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Bible Commentaries
Lamentations 1

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! how is she become as a widow! she that was was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary! ['Aleph (')]

How is she become as a widow she that was great ... The English version is according to the accents. But the members of each sentence are better balanced in antithesis thus, 'How is she that great among the nations become as a widow! (how) she who was princess among the provinces (i:e., she who ruled over the surrounding provinces from the Nile to the Euphrates, Genesis 15:18; 1 Kings 4:21; 2 Chronicles 9:26; Ezra 4:20) become tributary?' (Maurer.) How doth the city sit - on the ground; the posture of mourners (Lamentations 2:10; Ezra 9:3). The coin struck on the taking of Jerusalem by Titus, representing Judea as a female sitting solitary under a palm tree, with the inscription, 'Judaea capta,' singularly corresponds to the image here; the language therefore must be prophetic of her state subsequent to Titus, as well as referring retrospectively to her Babylonian captivity.

[Beth (b)]

Verse 2

She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks: among all her lovers she hath none to comfort her: all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies. She weepeth sore in the night - even in the night, the period of rest and oblivion of griefs (Job 7:3).

Among all her lovers she hath none to comfort her: all her friends - the pagan states allied to Judah, and their idols. The idols whom she 'loved' could not comfort her (Jeremiah 2:20-25): her former allies would not; nay, some "treacherously" joined her enemies against her (2 Kings 24:2; 2 Kings 24:7; Psalms 137:7).

[Gimel (g)]

Verse 3

Judah is gone into captivity because of affliction, and because of great servitude: she dwelleth among the heathen, she findeth no rest: all her persecutors overtook her between the straits. Judah is gone into captivity - (Jeremiah 52:27, "Judah was carried away captive out of his own land").

Because or great servitude - i:e., in a state "of great servitude," endured from the Chaldeans. "Because" is made by Vatablus indicative of the cause of her captivity-namely, God's judgment upon her because of her having "afflicted" and unjustly brought into "servitude" the manumitted bondservants (Jeremiah 34:8-22). Maurer explains it, 'Judah has left her land (not literally "gone into captivity") because of the yoke imposed on it by Nebuchadnezzar.' She findeth no rest - (Deuteronomy 28:65-66, "Among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the Lord shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind: and thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life"). All her persecutors overtook her between the straits - image from robbers, who in the East intercept travelers at the narrow passes in hilly regions.

[Daleth (d)]

Verse 4

The ways of Zion do mourn, because none come to the solemn feasts: all her gates are desolate: her priests sigh, her virgins are afflicted, and she is in bitterness.

None come to the solemn feasts - the Passover; Pentecost, or the Feast of Weeks; and the Feast of Tabernacles.

All her gates are desolate - once the place of concourse. [He (h)]

Verse 5

Her adversaries are the chief, her enemies prosper; for the LORD hath afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions: her children are gone into captivity before the enemy. Her adversaries are the chief - rule her (Deuteronomy 28:43-44, "The stranger that is within thee shall get up above thee very high, and thou shalt come down very low. He shall be the head, and thou shalt be the tail").

Her enemies prosper; for the Lord hath afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions. All the foes' attempts must have failed, had not God delivered His people into their hands (Jeremiah 30:15).

[Waw (w)]

Verse 6

And from the daughter of Zion all her beauty is departed: her princes are become like harts that find no pasture, and they are gone without strength before the pursuer. From the daughter of Zion all her beauty is departed - her temple, throne, and priesthood.

Her princes are become like harts that find no pasture - an animal timid and fleet, especially when seeking, and not able to 'find, pasture.'

[Zayin (z)]

Verse 7

Jerusalem remembered in the days of her affliction and of her miseries all her pleasant things that she had in the days of old, when her people fell into the hand of the enemy, and none did help her: the adversaries saw her, and did mock at her sabbaths.

