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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Lamentations 1

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. I.

The miserable estate of Jerusalem by reason of her sin: she complaineth of her grief, and confesseth God's judgment to be righteous.

Before Christ 588.


Verse 1

Lamentations 1:1. How doth the city sit, &c.— Houbigant renders the first part of this verse thus, How doth the city sit solitary! How is she become a widow, that was full of people! Cities are commonly described as the mothers of their inhabitants, and the kings and princes as their husbands and children. When therefore they are bereaved of these, they are said to be widows and childless. Under these affecting circumstances Jerusalem is described as sitting alone, and in a pensive condition, the multitude of her inhabitants being dispersed and destroyed. It is remarkable, that in times similar to this, that is to say, in the reign of the emperor Vespasian, a coin was struck, on which Judaea is represented under the image of a woman sitting in tears beneath a palm-tree. Jerusalem is said to have been great among the nations, as, in the time of her prosperity, she made conquests of various countries, and held them in subjection to her. See Isaiah 47:1. Calmet and Lowth.

Princess among the provinces She that was sovereign over provinces. See what is said of David's conquests and sovereignty over the neighbouring states, 2 Samuel 8:1-14; 2 Samuel 10:6-19 of the extent of his son Solomon's dominions, 1 Kings 21:24 of the power of Judah in the reign of Jehoshaphat, 2 Chronicles 17:10-11 and also in that of Uzziah, 2 Chronicles 26:6-8.


Verse 2

Lamentations 1:2. Among all her lovers, &c.— "All her allies, whose friendship she courted by sinful compliances, have forsaken her in the night of her afflictions, and even joined with her enemies in insulting over her."


Verse 3

Lamentations 1:3. Because of affliction, and—servitude She sitteth in affliction and in great service among the heathen, and findeth no rest. Houbigant.


Verse 4

Lamentations 1:4. The ways of Zion do mourn This verse seems evidently and beyond dispute to fix the subject of this poem to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple; the prophet lamenting in it the total desolation of the holy city, and the cessation of all religious services and ceremonies there.


Verse 5

Lamentations 1:5. Her adversaries are the chief Literally, are at, or for the head. They rule over, or are superior to her. See Isaiah 9:15. Deuteronomy 28:13.


Verse 6

Lamentations 1:6. Like harts Like rams,—And they go without strength before him who driveth them.


Verse 7

Lamentations 1:7. Jerusalem remembered, &c.— Jerusalem remembers in the days of her affliction, and of her exile, all the pleasant things which she had in the days of old. Her people fall into the hand of the enemy, and no one helpeth her; her enemies behold this, and rejoice in her wound, or distress. Houbigant; who observes, that the word משׁבתה mishbatteha, rendered sabbaths, is never so used, and that there does not appear any reason why the Chaldeans should particularly mock the sabbaths; nor is there any thing in what goes before that may lead to such an interpretation. Instead of sabbaths, the Vatican copy of the LXX reads dwelling; the Alexandrian, captivity; the Chaldee, good things; and the Syriac, contrition. It may be proper, however, to remark, that the observation of the sabbath was a common reproach thrown out by the Heathens against the Jews. Even the wise Seneca looked upon the seventh day as lost, on account of the cessation, which is enjoined, from all labour; and many other authors have taken upon them to censure this holy and important practice.


Verse 8

Lamentations 1:8. Because they have seen her nakedness That is to say, her disgrace. For, according to the idea of those times, nothing could be inflicted more ignominious or disgraceful than to strip them of their garments. There are others who give the passage a different turn.


Verse 9

Lamentations 1:9. She remembereth not her last end She hath not remembered her latter end. Houbigant. The apostrophe at the close of the verse, wherein the city is represented as addressing herself to God, is very nervous and animated.


Verse 10

Lamentations 1:10. Upon all her pleasant things The latter part of the verse explains what is meant by this phrase; namely, the offerings and presents made to the sanctuary.


