God, for it is his will to try our faith, and thus to shew himself a righteous judge: for if we rightly consider in how many ways, and how obstinately we have provoked his wrath, we shall not wonder if we also be counted at this day an abomination and a curse. It follows, —
(143) The same word, נדה occurs in Lamentations 1:8, only there is a י in it; and the phrase in its form is similar. The Versions, except the, Syr. , and also the Targ. , give to it there the idea of wandering, but here of uncleanness. There seems to be no reason for this change; and the end of the next verse favors the idea of wandering: Jerusalem had become a wanderer, or a fugitive, among her oppressors, —
17. Expanded hath Sion her hands, no comforter is to her; Commanded has Jehovah as to Jacob, Let those around him be his oppressors; Become has Jerusalem a wanderer among them.
The word נד is a fugitive, a wanderer, and as Jerusalem is feminine, ה is added, a feminine termination. “Jerusalem” here, as in Lamentations 1:8, means its citizens. — Ed
Jerusalem again acknowledges, and more clearly expresses, that she suffered a just punishment. She had before confessed that her enemies were cruel through God’s command; but it was necessary to point out again the cause of that cruelty, even that she had too long provoked the wrath of God.
She says, first, that God was just, or righteous, (144) because she had provoked his mouth. By the mouth of God we are to understand the prophetic doctrine, as it is well known. But the phrase is emphatical, for when the word of God was proclaimed by the mouth of prophets, it was despised as an empty sound. As, then, prophetic doctrine has not its own majesty ascribed to it, God calls whatever his servants declare his mouth. This mode of speaking is taken from Moses, and often occurs in his writings. Jehovah, then, is just; how so? because I have provoked his mouth. And it was more grievous and less excusable to provoke the mouth of God than simply to offend God. The ungodly often offend God when they labor under ignorance; but when the Lord is pleased to open his mouth to recall the erring, and to shew the way of salvation, and then men rush headlong, as it were designedly, into sins, it is certainly a mark of extreme impiety. We hence understand why the Prophet mentions the mouth of God, or the teaching of the prophets, even to exaggerate the wickedness of Jerusalem, which had so obstinately disregarded God speaking by his prophets.
The greatness of her sorrow is again deplored; and what follows is addressed to all nations, Hear, I pray, all ye people; see my sorrow. And what was the reason for this great sorrow? because, she says, my virgins and my young men have been driven into captivity. This might seem a light thing; for a previous account has been given of other calamities, which were far more severe; and exile in itself is but a moderate punishment. But we must bear in mind what we have before stated, that the Jews dwelt in that land, as though they had been placed there by the hand of God, that Jerusalem was to be a perpetual rest, which had been granted them from above; in short, that it was as it were a pledge of the eternal inheritance. When, therefore, they were driven into captivity, it was the same as though God had cast them down from heaven, and banished them from his kingdom. For the Jews would not have been deprived of that land, had not God rejected them and shewed his alienation from them. It was then the same as repudiation. It is therefore no wonder that Jerusalem so much lamented because her sons and her daughters were driven into exile.
(144) “Righteous he, Jehovah:” the pronoun is used instead of the verb is, — a common thing in Hebrew. — Ed.
Here the people of God complain in the person of a woman, as we have before seen, that in their calamity they were left destitute of every comfort. And it is a circumstance which increases grief, when no one is present to shew any kindness to the miserable; for it is no small alleviation of sorrow, when friends offer their kind services, and as far as they can, endeavor to mitigate the severity of the evil.
The Church of God now says, that she was so forsaken by friends as to be left alone to pine away in her mourning and sorrow. There may, however, be here an allusion to shameful and impure connections; for by this term, friends, the Spirit often points out the Egyptians as well as others in whom the Israelites had foolishly trusted; for in this manner, we know, they had turned aside from conjugal fidelity. God had bound them to himself, that they might acquiesce in his favor alone; and so to acquiesce was their spiritual chastity. Rightly, then, does Scripture compare both the Egyptians and the Assyrians to harlots, whenever the Israelites sought aid from them. But as this explanation seems too refined, I am content to view what is said simply as a complaint., that the people of God, though looking in all directions, yet could find no comfort in the world. I cried, she said, to my friends; they deceived me.
