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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Lamentations 4

 

 


Verse 1

How is the gold become dim! how is the most fine gold changed! the stones of the sanctuary are poured out in the top of every street.

['Aleph (')]

How is the gold become dim - "the gold," the splendid adornment of the temple (Calvin; Lamentations 1:10; 1 Kings 6:22, "The whole house he (Solomon) overlaid with gold ... also the whole altar;" Jeremiah 52:19); or, the principal men of Judea (Grotius; 5: 2).

The stones of ... sanctuary - the gems on the breastplate of the high priest; or, metaphorically, the priests and Levites.

[Beth (b)]


Verse 2

The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold, how are they esteemed as earthen pitchers, the work of the hands of the potter! The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold - (Job 28:16; Job 28:19). How are they esteemed as earthen pitchers - (Isaiah 30:14, "as the breaking of a potter's vessel that is broken in pieces," fulfilling the prophecy in Jeremiah 19:11).

[Gimel (g)]


Verse 3

Even the sea monsters draw out the breast, they give suck to their young ones: the daughter of my people is become cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness.

Even the sea monsters draw out the breast. Whales and other cetaceous monsters, are mammalian. Even they suckle their young; but the Jewish women in the siege, so desperate was their misery, ate theirs (Lamentations 4:10; Lamentations 2:20). Others translate, 'jackals.'

Ostriches - see note, Job 39:14; Job 39:16, on their forsaking their young. [Daleth (d)]


Verse 4

The tongue of the sucking child cleaveth to the roof of his mouth for thirst: the young children ask bread, and no man breaketh it unto them.

The tongue of the sucking child cleaveth to the roof of his mouth for thirst. The mothers have no milk to give, through the famine.

[He (h)]


Verse 5

They that did feed delicately are desolate in the streets: they that were brought up in scarlet embrace dunghills.

They that did feed delicately - on dainties. Are desolate - or, perish.

They that were brought up in scarlet embrace dunghills. Instead of the scarlet couches on which the grandees were nursed, they must lie on dunghills. "Embrace;" they who once shrank sensitively from any soil, gladly cling close to heaps of filth as their only resting-place. Compare "embrace the rock," Job 24:8.

[Waw (w)]


Verse 6

For 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.

The punishment of the iniquity of the daughter of my people is greater than the punishment of the sin of Sodom - (cf. Christ's denunciation of Capernaum, "If the mighty works which have been done in thee had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day," Matthew 11:23). No prophets had been sent to Sodom, as there had been to Judea; therefore the punishment of the latter was heavier than that of the former. Overthrown as in a moment - whereas the Jews had to endure the protracted and manifold hardships of a siege. No hands stayed on her - no hostile force, as the Chaldeans, in the case of Jerusalem, continually pressed on her before her overthrow. Jeremiah thus shows the greater severity of Jerusalem's punishment than that of Sodom. [Zayin (z)]


Verse 7

Her Nazarites were purer than snow, they were whiter than milk, they were more ruddy in body than rubies, their polishing was of sapphire:

Her Nazarites - literally, separated ones (Numbers 6:1-27.) They were held once in the highest estimation, but now they are degraded. God's blessing formerly caused their body not to be the less fair and ruddy for their abstinence from strong drink. Compare the similar case of Daniel, etc. (Daniel 1:8-15.) Also David (1 Samuel 16:12; 1 Samuel 17:42). Type of Messiah (Song of Solomon 5:10).

Rubies. Gesenius translates [mip


Verse 8

Their visage is blacker than a coal; they are not known in the streets: their skin cleaveth to their bones; it is withered, it is become like a stick. Their visage is blacker than a coal - or, 'than blackness' itself (Joel 2:6; Nahum 2:10).

Like a stick - as withered as a dry stick. [Teth (T)]


Verse 9

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.

They that be slain with the sword are better than they that be slain with hunger. The speedy death by the sword is better than the lingering death by famine.

For these pine away - literally, flow out; referring to the flow of blood. This expression, and "stricken through," are drawn from death by "the sword," to imply that famine is the sword by which their blood flows out, they being "stricken through" with the sharp hunger-pain.

For want of the fruits. The words in italics have to be supplied in the original (Genesis 18:28; Psalms 109:24). [Yodh (y)]


Verse 10

The hands of the pitiful women have sodden their own children: they were their meat in the destruction of the daughter of my people. The hands of the pitiful women have sodden their own children - (Lamentations 2:20; Deuteronomy 28:56-57).

Pitiful - naturally at other times compassionate (Isaiah 49:15). Josephus describes the unnatural act as it took place in the siege under Titus.

Sodden - boiled. [Kaph (k)]


Verse 11

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. A fire in Zion ... hath devoured the foundations - (Deuteronomy 32:22; Jeremiah 21:14). A most rare event. Fire usually consumes only the surface; but this reached even to the foundation, cutting off all hope of restoration. [Lamedh (l)]


Verse 12

The 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 Jerusalem.

