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Bible Commentaries
Lamentations 3

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

Verse 1

I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath. Lamentations 3:1-66 (AN ELEGY)

Lamentations 3:1-66.-Jeremiah proposes his own experience under afflictions as an example how the Jews should behave under theirs, so as to have hope of a restoration; hence, the change from singular to plural (Lamentations 3:22; Lamentations 3:40-47, from "I," "me," "my," to "we," "us," "our"). The stanzas consist of three lines, each of which begins with the same Hebrew letter.

['Aleph (')]

Verses 2-3

He hath led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into light. I am the man that hath seen affliction - Jeremiah's own affliction in the dungeon of Malchiah (Jeremiah 38:6): that of his countrymen also in the siege. Both were types of that of Christ.

Verse 2. He hath led me ... into darkness - calamity. Light - prosperity.

Verse 3. He turneth his hand - to inflict again and again new strokes upon me. "His hand," which once used to protect me, now continually strikes me. "Against me is He turned ... He turneth against me" implies repeated inflictions.

[Beth (b)]

Verses 4-6

My flesh and my skin hath he made old; he hath broken my bones. My flesh and my skin hath he made old - (Job 16:8, "Thou hast filled me with wrinkles, which is a witness against me, and my leanness rising up").

Verse 5. He hath builded against me - mounds, as against a besieged city, so as to allow none to escape (so Lamentations 3:7; Lamentations 3:9). Verse 6. Set me. Henderson refers this to the custom of placing the dead in a sitting posture. In dark places - sepulchres. As those 'dead long since,' so Jeremiah and his people are consigned to oblivion (Psalms 88:5-6; Psalms 142:3; Ezekiel 37:13).

[Gimel (g)]

Verses 7-9

He hath hedged me about, that I cannot get out: he hath made my chain heavy. Hedged - (Job 3:23; Hosea 2:6). Hosea shows that this hedging up for Israel is not for her eternal ruin, but for good in the end, "I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall not find her paths. And she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them: then shall she say, I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now.)"

My chain - literally, chain of brass. Verse 8. He shutteth out my prayer - image from a door shutting out any entrance (Job 30:20. So the antitype, Christ (Psalms 22:2).

Verse 9. He hath enclosed my ways with hewn stone - which coheres so closely as not to admit of being broken through.

He hath made my paths crooked - thwarted my plans and efforts, so that none went right. [Daleth (d)]

Verses 10-13

He was unto me as a bear lying in wait, and as a lion in secret places. He was unto me as a bear lying in wait, and as a lion (Job 10:16; thus fulfilling the threat, "I will be unto them as a lion: as a leopard by the way will I observe them: I will meet them as a bear that is bereaved of her whelps," Hosea 13:7-8.)

Verse 11. He hath turned aside my ways - made me wander out of the right way, so as to become a prey to Verse 11. He hath turned aside my ways - made me wander out of the right way, so as to become a prey to wild beasts.

Pulled me in pieces - (Hosea 6:1) as a "bear" or a "lion" (Lamentations 3:10). Verse 12. He hath bent his bow, and set me as a mark for the arrow - (Job 7:20, "Why hast thou set me as a mark?")

[He (h)]

Verses 13-15

He hath caused the arrows of his quiver to enter into my reins. Arrows - literally, sons of His quiver (cf. Job 6:4, "The arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit").

Verse 14. I was a derision to all my people, and their song all the day - (Jeremiah 20:7). Their song. Jeremiah herein was a type of Messiah (Psalms 69:12, "I was the song of the drunkards." Compare with "all my people" John 1:11, "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not").

Verse 15. He hath made me drunken with wormwood - fulfilling the prophecy, "Behold, I will feed this people with wormwood" (Jeremiah 9:15); there it is regarded as food-namely, the leaves-here as drink-namely, the juice. [Waw (w)]

Verses 16-18

He hath also broken my teeth with gravel stones, he hath covered me with ashes. He hath ... broken my teeth with gravel - referring to the grit that often mixes with bread baked in ashes, as is the custom of baking in the East (Proverbs 20:17). We fare as hardly as those who eat such bread. The same allusion is in "covered me with ashes" - namely, as bread is covered over.

Verse 17. I forgat prosperity. Not only present, but all hope of future prosperity, is removed; so much so, that I am as one who never was prosperous ("I forgat prosperity"). Verse 18. My hope is perished from the Lord - i:e., my hope derived from Him is perished (Psalms 31:22). [Zayin (z)]

Verses 19-21

Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall.

