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THE GENERAL DISTRESS, Lamentations 5:1-7.
1. What is come Better, what hath happened to us. This is more fully explained by the term reproach; and this, in turn, by the sad recital which follows.
2. Our inheritance… to strangers This has a woful meaning to the Jew. The land was to him the special gift of God, and his occupation of it a visible proof of the faithful covenant of Jehovah. For aliens, then, to gain possession of their inheritance and their houses was violently to annul this covenant, and so to take away their faith as well as their possessions.
3. Fatherless Without a father. Many expositors find here a specific meaning, and understand by the term father, king; and others understand by mothers, the cities of Judah. But this is unnecessary, not to say puerile.
The meaning simply is: We are desolate and bereaved, like children without parents, or a wife mourning the loss of her husband.
4. Our water for money, etc. These are illustrations of the hardships they were experiencing. Such absolute necessities of life could be had by them only on the payment of money. And what greatly enhanced the bitterness of this complaint was, that they had to buy what was rightfully their own. In this not only is there distress and hardship, but a sense of degradation and wrong.
5. Our necks are under persecution, etc. More literally, On our necks we are persecuted. That is, our pursuers follow us so closely as to be on our very necks.
We labour Rather, are wearied, a necessary consequence of this hot and relentless pursuit.
6. We have given the hand Namely, as a sign of submission and subjection, in order to procure bread.
7. Our fathers… we have borne their iniquities They sinned, but died before the times were ripe for the punishment of the nation, hence we suffer for their sins. Not that they themselves were innocent, but they suffer not only for their own sins but also for those of their progenitors.
INDIVIDUALIZING ILLUSTRATIONS, Lamentations 5:8-18.
8. Servants (slaves) have ruled over us Who were these “servants?” The Chaldean soldiers, servants of Nebuchadrezzar, (Rosenmuller, etc.;) the Chaldeans, but recently tributary to the Assyrians, (Kaltschmidt, quoted by Keil,) the Chaldean satraps, servants of the king of Babylon, (Ewald;) slaves employed as overseers and task-masters of the captives on the march, (Nagelsbach.) Better is it to recognise in the word a bitter allusion to the fact that in oriental countries, at this time, it was not unusual for slaves to come to high office, as is illustrated in the cases of Joseph and Daniel. In a rude and comparatively unorganized condition of society personal skill and physical prowess sometimes overbear all other considerations, and bring their possessors to places of power.
9. Sword of the wilderness This alludes to the predatory Bedouins, who sometimes strip a whole district of its herds and its harvests in a single day.
10. Our skin was black The word rendered “black” occurs in three other passages, namely, in Genesis 43:30, and 1 Kings 3:26, in both which places it is translated “yearned;” and in Hosea 11:8, where it is rendered “kindled.” The use of the word oven, or furnace, seems decisive for this last sense in this place; though Furst says, “The explanation of Kimchi, ‘to grow warm,’ is only conjectural.” The allusion is to the fever produced by famine, and the clause should read, Our skin glows like an oven, because of the fever of famine.
11-13. Ravished the women In those verses we have individualizing illustrations of the unhappy lot of the people. The women are dishonoured, (literally, humbled;) princes are put to death and their dead bodies hanged up by their hand to expose them to public contumely.
The… elders were not honoured An utter violation of all that is most sacred in oriental life; and young men and children are put to the most servile work, literally, they bear the mill and fall under the wood.
14. From the gate The place for rest and recreation, for business and social converse. In a land in which there were no public houses or public baths the gates were ordinarily the only available places of common resort.
16. The crown is fallen The grand summing up of all their disgrace and misery.
18. The foxes walk upon it Jackals, who live among ruins and shun the presence of man. Hence there is in this a vivid suggestion of the utter desolation which had come to “Zion, the perfection of beauty.”
THE PRAYER, Lamentations 5:19-22.
19. Thou… remainest for ever Nothing could be more fitting or more impressive than this pathetic appeal to the immutable sovereignty of Jehovah. Men may die, institutions may fail, kingdoms may come to a perpetual end, but the resources of God are unfailing. His throne standeth forever, from generation to generation. And if God lives his people cannot die. If the head is above the water the body cannot be drowned.
“Under the shadow of his throne,
Still may we dwell secure.”
He who sitteth eternally enthroned will not forget for ever his own people. And yet this hope and confidence does not “rise to the heights of joyful victory, but, as Gerlach expresses himself, ‘merely glimmers from afar, like the morning star through the clouds, which does not, indeed, itself dispel the shadows of the night, though it announces that the rising of the sun is near, and that it shall obtain the victory.’ ” Keil.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Lamentations 5". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13