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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Lamentations 4

 

 

Verse 1

JERUSALEM’S SUFFERINGS FOR HER SIN, Lamentations 4:1-11.

1. Gold, fine gold, and holy stones are symbolical of “the precious sons of Zion,” of the verse following. The becoming dim betokens not merely the loss of outward glory, but also the decay of national character. It implies that this holy nation, this kingdom of priests, had surrendered its distinctive character and come down to sit in the common dust.

Stones of the sanctuary — Literally, stones of holiness — holy stones. While the material of the temple, doubtless, suggested this imagery, yet, it is imagery, and by no means refers to the literal gold and stones of the temple.


Verse 2

2. The phrase precious sons of Zion includes all the chosen people, and not merely a single class of them. These are here described as not only “precious,” but comparable to fine gold, literally, weighed with solid gold, implying that every one of them had been “worth his weight in gold.”

But they have become worthless as the common potter’s vessel!


Verse 3

3. Sea monsters — The original here has been mistaken in our Version. It is not tannim, “sea monsters” but tannin — jackals; and this harmonizes with the mention of ostriches in the last clause of the verse.

Cruel, like the ostriches — Which fowl is, in Job 39:13-17, used as “nature’s type of unmotherhood.” This popular belief, that the ostrich treats her young as if they were not hers, comes of the fact that her eggs are sometimes left to be hatched in the sand by the heat of the sun, and not by the warmth of her own body.


Verse 4

4. The tongue… cleaveth to the roof — The most graphic and fearfully expressive feature of the common misery is brought to view in this unnatural conduct of parents, leaving the sucking child and young children to famish for want of proper nutriment.


Verse 5

5. They that did feed delicately — Lived in daintiness and luxury.

Are desolate — Perish of starvation, in the streets.

Brought up in scarlet — Literally, were carried on purple, or scarlet, (that is, as children,) have now no resting place but dung hills. One of the most vivid of all the passages reflecting the national distress.


Verse 6

6. The punishment — The margin, iniquity, is to be preferred. The sin of the daughter of my people is greater than the sin of Sodom. The contrast in favour of Sodom’s punishment consisted, 1) In the suddenness of her overthrow, as in a moment; 2) In that its overthrow came direct from God without the intervention of human agency.

No hands stayed on her — More literally, no hands went round in her.


Verse 7

7. Nazarites — Men specially devoted to the service of religion. Such an order of men is recognized and regulated in the Mosaic law, but not called into existence by it. They are mentioned here as specially representative of the nation’s life.

Rubies — Rather. corals. Delitzsch (Psychology, page 75) refers to this place and Song of Solomon 5:10, in proof that red on white — the normal colour of the human complexion — is the prime colour of beauty. — Dean Smith. But who knows this to be the normal colour of the human complexion? And how does such a passage prove it the prime colour of beauty?

Their polishing — More literally, their form of sapphire. “The point of comparison is not the colour, but the luminosity, of this precious stone.” — Keil.

It would seem that the Nazarites were mentioned as illustrating the sad and painful contrast which the times had wrought. When Israel was at peace and prosperous these, who perhaps were specially set apart to works of religion or charity, were perfect specimens of physical well-being: but in the following verses we have grouped together fearfully expressive features of their starvation and disease. It is proper, however, to say that Keil, Gesenius, and Nagelsbach take a different view of this word Nazarites, and translate princes or crowned ones.


Verse 10

10. A still more terrible feature is added,

Pitiful women have sodden their own children — “Pitiful” — tender hearted, compassionate. “Sodden” — cooked or boiled. Josephus gives a horrible account of a like misery in the siege of Jerusalem under Titus.


Verse 11

11. Hath devoured the foundations — As the foundations of the city were not literally destroyed at that time. Dr. Hornblower suggests that this is a prophecy of the more complete demolition of the city in later times, when not “one stone should be left upon another.” But there is no need of pressing this language. It implies total overthrow, but no importance attaches to the specification of “foundations” as that the threat must be literally fulfilled.


Verse 12

SUFFERINGS OF THE PROPHETS AND PRIESTS, Lamentations 4:12-16.

12. Would not have believed — The city had indeed been previously captured by Shishak, king of Egypt, (1 Kings 14:25-26,) and Joash, king of Israel, (2 Kings 14:13-14,) but it had since been more strongly fortified, so as to be thought impregnable. Even now its capture had cost Nebuchadrezzar a most protracted and expensive siege.


Verse 13

13. Sins of her prophets — As in the time of Christ, the religions leaders of the people were also their leaders in sin and rebellion. In Jeremiah xxvi, we have an illustration of this in that they attempted to silence Jeremiah by putting him to death. One of the saddest commentaries on the capability of our nature for evil is furnished in the conspicuous fact of history, that the bitterest persecutions of the just have proceeded from men of the holiest professions. The direst crimes have been committed in the name or God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.


Verse 14

14. They have wandered, etc — Namely, those same prophets and priests. Some understand by this that they wandered or staggered as if in phrensy, “intoxicated with blood that had been shed.” Others, with better reason, find here the judgment of God by which they are made to reel in helplessness as blind men. This accords better with the concluding sentence, which represents them to be objects of general abhorrence. Defiled with blood, so that men could not touch their garments.


Verse 15

15. And so the people call out to them in the streets as to lepers.

Depart ye — “Distance!”

Unclean — Even among the heathen they are cast out and abhorred, for when they betake themselves thither it is only to meet the declaration, They shall no more sojourn there.


Verse 16

16. The anger, etc. — Better, the face of Jehovah hath scattered them.


Verse 17

THE VAIN TRUSTS OF THE PEOPLE, Lamentations 4:17-20.

17. As for us — This translation is based on the Keri, which is not to be preferred to the written text. A literal version would be: Still do our eyes pine away for our vain help.

In our watching — Gesenius, Furst, Nagelsbach, and many others translate, on the watch tower. The sense is not materially changed by this rendering, and there are difficulties in the way of it. On the whole, the present Version is to be preferred.


Verse 18

18. They hunt our steps — The word for “hunt” does not mean to pursue game so much as to watch for, to ensnare, to wait in ambush. The reference is to the time of the capture and sack of the city. The inhabitants could not escape, for whenever they appeared in the streets they were at once captured.


Verse 19

19. And even those who did succeed in escaping from the city were not materially better off. The enemy pursued us upon the mountains, they laid wait for us in the wilderness — So was Zedekiah captured, Jeremiah 39:5, as the following verse narrates.


Verse 20

20. The breath of our nostrils — A designation of the king; in this instance Zedekiah, but applicable to the true king, whoever might be the anointed of the Lord. He is here described as captured like a wild animal, in their pits.


Verse 21

LIGHT AT EVENING, Lamentations 4:21-22.

21. Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom — A manifestly ironical exclamation. He who tauntingly called out, “What of the night?” shall in the end realize that the “morning cometh” to Israel, and then it will be night to their foes, of which Edom was one of the chiefest.

Dwellest in the land of Uz — A hint as to the locality of Uz.


Verse 22

22. The punishment, etc. — Literally, Thine iniquity is ended. The punishment of Jerusalem was completed.

 


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

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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