(Jeremiah 9:15.) Remembering mine affliction ... This gives the reason why he gave way to the temptation to despair implied in Lamentations 3:18, "My hope is perished from the Lord." The margin, 'Remember,' does not suit the sense so well.

Verse 20 My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me - i:e., as often as my soul calls them to remembrance, it is humbled or bowed down in me.

Verse 21. This I recall to my mind - "this" - namely, what follows: the view of the divine character (in Lamentations 3:22-23) as being full of "mercies." Calvin makes "this" refer to Jeremiah's infirmity. His very weakness (Lamentations 3:19-20) gives him hope of God interposing His strength for him (cf. Psalms 25:11; Psalms 25:17; Psalms 42:5; Psalms 42:8; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10). [Cheth (ch)]

Verses 22-24

It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.

[ It is of the Lord's mercies ... we are not consumed ] - (Malachi 3:6, "I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed").

Verse 23. They are new every morning - (Isaiah 33:2, "O Lord, be gracious unto us; we have waited for thee: be thou their arm every morning").

Verse 24. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul. So, instead of an inheritance in land, the Lord gave Himself to the priests - "I am thy part, and thine inheritance" (Numbers 18:20). Every believer is now a priest unto God, and therefore can appropriate the same language (Psalms 16:5; Psalms 73:20; Psalms 119:57; Jeremiah 10:16). Therefore will I hope in Him. To have God for our portion is the one only foundation of hope. Therefore will I hope in Him. To have God for our portion is the one only foundation of hope. [Teth (T)]

Verses 25-27

The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. The Lord is good ... It is good ... It is good. The repetition of "good" at the beginning of each of the three verses heightens the effect.

Wait for him - (Isaiah 30:18, "Blessed are all they that wait for Him"). Verse 26. Quietly wait - literally, be in silence. Compare Lamentations 3:28 and Psalms 39:2; Psalms 39:9 - i:e., to be patiently quiet under afflictions, resting in the will of God (Psalms 37:7). So Aaron "held his peace" when fire from the Lord devoured his sons Nadab and Abihu, because they had offered strange fire (Leviticus 10:2-3; and Job 40:4-5).

Verse 27. Bear the yoke in his youth - the yoke of the Lord's disciplinary teaching (Psalms 90:12; Psalms 119:71). Calvin interprets it, the Lord's doctrine (Matthew 11:29-30), which is to be received in a docile spirit. The earlier the better; because the old are full of prejudices (Proverbs 8:17; Ecclesiastes 12:1). Jeremiah himself received the yoke both of doctrine and chastisement while he was still "a child" (Jeremiah 1:6-7).

[Yodh (y)]

Verses 28-30

He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him. He ... keepeth silence - the fruit of true docility and patience. He does not fight against the yoke, "as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke" (Jeremiah 31:18; Acts 9:5), but accommodates himself to it.

Alone. The pagan applauded magnaminity; but they looked to display of stoical patience before the world, and the praise of men. The child of God, in the absence of any witness, "alone," silently submits to the will of God. Because he hath borne it upon him - i:e., because he is used to bearing it on him. Rather, 'because He (the Lord, Lamentations 3:26) hath laid it on him' (Vatablus).

Verse 29. He putteth his mouth in the dust - (Job 42:6). The mouth in the dust is the attitude of suppliant and Verse 29. He putteth his mouth in the dust - (Job 42:6). The mouth in the dust is the attitude of suppliant and humble submission to God's dealings as righteous and loving in design (cf. Ezra 9:6, "O my God, I am ashamed, and blush to lift up my face to thee;" 1 Corinthians 14:25).

If so be there may be hope. This does not express doubt as to whether GOD be willing to receive the penitent's doubt as to himself; he whispers to himself this consolation, "Perhaps there may be hope for me."

Verse 30. He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth him. Messiah, the antitype, fulfilled this; His practice agreeing with His precept (Isaiah 50:6, "I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair;" Matthew 5:39). Many take patiently afflictions from God, but when man wrongs them they take it impatiently. The godly bear resignedly the latter, like the former, as sent by God (Psalms 17:13).

[Kaph (k)]

Verses 31-33

For the Lord will not cast off for ever: The Lord will not cast off forever. True repentance is never without hope (Psalms 94:14). Verse 32. Though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. The punishments of the godly are but for a time.

Verse 33. He doth not afflict willingly. He doth not afflict any willingly, literally, from His heart - i:e., as if He had any pleasure in it (Ezekiel 33:11), much less the godly (Hebrews 12:10).