It is then added, My priests and mine elders expired in the city. Had they been slain in battle, it would have been no wonder; for they who go against an enemy, go as it were to meet death. But God’s people here deplore a more grievous evil, that the priests died in the city, not through the enemies’ sword, but through famine, which is as it were the extreme of evils. It is then said, that the priests as well as the elders perished through famine, because they could not find food. And when it is said that they sought food to refresh the soul, there is a contrast to be understood between ordinary food and a remedy for the famine; for we naturally seek food whenever we feel hungry; but the Prophet refers here to something more than this, even that the priests and the elders sought food, because long abstinence urged them; and it was very sad, that the priests, who excelled in honor, and also the elders, were thus reduced to want. Had such a thing happened to the common people, it would not have been so wonderful; for the long siege of the city had consumed all their provisions. But when the priests, and those who had wealth, were thus oppressed with hunger, we may conclude that the want which the Prophet wished to describe was extreme. It follows, —
The people turn again to pray God: and what has been before said ought to be remembered, that these lamentations of Jeremiah differ from the complaints of the ungodly; because the faithful first acknowledge that they are justly chastised by God’s hand, and secondly, they trust in his mercy and implore his aid. For by these two marks the Church is distinguished from the unbelieving, even by repentance and faith. To sigh and to mourn in adversities, and to lament also their miseries, are common to both; but the children of God differ greatly from the ungodly, because they humble themselves under his mighty hand, and confess that they deserve to suffer punishment; and further, they cast not away the hope of salvation, but implore his mercy. Then the Prophet introduces again the people as praying God to look on them. For the ungodly pour forth their complaints into the air; and when at any time nature dictates to them that they ought to address God, yet no prayer arises from a sincere heart.
There is no doubt but that the Prophet here shewed to the faithful how they were to lament their common miseries, even so as patiently to bear the chastisements of God, and also to seek deliverance from him, though they had provoked his wrath. For when we see that we are pressed down by God’s hand, we do not murmur, but the knowledge of our sins humbles us, and faith moderates our mourning, which would otherwise exceed moderation. And when we thus humbly flee to God, we in a manner unburden our sorrows into his bosom, as it is said in the Psalms, “Cast (or roll) on God thy cares.” (Psalms 55:22.)
He then says first, See, Jehovah, for affliction is to me. He then expresses the manner of the affliction, because his bowels were bound, or troubled. The word is from, חמר chemer, which is doubled. Some derive it from חמור, chemur, an ass, and so render it “bound,” as when a. burden is fastened on an ass. But more probable is the opinion of those who derive the word from mortar or cement, for as cement is made by mixing water with lime and sand, and stirring them together, so by a metaphor the bowels are said to be stirred or troubled; (145) and this explanation agrees better with what follows — for it is added, my heart is overturned. The reason is given, because the people by rebelling had rebelled, that is, had been very rebellious against God. We have said that the complaints of the godly differ from those of the ungodly, for they not only pray to God, but make also a sincere confession, so as to make it evident that they are justly chastised by God’s hand. At the beginning of the verse the faithful prayed, and now again they declare that they deserved what they suffered, because they had been very rebellious. Then Jeremiah proceeds with what he had begun to say respecting the grievousness of their punishment, Abroad, or without, he says, the sword bereaves, and at home it is like death; that is, “When we go abroad, the sword meets us; and when we hide ourselves at home, there also many deaths surround us.” He uses the particle of likeness, as, or like; as though he had said that nothing met them at home but what was deadly. (146) It now follows, —
(145) Troubled,” or disquieted, is the rendering of all the versions, and also of the Targ. As it is a reduplicate, the verb means greatly troubled or greatly disturbed, or violently agitated. — Ed.
(146) The rendering of the Sept. is, —
Abroad the sword has bereaved me, as death at home.
To the same purpose is the S yr. and Arab. Having before referred to death by famine, he now adds the devastation of the sword. — Ed.
The verb שמעו, shemou, is put down twice, but at the beginning without a nominative case: hence the sentence is defective, until in the second clause the word איבי aibi, is expressed. Jeremiah evidently says, that enemies had heard of the evils under which the people labored, even that they were sighing, and that no one showed them any kindness; for it is commonly the case that sympathy is manifested towards the miserable. By this circumstance he amplifies the grievousness of their punishment, there being no one, as before said, to administer any consolation. But it is repeated, that enemies had heard; for as there is nothing more bitter than reproaches, we seek in adversities to withdraw ourselves in a manner from the observation of men; but our evil is especially doubled, when we become a spectacle to enemies; for they derive joy from our adversities, and then exult over us. When, therefore, the chosen people said, that enemies had heard, they thus showed that nothing could be added to their miseries: They have heard, then, that I was sighing and that no one comforted me. Who had heard? all mine enemies; and they have rejoiced that thou hast done it
Jeremiah seems to intimate, that their enemies, being fully persuaded that God was displeased with his people, did on this account more freely rejoice; and at the same time they believed that it was all over with those miserable people with whom God was displeased. But I know not whether this view is well grounded. I indeed do not reject it, nor will I dispute with any one who may hold that the enemies rejoiced, because they thought that God was become the enemy of that people, whom he had before chosen and also protected: nor is this view unsuitable; for the reprobate then fully triumph when they can boast that God is adverse to us. But when no such thought comes to their minds, they yet cease not to rejoice when they see that we are oppressed and afflicted. Though, then, they may not think of God’s hand, yet they rejoice that it is done; that is, they rejoice that we are distressed, though they understand not who the author is. We may then take the meaning simply to be, that the enemies of the Church rejoiced at that calamity, without considering who the author of it was.
