Lamentations 5:4
We have drunken our water for money; our wood is sold unto us.
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(4) Our water . . . our wood.—The point of the complaint lies in the possessive pronoun. The Chaldæan conquerors were in possession of the country, and the very necessaries of life, which had been looked on as the common property of all, were only to be had for money. In the Hebrew of the first clause the fact appears yet more emphatically: Our water comes to us for money. The words have been referred by some commentators to the sufferings of the exiles in Egypt, but the context fits in better with the idea of the hardships of those who were left in Judah.

5:1-16 Is any afflicted? Let him pray; and let him in prayer pour out his complaint to God. The people of God do so here; they complain not of evils feared, but of evils felt. If penitent and patient under what we suffer for the sins of our fathers, we may expect that He who punishes, will return in mercy to us. They acknowledge, Woe unto us that we have sinned! All our woes are owing to our own sin and folly. Though our sins and God's just displeasure cause our sufferings, we may hope in his pardoning mercy, his sanctifying grace, and his kind providence. But the sins of a man's whole life will be punished with vengeance at last, unless he obtains an interest in Him who bare our sins in his own body on the tree.Better as in the margin cometh to us for price. The rendering of the the King James Version spoils the carefully studied rhythm of the original. The bitterness of the complaint lies in this, that it was their own property which they had to buy. 4. water for money—The Jews were compelled to pay the enemy for the water of their own cisterns after the overthrow of Jerusalem; or rather, it refers to their sojourn in Babylon; they had to pay tax for access to the rivers and fountains. Thus, "our" means the water which we need, the commonest necessary of life.

our wood—In Judea each one could get wood without pay; in Babylon, "our wood," the wood we need, must be paid for.

This seemeth to refer to the state of the Jews in Babylon, where it is probable their adversaries made them buy both water and wood, which in the land of Canaan they had plentifully, and without any further charge to them than fetching the one, and cutting down and bringing home the other.

We have drunken our water for money,.... They who in their own land, which was a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths, had wells of water of their own, and water freely and in abundance, now were obliged to pay for it, for drink, and other uses:

our wood is sold unto us; or, "comes to us by a price" (r); and a dear one; in their own land they could have wood out of the forest, for cutting down and bringing home; but now they were forced to give a large price for it.

(r) "in pretio venerunt", Pagninus, Montanus; "caro nobis pretio veniunt", Michaelis.

We have drank our {b} water for money; our wood is sold to us.

(b) Meaning their extreme servitude and bondage.

4. The bitterness of their captive state is shewn by the fact that they, the rightful owners, were compelled to buy from the enemy who had come into possession the commonest necessaries of life.

is sold] lit. as mg. cometh for price.

Verse 4. - We have drunken our water, etc. The Jews were not yet carried away to Babylonia when this was written, but had to pay a dear price to the new lords of the soil for the commonest necessaries of life. Lamentations 5:4And not merely are the inhabitants of Judah without land and property, and deprived of all protection, like orphans and widows; they are also living in penury and want, and (Lamentations 5:5) under severe oppression and persecution. Water and wood are mentioned in Lamentations 5:4 as the greatest necessities of life, without which it is impossible to exist. Both of these they must buy for themselves, because the country, with its waters and forests, is in the possession of the enemy. The emphasis lies on "our water...our wood." What they formerly had, as their own property, for nothing, they must now purchase. We must reject the historical interpretations of the words, and their application to the distress of the besieged (Michaelis); or to the exiles who complained of the dearness of water and wood in Egypt (Ewald); or to those who fled before the Chaldeans, and lived in waste places (Thenius); or to the multitudes of those taken prisoner after the capture of Jerusalem, who were so closely watched that they could not go where they liked to get water and wood, but were obliged to go to their keepers for permission, and pay dearly for their services (Ngelsbach). The purchase of water and wood can scarcely be taken literally, but must be understood as signifying that the people had to pay heavy duties for the use of the water and the wood which the country afforded.
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