[Lamed (l)]

Verses 34-36

To crush under his feet all the prisoners of the earth, To crush ... to turn aside ... to subvert. This triplet has an infinitive in the beginning of each verse, the governing finite verb being in the end of Lamentations 3:36, "the Lord approveth not," which is to be repeated in each verse. Jeremiah here anticipates and answers the objection which the Jews might start, that it was by His connivance they were "crushed under the feet" of those who "turned aside the right of a man." God approves (literally, seeth with approbation, Habakkuk 1:13; so, "behold," "look on" - i:e., look on with approval) not of such unrighteous acts; and so the Jews may look for deliverance, and the punishment of their foes. Verse 35. To turn aside the right of a man before the face of the Most High. Any "turning aside" of justice in court is done before the face of God, who is present, and "regardeth," though unseen (Ecclesiastes 5:8).

Verse 36. To subvert - `to wrong a man in his cause.' [Mem (m)]

Verses 37-39

Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not? Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass. A double question is implied, Who is it that can (as God, Psalms 33:9) effect by a word anything? and, Who can effect anything without the will of God?

Verse 38. Out of the mouth of the Most High proceedeth not evil and good? - Doth not calamity and prosperity alike proceed from God? (Job 2:10; Isaiah 45:7; Amos 3:6.)

Verse 39. Wherefore doth a living man complain? - "living,'' and so having a time yet given him by God for repentance. If sin were punished as it deserves, life itself would be forfeited by the sinner. "Complaining" (murmuring) ill becomes him who enjoys such a favour as life (Proverbs 19:3): the fact that we are still living at all, rebukes all complaining.

For the punishment of his sins. Instead of blaming God for his sufferings, he ought to recognize in them God's righteousness, and the just rewards of his own sins.

[Nun (n)]

Verses 40-42

Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD. Let us - Jeremiah and his fellow-countrymen in their calamity.

Search - as opposed to the torpor wherewith men rest only on their outward sufferings, without attending to the cause of them. God must search us, if we are to be enabled to search ourselves and our ways. "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalms 139:23-24). Verse 41. Let us lift up our heart with our hands - the antidote to hypocrisy (Psalms 86:4; 1 Timothy 2:8). Verse 42. Thou hast not pardoned. The Babylonian captivity had not yet ended.

[Samech (c)]

Verses 43-45

Thou hast covered with anger, and persecuted us: thou hast slain, thou hast not pitied. Thou hast covered with anger - namely, thyself (so Lamentations 3:44), namely, so as not to see and pity our calamities, for even the most cruel, in seeing a sad spectacle, are moved to pity. Compare as to God "hiding His face," Psalms 10:11.

Verse 44. Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud (Lamentations 3:8). The "cloud" is our sins, and God's wrath because of them (Isaiah 59:2).

Verse 45. Thou hast made us as the off-scouring and refuse. So the apostles were treated; but, instead of complaining, rejoiced at it (1 Corinthians 4:13).

[Pe (p)]

Verses 46-48

All our enemies have opened their mouths against us.

Pe is put before Ain, as in Elegy 2:16,17; 4:16,17. Verse 46. All our enemies have opened their mouths against us - (Lamentations 2:16). Verse 47. Fear and a snare is come upon us - like animals fleeing in fear, we fall into the snare laid for us. Verse 48. Mine eye runneth down with rivers - (Jeremiah 9:1, "O that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people"). [`Ayin (')]

Verses 49-51

Mine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not, without any intermission, Without any intermission - or else, 'because there is no intermission' (Piscator), namely, of my miseries. Verse 50. Till the Lord look down. His prayer it not without hope, wherein it differs from the blind grief of unbelievers.

Look down ... - (Isaiah 63:15, "Look down from heaven, and behold from the habitation of thy holiness and of thy glory: where is thy zeal and thy strength?")

Verse 51. Mine eye affecteth mine heart - i:e., causeth me grief with continual tears; or, 'affecteth my life' (literally, 'soul,' margin); i:e., my health (Grotius).

Because of all the daughters of my city - the towns around, dependencies of Jerusalem, taken by the foe. [Tsaddiy (ts)]

Verses 52-54

Mine enemies chased me sore, like a bird, without cause. Mine enemies chased me sore, like a bird - which is destitute of counsel and strength. The allusion seems to be to Proverbs 1:17 (Calvin).

Without cause - (Psalms 69:4; Psalms 109:3-4). Type of Messiah (John 15:25). Verse 53. In the dungeon - to which his enemies consigned the prophet (Jeremiah 37:16). Cast a stone upon me - usually put at the mouth of a dungeon to secure the prisoners (Joshua 10:18; Daniel 6:17). Typifying Jesus, at the door of whose grave "a great stone" was rolled (Matthew 27:60).