Jerusalem remembered ... her pleasant things - rather, remembers now in her afflicted state. In the days of her prosperity she did not appreciate, as she ought, the favours of God to her. Now, awaking of her past lethargy, she feels from what high privileges she has fallen.

That she had in the days of old, when her people fell into the hand of the enemy - i:e., after which days of prosperity "her people fell."

The adversaries ... did mock at her sabbaths - the pagan used to mock at the Jews' Sabbath, as showing their idleness, and termed them Sabbatarians (Martial, 4:4). Now, said they ironically, ye may keep a continuous Sabbath. So God appointed the length of the captivity (70 years) to be exactly that of the sum of the Sabbaths in the 490 years in which the land was denied its Sabbaths (fulfilling the threats Leviticus 26:33-35: cf. 2 Chronicles 36:21). Maurer, with the Syriac version, translates it 'ruin.' But the English version better expresses the point of their 'mocking,'-namely, their involuntary "Sabbaths," i:e., the cessation of all national movements. A fourth line is added in this stanza, whereas in all the others there are but three. So in Lamentations 2:19.

[Cheth (ch)]

Verse 8

Jerusalem hath grievously sinned; therefore she is removed: all that honoured her despise her, because they have seen her nakedness: yea, she sigheth, and turneth backward.

Jerusalem hath grievously sinned; therefore she is removed - (auticipated by Solomon in 1 Kings 8:46, "If they sin against thee, and thou be angry ... and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captives"). Is removed - as a woman separated from the congregation of God for legal impurity, which is a type of moral impurity. So Lamentations 1:17; end; Leviticus 12:2; Leviticus 15:19, etc.

They have seen her nakedness - they have treated her as contumeliously as courtezans from whom their clothes are stripped.

She ... turneth backward - as modest women do from shame; i:e., she is cast down from all hope of restoration (Calvin).

[Teth (T)]

Verse 9

Her filthiness is in her skirts; she remembereth not her last end; therefore she came down wonderfully: she had no comforter. O LORD, behold my affliction: for the enemy hath magnified himself. Her filthiness is in her skirts - continuation of the image in Lamentations 1:8. Her ignominy and misery cannot be concealed, but are apparent to all, as if a woman were surfing under such a flow as to reach the end of her skirts. She remembereth not her last end - (Deuteronomy 32:29; Isaiah 47:7). She forgot how fatal must be the end of her iniquity. Or, as the words following imply, she, in despair, cannot lift herself up to lay hold of God's promises as at her 'latter end' (Calvin). Wonderfully - Hebrew, wonders - i:e., with amazing dejection. O Lord, behold my affliction. Judah here breaks in, speaking for herself. For the enemy hath magnified himself. What might seem ground for despair, the elated insulting of the enemy, is rather ground for good hope.

[Yodh (y)]

Verse 10

The adversary hath spread out his hand upon all her pleasant things: for she hath seen that the heathen entered into her sanctuary, whom thou didst command that they should not enter into thy congregation.

For she hath seen - surely she hath seen that, etc. The heathen entered into her sanctuary, whom thou didst command that they should not enter into thy congregation - for instance, the Ammonites and Moabites (Deuteronomy 23:3; Nehemiah 13:1-2). If the pagan, as such, were not allowed to enter the sanctuary for worship, much less were they allowed to enter in order to rob and destroy. [Kaph (k)]

Verse 11

All her people sigh, they seek bread; they have given their pleasant things for meat to relieve the soul: see, O LORD, and consider; for I am become vile.

All her people sigh, they seek bread - (Jeremiah 37:21; Jeremiah 38:9, "There is no more bread in the city;" 52:6, "The famine was sore in the city, so that there was no bread for the people of the land").

They have given their pleasant things for meat - (2 Kings 6:25, "There was a great famine in Samaria; and ... they besieged it, until an ass' head was sold for fourscore pieces of silver;" Job 2:4, "Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life").

