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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Lamentations 4

 

 

Verse 1

Lamentations 4:1 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.

Ver. 1. How is the gold become dim.?] How by way of wonderment again, as Lamentations 1:1. - q.d., Quo tanto scelere hominum, et qua tanta indignatione Dei? (a) What have men done, and how hath God been provoked, that there are such strange alterations here all on the sudden? By gold, and fine gold, here understand the temple overlaid by Solomon with choice gold; or God’s people, his spiritual temple, who had now lost their lustre and dignity.

The stones of the sanctuary are poured out.] Come tumbling down from the demolished temple.


Verse 2

Lamentations 4:2 The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold, how are they esteemed as earthen pitchers, the work of the hands of the potter!

Ver. 2. The precious (a) sons of Zion.] Those porphyrogeniti, as the Greek emperor’s children were called, because born and bred up in a room made up of precious stones. Understand it of the Jews in general - God’s peculiar people, precious in his sight, and therefore honourable; [Isaiah 43:4] of Zedekiah’s sons in particular, who - as did also the rest of the Jewish nobility, if Josephus (b) may be believed - powdered their hair with gold dust, to the end that they might glitter and sparkle against the beams of the sun. The precious children of the Church are all glorious within by means of the graces of the Spirit, that golden oil, [Zechariah 4:12] and the blessings of God "out of Zion," [Psalms 134:3] which are far beyond all other the blessings of heaven and of earth.

As earthen pitchers.] Weak and worthless.


Verse 3

Lamentations 4:3 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.

Ver. 3. Even the sea monsters.] (a) Heb., Whales or seals, which, being amphibii, have both a willingness and a place convenient to suckle their whelps.

The daughter of my people is become cruel.] She is so perforce, being destitute of milk for want of food, but much more by feeding upon them. [Lamentations 4:10; Lamentations 2:20] Oh, what a mercy is it to have meat! and how inexcusable are those unnatural mothers that neglect to nurse their children, not out of want, but wantonness! Surely as there is a blessing of the womb to bring forth, so of the breasts to give suck; [Genesis 49:25] and the dry breasts and barren womb have been taken for a curse, [Hosea 9:14] as some interpret that text.


Verse 4

Lamentations 4:4 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.

Ver. 4. The tongue of the sucking child cleaveth.] For want of suck. That was a miracle which is recorded of the old woman of Bolton, in Lancashire, who took up a poor child that lay crying at the breasts of her dead mother - slain, among many others, by Prince Rupert’s party - and laying it to her own dry breasts, that had not yielded suck for above twenty years before, on purpose to still it, had milk came to nourish it, to the admiration and astonishment of all beholders. This and another like example of God’s good providence for the relief of little ones whom their mothers could not relieve, may be read of in Mr Clark’s "Mirror for Saints and Sinners," edit. 3, fol. 495, 507.

And no man breaketh it unto them.] The parents either not having it for them, or not having a heart to part with it to them.


Verse 5

Lamentations 4:5 They that did feed delicately are desolate in the streets: they that were brought up in scarlet embrace dunghills.

Ver. 5. They that did feed delicately.] Such uncertainty there is of outward affluence. Our Richard II was famished to death. (a) Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter, grandchild to John of Gaunt, was seen to run on foot bare legged after the Duke of Burgundy’s train, begging his bread for God’s sake. This I saw, saith Philip de Comines. This Henry was brother-in-law to King Edward IV, from whom he fled.

They that were brought up in scarlet.] Qui nutriebantur in croceis seu cocceis, that were gorgeously arrayed, or, that rolling on their rich beds, wrapped themselves in costly quilts.

Embrace dunghills.] (b) There take up their lodgings, and there also are glad to find anything to feed on, though never so coarse and homely. The lapwing is made a hieroglyphic of infelicity, because he hath as a coronet upon the head, and yet feedeth upon the worst of excrements. It is pity that any child of God, washed in Christ’s blood, should bedabble his scarlet robe in the stinking guzzle of the world’s dunghill; that anyone who hath heretofore soared as an eagle should now creep on the ground as a beetle, or wallow as a swine in the mire of sensuality.


Verse 6

Lamentations 4:6 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.

