Lamentations 3:5
He hath builded against me, and compassed me with gall and travail.
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(5) He hath builded.—The attack of sorrow is presented under the figure of a siege. In the next clause the figure is dropped. “Gall” stands, as in Jeremiah 8:14, for bitterest sorrow. “Travel” is the old English form of “travail,” the two forms, originally identical, being now used with different meanings.

3:1-20 The prophet relates the more gloomy and discouraging part of his experience, and how he found support and relief. In the time of his trial the Lord had become terrible to him. It was an affliction that was misery itself; for sin makes the cup of affliction a bitter cup. The struggle between unbelief and faith is often very severe. But the weakest believer is wrong, if he thinks that his strength and hope are perished from the Lord.He hath builded ... - The metaphor is taken from the operations in a siege.

Gall and travail - Or "travail;" i. e. bitterness and weariness (through toil).

5. builded—mounds, as against a besieged city, so as to allow none to escape (so La 3:7, 9). He hath not builded with me, increasing my prosperity, and protecting my houses, but he hath builded forts, and batteries, and castles, (military buildings,) to batter down my walls and houses, Isaiah 29:2,3. And compassed me with gall and travel; or with poison, venom, and misery, as some translate it; and it seems more proper than gall and travel, which have no cognation one with another. We are not well acquainted with the ancient dialect of other countries: the sense is obvious, God had surrounded them with misery and calamities.

He hath builded against me,.... Fortresses, as the Targum adds; as when forts and batteries were raised by the Chaldeans against the city of Jerusalem, in which the prophet was:

and compassed me with gall and travail; or "weariness" (e); the same with gall and wormwood, Lamentations 3:19; as Jarchi observes. The sense is, he was surrounded with sorrow, affliction, and misery, which were as disagreeable as gall; or like poison that drank up his spirits, and made him weary of his life. Thus our Lord was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death; encompassed with sorrows, Matthew 26:38. The Targum is,

"he hath surrounded the city, and rooted up the heads of the people, and caused them to fail.''

(e) "et fatigatione", Montanus, Vatablus, Castalio.

He hath {b} built against me, and surrounded me with gall and labour.

(b) He speaks this as one that felt God's heavy judgment, which he greatly feared, and therefore sets them out with this diversity of words.

5. He hath builded against me, and compassed] Here as in Lamentations 3:3 we have to deal with the idiom by which two verbs are used where we should in English have a verb and adverb. Translate therefore He hath builded against me round about.

gall] See on Jeremiah 8:14. The combination with “travail” suggests some corruption in the text. Löhr adopts for his translation (though with some hesitation) bitterness and wormwood.

travail] weariness, hardship. From 1611 to the American edition of 1867 all editions of the Authorized Version had travel both here and in the case of Numbers 20:14. It was probably in comparatively recent times that the two modes of spelling came to be definitely appropriated to distinct meanings of the word.

Verse 5. - He hath builded against me, and compassed me. A figure from the siege of a town. Gall. For the true meaning of the word, see on Jeremiah 8:14. We need not trouble ourselves about it here, for the word is evidently used as a kind of "ideograph" for bitterness. Travel; literally, weariness. Lamentations 3:5"Only upon (against) me does He repeatedly turn His hand." ישׁוּב is subordinated to the idea of יהפך in an adverbial sense; cf. Gesenius, 142, 3, b. "His hand" is the smiting hand of God. אך, "only upon me," expresses the feeling which makes him on whom grievous sufferings have fallen to regard himself as one smitten in a special manner by God. "The whole day," i.e., continually; cf. Lamentations 1:13. - From Lamentations 3:4 onwards this divine chastisement is more minutely set forth under various figures, and first of all as a wasting away of the vital force. בּלּה means to wear out by rubbing, cause to fall away, from בּלה, to be worn out, which is applied to clothes, and then transferred to bodies, Job 13:28; Psalm 49:15. "Flesh and skin" are the exterior and soft constituents of the body, while the bones are the firmer parts. Skin, flesh, and bones together, make up the substance of the human body. Proverbs 5:11 forms the foundation of the first clause. "He hath broken my bones" is a reminiscence from the lamentation of Hezekiah in Isaiah 38:13; cf. Psalm 51:10; Job 30:17. The meaning is thus excellently given by Pareau: indicantur animi, fortius irae divinae malorumque sensu conquassati, angores. - The figure in Lamentations 3:5, "He builds round about and encircles me," is derived from the enclosing of a city by besieging it. עלי is to be repeated after wayaqeep. The besieging forces, which encompass him so that he cannot go out and in, are ראשׁ וּתלאה. That the former of these two words cannot mean κεφαλήν μου (lxx), is abundantly evident. ראשׁ or רושׁ is a plant with a very bitter taste, hence a poisonous plant; see on Jeremiah 8:14. As in that passage מי ראשׁ, so here the simple ראשׁ is an emblem of bitter suffering. The combination with תּלאה, "toil," is remarkable, as a case in which a figurative is joined with a literal expression; this, however, does not justify the change of תּלאה into לענה (Castell, Schleussner, etc.). The combination is to be explained on the ground that ראשׁ had become so common a symbol of bitter suffering, that the figure was quite lost sight of behind the thing signified.
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