Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, May 28th, 2024
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
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Bible Commentaries
Lamentations 5

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

Verse 1

Remember, O LORD, what is come upon us: consider, and behold our reproach. Remember, O Lord, what is come upon us ... behold our reproach - (Psalms 89:50-51, "Remember, Lord, the reproach of thy servants; how I do bear in my bosom the reproach of all the mighty people; wherewith thine enemies have reproached, O Lord; wherewith they have reproached the footsteps of thine anointed").

Verse 2

Our inheritance is turned to strangers, our houses to aliens. Our inheritance - which is at the same time "thine inheritance" (Psalms 79:1). The land given of old to us by thy gift.

Verse 3

We are orphans and fatherless, our mothers are as widows. We are ... fatherless - our whole land is full of orphans (Calvin). Or, "we are fatherless," being abandoned by thee our "Father" (Jeremiah 3:19). (Grotius.)

Verse 4

We have drunken our water for money; our wood is sold unto us. We have drunken our water for money. The Jews were compelled to pay the enemy for the water of their own cisterns after the overthrow of Jerusalem. Or rather, it refers to their sojourn in Babylon: they had to pay tax for access to the rivers and fountains. Thus, "our" means the water which we need, the commonest necessary of life. Our wood is sold unto us. In Judea each one could get wood without pay; in Babylon "our wood," the wood we need, must be paid for.

Verse 5

Our necks are under persecution: we labour, and have no rest. Our necks are under persecution - literally, On our necks we are persecuted - i:e., men tread on our necks (Psalms 66:12; Isaiah 51:23; cf. Joshua 10:24, where Joshua is described as making his captives put their feet upon the necks of the five kings). The extremest oppression. The foe not merely galled the Jews' face, back, and sides, but their neck. A just retribution, as they had been stiff in neck against the yoke of God (2 Chronicles 30:8, 'Harden not your necks ... but yield yourselves unto the Lord,' margin; Nehemiah 9:29; Isaiah 48:4, "Thy neck is an iron sinew").

Verse 6

We have given the hand to the Egyptians, and to the Assyrians, to be satisfied with bread. We have given the hand to - in token of submission (note, Jeremiah 50:15).

To the Egyptians - at the death of Josiah, when the King of Egypt deposed Josiah's son, Jehoahaz, from the throne, and put Eliakim or Jehoiakim in his stead (2 Chronicles 36:3-4).

And to the Assyrians - i:e., the Chaldeans, who occupied the empire which Assyria had held. So in Jeremiah 2:18 "Assyria" is used for Chaldea.

To be satisfied with bread - (Deuteronomy 28:48, "Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies ... in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things").

Verse 7

Our fathers have sinned, and are not; and we have borne their iniquities. Our fathers ... sinned, and are not; and we have borne their iniquities - (Jeremiah 31:29, "The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children's teeth are set on edge").

Borne their iniquities - i:e., the punishment of them. The accumulated sins of our fathers from age to age, as well as our own, are visited on us. They say this as a plea why God should pity them, (cf. Ezekiel 18:2, etc.)

Verse 8

Servants have ruled over us: there is none that doth deliver us out of their hand. Servants have ruled over us. Servants under the Chaldean governors ruled the Jews (Nehemiah 5:15, "Yea even their (the governors') servants bare rule over the people"). Israel, once a "kingdom of priests" (Exodus 19:6), is become like Canaan, "a servant of servants," according to the curse (Genesis 9:25). The Chaldeans were designed to be "servants" of Shem, being descended from Ham (Genesis 9:26; Genesis 10:6; Genesis 10:8). Now, through the Jews' sin, their positions are reversed.

Verse 9

We gat our bread with the peril of our lives because of the sword of the wilderness. We gat our bread with the peril of our lives - i:e., those of us left in the city after its capture by the Chaldeans. Because of the sword of the wilderness - because of the liability to attack by the robber-Arabs of the wilderness, through which the Jews had to pass to get "bread" from Egypt (cf. Lamentations 5:6).

Verse 10

Our skin was black like an oven because of the terrible famine. Our skin was black like an oven - as an oven is scorched with too much fire, so our skin with the hot blast of famine (margin, rightly, 'storms' like the hot simoom). Hunger dries up the pores, so that the skin becomes like as if it were scorched by the sun (Job 30:30; Psalms 119:83).

Verse 11

They ravished the women in Zion, and the maids in the cities of Judah. They ravished the women in Zion. So, in just retribution, Babylon itself should fare in the end (Isaiah 13:16). Jerusalem shall for the last time suffer these woes before her final restoration (Zechariah 14:2).

