We are orphans and fatherless, our mothers are as widows.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Our mothers are as widows—i.e., their husbands, though living, were carried into exile, and they were as destitute as though they had been deprived of them by death. The Chaldee paraphrase gives the same meaning to the last clause also, “We are like orphans.”
Our mothers are as widows; either our great cities are like widows, wanting magistrates; or, our women that were married are left widows.
our mothers are as widows; either really so, their husbands being dead; or were as if they had no husbands, they not being able to provide for them, protect and deferred them. The Targum adds,
"whose husbands are gone to the cities of the sea, and it is doubtful whether they are alive.''We are orphans and fatherless, our mothers are as widows.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)3. orphans and fatherless] the fathers being in exile and the mothers thus “as widows,” without protection.Verse 3. - We are orphans and fatherless; i.e. "We are like the most desolate of beings," as the Targum already explains it. Hence in the next clause the mothers of Israel ere likened to widows. 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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