The kings ... and all the inhabitants of the world, would not have believed that the adversary ... should have entered into the gates of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was so fortified that all thought it impregnable. It therefore could only have been the hand of God, not the force of man, which overthrew it.

[Mem (m)]


Verse 13

For the sins of her prophets, and the iniquities of her priests, that have shed the blood of the just in the midst of her,

For the sins of her prophets - the false prophets (Jeremiah 23:11; Jeremiah 23:21). Supply the sense thus: 'For the sins of her prophets, etc., these calamities have befallen her.'

Have shed the blood of the just - (Matthew 23:31; Matthew 23:37). This received its full fulfillment in the slaying of Messiah the Just One, and the Jews' consequent dispersion (James 5:6).

[Nun (n)]


Verse 14

They have wandered as blind men in the streets, they have polluted themselves with blood, so that men could not touch their garments.

They have wandered as blind - with mental aberration. They have polluted themselves with blood - both with blood of one another mutually shed-for instance, with "the blood ... of the poor innocents" slain to Moloch (Jeremiah 2:34) - and with their blood shed by the enemy (Glassius). So that men could not touch their garments - as being defiled with blood (Numbers 19:16).

[Samech (c)]


Verse 15

They cried unto them, Depart ye; it is unclean; depart, depart, touch not: when they fled away and wandered, they said among the heathen, They shall no more sojourn there.

They cried unto them, Depart ye; it is unclean. "They" - i:e., "men" (Lamentations 4:14), even the very Gentiles, regarded as unclean by the Jews, who were ordered most religiously to avoid all defilements, cried unto the latter, "depart," as being "unclean;" so universal was the defilement of the city by blood.

They ... wandered - as the false prophets and their followers had "wandered, blind" with infatuated and idolatrous crime, in the city (Lamentations 4:14), so they must now 'wander' among the pagan with blind consternation with calamity. They said among the heathen - i:e., the Gentiles said, among the pagan, 'The Jews shall no more sojourn in their own land' (Grotius); or, wheresoever they go in their wandering exile, 'they shall not stay long' (Ludovicus de Dieu). (Deuteronomy 28:65.)

[Pe (p)] `Ayin and Pe are here transposed, as in Lamentations 2:16-17; Lamentations 3:46-51.


Verse 16

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.

The anger - literally, the face of the Lord. It is the countenance which, by its expression, manifests anger (Psalms 34:16). Gesenius translates, 'the person of Yahweh;' Yahweh present, Yahweh Himself (Exodus 33:14, "my presence;" 2 Samuel 17:11).

Hath divided them - dispersed the Jews. They respected not ... the priests. This is the language of the Gentiles, 'The Jews have no hope of a return; for they respected not the persons of even good priests' (2 Chronicles 24:19-22). (Grotius.) Maurer explains it, 'They (the victorious foe) regard not the (Jewish) priests when imploring their pity' (Lamentations 5:12). The evident antithesis to "as for us" (Lamentations 4:17), and the language of "the pagan" at the close of Lamentations 4:15, of which Lamentations 4:16 is the continuation, favour the former view. There is also a righteous retribution in kind expressed by the antithetical repetition of the same Hebrew word [ p


Verse 17

As for us, our eyes as yet failed for our vain help: in our watching we have watched for a nation that could not save us.

As for us, our eyes as yet failed - or, rather, 'fail.' This translation forms the best antithesis to the language of the pagan (Lamentations 4:15-16). Calvin translates, 'While as yet we stood as a state, our eyes failed,' etc. But Lamentations 4:18 shows that it is not past, but present evils which cause their eyes to fail. Explain, therefore, as above, As yet our eyes fail (in looking) for our vain help - i:e., in looking to a people for help whose help is vain, who cannot help us (Isaiah 30:7, "The Egyptians shall help in vain, and to no purpose").

We have watched for a nation that could not save us - Egypt. Not only did the Jews look in vain for help to the King of Egypt before the destruction of Jerusalem, when, after having for a brief respite made a diversion in their favour against the besieging army of Nebuchadnezzar, "he afterward came not again anymore out of his land" (2 Kings 24:7; Jeremiah 37:5-11); but also after its destruction they were even now "as yet" watching for that "nation that could not help." Johanan, in spite of Jeremiah's warning from the Lord, led the remnant of the Jews to Egypt. Thus, "In our watching we have watched" (i:e., we have been watching, and are watching), alludes to the hopes from Egypt which they still clung to with a desperate tenacity.

[Tsaddiy (ts)]


Verse 18

They hunt our steps, that we cannot go in our streets: our end is near, our days are fulfilled; for our end is come.

They hunt our steps - the Chaldeans do so. We cannot go in our streets - without danger. [Qoph (q)]


Verse 19

Our persecutors are swifter than the eagles of the heaven: they pursued us upon the mountains, they laid wait for us in the wilderness.

Our persecutors are swifter than eagles. The last times are here described, just before the taking of the city. Our persecutors are swifter than eagles. The last times are here described, just before the taking of the city. There was no place of escape; the foe intercepted those wishing to escape from the famine-stricken city, "on the mountains and in the wilderness."