Verse 12

Lamentations 1:12. Is it nothing to you Come unto me all ye that pass by. Houbigant. Michaelis would render it, Not unto you that pass by, [namely, do I call]. The preceding verse ended thus, See, O Lord, and consider, for I am become vile; and then immediately follows, "Not unto you who pass by do I cry, Behold, and see," &c. that is, "I do not make this address to you who pass by; I do not call you who have heard this my complaint, as spectators and witnesses of my grief; ye are unable to condole with me; for what sorrow can be equal unto my sorrow, &c.?" The sense given in our version appears to me the most expressive and emphatical. The last words are read by Schultens, Sorrow, whereby the Lord hath exhausted me, or, hath altogether tortured me, in the day, &c.


Verse 15

Lamentations 1:15. The Lord hath trodden the virgin, the daughter of Judah, as in a wine-press As in a wine-vat. This metaphor is easily to be understood of causing such an effusion of blood in Jerusalem, as to resemble the treading of the juice out of the ripe grapes in vintage-time. See Isaiah 63:2-3. Revelation 14:20; Revelation 19:15.


Verse 17

Lamentations 1:17. Zion spreadeth forth her hands She extendeth her hands as a suppliant, praying for relief, and consolation: so Virgil says of Turnus:

Ille, humilis supplexque, oculos dextramque precantem Protendens. AEN. xii. l. 930.

Now low on earth the lofty chief is laid, With eyes cast upwards, and with arms display'd. DRYDEN.

See Psalms 88:9; Psalms 143:6.


Verse 19

Lamentations 1:19. I called for my lovers That is, "My allies, the Egyptians, and others, who had promised me assistance, but in the day of necessity cast me off." See on Lamentations 1:2.

While they sought their meat to relieve their souls The LXX and the Syriac add, "and found none." But no such words appear in the Hebrew copies, although the thing is implied; for had they found what they sought, they would not have died.


Verse 20

Lamentations 1:20. Abroad the sword, &c.— Without, the sword bereaveth; within, the mortality. Virgil has an expression remarkably similar to this:

Crudelis ubique Luctus, ubique pavor, et plurima mortis imago. AEN. ii. l. 368.

Death in a thousand forms destructive frown'd, And woe, despair, and horror rag'd around. PITT.

Or, as our great poet describes the lazar-house,

———————————————Despair Tended the sick busiest from couch to couch; And over them triumphant Death his dart Shook. PARADISE LOST, b. xi. 489, &c.

Death acting as it were in propria persona; and not by the instrumentality of another, as when a person is slain by the sword.


Verse 21

Lamentations 1:21. There is none to comfort me Grief is timorous and suspicious, fertile in inventing torments for itself, scarcely brooking the least neglect, but entirely impatient of the least mockery or contempt. The prophet has beautifully expressed this circumstance in the passage before us. See Lamentations 1:7. The day, spoken of in the latter part of this verse, means that appointed for the execution of God's judgments upon the Babylonians and other enemies of the Jews, according to the predictions of Jeremiah in the 46th and following chapters of his prophesy. The next verse might be rendered, All their wickedness shall come before thee, and thou wilt do unto them as, &c. See Bishop Lowth's 23rd Prelection, and Calmet. Instead of, Do unto them, &c. Schultens reads, Exhaust thou them, as thou hast exhausted me.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, With plaintive notes of woe the prophet's mournful muse begins, and bids each reader drop the sympathetic tear.

