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Bible Commentaries
Lamentations 3

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy ScripturesEverett's Study Notes

Verses 1-66

Lamentations 3:14 I was a derision to all my people; and their song all the day.

Lamentations 3:14 Jeremiah was ridiculed by the people he preached to and made fun of.

Lamentations 3:16 He hath also broken my teeth with gravel stones, he hath covered me with ashes.

Lamentations 3:16 “He hath also broken my teeth with gravel stones” - Comments - It is common in developing countries to find small pebbles in harvested grain. As missionaries in Uganda, we have purchased local rice or beans because it was cheaper than imported foods. However, these local produces always contain small pebbles, which have chipped pieces off the crowns of my teeth. It would be common in this ancient world for the local people to deal with gravel stones in their foods.

Lamentations 3:20 My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me.

Lamentations 3:20 Comments - The book of Ecclesiastes, whose theme is foundational to the book of Lamentations, teaches us that God subjects mankind to vanities for the purpose of humbling him (Ecclesiastes 3:10). Mankind is humbled so that he will turn to God for purpose and direction and fellowship. When the author of Lamentations recalls the travail to which he and Jerusalem have be subjected, his soul is humbled.

Ecclesiastes 3:10, “I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.”

Lamentations 3:21 This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.

Lamentations 3:21 Comments - Although he is humbled when he recalls his travail, he gains hope when he considers God’s mercies.

Lamentations 3:22 It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.

Lamentations 3:22 Word Study on “mercies” Gesenius says the Hebrew word “mercy” “ hesed ” ( חֵסֵד ) (H2617) properly means, “desire, ardor,” and in a good sense, “zeal, love, kindness, benignity, benevolence, mercy, pity, grace, favor,” and in a bad sense, “zeal, ardor against anyone, envy, reproach.” Strong says it means, “kindness, piety, reproof, beauty.” BDB says it is God’s “lovingkindness in condescending to the needs of his creatures.” Holladay says in regards to men relating to one another, this word means, “obligation to the community in relation to relatives, friends, guests, masters and servants…unity, solidarity, loyalty,” and in God’s relationship to His people, it means, “faithfulness, kindness, grace.” It may be translated or understood in a wide range of English words: kindness, goodness, good deeds, pity, favour, loving kindness, merciful kindness, covenant love, faithfulness, devotion to God’s Word, godly deeds. The Enhanced Strong says this word is used 248 times in the Old Testament, being translated in the KJV as, “mercy 149, kindness 40, lovingkindness 30, goodness 12, kindly 5, merciful 4, favor 3, good 1, goodliness 1, pity 1, reproach 1, wicked thing 1.” The nearest equivalent to “ hesed ” ( חֵסֵד ) in the Greek New Testament would be έλεος (mercy) or ἀγάπη (love).

Lamentations 3:22 Word Study on “consumed” Gesenius says the Hebrew word ( תָּמַם ) (H8552) means, “to be complete, to finish,” and “to be finished, ended,” and “to be consumed, spent.” Strong says it is a primitive root that means, “to be complete.”

Lamentations 3:22 Comments - There are two popular ways to translate Lamentations 3:22. The challenge in interpreting this verse is to reconcile the subject of the sentence ( חֵסֵד ), which is a plural construct that normally requires a third person plural, with its verb ( תָּמַם ), which is the first person plural. The fact that credible scholarship exists with both views testifies to the fact that this is not an easy issue to resolve.

(1) The Argument for the Usage of Jeremiae Language - Some English versions translate the Hebrew verb ( תָּמַם ) as “we are not consumed” ( ASV, NIV), and place the noun into a prepositional phrase, “Because of the LORD's great love” ( NIV).

ASV, “It is of Jehovah's lovingkindnesses that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.”

NIV, “Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.”

KD and Naegelsbach prefer this translation. This argument says that the verb “consumed” ( תָמְנוּ ) is a third person plural, as in Jeremiah 44:18, with the third person plural being ( תַמוּ ), as in Jeremiah 44:12; Jeremiah 44:27.

Jeremiah 44:18, “But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine.”

Jeremiah 44:12, “And I will take the remnant of Judah, that have set their faces to go into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, and they shall all be consumed, and fall in the land of Egypt; they shall even be consumed by the sword and by the famine: they shall die, from the least even unto the greatest, by the sword and by the famine: and they shall be an execration, and an astonishment, and a curse, and a reproach.”

Jeremiah 44:27, “Behold, I will watch over them for evil, and not for good: and all the men of Judah that are in the land of Egypt shall be consumed by the sword and by the famine, until there be an end of them.”

