Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
THE MIDDLE SONG CONSTITUTING THE CLIMAX OF THE POEM: ISRAEL’S BRIGHTER DAY OF CONSOLATION CONTRASTED WITH THE GLOOMY NIGHT OF SORROW EXPERIENCED BY THE SERVANT OF GOD [AS REPRESENTED BY JEREMIAH HIMSELF]
This Song, which as the third one of the five holds the middle place, is the culmination point of the whole book, and thus affords a strong argument for the opinion, that the whole book is constructed on one carefully considered plan. It is the culmination point, both as to its matter and as to its form. As to its matter, because we have here the sublimest conceptions of suffering. As to its form, because here the art of the Poet displays itself in full splendor. This appears, first of all, in the alphabetical arrangement. Whilst the other songs have only twenty-two alphabetically arranged verses, this one contains sixty-six verses, arranged in triplets, the three verses of each triplet beginning with the same letter. Each verse is a distich, composed of a rising and falling inflection. The ternary division is observable not merely in reference to the verses beginning with the same initial letter, but with regard to the arrangement of the whole: for the whole Song is naturally divided into three parts. The first part embraces Lam 3:1–18: the second, Lam 3:19–42: the third, Lam 3:43–66.
א Lam 3:1. I am the man who saw affliction
By the rod of His wrath.
א Lam 3:2. He led me and brought me
Into darkness and not light.
א Lam 3:3. Surely against me He turned His hand
Again and again the whole day long.
ב Lam 3:4. He caused my flesh and my skin to waste away,
He broke my bones.
ב Lam 3:5. He built around and encompassed me
With bitterness and distress.
ב Lam 3:6. He caused me to dwell in dark places,
As the dead of old.
ג Lam 3:7. He hedged me in that I should not go forth,
He made my chain heavy.
ג Lam 3:8. Also, lest I should cry and call for help,
He shut out my prayer.
ג Lam 3:9. He hedged in my ways with hewn stone,
He made my paths crooked.
ד Lam 3:10. A lurking bear was He to me—
A lion in ambush.
ד Lam 3:11. He drove me aside—He tore me in pieces—
He left me suffering and alone.
ד Lam 3:12. He bent His bow, and set me
As the mark for the arrow.
ה Lam 3:13. He shot into my reins
The sons of His quiver.
ה Lam 3:14. I became a laughing-stock to all my people,
Their song all the day.
ה Lam 3:15. He filled me with bitter things.
He made me drunk with wormwood.
ו Lam 3:16. He broke my teeth with pebbles,
He covered me with ashes.
ו Lam 3:17. Thou didst thrust me away from peace:
I forgot good.
ו Lam 3:18. Then I said, My confidence and my hope
Are perished from Jehovah!
After the first triad of verses, containing the theme, the Poet, or rather the person whom the Poet represents as speaking (and who will be understood as always intended, where the sense allows it, when for the sake of brevity we say “the Poet,”) describes what he had suffered physically, Lam 3:4, 5; and in regard to light and freedom, Lam 3:6, 7; how the Lord had rejected his prayer, Lam 3:8; shut up his way, Lam 3:9; attacked and worried him like a bear or lion, Lam 3:10, 11; made him a mark for his arrows, like an archer, piercing into his very soul, Lam 3:12, 13; how he had thus become an object of scorn to the people, Lam 3:14; and drunk with bitterness, Lam 3:15; and how, as it were, they had given him pebbles to bile and covered him with ashes, Lam 3:16. In Lam 3:17, 18, he expresses the sense of these images in literal language; God has deprived him of peace and happiness, till he was well nigh compelled to throw away his confidence in God. Thus ends this first part, in which the name of the Lord is not mentioned except as the last word of Lam 3:18, where it appears with peculiar emphasis and, as it were, with a grating dissonance. It is to be observed, however, that in the whole of this first part, only those sorrows which God had sent upon His servant are spoken of; or rather, all sorrows which befall him are made to appear as Divine temptations. Hence the suppression of Jehovah’s name till the very close; where at length it is announced, that it may be more dreadfully apparent whom it was that the Poet was on the point of renouncing.
The following general remarks on this section are to be observed. 1. It contains a description of the personal sorrows of one prominent man. This man was distinguished by his position as well as by his sufferings. The former is evident from Lam 3:14, where it is said he had become a derision to all the people; this could only happen to one who stood out conspicuously before the eyes of all the people. The second appears from the fact, that he is described as one burdened with sorrows more than all other persons (Lam 3:1–3). 2. We must recognize in the man thus made conspicuous the prophet Jeremiah. For not only the description beginning at Lam 3:52, undoubtedly refers to what befell this prophet as related in Jer. 38, but also, before that passage occurs, Lam 3:14 plainly indicates this prophet (see the exposition). There is then no doubt that this Song is put into the mouth of the prophet Jeremiah. 3. As in chapter second, in the first nine verses, the destruction of Jerusalem is described as the act of God, so in this chapter the Poet ascribes all his sorrows to God as their author. He represents them as divine temptations. There is only this difference, that whilst in chap. 2, the name of God is frequently mentioned (יְהוַֹה ,אֲדֹנָי, Lam 3:1, 2, 5, 6. 7, 8), in chap. 3. God is spoken of in Lam 3:1–16, only indefinitely in the third person, in Lam 3:17 He is first addressed in the second person, and in Lam 3:18 He is at last distinctly mentioned by name (יְהוָֹה). This is evidently a designed climax. I do not think with ENGELHARDT (p. 85), that a tender conscience prevented the Poet from indicating the Lord, explicitly by name, as the author of his profound mental agitation; for what he did in chapter second, and repeats in Lam 3:18 of this chapter, he could have done in Lam 3:1–16. But this making the name of God prominent in? the last verse, at the culmination point of the description of his sufferings, is due to the art of the Poet, of which this Song affords striking evidence.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. [“It has been alleged, that some of the prophetic portions of Holy Scripture which foretell the sufferings of Christ, especially the fifty-thirdDOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. [“It has been alleged, that some of the prophetic portions of Holy Scripture which foretell the sufferings of Christ, especially the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah and the sixty-ninth Psalm, have no reference to Jesus of Nazareth, but were fulfilled in the person of Jeremiah. True it is, that the language of that fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, and of that sixty-ninth Psalm, had a remarkable applicability to Jeremiah. But why was this? Because Jeremiah was not only a prophet, but a prophecy. Jeremiah is among the prophets what Job is among the patriarchs. Jeremiah is the suffering prophet. He was a signal type of ‘the Man of Sorrows.’ He was a figure of Him who suffered on the cross, and who conquered by suffering.” WORDSWORTH, Intr. Jer., p. 9. “Jeremiah is called by the Christian Fathers the πολυπαδέστατος of the Prophets, and this qualified him to be what he is also called by them, the συμπαδέστατος.” 1 b. note. “The Christian church, from ancient days, has set apart the Lamentations of Jeremiah, for her own solemn offices in the week of her Lord’s Passion; and in contemplating the Prophet Jeremiah sitting amid the ruins of Zion and pouring out his sorrow there in piteous cries of agony, she has ever had a vision of Christ hanging upon the Cross, and mourning over the ruins of our fallen human nature, which caused the bitterest pangs of His anguish there.” Ib., p. x.]
2. “In this chapter, the heralds of the word are admonished, that it is their duty, in times of great distress, to prescribe to their hearers a suitable remedy for their misfortunes, the component parts of which would be, 1. The recognition of sins by means of the punishments inflicted: 2. Confidence in God’s compassion: 3. Earnest prayer. As for the rest, this chapter compared with the others, shines like a star of exceeding brilliancy, from which the rays of a variety of doctrines emanate and give forth their light.” FÖRSTER.
