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Zion’s guilt and punishment graphically described by an eye-witness, [or the sufferings of the people of all grades and ranks of society.—W. H. H.]
The Song consists plainly of four parts [or sections], Lamentations 4:1-6; Lamentations 4:7-11; Lamentations 4:12-16; Lamentations 4:17-20; and a conclusion, Lamentations 4:21-22
PART I. Lam 4:1-11
Sect. I. Lam 4:1-6
א Lamentations 4:1. How doth gold become dim!
The choice gold change its color!
The hallowed stones are cast forth
At the head of every street.
ב Lamentations 4:2. The noble sons of Zion,
Who are equal in value to the purest gold,
How are they esteemed as earthen pitchers,
The work of the hands of the Potter!
ג Lamentations 4:3. Even jackals drew out the breasts,
They suckled their whelps.
The daughter of my people became cruel,
Like ostriches in the wilderness.
ד Lamentations 4:4. The tongue of the sucking babe cleaved
To the roof of his mouth for thirst:
Young children asked bread.
There was no one to break to them.
ה Lamentations 4:5. They that fed on dainties
Perished on the streets:
They that were borne on scarlet
ו Lamentations 4:6. For greater was the iniquity of the daughter of my people
Than the sin of Sodom,
Which was overthrown as in a moment
And no hands came against her.
Sec. II. Lam 4:7-11
ז Lamentations 4:7. Her princes were purer than snow,
Whiter than milk,
They were more ruddy in body than corals;
Their form—a sapphire.
ח Lamentations 4:8. Their visage became darker than blackness:
They were not known in the streets:
Their skin cleaved to their bones,
It became dry like a stick.
ט Lamentations 4:9. Happier were those slain by the sword
Than these slain by famine,
Those pierced-ones, whose lives gushed forth
While yet there were fruits of the field.
י Lamentations 4:10. The hands of tender-hearted women
Cooked their own children;
They became food for them
In the ruin of the daughter of my people.
כ Lamentations 4:11. Jehovah fulfilled His fury;
He poured out His fierce wrath.
And He kindled a fire in Zion,
And it consumed her foundations.
[The first elegy related especially to the city of Jerusalem; the second, to Zion and the holy places; the third, to the sufferings of the prophet, as a representative of the spiritual Israel; this fourth elegy, relates to the sufferings of the people generally, embracing all classes.—W. H. H.]
The two parts, comprising the first-half of the chapter, Lamentations 4:1-11, correspond with each other, both in matter and form. In the first part, Lamentations 4:1-6, is described the sad fate of the sons of Zion, noble scions of the noblest lineage (Jeremiah 2:21). A contrast is presented, not only between their great worth and their pitiable fortune, but also between the fate that befell them, who constituted the living treasure of Zion, and the fate of its material wealth, Lamentations 4:1-2. Then is described the harrowing grief, caused by the sufferings of little children, which could not possibly be relieved, Lamentations 4:3-5. Finally this part closes with the general remark, that Zion’s guilt, if inferred from these facts, had been even greater than Sodom’s, Lamentations 4:6.
In the second part, Lamentations 4:7-11, the Poet first describes the noble appearance and character of the Princes of Judah, and then, in striking contrast, the frightful wrongs they had endured, Lamentations 4:7-9; a description which evidently constitutes a parallel to that contained in Lamentations 4:1-2. So, also, parallel to what was said of the children in Lamentations 4:3-5, is what we read on the same subject in Lamentations 4:10; only what is here said in Lamentations 4:10, constitutes a climax to what was related in Lamentations 4:3-5. The second part, like the first, ends with a general remark; Zion has suffered the full measure of Divine wrath, Lamentations 4:11.
1How is the gold become dim! how is the most fine gold changed! the stones of 2the sanctuary are poured out in the top of every street. The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold, how are they esteemed as earthen pitchers, the work of the hands of the potter!
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Lamentations 4:1. אֵיכָה, see Lamentations 1:1.—יוּעַם, Hophal only here; elsewhere only Kal occurs, and that only twice, Ezekiel 28:3; Ezekiel 31:8. If the signification of עָמַם, demanded by the context in Ezekiel 28:3, is latere,—and in Ezekiel 31:8, is obscurare, then it naturally follows that the signification of the Hophal here is obscurari; though it is not yet clearly apparent how this meaning agrees with the idea of accumulation (Sammelns), which lies in the words עִם עַמָּה עַם. [Henderson; “עָמַם to congregate, Arabic, texit, obstruxit, as clouds, when collected, do the heavens; hence to grow, or make dark, obscure the lustre of anything. LXX ἐμαυρώθη.”]—יִשְׁנֶא. With respect to its Aramaic form, see Lamentations 3:12; 2 Kings 25:29; Ecclesiastes 8:11. [Blayney: “Twenty-five MSS. and one edition read ישנה.”] The word has the signification of alium, diversum esse.—mutari,—only in later Hebrew, Esther 1:7; Esther 3:8; Malachi 3:6; and that in accordance with the Chaldaic, which often uses שָׁנָא in this sense, Daniel 3:27; Daniel 5:9; Daniel 6:18.—כֶּתֶם, is not found in Jer.; it stands in parallelism with זָהַב in Job 31:24; Proverbs 25:12; it is used with פָּז, Song of Solomon 5:11. [The Sept. have ἀργύριον, not because they read הכסף, but because they were unwilling to repeat the word gold. Rosenmueller.]
Lamentations 4:2. יִקְרִים. In Jer. only in Jeremiah 15:19.—סָלָא only here. The expression seems to be taken from Job 28:16; Job 28:19, where we read of wisdom סָלָה לֹא תְסֻלֶּה בְּכֶתֶם סָלָא) is tollere, pendere. [Jerome translates amicti auro, which Calvin prefers. “The value, and not the appearance is evidently meant,” (Owen); it is the explanation of יִקְרִים, precious.—W. H. H.]—פָּז from פָּזַז, secernere, purgare, does not occur in Jer.; yet see Jeremiah 10:9. The article generalizes the meaning.—Jer. never uses the Niphal נֶחְשַׁב.—נֶבֶל, Jeremiah 13:12; Jeremiah 48:12.—חֶרֶשׂ, Jeremiah 19:1; Jeremiah 32:14. The construction with לְ, as Isaiah 29:17; Psalms 106:31. Elsewhere, after נֶחְשַׁב that with which the comparison is made is indicated by &עִם כְּ, or the simple nominative.—יוֹצֵר, frequent in Jeremiah 10:16; Jeremiah 18:2-4; Jeremiah 19:1; Jeremiah 19:11; etc. [No occasional use of a new word can invalidate the presumption created by the use of the image of a potter’s vessel, that Jeremiah was the author of this poem.—W. H. H.]—The expression מַֽעֲשֵׂה י׳ י׳, occurs here only.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Lamentations 4:1. How. That this song also begins with this exclamation (אֵיכָה) is a strong argument for the identity of the author. It is in the highest degree improbable that different authors not only composed alphabetical songs on the same subject, but also began them with the very same word. How is the gold become dim! how is the most fine gold changed!How may gold become black, the precious treasure change its color? The correct understanding of this verse depends on the understanding of the next verse and its relation to this verse. Thenius would substitute in Lamentations 4:2, houses of Zion for sons of Zion (בָּתֵי instead of בְּנֵי). Without dwelling on the fact, that not the least critical evidence for such a change of the text is offered, the context affords sufficient evidence against it: for not only would houses equal in value to gold be an exaggerated hyperbole, but it is evident from the antithesis involved in the expression the work of the hands of the potter, and also from the subject of the parallel verses 7–9, that men are intended. But if we retain the reading sons of Zion, and if the meaning is that the sons of Zion regarded as precious, are equal in value [comparable] to gold, then it is obvious in what sense gold and precious stones are spoken of in Lamentations 4:1. It is not of the fate of the Temple-gold and Temple-walls that he speaks [Calvin, Boothroyd, Noyes, and seemingly Wordsworth]; but the Poet asks how is it possible that noble gold should lose its brightness, that the precious stones should be thrown upon the street? Thus, says he, has it happened to the sons of Zion, who are such jewels. And thus, what never happened in the case of material treasures and jewels, has occurred in the case of these living, metaphorical jewels. We take, then, Lamentations 4:1, as a question, relating to what was likely to happen according to the usual course of things. This is involved in the use of the imperfect tense in the Hebrew verbs [יוּעַם, etc.), which refer to matters not yet completed as, it was becoming dim or obscured, etc. In any other sense the perfect tense would have been necessary. Nor can these imperfects be referred to the work of destruction while in course of execution (Thenius); for it would certainly be very singular to represent the Jews as saying, whilst the work of destruction was going on, “How is now the gold in the Temple blackened by the smoke! How now are the stones of the Temple-wall rolled down!” Those, over whose heads everything was going to pieces, could not be thinking of such minute and particular details as these. Rather, in the form of a question, what had never before been known to happen, is here affirmed. [The form is interrogative, only so far as the interjection of surprise suggests a question as to the possibility of an event, else unparalleled. The construction is the same as in Lamentations 1:1, How sitteth solitary the city that, etc.! So here, How doth gold become dim! That the reference is to men, and not to literal gold and jewels, is the opinion of Blayney, Henderson, Rosenmueller, Gerlach and others. Gerlach: “Since the chapter contains not one word (unless here) of the destruction and robbery of the Temple and palaces, but describes especially what befell the men, rather than the edifices of the city, (which latter theme had already been exhaustively discussed in chap. 2), therefore the first verse must not be taken literally and explained of the Temple and its ornaments (Chald., Maurer, Kalkar, Thenius; see Lamentations 1:10). It is rather to be taken figuratively, either generally of the fall of all that was high and valuable in Israel, of which particular instances are cited in what follows, or, as Michaelis and Rosenmueller have preferred, specifically, as explained by the following verse, which interprets the gold and holy stones of Lamentations 4:1, by the sons of Zion, whilst the words are thrown down at all the street-corners, find their explanation in the more detailed description of Lamentations 4:5. Besides, this designation of the sons of Zion as stones of holiness (אַבְנֵי־קֹדֶשׁ), has an analogy in the stones of a crown (אַבְנֵי־נֵזֶר, precious stones) in Zechariah 9:16. From this it appears, how unauthorized is the presumption (Michaelis, Rosenmueller), which would perceive in the expression, stones of holiness, a reference to the stones on the breastplate of the High Priest and, therefore, a designation of the Priests (whilst the gold denotes the people generally, and the precious ore [fine gold] the Princes), or would understand the words stones of holiness as referring directly to the stones on the breast-plate of the High Priest (Maurer [Noyes], see Bellermann, Urim u. Thum, S. 21. With the Israelites, thrown about dead on the streets, on account of their sins,—the holy stones—regarded as symbols of the people—will, at the same time, be scattered about at the corners of the streets.’) The literal interpretation of the stones as the stones of the walls of the Sanctuary, by Thenius and Neumann, [Calvin, Boothroyd, etc.], (in which case the words should be אַבְנֵי־הַקֹּדֶשׁ), is controverted by the improbability of their being scattered about through all the streets of the city,—an opinion, which is not made more acceptable by the conjecture of Thenius, that all the streets of the city terminated near the Temple in an open square, for in any case the expression would then be very strongly hyperbolical.”—W. H. H.]—Become dim.—The signification of the verb (יוּעַם, obscurari), is to be taken, not in the sense of a momentary effect, but of a continuous obscuration. For not a superficial and transient, but a deep and abiding depravation is affirmed in Lamentations 4:2, of the goldlike sons of Zion. What is said, then, is this, How can gold lose its bright lustre, and become dull, tarnished, black?—[How. The repetition of the how in the English version is as unnecessary here as in Lamentations 1:1.—The most fine gold.—The Hebrew word for gold here is not the same Hebrew word used in the preceding clause. Broughton has supplied the lack of an English equivalent by retaining the Hebrew word: How is the gold dimmed! how is the pure cethern changed! The Hebrew word (כֶּתֶם) has been variously derived and interpreted. Three explanations have received the sanction of high authority (see Lange’sComm., Song of Solomon 5:11). It has been derived from כָתַם, to hide, to hoard, hence esteemed precious. So Barnes, Job 31:24. Dr. Naegelsbach seems to adopt this sense. The English version also by using the superlative most fine gold. But if the word itself meant precious gold, the addition of the adjective טוֹב, good, would be superfluous. It has been derived, again, from כָּתַם in the supposed sense of being solid, dense, hence massive gold: so Blayney, the best massy gold. Others derive it from הָשַׁם כָּתַם, to shine, to glitter, and explain it of some very valuable kind of metal like gold (so Gerlach the costly ore, or metal, Erz); or of a particular kind of gold that shines and sparkles, genus auri fulgentis, a micando (Fuerst’sConcordance). This last meaning seems to agree best with the sense here, the use of the word in Song of Solomon 5:11, and the very peculiar use of the verb in Jeremiah 2:22. According to Rosenmueller, Chaldeaus rendered it זִיו, splendor, the Syriac and Jerome, color.—Changed, faded or changed its color. Gerlach: “This can only denote a change of color, or loss of brightness, since the gold could not be changed in its substance.” W. H. H.]—The stones of the Sanctuary are poured out in the top of every street. Thrown down are the stones of the sanctuary [stones of holiness, or consecrated stones] at the corners of all the streets. The expression stones of the sanctuary (אַבְנֵי קֹדֶשׁ), is found only here. By itself it might properly denote the stones of the Temple walls, particularly since these are also called costly stones (אֲבָנִים יֳקרוֹת), 1 Kings 5:31 (1 Kings 5:17); Jeremiah 7:9-11. But who would take the trouble to carry these away and pour them out in the corners of the streets? What Thenius says of the concentration of the principal streets at the foot of the Temple hill, is very problematical. Besides, the connection requires the sense of precious stones: for with such, not with wall-stones, however excellent, are the Sons of Zion compared as precious (יֳקרִים), and precious stones (אֶבֶן יֳקרָה), are often named, as here, in connection with gold, 2 Samuel 12:30; 1Ki 10:2; 1 Kings 10:10-11. In regard to the use of precious stones in the Sanctuary, they were not only attached to the garments of the High Priest (Exodus 28:9; Exodus 28:17-20; Exodus 39:6; Exodus 39:10-13), but they were employed for ornamenting the Temple itself (2 Chronicles 3:6; 1 Chronicles 29:2). Who would pour out such valuable stones in the corners of all the streets, that is to say, in the first corner one happened to come to? Even the enemy did not do that. Yet this thing happened to the sons of Zion though they were most precious jewels.
Lamentations 4:2. The precious sons of Zion,—Zion’s sons, the noble ones (הַֽיְקָרִים, comp. יְקִרוֹת, honorable women, Psalms 45:10 (9)). That we are to understand here by the sons of Zion, the nobility of the people [Calvin, Henderson], I do not believe. The expression is too comprehensive, and nothing prevents our understanding the following predicates of the chosen people generally,1 who were in their totality a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6). The Princes are spoken of for the first time in the second part, Lamentations 4:7-11, which constitutes throughout the climax of the first part.—Comparable to fine gold, who are equal in value to gold [lit., those who are weighed with pure gold. Henderson: “As what is weighed is estimated according to the contents of the opposite scale, the verb came to be employed in the sense of comparing one thing with another. Comp. Job 28:16; Job 28:19.”]—Fine gold, פָז, is pure, solid gold. [This is still another Hebrew word for gold, indicating its quality. Broughton anglicizes it, Fesse ore, as he does כֶּתֶם in Lamentations 4:1, which he calls cethern. Blayney: the purest gold.—W. H. H.] They are estimated by the gold, that is to say, their value is represented by a mass of gold, the weight of which is equal to their own. The expression is figurative.—How. [The repetition of this word אֵיכָה, is forcible. It serves to connect this verse with Lamentations 4:1, and to continue and complete the sentence begun with the same word in Lamentations 4:1. It shows that one idea of horror and amazement pervades the whole sentence, and hence that the gold, choice gold, and hallowed stones, of Lamentations 4:1, are identical with the precious sons of Zion, in Lamentations 4:2.—W. H. H.].—Are they esteemed as earthen pitchers—potsherd-pitchers—the work of the hands of the potter! [Wordsworth: “As Jeremiah himself had represented them to be shattered in pieces for their sins, Jeremiah 19:10. Jeremiah 19:11.” Gataker: “As bottles of sherd, or earthen stuff, so Jeremiah 19:1; Jeremiah 19:10; as things of no repute or worth, 2 Corinthians 4:7. See Jeremiah 22:28.” Gerlach: “The point of comparison is the worthlessness of the material out of which they are made, see Isaiah 45:9.”]
[Gerlach would narrow the meaning down to the little children referred to Lamentations 4:3-4, and explains their being called precious, comparable to gold, by passages in which children are represented as of more value than any other gift of God, Genesis 15:2; Genesis 30:1; Psalms 127:3. There is no necessity for this. It is much more natural to take these two introductory verses as embracing a general description of the humiliation of the whole people. The verses that follow give us the details of the picture, with reference to particular classes of people.—W. H. H.]
3Even the sea-monsters draw out the breast, they give suck to their young ones: 4the daughter of my people is become cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness. The tongue of the sucking child cleaveth to the roof of his mouth for thirst; the young 5children ask bread, and no man breaketh it unto them. They that did feed delicately are desolate in the streets; they that were brought up in scarlet embrace dung-hills.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Lamentations 4:3.—[תַּנִּין (K’ri, תַּנִּים). Sea-monsters, E. V., Boothroyd: sea-calves, E. V. marg.: dragons, Broughton, Blayney, Owen; serpent, Calvin; jackals, Henderson, Noyes, Fuerst, Lex.: wolves, Gerlach: wild-dogs, Thenius.]—חָלַץ, never used in Jeremiah, is used of pulling off the shoe, in Deuteronomy 25:9-10; Isaiah 20:2. The sense of drawing, seems to lie at the foundation of this root (see Hosea 5:6). Whether a second root חָלַץ (from which comes הָלוּץ, one equipped, a warrior) may be affirmed, or whether the original identity of both may be established, we cannot now stop to inquire.—שַׁד, mamma, Jeremiah never uses [because he never had occasion to speak of the female breasts or teats.—W. H. H.]—Of the verb יָנַק, Jeremiah uses only once the Participle יוֹנֵק, Jeremiah 44:7, in a substantive sense. [The only time Jeremiah in his prophecies had occasion to speak of a suckling, or make any allusion to a mother’s nursing a child at the breast, he uses the participle of the verb יָנַק. What verb then would Jeremiah have been more likely to use in this place?—W. H. H.]—גוּר, young-one [whelp], is found once in Jeremiah, in the form גוֹרֵי, Jeremiah 51:38, see Nahum 2:13.—בַּת–עַמִּי. See Lamentations 2:11; Lamentations 3:48.—לְאַכְזָר. The verb to be or become must be supplied. See Ewald, § 217 d, a. אַכְזָר (Jeremiah uses only אַכְזָרִי, Jeremiah 6:23; Jeremiah 30:14; Jeremiah 50:42) is the cruel one, Job 30:21. We would expect the feminine form: but that is never used, and, besides, the masculine form seems intended to convey the idea of unwomanly, unmotherly; it is as if it were said, Zion has become a hardened man.—כַּיְ עֵנִים. The Masorites connect the two words and read כַּיְעֵנִים. It is true that יָעֵן occurs only here (elsewhere the ostrich is called בַּת־יַֽעֲנָה, the daughter of screeching, Micah 1:8; Job 30:29, etc.). Yet the K’ri is to be approved of. For, on the one hand, the separation could easily happen by mistake; and, on the other hand, עֹנִים, as the K’tib has it, gives no satisfactory sense. It must be translated, For criers (Heuler) in the wilderness (are they.) To supply הֵמָּה here is difficult, and who are the criers in the wilderness? The children, or (as others prefer) their parents? [Forty-five of Kennicott’s MSS., and seventy-seven of De Rossi’s, and most of the early printed editions of the 15th century, according to Henderson and Gerlach, have כַּיְעֵנִים, without any reference to another reading, “Neumann, in support of the K’tib, would understand by the crying ones (Heulenden) the wild beasts of the wilderness, as the Venetian Greek, ὡς σειρῆνες” (Gerlach).—W. H. H.]