(2) The Argument for the Precedence of Ancient Versions Other English versions translate the phrase “the mercy of the Lord never ceases” ( ESV, NCV, NET, RSV), allowing the noun “hesed” ( חֵסֵד ) to become the subject of the verb ( תָּמַם ).

ESV, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;”

NCV, “The Lord’s love never ends; his mercies never stop.”

NET, “The Lord’s loyal kindness never ceases; his compassions never end.”

RSV, “ The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end.”

Paul House offers the translation, “the Lord’s (acts of) covenant mercy…indeed…have not ceased.” He argues that this translation agrees with the ancient Syriac and Aramaic versions. [12] John Gill says it agrees with the Talmud. [13] John Calvin argues that the context of the passage supports this view. [14] Marcus Dod notes that Lamentations 3:23-24 forms a better set of parallel verses in their structure and message with this translation, and he says the insertion of “we” is too abrupt for this passage. [15]

[12] Paul R. House, Lamentations, in Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 23B (Dallas, Texas: Word, Incorporated, 2002), in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004), comments on Lamentations 3:22.

[13] John Gill, Lamentations, in John Gill’s Expositor, in e-Sword, v. 7.7.7 [CD-ROM] (Franklin, Tennessee: e-Sword, 2000-2005), comments on Lamentations 3:22.

[14] John Calvin, Commentaries on the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah and the Lamentations, vol. 5, trans. John Owen (Edinburgh: The Calvin Translation Society, 1855), 407.

[15] Marcus Dods, Song of Solomon and Lamentations, in The Expositor’s Bible, in Ages Digital Library, v. 1.0 [CD-ROM] (Rio, WI: Ages Software, Inc., 2001), comments on Lamentations 3:22-24.

(3) Other Views - The LXX provides an additional translation:

Brenton, “ [It is] the mercies of the Lord, that he has not failed me, because his compassions are not exhausted.”

Lamentations 3:22 Comments - Psalms 136:0, where the greatest use of “ hesed ” ( חֵסֵד ) (H2617) is found in the Scriptures, reveals that God does everything based upon His lovingkindness towards mankind and His creation.

Lamentations 3:23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:23 Comments - Although the verb “they are” is not present in the Hebrew text, it is implied within the context. God’s mercies and compassions fail not because they are bestowed upon His people each morning afresh and anew.

Lamentations 3:24 The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.

Lamentations 3:24 Comments - Having lived as a missionary in Africa for many years and observing immense poverty compared to the U.S., I have seen the important of the truth that the Lord is our portion for the Christian. In an environment of corruption and poverty, it becomes almost impossible to gain wealth without become a part of the system of corruption. The conclusion of a man’s heart is to simply place his affections upon the Lord and his hope of eternal life through faith in Christ Jesus.

Lamentations 3:25 The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.

Lamentations 3:25 Comments - In the Lord’s presence there is peace, while in the world there is tribulation.

Lamentations 3:32-36 Comments Bitter Medicines Promote Health - Note these insightful words from Sadhu Sundar Singh.

“Pain and suffering are bitter as poison, but it is also well known that sometimes the antidote of a poison is itself a poison. And thus I sometimes employ pain and suffering as bitter medicines in order to promote the spiritual health and vigour of My believers. As soon as their perfect health is secured there will be an end of all suffering. Their pain is no pleasure to Me, for My one object is their eternal well-being (Lam. iii.31,33).” [16]

[16] Sadhu Sundar Singh, At the Master’s Feet, trans. Arthur Parker (London: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1922) [on-line]; accessed 26 October 2008; available from http://www.ccel.org/ccel/singh/feet.html; Internet, “V The Cross and the Mystery of Suffering,” section 1, part 3.

Lamentations 3:40 Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD.

Lamentations 3:40 Word Study on “Let us search” Webster says the word “search” means, “ To examine; to try; to put to the test.” Why? Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

Lamentations 3:40 “and try our ways” Comments - A person’s ways refer to a man’s lifestyle as opposed to individual acts of sin.

Lamentations 3:41 Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.

Lamentations 3:42 We have transgressed and have rebelled: thou hast not pardoned.

Lamentations 3:42 Word Study on “We have transgressed” Webster says the word “transgress” means, “ To pass over or beyond; to surpass. ”

Lamentations 3:42 “and have rebelled” Comments - If a man sees his transgression, and hardens his heart to turn back, he rebels against God. God does not pardon sin that is not repented of.

Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Lamentations 3". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghe/lamentations-3.html. 2013.
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