3. [I am the man, Lam 3:1. “This Lamentation is only rightly understood, when it is regarded as a lamentation of every pious Israelite,—as a lamentation which, while proceeding from self-experienced spiritual sorrows of the Prophet, has its truth for all pious Israelites, in whose name the Prophet speaks. ABEN EZRA, long ago, perceived this, and indicated the individual Israelites as the subject of the lamentation. In this opinion later commentators mostly concur (ROSENMUELLER, EWALD, THENIUS, NEUMANN, VAIHINGER). EWALD finely says, in connection with the close of chapter second, which is so barren of consolation: ‘Yet, will lamentation and despair nowhere end? Then, there suddenly appears, in the third place, a particular man; the very one who can, from his own peculiar experience, lament most profoundly, so that here for the third time the cry of despair is renewed with still greater vehemence; but he is the one who can also, from his own profoundest reflection on the eternal relation of God to humanity, come to a right knowledge of his own sins and of the necessity of repentance, and therewith also to the exercise of believing prayer. Who is this individual, who thus laments, thus thinks and prays?—whose I unconsciously, but at exactly the right place, passes over into the we? O man, he is the representative of thine own self! Let every one now speak and think as he does! And thus, by the direct means of this speech, begun with the greatest difficulty, the sense of pain has been imperceptibly lost in the exercise of prayer. Thus this composition shows us how in the wildest whirlpool, divine composure is to be won: each one must win it by sinking down himself into the full earnest truth; and even if one does not immediately find it, yet there is no more likely beginning for something better; wherefore here a particular individual is set before us as accomplishing in himself this most necessary work.’ In this individualizing lies also the explanation of the manifold points of resemblance between our chapter and the Book of Job, from the passion-history of which the Prophet derives lamentations and images for the representation of the passion-history of Israel.” Dr. ERNST GERLACH, Klag. Jer., p. 81].
4. Lam 3:1–18. “Here we have, at first, a lamentation of the Prophet Jeremiah, not so much over his people, as rather over his own misery.… Here we see, that the pious are subjected to two different sorts of affliction. One of these is temporal, affecting the body or worldly possessions and welfare; the other is spiritual, affecting the soul, when they think, that God has become their enemy, and will no longer be gracious to them, but will reject them now and forever. The first is, in truth, a cause of much suffering, especially to flesh and blood; but this pain is nothing, compared with that spiritual temptation, when one can no longer confide in the favor and grace of God, as we here see in the case of Jeremiah, who so ruefully bemoans himself, that he is a wretched man, who must bear the rod of the wrath of God, who has thrust him out of the light into the darkness, and pursued him as a bear or a lion, or as a more open and declared enemy. David also experienced many of the same temptations, as we find ever and anon in his Psalms. Thine arrows stick fast in me, and Thy hand presses me sore, he says in Ps. 38:3 (2). I said in my despair, I am cut off from before the eyes of the Lord, Ps. 31:23 (22); whilst at other times he had been so courageous, that he said, I was not afraid of many hundred thousands that set themselves against me round about, Ps. 3:7 (6); God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble; therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, Ps. 46:2, 3 (1, 2). This sounds very differently from the lamentation here of Jeremiah, who represents God as his worst enemy. This should, first of all, serve to comfort the pious; if they fall into similar temptations, they should not think that they are the first to whom such things have happened, but should know that many pious and holy persons have experienced the same trials. But to the ungodly, this should serve as a warning; they should consider, if this is done in a green tree, what will be done in the dry? (Luke 23:31). If the righteous are scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and sinner appear? (1 Pet. 4:7).” Würtemb. Summarien.
5. Lam 3:1–9. “Jeremiah speaks here in his own name, and whilst he utters the grief of his own heart he seeks by his example to excite others to repentance, for the key-note that sounds through all his lamentations is, that his distress comes from God. The greatest cause of distress is this, that prayer, the only resource in misery, avails no more. Elsewhere it is said, ‘The name of the Lord is a strong fortress, the righteous man runneth thither and is protected,’—and, ‘He who will call on the name of the Lord shall be blessed,’—or, ‘Call on Me in trouble, then will I deliver thee, then thou shalt praise Me.’ In truth, the Holy Scriptures are crowded with, testimonies, which promise answers to prayer and help to the prayerful; indeed, since one of the titles of God is ‘He who heareth prayer,’ it is evident that to hear prayer is founded in His eternal nature. What then the Prophet here says is contrary to Scripture. But it is true, and so we must understand Jeremiah, that God not seldom hears the prayers of believers, whilst He proves their patience and leaves them long in darkness and uncertainty. This has been, as it was with Jeremiah, the common experience of Christians, who have been obliged to observe in themselves, how quickly the human heart loses courage and prayerful ardor, when God does not hasten to our help.” HEIM und HOFMANN, die grossen Propheten.
6. “The Prophet first describes what he himself experienced of the holy cross under the Old Testament. It was necessary for him to be typically a sacrifice for all people. He was obliged to this according to the purpose of God. God’s object in all this was, to use him in His kingdom to the end of time as one of the most important of His instruments. In this respect he is indeed a real type of Christ. Although the light is not wanting in his dark sayings, yet it shines not nearly so clearly as we experience it in the New Testament, by the testimony of the Apostles, where they also testify of their cross. For they already behold His glory with their eyes. On this account Paul gloried most lovingly in his cross and his weakness.” DIEDRICH.
7. “In this third chapter such an earnest, intense lamentation of the Prophet is written, that many have regarded it as referring to nothing else than to the sufferings and death of Christ. For this reason, where Christ is painted with His body lacerated with the thongs and the crown of thorns on His head, the beginning of this chapter is found recorded in Latin on the picture.” EG. HUNNIUS.
8. The old expositors find here free scope for their allegorical interpretations. Thus PASCHASIUS RADBERTUS, in his Preface to his third book on Lamentations, says, “The more attentively I examine this—as it were—funeral lamentation over the whole body of the people, the more profound are the mysteries which appear concerning Christ and His body, so that the mournful discourse may be by turns interpreted, now of the Synagogue, then especially of the Church, and then again of the Passion of Christ.” GHISLERUS, p. 120. And of BONAVENTURA the same author remarks, that he says, “This is so evidently a lamentation for Christ and His members, whose sufferings are here described, that it is impossible to find in it a literal sense, without distortion.”
9. Lam 3:2. “By light he represents prosperity, by darkness adversity, Is: 5:30; 45:7; 58:10; Job 22:11, on which last passage the great LUTHER, in a marginal gloss to the text of the German version of the Bible, comments very nervously, thus: Trouble and misfortune are called darkness, happiness and prosperity light. Here the verses of CAMERARIUS, written on 2 Chr. 20:12, may be quoted:
In tenebris vitæ densa et caligine mundi,
Cum nihil est toto pectore consilii,
Tum nos erigimus Deus ad te lumina cordis,
Nostra tuamque fides solius orat opem.”—FÖRSTER.
10. Lam 3:7. “To God πᾶν άπορον πόριμον, i.e. To God every impassable road is passable. Of the same purport are the following sayings, which are worthy of being observed and remembered: PHILO: deficiente omni humano concilio incipit divinum, where human expedients fail, Divine begin; TAULERUS: egrediente natura ingreditur Deus, God enters when nature exits, LUTHER: tempus desperationis tempus auxilii, the time of despair is the time when help comes. The greater the need, the nearer is God.” FÖRSTER.
