|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
4:1-12 What a change is here! Sin tarnishes the beauty of the most exalted powers and the most excellent gifts; but that gold, tried in the fire, which Christ bestows, never will be taken from us; its outward appearance may be dimmed, but its real value can never be changed. The horrors of the siege and destruction of Jerusalem are again described. Beholding the sad consequences of sin in the church of old, let us seriously consider to what the same causes may justly bring down the church now. But, Lord, though we have gone from thee in rebellion, yet turn to us, and turn our hearts to thee, that we may fear thy name. Come to us, bless us with awakening, converting, renewing, confirming grace.
Verse 8. - Their visage is blacker than a coal; rather, their appearance is darker than blackness - one of the hyperboles which seem to indicate that the poem was not written at the very moment of the calamity described (comp. Job 30:30). Not known in the streets. Another point of contact with the Book of Job (Job 2:12). Their skin, etc. Again we must compare the lamentations of Job (Job 19:20; Job 30:30). Psalm 102:5 may also be quoted; for the second half of the verse is toe short unless we insert "to my skin" before "to my flesh."
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Their visage is blacker than a coal,.... Or, "darker than blackness"; or, "dark through blackness" (y); by reason of the famine, and because of grief and trouble for themselves and their friends, which changed their complexions, countenances, and skins; they that looked before as pure as snow, as white as milk, as clear as pearls, as polished as sapphire, now as black as charcoal, as blackness itself:
they are not known in the streets; not taken notice of in a distinguished manner; no respect shown them as they walk the streets, as used to be; nay, their countenances were so altered, and their apparel so sordid, as not to be known by their friends, when they met them in public:
their skin cleaveth to their bones; have nothing but skin and bone, who used to be plump and fat:
it is withered, it is become like a stick; the skin wrinkled and shrivelled up, the flesh being gone; and the bone became like a stick, or a dry piece of wood, its moisture and marrow being dried up.
(y) "obscurior ipsa nigredine", Tigurine version; "magis quam nigredo vel carbo", Vatablus; "prae caligines", Calvin; "ex nigredine", Piscator.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
8. blacker than … coal—or, "than blackness" itself (Joe 2:6; Na 2:10).
like a stick—as withered as a dry stick.
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