Her Nazarites were purer than snow, they were whiter than milk, they were more ruddy in body than rubies, their polishing was of sapphire:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Her Nazarites . . .—The word has been rendered “princes” by some commentators, on the ground that it means literally those who are “separated” from their brethren (Genesis 49:26; Deuteronomy 33:16), whether by rank or by the vows of consecration. There is no reason, however, for abandoning the rendering of the Authorised version. The reference to the Nazarites in Amos 2:11-12 shows that they were prominent as a body during the history of the monarchy, and the drift of Jeremiah’s mind, as seen in his admiration of the Rechabites (Jeremiah 35), shows that he was likely to think of them with reverence. The temperance, purity, cleanliness of such a body seem to have made them conspicuous among their fellows for an almost angelic beauty. (Comp. the interesting parallel of Daniel 1:15.) They had the red and white complexion which was in the East the ideal of comeliness (1Samuel 17:42; Song Song of Solomon 5:10). Their “polishing” (better, their form) was faultless, like that of a well cut sapphire. For “rubies” read coral.Lamentations 4:7-9. Her Nazarites were purer than snow — It seems the word, נזיריה, ought not to be translated here Nazarites, or those who were separated by a vow to God; but princes, or chief men: so Waterland understands the word, as also Blaney, who renders it, her nobles. We find the same term applied to Joseph, as one separated, or distinguished in eminence and dignity above his brethren, Genesis 49:26. By being purer than snow, and whiter than milk, seems to be intended the whiteness of their skin, or the fairness of their complexion; and by their being more ruddy in body than rubies, or brighter than pearls, as אדמו מפנינים, may be rendered, their high state of health may be meant. Their visage is blacker than a coal — The famine, and other hardships which they have endured, have altered their complexion, and made them look dry and withered. They that be slain with the sword are better, &c. — That is, their case is preferable to that of those slain with hunger; for these pine away, &c. — That is, they waste away and perish by slow degrees, and, before they quite expire, suffer great misery. Stricken through for want of the fruits of the field — Pierced with far more exquisite pain through want of sustenance, than if they had been run through with the sword.
Rubies - Or, corals.
rubies—Gesenius translates, "corals," from a Hebrew root, "to divide into branches," from the branching form of corals.
polishing—They were like exquisitely cut and polished sapphires. The "sapphires" may represent the blue veins of a healthy person.
Nazarites in this place the most and best interpreters do not understand persons who were of the religious order of Nazarites, the laws of which order are to be read Numbers 6, and of whom we read Amos 2:11,12, for here is a beauty described (under several metaphors) which could never agree to them; but persons that were nobly and ingenuously bred; the word Nezer signifying a crown, or ensign of honour, 2 Samuel 1:10 2 Kings 11:12. The name Nazarite was given to persons splendid for their breeding and education, or honour and dignity; it is given to Joseph, Genesis 49:26, we translate it separate from his brethren, Deu 33:16; so Nahum 3:17. Her Nazarites in this place signifieth her separated ones, who either in respect of birth, education, estate, places of magistracy, or the like, were distinguished from the rest of the people. He expresseth their former splendid estate by the metaphors of snow, milk, rubies, and sapphires.
they were whiter than milk; this intends the same thing, expressed by another metaphor:
they were more ruddy in body than rubies; or rather "than precious stones"; and particularly "than pearls", which Bochart (q) proves at large are designed by the word used, which are white, and not red; and the word should be rendered, "clearer" or "whiter than pearls", as it is by Lyra and others (r); and the word in the Arabic language signifies white and clear (s), as pearls are; and so the phrase is expressive of the beauty and comeliness of these persons: and Ludolphus (t) says, that in the Ethiopic language it signifies "beautiful"; and he translates the whole, "they were more beautiful than pearls"; denoting the clearness of their skins, and the goodness of their complexion:
their polishing was of sapphire; or "their cutting, sapphire" (u); they were as beautiful as if they had been cut out of sapphire, and polished; which is a very precious stone, and looks very beautiful; so smooth were their skins. The Targum is,
"their face or countenance is as sapphire.''
Braunius (w) thinks the word used signifies the veins full of blood, which variously intersect the flesh like sapphirine rivers; and that the sense of the words is,
"their bodies were white like snow and milk, yea, shining like pearls (or red in the cheeks, lips, &c. like coral (x)); veins full of blood running between like sapphire, of a most agreeable sky colour; which is, a true description of a most fair and beautiful body.''