11. Lam 3:8. BONAVENTURA refers the words to the prayer of Christ on the Mount of Olives,—If it be possible let this cup pass from Me (Matt. 26:39). GHISLER., p. 129.—“The Omnipotent God, knowing what is to our advantage, feigns not to hear the cry of the suffering, that He may increase their usefulness and that their lives may be purified by discipline and they may seek elsewhere that tranquil rest, which cannot be found here.” RHABANUS, in GHISLER., Ib.—“The most efficacious antidote (ἀλεξιφάρμακον) to this temptation is Hope (Heb. 12:3–11), to which effect are the sayings of AUGUSTINE, God does not give quickly, that thou mayest learn to desire more ardently; and, What God would give, He withholds.” FÖRSTER.
12. Lam 3:8. [Prayer: “Grant, Almighty God, that as Thou didst in former times so severely chastise Thy people, we may in the present day patiently submit to all Thy scourges, and in a humble and meek spirit suffer ourselves to be chastised as we deserve; and that we may not, in the meantime, cease to call on Thee, and that however slowly Thou mayest seem to hear our prayers, we may yet persevere continuously to the end, until at length we shall really find that salvation is not in vain promised to all those who in sincerity of heart call on Thee, through Christ our Lord. Amen.” CALVIN.]
13. Lam 3:10. “The real appearance of the Lord is not that of a lion or a bear (Is. 38:13; Job 10:16), but of a Shepherd taking the most faithful care of His sheep. With respect to this pastoral care, see Ps. 23; Is. 40:11; Jer. 23:3, 4; Ez. 34:16. And BERNARD beautifully says, Christ redeems His sheep at a costly price, feeds them sumptuously, leads them with solicitous carefulness, lodges them securely.” FÖRSTER.—[“Harsh is the complaint when Jeremiah compares God to a bear and a lion. But we have said that the apprehension of God’s wrath so terrified the faithful, that they could not sufficiently express the atrocity of their calamity; and then borne in mind must also be what we have stated, that they spoke according to the judgment of the flesh; for they did not always so moderate their feelings, but that something fell from them worthy of blame. We ought not, then, to make as a rule in religion all the complaints of holy men, when they were pressed down by the hand of God; for when their minds were in a state of confusion, they uttered much that was intemperate. But we ought, on the other hand, to acknowledge how great must be our weakness, since we see that the strongest have thus fallen, when God exercised severity towards them.” CALVIN.]
14. Lam 3:17, 18. “All other temptations are as nothing, compared with those in which God seems to set Himself in hostility to a man. For as long as the pious taste the grace of God and perceive His fatherly tenderness, every adversity is so much the more easily endured by them and they can be joyful and of good cheer even amidst external causes for sorrow. See Ps. 56, 62, 73. But, on the contrary, if God disguises Himself in some severe aspect before them, and dissembles, and acts as if He hears them not, is not favorably disposed to them, but may be in the highest degree opposed to them and against their interests,—then lamentations commence, then begins that secret sorrow of the soul, that excessive anguish, under which they faint away and must sink to Hell, did not God hold His hand over them and abridge their anguish. These are the buffetings of Satan, the very dregs of hellish temptations, they are the floods of Belial that will overwhelm human strength. Then they [the tempted] lose heart; for when, as it were, they lie in darkness, immured in an eternal prison of every kind of trouble, when the Lord closes His ears to their pitiable cry, yes, when He has bent His bow against them and set them up as a mark to shoot against them all His darts and arrows, when He has utterly ejected them from peace and all that is good, in all respects which the Prophet here relates in detail of himself, then at last they come to think, as Jeremiah did, when he said, My strength and hope is perished from the Lord, until God again lets the gentle sun of His Divine heavenly consolation and fatherly goodness shine out from amidst the darkness of the temptations; but in the meanwhile they must for a long time have a taste of that future wrath, which the damned must hereafter eternally suffer. Besides Jeremiah’s case here, the Scripture presents us with a pitiable representation and sorrowful instance of a man thus distressed, and a special example for us, in the case of the patient Job.… David also in Psalm 31, I said in my haste I am cut off from before Thine eyes. Yes, even the Son of God was compelled to feel in His holy soul a similar spiritual temptation (yet without any sin), when on the cross He said, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” EGID. HUNNIUS.—“What is here written by Jeremiah is not new and unheard of; but very many examples occur in Scripture, of those who have been harassed by this same temptation. The following examples, however, are especially appropriate here: Abraham, Gen. 16:1 (2); David, Ps. 31:23 (22); 77:8–10 (7–9); Hezekiah, Is. 38:10, Job, 7:15; 19:6, 22; Jonah, 2:5 (4); Paul, 2 Cor. 12:9; to whom may be added, those most eminent Theologians of our own age, Matthesius, Weller and Hausmann, and especially Luther, who was obliged to sit in that sieve of Satan, particularly in the year of Christ 1527, about the time of the festival of the Visitation of Mary, concerning which paroxysm of his, by far his most violent one, D. JOH. BUGENHAGIUS has written a curious account, which is contained in Tom. 3 Jen. Germ. Fol. 401.” FÖRSTER. In the Leipzig edition, this production is found in Vol. XXII., pag. 498 ff., under the Title, “D. Jo. Pomerani und Justi Jonæ Historie von Lutheri geistlichen und leiblichen Anfechtungen anno 1527.”—[“Faith sometimes is so stifled, that even the children of God think that they are lost, and that it is all over with their salvation.… There is no doubt but that the Prophet also expressly reminded the faithful that they ought not to despair,… though the devil tempted them to despair, but that they ought then especially to struggle against it. This is indeed, I allow, a hard and perilous contest, but the faithful ought not to faint, even when such a thing happens to them, that is, when it seems to be all over with them and no hope remains; but, on the contrary, they ought nevertheless to go on hoping, and that indeed, as the Scripture says elsewhere, against hope, or above hope (Rom. 4:18). … Were any one to ask, How can it be that hope and despair should reside in the same man? the answer is, that when faith is weak, that part of the soul is empty, which admits despair. Now, faith is sometimes not only enfeebled, but is also nearly stifled. This, indeed, does not happen daily, but there is no one whom God deeply exercises with temptations, who does not feel that his faith is nearly extinguished. It is then no wonder, that despair then prevails; but it is for a moment. In the meantime, the remedy is, immediately to flee to God and to complain of this misery, so that He may succor and raise up those who are thus fallen.” CALVIN.]
15. Lam 3:19. “Just as wormwood tastes very bitter, but serves many useful purposes, so the cross, for the present, seemeth not to be joyous (Heb. 12:11). Nevertheless, it is a medicine for us. Wormwood (Vermuth) has its name, thus (wehre dem Muth), control the spirit [temper, or mettle of the soul]. For wormwood restrains from lewdness, disperses the bile, neutralizes poison, and destroys all bad vermin and corruption, all of which and much more, in a spiritual sense, is done by the dear cross. Therefore, let us esteem this our spiritual medicine.” CRAMER.—“Was it necessary that Christ Himself should be given gall to drink, why then should we be able entirely to abstain from the like?” CRAMER.