1. He bewails the desolations of Jerusalem: how changed from all her former glory, into what an abyss of wretchedness fallen: he is amazed at what he beheld, and, commiserating her afflicted case, breaks forth, How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! Silence reigns in the once thronged streets; and brooding over the ruins, with anguish too big for utterance, in melancholy solitude, Jerusalem, as a disconsolate widow, sits on the ground, deserted of God, her king a captive, her inhabitants dead with famine, pestilence, or the sword, or kept under the yoke of servitude in a strange land: a princess once among the nations, courted, respected, and obeyed; now bound with captive bands, an ignominious tributary to a heathen lord. No marvel that tears incessant furrow her cheeks; and as if too short the day for sorrow such as her's, all night they flow, without a comforter, without a friend to pity her, and, by partaking, to alleviate her anguish. Her lovers, who in the days of her prosperity with warm professions testified their regard, desert her in the day of her calamity; and her treacherous friends throw off the mask, and act as open enemies. Her children groan in servitude; subject to the caprice and tyranny of heathen masters, and finding no rest, no end of toil, no peace of mind, no settled abode. Hemmed in like a beast in the toils, her persecutors have seized her, without the possibility of escape. Her adversaries are the chief; her enemies prosper: and no wonder, since the Lord hath afflicted her, whose wrath, on account of her manifold iniquities, is the cause of all her sufferings. Like harts famished for want of pasture, and weak as those timorous animals, her princes are unable to fight or fly, and fall an easy prey, despised now by those who honoured her; stripped of all her wealth and ornaments, her nakedness appears; and, confounded, she sighs and turns backward, as if to hide her shame. Pining with famine, and sunk in despondence, her people seek bread, and gladly part with all their jewels and pleasant things to procure the smallest refreshment; so low are they reduced, from that plenty wherein they once rioted, and which they so grievously abused. Note; (1.) They who wilfully depart from God, the soul's true rest, may not hope to find rest in any thing beside. (2.) All afflictions are doubly heavy when we see them as coming from God, not in mercy, but in wrath. (3.) Men's sins will surely bring them into straits, when too late they will bewail their folly. (4.) Affluence abused is the ready way to pining want.

2. Great were these miseries under which the state groaned; yet greater anguish to the gracious soul it was, to behold the sacred service of the temple interrupted. Unfrequented now, the ways of Zion mourn: her gates, no longer thronged by those who hasted to her solemn feasts, are deserted, desolate. Her priest sigh; no sacrifice bleeds, no incense smokes upon the altar; destitute of their portion, famishing through want: her virgins are afflicted; their songs of joy sunk into mourning and woe; and she is in bitterness, overwhelmed with anguish and distress. Her beauty is departed; not only her king and nobles captives, and her country wasted, but, above all, the beautiful house of her sanctuary in ruins. With sacrilegious hands her enemies have seized all her pleasant things, her ark, her altars; and those, who might not even enter the congregation, now riot in the very sanctuary, plunder and spoil its sacred treasures, and, adding insult to their ravages, mocked at their sabbaths; or, as some think, in derision laid upon them on that day heavier burdens. And, what aggravated all, was, the remembrance of the happy days of old, fled, to appearance for ever fled, and nothing now remaining but affliction and misery. Note; (1.) Nothing affects a good man's heart so deeply as the decay of vital godliness. (2.) To hear God dishonoured, his worship and ordinances despised and ridiculed, is bitter to the pious soul. (3.) The remembrance of the communion that we have enjoyed with God, and the comforts that we have tasted, serve but to aggravate our griefs, when by our unfaithfulness we have provoked God to withdraw, and leave us to our misery.

3. He laments over their sins, the cause of these desolations; for God is righteous in these his judgments. Her transgressions are multiplied, and very grievous, numberless, and aggravated. Her filthiness is in her skirts, open and avowed: careless and secure, she remembereth not her last end, nor considers in what misery her iniquities will issue: and having been most oppressive herself, the rich afflicting their poor brethren, and making their servitude heavy, justly therefore she is devoted to the yoke, and her fall wonderful, as her provocations were excessive. Note; (1.) Sin and ruin are inseparable. (2.) No sins are so aggravated as those of God's professing people.

4. Zion is introduced, breaking forth into an earnest cry to God under her sufferings. O Lord, behold my affliction, with an eye of pity and compassion, since every other comforter is no more: see, O Lord, and consider; for I am become vile, reduced to the most abject misery, and ready to sink into despair, if thou dost not interpose. Note; (1.) The only relief for the miserable is earnest application to the merciful God. When all other compassions fail, his fail not. (2.) If God afflicts his believing people, it is in order to excite their more fervent applications to him, and make them know more of the wonders of his grace.

