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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Lamentations 1

 

 

Verse 1

THE MISERIES DESCRIBED, Lamentations 1:1-11.

1. As a widow — Jerusalem is personified as a desolate woman, deprived of children and husband, neglected by her lovers and betrayed by her friends. It is an interesting fact, that the image of this verse is the one chosen for the coin of Titus, struck to commemorate his triumph over Jerusalem, which shows a woman weeping under a palm tree, and the inscription, “Judea Capta.” The real structure of this first verse is disguised in the English Version, as also in the Masoretic pointing. The reading should be: —

How sitteth she alone, the city full of people!

She has become like a widow (that was) great among the nations!

A princess among provinces, she has become a vassal.

The exclamation point in the English Version after “widow” should be removed to stand after nations, and the and introduced by the translators should be returned to the nothingness whence it sprung.


Verse 2

2. Weepeth… in the night — “Night” is mentioned, not as excluding, but rather including, day. Her grief is so poignant that her tears do not cease to flow even in the night time, which ought to be a season of rest and oblivion of grief.

Lovers — The nations friendly to the Jews; and, in general, all human comforts.


Verse 3

3. Because of affliction — The unendurable pressure of evil upon them in their own land has driven them into exile.

Between the straits — The word here rendered “straits” is elsewhere translated “pain,” “distress.” See Psalms 116:3; Psalms 118:5. The idea is, that her persecutors came upon her when unable either to resist or flee.


Verse 4

4. Ways of Zion — That is, the roads and highways leading to Zion.

Do mourn — Because they are no longer trodden by the pilgrims going up to the solemn feasts, the passover, pentecost, and tabernacles. Virgins are mentioned as bearing a part in the religious services. See Jeremiah 31:13, and Psalms 68:25.


Verse 5

5. Are the chief — The mighty, and therefore rule her.

Prosper — Literally, are at rest; an expressive figure.

Children… before the enemy — In ancient sculptures such mournful processions of women and tender children are often engraved.


Verse 6

6. Like harts — Like helpless, frightened deer, they flee exhausted before the pursuer in a desert land where they find no pasture.


Verse 7

7. Remembered — Rather, remembers. The keenest arrows which pierce the soul in the time of calamity are carried in the quiver of memory.

Miseries — Literally, wanderings. The term suggests a condition of homelessness, and so it is more vivid and expressive than the term in our Version.

Did mock at her sabbaths — Even in this period of captivity and desolation the law of the “sabbath” will be kept, and because of it they will be subjected to reproach and ridicule.


Verse 8

8. Is removed — More correctly, is become an abomination; and so it expresses the key-thought of this verse and the following.

She sigheth, and turneth backward — As a modest woman would do from shame.


Verse 9

9. Skirts — More exactly, the train of the long flowing robe. And so the meaning is, that the personal defilement is no longer concealed, but revoltingly conspicuous.

Came down wonderfully — Sometimes the sad contrasts of human life are so startling that we instinctively accept them as judgments from God.


Verse 10

10. Pleasant things — Not only “pleasant,” but precious, meaning the vessels of the sanctuary, and also their individual treasures. They should not enter, etc. — Those who might not enter even the congregation for the purpose of worship now penetrate even into the sanctuary to rob and destroy.


Verse 11

11. Have given their pleasant things for meat, etc. — An eloquent suggestion of the terrible exigencies of the siege. “All that a man hath, will he give for his life.”


Verse 12

LAMENTATIONS IN VIEW OF PRESENT MISERIES, Lamentations 1:12-22.

12. Thus far the misery of Jerusalem is predicted. With consummate art the writer now makes us hear the lamentations of this widow sitting in the solitude of her deep and bitter grief. Is it nothing to you, etc. — Literally, not to you, all ye wayfarers. The fact that the Hebrew often dispenses with the use of the interrogative particle makes this passage capable of some variety of interpretation, and this is reflected in the Versions. The Vulgate, Targum, and probably the Septuagint, depart from the Masoretic pointing, and render substantially, “I adjure you, all ye that pass by, turn aside and see, etc. But the rendering of the English Version is by all means to be preferred. The pathos of this verse is touching indeed.


Verse 13

13. From above — It is the fire of God, and so penetrates even to the bones.

Hath turned me back — Hath hedged up every avenue of escape, so that the poor victim recoils in sheer hopelessness.


Verse 14

14. Yoke of my transgressions — The “yoke” formed by my sins. This is described as bound by the hand of God, who causeth the sin of every man to find him out.

Wreathed — Interwoven, knotted together.


Verse 15

15. The Lord — Here, and in thirteen other places, we have Adonai, while the name Jehovah is less prominent, “as if in their punishment the people felt the lordship of the Deity more, and his covenant love to them less.”

Hath trodden under foot — More literally, hath taken away, or, as yet others translate, hath made contemptible.

Called an assembly — More literally, with Gesenius, Keil, and most others, proclaim a festival. To this festival God invites the nations to crush the young men of Jerusalem. Hath trodden the virgin, etc. — Better, hath trodden the wine-press for the virgin.


Verse 17

17. Spreadeth forth her hands — In supplication of help; but instead of comforters the Lord hath commanded that she shall find only adversaries. Jerusalem is as, etc. — The language is nearly identical with that in Lamentations 1:8, and should be rendered, Jerusalem hath become an abomination among them.


Verse 18

18. All people — Better, all peoples.


Verse 19

19. I called for, etc. — Rather, I called to, my lovers.

Priests and… elders — The men to whom the people should have recourse in times of trouble: the former as representing the community before God, and being the medium of his grace; and the latter as the leaders in civil matters. Even these have pined away while they sought (in vain) their meat to relieve their souls.


Verse 20

20. Abroad the sword… at home… as death — Why “as” is introduced here does not clearly appear, but the general thought is plain.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Lamentations 1:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/lamentations-1.html. 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, June 25th, 2019
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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