16. Lam 3:19–33. “We see here that there are two sources of consolation, internal and external. The internal is, when one is sure in his heart that he has a gracious God, of whom he may expect every good thing in all difficulties and distresses. But this consolation sometimes expires, as we see here in the case of Jeremiah, and from the words and sayings of David, as we have shown above from his Psalms. It often seems as though God Himself, together with Heaven and Earth, is against one. How now should it be with one placed in such temptation? Answer: He should lay hold of the external consolation, which he finds, not in his heart, but in the Holy Scripture, in so many and divine consolatory declarations, which God therein presents to us, together with many examples in the cases of those to whom God has fulfilled and verified such promises. And then also he should carefully consider these heart-moving words, which Jeremiah here uses, which he did not get from his heart, for that, spoke to him in a very different fashion, but he received them from the Holy Ghost; thus, It is of the Lord’s goodness, that we are not consumed, His mercy fails not, but it is new every morning; The Lord is gracious unto him who waiteth for Him, and to the soul that inquires after Him; It is an excellent thing to be patient and to hope for the help of the Lord; He does not cast off for ever, but He is indeed sorry and moved by compassion according to His great mercies, etc. These and similar sayings we should, in great temptations, take hold of and hold them fast in faith, in spite even of the thoughts and objections of our own hearts. Thereby will God revive in a troubled heart the internal consolation, so that one can say with Jeremiah, Thou wilt be again graciously mindful of me, for so my soul assures me. This I take to heart, therefore I still hope.” Würtemb. Summarien.—“It is the habit and custom of God, first thoroughly to prove men by affliction, and after that to hear His children, if they, as fine gold and silver tried in the oven, are found to be clean and pure. As it is again written, Whoso adheres to wisdom shall dwell securely, and although at first she sets herself in opposition to him, and brings fear and dread upon him, and proves him with her rod and tries him with her chastisements, until she finds that he is without guile, she will then return to him in the right way, and comfort him and show him her secrets. Sirach. 4:18–21 (15–18).” EGID. HUNNIUS.
17. (Lam 3:21. Prayer. “Grant, Almighty God, that as there are none of us who have not continually to contend with many temptations, and as such is our infirmity, that we are ready to succumb under them, except Thou helpest us,—O grant, that we may be sustained by Thine invincible power, and that also, when Thou wouldst humble us, we may loathe ourselves on account of our sins, and thus perseveringly contend, until, having gained the victory, we shall give Thee the glory for Thy perpetual aid in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.” CALVIN.]
18. Lam 3:22–24. “These are approved texts and cordials for all stricken hearts. 1. God’s mercies and compassions, which we may set over against God regarded as a consuming fire, Deut. 4:24. 2. That His compassions fail not, with which we may resist the temptation, that God will no more be gracious and has forgotten our affliction and oppression, Ps. 44:25 (24). 3. That His mercies are new every morning, which we oppose to our temptation when we are compelled to say with David, I am chastened every morning, Ps. 73:14. 4. That God is faithful, to meet the temptation, that God will make it too hard for us to bear, 1 Cor. 10:13. 5. That God will be our portion and reward, that we will be richly recompensed in Heaven.” CRAMER.
19. Lam 3:22, 23. “The whole purport of this truly golden maxim is consolatory, and to this end it is to be pleaded in view of the magnitude of the evil both of our guilt and of our punishment. With this accord Rom. 5:21, and Ps. 130:7, as well as the following from AUGUSTINE, God’s compassion exceeds the misery of all mankind. The abuse of this maxim is fourfold. The first is that of the Epicureans, who, from like passages of Scripture, in which the immensity of the Divine pity is treated of, deduce that ancient piece of jargon (κοκκυσμὸν), Let us continue in sin that grace may the more abound, Rom. 6:1. The second abuse is that of Origen, who concluded that, because of the infinite compassion of God, the damned would at length some time or other, be liberated from the torment of Hell and be saved (Hom. 9 in Jerem.). The third abuse is that of Huber (Samuelis mort., 1624), who, from the amplitude and universality of God’s compassion, presumed to fabricate the doctrine of universal and unlimited election. The fourth abuse is that of the Photinians, who so far expand the words of Scripture concerning the compassion of God, as blasphemously to assert, that God, out of His mere compassion alone, forgives our sins, without any compensation and satisfaction rendered by Christ.” FÖRSTER.
20. Lam 3:24. “LUTHER has finely comprised the distinction between hope and faith, in the following well-rounded period: Faith looks at the word which promises, Hope at the thing promised, (Fides intuetur verbum rei, spes vero rem verbi).” FÖRSTER.—[“Were God to take away the promise, all the miserable would inevitably perish; for they can never lay hold on His mercy except through His word. This, then, is the reason why Scripture so often connects these two things together, even God’s mercy and His faithfulness in fulfilling His promises.” CALVIN.]
21. [Lam 3:24, 25. “It next occurred to the Prophet, that whatever he lost or suffered, or witnessed of the sufferings of his people, his grand interest was secure. He was satisfied that the Lord was his all-sufficient Portion. He was conscious that he had chosen Him as his portion, and expected his happiness from Him, and not from the world; and therefore he determined still to hope in Him, and refer all his concerns to His wisdom, truth, and love. In this he evidently proposed himself as an example to his people, that they might seek comfort from God when all other comfort failed. And though they might not be able confidently to aver that the Lord was their Portion, yet they might remember that He was kind and merciful to those who wait for Him and seek Him.” SCOTT.]
22. Lam 3:25. “When we men are in trouble or temptation, the Devil is accustomed to portray and represent God to us as very different from what He really is. For he depicts him as an ungracious, pitiless, wrathful Judge, not to be treated with, who would only kill us and damn us and not wish us to be happy, and thus the Devil would frighten us and drive us to despair. We should remove our eyes from this frightful image of Satan’s conjuring, and look upon the Lord as the Prophet Jeremiah here depicts for us His countenance, as it were; yea, as God portrays Himself in His holy word, namely thus, The Lord is friendly to the soul that seeks after Him.” EGID. HUNNIUS.
23. Lam 3:25. “God’s love both prepares the way for and rewards ours. Being more benignant it precedes ours: being more faithful it is returned [by ours]; being more attractive it is, sought after. It is rich to all who invoke its aid, yet has nothing better than its own self. It devotes itself to the deserving, reserves itself for a reward, applies itself to the souls of the saints for their refreshment, gives itself in payment for the redemption of the captive. Thou art good, O Lord, to the soul of him who seeks Thee. How gracious, then, to him who finds Thee! But here indeed is something wonderful, that no one can successfully seek Thee unless he have first found Thee. Dost Thou, therefore, wish to be found that Thou mayest be sought; to be sought, that Thou mayest be found? Thou art one who can be sought and found, yet not prevented (præveniri). For although we say, ‘In the morning shall my prayer prevent Thee,’ Ps. 88:14 (13), yet there is no doubt that all prayer is lifeless that inspiration has not prevented (non prævenerit).” BERNARDUS in libro de diligendo Deo, quoted by GHISLER. p. 144.
24. [Lam 3:25, 26. “God is good to all His creatures; but in particular to them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeks Him. While trouble is prolonged and deliverance deferred, we must patiently wait for God’s gracious returns to us; and while we wait for Him by faith, we must seek Him by prayer; they that do so will find it good, Lam 3:26, and to hope that the Salvation of the Lord will come, though difficulties lie in the way, to wait till it does come, though it be long delayed; and while we wait to be quiet and silent, not quarrelling with God, or making ourselves uneasy, but acquiescing in the Divine disposals; Father, Thy will be done! If we call this to mind, we may have hope that all will end well at last.” MATT. HENRY.]