Lamentations 4:4.—דָּבַק וגו׳. The same phrase is found in Job 29:10; Psalms 137:6; comp. Jeremiah 22:16 (Jeremiah 22:15); Ezekiel 3:26, where אֵל is used.—Jeremiah uses חֵךְ never [because he never had occasion to, not happening ever to speak of the palate, or roof of the mouth.—W. H. H.]. דָּבַק twice, Jeremiah 13:11; Jeremiah 42:16 : יוֹנֵק once, Jeremiah 44:7 : לָשׁוֹן frequently, Jeremiah 5:15; Jeremiah 9:2; Jeremiah 9:4; Jeremiah 9:7, etc.: צָמָא once for צָּמֵא, Jeremiah 48:18.—עוֹלָלִים. See Lamentations 1:5; Lamentations 2:19; Jeremiah 6:11; Jeremiah 9:20 (Jeremiah 9:21).—פּרֵשׂ, a scribal variety for פֹּרֵם, as Micah 3:3; see Isaiah 58:7; Jeremiah 16:7.
Lamentations 4:5.—אָכַל is frequently constructed with בְּ (Exodus 12:43-45; Leviticus 2:11; Judges 13:16), but nowhere except here with לְ. Böttcher urges the לְ, and translates admitted to dainties, or directed to dainties [לְ having a local sense, as 2 Samuel 9:7, or Job 12:8. See Thenius]. Thenius supposes the allusion to be rather to the external surroundings of delicate food, than to the food itself. But it is not apparent how אָכַל can mean to admit, to direct, or how לְ can denote something around. If לְ is to be explained as a Hebraism, then we must adopt a pregnant construction, and regard לְ as dependent on an omitted verb of craving after, longing for. See Proverbs 23:3; Proverbs 23:6, אַל־תִּתְאָו לְמַטְעַמּוֹתָיו, comp. Jeremiah 24:1. To eat after dainties would, then, be the same as seeking to eat such. Our book, however, was written at a time when an Aramaic expression cannot surprise us. Besides, there is found in Jeremiah an undoubted example of this Aramaic לְ, as a nota accusativi, Jeremiah 40:2. [Note this as a mark of Jeremiac authorship, that is a set-off, at least, against many of the trivial exceptions to his style.—W. H. H.] See Ewald, § 277, e. [Gesenius Gr., § 151, e. “It is a solecism of the later style, when active verbs are construed with לְ, instead of the accusative, as אָכַל לְ, Lamentations 4:5.”—Gerlach takes the whole expression adverbially, nach Herzenslust assen, they ate according, to their heart’s desire.—W. H. H.]—מַעֲדַנִים. See Genesis 49:20; 1 Samuel 15:32; Proverbs 29:17. מֵעֲדָנַי, Jeremiah 51:34, is composed of מִן and עֲדָנִים (Psalms 36:9 (8); 2 Samuel 1:24.—נָשַׁמּוּ. See Jeremiah 4:9; Ezekiel 4:17, where the word is used as here of persons.—אָמַן is the technical word for the nurture of children: see אֹמֵן, Numbers 11:12; Isaiah 49:23; 2Ki 10:1; 2 Kings 10:5; Esther 2:7 : אֹמֶנֶת, Rth 4:16; 2 Samuel 4:4. The fundamental meaning seems to be to carry, support, raise up; see אֹמְנָה a column, &אָנוֹן אָמָן, the one who erects a building, the architect. אֱמֻנִים are then gestati, see Isaiah 60:4. Jeremiah uses Niphal, Jeremiah 15:18; Jeremiah 42:5, and Hiphil, Jeremiah 12:6; Jeremiah 40:14, but only in an ethical sense.—תּוֹלָע does not occur in Jeremiah.—The word אַשְׁפַּתּוֹת occurs only here. The plural אַשְׁפוֹת in 1 Samuel 2:8; Psalms 113:7; Nehemiah 2:13; Nehemiah 3:13-14; Nehemiah 12:31. The signification is undoubtedly dirt (Koth). For its derivation, see Ewald, § 186, e; Olsh., § 211, a.—The verb חָבַק, Jeremiah uses in no form. Piel is to embrace.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Lamentations 4:3.Lamentations 4:1-2, describe the misfortunes of Zion from a theocratic point of view; Lamentations 4:3-5 show how terrible they were, as seen from a natural point of view, by describing the pitiable misery of the poor children: see Lamentations 1:5; Lamentations 2:11-12; Lamentations 2:19-20. Even the sea-monsters (marg. sea-calves) [jackals, or wolves] draw out [drew-out] the breast, they give [gave] suck to their young ones. That the Hebrew word translated sea-monsters, תַּנִּיך, here stands for תַּנִּים = jackals (see Jeremiah 9:10 (Jeremiah 9:11); Jeremiah 10:22; Jeremiah 14:6, etc.), was an opinion of the Masorites, which many of the moderns have adopted from the Syriac. In fact, יך—is the Aramaic plural ending (see Olsh. § 111 b), which would not be surprising here. תַּנִּיך, as a singular (see Jeremiah 51:34) is bellua maritima (see Genesis 1:21), which is defined at one time as a dragon, at another as a whale, at another as a crocodile, at another as a serpent (comp. Exodus 7:9-10; Deuteronomy 32:23; Psalms 74:13, etc.). That the sea-monsters draw out for use the teats, which are contained in the breasts as in bags or sheaths, Bochart (in the Hierozoicon, tom. 3 p. 777, ed. Rosenmüller) authenticates, by many evidences, as a fact known to the ancients. There is on this account, therefore, no reason for departing from the sense indicated by the text. [There are, however, several other reasons for regarding this word as an Aramaic plural for jackals or for wolves (Gerlach), which belong to the same family. These are, 1. The plural forms of the verbs (drew out, gave suck) and of the suffix (their young-ones), which would require תַּנִּינִים instead of תַּנִיך, if sea-monsters were intended. 2. The fact that גּוּר is used of the whelps of lions, bears, dogs, and animals of similar species. 3. The authority of the Masorites. 4. The frequent occurrence of Aramaic forms in Jeremiah’s writings. 5. The agreement of so many versions and commentators, ancient and modern. 6. The probability that jackals, wolves, or animals of that description, would occur to the mind of the Prophet in connection with the events of which he speaks. There was nothing to suggest the monsters of the deep, and the comparison, if referred to them, seems forced and far-fetched. But as the Prophet recalls the consequences of the destruction of Jerusalem, as he remembers how the foxes even now had possession of the mountain of Zion, Lamentations 5:18, he cannot forget how hungry beasts of prey had revelled in the land, and prowled about the deserted villages and even the streets of Jerusalem itself. Even those beasts had shown the instincts of natural affection at least. And hence the natural contrast between them and the mothers, who, before the beasts appeared on the scene, forsook their own babes and refused to give them nourishment. It should be observed here that the verbs in this verse and in all the following description are in the past time. The Prophet is describing what had happened; not what was then transpiring. This use of the perfect tense shows that he was referring, not in the abstract, to what it is in the nature of jackals to do, but in the concrete, to what had been actually observed of them. Even (the גַם is emphatic) jackals, that infested the depopulated country, drew out their breast, etc.—The expression drawing out the breast is suggested by the common habit of women in drawing out the breast from the covering robe and presenting it to the child; a mulieribus lactantibus, quæ laxata veste mammam lactanti præbent (Junius, quoted by Gerlach).—W. H. H.]—The daughter of my people is become cruel, [became cruel. Lit. was turned into a cruel one (Gataker), see Job 30:21. Calvin says: “The daughter of my people is come to the cruel one, for the people had to do with nothing but cruelty,… He, then, does not accuse the people of cruelty, that they did not nourish their children, but on the contrary, he means that they were given up to cruel enemies.” But the preceding part of this verse and what follows in Lamentations 4:4-5, and especially in the climax presented in Lamentations 4:10, require the sense given in our English version, in which the versions agree with great unanimity. The Prophet gives us a frightful instance of the effect of suffering and starvation. Mothers became more unnatural than jackals or hyenas that suckle their young; and forsook their babes, not merely to avoid the sight of pains they could not alleviate, but to escape the exhausting demands upon their own waning strength,—nay, the mania induced by extreme suffering destroyed their affection for their children—W. H. H.]—Like the ostriches in the wilderness. In reference to the want of feeling towards its young in the ostrich, Thenius refers to Oken’sNatural History (vii. s. 655, ff.). See Bochart, Hieroz. P. II. L. II. cap. 14, pag. 824; cap. 17, pag. 854 seqq. ed. Rosenm.—Winer R. W. B. s. v. Strauss. Job 39:13-17. [“On the least noise or trivial occasion she forsakes her eggs or her young ones, to which perhaps she never returns: or if she does, it may be too late either to restore life to the one, or to preserve the lives of the others. Agreeably to this account, the Arabs meet sometimes with whole nests of these eggs undisturbed; some of them are sweet and good, others are addled and corrupted; others again have their young ones of different growth, according to the time, it may be presumed, they may have been forsaken of the dam. They often meet with a few of the little ones no bigger than well-grown pullets, half-starved, straggling, and moaning about, like so many distressed orphans, for their mother.” (Shaw’sTravels, quoted by Noyes). “The Arabs call the ostrich the impious or ungodly bird, on account of its neglect and cruelty towards its young,” (Barnes on Job 39:13).]
Lamentations 4:4. The tongue of the sucking child cleaveth [cleaved] to the roof of his mouth for thirst. See Job 29:10; Psalms 137:6, comp. Psalms 22:16 (Psalms 22:15); Ezekiel 3:26.—Young children ask [asked] bread [see Lamentations 2:11-12], and no man breaketh it unto them [and there was no one to break to them].
Lamentations 4:5. They that did feed delicately, they that ate dainties [or, fed on dainties, Calvin, Blayney, Boothroyd, Henderson, Noyes].—Are desolate in the streets, perish [perished] on the streets, [i.e. by starvation, while seeking in vain for food.—W. H. H.]—They that were brought up in scarlet, they who were carried on crimson [carried on cloths, or borne on couches of scarlet, crimson, or purple color, made of costly materials of Tyrian dyes.—W. H. H.] Scarlet, the red dying material, got from the cochineal worm; see Exodus 16:20; Isaiah 1:18.—Embrace dunghills, embrace the dirt [embraced dirt-heaps, the heaps of dirt, refuse (rubbish, Fuerst’sLex.), lying in the streets of the city.—W. H. H.] To embrace the dirt (see Job 24:8, embrace the rock) can only mean to have it between the arms, which is done by them who lie in the dirt. Sterquilinea arripiunt, et super ea veluti toto corpore incumbunt, ut fame confecti cibum inde eruant. (They eagerly grasp the dunghills, stretched out upon them, as it were at full length, that, dying of hunger, they may thence seize their food).—Pareau. [The idea of seeking food in the dirt-heaps of the city streets, confuses the two very distinct members of this verse. Little children, who had been fed on delicacies, perished in the streets while vainly seeking food; and thus, those, who had been borne on costly couches covered with the richest goods, lay now dying, with outstretched hands embracing, as it were, the heaps of filth in the city streets. To embrace the dust is a familiar image in all languages: to embrace the dirt-heaps of an oriental city, so proverbially filthy, intensifies the figure. The whole description is highly poetical.—W. H. H.]
6For the punishment of the iniquity of the daughter of my people is greater than the punishment of the sin of Sodom, that was overthrown as in a moment, and no hands stayed on her.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Lamentations 4:6. The expression הֲפוּכָה is taken from Genesis 19:25 (וַיַּֽהֲפֹךְ אֶת־הֶעָרִים, comp. Jeremiah 20:16, and כְּמַהְפֵכַת, Deuteronomy 29:22; Isaiah 13:19; Amos 4:11; Jeremiah 50:40).—חָלוּ is derived, not from חוּל, but from חָלָה (so derived apparently by the Sept. and Syr.). The latter denotes to relax, to be powerless, Judges 16:7; Isaiah 57:10; it can also very well be said of the hands, and there is no necessity of resorting, by any artificial method, to a modification of the idea of gyrare. In reference to this word, see Jeremiah 5:3. Jer. uses the Kal of גָדַל, Jeremiah 5:27, and the Hiphil, Jeremiah 48:26; Jeremiah 48:42.—עָוֹך is frequent with him, Jeremiah 2:22; Jeremiah 3:13; Jeremiah 13:22; etc.—בַּת־עַמִּי, see Lamentations 2:11.—חַטָּאת often in Jeremiah 16:10; Jeremiah 17:13; etc.—רֶגַע also, Jeremiah 4:20; Jeremiah 18:7; Jeremiah 18:9.—כְּמו־רֶגַע occurs only here; yet see כְּרֶגַע, Numbers 16:21; Numbers 17:10; Psa 13:19.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Lamentations 4:6. With this verse the Poet concludes the first part of his Song. This verse corresponds to Lamentations 4:11, which constitutes a similar conclusion. In both cases the Poet draws a general inference from the preceding particular facts, which he had related in detail. In this verse the inference is, that the guilt of Zion was proved to be greater than the sin of Sodom.—For the punishment of the iniquity (marg. For the iniquity) of the daughter of my people is greater than the punishment of the sin of Sodom.—And the guilt of the daughter of my people was greater than the sin of Sodom. I cannot agree with those who take עָוֹך and חַטָּאת in the sense of the punishment of sin. This sense is not capable of proof. In all the cases appealed to for this purpose (Genesis 4:13; 1Sa 28:10; 2 Samuel 16:12; Isaiah 5:18; Psalms 31:11), on more exact examination, their original meaning of sin, guilt, appears to be their real meaning. And this is true in reference to חַטָּאת, for which some would justify the sense of pœna peccati, from the passages Numbers 32:23; Isaiah 40:2; Zechariah 14:9. See Drechsler on Isaiah 5:18. In וַיִּגְדַּל = was greater, lies, then, the thought, it being allowable to infer the cause from the effect, that Zion’s guilt is shown to be greater than was the sin-guiltiness (Sündenschuld) of Sodom. There is certainly in the vav before יִגְדַּל a causal intimation. For it amounts to the same thing, as far as the sense is concerned, whether I infer the effect from the cause with the words and so, or the cause from the effect with the word for. This causal use of the vav, moreover, is sufficiently established; see Psalms 7:10; Psa 60:13; Psalms 95:5; Proverbs 23:3; Genesis 22:12; Jeremiah 16:12; Jeremiah 23:36; Jeremiah 31:3; Isaiah 39:1; Hosea 4:4; Hosea 6:4; etc. See my Gr. § 110, 1. [The Vav coördinates the proposition with what precedes in the relation of cause to effect. These things were so, for the sin was greater, etc. As the vav is here the initial letter, the stress laid upon it shows the masterly manner in which the author of the poem often makes the acrostic, which in common hands would be constrained and merely artificial, contribute to the spirit and force of the sentiment. This is true, whether we take the words discussed, in the sense of sin or the punishment of sin; but the fact that it is emphatic is an argument in favor of the sense in which Dr. Naegelsbach construes it, and this added to the doubt whether עָוֹּך and חַטָּאת ever do mean the punishment of sin, may decide us in favor of his translation. The other translation gives good sense and fits in admirably with the context, and is adopted without hesitation by all the English versions and commentators (except Wordsworth), and by Calvin and Gerlach. Yet Calvin says: “If any one prefers the other version, I will not contend, for it is not unsuitable; and hence also a most useful doctrine may be drawn, that we are to judge of the grievousness of our sins by the greatness of our punishment; for God never exceeds what is just when He takes vengeance on the sins of men. Then His severity shows how grievously men have sinned. Thus, Jeremiah may have reasoned from the effect to the cause, and declared that the people had been more wicked than the Sodomites. Nor is this unreasonable; for … the Prophets everywhere charged them as men who not only equalled but also surpassed the Sodomites, especially Ezekiel (Ezekiel 16:46-47). Isaiah also called them the people of Gomorrah, and the king’s counsellors and judges, the princes of Sodom (Isaiah 1:9-10). This mode of speaking is then common in the Prophets, and the meaning is not unsuitable.” The Sept. translates both words ἀνομία; the Vulg. one iniquitas, the other peccatum.—W. H. H.].—That was overthrown as in a moment. Sodom’s guilt was great, and the punishment decreed for it corresponded to the greatness of its sin: it was destroyed instantaneously by fire falling from Heaven (see Genesis 19:25), whereby its punishment was proved to be supernatural and divinitus immissa [sent from God]. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31). [Blayney: “Sodom was destroyed by a sudden act of God, which the Prophet thinks preferable to lingering and wasting away with disease or want, as was the case in Jerusalem during the long siege”]—And no hands stayed on her—and no hands became slack (relaxed) thereby. That Sodom was destroyed, not by the hands of men, but by the hand of God alone, is a fact that is emphasized as giving intensity to the severity of its punishment. Yet, our Poet would say, the fate of Jerusalem was still more terrible, because its guilt was greater than Sodom’s. With what propriety this could be affirmed, is easily comprehended. For there had not been on the part of Sodom and Gomorrah such fulness of manifestation of the long-suffering love of God, as in the case of Jerusalem, (see Jeremiah 7:13; Jeremiah 7:25; Jeremiah 11:7; Jeremiah 25:4; Ezekiel 16:46-48; Isaiah 1:10; Matthew 11:23-24). But if it be asked, in what respect Jerusalem’s fate had been more dreadful than that of Sodom, the answer, it seems to me, is contained in the כְּמוֹ־רֶגַע=as in a moment. Sodom’s sufferings in death were brief: there were no starving children, no mothers who cooked their children. Jerusalem’s sufferings were long and protracted, whereby was produced that horrible crime! Eversio Sodomæ fuit instar subitæ apoplexiæ, eversio autem Hierosolymæ fuit instar lentæ tabis [the overthrow of Sodom was a kind of sudden apoplexy, but the overthrow of Jerusalem was a kind of slow consumption], says Förster. [Dr. Naegelsbach has not made his sense of this difficult clause very apparent. It seems hardly credible that בָתּ should mean thereby (dadurch). If the verb is derived from חָלָה, instead of חוּל, the translation of either Blayney or Owen, is to be preferred. Blayney translates nor were hands weakened in her, referring to the suddenness of the destruction, and forming a parallelism with the preceding clause, overthrown as in a moment. Owen translates, and not wearied against (or over) her were hands, and says, “This is substantially the Sept. and Syr. Grotius says that the meaning is, that Sodom was destroyed not by human means, that is, not by a siege as Jerusalem had been.” Wordsworth: “And no hands were weary on her. No human hands were wearied by destroying her, but she was suddenly consumed by the hand of God.” If we accept of the usual derivation of the verb from חוּל, then the translation of Thenius may be commended for its simplicity, and is supported by the dual form of יָדָיִם=hands, and no one in her wrung the hands. But, as Gerlach shows, the dual form is constantly used for the plural (see כָּל־יָדַים, all hands, Isaiah 13:7), and the verb חוּל is used with בְּ of the object, of brandishing the sword against the cities of Ephraim (Hosea 11:6): we may, therefore, understand the sense to be, and no hands (i.e., human hands) were wrung round (or brandished) against it, men’s hands were not brought against, it. This seems to correspond with Dr. Naegelsbach’s interpretation, and is the sense generally adopted. Boothroyd: Without the hands of men. Henderson: And no hands attacked her. Noyes: Though no hands came against her.—W. H. H.]
