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Bible Commentaries
Lamentations 4

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 3416. B.C. 588.

In this chapter,

(1,) The prophet contrasts, in various affecting instances, the wretched and deplorable circumstances of the Jewish nation, with the flourishing state of their affairs in former times, 1-12.

(2,) He ascribes the unhappy change principally to the profligacy of their priests and prophets, which had drawn upon them the universal abhorrence of God and Man 1:13-15 .

(3,) The people proceed with lamenting their hopeless condition, and, in a particular manner, the captivity of their sovereign, 17-20.

(4,) The judgment of Edom is foretold, together with a final cessation of Zion’s calamities, 21, 22.

Verses 1-2

Lamentations 4:1-2. How is the gold become dim “How is the glory of the temple obscured! The sanctuary, which was overlaid with gold, (2 Chronicles 3:8,) now lies in ruins; and the stones of it are not distinguished from common rubbish. It is probable that the prophet, in these words, alluded to the priests, princes, and chief persons of the country, who, though they might have been compared to the pillars, or corner-stones of that sacred building, yet were now involved in the same common destruction with the meanest of the people. The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold Those that in honour and worth exceeded others as much as fine gold doth other metals, are now disgraced and set at naught.

Verses 3-5

Lamentations 4:3-5. Even the sea-monsters draw out the breast The very dragons have drawn out the breast: so Blaney. Even these fierce and destructive animals are not so unnatural as to neglect the care of their young ones; whereas the women of Jerusalem have been reduced to that miserable necessity as to disregard their children, as the ostrich does her eggs. The tongue of the sucking child, &c. Such was the scarcity of food, that the women had not nourishment sufficient to produce milk to enable them to give suck to their infants, and when the children begged for bread the parents had none to give them. They that did feed delicately embrace dunghills Lie down on dunghills, and seek about them in hopes to pick up something to eat.

Verse 6

Lamentations 4:6. For the punishment, &c., is greater than the punishment of Sodom The fate of Sodom was less deplorable than that of Jerusalem; for Sodom was destroyed in an instant; but Jerusalem endured a long siege, and suffered all the miseries of famine, sickness, and hostile arms. In Sodom all were destroyed together, and none left to mourn in bitterness of soul the sad loss of their dearest friends; in Jerusalem many survived to mourn the deplorable fate of their friends and country, and to suffer the ignominy and miseries of captivity. The original of the last clause, ידים לא חלו בה , is rendered by the LXX., και ουκ επονεσαν εν αυτη

χειρας , they did not cause hands to labour, or be weary, in her: and by Blaney, nor were hands weakened in her.

Verses 7-9

Lamentations 4:7-9. Her Nazarites were purer than snow It seems the word, נזיריה , ought not to be translated here Nazarites, or those who were separated by a vow to God; but princes, or chief men: so Waterland understands the word, as also Blaney, who renders it, her nobles. We find the same term applied to Joseph, as one separated, or distinguished in eminence and dignity above his brethren, Genesis 49:26. By being purer than snow, and whiter than milk, seems to be intended the whiteness of their skin, or the fairness of their complexion; and by their being more ruddy in body than rubies, or brighter than pearls, as אדמו מפנינים , may be rendered, their high state of health may be meant. Their visage is blacker than a coal The famine, and other hardships which they have endured, have altered their complexion, and made them look dry and withered. They that be slain with the sword are better, &c. That is, their case is preferable to that of those slain with hunger; for these pine away, &c. That is, they waste away and perish by slow degrees, and, before they quite expire, suffer great misery. Stricken through for want of the fruits of the field Pierced with far more exquisite pain through want of sustenance, than if they had been run through with the sword.

Verses 10-11

Lamentations 4:10-11. The hands of the pitiful women have sodden their own children The affection of a mother toward her children is the strongest of all natural affections, and yet the famine hath forced that tender sex to divest themselves of it, and to boil and eat their own children. Thus was the prophecy of Moses, Deuteronomy 28:53; Deuteronomy 28:57, most awfully fulfilled; where see the notes, and on chap. Lamentations 2:20. The Lord hath accomplished his fury, &c. God’s anger hath effected an entire destruction, so as not to leave one stone upon another.

Verse 12

Lamentations 4:12. The kings of the earth, &c., would not have believed “The city was so well fortified, and had been so often miraculously preserved by God from the attempts of its enemies, that it seemed incredible that it should at last fall into their hands.” Lowth.

Verse 13

Lamentations 4:13. For the sins of her prophets, &c. That is, of the false prophets, to whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem chiefly hearkened; and the iniquities of her priests Who bore rule by their means, Jeremiah 5:31; and instead of discountenancing and reproving sin in the people, as was their indispensable duty, were themselves guilty of many flagrant acts of injustice, oppression, and violence; insomuch that, as is here attested, they even shed the blood of the just in the midst of Jerusalem, the holy city; that is, the blood of God’s prophets, and of those that adhered to them. The priests and false prophets were then the ringleaders in persecution, as in Christ’s time the chief priests and scribes were the men that incensed the people against him, who otherwise would have persisted in their hosannas. This was the sin which the Lord would not pardon, (2 Kings 24:4,) and which, above all others, brought utter destruction upon that city. Not that the people were innocent; no, while the prophets prophesied falsely, and the priests abused the power which their own office and the doctrine of these prophets gave them, the people loved to have it so, and it was, partly at least, to please many of them that the prophets and priests acted as they did. But the blame is chiefly laid upon them who should have taught the people better, should have reproved and admonished them, and told them what would be the end of such conduct: of the hands, therefore, of those watchmen who did not give them warning was their blood required. Indeed, the ecclesiastical men were the chief cause of both the first and last destruction of Jerusalem. And so they are of the destruction of most other places that come to ruin through their neglect of their duty, or their encouraging others in their wicked courses; which shows us both how great a blessing to a people a godly, conscientious ministry is, and how great an evil a ministry is which is otherwise.

