Lamentations 4:19
Our persecutors are swifter than the eagles of the heaven: they pursued us on the mountains, they laid wait for us in the wilderness.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(19) Our persecutors.—Better, Our pursuers, the words referring to the Chaldæan enemies rather than to persecutors in the modern sense of the word. The comparison with eagles has a parallel in Deuteronomy 28:49. If we take the second clause as referring to the flight of Zedekiah, mentioned in the next verse, the mountains would be the heights east of Jerusalem, beginning with the Mount of Olives, and the wilderness that of the Ghor, or Jordan Valley (Jeremiah 39:5).

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.Our persecutors are ... - Our pursuers (Lamentations 1:3 note) "were swifter thorn the eagles of heaven."

They pursued us - Or, they chased us.

Mountains ... wilderness - The route in going from Jerusalem to Jericho leads first over heights, beginning with the Mount of Olives, and then descends into the plain of the Ghor.

19. The last times just before the taking of the city. There was no place of escape; the foe intercepted those wishing to escape from the famine-stricken city, "on the mountains and in the wilderness."

swifter … than … eagles—the Chaldean cavalry (Jer 4:13).

pursued—literally, "to be hot"; then, "to pursue hotly" (Ge 31:36). Thus they pursued and overtook Zedekiah (Jer 52:8, 9).

Resh.

Our enemies who pursued us to destroy us were very swift in their pursuit of us, (As swift as an eagle, was a proverbial expression,) we could no where be safe: if we sought refuge in the mountains, they followed us thither; if we fled from them into the wilderness, they laid wait for us there. Our persecutors are swifter than the eagles of the heavens,.... That fly in the heavens; and which, as they have a quick sight to discern their prey afar off, are very swift to pursue it; they are the swiftest of birds, and are so to a proverb. Apuleius (i) represents the swift pursuit of their prey, and sudden falling upon it, to be like thunder and lightning. Cicero (k) relates of a certain racer, that came to an interpreter of dreams, and told him, that in his dream he seemed to become an eagle; upon which, says the interpreter, thou wilt be the conqueror; for no bird flies with such force and swiftness as that. And this bird is also remarkable for its constancy in flying: it is never weary, but keeps on flying to places the most remote. The poets have a fiction, that Jupiter, being desirous of knowing which was the middle of the world, sent out two eagles of equal swiftness, the one from the east, and the other from the west, at the same moment; which stopped not till they came to Delphos, where they met, which showed that to be the spot; in memory of which, two golden eagles were placed in the temple there (l). The swiftness and constancy of these creatures in flying are here intended to set forth the speed and assiduity of the enemies of the Jews, in their pursuit after them; who followed them closely, and never ceased till they had overtaken them. The Chaldeans are designed, who pursued the Jews very hotly and eagerly, such as fled when the city was broken up; though not so much they themselves, as being thus swift of foot, as their horses on which they rode; see Jeremiah 4:13.

they pursued us upon the mountains, they laid wait for us in the wilderness: or "plain" (m); there was no safety in either; such as fled to the mountains were pursued and overtaken there; and such who attempted to make their escape through the valleys were intercepted there: the reference is to the flight of Zedekiah, his nobles, and his army with him, who were pursued by the Chaldeans, and taken in the plains of Jericho, Jeremiah 52:7; hence it follows:

(i) Florida, l. 2.((k) De Divinatione, l. 2. p. 2001. (l) Vid. Strabo Geograph. l. 9. p. 289. & Pindar. Pythia, Ode 4. l. 7, 8. & Schmidt in ib. p. 174, 175. (m) "in plano", Gataker.

Our persecutors are swifter than the eagles of the heaven: they pursued us upon the mountains, they laid wait for us in the wilderness.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
19. swifter than the eagles] Cp. Deuteronomy 28:49, and see on Jeremiah 4:13.

They chased us upon the mountains] The metaphor in this and the following v. is taken from hunting. The reference is either to the circumstances attendant on the capture of Zedekiah (Jeremiah 39:5 f., Jeremiah 52:8) who is referred to more distinctly in the following v., or in general to the condition of the fugitives at the taking of the city.Verse 19. - Swifter than the eagles of the heaven. Jeremiah, or his imitator, repeats the figure which occurs in Jeremiah 4:13. There is probably no special reference to the circumstances of the capture of Zedekiah (Jeremiah 39:4, 5); the escape of many fugitives would be similarly cut off. This 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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