7Her Nazarites were purer than snow, they were whiter than milk, they were 8more ruddy in body than rubies, their polishing was of sapphire: Their visage is blacker than a coal; they are not known in the streets; their skin cleaveth to their 9bones; it is withered, it is become like a stick. They that be slain with the sword are better than they that be slain with hunger: for these pine away, stricken through for want of the fruits of the field.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Lamentations 4:7.—זַכּוּ. The word occurs only in Job 15:15; Job 25:5; and in Hiph., Job 9:30.—נָזִיר does not occur in Jeremiah. [Yet נִזְרֵךְ, Jeremiah 7:29, is a remarkable coincidence in the use of language, if נְזִיִריִם means crowned-ones, as Dr. Naegelsbach suggests.—W. H. H.]—שֶׁלֶג, Jeremiah 18:14.—The verb צָחַח, splendidum esse, nitere, is found only here. The adjective צַח in Jeremiah 4:11.—חָלָב in Jeremiah only in the phrase אֶרֶץ זָבַת חָלָב ו׳, Jeremiah 11:5; Jeremiah 32:22.—Kal אָדַם is found only here. The sense without doubt is to be red, reddish. The same meaning adheres to the derived conjugations, Pual (Exodus 25:5; Exodus 26:14; Exodus 35:7; Exodus 35:23; Nehemiah 2:4), Hiph. (Isaiah 1:18), Hithpael (Isaiah 1:18). The word does not occur in Jeremiah.—עֶצֶם (in Jeremiah 8:1; Jeremiah 20:9; Jeremiah 23:9) stands here as pars pro toto. See Proverbs 15:30; Proverbs 16:24; and עֹצֶם, Psalms 139:15. [Blayney absurdly translates, They were ruddier on the bone, and thus explains, “In the preceding line the whiteness of their skin is described; in this their flesh, which was red underneath towards the bone, marking their high health.”]—סַפִּיר (see Ezekiel 1:26; Ezekiel 10:1) does not occur in Jeremiah.
Lamentations 4:8.—חָשַׁךְ. Jeremiah uses the Hiphil, only once, Jeremiah 13:16.—שְׁחוֹר occurs only here (see שִׁחוֹר, Jeremiah 2:18). [The translation of Blayney, duskier than the dawn, and of Henderson, darker than the dawn, would require us to read שַׁחַר, and then the comparison could only be with the darkness of the very early dawn, and would be an awkward figure at that.—W. H. H.]—תָּֽאֳרָם. See Jeremiah 11:16.—נִכְּרוּ, Niph. of נָכַר, see Proverbs 26:24; Job 34:19. In Jeremiah Piel is found, Jeremiah 19:4, and Hiphil Jeremiah 24:5.—צָפַד, firmiter adhærere, only here.—עוֹרָם, see Lamentations 3:4.—יָבֵשׁ וגו׳, see Joshua 9:5. In Jeremiah the verb יָבֵשׁ is often found, Jeremiah 23:10; Jeremiah 50:38, etc. The adjective יָבֵשׁ he never uses.—עֵץ is frequent in Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 3:6; Jeremiah 3:9; Jeremiah 3:13, etc.
Lamentations 4:9.—For the meaning of טוֹבִים, see Lamentations 3:26.—The expression חַלְלֵ־חֶרֶב, is found in Jeremiah 14:18, but is especially frequent with Ezekiel 31:17-18; Ezekiel 32:21-31.—שׁ relativum, see Lamentations 2:15.—יָזֻבוּ. The word is found in Jeremiah only in Jeremiah 49:4, and then in another sense. Here it must evidently denote the dissolving of life, i.e., the lingering dying of the starving. The word does not, indeed, occur elsewhere in this sense, for everywhere else it stands for the virile flux or female menses, or for confluence or abundant flowing together (אֶרֶץ זָבַת וגו׳, Exodus 3:8, etc.), or for copious water-floods (Psalms 78:20; Psalms 105:41; Isaiah 48:21). But the connection absolutely requires us to take the idea of flowing, which the word undoubtedly has, in this modification of it. Pareau, also, with propriety, calls attention to the closely related word דָּאַב, tabescere (Jeremiah 31:12; Jeremiah 31:25, Psalms 88:10). He also shows that in the Latin a similar affinity exists between tabescere and liquescere. For as Seneca at one time says (Epist. 26) incommodum summum est minui et deperire et, ut proprie dicam, liquescere, so he says another time, (Medea, 4:590), in rivos nivibus solutis sole jam forti, medioque vere tabuit Hæmius. [See critical notes below.]—מְדֻקָּרִים. Jeremiah uses the word twice, Jeremiah 37:10; Jeremiah 51:4, and both times the Part. Pual.—The expression תְּנִוּבוֹּת שָׂדַי is found in Deuteronomy 32:13; comp. Ezekiel 36:30; Isaiah 27:6; Judges 9:11. תְּנוּבָה does not occur in Jeremiah, but שָׂדַי does, Jeremiah 4:17; Jeremiah 18:14. מִן, here, cannot possibly have the positive sense of giving out, failure, or that of positive causality. It must rather be taken in its negative sense, away, far from, without. See Lamentations 4:18; and Jeremiah 48:45; Job 11:15; Job 21:9. See my Gr., § 112, 5 d.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Lamentations 4:7-11. The plan of this part [which may be regarded a the antistrophe to Lamentations 4:1-6.—W. H. H.] is exactly similar to that of Lamentations 4:1-6. It begins with a description of what the Princes of Zion had to suffer. This description corresponds evidently to what was said generally of the sons of Zion, Lamentations 4:1-2, of whom the Princes are the flower. But Lamentations 4:7-9 form a climax to Lamentations 4:1-2, which appears in the fact that what is said of the Princes of Zion, in Lamentations 4:8-9, surpasses what is said of the sons of Zion in the last clause of Lamentations 4:2.Lamentations 4:10; Lamentations 4:10 corresponds in a similar way with Lamentations 4:3-5, what was said there, being surpassed here. Lamentations 4:11, finally, corresponds with Lamentations 4:6; for like it, Lamentations 4:11 contains a definite, comprehensive and inferential conclusion.
Lamentations 4:7. Her Nazarites—her Princes. That נְזִירִים here cannot denote the Nazarites is evident, not so much from the description which is given of them, for that would be very suitable to a Samson for instance, as from the fact that the Nazarites were a more fraction of the whole people, too scattered and numerically insignificant to be mentioned here with such particularity. Rather as they [the Nazarites] were said to be coronati, crowned ones, from their unshorn hair [see Numbers 6:19, הִתְגַלְּחוֹ אֶת־נִזְרוֹ=his crown is shaven off of him; נִזְרֵךְ, the unshorn hair, or crown, Jeremiah 7:29.—W. H. H.], so the Poet here calls the Princes crowned ones [see נָזַר, to encircle, hence נֵזֶר, a crown, diadem or chaplet.—W. H. H.] from the golden crown, which they wore. It is true this is a poetical expression, which is not of frequent occurrence; for we can only compare Genesis 49:26 (Deuteronomy 33:16), where Joseph is called נְזִיר אֶחָיו, the crowned one among his brothers. It is, besides, very apparent that the Poet was required to select a subject, to which the brilliant predicates, which he heaps up in Lamentations 4:7, would be appropriate. [Gataker gives the same meaning and derivation to the word, and refers to Nahum 3:17, מִנְּזָרַיִךְ, thy crowned ones, or honorable ones. It seems more likely, however, that the word designates Princes or nobles, not from any allusion to their being crowned, which is not obvious, but because they constituted a separate and distinguished class of persons, were set apart, for honorable offices, as the Nazarites were for strictly religious services (non voto sed dignitate separati;Noldius, quoted by Gerlach). So Calvin explains the word in Genesis 49:26, and Blayney and Gerlach here. Boothroyd translates nobles. Noyes, princes. Henderson retains the word Nazarites.—W. H. H]—Were purer—more shining [glistening, glänzender]. The word in Job 15:15; Job 25:5, represents the brightness of the heavens and the stars.—Than snow. The comparison with the glistening white snow is found also in Psalms 51:9 (7); Isaiah 1:18.—They were whiter than milk. [Purer than snow, whiter than milk, according to ordinary Bible usage, are beautiful metaphors for innocency of character and life. Here, however, they refer entirely to physical appearance, the resplendent beauty of their complexion, as is plain from what follows: not of their garments, as some have imagined, but of their bodies, as is evident from the antithesis in the next verse.—W. H. H.]—They were more ruddy in body than rubies (Röthlicher strahlten sie am Leibe als Korallen), their body was of a more reddish hue than corals. “Red on white is the normal color of the human complexion, the prime-color of beauty, Song of Solomon 5:10; Lamentations 4:7,” says Delitzsch, Psychol., p. 75. [Calvin, understanding Nazarites as intended, supposes that their red color was a mark and evidence of God’s favor as in the cases of the Hebrew children recorded in Daniel. “We know that the Nazarites abstained from wine and strong drink: hence abstinence might have lessened somewhat of their ruddiness. For he who is accustomed to drink wine, if he abstains for a time, is apt to grow pale; he will then lose almost all his color, at least he will not be so ruddy; nor will there appear in his face and in his members so much vigor as when he took his ordinary support. Jeremiah, in short, teaches us that the blessing of God was conspicuous in the Nazarites, for He wonderfully supported them while they were for a time abstinents.” This necessity of appealing to a possible miracle may itself create a doubt, if Nazarites are here referred to at all. That in such a corrupt state of society as existed, at that period of their history, among the Jews, there were many who assumed the vows of the Nazarite, is doubtful. There is no allusion to the existence even of Nazarites among the people at this time, in either the prophetical or historical books. But that there was not only such a class, but that they were so remarkable for their piety and so acceptable to God, that God gave them such evidences of His favor as were bestowed on Daniel and his brethren, making them conspicuous among men by their personal beauty, especially by the ruddiness of their complexion, we cannot believe. And it would be incredible and horrible that upon that particular class the heaviest judgments descended, as is related in the next verse. If we infer from their personal beauty, in Lamentations 4:7, that they were special favorites of Heaven, we must conclude, from the transformation of their appearance into that of ugliness, in Lamentations 4:8, that they were also special objects of Divine wrath. The two things do not agree. This alone proves that Nazarites are not intended. The description of their personal appearance, which could only apply to Nazarites, by some such forced construction as requires Calvin to invoke the aid of a miracle, is entirely appropriate to that class of the nobility represented by the Princes, who lived delicately and luxuriously, and whose faces, not embrowned by exposure to the weather, nor seamed and roughened by a life of hardship, were flushed and shining from the effects of high living, and whose persons beamed and glistened, as it were, from the care bestowed upon them, and the pains taken to beautify and adorn themselves. Perhaps the idea conveyed by the Hebrew verbs of the glistening quality of their white and red complexion, may be due to the then prevailing use of unguents.—W. H. H.]—Rubies, corals, פְּנִינִים. Concerning this word, which occurs besides in Job 28:18; Proverbs 3:15; Proverbs 8:11; Proverbs 20:15; Proverbs 31:10, opinions are much divided. The translations are entirely at variance: Sept. λίθοι, Symm. τὰ περίβλεπτα, Chald. lapides pretiosi, Syr. sardinus, Jerome, ebur antiquum. Among the moderns, Bootius (animadv ss., IV. 3), whom J. D. Michaelis, Gesenius, Maurer and Thenius [Henderson, Noyes, Gerlach, Fuerst] follow, maintains the signification to be corals; against which Bochart (Hieroz. P. ii., L. V., Cap. 6, 7, ed., Rosenm., Tom. 3, pag. 601 seqq.) contends for pearls. His opinion is especially maintained by Pareau (not on this passage, but in his remarks on Job 28:0) and supported with new arguments. Leyrer also (in Herz.R.-Enc. XI., p. 399) is inclined to adopt this side. The decision is difficult. Corals agree best with the context, since the existence of reddish pearls is too slightly established, and the meaning of glistening for the Hebrew אָדַם is entirely hypothetical.—Their polishing was of sapphire, a sapphire was their form.—Their polishing, their form, Ger. Gestalt; Fr. taille; Lat. forma, figura [Eng. mien, general appearance]. The word (גִּזְרָה, from גָזַר Lamentations 3:54) occurs in this sense only here. In the description of Ezekiel’s temple it is used of the northern porch, Jeremiah 41:12-15; Jeremiah 42:1; Jeremiah 42:10; Jeremiah 42:13. [Blayney, after Braunius (see Pictorial Bible), taking the word from גָּזַר to divide, or intersect, translates, their veining was the sapphire; alluding to the blue veins appearing through the white and red complexions. So Boothroyd and Adam Clarke. This would be either a mark of beauty, or an intimation of the bloated condition of the luxurious and pampered nobility. In either case, the sense is good, and is recommended by the fact that snow, milk and corals indicate color, and therefore sapphire, too, would naturally suggest the characteristic color of that gem. גִּזְרָה, however, would more likely indicate the cutting of a gem, and hence its form, taille, and in case of the sapphire, which is next in hardness to the diamond, its brilliancy of appearance. Gerlach: “The words are not to be understood of color (as of the veins showing through, or of the garments, as Cant. 28:18), but, on account of the characteristic גִּזְרָה, excisio, taille, of the perfect shape, the consummate beauty of bodily form (Körperbau). Sapphire was their form (Gestalt), that is to say, so beautiful and without fault, as if they were a polished image made out of precious stone.”—W. H. H.] White as milk and snow, red as corals, and shining as sapphire, is the appearance of the nobles as here described. This seems to constitute a climax to Lamentations 4:1-2 : for the Poet evidently, in Lamentations 4:7, paints with gayer and more variegated colors.
Lamentations 4:8. In glaring contrast with Lamentations 4:7, he now describes what has befallen the nobles in consequence of the great catastrophe.—Their visage—their appearance [so Blayney, Henderson, Owen, Gerlach: their countenance, Noyes: their visage, Broughton, Boothroyd].—Is [was, or became. The verbs are all in the past tense. So Gataker and Owen render them. The Prophet is still looking back to what had taken place, though now to a time posterior to that indicated in Lamentations 4:7. He is describing the change that took place in the appearance of the nobles, while the city was still standing, and they were seen in the streets.—W. H. H.] Blacker than a coal.—darker than blackness [so marg. E. V., Calvin, Boothroyd, Gerlach, Wordsworth. Broughton and Noyes, like the E. V. Vulg., Rashi, Kimchi, black coals. Sept., soot. Owen suggests darker than Sihor, or the river Nile, see Jeremiah 2:18.] They are not [were not] known—recognized—in the streets. See Lamentations 4:5. The sense is, in their houses they might perhaps be recognized, but not on the streets.—Their skin cleaveth [cleaved] to their bones. See Job 19:20; Job 30:30.—It is withered, it is become like a stick—it is [it became] dry as wood. [The English version—it is withered—arose from taking the adjective dry, for the verb to dry. No other English version has it so.—W. H. H.]
Lamentations 4:9. This verse enters into close connection with Lamentations 4:8. Here it is declared that the miserable condition described in Lamentations 4:8, is the consequence of starvation; and at the same time, the reflection is made that death by hunger is more dreadful than death by the sword.—They that be slain with the sword, are better than they that be slain with hunger; Happier are they who are slain by the sword, than they who are by hunger slain [Happier were the slain by the sword, than the slain by the famine. Translating the words in the past time, removes them from the category of a moral or psychological reflection, and restores the harmony of the style as a poetical description of actual events. It reminds us, too, that the nobles suffered from the sword, as well as by famine. They who died quickly by means of the sword were more fortunate than those who suffered a lingering death by starvation. So in Lamentations 4:6, the Prophet regards, for similar reasons, the destruction of Sodom as less severe and terrible than that of Jerusalem.—W. H. H.]—For these pine away—marg., flow out,—stricken through for want of the fruits of the field—Who pine away pierced in the heart for want of the fruits of the field. This clause declares two things in reference to those slain by the sword (חַלְלֵי חֶרֶב), and those slain by hunger (חַלְלֵי רָעָב), one in which they agree, and one in which they differ. 1. That wherein they agree; they are both pierced through (מְדֻקָרִים). 2. That wherein they differ; those that starve, melt away, that is to say, they die slowly, whilst with the others, death is quickly ever.