See Sol 5:14. All this is to be understood of them before the famine, but, when that came upon them, then they were as follow:
(q) Hierozoic. par. 2. l. 5. c. 6. p. 688. (r) "lucidiores corpore margaritis", Bochart; "candidi fuerunt in corpore prae margaritis", Noldius. (s) "camelis tributum, candidus perquam albus", Giggeius; "candidi coloris", Dorcas, Giggeius apud Golium, Colossians 49, 51. (t) Comment. in Ethiop. Hist. l. 1. No. 107. (u) "sapphirus excisio eorum", Pagninus, Montanus, Vatablus, Calvin; "quasi sectio eorum esset ex sapphiro", Munster. (w) De Vestitu Sacerdot. Hebr. l. 2. c. 12. sect. 7. p. 676. (x) So Bootius, Animadv. l. 4. c. 3. sect. 8. p. 144. Lutherus & Osiander in ib.Her Nazarites were purer than snow, they were whiter than milk, they were more ruddy in body than rubies, their polishing was of sapphire:
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)7. nobles] probably right, as in Genesis 49:26; Deuteronomy 33:16 (in which places mg. renders “princes”) as against the more frequent sense Nazirites (as mg. here).
rubies] mg. corals.
their polishing (lit. casting) was as of sapphire] Not only their bright, glowing appearance, but also their well-shaped figures suggested a carefully cut precious stone. Löhr, relying on the similarity of two Heb. consonants (g and n), by a slight change takes the word to be from the root which appears in Jeremiah 7:29 (“cut off thine hair”) and renders The locks of their hair glittered as a sapphire.
7, 8. Cp. Lamentations 4:1-2. The emaciation produced by famine and hardship is vividly pourtrayed. Cp. Job 19:20; Job 30:30.Verse 7. - Her Nazarites; rather, her eminent ones (just as Joseph is called n'zir ekhav,"eminent among his brethren"). The rendering of the Authorized Version is lexically possible, but is intrinsically improbable. The Nazarites constituted too small a portion of the Jewish people to receive so prominent a place in the elegy. Rubies; rather, corals. Their polishing was of sapphire; literally, their shape was (like) a sapphire. But the point in which the sapphire is compared to the bodies of the princes is evidently not the outline of its form, but its gleaming brilliant appearance; so that the Authorized Version is substantially correct. Lamentations 4:1-6), the sad lot of the several classes of the population is set forth; then (Lamentations 4:7-11) a conclusion is drawn therefrom regarding the greatness of their sin.
The first strophe. Lamentations 4:1. The lamentation begins with a figurative account of the destruction of all that is precious and glorious in Israel: this is next established by the bringing forth of instances.
Lamentations 4:1, Lamentations 4:2 contain, not a complaint regarding the desolation of the sanctuary and of Zion, as Maurer, Kalkschmidt, and Thenius, with the lxx, assume, but, as is unmistakeably declared in Lamentations 4:2, a lamentation over the fearful change that has taken place in the fate of the citizens of Zion. What is stated in Lamentations 4:1 regarding the gold and the precious stones must be understood figuratively; and in the case of the "gold that has become dim," we can as little think of the blackening of the gilding in the temple fabric when it was burnt, as think of bricks (Thenius) when "the holy stones" are spoken of. The בּני ציּון (inhabitants of Zion), Lamentations 4:2, are likened to gold and sacred stones; here Thenius would arbitrarily change בּני into בּתּי (houses, palaces). This change not merely has no critical support, but is objectionable on the simple ground that there is not a single word to be found elsewhere, through all the chapter, concerning the destruction of the temple and the palaces; it is merely the fate of the men, not of the buildings, that is bewailed. "How is gold bedimmed!" יוּעם is the Hophal of עמם, to be dark, Ezekiel 28:3, and to darken, Ezekiel 31:8. The second clause, "how is fine gold changed!" expresses the same thing. שׁנא equals שׁנה, according to the Chaldaizing usage, means to change (oneself), Malachi 3:6. The growing dim and the changing refer to the colour, the loss of brilliancy; for gold does not alter in substance. B. C. Michaelis and Rosenmller are too specific when they explain that the gold represents populus Judaicus (or the potior populi Hebraei pars), qui (quae) quondam auri instar in sanctuario Dei fulgebat, and when they see in אבּני קדשׁ an allusion to the stones in the breast-plate of the high priest. Gold is generally an emblem of very worthy persons, and "holy stones" are precious stones, intended for a sacred purpose. Both expressions collectively form a figurative description of the people of Israel, as called to be a holy nation and a kingdom of priests. Analogous is the designation of the children of Israel as אבּני נזר, Zechariah 9:16 (Gerlach). השׁתּפּך, to be poured out (at all the corners of the streets), is a figurative expression, signifying disgraceful treatment, as in Lamentations 2:11. In Lamentations 4:2 follows the application of the figure to the sons (i.e., the citizens) of Zion, not merely the chief nobles of Judah (Ewald), or the princes, nor children in the narrowest sense of the word (Gerlach); for in what follows mention is made not only of children (Lamentations 4:3, Lamentations 4:4), but also of those who are grown up (Lamentations 4:5), and princes are not mentioned till Lamentations 4:7. As being members of the chosen people, all the inhabitants of Jerusalem have been held "dear," and "weighed out with gold," i.e., esteemed as of equal value with gold (cf. Job 28:16, Job 28:19); but now, when Jerusalem is destroyed, they have become regarded as earthenware pots, i.e., treated as if they were utterly worthless, as "a work of the hands of the potter," whereas Israel was a work of the hands of God, Isaiah 64:7. סלא equals סלה, cf. Job 28:16, Job 28:19 to weigh; Pual, be weighed out, as an equivalent.
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