Lamentations 4:17
As for us, our eyes as yet failed for our vain help: in our watching we have watched for a nation that could not save us.
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(17) As for us . . .—Better, Still do our eyes waste away, looking for our vain help.

In our watching.—Better, upon our watch-tower. (Comp. Habakkuk 2:1.) The people of Judah are represented as looking out for the approach of an ally, probably Egypt (Jeremiah 37:7), and looking in vain.

Lamentations 4:17. As for us, &c. — The prophet, after having digressed in the last five verses to make observation on the wickedness of those who had been the principal cause of the national ruin, here returns again to the lamentable description of the particulars. Our eyes as yet failed for our vain help — The help of the Egyptians, which they had expected in vain. In our watching we have watched — We have long waited with eager desire and expectation; for a nation that could not save us — For succours from a people who at last have wofully disappointed us.

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.A rapid sketch of the last days of the siege and the capture of the king.

Lamentations 4:17

Rather, "Still do our eyes waste away looking for our vain help."

In our watching - Or, "on our watchtower."

17. As for us—This translation forms the best antithesis to the language of the heathen (La 4:15, 16). Calvin translates, "While as yet we stood as a state, our eyes failed," &c.

watched for a nation that could not save us—Egypt (2Ki 24:7; Isa 30:7; Jer 37:5-11).


That is, in expectation of the Egyptians, whom they waited for to raise the siege; it was a long time before they came, and When they did come, they could do them no service at all, Jeremiah 37:5,7,8.

As for us, our eyes as yet failed for our vain help,.... Or, "while we were yet" (h); a nation, a people, a body politic, in our own land, before the city of Jerusalem was taken, we were looking for help, as was promised us; but it proved a vain help, none was given us; for which we kept looking to the last, till our eyes failed, and we could look no longer; no help appeared, nor was there any prospect or probability of it, and therefore gave all up:

in our watching we watched for a nation that could not save us; not the Romans, as the Targum, but the Egyptians; these promised them help and relief, and therefore in their watching they watched, or vehemently watched, and wistfully looked out for it, but all in vain; for though these made an attempt to help them, they durst not proceed; were obliged to retire, not being a match for the Chaldean army, and so could not save them, or break up the siege, and relieve them.

(h) "quum adhuc essemus", Munster: Piscator.

As for us, our eyes as yet failed for our vain help: in our watching we have watched for {l} a nation that could not save us.

(l) He shows two principal causes for their destruction: their cruelty and their vain confidence in man: for they trusted in the help of the Egyptians.

17. The expectation that Egypt or some other nation might come to the rescue, was cherished throughout the year and a half of the siege, and here is set forth the heart-sickness caused by this hope deferred, together with a vivid description of the last thrilling scenes before the capture of the city. That this hope was not shared by Jeremiah is shewn by Jeremiah 37:5-10. See Intr. p. 324.

do yet fail] perhaps we should translate (see last note) did fail (Heb. imperfect of graphic description) and so render the verbs that follow, we watched … they hunted … that we could not go … our end drew near … were fulfilled … was come. But the tenses in R.V. may be justifiable, as historic presents, vividly descriptive of the past.

In our watching] or, on our watch-tower.

Verse 17. - As for us, our eyes, etc.; rather (correcting the reading of the first word), Our eyes were still wasting away (as we looked) for our help in vain. To the very last the Jews leaned on "that broken reed," Egypt (Isaiah 36:6); how vain that hope would be Jeremiah had already told them (Jeremiah 37:7, 8). In our watching; i.e. earnestly and continually; or, on our watchtower. Lamentations 4:17In spite of these facts, which show that God has poured out His fury on us, and that our prophets and priests have been smitten by God for their sins, we still wait, vainly relying on the help of man. In this way, Lamentations 4:17 is attached to what precedes, - not merely to Lamentations 4:16, but also the series of thoughts developed in Lamentations 4:12-16, viz., that in the capture of Jerusalem (which nobody thought possible) there is plainly made known the judgment of God upon the sins of His people and their leaders. It is with special emphasis that עודינה stands at the beginning of the verse: "still do our eyes continue to waste away." The form עודינה (Kethib), in place of which the Qeri subtitles עודינוּ, is abnormal, since עוד does not take plural forms of the suffix in any other instance, and ־נה does not occur elsewhere as a noun-suffix. The form is evidently copied from תּכלינה, and must be third fem. pl., as distinguished from the singular suffix עודנּה, 1 Kings 1:22. The Qeri עודינוּ, which is preferred by Michaelis, Pareau, Rosenmller, and Thenius, has for its basis the idea "we still were;" this is shown by the translation ἔτι ὄντων ἡμῶν of the lxx, and cum adhuc subsisteremus of Jerome. But this view of the word, like most of the Qeris, is a useless attempt at explanation; for עודינוּ alone cannot have the meaning attributed to it. and the supplements proposed, in statu priori, or "in the city," are but arbitrary insertions into the text. The combination עודינוּ תּכלינה, which is a rare one, evidently means, "our eyes are still pining (consuming) away," so that the imperfect is used with the meaning of the participle; cf. Ewald, 306, c, Rem. 2. The combination of כלה with אל is pregnant: "they consume away (while looking out) for our help;" cf. Deuteronomy 28:28; Psalm 69:4. הבל is not an exclamation, "in vain!" (Thenius), but stands in apposition to "our help;" thus, "for our help, a help of vanity," i.e., for a vain help; cf. Ewald, 287, c. The vain help is more distinctly specified in the second member of the verse, as a looking out for a nation that will not help. צפיּה does not mean "the watch-tower" (Chald., Syr., etc.), - because "on the watch-tower" would require to be expressed by על; cf. Isaiah 21:8; 2 Chronicles 20:24, - but "watching." By the "nation that does not help," expositors, following Jeremiah 37:7, think that Egypt is intended. But the words must by no means be referred to the event there described, inasmuch as we should then be obliged to take the verbs as preterites-a course which would not accord with the interchange of the imperfect (תּכלינה) with the perfect (צפּינוּ). A strange confusion would also arise, such as is made out by Vaihinger: for we would find the prophet placing his readers, in Lamentations 4:14, in the time of the siege of Jerusalem; then, in Lamentations 4:15, into the conquered city; and in Lamentations 4:17 and Lamentations 4:18, back once more into the beleaguered city, which we again, in Lamentations 4:19, see conquered (Gerlach). According to Lamentations 4:18-20, Judah is completely in the power of the Chaldeans; hence the subject treated of in Lamentations 4:17 is the looking out for the assistance of some nation, after the enemy had already taken Jerusalem and laid it in ashes. What the prophet denounces, then, is that help is still looked for from a nation which nevertheless will not help. In this, perhaps, he may have had Egypt before his mind; for, that the Jews, even after the destruction of Jerusalem, still looked for deliverance or help from Egypt, may be inferred partly from the fact that those who were left in the country fled thither for refuge, and partly from Ezekiel 29:16. Only, the words are not to be restricted merely to this.
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