Lamentations 1:17
Zion spreads forth her hands, and there is none to comfort her: the LORD has commanded concerning Jacob, that his adversaries should be round about him: Jerusalem is as a menstruous woman among them.
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(17) Zion spreadeth forth her hands . . .—The normal attitude of Eastern prayer, or, perhaps, of lamentation and despair.

That his adversaries . . .—Better, that those round about him should be his adversaries, the nearest neighbours being the bitterest foes.

Jerusalem is as . . .—The image is the same as in Lamentations 1:8, and might be rendered as one polluted, or as an abomination.

Lamentations 1:17. Zion spreadeth forth her hands — She extendeth her hands as a suppliant praying for relief and consolation. And there is none to comfort her — None who can, or are even inclined to do it. The Lord hath commanded, &c. — That is, it came to pass by God’s command, that the surrounding nations were the adversaries of Jacob. We meet with a similar form of expression Psalm 68:11, The Lord gave the word, great was the company of those that published it. Jerusalem is as a menstruous woman — She is become loathsome and filthy in the eyes of her former friends, like women separated from the congregation in the time of their legal uncleanness.1:12-22 Jerusalem, sitting dejected on the ground, calls on those that passed by, to consider whether her example did not concern them. Her outward sufferings were great, but her inward sufferings were harder to bear, through the sense of guilt. Sorrow for sin must be great sorrow, and must affect the soul. Here we see the evil of sin, and may take warning to flee from the wrath to come. Whatever may be learned from the sufferings of Jerusalem, far more may be learned from the sufferings of Christ. Does he not from the cross speak to every one of us? Does he not say, Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Let all our sorrows lead us to the cross of Christ, lead us to mark his example, and cheerfully to follow him.Spreadeth forth her hands - In prayer Exodus 9:29, Exodus 9:33, but Zion entreats in vain. There is no one to comfort her - not God, for He is chastising her, nor man, for all the neighboring nations have become her enemies. See Lamentations 1:2.

That his adversaries ... - Rather, that those round about him should be his adversaries; all the neighboring states should regard him with aversion.

Jerusalem is ... - i. e. is become an abomination. The words are virtually the same as in Lamentations 1:8.

17. Like a woman in labor-throes (Jer 4:31).

menstruous woman—held unclean, and shunned by all; separated from her husband and from the temple (compare La 1:8; Le 14:19, &c.).


The same in this verse is meant by Zion, Jacob, and Jerusalem, unless Zion more specially signifieth the Jews considered as a church, because of the temple built upon it. She spreadeth out her hands as in a posture of mourning, and bewailing herself; but she had none that could afford her any comfort. God had commanded concerning the Jews who were descended from Jacob, (their twelve tribes from his twelve sons,) that their enemies should encompass them. They were become loathsome and filthy even in the eyes of their enemies, like women which were separated from the congregation during their legal uncleanness. Zion spreadeth forth her hands,.... Either as submitting to the conqueror, and imploring mercy; or rather as calling to her friends to help and relieve her. The Targum is,

"Zion spreadeth out her hands through distress, as a woman spreads out her hands upon the seat to bring forth;''

see Jeremiah 4:31. Some render the words, "Zion breaks with her hands" (f); that is, breaks bread; and Joseph Kimchi observes, that it was the custom of comforters to break bread to the mourner; but here she herself breaks it with her hands, because there was none to comfort her:

and there is none to comfort her; to speak a word of comfort to her, or to help her out of her trouble; her children gone into captivity; her friends and lovers at a distance; and God himself departed from her; See Gill on Lamentations 1:16;

the Lord hath commanded concerning Jacob, that his adversaries should be round about him; that he should be surrounded by them, and carried captive, and should be in the midst of them in captivity: this was the decree and determination of God; and, agreeably to it, he ordered it in his providence that the Chaldeans should come against him, encompass him, and overcome him; and that because he had slighted and broken the commandments of the Lord; and therefore was justly dealt with, as is acknowledged in Lamentations 1:18. So the Targum,

"the Lord gave to the house of Jacob commandments, and a law to keep, but they transgressed the decree of his word; therefore his enemies encompassed the house of Jacob round about:''

Jerusalem is as a menstruous woman among them; reckoned filthy and unclean, abominable and nauseous; whom none cared to come near, but shunned, despised, and abhorred; as the Jews separated from the Gentiles, and would not converse with them; so neither now would the Chaldeans with the Jews; but treat them as the offscouring of all things.

(f) "frangit Sion manibus suis", sub. "panem", Vatablus.

Zion spreadeth forth her hands, and there is none to comfort her: the LORD hath commanded concerning Jacob, that his adversaries should be around him: Jerusalem is {r} as a menstruous woman among them.

(r) Who because of her pollution was separate from her husband, Le 15:19 and was abhorred for the time.

17. Here the poet speaks, while Zion resumes her lament from Lamentations 1:18 to the end of the ch.

spreadeth forth her hands] in fruitless supplication. For the phrase itself cp. Exodus 9:29; 1 Kings 8:38, etc. The Targ., however, takes the expression to indicate a gesture of pain.

Jerusalem is, etc.] They look on her with loathing, as though ceremonially defiled.Verse 17. - Again the poet passes into the tone of reflection, thus relieving the strain upon the feelings of the reader. Spreadeth forth her hands. The gesture of supplication and entreaty (comp. Psalm 28:2; Psalm 63:4; Isaiah 65:2). That his adversaries, etc.; rather, those who are about him are his adversaries. The neighbouring peoples, who ought to be sympathetic and friendly, gloat over the spectacle of his calamities. They both hate and (comp. ver. 8) despise the fallen city. Besides 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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