Ver. 6. For the punishment of the iniquity of Zion is greater.] For Sodom was destroyed by angels, Zion by malicious men. The enemies were not enriched by Sodom, as they were by Zion. Sodom was destroyed in an instant; not so Zion, for she had her punishment piecemeal; first a long siege, and then the loss of all, after a world of miseries sustained in the siege. Julius Caesar was wont to say, It is better once to fall than always to hang in suspense. Augustus wished that he might die suddenly. His life he called a comedy, and said that he thought he had acted his part therein pretty handsomely. Now, if he might soon pass through death, he would hold it a happiness. Soldiers’ wish is thus set forth by the poet:

Quid enim? concurritur, horae

Momento aut cita mors venit aut victoria laeta. ”

It is the ancient and manful fashion of the English (who are naturally most impatient with lingering mischiefs) to put their quarrels to the trial of the sword, as the chronicler observeth. {a}


Verse 7

Lamentations 4:7 Her Nazarites were purer than snow, they were whiter than milk, they were more ruddy in body than rubies, their polishing [was] of sapphire:

Ver. 7. Her Nazarites.] Who served God in a singular way of abstinence above other men. These had their rules given them, [Numbers 6:1-21] which while they observed,

They were purer than snow, whiter than milk.] Temperance is the mother of beauty, as luxury is of deformity. This is nothing to the Popish votaries, those epicures and abbey lubbers:

Quorum luxuriae totus non sufficit orbis.

Some by Nazarites here understand their nobles, and such as wore coronets on their heads. Nezar is a crown; [2 Samuel 1:10 2 Kings 11:12] thus Joseph was a Nazarite; [Genesis 49:26] so Daniel and his three associates, in whom that was verified,

Gratior est pulchro veniens in corpore virtus.


Verse 8

Lamentations 4:8 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.

Ver. 8. Their visage is blacker than a coal.] Heb., Their visage is more darkened than blackness - scil., With famine, fear, grief, and care; those vultures have so fed upon them that all sightliness and loveliness is lost. Think the same of apostates, God may complain of such. {as Micah 2:8}


Verse 9

Lamentations 4:9 [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.

Ver. 9. They that be slain with the sword are better.] They suffer less pain in dying; they are soon despatched. See on Lamentations 4:6. But famine is a hard weapon.

Triste genus mortis miseris mortalibus omne:

Est tureen imprimis triste perire fame. ”

For these pine away.] By a lingering death, as Drusus the Roman, to whom food being denied, he had eaten the stuffings of his bed, saith Suetonius; and our Richard II, who was tantalised and starved to death at Pomfret Castle, where his diet being served in and set before him in the wonted princely manner, he was not suffered either to taste or touch thereof. {a}

Stricken through for want of the fruits of the field.] Those "precious fruits of the earth," as James the apostle calleth them. [James 5:7] These as a sword defend us from death; and the want of them, as a sword, runneth us through. In the time of Otho the emperor, there was so great a scarcity of bread grain in Germany for three years together that many thousands died of hunger; in remembrance of which great dearth there is yearly baked at Erfurt a little loaf, such as was then sold for much money. (b)


Verse 10

Lamentations 4:10 The hands of the pitiful women have sodden their own children: they were their meat in the destruction of the daughter of my people.

Ver. 10. The hands of the pitiful women have sodden.] Sodden them rather than roasted them, lest they should be discovered by the smell, and so in danger to be despoiled of them, as it happened at the last siege by the Romans. Lege et luge. Assemble and mourne.

They were their meat.] In eadem viscera, ex quibus exierant, retrusi sunt; they returned into the same bowels whence they came forth.


Verse 11

Lamentations 4:11 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.

Ver. 11. The Lord hath accomplished his fury.] Which he had long deferred, but now hath paid it home. Cave ne ira delata fiat duplicata.

He hath poured out his fierce anger.] As it were by whole buckets or pailfuls. God’s anger may be let out in minnows as there may be much poison in little drops. But woe be those on whom it is poured!

He hath kindled a fire in Zion.] His wrath is like fire, that furious element, which at first burneth a little upon a few boards; but when it prevaileth, it bursteth forth into a terrible flame.


Verse 12

Lamentations 4:12 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.

Ver. 12. The kings of the earth, &c.] These, knowing how impregnable a piece Jerusalem was; how the Jebusites of old held out the tower of Zion against David; how long it had kept out Nebuchadnezzar - viz., for two years’ time almost; how it had been preserved by God against Sennacherib, &c., looked upon it as in a son insuperable, and could not but see a divine vengeance in the destruction of it.


Verse 13

Lamentations 4:13 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,

Ver. 13. For the sins of her prophets.] These, these were the right cause of her ruin. Not that the people were not faulty - for they "loved to have it so" [Jeremiah 5:31] - but those were the ringleaders in that general defection.


Verse 14

Lamentations 4:14 They have wandered [as] blind [men] in the streets, they have polluted themselves with blood, so that men could not touch their garments.

Ver. 14. They have wandered as blind men in the streets.] Well might a certain expositor say, Hic versus cure sequentibus varie exponitur. The sense, in short, is this, saith one, that the Jews, misled by their prophets and priests, were so blind in knowledge that every example of sin led to evil, which, for want of grace, they could not refrain from.


Verse 15

Lamentations 4:15 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].

Ver. 15. They cried unto them.] The enemies in a mockery said aloud unto the Jews.

