Lamentations 4:12
The kings of the earth, and all the inhabitants of the world, would not have believed that the adversary and the enemy should have entered into the gates of Jerusalem.
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(12) Would not have believed.—In. looking to the fact that Jerusalem had been taken by Shishak (1Kings 14:26), Joash (2Kings 14:13), the statement seems at first hyperbolical. It has to be remembered, however, that since the latter of these two the city had been strongly fortified by Uzziah, Hezekiah, and Manasseh, and the failure of Sennacherib’s attempt had probably led to the impression that it was impregnable.

Lamentations 4:12. The kings of the earth, &c., would not have believed — “The city was so well fortified, and had been so often miraculously preserved by God from the attempts of its enemies, that it seemed incredible that it should at last fall into their hands.” — Lowth.4:1-12 What a change is here! Sin tarnishes the beauty of the most exalted powers and the most excellent gifts; but that gold, tried in the fire, which Christ bestows, never will be taken from us; its outward appearance may be dimmed, but its real value can never be changed. The horrors of the siege and destruction of Jerusalem are again described. Beholding the sad consequences of sin in the church of old, let us seriously consider to what the same causes may justly bring down the church now. But, Lord, though we have gone from thee in rebellion, yet turn to us, and turn our hearts to thee, that we may fear thy name. Come to us, bless us with awakening, converting, renewing, confirming grace.Though Jerusalem had been several times captured 1 Kings 14:26; 2 Kings 14:13; 2 Kings 23:33-35, yet it had been so strongly fortified by Uzziah and his successors as to have been made virtually impregnable. Its present capture by Nebuchadnezzar had cost him a year and a half's siege. 12. Jerusalem was so fortified that all thought it impregnable. It therefore could only have been the hand of God, not the force of man, which overthrew it.


Jerusalem was so naturally and artificially fortified, and so favoured by God, and taken notice of as a place which the Lord cared for, and watched over, that it could not have entered into the thoughts of any of those that were enemies to it, that they should ever have been able to make themselves masters of it. The kings of the earth, and all the inhabitants of the world,.... Not only the neighbouring nations, and the kings of them, but even such in all parts of the world that knew anything of Jerusalem:

would not have believed that the adversary and the enemy would have entered into the gates of Jerusalem; when it was besieging, they did not believe it would be taken; and when they heard it was, it was incredible to them; it being so strongly fortified by art and nature, with mountains and hills, with walls and bulwarks, and had such a vast number of people in it; and, especially, was the city of the great God, who had so often and so signally preserved and saved it: the "adversary" and "enemy" are the same, and design the Chaldeans. The Targum distinguishes them, and makes Nebuchadnezzar the ungodly to be the adversary; and Nebuzaradan the enemy, who entered to slay the people of the house of Israel, in the gates of Jerusalem; this was a marvellous thing to the nations round about. Titus, when he took this city, acknowledged it was owing to God (b);

"God (says he) favouring us, we fought; God is he that has drawn the Jews out of these fortresses; for human hands and machines could have done nothing against these towers.''

(b) Joseph. De Bello Jud. l. 6. c. 9. sect. 1.

The kings of the earth, and all the inhabitants of the world, would not have believed that the adversary and the enemy should have entered into the gates of Jerusalem.
12. all the inhabitants of the world] an ordinary form of Eastern hyperbole, suggesting to their minds only the same notion as our every body, the obvious limitations being given by the sense in each case. The preaching of Isaiah, supported as it was by the overthrow of Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:34 f.), led to the belief, in spite of Jeremiah’s warnings, that Jerusalem could not be absolutely overthrown, a belief which the writer here evidently had shared. This circumstance of itself throws doubt upon Jeremiah’s authorship of this book. Jerusalem’s fortifications, in fact, had been much strengthened by Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:9), Jotham (ib. 2 Chronicles 27:3), and Manasseh (ib. 2 Chronicles 33:14).Verse 12. - The kings of the earth, etc. And yet Jerusalem had been taken twice before its capture by Nebuchadnezzar (see 1 Kings 14:26; 2 Kings 14:131. How is the language of the second part to be accounted for? It will help us to an answer if we observe that the later Jews seem to have acquired an exorbitant confidence in their national future ever since the Book of Deuteronomy had become as it were canonical in the reign of Josiah. "The temple of Jehovah" was ever in their mouths (Jeremiah 7:9), and the strong outward regard paid to the directions of the Law seemed to them to justify their believing in the fulfilment of its promises. And, in fact, the grand deliverance of Jerusalem in the reign of Hezekiah might, even without this misunderstanding of Deuteronomy, have inspired a firm faith in the security of Jerusalem. A sacred poet had already, on the occasion of that deliverance, declared of the holy city that "God upholdeth the same forever" (Psalm 48:8), and also (in vers. 4, 5) used the same hyperbole as the author of this lamentation to express the wide reaching interest felt in the fortunes of Jerusalem. The greatness of their guilt is seen in this misery. The ו consecutive joined with יגדּל here marks the result, so far as this manifests itself: "thus the offence (guilt) of the daughter of my people has become greater than the sin of Sodom." Most expositors take עון and הטּאת dna here in the sense of punishment; but this meaning has not been established. The words simply mean "offence" and "sin," sometimes including their consequences, but nowhere do they mean unceremonious castigation. But when Thenius is of opinion that the context demands the meaning "punishment" (not "sin"), he has inconsiderately omitted the ו consec., and taken a wrong view of the context. הפך is the usual word employed in connection with the destruction of Sodom; cf. Genesis 19:21, Genesis 19:25; Deuteronomy 29:22, etc. 'ולא חלוּ וגו is translated by Thenius, et non torquebatur in ea manus, i.e., without any one wringing his hands. However, חוּל (to go in a circle) means to writhe with pain, but does not agree with ידים, to wring the hands. In Hosea 11:6 חוּל is used of the sword, which "circles" in the cities, i.e., cuts and kills all round in them. In like manner it is here used of the hands that went round in Sodom for the purpose of overthrowing (destroying) the city. Ngelsbach wrongly derives חלוּ from חלה, to become slack, powerless. The words, "no hands went round (were at work) in her," serve to explain the meaning of כּמו רגע, "as in a moment," without any need for the hands of men being engaged in it. By this additional remark, not merely is greater prominence given to the sudden destruction of Sodom by the hand of God; but it is also pointed out how far Jerusalem, in comparison with that judgment of God, suffers a greater punishment for her greater sins: for her destruction by the hand of man brings her more enduring torments. "Sodom's suffering at death was brief; for there were no children dying of hunger, no mothers who boiled their children" (Ngelsbach). Sodom was spared this heartrending misery, inasmuch as it was destroyed by the hand of God in an instant.
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