The elders of the daughter of Zion sit on the ground, and keep silence: they have cast up dust on their heads; they have girded themselves with sackcloth: the virgins of Jerusalem hang down their heads to the ground.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)The elders of the daughter of Zion . . .—The despondency of the people is indicated by the outward signs of woe. Instead of taking counsel for the emergency, the elders sit, like Job’s friends (Job 2:11-13), as if the evil were inevitable. The maidens, who had once joined with timbrels and dances in festive processions, walk to and fro with downcast eyes.Lamentations 2:10-13. The elders, &c., sit upon the ground, and keep silence —
These and the other expressions of this and the two following verses betoken the deepest mourning and sorrow. Mine eyes do fail with tears — My sight is become dim with weeping. My bowels are troubled — As they were when he foresaw these calamities coming, Jeremiah 4:19-20. My liver is poured upon the earth — My vitals seem to be dissolved, and have lost all their strength. “That the mental passions.” says Blaney, “have a considerable influence upon the habit of the body in various instances, is a fact not to be questioned. And experience daily shows, that a violent uneasiness of mind tends greatly to promote a redundance and overflowing of vitiated bile. The liver is the proper seat of the bile, where its secretions are carried on. Hence the prophet’s meaning in this place seems to be, that he felt as if his whole liver was dissolved and carried off in bile, on account of the copious discharge brought on by continual vexation and fretting. Job expresses the same thing, Job 16:13, where he says, He poureth out my gall upon the ground.” Because the children and sucklings swoon in the streets — For want of sustenance. As the wounded — As those who are not presently despatched, but die a lingering death. What thing shall I take to witness for thee? — What instance can I bring of any calamity like thine, that such an example may be some mitigation of thy complaints. For thy breach is great, like the sea, &c. — The breach made in thee is like the breaking in of the sea that overflows a whole country, where no stop can be put to the inundation.
Her king - The prophet's lamentation, occupied before chiefly with the buildings of the city and temple, now turns to the people, beginning with their temporal rulers.
The law is no more - The Jewish Law, the Torah, came to an end when it no longer had a local habitation. Its enactments were essentially those not of a universal religion, but of a national religion, and the restoration of the nation with a material temple was indispensable to its continued existence. It was only when elevated to be a universal religion, by being made spiritual, that it could do without ark, temple, and a separate people.
Her prophets also find ... - With the Torah, the special gift of prophecy also ceased, since both were unique to the theocracy; but it was not until the establishment of Christianity that they were finally merged in higher developments of grace.
the virgins—who usually are so anxious to set off their personal appearances to advantage.
they have cast up dust upon their heads; on their white hairs and gray locks, which bespoke wisdom, and made them grave and venerable:
they have girded themselves with sackcloth: after the manner of mourners; who used to be clothed in scarlet and rich apparel, in robes suitable to their office as civil magistrates:
the virgins of Jerusalem hang down their heads to the ground: through shame and sorrow; who used to look brisk and gay, and walk with outstretched necks, and carried their heads high, but now low enough. Aben Ezra interprets it of the hair of their heads, which used to be tied up, but now loosed and dishevelled, and hung down as it were to the ground.The elders of the daughter of Zion sit upon the ground, and keep silence: they have cast up dust upon their heads; they have girded themselves with sackcloth: the virgins of Jerusalem hang down their heads to the ground.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)10. In this and the two following vv. we have the picture of the state of things in Jerusalem after the king, etc. (Lamentations 2:9) had been carried into exile. The half-starving people are left behind in their sufferings.
They have cast up dust upon their heads] Cp. 2 Samuel 13:19; Job 2:12.