Verses 14-16

Lamentations 4:14-16. They have wandered as blind men in the streets They strayed from the paths of righteousness, and were blind to every thing that was good, but to do evil they were quick-sighted; they have polluted themselves with blood The blood of the saints and servants of the Lord; so that men could not touch their garments But they would be legally polluted; and there were so many of them, that a man could not walk in the streets but he must touch some of them. They cried unto them, Depart ye: it is unclean Or, ye polluted, depart, &c. “When they fled to save their lives, they could find no safe retreat, but every body shunned and avoided them as polluted; and used the same words to express their abhorrence of this defilement of such persons, whose office it was to cleanse and purify others, as the lepers were by the law obliged to pronounce upon themselves, and cry, Unclean, unclean: see Leviticus 13:45. The bloody garments of the priests called to remembrance the innocent blood which had been shed by their means, (Lamentations 4:13,) when people saw their sin thus retaliated upon them.” Lowth. They said among the heathen, They shall no more sojourn there Even the heathen themselves looked upon them as polluted persons, unworthy of living in Judea, or attending on the worship of God in his temple. And they concluded that such impious wretches would never be restored to their native country, but would continue always vagabonds. The anger of the Lord hath divided them “God, in his just displeasure, hath scattered and dispersed them into foreign countries, where no respect will be given to their characters.” This seems to be the language of their enemies, triumphing over them, as discerning that their God was provoked with them, and would have no more regard to them. And therefore these heathen no more respected the persons of their priests or elders, but considered them as peculiarly guilty, and deserving of their abhorrence and execration.

Verse 17

Lamentations 4:17. As for us, &c. The prophet, after having digressed in the last five verses to make observation on the wickedness of those who had been the principal cause of the national ruin, here returns again to the lamentable description of the particulars. Our eyes as yet failed for our vain help The help of the Egyptians, which they had expected in vain. In our watching we have watched We have long waited with eager desire and expectation; for a nation that could not save us For succours from a people who at last have wofully disappointed us.

Verses 18-20

Lamentations 4:18-20. They hunt our steps that we cannot go in our streets The Chaldeans, employed in the siege, are so close upon us, that we cannot stir a foot, nor look out at our doors, nor walk safely in the streets. Our end is near The end of our church and state; we are just at the brink of the ruin of both. Nay, our days are fulfilled, our end is come We are utterly undone; a fatal, final period is put to all our comforts; the days of our prosperity are fulfilled, they are numbered and finished. Our persecutors are swifter than the eagles God has brought upon us that judgment which he threatened by Moses, of bringing a nation against us as swift as the eagle flieth, Deuteronomy 28:49. Such were the horsemen of the Chaldean army. We could nowhere escape them, neither by fleeing to the mountains, nor by hiding ourselves in the valleys. The wilderness is in other places put for the lower, or pasture grounds. The breath of our nostrils, the anointed of the Lord, &c. Our king, who was the very life of us; was taken in their pits In those toils his enemies had laid for him. Some have supposed that the prophet speaks this of Josiah, but it seems more probable that Zedekiah is meant, and his being taken prisoner and led into captivity is here alluded to. Of whom we said, Under his shadow we shall live among the heathen As long as he was safe, we had some hopes of being protected, and of preserving some face of government, although we were carried away into a foreign country. The protection a king affords his subjects is often, in Scripture, compared to the shelter of a great tree, which is a covert against storms and tempests: see Ezekiel 17:23; Ezekiel 31:6; Daniel 4:12.

Verses 21-22

Lamentations 4:21-22. Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom A sarcastical expression, as if the prophet had said, Rejoice while thou mayest, O Edom, over the calamities of the Jews; but thy joy shall not last long, for in a little time it shall come to thy turn to feel God’s afflicting hand; the cup of affliction shall pass unto thee: see Jeremiah 49:7, &c. The punishment of thine iniquity is accomplished, O daughter of Zion, &c. It was usual for the prophets, when they denounced God’s judgments against any heathen nation, at the same time to give gracious promises to Israel; thereby importing that God would never cast off the Jewish people utterly, as he did other nations, but would in due time extend his mercy toward them. He Namely, God; will no more carry thee away Or, rather, suffer thee to be carried; into captivity “These and such like expressions, if they be understood in a strict, literal sense, must relate to the final restoration of the Jews.” Lowth. He will discover thy sins He will manifest how great thine iniquities have been, by the remarkable judgments wherewith he will punish thee.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Lamentations 4". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/lamentations-4.html. 1857.
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