In their streets they shall gird themselves with sackcloth: on the tops of their houses, and in their streets, every one shall howl, weeping abundantly.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)In their streets . . .—The picture of lamentation is continued. The flat roofs of Eastern houses were a natural resort for such wailings (Isaiah 22:1). The “broad places,” the bazaars or market-places, were also, like the agora of Greek cities, a natural place of concourse. The prophet represents them as filled with the sound of wailing.
They shall gird themselves with sackcloth - The common token of mourning; and also worn usually in times of humiliation and fasting. It was one of the outward acts by which they expressed deep sorrow (Genesis 37:34; 2 Samuel 3:31; 1 Kings 21:27; 2 Kings 19:1; Job 16:15; the note at Isaiah 3:24).
On the tops of the houses - The roofs of the houses in the East were, and still are, made flat, and were places of resort for prayer, for promenade, etc. The prophet here says, that all the usual places of resort would be filled with weeping and mourning. In the streets, and on the roofs of the houses, they would utter the voice of lamentation.
Shall howl - It is known that, in times of calamity in the East, it is common to raise an unnatural and forced howl, or long-continued shriek. Persons are often hired for this purpose Jeremiah 9:17.
weeping abundantly—"melting away in tears." Horsley prefers "descending to weep." Thus there is a "parallelism by alternate construction" [Lowth], or chiasmus; "howl" refers to "tops of houses." "Descending to weep" to "streets" or squares, whither they descend from the housetops.Shall gird themselves with sackcloth: this was another practice of mourners.
The tops of their houses, which were made flat, Deu 22:8; to which men used to go up, either to walk, or to cry to God in heaven or to men for help.
In their streets; publicly, without shame; whereas in ordinary sorrows men are wont to seek secret places for their mourning. Isaiah 16:6 this was usual in times of distress on any account, as well as a token of mourning for the dead; see Joel 1:8. The word for "streets" might be rendered "villages", as distinct from cities, that were "without" the walls of the cities, though adjacent to them; and the rather, seeing mention is made of streets afterwards:
on the tops of their houses; which were made flat, as the houses of the Jews were, on which were battlements, Deuteronomy 22:8 hither they went for safety from their enemies, or to see if they could spy the enemy, or any that could assist them, and deliver them; or rather, hither they went for devotion, to pray to their gods for help; for here it was usual to have altars erected, to burn incense on to their deities; see 2 Kings 23:12 and in such places the people of God were wont to pray, Acts 10:9,
and in their streets; publicly, as well as privately, where they ran up and down to get from the enemy, and save themselves:
everyone shall howl, weeping abundantly: or, "descending with weeping": the tears running down his cheeks in great abundance, so that his whole body was as it were watered with them; or the meaning may be, that everyone that went up to the temples of the idols, and to the high places, Isaiah 15:2 or to the roofs of the houses, as here, to pray the assistance of their gods, should come down weeping and howling, having no success.In their streets they shall gird themselves with sackcloth: on the tops of their houses, and in their streets, every one shall howl, weeping abundantly.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)3. (Jeremiah 48:37 f.) on the tops of their houses] See on Isaiah 22:1. The word streets should not be used twice; substitute in the second case broad places (as in R.V.).
weeping abundantly] lit. “going down in weeping,” an unusually strong figure. In other passages the eye is said to “go down in tears” (Jeremiah 9:18; Lamentations 1:16; Lamentations 3:48); but nowhere else is the whole being spoken of as dissolved in weeping.Verse 3. - In their streets; literally, in his streets; i.e. the streets of Moab. They shall gird themselves with sackcloth. Another widely spread custom, known to the Assyrians (Jonah 3:5), the Syrians (1 Kings 20:31), the Persians (Esther 4:1, 2), the Israelites (Nehemiah 9:1), and, as we see here, to the Moabites. The modern wearing of black garments, especially crape, is representative of the old practice. Every one shall howl. "Howling" remains one of the chief tokens of mourning in the East. It was a practice of the Egyptians (Herod., 2:79), of the Persians (ibid., 8:99; 9:24), of the Babylonians (Jeremiah 51:8), and probably of the Orientals generally. Weeping abundantly; or, running down with tears (comp. Jeremiah 9:18; Jeremiah 13:17; Herod., 8:99). Isaiah 11:8); and this basilisk, which is dangerous and even fatal in itself, as soon as it had reached maturity, would bring forth a winged dragon as its fruit. The basilisk is Hezekiah, and the flying dragon is the Messiah (this is the explanation given by the Targum); or, what is the same thing, the former is the Davidic government of the immediate future, the latter the Davidic government of the ultimate future. The figure may appear an inappropriate one, because the serpent is a symbol of evil; but it is not a symbol of evil only, but of a curse also, and a curse is the energetic expression of the penal justice of God. And it is as the executor of such a curse in the form of a judgment of God upon Philistia that the Davidic king is here described in a threefold climax as a snake or serpent. The selection of this figure may possibly have also been suggested by Genesis 49:17; for the saying of Jacob concerning Dan was fulfilled in Samson, the sworn foe of the Philistines.
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