25. Lam 3:26. “In the practice of Christianity, hope and patience, the most efficient of virtues, engage mutually in common labors, and neither without the other can discharge its duty.” FÖRSTER.—“The little herb, Patience, does not grow in every body’s garden But we are admonished to seek it, because, 1. It is a very precious virtue, and a part of the service we owe to God, according to the first table. 2. It contains in itself another virtue, namely, hope in God. 3. It is easier for us to practice it, if we accustom ourselves to it from our youth. 4. It can over come many wrongs, abuses and outrages. 5. Misfortune will not continue for ever, Is. 54:7. 6. At all events the end will be favorable. 7. God does not willingly afflict us (from His heart,) but always designs something different and better for us, and dearly wishes that He might not punish us at all (Hos. 11:9).” CRAMER.
[“God, when He takes my goods and chattels hence,
Gives me a portion, giving patience
What is in God is God; if so it be He patience gives,
He gives Himself to me.”
26. Lam 3:26-36. “These are admirable and, beyond measure, comforting words, with which the holy Prophet opens the abyss of God’s mercy and comforts therewith himself and the people. As if he would say, It is against God’s nature to subject us to such hard discipline, and to let us be driven and injured by the world. But He does it for the very best reason, not to ruin, but rather to edify, not to grieve but to fill with joy forever. For He is not of the disposition of the children of men, who, if their anger is once excited, there is no end to it. But God, although He causes grief, and lets His wrath, sternness, and justice be seen, yet He is again moved to pity as soon as men cordially repent of their sin and transgression. Therefore, this present captivity should not be regarded as if He had eternally rejected His poor people, and would never turn their captivity, or as if He would indeed allow His captives to be trodden under foot, or, much less, as if he would subvert the right of a man, or allow his cause to be turned aside before the Most High, as if the Lord saw it not, or knew nothing of it. Far be it from this! He knows and sees how cruelly the tyrants oppress their captives; He, moreover, graciously regards the patience of the oppressed, and will help them again according to His mercies.” EGID. HUNNIUS.
27. Lam 3:27. “It is added here that a man should be accustomed to cross-bearing (τῃ σταυροφορίᾳ) from his youth. And we may also with propriety apply here that saying of the Poet, A teneris assuescere multum est, There is great advantage in being accustomed to a thing from a tender age. For patience begets experience (Rom. 5:4).—experience, I mean, in matters of cross-bearing. Vexation gives understanding (Is. 28:19, [Vulg. and Douay]). But what doth he know that hath not been tried? (Sir. 34:9). For, as NAZIANZEN puts it, οὐ πρόσωπα χριστιανισμὸς, ἀλλὰ πίστις, Christianity is faith, not outward appearances. And LUTHER says, Unexperienced persons are merely unprofitable theorizers. But since it is of advantage, in order to become more fully acquainted with any course of discipline, that one should be subjected to it from a tender age, so does it especially conduce to the acquisition of experience in matters of crossbearing, if one is trained in them from his youth.” FÖRSTER.—“Jeremiah himself bore the yoke in his youth. He was very young, according to Jer. 1:6, when he was called to the prophetical office (in the 13th year of Josiah), and from the beginning he experienced much opposition and many trials, hence after eighteen years under Joakim and eleven years under Zedekiah, he was able to endure yet severer persecution. The earlier he had learned to bear the yoke, the better was he able to bear it later in life. It is a golden truth that is here expressed. The cases of Joseph and David also confirm it. A youth of hardships has already brought forth much fruit of godliness, and educated many staunch men for the kingdom of God. Therefore be thou also reconciled to a youth of hardship.” CALWER, Handbuch der Bibelerklärung,—“We ought not only to bear the yoke, but to bear it in our youth. For if we bear it late in life, we begin by exercising penitence for the past, rather than by acquiring strength. Let us then anticipate the flight of the years of our youth by suitable discipline, that we may each of us say, O God, who feedest [E. V., Thou hast taught] me from my youth (Ps. 71:17); rather than be obliged to lament at the remembrance of our faults, saying, Remember not the sins of my youth and of my ignorance (Ps. 25:7 [See Vulg.]).” AMBROSE, Serm. 2, on Ps. 119:9.—Deus vult longi prælii militem, God chooses the soldier who has passed through a long fight. HILLARY’S Exposition of Ps. 119:9, quoted by GHISLER., p. 146.—“What praise is due to old men, if failing in strength and having been released from long continued labor, they prefer to take their rest? On the other hand, what glory is due to young men, when in the very fervor of youth itself, they moderate their lives by a regimen of strict morality?” CASSIODORUS, in Ps. 119:83, quoted by GHISLER., p. 147.
28. [Lam 3:28. “He has learnt that necessary lesson of independence, that shows him how he is to serve himself; to give no trouble to others; and keep his troubles, as far as possible, in his own bosom.” ADAM CLARKE.]
29. Lam 3:29. אוּלַי, if so be, peradventure. “This particle affords to the Romanists no support for their fiction of doubt.* LUTHER’S interpretation may be seen in his marginal note on Joel 2:14.” FÖRSTER.
*[I.e., in regard to God’s willingness to pardon, on which they rest the necessity of propitiating Him by penance.—W. H. H.]
30. Lam 3:30. “It may be asked here, whether this sentence refers to toleration [the passive, non-resistant endurance of evil]; whether the words, if any one is struck on the cheek, etc., may not seem to support the Anabaptists, who endeavor to prove, from this and similar passages of Scripture, especially from Matt. 5:39, 40, that all species of revenge is forbidden to Christians? But a distinction must be made between public and private, and lawful and unlawful revenge.” FÖRSTER.
31. [Lam 3:31–33. Prayer. “Grant, Almighty God, that as it is expedient for us to be daily chastised by Thy hand, we may willingly submit to Thee, and not doubt, but that Thou wilt be faithful, and not prove us with too much rigor, but that Thou wilt consider our weakness, so that we may thus calmly bear all Thy chastisements, until we shall at length enjoy that perfect blessedness, which is now hid to us under hope, and as it were sealed, until Christ Thy Son shall reveal it at His coming. Amen.” CALVIN.]
32. Lam 3:33. “He does not afflict men from His heart. This is not to be understood absolutely (ἁπλῶς), but comparatively, namely, with respect to [what may be called] God’s own special work, which consists not in afflicting, but in doing good. Briefly, His disposition towards us is like that of a father towards his son, in reference to which AUGUSTINE very beautifully says, He is both a father and a God when He caresses; and when He smites, still is He a father.… With which agrees this saying of NAZIANZEN: Μεὶζον τὸ μέτρον τῆς φιλανθρωπίας ὑπὲρ τὸ μέτρον τῆς παιδαγωγίας. The measure of His philanthropy exceeds the measure of His severity as a disciplinarian.” FÖRSTER.—“The very essence of His being inclines Him to bless, therefore it is written, He does not afflict from His heart His children of the human race; but if they despise His blessing, it is His to smite and requite them with the greater severity.” THOLUCK, Stunden Christl. Andacht, XXII., S. 120.
“Deines Wesens Wesen nur die Liebe ist,
Strenge nur bei Dir aus lauter Liebe fliesst.”—
Ib., Andacht, XXX., S. 171.
32. [Lam 3:34–39. PRAYER. “Grant, Almighty God, that as we are at this day tossed here and there by so many troubles, and almost all things in the world are in confusion, so that wherever we turn our eyes, nothing but thick darkness meets us,—O grant that we may learn to surmount all obstacles, and to raise our eyes by faith above the world, so that we may acknowledge that governed by Thy wonderful counsel is everything that seems to us to happen by chance, in order that we may seek Thee, and know that help will be ready for us through Thy mercy whenever we humbly seek the pardon of our sins, through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.” CALVIN.]