Verse 54. Waters flowed over mine head - not literally, because there was "no water" (Jeremiah 38:6) in the place of Verse 54. Waters flowed over mine head - not literally, because there was "no water" (Jeremiah 38:6) in the place of Jeremiah's confinement, but emblematical of overwhelming calamities (Psalms 69:2; Psalms 124:4-5). Then I said, I am cut off - (Isaiah 38:10-11). I am abandoned by God. He speaks according to carnal sense. [Qoph (q)]

Verses 55-57

I called upon thy name, O LORD, out of the low dungeon. I called upon thy name ... out of the low dungeon. Thus the spirit resists the flesh, and faith spurns the temptation (Calvin; Psalms 130:1; Jonah 2:2).

Verse 56. Thou hast heard my voice. He means, not now, but formerly (so in Lamentations 3:57-58). My breathing ... my cry - two kinds of prayer; the sigh of a prayer silently breathed forth, and the loud, earnest cry. (Contrast Isaiah 26:16, "a prayer," margin, 'a secret speech,' with Psalms 55:17, "cry aloud").

Verse 57. Thou drewest near - with thy help (James 4:8). [Resh (r)]

Verses 58-60

O Lord, thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul; thou hast redeemed my life.

Jeremiah cites God's gracious answers to his prayers, in times past, as an encouragement to his fellow-countrymen to trust in Him.

Verse 58. Thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul - (Psalms 35:1, "Plead my cause, O Lord, with them that strive with me;" Micah 7:9).

Verse 59. O Lord, thou hast seen my wrong. God's past deliverances (Lamentations 3:58), and His knowledge of Judah's wrongs, are made the grounds of prayer for relief.

Verse 60. Thou hast seen ... all their imaginations - devices against me of the men of Anathoth, who sought my life (Jeremiah 11:9). "Their vengeance" means their malice, and the feeling of revenge which they entertained against him, because of his faithful prophecies. Jeremiah gives his conduct, when plotted against by his foes, as an example how the Jews should bring their wrongs at the hands of the Chaldeans before God.

[Sin/Shin (s/sh)]

Verses 61-63

Thou hast heard their reproach, O LORD, and all their imaginations against me; Thou hast heard their reproach - their reproachful language against me.

Verse 62. The lips - the speeches. Verse 63. Behold their sitting down, and their rising up; I am their music - whether they sit or rise - i:e., whether they be actively engaged or sedentary and at rest, "all the day" (Lamentations 3:62) I am the subject of their derisive songs (Lamentations 3:14).

[Tau (t)]

Verses 64-66

Render unto them a recompence, O LORD, according to the work of their hands. Render unto them a recompence - (Jeremiah 11:20; 2 Timothy 4:14, "Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil; the Lord reward him according to his works").

Verse 65. Give them sorrow of heart - rather, blindness or hardness of heart; literally, 'a veil' [mªginat] covering their heart, so that they may rush on their own ruin (Isaiah 6:10; 2 Corinthians 3:14-15).

Verse 66. Persecute ... them ... from under the heavens of the Lord - destroy them, so that it may he seen everywhere under heaven that thou sittest above as Judge of the world.


(1) It is a true remark of Luther, 'Prayer, affliction, and temptation form the minister.' Jeremiah's personal experience of 'the rod of affliction' enabled him to minister counsel and comfort to his countrymen in their affliction (Lamentations 3:1). The minister who knows experimentally what it is to be in "darkness," and to have the "hand of God" laid heavily upon him again and again (Lamentations 3:2-3), is best suited for speaking a word in season to those who have darkness and no light. Hence, almost all the prophets and apostles were men tried in the same furnace of affliction as many of the people to whom they ministered.

(2) But, above all these, Jesus was pre-eminently the "man of sorrows," that He might be "able to succour them that are tempted" (Hebrews 2:18). Ingenuity was, as it were, taxed, in order to heap on His one head, and to pour into His one heart, every kind of misery, cruelty, and insult which the divine justice could, in the short term of his ministry, concentrate upon the one and only Sin-bearer for the whole world. No sorrow, not even that of Jerusalem the type, was like unto His sorrow, wherewith the Lord afflicted him in the day of His fierce. anger (Lamentations 1:12). God hedged His own Son about, compassed Him with gall and travail, and made Him the mark for all His arrows (Lamentations 3:5; Lamentations 3:7; Lamentations 3:12). But worse than all was the hiding of the Father's countenance (Lamentations 3:8; Lamentations 3:44), and the shutting out of the Holy Son's prayer, when He cried, under that strange and hitherto unknown sensation, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the day time, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent" (Psalms 22:1-2). What is any "derision" to which we are exposed through our religion to what the Holy Saviour endured, who was "the song of the very drunkards?" Let the thought of His great suffering and shame sustain us under our lighter burdens. Let the wormwood and the gall (Lamentations 3:19) which were His cup to drink take away the bitterness of whatever cup of suffering is appointed to us. And, like Jeremiah (Lamentations 3:19-21) and Paul, when God hath comforted us in all our tribulation, let us draw from thence the power "to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God" (2 Corinthians 1:4).

