Lamentations 4:14
They have wandered as blind men in the streets, they have polluted themselves with blood, so that men could not touch their garments.
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(14) They have wandered . . .—Literally, reeled. The blindness, i.e., either that of the insatiable lust of blood, or of hopeless despair, or both. (Comp. Deuteronomy 28:28; Jeremiah 23:12; Isaiah 29:10.) The horror of the picture is heightened by the fact that the very garments of the priests were so dripping with blood that men shrank from touching them.

Lamentations 4:14-16. They have wandered as blind men in the streets — They strayed from the paths of righteousness, and were blind to every thing that was good, but to do evil they were quick-sighted; they have polluted themselves with blood — The blood of the saints and servants of the Lord; so that men could not touch their garments — But they would be legally polluted; and there were so many of them, that a man could not walk in the streets but he must touch some of them. They cried unto them, Depart ye: it is unclean — Or, ye polluted, depart, &c. “When they fled to save their lives, they could find no safe retreat, but every body shunned and avoided them as polluted; and used the same words to express their abhorrence of this defilement of such persons, whose office it was to cleanse and purify others, as the lepers were by the law obliged to pronounce upon themselves, and cry, Unclean, unclean: see Leviticus 13:45. The bloody garments of the priests called to remembrance the innocent blood which had been shed by their means, (Lamentations 4:13,) when people saw their sin thus retaliated upon them.” — Lowth. They said among the heathen, They shall no more sojourn there — Even the heathen themselves looked upon them as polluted persons, unworthy of living in Judea, or attending on the worship of God in his temple. And they concluded that such impious wretches would never be restored to their native country, but would continue always vagabonds. The anger of the Lord hath divided them — “God, in his just displeasure, hath scattered and dispersed them into foreign countries, where no respect will be given to their characters.” This seems to be the language of their enemies, triumphing over them, as discerning that their God was provoked with them, and would have no more regard to them. And therefore these heathen no more respected the persons of their priests or elders, but considered them as peculiarly guilty, and deserving of their abhorrence and execration.

4:13-20 Nothing ripens a people more for ruin, nor fills the measure faster, than the sins of priests and prophets. The king himself cannot escape, for Divine vengeance pursues him. Our anointed King alone is the life of our souls; we may safely live under his shadow, and rejoice in Him in the midst of our enemies, for He is the true God and eternal life.They have wandered - God's ministers, consecrated to His service, wandered through the city blinded by the insatiable lust of slaughter. It was a pollution to touch their garments. 14. blind—with mental aberration.

polluted … with blood—both with blood of one another mutually shed (for example, Jer 2:34), and with their blood shed by the enemy [Glassius].

not touch … garments—as being defiled with blood (Nu 19:16).


A variety of interpreters hath made this text much more difficult than it is. Certainly nothing can appear more reasonable than to interpret the pronoun in the front of the verse relatively, and to fetch the antecedent from the former verse. They, that is, the prophets and the priests, wandered up and down the streets like blind men, being spiritually blind, polluting themselves with blood, either the blood of the children which they slew, or the just men mentioned Lamentations 4:13, the slaughter of whom they either encouraged, or at least did not discourage; so as one could not touch a prophet or a priest but he must be legally polluted, and there were so many of them, that men could not walk in the streets but that he must touch some of them. Some thinking the discourse of the priests done with interpret they of the blind men in the city who could not walk up and down the streets without touching the bodies of some that were slain. Others interpret the words of the common people, who, during the siege, could no more avoid touching bodies slain, and so polluting themselves with blood, than blind men could; so as they abhorred to touch their own garments. The first sense to me seemeth most natural and easy.

They have wandered as blind men in the streets,.... That is, the false prophets and wicked priests; and may be understood either literally, that when the city was taken, and they fled, they were like blind men, and knew not which way to go to make their escape, but wandered from place to place, and could find no way out; or spiritually, though they pretended to great light and knowledge, yet were as blind men, surrounded with the darkness of ignorance and error, and were blind leaders of the blind:

they have polluted themselves with blood, so that men could not touch their garments; or, "could not but touch it with their garments" (c); or, "might not" (d); it was not lawful for them to do it: the sense is either, that, which way soever these men took to make their escape, they found so many dead carcasses in the streets, and such a profusion of blood by them, that they could not but touch it with their garments; or being besmeared with it, were so defiled, that others might not touch them, even their garments; or these men had defiled themselves with the shedding of the blood of righteous persons; so that they were odious to men, and they shunned them as they would do anything that by the law rendered them in a ceremonious sense unclean, and therefore said as follows:

(c) "quem non possunt, quin tangent vestimentis suis", "Junius & Tremellius. (d) "Tangebant eum (nempe sanguinem) vestibus eorum quem non potuerunt", i.e. "jure", Gataker.

They have wandered as blind men {h} in the streets, they have polluted themselves with blood, so that {i} men could not touch their garments.

(h) Some refer this to the blind men who as they went, stumbled on the blood, of which the city was full.

(i) Meaning the heathen who came to destroy them could not abide them.

14. They] these prophets and priests.

wander, etc.] in perplexity and helplessness, stamped with the mark of Cain.

Verse 14. - They; i.e. the prophets and priests. Wandered as blind men. The leaders of the people are blinded by ignorance, for they know not the only true way of averting calamity, and by passion, for they have not that "eye" of the soul (Matthew 6:22, 23) which alone enables a man to see the good and the right course for himself individually, The" wandering," or, rather, "staggering" (comp. Psalm 107:27, Authorized Version), however, may also refer to the panic stricken condition of those self. deceived deceivers when overtaken by God's punishment; comp. "wine of reeling" (Authorized Version, "astonishment"), Psalm 60:3; also the prophecies in Deuteronomy 28:28, 29; Jeremiah 23:12. The doubt is whether "have wandered" refers to some period before the final catastrophe, or to the consternation produced by that awful surprise. The latter view seems the more probable. They have polluted themselves, etc. Their acts of violence have been continued to the very end of their term of power. Their garments are still stained with blood when the summons to depart into exile reaches them. Lamentations 4:14This 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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