Swifter than ... eagles - the Chaldean cavalry (Jeremiah 4:13). They pursued us - literally, to be hot; then to pursue hotly (Genesis 31:36). Thus they pursued and overtook Zedekiah (Jeremiah 52:8-9).

[Resh (r)]


Verse 20

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.

The breath of our nostrils, the anointed of the Lord, was taken - our king, with whose life ours was bound up. The original reference seems to have been to Josiah (2 Chronicles 35:25), killed in battle with Pharaoh-necho; but the language is here applied to Zedekiah, who, though worthless, was still lineal representative of David, and type of Messiah the "Anointed." Viewed personally, the language is too favourable to apply to him.

Under his shadow we shall live among the heathen - under him we hoped to live securely, even in spite of the surrounding pagan nations (Grotius).

[Sin/Shin (s/sh).]


Verse 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 thyself naked.

Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom - at our calamities (Psalms 137:7). This is a prophecy that Edom should exult over the fall of Jersualem. At the same time it is implied, Edom's joy shall be short-lived. Ironically she is told, Rejoice while thou mayest (so Ecclesiastes 11:9).

The cup also shall pass through unto thee. For this image of the confounding effects of God's wrath see Jeremiah 13:12; Jeremiah 25:15-16; Jeremiah 25:21; as to Edom, Jeremiah 49:7-22. [Tau (t)]


Verse 22

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.

The punishment of thine iniquity is accomplished, O daughter of Zion - (Isaiah 40:2). Thou hast been punished enough; the end of thy punishment is at hand.

He will no more carry thee away into captivity - i:e., by the Chaldeans. The Romans carried them away subsequently. The full accomplishment of this prophecy must therefore refer to the Jews' final restoration. He will discover thy sins - by the severity of His punishments on thee.

O daughter of Edom - God shall let men see how great was thy sin (Jeremiah 49:10). God 'covers' sin when he forgives it (Psalms 32:1; Psalms 32:5). He "discovers" or 'reveals' it when he punishes it (Job 20:27). Jeremiah 49:10 shows that the margin is wrong, 'carry captive' (this rendering is as in Nahum 2:7 , cf. margin, 'discovered').

Remarks:

(1) How sin can tarnish and dim the luster of "the most fine gold!" (Lamentations 4:1.) Even "the stones of the sanctuary" are not exempt from the ruinous powers of corruption. The most exalted powers of intellect, the most excellent gifts, personal and external, and even the greatest spiritual privileges, such as Judah and Jerusalem possessed, give no immunity from God's blasting wrath, when their favoured owners desecrate them in carnality instead of consecrating them to God. Since "the precious sons of Zion," designed to be vessels of the Lord, defile their "gold" in earthliness, it is but just that God should treat them as "earthen pitchers," and dash them to pieces as a potter's vessel (Lamentations 4:2).

(2) Men will not believe it possible that such judgments shall overtake the apostate world as the Scripture foretells, just as they "would not have believed that the adversary should have entered into the gates of Jerusalem" (Lamentations 4:12). Yet, as the latter has come to pass, and "a fire has devoured the foundations of Zion" (Lamentations 4:11), "for the sins of her prophets and her priests, that have shed the blood of the just in the midst of her" (Lamentations 4:13), so shall the material sky "pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burnt up" in the coming "day of the Lord;" for "the heavens and the earth which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men" (2 Peter 3:7; 2 Peter 3:10).

(3) When Israel polluted herself, she sunk to a depth of degradation below that of the very pagan. How humiliating it must have been to the religious pride of the Jews when even the Gentiles, from whose touch they had once shrunk as calculated to pollute them, now, in their turn, shrunk from the touch of the Jews, as from persons who had polluted themselves with blood (Lamentations 4:14). Wherever they went, the same repelling cry was addressed to them, "Depart, depart;" so that they wandered as the "blind" grope in the darkness (Lamentations 4:14), and could find no place of peaceful sojourn (Lamentations 4:15), no rest for the weary soles of their feet in their exile among the pagan (Lamentations 4:15). So when the Christian Church, or individual professors, debase themselves with spiritual uncleanness, the very world, whose favour they have courted at the cost of losing the favour of God, despise them.

(4) But an end is appointed by God's grace to the afflictions of Zion, when the punishment determined by God has been accomplished (Lamentations 4:22). Her enemies' rejoicing over her downfall shall soon cease, and their own lasting punishment shall ensue. Let us not be numbered among the latter, whose sins shall be 'discovered,' but rather with those whose transgression is forgiven, and whose sin is covered (Lamentations 4:22; Psalms 32:1). Let us grieve over Jerusalem in her present fallen state, and pray for her restoration; and let us see that, as the believing Israel of God spiritually, we minister to her the bread of life which God in Christ hath given so graciously to ourselves.

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Lamentations 4:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/lamentations-4.html. 1871-8.

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Tuesday, December 1st, 2020
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