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. Lamentations 4:12This judgment of wrath is a consequence of the sins of the prophets and priests (Lamentations 4:12-16), as well as of their vain trust on the help of man (Lamentations 4:17-20). Lamentations 4:12. The capture of Jerusalem by enemies (an event which none in all the world thought possible) has been brought on through the sins of the prophets and priests. The words, "the kings of the earth...did not believe that an enemy would come in at the gates of Jerusalem," are well explained by C. B. Michaelis, thus: reputando fortitudinem urbis, quae munitissima erat, tum defensorem ejus Jehovam, qui ab hostibus, ad internecionem caesis, urbem aliquoties, mirifice liberaverat, e.g., 2 Reg. 19:34. The words certainly form a somewhat overdrawn expression of deep subjective conviction; but they cannot properly be called a hyperbole, because the remark of Ngelsbach, that Jerusalem had been taken more than once before Nebuchadnezzar (1 Kings 14:26; 2 Kings 14:13.; 2 Chronicles 33:11; 2 Kings 23:33.), seems incorrect. For the occasions upon which Jerusalem was taken by Shishak and by Joash king of Israel (1 Kings 14 and 2 Kings 14) belong to those earlier times when Jerusalem was far from being so strongly fortified as it afterwards became, in the times of Uzziah, Jotham, and Manasseh (2 Chronicles 26:9; 2 Chronicles 27:3; 2 Chronicles 33:14). In 2 Chronicles 33:11, on the other hand, there is nothing said of Jerusalem being taken; and the capture by Pharaoh-Necho does not call for consideration, in so far as it forms the beginning of the catastrophe, whose commencement was thought impossible. Ewald wrongly connects Lamentations 4:13 with Lamentations 4:12 into one sentence, thus: "that an enemy would enter the gates of Jerusalem because of the sins of her prophets," etc. The meaning of these verses is thereby not merely weakened, but also misrepresented; and there is ascribed to the kings and inhabitants of the world an opinion regarding the internal evils of Jerusalem, which they neither pronounced nor could have pronounced.

Lamentations 4:12-14

Lamentations 4:12 contains an exclamation over the incredible event that has happened, and Lamentations 4:13 assigns the cause of it: the mediating and combining thought, "this incredible thing has happened," suggests itself. It has taken place on account of the sins of her prophets and priests, who have shed the blood of righteous men in Jerusalem. A historic proof of this is furnished in Jeremiah 26:7., where priests and prophets indicted Jeremiah on a capital charge, because he had announced that Jerusalem and the temple would suffer the fate of Shiloh; from this, Ngelsbach rightly concludes that, in any case, the burden of the guilt of the martyr-blood that was shed falls on the priests and prophets. Besides this, cf. the denunciations of the conduct of the priests and prophets in Jeremiah 6:13-15; Jeremiah 23:11; Jeremiah 27:10; Ezekiel 22:25. - In Lamentations 4:14, Lamentations 4:15, there is described the fate of these priests and prophets, but in such a way that Jeremiah has, throughout, mainly the priests before his mind. We may then, without further hesitation, think of the priests as the subject of נעוּ, inasmuch as they are mentioned last. Kalkschmidt wrongly combines Lamentations 4:13 and Lamentations 4:14, thus: "because of the sins of the prophets...they wander about," etc.; in this way, the Israelites would be the subject to נעוּ, and in Lamentations 4:14 the calamitas ex sacerdotum prophetarumque sceleribus profecta would be described. This, however, is contradicted, not merely by the undeniable retrospection of the expression, "they have polluted themselves with blood" (Lamentations 4:14), to the shedding of blood mentioned in Lamentations 4:13, but also by the whole contents of Lamentations 4:14, especially the impossibility of touching their clothes, which does not well apply to the people of Israel (Judah), but only to the priests defiled with blood. Utterly erroneous is the opinion of Pareau, Ewald, and Thenius, that in Lamentations 4:14-16 there is "presented a fragment from the history of the last siege of Jerusalem," - a rupture among the besieged, headed by the most eminent of the priests and prophets, who, filled with frenzy and passion against their fellow-citizens, because they would not believe in the speedy return of the exiles, became furious, and caused their opponents to be murdered. Regarding this, there is neither anything historical known, nor is there any trace of it to be discovered in these verses. The words, "prophets and priests hesitated (or wavered) like blind men on the streets, soiled with blood, so that none could touch their clothes," merely state that these men, smitten of God in consequence of their blood-guiltiness, wandered up and down in the streets of the city, going about like blind men. This description has been imitated from such passages as Deuteronomy 28:28., Jeremiah 23:12; Isaiah 29:9, where the people, and especially their leaders, are threatened, as a punishment, with blind and helpless staggering; but it is not to be referred to the time of the last siege of Jerusalem. עורים does not mean caedium perpetrandarum insatiabili cupiditate occaecati (Rosenmller), nor "as if intoxicated with blood that has been shed" (Ngelsbach), but as if struck with blindness by God, so that they could no longer walk with firm and steady step. "They are defiled with blood" is a reminiscence from Isaiah 59:3. As to the form נגאל, compounded of the Niphal and Pual, cf. Ewald, 132, b, and Delitzsch on Isaiah, l.c. בּלא יוּכלוּ, without one being able, i.e., so that one could not. As to the construction of יכול with a finite verb following, instead of the infinitive with ל, cf. Ewald, 285, c, c, and Gesenius, 142, 3, b.

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