[The Versions and commentators accept generally the translation given above of the last clause of this verse. Yet there are serious objections to it, and cogent reasons for adopting a different rendering. 1. It is taken for granted that the relative שֶׁהֵם must refer to the last subject mentioned, those slain or killed, by hunger. It is more grammatical to refer it to the principal subject of the preceding clause, which is those slain by the sword, regarding the sentence as only begun in the first clause and finished in the second. The words מֵחַלְלֵי רָעָב, than those killed by famine, could be transposed to the end of the verse without changing the grammatical construction in the least, (though it would mar the rhythm and the poetical paronomasia), and this shows that they are entirely subordinate to the main idea. 2. A meaning is forced upon the verb זוּב, of melting or pining away, as descriptive of a slow death, which it has in no other place in Scripture. In the only place where it has been supposed to have the meaning of dissolving, Jeremiah 49:4, Dr. Naegelsbach himself says it has not that sense (see gram. note above), and if it has, it would imply rather a sudden, mysterious disappearance, than a slow and prolonged dissolution. The affinity between the Latin words tabescere and liquescere, brought forward by Pareau, and confirmed by a quotation from Seneca, which has been repeated by nearly every commentator since, even last of all by Gerlach, is of no force whatever; not only because the usage of Latin thought and expression is of no authority in Hebrew; but because liquescere, the fundamental idea of which is to become liquid, to melt, has a natural affinity to tabescere, to melt gradually, be dissolved and hence, metaphorically, to waste or pine away, while זוּב, the fundamental idea of which is to flow out or gush out, has no natural affinity to דָּאַב, even if the fundamental idea of דָּאַב is to melt, and certainly no affinity to דָּאַב in the only senses in which it is used in the Hebrew Bible, of pining away, or being distressed with sorrow or fear. On the other hand, the only sense in which the word זוּב is elsewhere used, as when it is applied to the sudden and violent gushing out, or rapid overflowing of water, see Psalms 78:20; Psalms 105:41; Isaiah 48:21; Exodus 3:8, admirably describes the death of those whose lives flowed away as the blood gushed from their hearts, pierced with a sword. 3. The future form of the verb יָזֻבוּ, is entirely ignored. It may be difficult, with our different modes of thought, always to detect the purport of a change in the Hebrew tenses, but it is quite certain that these changes are never purposeless; and here, where a future is suddenly thrust in among preterite tenses, it must have an important bearing upon the meaning intended. What the force of the future here is, depends on the subject of the relative and of the verb. If that subject is those slain by the famine, חִלְלֵי רָעָב, then the future may have an optative sense; these would have flowed out having been pierced, i.e., they would have preferred to die by the sword. But if, as is more likely, the subject is those slain by the sword, חַלְלֵי־חֶרֶב, then the future has the sense in which Jeremiah so often uses it, of the historical imperfect, and then, too, the relative שֶׁהֵם, has its more proper sense of those who; Happier were those slain by the sword—those who gushed out having been pierced, i.e., who died instantly as the blood gushed out of their hearts. 4. A metaphorical meaning is thrust upon מְדֻקָרִים=being or having been pierced, which the word can hardly bear, namely, pierced with the sharp pains of hunger. The word is only used of being pierced through bodily with some sharp weapon, as a sword or spear. It is never used metaphorically, not even in Zechariah 12:10; Zechariah 13:3, which have been appealed to; nor yet in Proverbs 12:18, where the piercings of a sword are compared to wounds inflicted by a wicked tongue, for even there the word derived from our verb is used in the literal sense of bodily piercings, made by a sword. The word might, it is true, in our text, be an instance of bold, audacious metaphor. But when there are so many other reasons for taking it in its literal sense, we may spare ourselves the task of justifying a metaphorical one. 5. The preposition מִן, is taken in an unusual sense. Calvin and others construe it blindly,—pierced through by the fruits of the earth, and explain “that all the productions of the earth took vengeance on this wicked people, by refusing the usual supply.” This is too extraordinary a personification of the fruits of the earth to be allowable, and it is a strange thing to charge a crime on an agent that has no existence. We would rather adopt the opinion of Jarchi who explained that their death was caused by the weeds and roots with which, in their hunger they had filled themselves, though it is something new to call weeds and roots, fruits of the earth. The usual explanation is, that they died for want of the fruits of the earth. It is doubtful it מִן can be explained in any such sense, as Dr. Naegelsbach seems to concede, when he says it can only be taken in the sense of away, far from, without. There is less difficulty with this word, if we understand the clause in the sense expressed by the Septuagint, ἐπορεύθησαν ἐκκεκεντημένοι , they were driven away, having been pierced, from the fruitful fields. So Chaldæus: “Those fled away, when they were pierced, from the, products and fruits of the field, i.e., they were full and satisfied, since they were pierced when their bellies were full of food;” and J. D. Michaelis, “who, suddenly pierced, forsook the rich fruits of the, earth (on which they dwelt).” This explanation really contains the idea expressed by Blayney’s translation, “those, being thrust through, pass away before the fruits of the field, i.e., they pass away at one stroke, before the means of subsistence fail, and so experience not the misery of wanting them.” Dathe supposes a direct comparison between the suddenness of their death and the proverbial withering of the grass. “Quicker yet than the mown grass, they vanished who were pierced with the sword.” This idea of their dying before the famine came, throws additional light on the use of the future tense in יָזבֻוּ, lit., they were gushing forth from the fruits of the field. The last clause of the verse is a more specific statement of what is said in the first clause. Happier were those who fell by the sword, than those who starved to death, especially those who being pierced through, died while yet there were supplies of food in the city. This is the idea I have endeavored to express in the new translation. Boothroyd’s translation—For those pierced past away, but these for want of the fruits of the field, would require a new text.—W. H. H.]
10The hands of the pitiful women have sodden their own children: they were their meat in the destruction of the daughter of my people.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Lamentations 4:10.—רַחֲמָנִי (see Ewald, § 164, a; Olsh., p. 412, f) is ἅπ. λεγ. According to the sense it seems to denote, not the external habits of life, as רַכָּה and עֲנֻגָּה (Deuteronomy 28:56), but the inner habitus, softness and tenderness of feeling. The etymology favors this, see רַֽחֲמִים and רַחוּם.—The verb בָשַׁל does not occur in Jeremiah.—יֶלֶד is found in Jeremiah once, Jeremiah 31:20.—כָּרוֹת, according to Fuerst, a secondary form of בָּרוּת, Psalms 69:22 (Olsh., p. 417), is found only here. More properly it should be taken, with Ewald (see § 165 c), Maurer, Olshausen, for the Inf. Piel, see &הָיָה לְבָעֵר לְבַלּוֹת, Isaiah 6:13; Psalms 49:15.—The form לָמוֹ Jeremiah never uses.—בְּשֶׁבֶר ו׳. See Lamentations 2:11.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Lamentations 4:10. This verse exactly corresponds, with respect to its subject, to Lamentations 4:3-5, and constitutes in relation to those verses a climax. For whilst Lamentations 4:3-5 speak of the pining away of the children, here the yet more terrible fact is told that mothers consumed their own children.—The hands of the pitiful women have sodden their own children.The hands of tender-hearted women cooked their own children.They were their meat in the destruction—they were food for them in the ruin—of the daughter of My people. The Poet would say, that the complication of feelings and sensations, caused by their terrible calamity, hurried away even tender-hearted women to the commission of this most horrible crime. See Lamentations 2:20. [Henderson: “Compare 2 Kings 6:28-29; Leviticus 26:29; Deuteronomy 28:56-57. For a most graphic description of such a horrible scene, see Josephus’ account of the siege under Titus, Bell. Jud. cap. X. 9.”]
11The Lord hath accomplished his fury; he hath poured out his fierce anger, and hath kindled a fire in Zion, and it hath devoured the foundations thereof.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Lamentations 4:11.—כִּלָה, Jeremiah 9:15; Jeremiah 14:12; Jeremiah 26:8, etc. See Lamentations 2:22.—חֲמָתוֹ, see Lamentations 2:4.—חֲרוֹן אַפּוֹ, see Lamentations 1:12.—יַצֶּת. All existing forms of this root are very frequent with Jeremiah 2:15; Jeremiah 9:9; Jeremiah 9:11; Jeremiah 17:27, etc.—יִסוֹד’ Jeremiah never uses. See Exodus 30:4; Exodus 13:14; Amos 1:4; Amos 1:7; Amos 1:10; Psalms 137:7, etc.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Lamentations 4:11. This verse closes the second part of the Poem, in a way entirely similar to that in which Lamentations 4:6 closes the first part. In both there is placed in our hand, as it were, a measuring rule, that we may be able to measure the extent, and the significance of the catastrophe which has befallen Zion. Only in Lamentations 4:6 is indicated the measure of the greatness of Zion’s guilt, but here the measure of the Divine wrath. [The remarkable correspondence between Lamentations 4:1-11, which Dr. Naegelsbach has so skilfully developed, is argument enough for rejecting the arrangement of Gerlach, who assigns Lamentations 4:11 to the second general division of the Poem.—W. H. H.].—The LORD hath accomplished his fury; he hath poured out his fierce anger, and hath kindled a fire in Zion and it hath devoured the foundations thereof.Jehovah fulfilled His wrath, He poured out (die Glut seines Zornes) His hot anger, and kindled a fire in Zion that consumed her foundations. [Gerlach remarks that the foundations of the city were not literally destroyed, but that this denotes in a general way that the city was razed to the ground. This is explicitly said of Zion, or the sacred part of the city, with special reference to the Sanctuary, which was completely destroyed. See Deuteronomy 32:22; Jeremiah 21:14; Jeremiah 7:20. We may regard this as a prophecy of a future destruction that was to come on Zion, when not one stone should be left upon another; or, if not a prophecy, at least an instructive commentary on the causes which led to that catastrophe, and on the catastrophe itself as the result of the wrath and fiery indignation of Jehovah God, accomplishing the threatening of His holy word.—W. H. H.]
Sect. III. Lam 4:12-16
לLam 4:12. The kings of the earth believed not,
Nor all the inhabitants of the earth,
That an oppressor and enemy would come
Into Jerusalem’s gates.
מ Lamentations 4:13. On account of the sins of her Prophets,
The crimes of her Priests,
Who shed in the midst of her
Blood of the righteous.
נ Lamentations 4:14. They stumbled like blind men through the streets,
Defiled with blood
So that men could not
Touch their garments.
ם Lamentations 4:15. “Away! unclean!” men cried to them, “away! away! touch not!”
When they fled away, they still stumbled,
Men said among the heathen,
“They shall not longer tarry.”
פ Lamentations 4:16. The anger of Jehovah scattered them;
He will no longer look upon them.
Men showed no favor to priests,
They had no compassion for elders.
Sect. IV. Lamentations 4:17-22
ע Lamentations 4:17. As for us, our eyes failed, still looking
For our vain help:
On our watch-tower we watched
For a people that could not save.
צ Lamentations 4:18. They hunted our steps
That we could not go in our streets.
Our end drew near, our days were fulfilled,
Yea, our end was come!
ק Lamentations 4:19. Swifter were our pursuers
Than the eagles of heaven;
On the mountains, they chased us;
In the wilderness, they lay in wait for us.
ר Lamentations 4:20. The breath of our nostrils, the Anointed of Jehovah,
Was taken in their pits,
Of whom we said,
Under his shadow will we live among the nations.
ש Lamentations 4:21. Exult and be glad, daughter of Edom,
That dwellest in the land of Uz,
To thee, also, shall the cup pass over,
Thou shalt be drunk and make thyself naked.
ת Lamentations 4:22. Consumed is thy guilt, daughter of Zion,
No longer does He make thee captive.
He visits thy guilt, daughter of Edom,
He uncovers thy sins.
Part third, Lamentations 4:12-16, treats of the causes of the terrible catastrophe. What even the heathen had not deemed possible, Lamentations 4:12, had been brought about by the sins of the prophets and priests, especially by their blood-guiltiness, Lamentations 4:13, in consequence of which they had been proscribed by their own countrymen, and not only so, but even in foreign countries they had been chased from place to place, and scattered and treated in the worst manner, without respect to age or condition, Lamentations 4:14-16. Part fourth describes the failure of the hope resting on Egyptian help, Lamentations 4:17; for the Chaldeans, in order to prevent the flight of the king, kept the most careful watch, whereby this means of escape was prevented, Lamentations 4:18; when, nevertheless, the flight was at last attempted and frustrated by the rapid pursuit, the only hope the fugitives still cherished, to be able to live among a foreign people, in the enjoyment of freedom, at least, under the shadow of their own king, was destroyed, Lamentations 4:19-20. The last two verses, 21, 22, which constitute the conclusion of the whole, contain a short address to Edom, which, on account of its malevolent joy at the downfall of Zion, is forewarned of a similar fate, whilst in the same connection, the prospect is exhibited to Zion of the remission of her guilt and an end of her captivity.
Lamentations 4:12-16. This third part contains an exposition of the causes of the punishment inflicted. What had been regarded, even among the heathen, as impossible, namely, that the gales of Jerusalem should be entered by force, Lamentations 4:12, this the godless priests and prophets, by their bloody cruelly, had rendered possible, Lamentations 4:13. Thus they became an object of abhorrence to Israel and to the heathen, Lamentations 4:14-15, so that, tolerated nowhere, they were scattered abroad and compelled to suffer the hardest of fates, Lamentations 4:16.
12The kings of the earth, and all the inhabitants of the world, would not have believed that the adversary and the enemy should have entered into the gates of 13 Jerusalem. For the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests that have 14 shed the blood of the just in the midst of her. They have wandered as blind men in the streets, they have polluted themselves with blood, so that men could not 15 touch their garments. They cried unto them, Depart ye; it is unclean; depart, depart, touch not: when they fled away and wandered, they said among the heathen, 16 They shall no more sojourn there. The anger of the LORD hath divided them; he will no more regard them: they respected not the persons of the priests, they favoured not the elders.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Lamentations 4:12.—The Hiphil of אָמַן, once in Jeremiah 12:6.—מַלְכֵי־אֶרֶץ, Jeremiah 25:20.—[וכֹּל . The ו, omitted by K’ri, and by some MSS and Masoretic editions, and by Sept., is expressed in Syr., Chald. and Vulg. Blayney].—תֵבֵל is found in Jeremiah only in the critically suspected passages Jeremiah 10:12; Jeremiah 51:15. The phrase כֹל ישְׁבֵי תֵבֵל is found verbatim Psalms 33:8, comp. Psalms 24:1; Psalms 98:7.—Jeremiah never uses צַר in the singular, see Jeremiah 1:5; Jeremiah 1:7; Jeremiah 1:10. צַר is used in connection with אוֹיֵב, as here, in Esther 7:6.—שַֽׁעֲרֵי יְרוּשָּׁלָם, Jeremiah 1:15; Jeremiah 17:19; Jeremiah 17:21; Jeremiah 17:27; Jeremiah 22:19.
Lamentations 4:13.—בְּקִרְבָּהּ. See Jeremiah 4:14; Jeremiah 6:6; etc., and remarks on Lamentations 3:45.—The expression, הַּם צַדִּיקּים, occurs only here: elsewhere it is always said דָּם נָקּי, e.g. Deu 21:8; 2 Kings 24:4, or דַּם הַנָּקִי, Jeremiah 22:17, or דַּם נְקִיִּם, Jeremiah 19:4.
Lamentations 4:14.—Jeremiah uses נוּעַ once, Jeremiah 14:10. See Zephaniah 1:17.—עִוֵּר, once in Jeremiah 31:8. [Blayney and Owen take עִוְרִים as participle Pual of עוּר to rouse or excite.]—בַּחוּצוֹת. See Lamentations 4:5; Lamentations 4:8.—נְגֹאֲלוּ בַּדָּם. The words are taken from Isaiah 59:3. גָּאַל, softened from גָּעַל (Leviticus 26:11; Leviticus 26:15; Jeremiah 14:19). With reference to form, blended of Niphal and Pual, see Olsh. § 275, Ewald, § 132, b., Delitzsch, Is. p. 566 [Green’s Gr., exceedingly defiled, § 83, c. 2, § 122, 2]. גָּאַל is found in Jeremiah only in the sense of loosening, redeeming; see Lamentations 3:58.—The construction of יוּכְלוּ with the finite verb is equivalent to the same with the Infinitive, Lamentations 1:14. See Lamentations 3:3; Lamentations 3:5; Esther 8:6; my Gr. § 95, g. rem. יָכֹל is frequent in Jeremiah, see Jeremiah 3:5; Jeremiah 18:6; Jeremiah 20:7, etc.—נָגַע in Jeremiah 4:10; Jeremiah 4:18; Jeremiah 12:14, etc.—לְבוּשׁ, Jeremiah 10:9.
Lamentations 4:15.—סוּר in Jeremiah 5:23; Jeremiah 15:5, etc.—טָמֵו in the Singular, never in Jeremiah: he uses only once הַטְּמֵאִים, Jeremiah 19:13. [If he could use the plural only once, why not the singular only once?—W. H. H.]—In the words סוּרוּ סוּרוּ אָל־תִּגָּעוּ the Poet seems to have in mind Isaiah 52:11, where the same words are used, only they are addressed, not to the unclean, but to the clean.—נוּץ (kindred to &נוּם נוּד, but occurring in this signification only here) is not found in Jeremiah. [Gerlach derives נָצוּ from נָצָה, which Jeremiah does use in its Aramaic form, and in same sense as here, Jeremiah 48:9,—W. H. H.]—גַם־נָעוּ, see גַם־רָאוּ, Psalms 95:9.—Jeremiah uses גוּר frequently in Jeremiah 42-44. (see Jeremiah 42:15; Jeremiah 42:17; Jeremiah 42:22, etc.)—Hiphil הוֹסִיף is found in the Prophet only once, Jeremiah 31:12, whilst it occurs in this chapter three times, Lamentations 4:15-16; Lamentations 4:22.
