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This chapter is composed in the acrostic character. Each verse begins with the Hebrew letters in alphabetical order; that is to say, the first begins with א aleph, the second with ב beth; and each verse contains three hemistichs, with the exception of Lamentations 1:1; Lamentations 1:19, which have four. The composition surpasses encomium, because the heart of the poet so acted as to touch the heart of the reader. The ideas and the figures are of the first style of composition. The words are laconic, as those of David: Oh Absalom, my son, my son. Such is the character of grief.
The following verse we sometimes find at the head of this book, introduced expletively. ”And it came to pass, after that Israel had been carried away captive, and Jerusalem was become desolate, that Jeremiah sat weeping, and lamented with this lamentation over Jerusalem, and said,”
Lamentations 1:1 . How doth the city sit solitary that was full of people. A desecrated city without inhabitant is justly introduced as the first cause of sorrow: all was once regal and festive joy, now all is gloom and desolation.
Lamentations 1:4 . The ways of Zion mourn. No joyful festivals, no train of worshippers entering at every gate, and cheering their accustomed dwellingplaces. No feasts with wine to gladden the heart, no animating worship in the temple, no fire on the altar to take away sin, no music, no virgin voices accompanying the psalms, no faithful prophets to preach to the people. All is mournful silence, and deathful gloom.
Lamentations 1:7 . Jerusalem remembered in the days of her affliction all her pleasant things. Her mansions, her gardens, her splendour, and the brilliant sphere in which she had moved. The poor had not far to fall, but the feelings of the rich were exquisite.
Lamentations 1:8-9 . Jerusalem hath grievously sinned. The impurity of her idolatries is now discovered. This is the answer to the enquiries in the first verse, and this is heaven’s defence for afflicting her. Come hither then, all ye writers of elegies, who eulogize the spotless dead. Come hither then, all ye Flecheres, who make orations for princes; and ye humbler preachers of funeral sermons. Where is there one of you who dares to talk of Zion’s sins? If your tongues are venal, how can you stand in presence of the prophets how in presence of God!
Lamentations 1:12 . See if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow. These words designate the sublime of grief. Jeremiah identifies himself with Zion. Many cities have been destroyed in war; but what city had fallen from Zion’s glory? What sorrow could be compared to her’s? The touchstone of the prophet’s grief arose from joining his sorrows with those of Christ, who expressed the like sentiments in the garden.
Lamentations 1:18 . My virgins and my young men are gone into captivity. A disconsolate mother, without a child to wipe her tears. She called for her allies and lovers, but none durst appear. The heathen poets abound with examples of mourners, but all are irrelevant; they apply not to the woes of Zion.
Jeremiah was forbidden to marry, because of the calamities approaching his country; yet he called the people his children, and bewails them as lost. It has always been the character of genuine piety to sympathize with the afflicted, and to pray for their good. We should weep that the wicked may weep for themselves. Tears flowed plentifully by the waters of Babylon, Psalms 137:0., when they remembered their former good things and their glory; and had they wept earlier for their sins, these calamities would not have come.
The friendship of the wicked is founded on pleasure and interest; for they are lovers of themselves. Hence when Judah was in trouble, all her lovers forsook her. So it was with Babylon when her day was come, and so it was with the prodigal when his money was spent. Let us therefore seek acquaintance with the friend that sticketh closer than a brother. He will never leave us in the time of trouble; and when dangers have surrounded his church, he has always appeared in due time for her salvation.
In this chapter, and in other parts of the poem, there is a frequent recurrence to sin as the cause of Israel’s calamities. It is the abomination which maketh both the sanctuary and the soul a desolation. It is a blight which withers the most hopeful aspects, and causes the glory of grace to enshroud itself in thickest darkness. Let the ruins of Zion instruct the christian church, and awe us in the hour of temptation. The consideration of sin should enlighten our prayers when we deprecate the calamities of war; for every nation should fear God; then the paternal corrections of his own hand would be deemed sufficient. He would not suffer the sword of an enemy to correct the errors of his people; for he is the righteous Lord of heaven and earth.
The chapter closes with a curse against Babylon, the author of Judah’s ruin: but as has been frequently observed of the curses in the psalms, it is purely predictive. It does not exclude repentance, and the turning away of God’s fierce indignation. The king of Babylon is called, as was Cyrus and also the Messiah, the Lord’s anointed. The Chaldeans had their commission signed in heaven; but they corrupted it through pride, through revenge, and with a bloody hand. Hence, in due time, it was right that God should commission the Medes to do unto Babylon as Babylon had done to Judah. The curse is purely the language of justice, and it associates with the cry of the martyrs. How long, Holy and True, dost thou not avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Lamentations 1". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
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