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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Lamentations 1

 

 

Verses 1-22

Lamentations 1. The First Lament.—This is an alphabetical acrostic poem in twenty-two stanzas of three lines each, with five Heb. beats in each line. It has two equal parts: Lamentations 1:1-11 (Aleph to Kaph), the singer's account of Zion's sorrows, and Lamentations 1:12-22 (Lamedh to Tau), a soliloquy thereon by the city herself. In detail: Lamentations 1:1-6 tells of a Zion once populous, now widowed; her nights full of weeping, unconsoled by former lovers who are now all faithless. The people have migrated, to escape taxings (note that they are not exiled, as had been the case in 586 B.C.), but even abroad they are harried; no pilgrims are thronging the roads, as they had been wont to do in the days of the Ptolemies' rule (300-200 B.C.), but they did not do so in Jeremiah's time; priests, virgins, children wander about moaning; princes and all grandeur have fled away. And, alas! it is Yahweh Himself who has wrought all this scourging of Zion: it is for her sin.

Lamentations 1:1. How (cf. Lamentations 2:1, Lamentations 4:1, and Isaiah 1:21; Isaiah 14:4): the book takes its Heb. name (Eykah) from this its first word.—Medinah (pl. medinoth), (see Introd.) is used only in late writings, except in 1 Kings 20, where it is difficult to avoid thinking that there the word is misspelt for "Midianite."

Lamentations 1:4. Mo'edh, "Trysting-place" or solemn assembly (see Introd.).

Lamentations 1:6 seems like an echo of Psalms 42, which is probably the wail of Onias II, High Priest in 175 B.C.

Lamentations 1:7-11. A story of Zion's worst sorrow, which is her own sense of sin, and her sighing and depression over it.

Lamentations 1:7. Delete "in," and read, "Zion remembers the days of her affliction." The line, "All her pleasant . . . of old" is a comment written on the margin by some reader and afterwards copied into the text as if original: we decide thus because it would be a fourth line in the stanza, whereas regularly the stanzas have only three lines; besides it spoils the sense.

Lamentations 1:9. Read, "the hinder parts of the filthy skirts," instead of "the latter end."

Lamentations 1:10. The third line speaks of "entering into thy congregation," which may be a late churchly addition. The verse seems, to the present writer, to concern the sacrilege of Pompey—and of Antiochus—in entering the Temple.

Lamentations 1:12-19. Zion moans before Yahweh: first confessing her sin, then appealing to every passer-by to see how her hurt is worse than any that has ever been before. Yahweh's fierce anger has burned her, trapped her, loaded her to the neck with woes. Although He is the indwelling Lord, yet He has dishonoured all her leaders, has summoned a solemn sanctuary meeting (Mo'edh) to condemn her; and all her choice young lives are to die. But the sentence is just: she confesses she has been unfaithful.

Lamentations 1:12. By a copyist's repetition of one letter, the displacement of another, and the insertion of a tiny one to save space, the text has, "Is it nothing to you?" instead of the correct sense, "Therefore ho! all ye."

Lamentations 1:14 is difficult: we need not state all particulars, but should read:

"He has set Himself as a watch over my sin,

Which thro' His power is going to get twisted into a rope to bind me:

By His yoke on my neck He has made my strength fail.

The lordly one has given me into such hands,

That never shall I be able to rise again."

Lamentations 1:16. My eye is written twice by mistake, spoiling the metre.

Lamentations 1:19. The "false lovers" are said to be the priests and elders: this was not possible in Jeremiah's time or anywhere near it, but was exactly the condition in the last two centuries B.C.

Lamentations 1:20-22 is Zion's prayer for mercy: "Will not Yahweh see her repentance, and regard her inconsolable mourning?" But what then? Is He simply to relieve her pain? Oh no, her cry now is, "May He work revenge on her oppressors, who are exulting because He has fulfilled on her His righteous sentence. May they too be so treated: and under His swiftly falling blows may they writhe!" Such, then, was the spirit of even the best men in Judah just before Jesus rose to preach His gospel of forgiveness. We see here the treatment they were ready to give Him, when He brought them good. And this was the soil on which He sprang: such were the audiences He sought to change and save.

Lamentations 1:20. there is as death: read, "death has utterly ended all."

Lamentations 1:21. They have heard should be, "Hear ye," for the Hebrew lack of vowels has caused a slip in the ordinary translation. The verse should run, by making one or two transpositions, "Thou has brought the day that Thou proclaimedst."

As we leave the song, let us note how the darkest, gloomy wailing is in the earlier verses, but towards the end Zion is pictured as more confident of Yahweh's help, and more defiant towards her enemies. Then this defiance culminates in the spirit of utter cruelty in the closing stanzas. How wonderful was the faith of those poor oppressed Jews before Jesus came! They could never dream of an annihilation of their nation. In the course of the long ages they had risen wonderfully to a strong grip on an eternal life, and a doctrine that they were by and by to rule all the world. This Lament shows us vividly the agonies that surrounded Nazareth, and also the follies that were cherished amid the sorrows. Men needed a Consolation for Israel, and they felt sure that such would come. These singers are a picture of the audiences to whom Jesus spoke.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Lamentations 1:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/lamentations-1.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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