Lamentations 4:16.—חִלֵּק (Hiphil occurs in Jeremiah only once in a passage critically doubtful, Jeremiah 37:12) is to scatter, as Genesis 49:7. With regard to its singular number, see my Gr. §. 105, 6.—יוֹסִיף, see Lamentations 4:15.—הַבִּיט, see Lamentations 1:11.—The phrase נָשָּׂא פָנִים, elsewhere very frequently (see Deuteronomy 10:17; 2 Kings 5:1; Job 13:10; Psalms 82:2; Proverbs 18:5; Isaiah 3:3; Malachi 2:9; comp. Lamentations 5:12), is not found in Jeremiah.—Of חָנַך Jeremiah uses the Niphal only once, Jeremiah 22:23.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Lamentations 4:12 skilfully introduces the exposition of the causes of what had happened, since the presumption, entertained even by the heathen, that it was impossible for any human enemy to take Jerusalem by force, was disproved (zur Foliegegeben wird) by the sad reality.—The kings of the earth, and all the inhabitants of the world, would not have believed—had not believed—that the adversary and the enemy should have entered—that an oppressor and enemy would come—into the gates of Jerusalem. It is clear that this verse contains a hyperbole. For Jerusalem had been captured more than once before the days of Nebuchadnezzar (see 1 Kings 14:26; 2 Kings 14:13-14; 2 Chronicles 33:11; 2 Kings 23:33-35). In spite of this fact, the opinion that it could not be taken by force may have prevailed among the heathen, but hardly to the extent which the Poet here seems to ascribe to it. [Not only was Jerusalem regarded as well-nigh impregnable, because it was strongly fortified by nature and art; but there was a prevailing sentiment among men that it was under the special protection of the Almighty. The heathen idolaters knew to their cost that the God whom the Jews worshipped was a God of great power. They believed that the city of Jerusalem and its Temple were under the special protection of that God. The discomfiture of Sennacherib’s army in the days of Hezekiah at the very gates of Jerusalem, and the prolonged siege of the city by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar, were well calculated to deepen the impression that the God of the Jews would not suffer the city to be taken. To this sentiment the Prophet here refers. What he says is pregnant and inferential. He assumes that to be true, which even the heathen believed, that the city could not be taken unless God gave it up to destruction. God’s giving it up to destruction implied that the city was guilty of great and heinous sins; and without pausing to state an inference so patent, the Prophet proceeds at once to specify the particular sins which led to a catastrophe that had astonished the kings of the earth and all the inhabitants of the world. He thus condenses several thoughts into one expression;—what even heathen had not expected had happened, and was evidence to all the world of the horrible wickedness, which must have provoked God to forsake His people! There is no reason, therefore, for the suspicion that the Prophet indulged in poetical exaggeration, even if “Jerusalem had been captured more than once before the days of Nebuchadnezzar.” In point of fact, however, this last assertion may be questioned. There is no clear evidence that Jerusalem had ever before fallen into actual possession of a heathen enemy. There is no evidence at all that it had ever been taken by assault. On the occasions referred to in 2 Chronicles 33:11 and 2 Kings 23:33-35, it does not appear that the city of Jerusalem was actually occupied by the enemy, or even visited by them, and there is no intimation whatever of its being attacked and taken by arms. From the account given in 2 Chronicles 12:4-9, we would infer that Rehoboam bought peace by giving up the treasures of the city: and that if he surrendered the city at all, he did so without waiting for battle. Josephus declares that Shishak took the city without fighting (Ant. B. viii. Lam 10 § 3)—and that this was the only time it ever was taken before Nebuchadnezzar (Jewish War, B. vi. Lam 10 § 1). But there is no positive evidence that the Egyptians actually took possession of the city. The account of the invasion of Judah by the Philistines and Arabians, 2 Chronicles 21:16-17, is very brief and vague. If the king’s house which they rifled, was the palace in Jerusalem, it does not follow that the whole city fell into their possession, or that it was taken by assault. Joash, king of Israel, 2 Chronicles 25:21-24, undoubtedly took possession of the city and dismantled and destroyed its defences. But Joash was not a heathen king, neither did he take the city by assault. Having already defeated the armies of Judah in the field, he seems to have met with no resistance at all before the walls of Jerusalem.—W. H. H.]
Lamentations 4:13. Ewald takes Lamentations 4:12-13, as a question. Would the kings of the earth.… believe, that the enemy and oppressor had entered the gates of Jerusalem only on account of the sins of her prophets.… who shed blood .… in the midst of her? The objections to this are: 1. The negative particle, לֹא, Lamentations 4:12, is not the same as the interrogative particle הֲ. Should we take it as intended for הֲלֹּא = is not, an affirmative answer would be expected. 2. Ewald is obliged to insert, between Lamentations 4:12-13, an only which is not in the text, for he perceives that the heathen might be shaken in the opinion referred to, by a general apostacy of the people, but not by the apostacy of particular individuals.—Meier and Kalkar, on the other hand, connect Lamentations 4:13-14, and take the verb נָעוּ = they wandered, in Lamentations 4:14, as predicate of the principal proposition. But in this case the people must be regarded as the subject, which contradicts the whole context. We must, therefore, regard Lamentations 4:13, with Thenius and most others, as an exclamation; or, as Maurer does, supply a הָיתָח זֹאת=this came to pass, after Lamentations 4:13.—For—on account of—the sins of her prophets and [there is no conjunction in the Heb.] the iniquities of her priests, that have shed the blood of the just in the midst of her. See Jeremiah 26:7-24, where it is manifest that the chief guilt of the blood of the martyrs rested on the priests and prophets. Compare Jeremiah 6:13-15; Jeremiah 23:11-15, with Jeremiah 2:34; Jeremiah 7:6; Jeremiah 19:4; Jeremiah 22:3; Jeremiah 22:17; Ezekiel 22:25-29; 2 Chronicles 36:14. [Gataker: “Not that the people were not faulty, as well as either of these, in those wicked pranks and practices that were then committed; but that these were foremost and forwardest ring-leaders and encouragers of them unto those wicked courses, which they should have reproved in them, and from which they should have endeavored to restrain them.” Calvin: “He mentions one kind of sins, that they shed the blood of the righteous in the midst of Jerusalem. They had no doubt led the people astray in other things, for they flattered their vices and gave loose reins to licentiousness; but the Prophet here fixed on one particular sin, the most grievous; for they had not only, by their errors and false doctrines and flatteries, led away the people from the fear of God, but had also obstinately defended their impiety, and by force and cruelty repressed their faithful teachers, and put to death the witnesses of God; for by the righteous or just he no doubt means the prophets. For what Jerome and others say, that blood had been shed because false teachers draw souls to perdition, is frivolous and wholly foreign to what Jeremiah had in view; for the word righteous cannot be applied to those miserable men who were ensnared to their own ruin. Then Jeremiah, after having denounced the sin of the prophets and the iniquity of the priests, mentions the savage cruelty which was as it were the summit of all their vices.”]
Lamentations 4:14. They have wandered as blind men in the streets, they have polluted themselves with blood.They staggered as blind (men) through the streets, defiled with blood. [Wandered. The verb is more frequently used in the sense of staggering, reeling (so Gerlach), or stumbling (Broughton, Noyes), than in any other, and this sense is very appropriate to the uncertain motion of blind men, who are not much addicted to wandering about the streets.—W. H. H.].—As blind men. The idea cannot be cædium perpetrandarum insatiabili cupiditate occæcati [blinded by insatiable desire to commit murders], as Rosenmueller would have it; for they have in fact already shed blood and therefore it is added that they were defiled with blood. Rather, they are, as it were, drunk with the blood they have already shed, and in this drunkenness they go along as if blind, not observing whom they may chance to touch with their blood-stained clothes.—So that men could not (marg. in that they could not but) touch their garments—when one could not [i.e. lawfully] touch their garments.—So that (Ewald, Thenius). בְּלֹא cannot be so rendered. It stands before the whole negative sentence, as before a single word. This sentence contains a statement, on the subject of Levitical cleanness, with respect to the uncleanness they contracted by the contamination referred to. Thus: They staggered … in a condition in which it was not lawful for any one to touch them. [Gerlach, whose explanation agrees with that just given, except that for no sufficient reason he renders the verbs in the present tense, has more accurately expressed the sense of the original, than, perhaps, any other commentator. “According to the whole drift of the chapter, which describes the consequences of the judgment with respect to particular classes and conditions of the people, the following verses present a description of the judgment inflicted on the wicked Prophets and Priests, but not a mere fragment of the history of the late siege. This opinion is confirmed by the very first words of Lamentations 4:14 (they stagger as if blind), which denote elsewhere, as a comparison with Deuteronomy 28:28-29; Jeremiah 23:12; Isaiah 29:9; Isaiah 59:10 shows, the effect of Divine punishment. * * The Prophets and Priests should be the eyes of the people; they have become blind and stagger about helplessly (rathlos und hülflos) as blind men do; thus has God’s hand smitten them on account of their sins. The evil marks of their sins they carried about with them openly, so that all the world could recognize them and avoid their touch, lest they should become themselves unclean.”—Other translations and interpretations have been given, all involving great difficulties. Blayney’s is unique. “They ran frantic through the streets, they were stained with blood; such as they could not overpower, they touched their clothes. The meaning is, that if they could no otherwise harm those they met with in the streets, they defiled them by touching their garments.” This, besides the impossible translations, is open to the objection (that may be made to Rosenmueller’s and Boothroyd’s glosses, who represent the Prophets and Priests, blinded by passion, seeking for blood), namely, that the prophets and priests shed the blood of the just, “not by raving through the streets, sword in hand, but in a more secret way, by instigating their agents” (Noyes).—W. H. H.]
Lamentations 4:15. They cried unto them, Depart ye (marg. ye polluted); it is unclean; depart, depart, touch not:—Away! unclean one! they cried to them,—away! away! touch not! Who calls סוּרוּ [ = depart ye,begone, or away!]? Not the murderers, as is evident from the words they cried [i.e. men cried] unto them [for the pronoun must refer to the murderers.—W. H. H.]. Thenius thinks, those who met together may have called out thus to each other. But לָמוֹ (to them) cannot mean one another. It might, indeed, be taken in the sense of de iis [concerning them], as Pareau prefers, with an appeal to Psalms 3:3; Psalms 87:5, etc. But then the second half of the verse, in which those murderers suddenly appear as fugitives, is deprived of its appropriate explanation. I take the words then as a call addressed to the murderers. According to Leviticus 13:45, the lepers were required to call out to those meeting them, &טָמֵאִ טָמֵא, [“unclean, unclean!”]. The same cry is here addressed to those, who, without reflecting on their uncleanness, stagger about on the streets, as if blind, amongst those walking there. [Wordsworth: “The Priests and Prophets, who, in their spiritual pride, formerly said to others, ‘Come not near to me; I am holier than thou’ (Isaiah 65:5), shall be loathed by others, as being polluted by blood, and men shall cry to them tâmê! tâmê! (unclean! unclean!)—words which the leper was obliged to cry out, in order to keep others from him (Leviticus 13:45). The singular number (unclean) is here used, in order to connect the words with that cry of the leper”]. But this cry—סוּרוּ = away!depart ye!—is addressed to them most urgently, and so repeatedly that they recognize themselves as proscribed, and—are compelled to flee. The threefold repetition of סוּרוּ, away! seems to me to indicate, that not merely immediately after the murders, but persistently all contact with them as with unclean persons was avoided. Thus they were, as was said, proscribed.—When they fled away and wandered—when they had fled away they continued fugitively wandering about [for] they said among the heathen, They shall no more sojourn there—it was said among the heathen, They shall not longer tarry. Now that they had fled, yet even in a foreign land they found no rest. Thenius, most unnecessarily and very awkwardly, supposes a flight to the Chaldeans, who had separated these outlaws without affording them a permanent place of abode (גּוּר) and carried them away into captivity to various different places. But those enemies of Jeremiah, who hated him so bitterly and persecuted him, especially on account of his constant admonition to submit themselves to the Chaldeans (see Jeremiah 37, 38), certainly did not themselves go over to the Chaldeans. Rather, it is only indicated here, in a general way, that those outlaws might have fled to heathen nations. But if they had, the words גַּם נָעוּ (also they wandered) show that their נוּעַ (wandering) did not end with their נוּץ (flight). If they had fled, also they wandered about, that is to say, if they on their flight, after manifold wanderings, thought that they had found at some particular place a secure retreat, then men said even there among the heathen, they shall not tarry longer. They are then driven away even from there. This so plainly reminds us of the restless and fugitive wanderings of Cain, the first murderer, that we take for granted that the Poet had Genesis 4:12-14 (נָע וָנָד) in his mind. [If נָעוּ in Lamentations 4:14 means they staggered, as men smitten by God with judicial blindness, it seems necessary to give it the same meaning in Lamentations 4:15. The sense is explained by the judicial use of the word as expressive of God’s judgments; see Lamentations 4:14. Gerlach: “When they fled away, they have likewise staggered about, which, on account of the evident reference to נָעוּ (they staggered) in ver 14, must mean that they staggered about as helplessly as they did before in the city; and were avoided in the same way. For if they would escape the scorn of their own people by a hasty departure from them, yet the nations, from whom they sought a hospitable reception (גוּר), would refuse it to them. Men said, They shall no longer remain as guests; see Deuteronomy 28:65-66 : ‘and among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest.’ ”—W. H. H.]
Lamentations 4:16. The anger (marg. face) of the Lord hath divided them—Jehovah’s countenance has scattered them. Thus the Poet describes what is known to him of the actual condition of those outlaws, in consequence of their banishment. They could not even remain together, but must be scattered. By the expression the face of Jehovah, the scattering is traced back to Jehovah as its cause, who had not lost sight of them, but had directed upon them His countenance inimically. See Psalms 34:17 (16). [See also Leviticus 17:10; Psalms 21:10 (9). In the latter passage the words in the time of Thine anger, are literally in the time of Thy face. There may be an allusion here to Jeremiah 16:17-18, “For Mine eyes are upon all their ways; they are not hid from My face, neither is their iniquity hid from Mine eyes. And I will first recompense their iniquity and their sin double.” When God forgives our sins, we may say, “Thou hast cast all my sins behind Thy back,” Isaiah 38:17. But when He punishes them, we are compelled to say, “We are consumed by Thine anger, and by Thy wrath are we troubled. Thou hast set our iniquities before Thee, our secret sins in the light of Thy countenance.” Psalms 90:7-8.—W. H. H.]—He will no more regard them. The verb is future, יוֹסִיף. The Poet predicts for the scattered ones, that there will be no more favorable change of Jehovah’s mind towards them.—They respected not the persons of the priests, they favoured not the elders.The priests found not forbearance, the elders found no compassion [or, we may translate more literally as E. V. understanding that the subject of the verbs are the heathen, or men generally; and the wicked murderous priests and elders are the objects of the verbs. God has irretrievably cast them away; and men scorn and injure them.—W. H. H.] Men deal with them without regard to their condition or age.
17As for us, our eyes as yet failed for our vain help: in our watching we have 18 watched for a nation that could not save us. They hunt our steps, that we cannot19 go in our streets: our end is near, our days are fulfilled; for our end is come. Our persecutors are swifter than the eagles of the heaven: they pursued us upon the20mountains, they laid wait for us in the wilderness. The breath of our nostrils, the anointed of the LORD, was taken in their pits, of whom we said, Under his shadow we shall live among the heathen.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Lamentations 4:17.—עוֹדֵינֻה [K’ri, עוֹדֵנוּ]. The form is a monstrosity. For, 1. עוֹד never stands in the plural with suffixes. 2. If we suppose that the suffix is joined to עוֹדִים, then it should be written עוֹדֶיהָ or עוֹדֵיהֶך. 3. The suffix form ־ֵינָה is entirely abnormal. The only possible analogy would be נְוִיֹתֵיהֶֽנָה, Ezekiel 1:11, according to which עוֹדֵינָה would be contracted from עוֹדֵיחֶֽנָה. But on what does the plural suffix depend? To meet this difficulty the Masorites read עוֹדֵינוּ. [So Calvin, while we were yet standing: Blayney, Henderson, Owen, while yet or still we existed. Blayney conjectures that the final ה “is a corruption, not of a single ו, but of two וו, the latter of which ought to be prefixed to תכלינח, where by its conversive force, it not only clears the passage from all difficulty, but brings the text into a perfect agreement with the LXX., Syr. and Vulg. Versions.”] But here also the difficulty remains that the suffix would be joined to עוֹדִים. Olshausen (§ 222, g.) on this account assumes that עוֹדֵינוּ stands for עוֹדִנוּ, and that the K’tib is the result of an error in writing. The latter seems to me also probable: only I believe that the feminine ending of the suffix is correct, and that the י before נָה was occasioned by the immediately following תִּכְלֶינָה. The word then had the sound originally of עוֹדֶנָּה (1 Kings 1:22). עוֹדֶנָּה, as a proposition, with a predicate to be supplied, is it is true also abnormal, even if only the idea of being is supplied. Yet the sense is pertinent. She, that is to say Jerusalem, still stood. We may refer for the grammatical construction to Jeremiah 40:3. [This is Rosenmueller’s explanation. But there is no particular reference to the city in the whole preceding part of the Song; and neither the city nor Zion is in the mind of the writer or the reader. If then we adopt the reading עוֹדֶגָה, the explanation of Thenius is certainly to be preferred, “Whilst this was or happened,—namely, the incident just related with reference to the fugitives.” But Gerlach is of the opinion that ־ֵינָה can be taken as suff. 3 pers. fem. plur. referring to the eyes. He refers to an analogous case in Psalms 73:5, ־ֵימוֹ in אֵינֵימו, and explains its occurrence here as influenced by sympathy with תִּכְלֵינָה and a desire to distinguish the suffix from the singular form in עוֹדֶנָּה, 1 Kings 1:22. Then the translation is Yet our eyes wasted themselves in looking for our help. So Broughton, Even yet our eyes are spent at our vain help, and Noyes, Still did our eyes fail, looking for help in vain. The same sense may be retained if we adopt the K’ri, adhuc nos (sc. conficimur) vel potius oculi nostri conficiunter (Gerlach). Yet if the K’ri is adopted, the lit, translation would be, as yet we, see Joshua 14:11. The fact that this is the initial word, gives to it an emphasis, both accurately and felicitously expressed in the English Version, As for us still our eyes failed looking for our vain help.—W. H. H.]—תִּכְלֶינָה עֵינֵינוּ. See Lamentations 2:11.—עֶזְרָה, in Jeremiah 37:7. For the construction of עֶזְרָתֵנוּ הָבֶל, see my Gr. 63, 4, g. [The possessive pronoun, as a suffix, may come between a noun and the word qualifying it, and then the pronoun and qualifying word are to be expressed together: our help of vanity = our vain help. See Naegels. Gr.—W. H. H.]—הֶבֶל in Jeremiah 16:19; Jeremiah 10:3; Jeremiah 10:8; Jeremiah 2:5, etc.—צפּיָּח is ἅπ. λεγ. צָפָח, in Jeremiah 6:17; Jeremiah 48:19.—הוֹשִׁיעַ, Jeremiah 11:12; Jeremiah 14:9; Jeremiah 42:11, etc. See also לוֹא יוֹעִיל, Jeremiah 2:11. Yet Isaiah 45:20 seems to have been especially in the Poet’s mind, where it is said אֶל־אֵל לֹא יוֹשִׁיעַ.
Lamentations 4:18.—Concerning צוּד, see Lamentations 3:52. With reference to the signification insidiare, lying-in-wait for, see Micah 7:2; Proverbs 6:26, and the nearly related צָדָה, 1 Samuel 24:12. The reading צָדוּ, which some Codices have after the analogy of Proverbs 4:12; Job 18:7, gives a less suitable sense. [The change of צָדוּ into צָרוּ may have been suggested by the difficulty of interpreting the former in accordance with its proper signification of seizing, catching or obtaining by hunting. See Notes below.—W. H. H.]—צַעַד, in Jeremiah once, Jeremiah 10:23. [Blayney: “The LXX. instead of צעדינו seem to have read צעידינו, our little ones.” Here again is a change of the text suggested, doubtless, by the difficulty of hunting (or seizing upon as prey) the footsteps.—W. H. H.]—For the construction of מִלֶּכֶת see מִתְּנוּבוֹת, Lamentations 4:9.—רְחֹב, Jeremiah 5:1; Jeremiah 48:38, etc.—קָרַב, see Lamentations 3:57.—מָֽלְאוּ יָמֵינוּ. The expression is elsewhere used of filling up the measure of the days of one’s life, see Jeremiah 25:34; 1 Chronicles 17:11.—בָּא קֵץ, Jeremiah 51:3, comp. Amos 8:2; Ezekiel 7:2-6.
