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. Her adversaries or oppressors, in relation to her, have become the head (and Judah thus the tail), as was threatened, Deuteronomy 28:44; whereas, according to Deuteronomy 28:13 in that same address of Moses, the reverse was intended. Her enemies, knowing that their power is supreme, and that Judah has been completely vanquished, are quite at ease, secure (שׁלוּ, cf. Jeremiah 12:1). This unhappy fate Zion has brought on herself through the multitude of her own transgressions. Her children (עוללים, children of tender age) are driven away by the enemy like a flock. The comparison to a flock of lambs is indicated by לפני. But Zion has not merely lost what she loves most (the tender children), but all her glory; so that even her princes, enfeebled by hunger, cannot escape the pursuers, who overtake them and make them prisoners. Like deer that find no pasture, they flee exhausted before the pursuer. כּאיּלים has been rendered ὡς κριοὶ by the lxx, and ut arietes by the Vulgate; hence Kalkschmidt, Bttcher (Aehrenl. S. 94), and Thenius would read כּאילים, against which Rosenmller has remarked: perperam, nam hirci non sunt fugacia animalia, sed cervi. Raschi had already indicated the point of the comparison in the words, quibus nullae vires sunt ad effugiendum, fame eorum robore debilitato. The objections raised against כּאיּלים as the correct reading are founded on the erroneous supposition that the subject treated of is the carrying away of the princes into exile; and that for the princes, in contrast with the young, no more suitable emblem could be chosen than the ram. But רודף does not mean "the driver," him who leads or drives the captives into exile, but "the pursuer," who runs after the fugitive and seeks to catch him. The words treat of the capture of the princes: the flight of the king and his princes at the taking of Jerusalem (2 Kings 25:3.) hovered before the writer's mind. For such a subject, the comparison of the fugitive princes to starved or badly fed rams is inappropriate; but it is suitable enough to compare them with harts which had lost all power to run, because they had been unable to find any pasture, and בּלא־כח (without strength, i.e., in weakness) are pursued and caught.
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