To relieve the soul - literally, to cause the soul, or life, to return. For I am become vile. Her sins and consequent sorrows are made the plea in craving God's mercy. Compare the like plea, Psalms 25:11.

[Lamedh (l)]

Verse 12

Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the LORD hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger. Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow. The pathetic appeal of Jerusalem, not only to her neighbours, but even to the strangers 'passing by,' as her sorrow is such as should excite the compassion even of those unconnected with her. She here prefigures Christ, whom the language is prophetically made to suit, more than Jerusalem. Compare the use of the name "Israel" for Messiah, Isaiah 49:3. Compare with "pass by," Matthew 27:39; Mark 15:29. As to Jerusalem, Daniel 9:12. Maurer, from the Arabic idiom, instead of "Is it nothing to you," translates, 'Do you not go off on your way' - i:e., stop, whoever ye are that pass by. The English version is simpler.

[Mem (m)]

Verse 13

From above hath he sent fire into my bones, and it prevaileth against them: he hath spread a net for my feet, he hath turned me back: he hath made me desolate and faint all the day.

From above hath he sent fire into my bones - a fire which not only consumes the skin and flesh, but penetrates even to my bones - i:e., my vital powers.

It prevaileth against them - not as Rosenmuller: 'He (Yahweh) hath broken them;' a sense not in the Hebrew. He hath spread a net for my feet - (Ezra. 12:13 ). Image from hunting wild beasts. He has so entangled me in His judgments that I cannot escape.

He hath turned me back - so that I cannot go forward, and get free from His meshes. [Nun (n)]

Verse 14

The yoke of my transgressions is bound by his hand: they are wreathed, and come up upon my neck: he hath made my strength to fall, the Lord hath delivered me into their hands, from whom I am not able to rise up.

The yoke of my transgressions is bound by hand - (Deuteronomy 28:48). Metaphor from farmers, who, after they have bound the yoke to the neck of oxen, hold the rein firmly twisted round the hand. Thus the translation will be, 'in His hand.' Or else, "the yoke of my transgressions" - i:e., of punishment for my transgressions-is held so fast fixed on me "by" God, that there is no loosening of it: thus the English version translates, "is bound by His hand." They are wreathed - my sins are like the withes entwined about the neck to fasten the yoke to it.

The Lord hath delivered me into their hands, from whom - i:e., into the hands of those from whom, etc. Maurer translates, 'before whom I am not able to stand.

[Samech (c)]

Verse 15

The Lord hath trodden under foot all my mighty men in the midst of me: he hath called an assembly against me to crush my young men: the Lord hath trodden the virgin, the daughter of Judah, as in a winepress.

The Lord hath trodden ... Maurer, from Syriac root, translates [ cilaah (H5541)], 'cast away.' But Psalms 119:118 supports the English version.

In the midst of me - they fell not on the battlefield, but in the heart of the city; a sign of the divine wrath. He hath called an assembly against me - the collected forces of Babylon: a very different "assembly" from the solemn ones which once met at Jerusalem on the great feasts. The Hebrew [ mow`eed (H4150)] means, literally, such a solemn "assembly" or feast (cf. Lamentations 2:22).

The Lord hath trodden the virgin ... as in a winepress - hath forced her blood to burst forth, as the red win from the grapes trodden in the press (Isaiah 63:3; Revelation 14:19-20; Revelation 19:15).

[`Ayin (')] [`Ayin (')]

Verse 16

For these things I weep; mine eye, mine eye runneth down with water, because the comforter that should relieve my soul is far from me: my children are desolate, because the enemy prevailed. For these things I weep - (Jeremiah 13:17; Jeremiah 14:17). Jerusalem is the speaker.

Mine eye, mine eye. So Lamentations 4:18, "our end ... our end:" Jeremiah often uses repetition for emphasis. [Pe (p)]

Verse 17

Zion spreadeth forth her hands, and there is none to comfort her: the LORD hath commanded concerning Jacob, that his adversaries should be round about him: Jerusalem is as a menstruous woman among them.