33. Lam 3:37, 38. “In respect to the sins of men, He is not entirely inactive. Not, indeed, as if He took pleasure in their sins, or moved men to commit them, or had ordained men to their sins. That be far from Him! But because from the very first He had entire knowledge of them (Jer. 23:24; Ps. 139:7–12; Job 24:23; Sir. 23:27, 28; Wis. 1:6–10).… Therefore it follows, that all the punishments of sin are sent and controlled by God, to His own people, indeed, for the purpose of discipline, but to the ungodly, for their punishment (Is. 45:7; Am. 3:6).… Therefore that is an execrable error of some of the heathen philosophers, who taught that what happened to a man, whether good or evil, came by chance, even as his luck befell him: but that God troubled Himself with the affairs of men, was not to be thought of: but that He sits in Heaven, in undisturbed repose, and lets men here, between themselves, plunge, wade or swim as they can, since He takes no concern in their affairs.” EGID. HUNNIUS.—“Who then can say that anything is done without the Lord’s command? This is a precious word. For first, all adversaries, however lively their devices may be, are only messengers and servants of my Lord, and must obey Him, when He has purposes of love in my behalf for them to accomplish. And, as LUTHER says, Our God is entire Master of the art of whipping a rogue by the hands of others.… For the rest, I should not regard the thoughts and devices of all my adversaries, but the loving purposes which my Lord intends to accomplish by them, as David sings, He has spread a table for me in the presence of mine enemies, and filled my cup to overflowing. Whilst they rage and roar, be of good cheer and say, St. Peter cannot prevent God from giving what He will.…
Ihr lieben Feinde sorgt so viel, mir Noth und Gram zu machen.
Seht doch, ihr seid Handlanger blos in meines Herren Sachen!
Wohl grämte ich mich bitterlich, wenn ich es nicht erkennte,
Dass doch mein Herr der Wundarzt ist und ihr nur Instrumente.
Wie selig, wer er hat erkannt, dass aller Fäden Enden
Von aller Menschen Werk und Wort ruhn doch in Göttes Händen.
There is then only one real misfortune for men on earth, and that is Sin!” THOLUCK, St. Christl. Andacht, XXVIII, S. 162.
34. Lam 3:38. “Two words occur here which need to be more accurately defined. The first question is, what is the exact idea of evil in this passage? CALVIN, too, broadly extends its meaning so as to cover all the evils that are done, and that happen in the world, thus not obscurely embracing all sins. But from the context even a blind man may perceive, that the Prophet is not speaking of evil in general,… but in fact of that particular species of evil, which is usually called the evil of punishment. For the evil of crime, as such, evidently cannot and ought not to be in any manner attributed to God as its author or producing cause (Deut. 32:4; Ps. 5:5 (4); Rom. 9:14; 1 John 1:5; James 1:13); but the evil of punishment is, here and in various other places in the Sacred Scriptures, imputed to God as a just Judge (Is. 45:7; Am. 3:6; Sir. 40:32). The other word referred to, is that translated commandeth (τὸ, jubere). In the Hebrew it is צִוָּה.… CALVIN twists this word to mean the secret decrees of God, by which He bends the purposes of men hither and thither, according to His own arbitrary will. Whence he infers, that nothing is done without the command and foreordination of God. He adduces the example of Shimei [2 Sam. 16:5, 10], who had command to curse. If he had understood this with reference to the evil of punishment, his words would have borne the appearance at least of truth. But what CALVIN in this passage makes so broad, that he writes, Nothing can be done without the Divine mandate, including sins likewise, cannot and ought by no means to be allowed; for the contrary is most clearly attested by what is written in Jer. 19:5; 23:32; 29:23; Sir. 15:10–22.” FÖRSTER.—[“Let us now see how God commands what is wrongly and foolishly done by men. Surely He does not command the ungodly to do what is wicked, for He would thus render them excusable; for where God’s authority interposes, there no blame can be. But God is said to command whatever He has decreed, according to His hidden counsel. There are, then, two kinds of commands; one belongs to doctrine, and the other to the hidden judgments of God. The command of doctrine, so to speak, is an evident approbation which acquits men; for when one obeys God, it is enough that he has God as his authority, though he were condemned by a hundred worlds.… But God is said to command according to His secret decrees what He does not approve, as far as men are concerned. So Shimei had a command to curse, and yet he was not exempt from blame; for it was not his purpose to obey God; nay, he thought that he had offended God no less than David [2 Sam. 19:19, 20]. Thus this distinction ought to be understood, that some things are commanded by God, not that men may have it as a rule of action, but when God executes His secret judgments by ways unknown to us. Thus, then, ought this passage to be understood, even that nothing is carried on without God’s command, that is, without His decree, and, as they say, without His ordination. It hence appears, that those things which seem contingent, are yet ruled by the certain providence of God, so that nothing is done at random. And what philosophers call accident, or contingent (ἐνδεχομενον), is necessary as to God; for God decreed before the world was made whatever He was to do; so that there is nothing now done in the world which is not directed by His counsel. * * * Now they who object and say that God is thus made the author of evils, may be easily refuted; for nothing is more preposterous than to measure the incomprehensible judgment of God by our contracted minds.… This, then, is our wisdom, to embrace only what the Scripture teaches. Now, when it teaches us that nothing is done except through the will of God, it does not speak indiscriminately, as though God approved of murders, and thefts, and sorceries, and adulteries; what then? even that God by His just and righteous counsel so orders all things, that He still wills not iniquity and abhors all injustice.… How much soever the most wicked may indulge themselves in their vices, He still rules them,… that He may punish sins with sins, as Paul teaches us, for he says that God gives up to a reprobate mind those who deserve such a punishment, that He gives them up to disgraceful lusts, that He blinds more and more the despisers of His word (Rom. 1:28; 2 Thess. 2:10). And then God has various ways, and those innumerable and unknown to us.… Thus we see that God is not the author of evils, though nothing happens but by His nod and through His will,—for far different is His design from that of wicked men.… In a word, as far as the Heavens are from the earth, so great is the difference between the works of God and the deeds of men, for the ends, as I have said, are altogether different.” CALVIN.]
35. Lam 3:39. “The danger here is, that very few sufficiently examine themselves. Whoever does this will discover, how God punishes our sins, and we suffer no undeserved distress.” HEIM u. HOFFMANN, die grossen Propheten.—It is usual with unrenewed men commonly, to become enraged at him who punishes them, even when their punishment is entirely just. Thus we read in the Revelation of John (16:9, 11, 21), that men will blaspheme the name of God, who pours out the vials of His wrath upon them, and that they will not repent of their sins. This perversity of the heart, which mistakes right for wrong, and wrong for right, will reach its utmost height in the last days, but its roots reach back to the beginning of the world, where they started with the lies of the Serpent (Gen. 3:4, 5).—“The evils of punishment are only the effects, or fruits, of the evils of sin (Rom. 6:23; Jas. 1:15). Hence AUGUSTINE says, with great propriety, ‘Punishment daily increases, because sin increases daily; the chastisements of God continue without cessation, because crimes among the people are equally persistent.’ But, on the other hand, AMBROSIUS says, with truth; ‘God had been ready to change His sentence, if thou hadst been willing to amend thy wickedness by penitence.’ ” FÖRSTER.
36. Lam 3:40–42. [“How are we to get the pardon of our sins? The Prophet tells us:—1. Let us examine ourselves. 2. Let us turn again to the Lord. 3. Let us lift up our heart; let us make fervent prayer and supplication for mercy. 4. Let us lift up our hand; let us solemnly promise to be His, and bind ourselves in a covenant to be the Lord’s only: so much lifting up the hand to God implies. Or, let us put our heart on our hand and offer it to God: so some have translated this clause. 5. We have transgressed; let our confession of sin be fervent and sincere. 6. And to us who profess Christianity it may be added, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as having died for thee; and thou shalt not perish, but have everlasting life.” ADAM CLARKE].