2nd, The same complaints are continued.

1. She demands some compassion from the spectators of her misery, in the view of the heavy hand of God upon her, whom she acknowledges to be the author of her troubles. Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? can you unconcerned behold these desolations, and not drop a tear over these ruins? see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow; so bitter and overwhelming. How ready are we all in distress to think our own burden peculiarly heavy, when in fact we only share the calamities common to men: yet it must be owned, that her case was deplorable indeed. In anger, in fierce anger, the Lord had afflicted her; a sense of this added bitterness to every burden; his fire is kindled in her palaces, or burns with fiercer flames within her guilty conscience. Entangled in his net, she could not flee away, but falls backward, faint, and unable to oppose the desolations of her Chaldean foe. Under complicated judgments, her yoke was made heavy, and her foul transgressions the cause of all; she was delivered into her enemies' hands, without the possibility of escaping. Her warriors, her valiant youth, and all her inhabitants, like grapes in the wine-press, are trodden under foot by the Babylonish army, and their blood shed on every side. Note; Whatever judgments weigh us down, we may be assured that our transgressions have wreathed the yoke, and bound on the burden.

2. She bewails with floods of tears her bitter anguish; and surely there is a cause for them. For these things I weep; both for her sin and her suffering; and particularly, [1.] Because the comforter that should relieve my soul is far from me. When God departs, our misery must needs be great: all other afflictions are made light by the sense of his presence and love; but when the comforter, the only comforter of the sinful soul, is far from us, and nothing appears but wrath and despair, then is our wretchedness as complete as it can be out of hell. [2.] Because her children are desolate, in captivity, or destroyed by the sword of the merciless enemy; unable to comfort her; yea, their sad fate is the cause of her torment. [3.] Because she could not find a friend. In vain she spread forth her hands, entreating help, and pleading for compassion: her lovers, who promised once so fair, deceived her, yea, shunned her, as if her touch communicated defilement, and none either cared or dared to interpose, when the destruction was by the divine decree, and her adversaries acted under his commission. Note; (1.) When God is our friend, we shall never want a comforter; if he be our enemy, none can comfort us. (2.) Creature-confidences are sure to fail us in the day of calamity. (3.) Because of the terrible famine. My priests and mine elders gave up the ghost in the city, while they sought their meat to relieve their souls; and if these were perishing for want, how much more the people in general? (4.) Because of the desolations that she beheld. Abroad the sword bereaveth, at home there is as death, inevitable from the famine and the pestilence. (5.) Because of her insulting enemies. They heard of her trouble, and with malicious pleasure rejoiced in it, and for these things her tears run down without intermission.

3. She justifies God in these his judgments. The Lord is righteous; however faithless her friends, or inhuman her foes, her sufferings were no more than she deserved: for I have rebelled, grievously rebelled, against his commandment. Note; True penitents ever acknowledge the justice of God in punishing them; and never desire to excuse themselves, but speak of their sins with every aggravation.

4. She presents her miserable case to the God of all mercy. Behold, O Lord, for I am in distress; deeply afflicted, not only with her sufferings, but from a sense of her sins: my bowels are troubled, mine heart is turned within me; distracted and torn, uneasy and restless; and when the soul thus broken and contrite approaches God, he will not despise our prayer.

5. She expects and intreats that God would visit her enemies. Thou wilt bring the day that thou hast called; the time fixed in God's counsels for their punishment; and they shall be like unto me, in suffering; and as she believes this will come, she prays that it may. Let all their wickedness come before thee; be remembered and avenged: and do unto them as thou hast done unto me for all my transgressions; as equally guilty, let them meet the same scourge, and heavy indeed that had been, as her anguish testified; for my sighs are many, and my heart is faint. Note; (1.) They who are alike guilty, may expect to be alike miserable. (2.) Though all private resentment is forbidden, we may pray to see God glorified in the ruin of his own and his people's enemies, that are obstinately, incorrigibly impenitent.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Lamentations 1:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/lamentations-1.html. 1801-1803.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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