Lamentations 4:19.—קַלִּים. The Prophet uses the adjective קַל in Jeremiah 2:23; Jeremiah 3:9; Jeremiah 46:6. רֹֽדְפֵינוּ, see Jeremiah 1:3.—The phrase נִשְׁרֵי שָׁמַיִם occurs only here: yet see Proverbs 23:5; Proverbs 30:19.—דָּלַק is properly speaking to glow with heat, to burn, Psalms 7:14; Ezekiel 24:10. Then it is used in the transferred sense of hot pursuit, and indeed at first with אַֽחֲרֵי (as it were, burning after one) Genesis 31:36; 1 Samuel 17:53. Only in this place is the word construed directly as transitive with the Acc. of the object. Jeremiah never avails himself of the word—מִדְבָּר, very frequent in Jeremiah 2:2; Jeremiah 2:6; Jeremiah 3:2, etc.—אָרַב, see Jeremiah 3:10.
Lamentations 4:20.—The expression רוּחַ אַפֵּינוּ is not found in Jeremiah; but, founded on Gen. 7:27, in Exodus 15:8; Psalms 18:6 (2 Samuel 22:16); Job 4:9; comp. Song of Solomon 7:9.—מְשִׁיחַ יי׳ is not found in Jeremiah. See 1 Samuel 24:6-7; 1 Samuel 24:11; 1Sa 26:9; 1 Samuel 26:11; 1 Samuel 26:16; 1Sa 26:23; 2 Samuel 1:14; 2 Samuel 1:16; 2Sa 19:22; 2 Samuel 23:1.—לָכַד, Jeremiah uses frequently. See Jeremiah 51:56; Jeremiah 38:28; Jeremiah 48:1, etc.—שָׁחִית, (comp. שָׁחוּת, Proverbs 23:10) is found, besides here, only in Psalms 107:20.—צֵל, Jeremiah 6:4; Jeremiah 48:45.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Lamentations 4:17-20. With few but telling strokes the Prophet here sketches a picture of the events which constitute the last stadium of the great catastrophe, ending with the imprisonment of the king. He describes how they in Jerusalem had placed their last hope on Egyptian help, which was not realized, Lamentations 4:17. Then, omitting all that had reference to the capture of the city itself, he passes over to the flight of the king, which he describes so graphically, that we are obliged to regard him as a participator in the events he narrates. He describes how they were so closely watched, that soon all hope of escape forsook them, Lamentations 4:18. With extraordinary celerity they were pursued, Lamentations 4:19, and the king was imprisoned. With that, their last hope, the hope that they might live under his shadow, in the enjoyment at least of liberty, even if among foreign people, was frustrated, Lamentations 4:20.
Lamentations 4:17. As for us, our eyes yet failed for our vain help.Yet stood she! Our eyes longed after our vain help. She, that is to say Jerusalem, still stood, exclaims the Poet with emphasis, and thus transports us into the historical event of which he treats. [For the reasons stated above in Textual and Grammatical Notes, the correct translation seems to be, Still did our eyes fail looking for our vain help. Literally, Still our eyes exhausted or spent themselves (looking) for our vain help.—W. H. H.] The Poet describes here the yearning long-cherished hope of Egyptian help. The retreat of the Chaldean army (Jeremiah 37:5) had greatly strengthened that hope. But it proved delusive. Instead of the Egyptian army, the Chaldeans were soon seen again approaching the city (Jeremiah 37:8; Jeremiah 34:22). [Our vain help.Calvin: “There is an implied contrast between empty and fallacious help and the help of God, which the people rejected when they preferred the Egyptians.”]—In our watching—on our watch-tower [so Blayney, Boothroyd, Henderson, Noyes, Gerlach, DavidsonLex.,FuerstLex.]—We have watched for a nation that could not save us—we watched for a people that helps not [or will not help (Gerlach), or, may not, i.e. cannot save.—W. H. H.]
Lamentations 4:18. They hunt our steps, that we cannot go in our streets—They watched our steps that we could not go on our streets.Ewald understands the first half of the verso as referring to an edict of the Egyptian king, which prohibited the refugees who were in Egypt from carrying on traffic of any kind with Palestine. This was considered, and not without reason, the harshest measure that could be imposed upon them. But we have not the least knowledge of any kind of trade with the markets of Palestine at the time of its depopulation, or of any prohibition of visiting those markets. Besides, it is not at all probable that the Jews, who had fled to Egypt, impelled by fear of the Chaldeans, would have had any desire to go back again within the reach of the power of the Chaldeans. Then, too, this thought in this connection seems an excessively awkward ὔστερον πρότερον [putting last first]. Thenius and Vaihinger [Blayney, also] understand these words of the besieging towers, whence the streets were bombarded and so walking in them was prevented. I will not deny that from these towers (see remarks on Jeremiah 52:4-5) the city might be watched. But to refer the words that we could not walk in the streets to the bombardment of the streets, seems to me a singular notion. We are not to suppose that the besieging machines of the ancients carried cannon. [Remembering how narrow the streets of oriental cities are and how protected, often, by the buildings projecting over them, it is obvious that no besieging towers could so command the streets as to expose the citizens to the aim of the enemies’ weapons.—W. H. H.] We read in Jeremiah 52:7-8, “And all the men of war fled, by the way of the gate between the two walls, which was by the king’s garden: (now the Chaldeans were by the city round about;) and they went by the way of the plain. But the army of the Chaldeans pursued after the king, and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho; and all his army was scattered from him.” See 2 Kings 25:4-5. From this description it appears, 1st. That Zedekiah with his men of war endeavored to escape secretly, and did so escape by a flight at night from a gate situated on the west side of the city, 2d. That the Chaldeans sought to prevent his escape. This is evident from their surrounding the city, as well as from the secret flight and immediate pursuit. It is also obvious, a priori, that Nebuchadnezzar was near at hand for the very purpose of getting possession of the person of the king. Now does not our passage answer exactly to all this? All the steps of the beleaguered citizens were observed, so that they could not go upon their streets unhindered. I do not understand רְחֹבוֹת=streets of the country roads. But I believe that the passages leading out of the city, as for example the way between the walls, can be classed with the רְחֹבוֹת=streets. [The verb rendered hunt,צוּר, means (see remarks on Lamentations 3:52), not merely to hunt, but to take by hunting, not merely to lay snares (Noyes), but to ensnare or take in snares. It clearly has this meaning, it seems to me, both in Micah 7:2 and Proverbs 6:26. The word rendered streets,רְחֹבוֹת, means the streets of a city, as is plainly evident here from the expression our streets.בִּרְחֹבֹתֵינוּ, in our own streets, can only mean the streets of our city, and that no out of the way passages between the walls, but streets that were common property, and which they were accustomed to walk in. Our text then can only mean that those who appeared on the streets were at once arrested. Zedekiah and his army were not captured in the streets, but far away from the city. It is obvious, therefore, that neither this verse, nor the following one, refers particularly to the flight and capture of Zedekiah and his army. It relates to a time posterior to that event. The city was already in possession of the Chaldeans: the enemy had entered into the gates of Jerusalem (Lamentations 4:12). which did not occur till one month after Zedekiah’s capture. The Prophet having announced in Lamentations 4:11, that the Divine wrath was accomplished, and Zion consumed with fire to the very foundations thereof, goes back in Lamentations 4:12-16, to attribute this event to the sins of the prophets and priests, and to show how they were abhorred and punished,—then in Lamentations 4:17, he tells us, how those that were left in the city continued to the very last to hope for Egyptian aid,—in Lamentations 4:18, that they could not escape from the city, for they were captured the moment they appeared in the streets,—in Lamentations 4:19, that those who did manage to escape from the city, were pursued and captured, whether they fled to the mountains or the desert,—and Lamentations 4:20, declaring that their king was already a prisoner, recognizes the fact that the kingdom is destroyed and their independent nationality is at an end. With all this the last half of Lamentations 4:18 harmonizes; when they found that the Egyptians did not come, and that they were wholly in the power of the Chaldeans, then it was evident that their end was near, their days fulfilled,—yea, their end had actually come! We translate the first half of the verse, therefore, They hunted our steps, or they ensnared our steps, that is, they were on the watch for us and caught us as a wily trapper watching the steps of his game, so that we could not go in our streets.—W. H. H.]—Our end is near, our days are fulfilled; for our end is come. [Our end approached, our days were fulfilled, for (or yea, ja, Gerlach) our end arrived, or was actually come. There is no change of tense from the first half of the verse.—W. H. H.] These are the ipsissima verba of the fugitives, which describe most graphically how they felt, when they observed that their flight was discovered. Since many survived those days, among others the king and the Poet himself, it is evident that these words are to be interpreted, not of what happened, but of what they feared would happen. Besides, the second half of the verse, composed of two members, is climacteric; for in the first, the end is indicated only as near, but in the second as come, and therefore the measure of life as fulfilled. [These words were not the words of “fugitives,” for reasons given above. They may have been the words of the would-be fugitives, those who would have escaped from the city if they had not been arrested in the streets of the city. It is better, however, to regard them as the words of the Prophet. The Egyptians did not come to the rescue. Escape from the city was impossible. Then, says he, our end approached, the days of our national existence were accomplished, yea our end actually arrived, when the city was consumed with fire, and the people transported to Babylon.—W. H. H.]
Lamentations 4:19. Our persecutors are—our pursuers were—swifter than the eagles of the heaven. The image of the eagles is taken from Jeremiah 4:13, where it is said of the enemy from the north “his horses are swifter than eagles.” See 2 Samuel 1:23. Their apprehension proves to be well founded. The pursuit was begun instantly and with the greatest energy.—They pursued us upon the mountains, they laid wait for us in the wilderness.On the mountains they chased us, in the wilderness they were on the watch for us [Gerlach:laid snares for us.] It is to be observed that the way from Jerusalem to Jericho, at first over heights (beginning with the Mount of Olives) leads directly down into the plain of the Ghôr. See the full description of this road in Ritter’s Geography, 15:1, pp. 485 ff. Let the suffixes of the first person be carefully observed in this whole narration of the flight of the king, Lamentations 4:18-20. Would not one, who knew of the facts only by hear-say, have used the third person?2 And does not the first person show, as also the animated clearly defined particulars do, that he himself had participated in the fight from that fierce pursuit? [Granting that the flight and pursuit of the king are here intended, there is surely nothing in the description that necessarily implies the presence of the author with the king. But we have seen above that this verse cannot relate to the flight and capture of the king. The Prophet is simply relating the fate of the people and confirming his declaration that their end, as a people, a nation, had come, Lamentations 4:18. The Egyptians did not arrive for their relief. Those who ventured into the streets were seized and made prisoners. Those who managed to escape were hotly pursued or fell into ambushes carefully prepared in view of their flight. They were now hopeless and helpless. And to crown all, their king was a prisoner, Lamentations 4:20, and even if they could escape from their pursuers, they could not rally around his sacred person and preserve their independent sovereignty in some foreign land. Thus in very truth their end had come, which is the point the Prophet has in his mind.—W. H. H.]
Lamentations 4:20. The breath of our nostrils. [Owen: “A kingdom cannot exist without a king. Hence the king may be said to be the breath or the life of the body politic.”]—the anointed of the Lord—of Jehovah—was taken in their pits—[Calvin:in their snares.Broughton:was caught in their trap.]—Of whom we said, under his shadow—[or, according to Owen and Noyes,under whose shadow, we said,]—see Isaiah 30:2-3; Hosea 14:8 (7); Ezekiel 31:17.—We shall live among the heathen—[the nations,Calvin, Broughton, Boothroyd, Owen, Noyes, Gerlach. Blayney: “To live among the nations, probably means to exist in a national capacity or as one among them.”] It is not the purpose of the Poet to sound the praises of the king. The literal meaning of the words and the connection: utterly refute the idea, adopted by the Chaldaic, Raschi and many modern commentators, that this refers to the pious Josiah, whom Jeremiah, according to 2 Chronicles 35:25, glorified in a song of lamentation. The King here meant can only be Zedekiah. He was a weak, but a good-natured king. He resembled Louis XVI. of France. Like him he may also have been well-beloved. But the principal point was that he was king, and especially the theocratic king. Seneca says (de Clementiâ, Lamentations 1:4, according to a quotation of Pareau’s), Ille (princeps) est spiritus vitalis, quern hæc tot millia (civium) trahunt [he (the sovereign) is the vital breath, which so many thousands (of citizens) inhale]. Much more the theocratic king, the Lord’s anointed, the bearer of the promises (2 Samuel 7:0.) was a living pledge of the continuance and prosperity of the people. See Psalms 28:0., especially Lamentations 4:8, and Delitzsch on that place. We can see, besides, from the words of whom we said, etc., what plan with reference to the future was entertained by the fugitive Jews. They hoped to escape to a friendly heathen nation, and there gathering around their king as their shield and security of a better future, pass their days at least in freedom. [Wordsworth: “It has been objected by some, that the Lamentations could not have been written by Jeremiah on the occasion of the destruction of Jerusalem, because such words as these, could not be applied to such a vicious king as Zedekiah. But such an objection as this betrays an ignorance of the nature of true loyalty, as taught by Almighty God in the Old Testament, as well as in the New. He teaches us to distinguish the person of the sovereign from his office, and to venerate his authority as from God (Romans 13:1-7), whatever may be his personal character. Even Saul was ‘the Lord’s Anointed,’ and was revered and bewailed as such by David. See on 1Sa 26:8; 1 Samuel 26:11; 1 Samuel 26:16; 1Sa 26:23; 2 Samuel 1:14; 2 Samuel 1:16. And our blessed Lord and His Apostles teach us to obey a civil ruler, as God’s deputy and vicegerent, in all things not unlawful, although that ruler may be a Tiberius (see on Matthew 22:21) or a Nero (see on Romans 13:1-7; Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13).” Calvin: “God made David king, and also his posterity, for this end, that the life of the people might, in a manner, reside in him. As far then as David was the head of the people, and so constituted by God, he was even their life. The same was the case with all his posterity as long as the succession continued.… But we must observe that these high terms in which the posterity of David were spoken of, properly belong to Christ only; for David was not the life of the people, except as he was the type of Christ and represented His person. Then what is said was not really found, in its fullest significance, in the posterity of David, but only typically. Hence the truth, the reality, is to be sought in no other but in Christ. And we hence learn that the Church is dead, and is like a maimed body, when separated from its Head.… In short, Jeremiah means that the favor of God was, as it were, extinguished when the king was taken away, because the happiness of the people depended on the king, and the royal dignity was as it were a sure pledge of the grace and favor of God; hence the blessing of God ceased, when the king was taken away from the Jews.… We shall live, they said, even among the nations under the shadow of our king; that is, ‘Though we may be driven to foreign nations, yet the king will be able to gather us, and his shadow will extend far and wide to keep us safe.’ So the Jews believed, but falsely, because by their defection they had cast away the yoke of Christ and of God, as it is said in Psalms 2:3. As then they had shaken off the heavenly yoke, they in vain trusted in the shadow of an earthly king, and were wholly unworthy of the guardianship and protection of God.”]
[Is this question well put by one who regards the third Song as the composition of author than Jeremiah himself?—W. H. H.]
21 Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom, that dwellest in the land of Uz: the cup also shall pass through unto thee; thou shalt be drunken, and shalt make thyself22 naked. The punishment of thine iniquity is accomplished, O daughter of Zion; he will no more carry thee away into captivity: he will visit thine iniquity, O daughter of Edom; he will discover thy sins.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Lamentations 4:21.—יוֹשֶׁבֶתי. For the form see Jeremiah 10:17. [May we recognize a peculiarity of Jeremiah in this form?—W. H. H.]—שִׂישִׂי, see Lamentations 1:21.—כוֹם, Jeremiah 25:15; Jeremiah 25:17; Jeremiah 25:28; Jeremiah 49:12; Jeremiah 51:7, etc. The expression תַֽעֲבַר־ב׳ is peculiar to this place.—שָׁכַר, inebriari, Jeremiah 25:27; Jeremiah 48:26; Jeremiah 51:7; Jeremiah 51:39; Jeremiah 51:57.—Hithp. of עָרָה only here. Jeremiah uses the verb in no form. Perhaps there lies in תִתְעָרִי an allusion [ironical?] to that עָרוּ עָרוּ of the Edomites, Psalms 137:7.
Lamentations 4:22.—The perfects in this verse indicate, that the Poet transfers himself into the future, in such a manner that he sees what is yet future, as if it were actually transpiring before him.—עָוֹו, see Lamentations 4:6.—תַּם, frequent with Jeremiah 1:3; Jeremiah 6:29; Jeremiah 24:10, etc. The phrase תַּם עָוֹן occurs only here.—Jeremiah uses Hiphil of הָגַל very often, Jeremiah 20:4; Jeremiah 22:12, etc.: also the Piel, see Jeremiah 2:14, where the construction with עַל also occurs.—פָּקַד, Jeremiah 5:9; Jeremiah 5:29; Jeremiah 25:12, etc. The phrase פָּקַד עָוֹן is a characteristic of the Pentateuch, Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:7; Leviticus 18:25; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:9 : yet it is also found in Jeremiah 25:12; Jeremiah 36:31.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Lamentations 4:21-22. In conclusion the Poet addresses a word of threatening to Edom, in the midst of which a word of comfort addressed to Zion, renders the severity of the threatening still more impressive. That the Edomites most maliciously rejoiced in the destruction of Jerusalem, and even contributed towards it, we know from Psalms 137:7; Ezekiel 25:12; Ezekiel 35:15; Ezekiel 36:5. See remarks on Jeremiah 49:7-22, to which the ironical שׂישׂי וְשִמְחִי, rejoice and be glad, here refer.
Lamentations 4:21. Rejoice—exult—and be glad, O daughter of Edom, that dwellest in the land of Uz. Whether this refers to an extension of the dominion of Edom that existed at that time, or at an earlier period, or whether it merely refers to such an extension in a general way, is very questionable. Ewald (on this text and Gesch. d. B. Isrl. IV. S. 9) is of the opinion, that, Nebuchadnezzar had extended the dominion of the Edomites “in the land of Uz far to the north-east.” But this position of the land of Uz [north-east of Idumea] is very problematical. See remarks on Jeremiah 25:20. At all events, the words are most easily explained if the dwelling in the land of Uz is regarded as an evidence of success and a cause for rejoicing on the part of Edom. The historical accounts are too sparse to enable us to ascertain anything on this subject with certainty. See Carl von Raumer, Eastern Palestine and the land of Edom, in Berghaus’Annals, 1830, Vol. I pp. 563, 564. [Broughton: “From Esay to the Herods Edom hated Jacob, and no less than ten prophecies are against them, as Barbinel noteth upon Obadias” Calvin: “The Idumeans, above others, had manifested hostility to the chosen people. And the indignity was the greater, because they had descended from the same father, for Isaac was their common father; and they derived their origin from two brothers, Esau and Jacob. As, then, the Idumeans were related to the Jews, their cruelty was less tolerable; for they thus forgot their own race, and raged against their brethren and relatives.”].—The cup also shall pass through unto thee—also to thee shall the cup pass over. [Calvin: “He employs a common metaphor; for adversity is denoted in the Scripture by the word cup; for God, according to His will, gives to drink to each as much as He pleases.… Nor does He allow any one either to reject the cup offered, or to throw away the wine, but He constrains him to drink and to exhaust to the very dregs as much as He gives to each to drink. Hence it is for this reason that the Prophet says now that the cup would pass over to the Idumeans; for we know that, shortly after, they were subdued by the Chaldeans, with whom they had before been united. But when they had by their perfidy fallen off from their treaty, they were in their turn punished”].—Thou Shalt be drunken. Thou shalt get drunk. [By drunkenness here we are to understand “that judicial infatuation” (Blayney) which leads to all sorts of shame and self-injury, and exposes its subject to the cruel mercies of his enemies.—W. H. H.].—And shalt make thyself naked. Drunkenness and denudation, intoxication and shame go together: see Genesis 9:21; Habakkuk 2:15-16.
