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Zion’s Hope in God’s Mercy
This third poem is the most elaborate in structure and the most sublime in thought of all. The poet speaks not only for himself, but for the nation. The order of thought is sorrow, confession, repentance, prayer. Though consisting of 66 vv. the poem is but a little longer than the others. Three consecutive vv. are built upon each letter of the Heb. alphabet: each triplet is usually closely associated in thought, and consequently grouped together as in the RV.
1-18. Zion bewails her calamities.
1-3. I am the man] The author is a representative sufferer, an eye-witness, and typical of Christ.
4-6. Gall] bitterest sorrow (Jeremiah 8:14). Travel] RV ’travail,’ which is the more modern spelling, in the sense here intended, of painful labour (Numbers 20:14). He hath set me] RV ’He hath made me to dwell’ (Psalms 143:3). Be dead of old] RV ’have been long dead.’
7-9. He hath made my paths crooked] in the sense that every avenue of advance is blocked.
10-12. He was] RV ’He is.’ As a bear.. as a lion] God is even lying in wait to oppose him (Jeremiah 4:7; Jeremiah 5:6).
Danger follows distress.
13-15. Arrows of his quiver] RM ’sons of his quiver,’ a poetical expression for the enemies’ taunts (Jeremiah 20:8).
My reins] The English equivalent is heart, denoting the seat of the affections (Jeremiah 12:2).
To all my people] better, ’to all peoples,’ as in many Heb. MSS and the Peshitto.
16-18. Broken my teeth with gravel stones] i.e. God has forced him to eat bread full of grit. (Proverbs 20:17). He hath covered me with ashes] or, ’He made me cower in the ashes.’ Such dreadful thoughts about God are almost without a parallel in the OT.
19-39. Hope of relief through God’s mercy.
In this section we reach the highest point of trust to which the mourner attains.
19-21. Remembering] RV ’remember,’ in the imperative sense (Lamentations 1:7). This I recall] viz. what just precedes, his affliction.
25-27. The Lord is good] ’good’ is the initial word of each v. in this group. Goodness to the poet is an essential attribute of Jehovah and the basis of his hope. He is too good to keep them always in despair. Should both hope and quietly wait] lit. ’should wait and in silence’; quiet waiting being the pre-requisite of perceiving that God is good. Yoke] discipline, or work that is irksome, compulsory and painful. These vv. have the ring of autobiography.
28-30. The leading verbs in this triplet are to be taken hortatively, as RV ’Let him sit,’ ’put,’ ’give,’ the argument being that yoke-bearing in order to be beneficial must be submitted to willingly. Hath borne] RV ’hath laid.’ Giveth his cheek] the climax of patience is reached when suffering that comes through human agency is borne without murmuring.
31-33. Three grounds are given for resignation: (1) because chastisement is only temporary (Psalms 77:7; Jeremiah 3:5, Jeremiah 3:12); (2) because by nature God is merciful, and therefore the distress sent will not exceed what is absolutely necessary (Isaiah 54:8); (3) because all affliction is against His will, hence God cannot commit an injustice.
34-36. In this triplet the order of thought is transposed to accommodate the alphabetic structure. The teaching is, the Lord approveth not, (1) of cruelty to prisoners in war, as Nebuchadnezzar to the inhabitants of Jerusalem; (2) of perverting justice in court (Exodus 23:6); (3) of dishonesty in private business (Exodus 22:8-9).
37-39. This group rounds out the thought of the section: each v. contains a separate interrogation: (1) Who can command and bring to pass except Adonai? (Psalms 33:9). (2) Do not evil (i.e. suffering) and good alike proceed from God? (Amos 3:6; Isaiah 45:7). (3) Why should a man who still lives complain when he is only being punished for his sins? (Jeremiah 45:5). A living man] The word ’living’ is emphatic. Life in itself is more than the sinner merits. Instead of having been over-paid, he is not even paid in full: for ’the wages of sin is death’ (Romans 6:23). The poet is here championing the divine cause.
40-54. Exhortations to repent and confess.
40-42. Our heart with our hands] strictly, our heart to our palms, in the sense that the heart should actually follow in the direction in which our hands point (Jeremiah 4:31).
43-45 Zion’s condition is dire because Jehovah will not hear the prayers of His miserable victims. People] RV ’peoples,’ i.e. the foreign nations round about.
52-54. These vv. are thought to point to Jeremiah as the author of the poems: cp. Jeremiah 38. Cast a stone upon me] i.e. covered with a stone the pit into which they cast him. Waters flowed over mine head] There was no water, but mire, in Jeremiah’s dungeon (Jeremiah 38:6). I am cut off] the sufferer is a type of Christ (Psalms 88:5; Isaiah 53:8).
55-66. In despair Zion prays for vengeance upon the enemy.
55-57. I called upon thy name] i.e. upon the attributes of God; referring possibly to Psalms 69, supposed by some to have been composed by Jeremiah while in the dungeon.
Fear not] God’s answer was brief, consisting of but two words, but enough since they came from him.
58-60. Pleaded] as an advocate (Jeremiah 50:34). All their imaginations] RV ’all their devices’ (Jeremiah 11:19; Jeremiah 18:18).
63. Musick] RV ’song.’
64-66. AV by translating the imperfect tenses of the verbs in this triplet as imperatives, makes the language appear harsher than it really is; still it must be allowed that the poet prays for retribution upon the enemy (Jeremiah 18:23; 2 Timothy 4:14). Sorrow of heart] RV ’hardness of heart.’
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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Lamentations 3". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30