Lamentations 4:7
Her Nazarites were purer than snow, they were whiter than milk, they were more ruddy in body than rubies, their polishing was of sapphire:
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(7) Her Nazarites . . .—The word has been rendered “princes” by some commentators, on the ground that it means literally those who are “separated” from their brethren (Genesis 49:26; Deuteronomy 33:16), whether by rank or by the vows of consecration. There is no reason, however, for abandoning the rendering of the Authorised version. The reference to the Nazarites in Amos 2:11-12 shows that they were prominent as a body during the history of the monarchy, and the drift of Jeremiah’s mind, as seen in his admiration of the Rechabites (Jeremiah 35), shows that he was likely to think of them with reverence. The temperance, purity, cleanliness of such a body seem to have made them conspicuous among their fellows for an almost angelic beauty. (Comp. the interesting parallel of Daniel 1:15.) They had the red and white complexion which was in the East the ideal of comeliness (1Samuel 17:42; Song Song of Solomon 5:10). Their “polishing” (better, their form) was faultless, like that of a well cut sapphire. For “rubies” read coral.

Lamentations 4:7-9. Her Nazarites were purer than snow — It seems the word, נזיריה, ought not to be translated here Nazarites, or those who were separated by a vow to God; but princes, or chief men: so Waterland understands the word, as also Blaney, who renders it, her nobles. We find the same term applied to Joseph, as one separated, or distinguished in eminence and dignity above his brethren, Genesis 49:26. By being purer than snow, and whiter than milk, seems to be intended the whiteness of their skin, or the fairness of their complexion; and by their being more ruddy in body than rubies, or brighter than pearls, as אדמו מפנינים, may be rendered, their high state of health may be meant. Their visage is blacker than a coal — The famine, and other hardships which they have endured, have altered their complexion, and made them look dry and withered. They that be slain with the sword are better, &c. — That is, their case is preferable to that of those slain with hunger; for these pine away, &c. — That is, they waste away and perish by slow degrees, and, before they quite expire, suffer great misery. Stricken through for want of the fruits of the field — Pierced with far more exquisite pain through want of sustenance, than if they had been run through with the sword.

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.The Nazarites from their temperance were remarkable for health and personal beauty, besides being held in religious veneration.

Rubies - Or, corals.

Their polishing was of sapphire - Or, their shape was "a sapphire." The allusion is no longer to color, but to form. Their shape was exact and faultless as the cutting of a precious stone.

7. Nazarites—literally, "separated ones" (Nu 6:2). They were held once in the highest estimation, but now they are degraded. God's blessing formerly caused their body not to be the less fair and ruddy for their abstinence from strong drink. Compare the similar case of Daniel, &c. (Da 1:8-15). Also David (1Sa 16:12; 17:42). Type of Messiah (So 5:10).

rubies—Gesenius translates, "corals," from a Hebrew root, "to divide into branches," from the branching form of corals.

polishing—They were like exquisitely cut and polished sapphires. The "sapphires" may represent the blue veins of a healthy person.



Nazarites in this place the most and best interpreters do not understand persons who were of the religious order of Nazarites, the laws of which order are to be read Numbers 6, and of whom we read Amos 2:11,12, for here is a beauty described (under several metaphors) which could never agree to them; but persons that were nobly and ingenuously bred; the word Nezer signifying a crown, or ensign of honour, 2 Samuel 1:10 2 Kings 11:12. The name Nazarite was given to persons splendid for their breeding and education, or honour and dignity; it is given to Joseph, Genesis 49:26, we translate it separate from his brethren, Deu 33:16; so Nahum 3:17. Her Nazarites in this place signifieth her separated ones, who either in respect of birth, education, estate, places of magistracy, or the like, were distinguished from the rest of the people. He expresseth their former splendid estate by the metaphors of snow, milk, rubies, and sapphires.

Her Nazarites were purer than snow,.... Such who separated themselves by a vow to the Lord, and abstained from drinking wine and strong drink, and by a moderate diet, and often washing themselves, as well as taking great care of their hair, appeared very neat and comely, like snow, without any spot or blemish. Some think such as were separated from others in dignity, very honourable persons, the sons of nobles, are meant, since the word has the signification of a "crown", and interpret it, her princes; Jarchi makes mention of this sense, and rejects it; but it is received by many: and the meaning is, that her young noblemen, who were well fed, and neatly dressed, looked as pure and as beautiful as the driven snow:

they were whiter than milk; this intends the same thing, expressed by another metaphor:

they were more ruddy in body than rubies; or rather "than precious stones"; and particularly "than pearls", which Bochart (q) proves at large are designed by the word used, which are white, and not red; and the word should be rendered, "clearer" or "whiter than pearls", as it is by Lyra and others (r); and the word in the Arabic language signifies white and clear (s), as pearls are; and so the phrase is expressive of the beauty and comeliness of these persons: and Ludolphus (t) says, that in the Ethiopic language it signifies "beautiful"; and he translates the whole, "they were more beautiful than pearls"; denoting the clearness of their skins, and the goodness of their complexion:

their polishing was of sapphire; or "their cutting, sapphire" (u); they were as beautiful as if they had been cut out of sapphire, and polished; which is a very precious stone, and looks very beautiful; so smooth were their skins. The Targum is,

"their face or countenance is as sapphire.''