Lamentations 4:22. The punishment of thine iniquity (marg. simply, Thine iniquity) is accomplished.—Blotted out is thy guilt [or we can translate Dr. Naegelsbach’s translation, Thy debt is paid, Getilgt ist deine Schuld. Gerlach: thy guilt is at an end. All the English translators, except Owen, take עָוֹן in the first member of the verse as the punishment of iniquity, and in the second member as iniquity itself. Owen translates the word iniquity in both members, but explains the first as meaning punishment: “to complete iniquity,” he says, “can here mean no other thing than to complete the punishment due to it.” It is an awkward confusion of terms and injures the antithesis between the two members of the verse to put two meanings on this one word. We are, doubtless, to take the word in both clauses in the sense of guilt, desert of and liability to punishment, and understand the whole verse as intended in a prophetical and anticipatory sense. The exile the Jews were now suffering would exhaust, as it were, the demands of justice against them; and in view of this the Prophet says, Thy guilt is blotted out, or cancelled, or at an end. Wordsworth: “Rather, thy sin (see Lamentations 4:6) is accomplished, completed and taken away; and for this use of the verb (tâm) here, see Lamentations 3:22; Jeremiah 6:29; Jeremiah 44:12; where it is rendered by consumed, and Gesen. 867.”—W. H. H.].—He will no more carry thee away into captivity—he will not banish the longer [lit. he will not add to banish thee. This does not imply, as many commentators seem to apprehend, a promise that God would never again send the Jewish nation into captivity. But it means only that their present exile should not be prolonged beyond the limit determined by their guilt. It involves rather a promise of a return to their own land, when their iniquity was thus cancelled by the punishment received.—W. H. H.]—He will visit thine iniquity—He visits thy guilt. See Lamentations 1:8.—O daughter of Edom, he will discover—he uncovers—thy sins. The two halves of the verse correspond to each other: each of them has the name of a nation for its central point; to the תַּם עֲוֹנֵךְ, finished or cancelled is thy guilt, of the first half, corresponds the פָקַד עֲוֹנֵךְ, he visits thine iniquity, of the second; and to the הַגְלוֹתֵךְ, to banish thee, of the first half, corresponds the גִּלָּה, uncovers, of the second. [This is more apparent in Hebrew, because the last two words referred to are derived from the same verbal root. Some have attempted to make the correspondence complete by giving the same sense to both these words. Thus Boothroyd translates the first he will no more expose thee, and the second he will expose thy sins. But the Hiphil form of the first phrase will not allow us to translate it in the same sense as the Kal form of the second word, nor does the Hiphil ever seem to be used in any other sense than that of leading away, causing to go away, driving away, or carrying captive. Henderson, on the other hand (Blayney and Owen give the same sense), translates the first phrase he will no more hold thee captive, and the second he will carry thee away captive because of thy sins, which agrees with the marginal reading in our English Bible. But the Kal might mean to go away into captivity, but cannot have the Hiphil sense of carrying away. More than this, the grammatical construction would require us to understand that he made their sins captive instead of their persons. And more than all the Hebrew phrase is constantly used in the sense of uncovering sins, for the purpose of exposing them to contempt, rebuke and punishment. For these reasons it seems necessary to acquiesce in the translation above given.—Wordsworth: “He hath uncovered the sins of Edom; and hath covered those of Israel.”—W. H. H.]
Note on Authorship.3 It seems to me that this Song contains some hints in reference to its author that are worthy of consideration. 1. The brilliant descriptive sketch of the Princes of Judah, given by the Poet in Lamentations 4:7, should be considered. 2. He charges the blame of the prodigious misfortune entirely to the Priests and Prophets, Lamentations 4:13-15 (see also Lamentations 2:14), whilst it appears from Jeremiah that the secular leaders of the people [die weltlichen Grossen] were not less guilty. See Jeremiah 2:26; Jeremiah 5:5; Jeremiah 5:25-28; Jeremiah 23:1-2; Jeremiah 34:19; Jeremiah 37, 38; Jeremiah 44:17. His way of putting things conveys to us the impression, that the author may have been an accomplished member of the lay aristocracy, possessed of great love for his own particular order. 3. This conclusion is favored by the fact, as he gives us very plainly to understand, that he was one of the companions of the king in his flight, Lamentations 4:17-20. It would seem then, that he was one of the polished and well-disposed Princes belonging to the Court of the King. Was he, perhaps, that Seraiah, who was the son of Neriah and brother of Baruch (Jeremiah 51:59)? [The arguments here indicated have been already sufficiently answered. It remains only to say, 1. That Jeremiah was fully equal to a much fuller and more “brilliant” description of the princes, than that contained in Lamentations 4:7, both from his personal knowledge of the court, and his imaginative, poetical and rhetorical abilities, as exhibited in his book of Prophecies. 2. The author, even supposing him to be one of the Princes, can not be charged with the criminal partiality of attempting to throw a veil over the sins of his own peers. While Lamentations 4:13 charges special guilt on Prophets and Priests, as also Jeremiah (himself both Prophet and Priest) does; yet the whole people are represented as given up to sin, like the inhabitants of Sodom of old, Lamentations 4:6; and the ו, with which Lamentations 4:6 begins, shows that the secular nobility, represented in Lamentations 4:5 as those who “fed delicately” and were “brought up in scarlet,” suffered the punishment of their own “iniquity.” If it could be shown that the book of the prophecies of Jeremiah, written by a Prophet and Priest, sought to extenuate the guilt of those two classes and to lay the blame chiefly on the secular nobility, then there might be some show for the argument that this Book of Lamentations, which lays the onus of the guilt on Prophets and Priests, was not written by Jeremiah. But the very opposite of this is true: and in Jeremiah 26:7-24, the Prophet actually represents the Princes as resisting the conspiracy of the Prophets and Priests, to put him to death. Who then would be more likely to show a preference for the Princes, to the other two orders alluded to, than Jeremiah himself? In fact, however, no such preference is shown. 3.Lamentations 4:17-19; Lamentations 4:17-19 do not and cannot describe the flight and capture of the king and his army. If it were possible to interpret them of those events, we must decide that they are anything but “graphic,” and have none of the characteristics which would mark the report of an eye-witness of those events and a participator in them. Only an author capable of the brusque personation of Jeremiah in the third chapter, by the abrupt introduction of “I am the man,” could possibly be guilty of such an awkward and preposterous absorption of the king, princes, and “all the men of war” in his own person, by tumbling them all into the narrative condensed into the single pronoun “us,” without any other announcement or the slightest intimation of the rank, character and numbers of those who now appear upon the scene. As Dr. Naegelsbach can accept the absurdity involved in the idea that Jeremiah was not the author of the third chapter, he can be pardoned for the absurdity involved in the idea, that the “us,” in Lamentations 4:17 of this chapter, means king Zedekiah and his companions in flight, including “all the men of war.” But where are the graphic features of the description, “die er so anschaulich beschreibt, dass man sich fast genöthigt sieht, ihn für einen Theilnehmer derselben zu halten,” i.e., that there is no escape from the conclusion that the writer was a participant in the scenes he describes? Where are the allusions to the facts that they escaped under cover of the “night,” “by the way of the gate between the two walls, which was by the king’s garden,” that “all the men of war” went with the king and that when the king was taken the army was “scattered from him” (2 Kings 25:3-5; Jeremiah 52:6-8)? On the other hand, here are facts inconsistent with those referred to that they were on their watch-towers, watching for help, not attempting escape, Lamentations 4:17, and that they could not go in the streets without being arrested by those who hunted their steps, Lamentations 4:18, involving the idea that the city was already in possession of the enemy,—whereas, before the enemy were actually in the city, Zedekiah and his army made a secret and unobserved escape, and were not pursued till after they had gone completely round the walls of the city from west to east and were on their way to the plains of Jericho. Finally: it should be observed that the completeness of the Poem requires us to interpret these last verses of the events that followed the capture of the king. They describe the last scene in the catastrophe, the feelings and the fate of the people, remaining in the city, when the Chaldeans took possession of it and proceeded to their work of plunder, violence and destruction. And it is written just as we would suppose Jeremiah, who was found in imprisonment by the Chaldeans, at that time, and who actually witnessed what he describes, would have written it.—W. H. H.]
[This note, appended to the introduction to the chapter by the author, has been transferred to the end of the chapter by the Translator, in order to preserve the connection unbroken.—W. H. H.]
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1.Lamentations 4:1. “If the violation of a material Temple, such as that of Jerusalem formerly was, is so sad and sorrowful a spectacle; how much more sad and sorrowful would be the violation of spiritual temples, such as the bodies of Christians? Yet they are violated by other crimes against conscience, as well as especially by fornication and murders (1 Corinthians 6:15-20). But woe to such a violator! For he in turn shall be destroyed by the just judgment of God (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).” Förster.
2.Lamentations 4:1-2. The children of Zion are here denoted as of noble extraction, and on that account compared to precious metals and precious stones, which never could become so black and vile, as to be thrown into the corners of the streets as worthless. Israel was in fact the nobility of the human race. For the heathen are nothing else than the homo communis, the ordinary natural man, without higher life-power. But Israel, as the chosen people, represented the power of the higher and eternal life, though only typically. Therefore it represents only, as it were, the lower nobility, or nobility in the lowest degree. Yet this is always a real nobility. The meanest Jew carries about with him to this day, in his crooked nose, a diploma of nobility, which elevates him above all the nobility of our modern European aristocrats, for he is thereby legitimatized as a son of Abraham. But what is this and all other kinds of nobility of the earthly highborn, compared to the nobility of those born again of Christ through the Word and Sacrament? Nothing but “dung,” as Paul decides, who in Philippians 3:8 tears his theocratic patent of nobility into shreds. For all that springs from the earth, is perishable, corruptible, subject to bondage (Galatians 4:23-25); but what comes from Heaven, is incorruptible, eternal, glorious, truly free (Galatians 4:26). Before that absolute nobility, moreover, all earthly distinctions vanish away; here is neither Jew nor Greek, here is neither bond nor free, here is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). And on this account the Apostle speaks such earnest words against those who violate their Christian nobility (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 1 Corinthians 6:14-16).
3.Lamentations 4:1-2. “We are here reminded that there is no greater happiness on earth, than when Churches and Schools are built, in which God’s pure word is preached and His worship duly and rightly observed; as on the other hand, there can be no greater evil than when all these are destroyed, wherefore Jeremiah here mourns first of all and most of all over such a destruction. And although Churches are not adorned with gold and silver, as the Temple at Jerusalem was, yet God’s word and Divine worship rightly performed are more than all silver, gold and fine gold. To which purpose David says, The words of the Lord are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times, Psalms 12:7 (3): The law of Thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver, Psalms 119:72. Therefore we should look to it, that we do not by despising the divine word forfeit such a precious treasure, as did the Jewish people; on the contrary, loving God’s word and observing diligently a pure worship and by the maintenance of pure doctrine, we should look to it, that the precious gold does not grow dim nor the fine gold lose its lustre.” Würtemb. Summarien.
4.Lamentations 4:2. “The Jews excelled in three respects: in profound and accurate knowledge of God (Psalms 147:20); secondly, in the beauty of a virtuous life (Sir 44:6); thirdly, in careful observance of a pure worship (1Ma 4:43).” Thomas Aquinas, in Ghisler., p. 176.
5.Lamentations 4:2. “Sons of Zion, to wit of that looked-for city, which the Lord hath built, that it may be seen in its glory,—sons of the supernal Jerusalem, which is free, our mother; illustrious by the dignity of their condition; clothed in the primest gold, by their likeness to God. How then have we, who have become esteemed as earthen vessels, degenerated from these [Sons of Zion] into these vile and fragile bodies!” Bernhard v. Clairv. in Ghisler., S. 177.
6. Lamentations 4:2. “Let men of noble rank regard this as said to themselves, lest, because they are likened to gold on account of the celebrity of their family, they grow proud and imperious, but rather let them be persuaded to remember, that they are in the hands of the celestial potter (Sir 33:13), who can easily transmute gold into earthen vessels, yea, and break these up into pieces (Psalms 2:9).” Förster. [Scott: “The glory of outward distinctions and privileges may soon be obscured: Sin tarnishes the beauty of the most excellent gifts; and when the Lord leaves churches or nations, their ‘glory is departed.’ But that ‘gold tried in the fire’ which Christ bestows, will never be taken from us; not can its excellency be diminished.”]
7. Lamentations 4:3-4. [Scott: “Extreme necessity has a tendency to render the heart callous and unfeeling: they who have improperly indulged their children when in prosperity, have often been most regardless of them in distress: and the human species has frequently been found more cruel and insensible, than the most ferocious and stupid of the irrational creatures.”]
8. Lamentations 4:5. “Per quod quis peccat, per idem punitur et ipse, that in which a man sins is the means of his punishment.” Förster. [Henry: “It is the wisdom of those who have abundance, not to use themselves too nicely, for then hardships, when they come, will be doubly hard, Deuteronomy 28:56.”].
9. Lamentations 4:6. “As the grace afforded us in the manifestation of the word of God is greater than that given to the inhabitants of Sodom, so is our impenitence more heinous, and severer punishment on that account is to be expected. So Christ clearly shows in Matthew 11:20-24. Verily! we should not despise this thunder-clap; for it certainly applies to us, who are richly endowed with the gospel, but do not walk consistently with it or worthily of it, but its daily invitations, inducements, and warnings are given to the wind; thus, as the Prophet Jeremiah here says, The iniquity of my people is greater than the sin of Sodom, that was suddenly overthrown.” Egid. Hunnius. “The sin of the people called of God is always the greatest, because it has most abused the revelation of God. Therefore is its punishment also worse than that of Sodom, which was suddenly destroyed, without suffering long torments from barbarous enemies. God often chastises us here longer than He does the heathen; but He does it to spare us the punishment which is eternal.” Diedrich.
10. Lamentations 4:6. “We are admonished here, that as there is disparity of punishments, so is there disparity [in the heinousness] of sins. Hence the paradox of the Stoics, who esteemed all sins equal, is shown to be false.” Förster. “The iniquity of the Jewish people was rendered greater than the sin of the inhabitants of Sodom, because the latter transgressed only the law of nature, while the former transgressed both natural and written law.” Rhabanus in Ghisler., p. 185.
11.Lamentations 4:7-8. This is an instructive example of the perishable and transient nature of all merely earthly splendor. What is there in all the beauty, wealth, and pomp of the young noblemen and their wives and daughters! Can there be a finer picture of the aristocrat’s condition than we read here in the seventh verse? Is not the difference between the common race of man and the nobly bred placed here before our eyes in the distinctest manner? Yet, it is seen from Lamentations 4:8, that if our Lord God has only hung the bread-basket above their reach, the bodies of princes make no better show than those of burghers and peasants. From which we learn that there is no essential difference between them.
12.Lamentations 4:7. “Kings and Princes, their courts and courtiers appear, now-a-days, just the same as they were long ago portrayed in David’s Psalms, in the Ecclesiastes and Proverbs of Solomon, and in the Wisdom of Sirach. What we say of them now in German, Latin, or French, is just what was said long ago in Hebrew or Syriac.” Doctor Leidemit, p. 43.
13.Lamentations 4:9. “Four principal judgments are especially enumerated by the Prophet Ezekiel in his fourteenth chapter; namely War, Famine, Pestilence, and Wild-beasts. Of these, Famine is by no means the least, but by far the greatest and most severe, so that here, in the Lamentations, it is said, That it may have been better for those killed by the sword than for those who perished through hunger. But this is not meant of hunger that happens by chance, or is the result of natural causes alone, but we must regard scarcity and starvation as God’s rod (Deuteronomy 28:23-24).” Egid. Hunnius.
14.Lamentations 4:10. If mothers cooked their children, this was an unnatural crime, only to be explained as the effects of blind madness. But had not Israel also, against its better nature, forgotten the Heavenly Father (Isaiah 1:2-4)? [Henry: “This horrid effect of long sieges had been threatened in general, Leviticus 26:29; Deuteronomy 28:53, and particularly against Jerusalem, in the siege of the Chaldeans, Jeremiah 19:9; Ezekiel 5:10. I know not whether to make it an instance of the power of necessity, or of iniquity; but as the Gentile idolaters were justly given up to vile affections, Romans 1:26, so these Jewish idolaters, and the women particularly, who had made cakes to the queen of Heaven, and taught their children to do so too, were stript of natural affection, and that to their own children. Being thus left to dishonor their own nature, was a righteous judgment on them for the dishonor they had done to God.”]
15.Lamentations 4:11. “The Lord accomplished His fury upon Jerusalem, when her wickedness was full, just as the sins of the Amorites were, when they were destroyed (Genesis 15:16) He did, indeed, pour out (effudit) the fire of His indignation, but it was only when she (Jerusalem) had abandoned herself (se diffudit) to the commission of all sorts of vices and crimes; and He devoured her foundations, when she had refused to accept the foundation, which is Christ. Truly she rejected Him, the precious, square stone, laid at the foundation of our whole structure: Who, when He saw this same unhappy Jerusalem, wept over her, saying, that in her not one stone should be left upon another (Matthew 24:2).” Paschasius in Ghisler., p. 192.
16. Lamentations 4:11. [Calvin: Prayer. “Grant, Almighty God, that as Thou showest by Thy Prophet that, after having long borne with Thine ancient people, Thy wrath at length did so far burn as to render that judgment above all others remarkable,—O grant that we may not, at this day. by our obstinacy or by our sloth, provoke Thy wrath, but be attentive to Thy threatenings, yea, and obey Thy paternal invitations, and so willingly devote ourselves to Thy service, that as Thou hast hitherto favored us with Thy blessings, so Thou mayest perpetuate them, until we shall at length enjoy the fulness of all good things in Thy celestial kingdom, through Christ our Lord. Amen.”]
