Lamentations 4:19
Our persecutors are swifter than the eagles of the heaven: they pursued us upon 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. Lamentations 4:19In order to show convincingly how vain it is to expect help from man, Jeremiah, in Lamentations 4:18-20, reminds his readers of the events immediately preceding the capture of the city, which have proved that nobody - not even the king himself - could avoid falling into the hands of the Chaldeans. Gerlach has correctly given the sense of these verses thus: "They still cling to their hopes, and are nevertheless completely in the power of the enemy, from whom they cannot escape. All their movements are closely watched; it is impossible for any one to deceive himself any longer: it is all over with the nation, now that all attempts at flight have failed (Lamentations 4:19), and that the king, 'the life's breath' of the nation, has fallen into the hands of the enemy." Gerlach and Ngelsbach have already very properly set aside the strange and fanciful idea of Ewald, that in Lamentations 4:18 it is still Egypt that is regarded, and that the subject treated of is, - how Egypt, merely through fear of the Chaldeans, had at that time publicly forbidden the fugitives to go to Palestine for purposes of grace and traffic. These same writers have also refuted the arbitrary interpretation put upon 'צדוּ צעדינוּ by Thenius and Vaihinger, who imagine there is a reference to towers used in a siege, from which the besiegers could not merely perceive all that was going on within the city, but also shoot at persons who showed themselves in exposed places. In reply to this, Ngelsbach appropriately remarks that we must not judge of the siege-material of the ancients by the range of cannon. Moreover, צוּד does not mean to spy out, but to search out, pursue; and the figure is taken from the chase. The idea is simply this: The enemy (the Chaldeans) watch us in our every step, so that we can no longer move freely about. Our end is near, yea, it is already come; cf. Ezekiel 7:2-6. A proof of this is given in the capture of King Zedekiah, after he had fled in the night, Lamentations 4:19. For an elucidation of the matters contained in these verses, cf. Jeremiah 39:4., Jeremiah 52:7. The comparison of the enemy to eagles is taken from Deuteronomy 28:49, whence Jeremiah has already derived Lamentations 4:13 and Lamentations 48:40. דּלק, prop. to burn, metaph. to pursue hotly, is here (poet.) construed with acc., but elsewhere with אחרי; cf. Genesis 31:36; 1 Samuel 17:53. "On the hills and in the wilderness," i.e., on every side, even in inaccessible places. "In the wilderness" alludes to the capture of Zedekiah; cf. Jeremiah 39:5. "The breath of our nostrils" is an expression founded on Genesis 2:7, and signifying "our life's breath." Such is the designation given to the king, - not Zedekiah in special, whose capture is here spoken of, because he ex initio magnam de se spem concitaverat, fore ut post tristia Jojakimi et Jechoniae fata pacatior res publica esset (Aben Ezra, Michaelis, Vaihinger), but the theocratic king, as the anointed of the Lord, and as the one who was the bearer of God's promise, 2 Samuel 7. In elucidation of the figurative expression, Pareau has appropriately reminded is of Seneca's words (Clement. i.:4): ille (princeps) est spiritus vitalis, quem haec tot millia (civium) trahunt. "What the breath is, in relation to the life and stability of the body, such is the king in relation to the life and stability of the nation" (Gerlach). "Of whom we said (thought), Under his shadow (i.e., protection and covering) we shall live among the nations." It is not implied in these words, as Ngelsbach thinks, that "they hoped to fall in with a friendly heathen nation, and there, clustering around their king, as their protector and the pledge of a better future, spend their days in freedom, if no more," but merely that, under the protection of their king, they hoped to live even among the heathen, i.e., to be able to continue their existence, and to prosper as a nation. For, so long as there remained to them the king whom God had given, together with the promises attached to the kingdom, they might cherish the hope that the Lord would still fulfil to them these promises also. But this hope seemed to be destroyed when the king was taken prisoner, deprived of sight, and carried away to Babylon into captivity. The words "taken in their pits" are figurative, and derived from the capture of wild animals. שׁחית as in Psalm 107:20. On the figure of the shadow, cf. Judges 9:15; Ezekiel 31:17.
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