Jerusalem is as a menstruous woman - held unclean, and shunned by all; separated from her husband and from the temple, (cf. Lamentations 1:8; Leviticus 15:19, etc.) Like a woman in labour-throes (Jeremiah 4:31).

[Tsaddiy (ts)]

Verse 18

The LORD is righteous; for I have rebelled against his commandment: hear, I pray you, all people, and behold my sorrow: my virgins and my young men are gone into captivity.

The Lord is righteous; for I have rebelled - the sure sign of repentance, to accept the punishment of her iniquity (Leviticus 26:41); justifying God, condemning herself (Nehemiah 9:33; Psalms 51:4; Daniel 9:7-14). Against his commandment - literally, mouth: His word in the mouth of the prophets. [Qoph (q)]

Verse 19

I called for my lovers, but they deceived me: my priests and mine elders gave up the ghost in the city, while they sought their meat to relieve their souls. I called for my lovers - (Lamentations 1:2; Jeremiah 30:14, "All thy lovers have forgotten thee; they seek thee not"). Mine elders - in dignity, not merely age.

While they sought their meat. Their dignity did not exempt them from having to go and seek bread (Lamentations 1:11). [Resh (r)]

Verse 20

Behold, O LORD; for I am in distress: my bowels are troubled; mine heart is turned within me; for I have grievously rebelled: abroad the sword bereaveth, at home there is as death.

My bowels are troubled - (Job 30:27; Isaiah 16:11; Jeremiah 4:19; Jeremiah 31:20). Extreme mental distress affects the bowels and the whole internal frame.

Mine heart is turned - (Hosea 11:8, "Mine heart is turned within me") i:e., is agitated or fluttered. Abroad the sword bereaveth, at home there is as death - (Deuteronomy 32:25; Ezekiel 7:15). The "as" does not modify, but intensifies. 'Abroad the sword bereaveth, at home as it were death itself' (personified), in the form of famine and pestilence (2 Kings 25:3; Jeremiah 14:18; Jeremiah 52:6). So Habakkuk 2:5, "is as death" (Michaelis).

[Sin/Shin (s/sh)]

Verse 21

They have heard that I sigh: there is none to comfort me: all mine enemies have heard of my trouble; they are glad that thou hast done it: thou wilt bring the day that thou hast called, and they shall be like unto me.

They are glad that thou hast done it - because they thought that therefore Judah is irretrievably ruined (Jeremiah 40:3, where Nebuzaradan says, "Now the Lord hath brought it, and done according as he hath said"). Thou wilt bring the day that thou hast called - (but) thou wilt bring on them the day of calamity which thou hast announced-namely, by the prophets (Jeremiah 50:1-46; Jeremiah 48:27).

They shall be like unto me - in calamities, Psalms 137:8-9; Jeremiah 51:24, etc.) [Tau (t)]

Verse 22

Let all their wickedness come before thee; and do unto them, as thou hast done unto me for all my transgressions: for my sighs are many, and my heart is faint.

Let all their wickedness come before thee. Such prayers against foes are lawful, if the foe be an enemy of God, and if our concern be not for our own personal feeling, but for the glory of God and the welfare of His people.

Come before thee - so Revelation 16:19, "Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath" (cf. Psalms 109:15).


(1) Judah's overwhelming sorrow was the bitter fruit of her grievous sin. She who had been once the special object of God's favour, was now, as a "widow," forlorn and without a "comforter" (Lamentations 1:9), severed from her Almighty Husband and her Lord. She who had sat on a throne as a princess among tributary provinces was now "sitting" on the bare earth, forced to be a "tributary" herself (Lamentations 1:1). Not only so; but her people were exiled captives in strange lands, wherein they could find "no rest" (Lamentations 1:9.). Worst of all, her "solemn feasts" (Lamentations 1:4), which formerly had been her glory and "her beauty" (Lamentations 1:6), were now forsaken, while her "priests and virgins sighed" with bitter but unavailing regrets. Behold the awful consequences of sin, even in this world! How much more awful must this be in the world to come, where sin is left to its unrestricted working!