Braunius (w) thinks the word used signifies the veins full of blood, which variously intersect the flesh like sapphirine rivers; and that the sense of the words is,

"their bodies were white like snow and milk, yea, shining like pearls (or red in the cheeks, lips, &c. like coral (x)); veins full of blood running between like sapphire, of a most agreeable sky colour; which is, a true description of a most fair and beautiful body.''

See Sol 5:14. All this is to be understood of them before the famine, but, when that came upon them, then they were as follow:

(q) Hierozoic. par. 2. l. 5. c. 6. p. 688. (r) "lucidiores corpore margaritis", Bochart; "candidi fuerunt in corpore prae margaritis", Noldius. (s) "camelis tributum, candidus perquam albus", Giggeius; "candidi coloris", Dorcas, Giggeius apud Golium, Colossians 49, 51. (t) Comment. in Ethiop. Hist. l. 1. No. 107. (u) "sapphirus excisio eorum", Pagninus, Montanus, Vatablus, Calvin; "quasi sectio eorum esset ex sapphiro", Munster. (w) De Vestitu Sacerdot. Hebr. l. 2. c. 12. sect. 7. p. 676. (x) So Bootius, Animadv. l. 4. c. 3. sect. 8. p. 144. Lutherus & Osiander in ib.

Her Nazarites were purer than snow, they were whiter than milk, they were more ruddy in body than rubies, their polishing was of sapphire:
7. nobles] probably right, as in Genesis 49:26; Deuteronomy 33:16 (in which places mg. renders “princes”) as against the more frequent sense Nazirites (as mg. here).

rubies] mg. corals.

their polishing (lit. casting) was as of sapphire] Not only their bright, glowing appearance, but also their well-shaped figures suggested a carefully cut precious stone. Löhr, relying on the similarity of two Heb. consonants (g and n), by a slight change takes the word to be from the root which appears in Jeremiah 7:29 (“cut off thine hair”) and renders The locks of their hair glittered as a sapphire.

7, 8. Cp. Lamentations 4:1-2. The emaciation produced by famine and hardship is vividly pourtrayed. Cp. Job 19:20; Job 30:30.

Verse 7. - Her Nazarites; rather, her eminent ones (just as Joseph is called n'zir ekhav,"eminent among his brethren"). The rendering of the Authorized Version is lexically possible, but is intrinsically improbable. The Nazarites constituted too small a portion of the Jewish people to receive so prominent a place in the elegy. Rubies; rather, corals. Their polishing was of sapphire; literally, their shape was (like) a sapphire. But the point in which the sapphire is compared to the bodies of the princes is evidently not the outline of its form, but its gleaming brilliant appearance; so that the Authorized Version is substantially correct. Lamentations 4:7The second strophe. - Lamentations 4:7, Lamentations 4:8. The picture of the misery that has befallen the princes. נזירים, princes, prop. separati, here non voto (Nazarites) sed dignitate, as Nolde appropriately remarks; see on Genesis 49:26. זכך is used, Job 15:15; Job 25:5, of the brightness of the heaven and the stars; here it is used of female beauty. Thenius would refer "pure (or bright) as snow and milk" to the white clothing, "because the Orientals have not milk-white faces." But the second member irrefragably shows that the reference is to bodily form; and for the very reason adduced by Thenius, a comparatively whiter skin than is commonly met with is esteemed more beautiful. So also does Sol 5:10, "My friend is white and red," show the high esteem in which beauty was held (Gerlach). אדם, to be reddish. עצם, "bone," for the body (pars pro toto). פּנינים, not (white) pearls, but (red) corals. "The white and the red are to be understood as mixed, and shading into one another, as our popular poetry speaks of cheeks which 'like milk and purple shine' " (Delitzsch on Job 28:18, Clark's translation). "Sapphire their form" (גּזרה, prop. cut, taille, of the shape of the body). The point of the comparison is not the colour, but the luminosity, of this precious stone. Once on a time the princes glittered so; but (Lamentations 4:8) now their form is dark as blackness, i.e., every trace of beauty and splendour has vanished. Through hunger and want their appearance is so disfigured, that they are no longer recognised in the streets (חוּצות, in contrast with "at home," in their own neighbourhood). "The skin sticks to the bones," so emaciated are they; cf. Psalm 102:4; Job 19:20. צפד, ἅπ. λεγ., to adhere firmly. The skin has become dry (יבשׁ) like wood.
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