Depart ye; it is unclean; depart, depart.] Mimesis (a) - q.d., You that are so pure, and (as people say profanely among us), so Pope holy, that none must come near you, but get away as far and as fast as they can, as if they were lepers, &c.

They said among the heathen.] The blind Ethnics, beholding the Jews’ wickedness, have judged that it was impossible God should suffer them any longer to live in his good land, since they would not live by his good laws.


Verse 16

Lamentations 4:16 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.

Ver. 16. The anger of the Lord hath divided them.] Say the heathen still concerning the wicked Jews; continuatur enim hic instituta mimesis.

He will no more regard them.] Heb., Look after them - scil., Facie blenda ac benevola, in mercy; he hath utterly rejected them. For what reason?

They respected not the persons of the priests.] But vilely entreated them. See 2 Chronicles 36:16. Sacerdotes apud omnes gentes sunt venerabiles ob ministerium.


Verse 17

Lamentations 4:17 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].

Ver. 17. As for us, our eyes as yet failed.] With long and vain looking. {as Psalms 119:82; Psalms 119:123} "For, As for us," some render, Cum adhuc essemus, while as yet we were - scil., a nation, for now we are none. Fuimus Troes.

In our watching we have watched for a nation,] sc., For the Egyptians. [Jeremiah 2:18; Jeremiah 2:36; Jeremiah 37:7-8]


Verse 18

Lamentations 4:18 They hunt our steps, that we cannot go in our streets: our end is near, our days are fulfilled; for our end is come.

Ver. 18. They hunt our steps.] There is an elegance in the original, as if we should say, They hunt our haunts.

That we cannot go in our streets.] Because of their forts, from whence they shoot at us. Satan doth so much more -

Cui nomina mille,

Mille nocendi artes. ”

Our end is come.] We are an undone people.


Verse 19

Lamentations 4:19 Our persecutors are swifter than the eagles of the heaven: they pursued us upon the mountains, they laid wait for us in the wilderness.

Ver. 19. Our persecutors are swifter than the eagles.] Those swiftest of all fowl, whom Pindarus therefore calleth the queen of birds as the dolphin of fishes, for like swiftness. The Egyptians, their pretended helpers, were slow as snails; the Chaldees swifter than eagles.

They pursued us.] Or, They chased us, or traced us, like bloodhounds.

They laid wait for us in the wilderness.] They met us at every turn, and left us no means of escape.


Verse 20

Lamentations 4:20 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.

Ver. 20. The breath, of our nostrils.] King Zedekiah, in whose downfall we drew, as it were, our last breath. The Chaldee paraphrast understandeth it of Josiah, with whom, indeed, died all the prosperity of the Jews as with Epaminondas did that of the Thebans, and with Theodosius that of the Western Empire.

The anointed of the Lord.] Who yet, for his perfidy, was vilely cast away like Saul, as though he had not been anointed with oil. [2 Samuel 1:21]

Was taken in their pits.] A term taken from hunters (Ezekiel 12:13; see Lamentations 4:20, Jeremiah 52:8).

Under his shadow.] As the chickens do under the hen’s.


Verse 21

Lamentations 4:21 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.

Ver. 21. Rejoice and be glad.] This is spoken to Edom by a certain ironic and bitter concession - q.d., Do so if thou hast any mind to it; but thou shalt soon be made to change thy cheer. Thy flearing at us shall be soon turned into fearing for thyself, thy mirth into mourning.

That dwellest in the land of Uz.] Job’s country, called also Syria, saith R. Solomon, and haply from Seir. Evil is at next door by to those who rejoice at the evils of others.

The cup shall pass through unto thee.] The quaffing cup of God’s wrath. [Jeremiah 25:18; Jeremiah 25:29]

And shalt make thyself naked.] (a) To the scorn of all, as drunkards, who are void of shame and common honesty, baring those parts that nature would have covered. See Jeremiah 49:10.


Verse 22

Lamentations 4:22 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.

Ver. 22. The punishment of thine iniquity is accomplished, O daughter of Zion.] A word of comfort in the close of this doleful ditty. The Sun of righteousness loveth not to set in a cloud. See Isaiah 40:1. Profane elegies have no comfort in them, as this hath.

He will no more carry thee away into captivity,] i.e., No more in haste, after thy return from Babylon. Carried away they were again, many ages later, by the Romans, (a) whom to this day they therefore call "Edomites," and the Pope’s hierarchy "the wicked kingdom of Edom," which they say shall he certainly destroyed, as is here also foretold; and then shall they be brought back again to Jerusalem, and there resettled by their Messiah. See the Chaldee paraphrast upon this text.

He will discover thy sins,] i.e., Punish thee soundly for them in the sight of all men. See on Psalms 32:1-2, Job 20:27.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Lamentations 4:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/lamentations-4.html. 1865-1868.

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Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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