(2) Yet her very afflictions were the means of bringing her to a better frame of mind. Heretofore she had not been spiritually wise, so as to "consider her latter end" (Lamentations 1:9; Deuteronomy 32:29). Therefore she had been "removed" as unclean (Lamentations 1:8), and had been "brought down wonderfully." But now her affliction led her to cry to the Lord, and commit her cause to Him! It is good for us to have been afflicted, when our sorrows have led us to cast ourselves wholly on the Lord.

(3) Her plea before God is two-fold: first, the severity of her suffering, "O Lord, behold my affliction;" secondly, the haughtiness of her triumphant enemy, who "did mock at her Sabbaths," telling her tauntingly that now she might keep perpetual Sabbath, "The enemy hath magnified himself." So when Satan sorely buffets the believer, the latter may use the same pleas before his God, reminding his gracious Father of the severity of his temptations, and the proud malignity of his adversary.

(4) Jerusalem in her present dejection appeals to all Christians not to "pass by," as the priest and Levite passed by the robbed and wounded traveler, without sympathy or help, "Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?" Her example speaks loudly to us, and warns us, that if we allow sin, our worst enemy, to have dominion over us, then all our other adversaries will be allowed to rule us. Great as were her outward calamities, her inward sufferings, through the reproaches of conscience, were harder to bear. Sin sends a consuming "fire into the bones," and spreads "a net" for the feet (Lamentations 1:13). It "wreathes" a galling "yoke" round "the neck," and makes "the strength" of the most powerful "to fall," just as when Delilah had robbed Samson of the Nazarite locks of his consecration to God, "the Lord departed from him," and so "his strength went from him" (Judges 16:19-20). Sin it is which has caused all the sorrows, sicknesses, lamentations, and deaths which prevail on every side throughout the earth.

(5) But Jerusalem not only gives us warning to avoid her sin, lest we incur her punishment, but also she invites our commiseration and our active sympathy. Let it not be regarded as something not at all concerning us Gentile Christians that the Lord has so sorely and so long afflicted His elect nation, the people of His everlasting covenant. Let us rather look forward, with assured anticipation, to the fulfillment of the promises concerning her in "her last end" (Lamentations 1:9). Glorious things are spoken of the city of God. Let us therefore "pray," labour, and freely give, "for the peace of Jerusalem," and so obtain the promise, "They shall prosper that love thee" (Psalms 122:6).

(6) The sure token of Judah's and Israel's repentance shall be when, accepting the punishment of their iniquity as their just due, they shall justify God. It is the most hopeful sign in any sinner, when the Holy Spirit, applying inwardly the lesson taught by outward distresses, teaches him to cry, "The Lord is righteous; for I have rebelled against His commandment" (Lamentations 1:18).

(7) This lesson, however, is to be learned, not so much in gazing at Israel's sorrow, as in gazing at the awful and unparalleled agonies of the Man of Sorrows, the Antitype to afflicted Israel (Lamentations 1:12). Let us not "pass by," as unconcerned spectators, the scene which presents itself to the soul in the Crucified One of Calvary. It was not His sins, but ours, which caused His bitter sufferings. There are depths of sorrow and love to be witnessed there by the eye of faith, such as human conception cannot fathom. Let sin thereby be embittered to us. Let God's love in Christ become more and more precious to us the longer we stand and gaze at that wonderful manifestation of justice and mercy harmonized! Lot us adore and love, while we see that the Lord was indeed declared therein "righteous," our sin was condemned, and at the same time a free channel was opened whereby the streams of divine mercy could flow down upon us sinners.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Lamentations 1". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/lamentations-1.html. 1871-8.
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