17. Lamentations 4:12. “The Holy Ghost here teaches us that there is on earth no city so secure, no kingdom so powerful, no stronghold so impregnable, that it may not be destroyed by sins and unrighteousness (as by the strongest batteringrams, Cramer). On that account, to trust in strongholds is idle, and is rebuked and condemned by the Holy Ghost.” Egid. Hunnius. “The heathen princes themselves had not before this believed that such a calamity could happen to Jerusalem, for they regarded it with a certain feeling of awe, because they had an inward testimony that the true God had prepared there a place for His manifestation.” Diedrich.
18. Lamentations 4:13. “The Holy Spirit further teaches us here what a corrupt condition ensues in the whole spiritual theocracy, when those quit the right path of the only true, genuine service of God, who should most of all keep to it, namely, the teachers among the people, who should be to them those whose lips should preserve instruction, and out of their mouth should be sought the law of the Lord of Sabaoth. When they let God’s word and pure instruction slip, the people are well-nigh done for. Then follow all the preposterous things which Jeremiah here indicates by the mention of false Prophets and bloody-minded Priests.” Egid. Hunnius. [Calvin: “This passage teaches us that Satan has from the beginning polluted the sanctuary of God, by means even of sacred names; for the prophetic office was honorable—so also was the sacerdotal. God had established among His people the priesthood, which was, as it were, a living image of Christ: there was then nothing more excellent than the priesthood under the Law, if we regard the institution of God. It was also a singular blessing that God promised that His people should never be without Prophets. As then Prophets and Priests were two eyes, as it were, in the Church, the devil turned them to every kind of profanation. This example then reminds us how much we ought to watch, lest empty titles deceive us, which are nothing but masks or specters [phantoms]. When we hear the name of Church and pastors, we ought, reverently to regard the office as well as the order which has proceeded from God, provided we are not content with naked titles, but examine whether the reality also corresponds. Thus, we see that the whole world has, for many ages, degenerated from true religion; under what pretext? even this,—that those who led astray miserable souls boasted that they were the vicars of Christ, the successors of the apostles, so that they still arrogantly boast of these titles, and are inflated with them. But we see what happened in the time of Jeremiah.… Prophets and Priests had destroyed the very Church of God.”—Wordsworth: “This sin of the Priests and Prophets of Jerusalem, who conspired against Jeremiah, and slew other servants of God, reached its height when they murdered the Just One; see the words of Christ, Matthew 23:31; Matthew 23:37; and of the first martyr, Acts 7:52; and of St. Paul, 1 Thessalonians 2:15; and those of James the Just, who himself was murdered by them at Jerusalem, James 5:6.”]
19. Lamentations 4:13-15. “Thence follows the most pernicious corruption, and from that again the persecution of the really true doctrine and of its faithful followers and servants.… This is always the way and character ecclesiæ malignantium, that is to say, of the congregation and faction of malicious hypocrites, inquisitors and conspirators, that they, from perverted love for their preconceived error and prejudice, are excited and inflamed by instigation of the evil spirit with such bitter hatred against pure doctrine and its faithful defenders, that they begin to maintain their error with fist and sword, and to persecute the churches of God, and thus sprinkle themselves with the blood of the righteous, to shed which they incite others, and give them counsel and help thereto.… Further, as those priests, in Jeremiah’s time, covered over and adorned all their falsehoods and tyranny with the pretence of the succession and of the titles and names of the church, on which account they cried out against Jeremiah, Templum Dei, Templum Dei, ‘here is the Temple of the Lord, here is the temple of the Lord, here is the Temple of the Lord’ Jeremiah 7:4; and, again, Jeremiah 18:18, ‘Come, let us devise devices against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the Prophet;’ so in our day, the constant everlasting cry, with the Pope and his crowd, that they shout against us, is—Church, Church, Church! The Pope cannot err in the faith and articles of religion, for he is a successor of St. Peter, and sits in his chair. Yet the church of God is not so bound to the external succession or order but that those, who certainly were in the orderly external succession of the Levitical priesthood, established by God Himself, in Jeremiah’s time, and also in Christ’s, wandered far, far away from the truth, and those who sat in Moses’ seat, namely the Scribes and Pharisees, became the bitterest enemies of our Lord Jesus Christ and of His chosen, holy church (Matthew 28:0). What then may not happen in the case of the Pope, who can, without difficulty, prove that God in the New Testament proposes to have a Pope who shall exalt himself over all, but in fact, through St. Paul, has designated such a Primate of the Papacy as an unfailing sign of the Antichrist? (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).” Egid. Hunnius.
20. Lamentations 4:13-14. “Such to-day are the sanguinary priests of Rome, and especially the Jesuits, who wish to be esteemed priests κατ’ ἐξοχήν.… Hence those famous emblems of theirs (Jesuitæ in Censura Coloniensi, Fol. 136): ‘If Luther had been removed before his fortieth year by fire or sword, or if others were removed from the midst of us, the whole world would not be confounded by such abominable dissensions.’ In accordance with these sentiments are those of Andrew Fabricius Leodius, Counsellor of the Princes of Bavaria, in his Preface to the Harmony of Augustine’s Confessions, ‘Let our most mighty emperor gird his sword upon his thigh, and subdue these heretics, the most pernicious enemies of the Christian name. The shedding of Lutheran blood is useful, for by that means the members are preserved entire.’ ” Förster.
21.Lamentations 4:13-14. “When God has in view the purification and reformation of an ecclesiastical constitution, dependence is, least of all, to be placed on Theologians by profession, and their assistance and support, or even only their comprehension and assent. When the economy of the Old Testament came to an end, the Priests and Scribes were the bitterest enemies and persecutors of Jesus and His doctrine, the stupidest in the whole world to understand the Scriptures which testified of Him. Huss and other witnesses for the Truth, were adjudged to the funeral-pile, not by the laity, but by their own colleges and professional associates. How was it in this respect in Luther’s time? The Princes and laity were always more just, more tolerant, more easily convinced of the truth, more prepossessed in its favor, than the Bishops, the Scholars and the clergy generally.” Doctor Leidemit, p. 44.
22.Lamentations 4:15. [Henry: “They upbraided the corrupt Priests and Prophets, with their pretended purity, while they lived in all manner of real iniquity. You were so precise, you would not touch a Gentile, but cried, Depart, depart, stand by thyself, I am holier than thou, Isaiah 65:5. Thus the prosecutors of Christ would not go into the judgment-hall, lest they should be defiled. But can you now keep the Gentiles from touching you, when God has delivered you into their hands? When you fly away and wander,… these serpents will not be charmed or enchanted … no, they will not respect the persons of the priests, nor favor the elders.”—Scott; “The wickedness of those who are by office engaged to support religion, and yet betrary her interests, is the great cause of national judgments, and of the ruin of flourishing churches: especially when they have shed the blood of the just in the midst of them. They who have thus polluted their garments, have commonly been recompensed in the same way; and rendered an execration even to the vilest of mankind.”]
23.Lamentations 4:17. “Hence appears the truth of David’s apothegms in Psalms 118:8-9; Psalms 146:3-4; with which accords Jeremiah 17:5; as well as the Son of Sir 6:7-9, where, on the margin, Luther wrote these beautiful rhymes,
Freunde in der Noth
Gehen 25 auf ein Loth.
Sollt’s ein harter Stand sein,
Gehen 50 auf ein Quintlein.” Förster.
“Pious people should, according to this, avoid putting their trust in men, as a great sin and a species of idolatry, and all the more because all such trust in men leads us into danger, finally disappoints us and covers us with shame. For men either wish not to help us, or when they are willing they cannot, or when they promise it, they do not keep their promise, for their very nature is vanity. Hence David takes occasion to dissuade us from trusting in men or gazing after them, when he says in Psalms 62:0, Men are only vanity; men of high degree are wanting, they weigh less than nothing, whatever they may be.” Egid. Hunnius.
24.Lamentations 4:18. “Here occurs a proof text concerning the fatal end and period of affairs, which is decreed, as our text bears witness, to cities and nations,—nay to all things in the universe (Ecclesiastes 3:0, Sir 14:20), but above all to individual men (Job 14:0, Psalms 139:16). That end depends indeed on the foreknowledge of God, but not simply and absolutely on that foreknowledge, but as that foreknowledge is directed with regard to second causes, especially with reference to piety and impiety, as is attested both by the promises of God, such as that added to the fourth [fifth] commandment (Ephesians 6:2-3), and by His threatenings, Ps. 55:24 (23). Hence it appears, that the end of human life is not so definitely ordained as by fate, because it can be prolonged by the practice of piety, and shortened by the practice of impiety.” Förster.
25.Lamentations 4:19. [Calvin: “When the hand of God is against us, we in vain look around in all directions, for there will be no safety for us on mountains, nor will solitude protect us in the desert. As, then, we see that the Jews were closed up by God’s hand, so when we contend with Him, we in vain turn our eyes here and there; for, however, we may for a time entertain good hopes, yet God will surely at last disappoint us.”]
26. Lamentations 4:20. In the Sept. the verse reads: The Spirit of our countenance, Christ the Lord was taken in their destruction (συνελήφδη ’εν ταῖς διαφδοραῖς), of whom we said, In his shadow will we dwell among the nations. Jerome translates, The Spirit of our mouth, Christ the Lord, was taken in our sins, to whom we said, In thy shadow will we dwell among the nations. It is, therefore, not to be wondered at that this passage was regarded by the ancients generally as one of the most decided Messianic prophecies. “This text,” says Ghisler., “was very frequently quoted by the early Fathers, and was interpreted by their common consent of Christ the Son of God.” A collection of the various patristical expositions may be found in Ghisler. They make chiefly a threefold use of the text. 1. Tertullian proves from it against Praxeas (cap. 14), that the Father could in no sense have been a facies [form or manifestation] of the Son, but, on the contrary, the Son was a facies [manifestation] of the Father. 2. They recognize in this passage a clear prediction of the sufferings of Christ. Thus, for example, Theodoret says, “Let the Jews say, Whom does the word of prophecy call Christ? Who of those called Christs by them, whether king, or prophet, or priest, has been named Lord (κύριος)? But they could not point to such an instance, although they made use of much falsehood. It is evident, therefore, that the Prophet foretold as the Saviour and our Lord (κύριον), Him who has been taken by them through the destruction of their impiety.” [Theodoret adapts his language to that of the Septuagint (see above), συλληφδέντα παρ αὐτῶν διὰ τὴν τῆς .—W. H. H.] 3. But they find also the calling of the Gentiles predicted in this text. Origen, particularly, says this (Hom. on Song of Solomon 2:3) with reference to Luke 1:35, “If, therefore, the overshadowing of the Most High attended the conception of His (Christ’s) body, it is reasonable that His shadow shall give life to the Gentiles.”
27. Lamentations 4:20. “The question arises, how could these titles (Messiah, breath of the people’s nostrils, shadow), apply to the wicked king Zedekiah? They apply to him, not by reason of his personal character, but 1st, by reason of his office, which ought to have been, and was expected by the Hebrews to be what these titles import. 2d. By reason of the Antitype, of whom David, with his posterity, in his kingly office was a type. But who is this Antitype? Our Lord Jesus Christ, the son of David according to the flesh (2 Timothy 2:0, Romans 1:0), that anointed one of the Lord (Luke 2:26), whose breath is in His nostrils (Isaiah 2:22), and who is our shadow against the heat of God’s wrath (Isaiah 25:4), and to whom the Lord God gave the throne of His Father David (Luke 1:32-33). Magistrates are here admonished both of the authority and the functions of their office. They, too, can be called by that name of authority—the anointed of the Lord. And the functions of their office are, that they may be, by their counsel and efficient aid, the breath of the nostrils,—and such a shadow as that prefigured in the tree in Daniel 4:7-9 (10–12).” Förster.
28. Lamentations 4:21. “Here is a proof-text concerning ἐπιχαιρεκακίᾳ, rejoicing in the misfortunes of others, from which crime Christians, of all men, should be furthest removed. For those who delight in the misfortunes of others, stripped of all humanity, no longer imitate the tastes and dispositions of mankind, but those of the devil.” Förster.—Cup. Förster remarks here that the figure of a cup is used metaphorically in three ways. 1. Cup denotes the misfortune of the righteous as well as that of the ungodly, Psalms 75:2. It denotes the good or bad fortune of the righteous, Psalms 116:0; Matthew 23:39; Matthew 23:39; Mark 10:38; John 18:11. John 18:3. It denotes the misfortune of the ungodly, Isaiah 51:17; Isaiah 51:22; Jeremiah 25:15; Lamentations 4:21; Ezekiel 23:31; Habakkuk 2:16; Revelation 14:10; Revelation 16:19.
29. Lamentations 4:21. “We learn from this that God has filled their certain measure of trouble for all men, and He lets the cup pass round and no one is overlooked, as it is written in Psalms 75:0, The Lord has a cup in His hand and fills it full of strong wine, and pours out from the same, but the ungodly must drink up the dregs. That is, the pious must also drink of the cup of wormwood, sorrow and pain. But Christ has presented for them the foretasted cup of such a bitter, sour potion, and with the wood of His cross has made sweet and tolerable for His own to drink the bitter waters of Mara, as is beautifully and figuratively represented in Ez. 15:23–25. But the ungodly must at last taste the lees and dregs of God’s wrath, which potion constitutes their final and utter ruin.” Egid Hunnius.
30. Lamentations 4:22. He will no more carry thee away into captivity. “Here it is, indeed, averred, that the Lord would not after this again cause the people to remove from the land, which certainly seems to conflict with the prolonged exile which the Jews at this day are enduring. But the answer is easy and obvious, from the rule commonly accepted by Theologians: All God’s promises are to be understood as having the condition of penitence annexed to them.” Förster.
31.Lamentations 4:21-22. “Zion’s punishment will sometime have an end, because God in spite of all His judgments upon His people, will yet fulfil His kingdom; the punishment of Edom, on the contrary, and of all maliciously disposed worldly powers, is eternal and without hope. Heathendom, as such, cannot be regenerated, notwithstanding all God’s judgments; it can only perish, because it has not God’s word. But the greater is God’s punishment of His people, the more sure is His plan for their salvation. That same Christ, who said, ‘Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me,’ and sweat blood, yet most certainly was and continued of His own accord and by His own act in the bitterest agony of death and in the deepest humiliation, and He has brought to light our eternal victory, for as many of us as abide in faith on His word, however helpless at present we may be in ourselves. Christ is our life and our strength.” Diedrich.
32.Lamentations 4:22. [Calvin: Prayer. “Grant, Almighty God, that as Thou seest that at this day the mouths not only of our enemies, but of Thine also, are open to speak evil,—O grant that no occasion may be given them, especially as their slanders are cast on Thy holy name; but restrain Thou their insolence, and so spare us, that though we deserve to be chastised, Thou mayest yet nave regard for Thine own glory, and thus gather us under Christ our Head, and restore Thy scattered Church, until we shall at length be all gathered into that celestial kingdom, which Thine only-begotten Son our Lord has procured for us by His own blood. Amen.”]
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
1.Lamentations 4:1-6. The destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans an example of God’s great and impartial righteousness. 1. Israel was among the nations, what gold is among the metals and precious stones are among minerals, Lamentations 4:1; Lamentations 2:2. But the sin of Israel was greater than the sin of Sodom, Lamentations 4:6. Lamentations 4:3. Therefore the punishment of Israel was severer than that of Sodom, Lamentations 4:3-5.
2.Lamentations 4:7-11. The relation of spiritual hunger to physical. 1. The relation as it should be. a. Both are sanctioned, Matthew 6:11; Mat 6:32; 1 Timothy 6:8. b. But spiritual exigency should have the preference. Matthew 6:33; Matthew 4:4; Matthew 16:5-12; John 6:27; John 6:32-35. John 6:2. The relation as it should not be, Luke 16:19-31. Luke 16:3. The consequences of the perversion of the right relation, a. With regard to physical hunger, Lamentations 4:7-11. b. With regard to spiritual hunger, Amos 8:11-12; Revelation 2:5.
3.Lamentations 4:12-16. The warning, which John Baptist gave to the Jews, Begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our Father (Luke 3:8), concerns all persons and communities, in this day, who believe that they are assured of their Divine vocation. How well grounded this warning was, could be shown at that time by a reference to the first destruction of Jerusalem. Let us avail ourselves of the same fact in order to impress the solemn truth, that no Divine vocation can save us from eventual destruction. For, 1. Israel’s vocation was (a) attested by the promises given to the Patriarchs; (b), confirmed by many proofs of actual Divine interposition in their behalf: (c), recognized even by the heathen. 2. This vocation was not unconditional, as carnal Israel imagined. 3. The non-fulfilment of the conditions, for which the Priests and Prophets were chiefly guilty, ensured as a consequence the judgment of the first destruction. Conclusion: What befell Israel, the natural olive tree, may much more readily befall that which is only an engrafted branch (Romans 11:12) of the same.
4.Lamentations 4:12-16. The great responsibility of those possessed of spiritual authority. 1. The duty is imposed upon them, of directing the people by word and example to keep the conditions on which the Divine promises have been given. 2. To them belongs the guilt, if by their neglect, the people find the curse instead of the blessing.
5.Lamentations 4:17-19. Human help is useless. For, 1. It, is by itself, impotent. 2. Those who depend upon it, (a), experience the pain of disappointed expectation; (b), they come to a terrible end.
6. Lamentations 4:20. The reciprocal duties of rulers and subjects. 1. The duties which subjects owe to their rulers. It is to be observed, that the Prophet, “in this text confers an honorable title on the ungodly king Zedekiah, that he calls him the Anointed of the Lord, and here a beautiful lesson is taught us, with what respect we should regard and speak of our superiors and rulers, and honor in them the office, which God has conferred upon them, even if in personal character they are wicked and ungodly.” 2. The duties which rulers owe to their subjects. Let them remember that their “office, in the words of the Prophet should be, next to God and under God, a refuge under whose shadow their poor subjects may live.” Egid. Hunnius
7. Lamentations 4:21-22. The reciprocal relation of those who suffer and those who take pleasure in the sufferings of others. 1. That one, who first has suffering, will afterwards have joy, if he bear his suffering in the right way. 2. That one, who first has malicious pleasure in the sufferings of others, will at last have sufferings himself, (a), because he has calumniated God by the presumption that He was not influenced by love in His punishments; (b), because he has been destitute of love to his neighbor and thereby has provoked against himself the sentence of retaliation (Mark 4:24).
8. Lamentations 4:22. [Henry: “1. An end shall be put to Zion’s troubles. The punishment of thine iniquity is accomplished, O daughter of Zion. The troubles of God’s people shall be continued no longer, than till they have done the work for which they were sent. 2. An end shall be put to Edom’s triumphs. He will visit thine iniquity, O daughter of Edom. It is spoken ironically in Lamentations 4:21, Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom. This is a good reason why we should not insult over any who are in misery, because we ourselves also are in the body. But those who please themselves in the calamities of God’s church, must expect to have their doom, as aiders and abettors, with them that are instrumental in those calamities. Sooner or later, sin will be visited and discovered.”]
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Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Lamentations 4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/
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