(3) Jeremiah states, for the comfort of His people, how, in his distress, after the long and sore struggle between unbelief and faith, he was at last delivered from the temptation to despair. He had in his haste said, "My hope from the Lord is perished" (Lamentations 3:18); but he was brought to a better frame of feeling by calling to mind (Lamentations 3:21) the never-failing mercies of the Lord (Lamentations 3:22). There is no better remedy against despondency than to remember the gracious character of the Lord. Every morning as it dawns gives fresh proof that His compassions are ever new, and that His faithfulness to His people is truly great (Lamentations 3:22-23). That we are alive at all, and have not been consumed for our sins, as we justly might have been, is in itself a cause for unfeigned gratitude.

(4) The prophet, therefore, came to this conclusion, which is that to which every child of God is brought at last, "The Lord is my portion, saith my soul, therefore will I hope in Him" (Lamentations 3:24). The drying up of the streams of earthly comforts only sends the believer with the greater zest to the never-failing spring, God Himself. To the soul that thus waits for and waits upon Him, the Lord is indeed "good" (Lamentations 3:25). To such "the yoke" of affliction borne meekly, and in unmurmuring silence (Lamentations 3:27-28), as being put upon them by the Lord, proves to be a real blessing; for it weans them from the world, and teaches them humility and patience. Instead of fretfully saying, "There is no hope," and therefore "we all walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart" (Jeremiah 18:12), those chastened by sanctified affliction "put their mouth" in the dust, in humble submission to God's trying dealings, looking to God as their hope; because they still believe, "The Lord will not cast off His. people, neither will He forsake His inheritance" (Lamentations 3:31; Psalms 94:14).

(5) The griefs of the people of God are but for a time (Lamentations 3:32). Unbelief tempts us to think hardly of God, when He sorely tries us, as though He had pleasure in our pain (Lamentations 3:33). But, so far from this, judgment is God's "strange work" (Isaiah 28:21) - a work which His justice alone constrains Him to, but which His mercy would gladly avert. Nothing can be further from His mind than "to crush under His feet all the prisoners of the earth," or to do any wrong to the creatures of His own hand (Lamentations 3:33-36).

(6) Since God is by His word, and the mere fiat of His will (Lamentations 3:37), the source alike of calamity and prosperity, we ought not to complain against Him because of some bitter things in our cup, considering how many sweets He has put in it (Lamentations 3:38; Job 2:10). Let us not renounce hope, but wait on Him, that so as He now sends evil He may in His own time send good again to us. Instead of complaining as though we were wronged, because we receive the just punishment of our sins, we ought to bless God that we are still spared to be among the "living" (Lamentations 3:39). What we complain of is far less than what our sins deserve. Instead of complaining of God, let us complain to Him. Instead of calling His ways to account, let us search and try our own (Lamentations 3:40); and, as the result of our self-examination, "turn again to the Lord," lifting up, not only our hands, but also "our hearts to God in the heavens" (Lamentations 3:41). The thought of the heavenly height in which God sits above us, creatures of this fallen earth, should lead us to abase ourselves very low before Him (Lamentations 3:20; Lamentations 3:29), confessing our transgression and rebellion, which have justly provoked His displeasure (Lamentations 3:42).

(7) God may far a time seem to cover Himself with a cloud, so that His people's prayer cannot pass through (Lamentations 3:44). But the time will come at last when "the Lord will behold from heaven" (Lamentations 3:50), and look down on his people who call upon His name as Jeremiah did out of the low dungeon (Lamentations 3:55). God hears alike the silently-breathed sigh of prayer and the loud cry (Lamentations 3:56). God draws near to them who draw nigh to Him, and quells their fears (Lamentations 3:57), and pleads their cause against every enemy (Lamentations 3:58-59). Let us, then, widen sorely tried, cast all our cares on Him who careth for us. So faith shall triumph over doubts, and the Lord will save His people with an everlasting salvation, and shall, in just recompence, "destroy their enemies in anger from under the heavens of the Lord" (Lamentations 3:66).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Lamentations 3". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/lamentations-3.html. 1871-8.
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