Verse 12

Princes are hanged up by their hand: the faces of elders were not honoured. Princes are hanged up by their hand - a piece of wanton cruelty invented by the Chaldeans. Grotius translates, 'Princes were hung by the hand of the enemy:' hanging was a usual mode of execution (Genesis 40:19). The faces of elders - official elders (Lamentations 4:16) were not honoured.

Verse 13

They took the young men to grind, and the children fell under the wood. The young men ... grind. The work of the lowest female slave, grinding at the mill, was laid on young men. So Samson was made to grind in the Philistine prison-house (Judges 16:21; Job 31:10).

The children fell under ... wood - mere children had to bear burdens of wood so heavy that they sank beneath them.

Verse 14

The elders have ceased from the gate, the young men from their musick. The elders have ceased from the gate. Aged men in the East meet in the open space round the gate to decide judicial trials, and to hold social converse (Job 29:7-8).

Verse 15

The joy of our heart is ceased; our dance is turned into mourning.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 16

The crown is fallen from our head: woe unto us, that we have sinned! The crown - all our glory, the kingdom and the priesthood (Job 19:9; Psalms 89:39; Psalms 89:44).

Verse 17

For this our heart is faint; for these things our eyes are dim. For this our heart is faint - (Lamentations 1:22; Lamentations 2:11).

Verse 18

Because of the mountain of Zion, which is desolate, the foxes walk upon it. The mountain of Zion ... foxes walk upon it - they frequent desolate places, where they can freely and fearlessly roam.

Verse 19

Thou, O LORD, remainest for ever; thy throne from generation to generation. Thou, O Lord, remainest forever - (Psalms 102:12). The perpetuity of God's rule over human affairs, however He may seem to let His people be oppressed for a time, is their ground of hope of restoration.

Verse 20

Wherefore dost thou forget us for ever, and forsake us so long time? Wherefore dost thou forget us forever - i:e., for 'so long a time.'

Verse 21

Turn thou us unto thee, O LORD, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old. Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned - (Psalms 80:3; Jeremiah 31:18). 'Restore us to favour with thee, and so we shall be restored to our old position' (Grotius). Jeremiah is not speaking of spiritual conversion, but of that outward turning whereby God receives men into His fatherly favour, manifested in bestowing prosperity (Calvin). Still, as Israel is a type of the Church, temporal goods typify spiritual blessings; and so the sinner may use this prayer for God to convert him.

Verse 22

But thou hast utterly rejected us - rather, 'Unless haply thou hast utterly rejected us, and art beyond measure wroth against us' - i:e., Unless thou art implacable, which is impossible, hear our prayer (Calvin). Or, as margin, 'For wouldest thou utterly reject us?' etc. No; that cannot be. The Jews, in this book, and in Isaiah and Malachi, to avoid the ill omen of a mournful closing sentence, repeat the second last verse (Calvin).


(1) Prayer is the grand remedy against being overwhelmed with affliction when it comes upon us (Lamentations 5:1). The greatness of our distresses and reproaches is a strong plea, and one likely to have weight with God, that we should be relieved when we appeal to Him. Our inheritance, cry the Jews, is turned to strangers (Lamentations 5:2), and we are fatherless (Lamentations 5:2-3). The God of justice is sure to vindicate the cause of those who by injustice have been robbed of their rightful inheritance, given them by Himself, just as He avenged the blood of Naboth, when the latter was slain by Ahab, who coveted his inheritance.

(2) How often we see the sins of the fathers visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generation! (Lamentations 5:7.) But when the children turn in penitence to God, God will turn in mercy to them. God is a Father of "the fatherless;" so that these have a sure claim on His mercy also, and His covenanted promises to His children, as well as on His justice.

(3) It is a good sign, and a token of true repentance, when the sinner attributes all his sorrows, and the falling of the crown of honour from his head, not to secondary causes, but to the first cause, God's displeasure at his sins. "Woe unto us that we have sinned" is a suitable confession to every transgressor when under the Lord's chastisements (Lamentations 5:16).

(4) Then the best ground of hope of restoration from punishment is the consideration of God's unchangeable rule over human affairs: "Thou, O Lord, remainest forever; thy throne from generation to generation." This gives a guarantee that, however oppressed He may permit His people to be for a time, He will at last arise and have mercy on them; He will not "forget and forsake them forever" (Lamentations 5:20).

(5) Let them, therefore, in their calamities cry, "Turn thou unto us, O Lord, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old." Restore us to thy favour, so shall every other blessing follow. When He turns our hearts to Him in trusting obedience, He will return to us in mercy and favour. He will not utterly reject in wrath (Lamentations 5:22), but will "renew the days" of those who are renewed in spirit by His Spirit. Wherefore let us never despair, but "hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto us at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:13).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Lamentations 5". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/lamentations-5.html. 1871-8.
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