Lamentations 1:11
All her people sigh, they seek bread; they have given their pleasant things for meat to relieve the soul: see, O LORD, and consider; for I am become vile.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(11) All her people sigh. . . .—The words which describe the famine at Jerusalem are in the present tense, either as painting the sufferings of the past with the vividness of the historic present, or because the sufferings still continued even after the capture of the city. The remnant that was left had to bring out their treasures, jewels, and the like, and offer them for bread.

To relieve the soul.—Better, to revive, literally, to bring back.

1:1-11 The prophet sometimes speaks in his own person; at other times Jerusalem, as a distressed female, is the speaker, or some of the Jews. The description shows the miseries of the Jewish nation. Jerusalem became a captive and a slave, by reason of the greatness of her sins; and had no rest from suffering. If we allow sin, our greatest adversary, to have dominion over us, justly will other enemies also be suffered to have dominion. The people endured the extremities of famine and distress. In this sad condition Jerusalem acknowledged her sin, and entreated the Lord to look upon her case. This is the only way to make ourselves easy under our burdens; for it is the just anger of the Lord for man's transgressions, that has filled the earth with sorrows, lamentations, sickness, and death.Sigh ... seek - Are sighing ... are seeking. The words are present participles, describing the condition of the people. After a siege lasting a year and a half the whole country, far and near, would be exhausted.

To relieve the soul - See the margin, i. e. to bring back life to them. They bring out their jewels and precious articles to obtain with them at least a meal.

11. (Jer 37:21; 38:9; 52:6).

given … pleasant things for meat—(2Ki 6:25; Job 2:4).

relieve … soul—literally, "to cause the soul or life to return."

for I am become vile—Her sins and consequent sorrows are made the plea in craving God's mercy. Compare the like plea in Ps 25:11.

Lamed.

He speaketh probably with reference to the siege, after which the people had scarcely any pleasant things to exchange for bread. The whole body of the people was in a sad condition; and in a land that ordinarily flowed with milk and honey, they were at loss for bread to eat, and gave any thing for something to satisfy their hunger.

See, O Lord, and consider; for I am become vile: the prophet sends up a sudden ejaculation to God, much like that Lamentations 1:9. The argument he useth is drawn from the misery the people were in, expressed under the notion of being become vile, that is, miserable or contemptible.

All her people sigh,.... Not her priests only, Lamentations 1:4; but all the common people, because of their affliction, particularly for want of bread. So the Targum,

"all the people of Jerusalem sigh because of the famine;''

for it follows:

they seek bread; to eat, as the Targum; inquire where it is to be had, but in vain:

they have given their pleasant things for meat to relieve the soul: or, "to cause the soul to return" (x); to fetch it back when fainting and swooning away through famine; and therefore would give anything for food; part with their rich clothes, jewels, and precious stones; with whatsoever they had that was valuable in their cabinets or coffers, that they might have meat to keep from fainting and dying; to refresh and recruit their spirits spent with hunger:

see, O Lord, and consider; for I am become vile; mean, base, and contemptible, in the eyes of men, through penury and want of food; through poverty, affliction, and distress; and therefore desires the Lord would consider her case, and look with pity and compassion on her.

(x) "ad reducendum animam", Montanus, Piscator.

All her people sigh, they seek bread; they have given their pleasant things for meat to relieve the soul: see, O LORD, and consider; for I am become vile.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
11. The people have already given up their most valuable possessions, that they had hitherto hoarded, for bread. There is therefore nothing now between them and starvation.

meat] food. Cp. note on “oblations,” Jeremiah 17:26.

vile] See on Jeremiah 15:19.

Verse 11. - All her people sigh, etc. The sufferings of Jerusalem did not come to an end at the capture of the city. Some think that this verse relates solely to the miserable survivors. This is possible; at any rate, it includes the contemporaries of the writer. "Sigh" and "seek" are participles in the Hebrew. To relieve the soul; literally, to bring back the soul. The "soul," i.e. the principle of life, is conceived of as having for a time deserted the fainting frame. See, O Lord, etc. Another piteous cry of Jerusalem, preparing the way for the second half of the elegy. Lamentations 1:11Besides this disgrace, famine also comes on her. All her people, i.e., the whole of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, sigh after bread, and part with their jewels for food, merely to prolong their life. The participles נאנחים, מכקשׁים, are not to be translated by preterites; they express a permanent condition of things, and the words are not to be restricted in their reference to the famine during the siege of the city (Jeremiah 37:21; Jeremiah 38:9; Jeremiah 52:6). Even after it was reduced, the want of provisions may have continued; so that the inhabitants of the city, starved into a surrender, delivered up their most valuable things to those who plundered them, for victuals to be obtained from these enemies. Yet it is not correct to refer the words to the present sad condition of those who were left behind, as distinguished from their condition during the siege and immediately after the taking of the city (Gerlach). This cannot be inferred from the participles. The use of these is fully accounted for by the fact that the writer sets forth, as present, the whole of the misery that came on Jerusalem during the siege, and which did not immediately cease with the capture of the city; he describes it as a state of matters that still continues. As to מחמוּדיהם, see on Lamentations 1:7. השׁיב נפשׁ, "to bring back the soul," the life, i.e., by giving food to revive one who is nearly fainting, to keep in his life ( equals השׁיב רוּח); cf. Ruth 4:15; 1 Samuel 30:12, and in a spiritual sense, Psalm 19:8; Psalm 23:3. In the third member of the verse, the sigh which is uttered as a prayer (Lamentations 1:9) is repeated in an intensified form; and the way is thus prepared for the transition to the lamentation and suppliant request of Jerusalem, which forms the second half of the poem.
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