37. Lam 3:40, 41. “When Jeremiah says, Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord; let us lift up our hearts with our hands unto God in the heavens; he reminds us of the proper method to be observed in prayer, namely, sincere confession of sin and repentance must precede our petitions. For we know that God does not hear impenitent sinners (John 9:31). This method God Himself also has taught us to observe, since He says in Is. 1:15, If ye make many prayers, I will not hear you. Why? For your hands are full of blood. But He immediately adds good counsel: Wash and make yourselves clean, put away your evil doings from before Mine eyes, then come and let us reason together.” Würtemb. Summarien.
38. Lam 3:39–42. “Here two very different kinds of murmuring are indicated. One that of the ungodly which Isaiah has described, 8:21, If they suffer hunger, they will fret themselves and curse their king and their God. But besides this, a very salutary kind of murmuring is suggested, which is not directed against God or men, but consists in a man’s being discontented with himself and fretting over his sins and forsaking them, and in examining his life that he may know how wicked he has been, since he has not been afraid to sin before the face of God, most holy (Is. 64:6; Dan. 9:5–14).… But that prayer and confession of sins may be acceptable to God, it is required, that not only the mouth may pray, but, as Jeremiah says, the heart and the hands must be lifted up to heaven. For where the mouth only prays, and the heart is not in it, God esteems such spiritless prayer as little as the prayer of those Pharisees and heathen, who, when they wished to pray, babbled much with their mouths, without spirit or sincerity (Matt. 6:5–8; Is. 29:13).… Yet we learn from these few brief words of the Prophet Jeremiah, that prayer is not to be deferred too long, nor delayed by impenitence. Otherwise it will be too late to call on God and come to Him with prayer, as happened to the Jews, who delayed their repentance and prayer till God’s wrath was already kindled. And when they afterwards called on God, it availed nothing (with regard to averting spiritual punishment), therefore they uttered this lamentation. Thou hast covered Thyself with a cloud, that no prayer could pass through (Is. 1:15; 59:1–3; Mic. 3:4; Prov. 1:28.)” EGID. HUNNIUS.
39. Lam 3:41. “In such prayer we must persevere, and not as it were desist if help does not come immediately, but must always continue to pray, till the Lord look down from Heaven and behold us, as Jeremiah here says. For God has not such tender ears that He would soon grow weary of hearing, as those men of whom it is said, a beggar may be neither poor nor worthy,—but they will treat him graciously, if he persist tenaciously in his entreaties (Luke 11:9; Col. 4:2; 1 Thess. 5:17).” Würtemb. Summarien.
Ut tua pertingat penetretque in oratio cœlum,
Corde sit ex puro, sit brevis atque frequens.—FÖRSTER.
[“Let us lift up our heart with our hands,—the antidote to hypocrisy. Ps. 86:4; 1 Tim. 2:8.” FAUSSET.]
40. Lam 3:42, 43. [“The Prophet proceeded to direct the confessions of his people and to put words into their mouths. He humbly acknowledges that they had transgressed and rebelled against God; and as He had not pardoned, it was plain they had not repented; this was the cause of all their miseries, of which he led them humbly and submissively to complain to the Lord. He had covered them with His anger, pursued them by His judgments, and destroyed them without pity: and He had so covered Himself with a thick cloud, that their prayers could find no admission. The hypocritical prayers of the people for deliverance were rejected; and even the fervent prayers of the Prophet in that behalf were discouraged.” SCOTT.—“If the Lord has not pardoned our sins, we may be sure, that it is because we have not repented and believed His Gospel: yet we may be forgiven, even though we have not the comfort of it.” SCOTT.]
41. Lam 3:44. “This cloud is not physical but mystical, a cloud, namely, condensed from the mists and vapors of our sins, the Holy Spirit thus interpreting it in Is. 59:1, 2; Ps. 66:18; John 9:31. With which agrees that saying of AUGUSTINE, Præfacti peccatores sunt Dei illusores non oratores, Hardened sinners mock God, they do not pray to Him. If therefore we wish our prayers to be heard, this cloud must be dispersed by true and sincere repentance, as Isaiah exhorts, 1:15–18.” FÖRSTER.—“However it may have an angry and threatening appearance, that God should draw a dark cloud-covering over His face, yet after all it is no iron wall, but only a cloud that may be easily dissipated, and when God removes our sins as a veil (Is. 44:22), then He drives this cloud away.” CRAMER.
42. Lam 3:44–49. [“The prolonging of troubles is sometimes a temptation, even to praying people, to question whether God be what they have always believed Him to be, a prayer-hearing God; and the distresses of God’s people sometimes prevail to that degree, that they cannot find any footing for their faith, nor keep their head above water, with any comfortable expectation.” HENRY.]
43. Lam 3:50. “Till the Lord behold from Heaven. This phrase is found also in Ps. 102:20 (19); 14:2; 33:13; Gen. 18:21. ZANCHIUS († 1590) endeavors to prove from this expression that Heaven in which God is said to dwell, is a place in the created universe (ens creatum) above the visible heavens. But this is absurd. For it would follow, 1. That God is not everywhere, but is contained in Heaven, which is contrary to the doctrine taught in 1 Kings 8:27. 2. That the birds in the air are nearer God, than are the pious and faithful on earth; thus AUGUSTINE argues (Book 2, the Sermon on the Mount, Lam 9), If the habitation of God is believed to be in the Heavens, regarded as the higher parts of the world, then the birds are in reality better off than we, for their life is nearer to God.” FÖRSTER.
44. Lam 3:51. “His grief is so great, that it is not diminished by tears (as it ought to be, according to the ordinary course of nature), as the Poet says,
Expletur lacrymis, egeriturque dolor,
[Ovid, Tristia, 4, 3, 38], (appeased by tears and spent is grief), but rather is so intensified that it consumes his soul, i.e. his life, the heart, the seat of life, being consumed.” FÖRSTER.
45. Lam 3:53. “We are aroused to fervent prayer, by our own special calamity, as by an alarm-bell. Thus the people of God here acknowledge, that in the deepest anguish, when almost sunk into the ground in the graves of the lost, they had called on the name of the Lord and had been heard. As often then as God now casts a man into the grave, that is to say, lets him sink into some temporal misfortune or mental despair, he should remember that he is thereby summoned to prayer, that he should lift his heart to God and call upon Him with sighing and weeping.” EG. HUNNIUS.
46. Lam 3:55. “The prayer of the righteous, says AUGUSTINE, is the key of Heaven; as prayer ascends, the compassion of God descends.” FÖRSTER.
47. Lam 3:48–66. “Jeremiah thought that injustice was done him, although he did not regard himself as innocent before God, but ascribed everything that befell him and his people, to his own sins and to the sins of the people; yet he held that injustice was done him by his enemies, who persecuted him on account of the word of God. And in the same way may one, when he suffers wrong from his enemies, appeal to his innocence before God and men, as David says, Lord do me justice, for I am innocent (Ps. 26:1). But before God no one should esteem himself guiltless, but we should remember that the evil which befalls us undeservedly at the hands of our enemies, is deservedly sent upon us by God, on account of other sins, that we should repent of. In repentance, moreover, no one should look and wait for others, before he himself makes a beginning, but as Jeremiah here sets an example of repentance before others, so should every one else do. Then, at least, there will be a general repentance, and God will regard our repentance and will hear us according to His promise, for which we shall praise Him for ever and ever. Amen.” Würtemb. Summarien.
