Lamentations 1:4
The ways of Zion do mourn, because none come to the solemn feasts: all her gates are desolate: her priests sigh, her virgins are afflicted, and she is in bitterness.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) The ways of Zion do mourn.—The words paint what we may call the religious desolation of Jerusalem. The roads leading to it, the “gates” by which it was entered, were no longer thronged with pilgrims and worshippers. “Virgins” are joined with “priests” as taking part in the hymns and rejoicing processions of the great festivals (Exodus 15:20; Psalm 68:25; Judges 21:19-21; Jeremiah 31:13).

Lamentations 1:4-6. The ways of Zion do mourn — The highways leading to Zion, which used to be thronged with people going to the solemn feasts before the Lord, now, as it were, mourned on account of no persons travelling in them for that purpose. All her gates are desolate — The gates of Jerusalem, or of the temple: few or none passing through them, the city and country being depopulated; and there are no longer any courts of judicature, or assemblies of people, held in her gates. Her priests sigh — Because no victims, or other oblations, are offered, the temple and altar being destroyed. Her virgins are afflicted — Her calamities afflict the young as well as the old, and persons of all ages and ranks are in bitterness. Her adversaries are the chief — Her enemies have got the advantage over her, and she is become their vassal. This was a judgment that Moses threatened to them if they proved disobedient, Deuteronomy 28:43; namely, that their enemies should be the head, and they the tail. For the Lord hath afflicted her — Hath fulfilled his threatenings, denounced in case of disobedience. For the multitude of her transgressions — The procuring, provoking cause of all her calamities: for whoever may be made the instruments, God is the author of all these troubles: it is the Lord that has afflicted her, and he has done it as a righteous judge, because of her transgressions, which have been very many as well as very great. Hence her children, her inhabitants, are gone into captivity before the enemy — Are forced into slavery by the Chaldeans, as cattle are driven in herds by them that sell them. And from the daughter of Zion all her beauty is departed — All the glory of God’s sanctuary, and the comely order of his worship, and all the beauty of holiness. Her princes are like harts, &c. — That upon the first alarm betake themselves to flight, and make no resistance: they are become dispirited, have lost their courage, given way and fled before their enemies.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.Zion, as the holy city, is the symbol of the religious life of the people, just as Judah in the previous verse represents their national life. The "virgins" took a prominent part in all religious festivals Jeremiah 31:13; Exodus 15:20. 4. feasts—the passover, pentecost (or the feast of weeks), and the feast of tabernacles.

gates—once the place of concourse.

He.

The ways that lead to the temple have as unlovely a complexion as mourners, being overgrown, by reason that none goeth up as usually to the feasts of the passover, of tabernacles, &c. Either all the gates of Jerusalem, or the temple, or all her cities, are very thin of people, the places that use to be so full. Her priests that were wont to be so fully employed at festivals receiving the people’s oblations, and offering sacrifices, they mourn, having now nothing to do. The virgins who in those feasts were wont to play with timbrels, Psalm 68:25, they now mourn, and persons of all ages and ranks are in bitterness. The ways of Zion do mourn,.... Being unoccupied, as in Judges 5:6; or unfrequented: this is said by a rhetorical figure; as ways may be said to rejoice, or look pleasant and cheerful, when there are many passengers in them, going to and fro; so they may be said to mourn, or to look dull and melancholy, when no person is met with, or seen in them; thus Jerusalem and the temple being destroyed, the ways which led from the one to the other, and in which used to be seen great numbers going up to the worship of God, which was pleasant to behold, Psalm 42:4; now not one walking in them, and all overgrown with grass; and those roads which led from the several parts of the land to Jerusalem, whither the ten tribes went up to worship three times in the year, and used to travel in companies, which made it delightful and comfortable, and pleasant to look at, now none to be seen upon them; which was matter of grief to those that wished well to Zion; as it is to all truly godly persons to observe that the ways and worship of God are not frequented; that there are few inquiring the way to Zion above, or travelling in the road to heaven; as also when there are few that worship God in Zion below, or ask the way unto it, or walk in the ordinances of it:

because none come to the solemn feasts. Aben Ezra understands this of the sanctuary itself; which sense Abendana mentions; expressed by the word here used; and so called, because all Israel were convened here; but the Targum and Jarchi more rightly interpret it of the feasts, the three solemn feasts of the passover, pentecost, and tabernacles, at which all the males in Israel were obliged to appear; but now, the temple and city being in ruins, none came to them, which was a very distressing case; as it is to good men, when upon whatever occasion, either through persecution, or through sloth and negligence, the ministry of the word, and the administration of ordinances, particularly the Lord's supper, the solemn feasts under the Gospel dispensation, are not attended to:

all her gates are desolate; the gates of the temple; none passing through them into it to worship God, pray unto him, praise him, or offer sacrifice; or the gates of the city, none going to and fro in them; nor the elders sitting there in council, as in courts of judicature, to try causes, and do justice and judgment:

her priests sigh; the temple burnt; altars destroyed, and no sacrifices brought to be offered; and so no employment for them, and consequently no bread; but utterly deprived of their livelihood, and had good reason to sigh. The Targum adds,

"because the offerings ceased:''

her virgins are afflicted; or, "are sorrowful" (m); are in grief and mourning, that used to be brisk and gay, and to play with timbrels at their festivals; so the Targum paraphrases it,

"the virgins mourn because they cease to go out on the fifteenth of Ab, and on the day of atonement, which was the tenth of Tisri, to dance in the dances:''

and she is in bitterness; that is, Zion; or the congregation of Israel is in bitterness of spirit, in great affliction and distress; her name might be rightly called Marah; see Ruth 1:20.

(m) "moestae", Junius & Tremellius, Michaelis; "moerent", Piscator; "moestitia affectae sunt", Cocceius.

The ways of Zion do mourn, because none come {f} to the solemn feasts: all her gates are desolate: her priests sigh, her virgins are afflicted, and she is in bitterness.

(f) As they used to come up with mirth and joy, Ps 42:4.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. The ways of Zion do mourn] The approaches to Jerusalem are meant. They are desolate, without the usual throng of those coming up to the feasts.

For the thought of inanimate objects as sympathising with human affairs cp.

“Call it not vain—they do not err,

Who say, that, when the Poet dies,

Mute Nature mourns her worshipper,

And celebrates his obsequies.”

Lay of the Last Minstrel, Canto V.

All her gates are desolate] See on Jeremiah 14:2.

her priests do sigh] in the absence of sacrifices, their livelihood has disappeared.

Her virgins are afflicted] They are mentioned as taking part in religious ceremonies. See Exodus 15:20; Jdg 21:21; Psalm 68:25; Jeremiah 31:13. It is clear from this passage that when the poem was written, there was no attempt at worship on the Temple site, though it may have continued for a while after the destruction of the city (see on Jeremiah 41:5).Verse 4. - The ways of Zion do mourn. The reads leading to Jerusalem, usually so thronged with pilgrims, are desolate and "mourn" (comp. ch. 2:8 and Isaiah 3:26; Isaiah 14:31). All her gates are desolate. No one goes in or out of Jerusalem, and there is no concourse of citizens in the shady recess of the gates. The virgins are afflicted. So Zephaniah 3:18. The sorrow was on account of the cessation of the festival, in the music of which they took a leading part (comp. Psalm 68:25). The closing portion of this chapter, viz., the notice regarding the liberation of Jehoiachin from imprisonment, ad his elevation to royal honours by Evil-merodach after Nebuchadnezzar's death, substantially agrees with the account given of that even in 2 Kings 25:27-30. The difference of date, "on the twenty-fifth of the month" (Jeremiah 52:31), and "on the twenty-seventh of the month" in 2 Kings, has arisen through the entrance of a clerical error into one text or the other. The few remaining variations of the two texts have no influence on the meaning. As to the fact itself, and its importance for the people languishing in exile, we may refer to the explanation given at 2 Kings 25:27.
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