But, why is it expressed that God had done it ? even to shew that while the ungodly think that fortune is unfavorable to us, it; is our duty to cast our eyes on God, for we ought not to judge of things according to their blindness. As, then, they ascribe not to God the glory due to him when they do not acknowledge him as judge, it ever behooves us to see by the eyes of faith what is hid from the natural perceptions of men, even that nothing happens to us except through the righteous judgment of God. Though, then, enemies had not wisdom to know how it was that the Church was afflicted, yet it behooved the Church itself to use by means of faith such a language as this, that God had done it; they rejoiced that thou hast done it
And it follows, Thou hast brought the day which thou hast called, or proclaimed; for קרא, kora, has sometimes this meaning. (147) In short, the faithful now confess not only that they were afflicted by God’s hand, but also that what the prophets had so often threatened, and what had been despised, was now fulfilled. For we have seen with what pertinacity that people rejected the threatenings given by the prophets: God had often exhorted them to repent, and also had proclaimed or fixed a time for them, but without effect. Therefore the faithful now reflect on what had not been sufficiently known before, even that the day was brought which had been often proclaimed. And thus they confessed, not only that they were worthy of punishment., but that it was the proper time for them to be chastised, as they had not repented after having been so often warned.
He adds, But they themselves shall be as I am. Here the future tense may be considered as optative, for presently a prayer follows which confirms this view. But we may also take the meaning to be simply this, — that the faithful began to take courage, as they looked forward to the time when God would render to the wicked according to their proud and disdainful exultation’s. It follows, —
(147) Our version is wrong in rendering this clause in the future tense. The reference is not to the day of vengeance to the Babylonians, but to the day of vengeance which God had brought on his own people. The versions, except the Syr. , give the verb in the past tense.
There are here two instances of כי being carried on to the next clause, —
21. Heard have they that I sigh, that I have no comforter: All mine enemies have heard of my evil; they have rejoiced That thou hast done it, that thou hast brought the day thou hast announced; But they shall be like myself.—
Here, no doubt, the faithful regarded as a part of their comfort the judgment which God would at length execute on the ungodly; and there is no doubt but that this kind of imprecation had been suggested to God’s children by the Holy Spirit, in order to sustain them when pressed down by heavy troubles; not that God gave them thus loose reins to desire vengeance on their enemies, but that while those perished who indulged their malice, the faithful might derive from their ruin a hope of deliverance; for the vengeance of God on the reprobate brings with it a token of paternal favor towards the elect.
And that we may better understand what this imprecation means, we must first bear in mind that we cannot complain of enemies, except they are also enemies to God. For should I hurt any one, and should he, impelled by wrath, vex me, there could be no access for my complaint to God, and in vain could I seek a covering from this example; why? because whenever we go before God, it is necessary, as I have said, that our enemies should be also his enemies. But, secondly, it would not be sufficient, except our zeal were also pure; for when we defend our own private cause, something excessive will necessarily be in our prayers. Let us, then, know that we are not to pronounce an imprecation on our enemies, except, first, they are God’s enemies; and, secondly, except we disregard ourselves, and plead not our own cause, but, on the contrary, undertake the cause of public safety, having laid aside all turbulent feelings; and especially, except our fervor arises from a desire to glorify God. With these qualifications, then, we may adopt the form of prayer given us here by the Prophet. But as this subject has been explained elsewhere, and often and very fully, I touch on it here but briefly.
He then says, Let all their wickedness come before thee; do to them as thou hast done to me. Here, again, the faithful take upon themselves the blame for all the evils they were suffering; for they do not expostulate with God, but pray only that he would become the judge of the whole world, in order that the ungodly might also at length have their turn, when God would be pacified towards his children. But they afterwards more clearly express that they had deserved all that they had suffered — for all my sins. Then they add, because my sighs are many and my heart is weak. We, in short, see that the faithful lay humbly their prayers before God, and at the same time confess that what they had deserved was rendered to them, only they set before God their extreme sorrow, straits, grieves, tears, and sighs. Then the way of pacifying God is, sincerely to confess that we are justly visited by his judgment, and also to lie down as it. were confounded, and at the same time to venture to look up to him, and to rely on his mercy with confidence. Now follows the second elegy, —
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Lamentations 1". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29