sackcloth] Cp. Nehemiah 9:1.Verse 10. - They have cast up dust, etc. A sign of mourning (Joshua 7:6; 2 Samuel 13:19; Job 2:12). Lamentations 2:3 and Lamentations 2:4, the writer describes the hostile conduct of the Lord towards Israel, by which the kingdom of Judah was destroyed. Thenius utterly mistakes the poetic character of the description given, and evidently finds in it the several events that occurred up to the taking of the city, all mentioned in their natural order; according to this, the perfects would require to be translated as preterites. But this view can be made out only by giving an arbitrary meaning to the several figures used; e.g., it is alleged that "every horn" means the frontier fortresses, that the expression "before the enemy" refers to the time when the latter turned his face against Jerusalem, and so on. The three members of Lamentations 2:3 contain a climax: deprivation of the power to resist; the withdrawal of aid; the necessary consequence of which was the burning like a flame of fire. "To cut down the horn" means to take away offensive and defensive power; see on Jeremiah 48:25. "Every horn" is not the same as "all horns," but means all that was a horn of Israel (Gerlach). This included not merely the fortresses of Judah, but every means of defence and offence belonging to the kingdom, including men fit for war, who are neither to be excluded nor (with Le Clerc) to be all that is understood by "every horn." In the expression ימינו...השׁיב, the suffix, as in קשׁתּו, Lamentations 2:4, refers to Jahveh, because the suffix joined to יד always points back to the subject of the verb השׁיב; cf. Psalm 74:11. God drew back His hand before the enemy, i.e., He withdrew from the people His assistance in the struggle against the enemy. Such is the meaning given long ago by the Chaldee: nec auxiliatus est populo suo coram hoste. ויּבער בּיעקב does not mean "He consumed Jacob;" but He burned (i.e., made a conflagration) in Jacob; for, in every passage in which בּער is construed with בּ, it does not mean to "burn something," but to burn in or among, or to kindle a fire (cf. Job 1:16, where the burning up is only expressed by ותּאכלם, Numbers 11:3; Psalm 106:18), or to set something on fire, Isaiah 42:25. The burning represents devastation; hence the comparison of יבער with "like fire of flame ( equals flaming, brightly blazing fire, cf. Isaiah 4:5; Psalm 105:32) that devours round about." The subject of יבער is Jahveh, not ira Jovae (Rosenmller), or להבה (Neumann), or the enemy (Gerlach). The transition from the perfect with ו consec. does not cause any change of the subject; this is shown by Lamentations 2:4 and Lamentations 2:5, where also the second clause is connected with the first by means of ו consec. But the statement of Gerlach - that if Jahveh and not the enemy be the subject, then the consecutive sentence (the burning among Jacob as the result of the withdrawal of Jahveh's hand before the enemy) would be inexplicable - gives no evidence of its truth. The kindling or making of the fire in Jacob is, of course, represented as a result of what is previously stated, yet not as the consequence merely of the withdrawal of his hand, but also of the cutting off of every horn. In both of these ways, God has kindled in Jacob a fire which grows into a destructive conflagration. - In Lamentations 2:4 the idea is still further developed: God not merely delivered up His people to the enemy, leaving them defenceless and helpless, but also came forward Himself to fight against them as an enemy. He bent His bow like a warrior, showing Himself, in reference to His claims, as an adversary or oppressor. The specification "His right hand" is added, not so much for the purpose of defining more exactly the activity of the right hand (using it to shoot the arrows or wield the sword; cf. Deuteronomy 32:41., Psalm 7:13.), as rather with the view of expressing more precisely the hostile attitude of God, since the right hand of God is at other times represented as the instrument of help. The expression "and He slew," which follows, does not require us to think of a sword in the right hand of God, since we can also kill with arrows. God slew as an enemy; He destroyed everything that was precious in men's sight, i.e., to merely omnes homines aetate, specie, dignitate conspicuos (C. B. Michaelis, Rosenmller, Thenius); for, in Psalm 78:47, חרג is also used with reference to the effect of hail on the vine; and the arrows shot from the bow are merely named by synecdoche, and by way of specification, as instruments of war for destruction. Still less can מחמדּי־עין signify omnia ea templi ornamenta, quibus merito gloriabatur populus (Kalkschmidt), since it is not till Lamentations 2:6. that the temple is spoken of. "The word is to be taken in its widest generality, which is indicated by 'all;' accordingly, it comprehends everything that can be looked upon as dear," including children (cf. Ezekiel 24:25) and the sanctuary, though all these do not exhaust the meaning of the word (Gerlach). Upon the tent of the daughter of Zion He poured out His fury in fire. The daughter of Zion means the inhabitants of Jerusalem: her tent is not the temple (Kalkschmidt, Ewald), which is never called the tent of the daughter of Zion, but only that of Jahveh (1 Kings 2:28, etc.); but her house, i.e., the city as a collection of dwellings. The figure of the outpouring of wrath is often used, not only in Jeremiah 6:11; Jeremiah 10:25; Jeremiah 42:18, etc., but also in Hosea 5:10; Zephaniah 3:8; Psalm 69:25; Psalm 76:6, etc.
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