48. Lam 3:57. [“Fear not. How powerful is this word when spoken by the Spirit of the Lord to a disconsolate heart. To every mourner we may say, on the authority of God, Fear not! God will plead thy cause, and redeem thy soul.” CLARKE.]
49. Lam 3:60. [“Thou hast seen. Everything is open to the eye of God. Distressed soul! though thou knowest not what thy enemies meditate against thee; yet He who loves thee does, and will infallibly defeat all their plots, and save thee.” CLARKE.—“As soon as any trial assails us, we imagine that God is turned away from us; and thus our flesh tempts us to despair. It is hence necessary that the faithful should in this respect struggle with themselves and feel assured that God has seen them. Though, then, human reason may say, that God does not see, but neglect and disregard His people, yet on the other hand, this doctrine ought to sustain them, it being certain that God does see them. This is the reason why David so often uses this mode of expression.” CALVIN.]
50. Lam 3:60. “Quæ hic tormenta, erunt illic ornamenta. What are our torments here, will be our ornaments there.” AUGUSTINE.
51. Lam 3:64–66. With regard to prayer against enemies, see Doctrinal and Ethical remarks on 1:20–22.—[Prayer. “Grant, Almighty God, that as at this day ungodly men and wholly reprobate so arrogantly rise up against Thy Church, we may learn to flee to Thee, and to hide ourselves under the shadow of Thy wings, and fully to hope for Thy salvation; and that, however disturbed the state of things may be, we may yet never doubt but that Thou wilt be propitious to us, since we have so often found Thee to be our deliverer; and that we may thus persevere in confidence of Thy grace and mercy, and be also roused by this incentive to pray to Thee, until having gone through all our miseries, we shall at length enjoy that blessed rest which Thou hast promised to us through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.” CALVIN.]
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
1. Lam 3:1–18. The lamentation of the Prophet. 1. A source of consolation to the pious in severe temptation. 2. A solemn warning to the ungodly. “We learn, here, how God often permits even His dearest children and the most holy of His chosen ones to be deeply tempted on earth, that they may have to some extent a taste of the agony of Hell.… But the ungodly, who live in this world tranquilly and happily, should regard the case of the righteous as a mournful foretokening of the pains of Hell, whereby they will yet, at some time, as by a mighty thunder-clap, be awakened out of their profound and dangerous sleep of false security.” EG. HUNNIUS.
2. Lam 3:19–21. How he who is tempted should strengthen himself in severe affliction. 1. He should lament his sorrow unto the Lord (pour out his heart before Him, Ps. 62:9 (8); 102:1 (title); 142:3 (2)). 2. He should be assured that God is mindful of him (by Christ we have the knowledge of Divine Adoption, Rom. 8:15, 16). 3. He should, on this account, rejoice in hope (Rom. 12:12; 1 Thess. 5:16; Rom. 5:2).
3. Lam 3:22, 23. Sermon on a special day of fasting and prayer by the court-preacher GRUENEISEN, in PALMER’S ev. Casual-Reden, Bd. 1., S. 271. “Our text instructs us, 1. How God, even in times of affliction, shows His regard for us. 2. How we also, in such affliction, should show our regard for God.”
4. Lam 3:22, 23. “With what we may comfort ourselves when we feel that we are forsaken. 1. The goodness of the Lord, that helps to sustain us, so that we are not utterly overwhelmed. 2. The compassion of the Lord, which we experience every day. 3. The faithfulness of the Lord, which enables us to hope firmly in the fulfilment of all His promises.” FLOREY, bibl. Wegweiser für geistliche Grabreden, Nr. 46.
5. Lam 3:24, 25. “The happiness of a believing soul even in painful circumstances. 1. The consolation which it takes to itself,—God is my portion. 2. The resolution to which it is stimulated.—I will hope in Him. 3. The experience it makes proof of,—the Lord is gracious.” FLOREY, ib. Nr. 47.
6. Lam 3:26, 27. “The benefits of early affliction. 1. They teach at a time when men are most susceptible of instruction; and they teach them [what they most need to learn at that time of life] to recognize the vanity of earthly things and to give heed to the Word of God. 2. They purify at a time when the heart is in the greatest danger of being corrupted; and they purify them from [those besetting sins of youth] selfishness and sensuality. 3. They strengthen them at a time when strength is weakest and temptations to sin are the strongest; and they strengthen them especially to patient endurance on this earth and separation from this earth.” FLOREY, ib. Nr. 48. See TROST und MAHNUNG an Gräbern, ii. Bändch., S. 154.
7. Lam 3:27–33. The chastisements of the Lord. 1. He chastises not for the sake of making men miserable (Lam 3:33). 2. He chastises not forever (Lam 3:31, 32). 3. He chastises that we may learn, (1) patience (Lam 3:27, 28), (2) silence, quietness (Lam 3:29), (3) meekness (Lam 3:30), (4) hope (Lam 3:29).
8. Lam 3:27–33. The Divine discipline. 1. Its source; Love (Lam 3:31–33). 2. Its means; Sorrow and joy (Lam 3:27–33). 3. Its aim; the perfecting of the man of God (Lam 3:27–30, see 2 Tim. 3:17).
9. Lam 3:31–33. “The blessed change with which believing Christians may console themselves. 1. After pain follows pleasure. 2. After death, life. 3. After separation, a restoration.” FLOREY, as above, Nr. 49.
10. Lam 3:32. “The history of the year’s harvest an image of our history for the year. The resemblance appears in these respects: 1. How finely the whole country looked; 2. With what difficulty it withstood the power of the storm; 3. How, nevertheless, God’s hand has protected us.” BEYER S. E. (in Plauen), Harvest Sermon, 1866.
11. Lam 3:37, 38. “No misfortune happens without God’s will. 1. This is a great comfort to those on whom misfortune has fallen; for (1), they will not vex themselves unnecessarily with self-inflicted reproaches; (2), they will be more susceptible to the voice of the Gospel; (3), they will humble themselves under the mighty hand of God. 2. This is a strong support for the confidence in God of those who properly consider it; for (1), they will be freer from anxious cares; (2), stronger in their reliance on God’s guidance; (3), they will be more perfect in the spiritual man. 3. This is a solemn warning to those who embrace this opinion; (1), that they do not sin against the wisdom of God; (2), that they do not violate brotherly love; (3), that they do not forestall the judgment of God’s word.” Florey, same as above, Nr. 251. See Trost und Mahnung an Gräbern, i. Bdchen. s. 216.
12. Lam 3:18–39. Sermon of G. CHR. DEICHERT on Midlent Sunday (see Stern aus Jakob, Stuttg., Liesching, 1867: “This Lenten Sunday brings us into sorrow’s school, where we shall learn hope in God, under severe chastisement and in bitter trouble; where we shall learn submissive meekness, and yet have hours of respite, when we may take breath, gather fresh strength, and address ourselves anew to the conflict. But the first thing is that we pass the examination [or trial for entrance into this school].”
13. Lam 3:39–42. “Weighty words for every one who is under the cross and in trouble. This, then, is no time for unbelieving, impatient, impenitent murmuring, but a time when we should examine ourselves, and learn in what respects we deserve what the Lord says to us, by means of such chastisements, and when we should submit patiently to His will, who smites us righteously, and thus implore grace.” CALWER Handbuch Bibelerklärung.—“If God chastises the sinner, but with measure, so that He still spares his life, then should not man, whose life is spared by the grace of God, lament on account of God’s righteousness, and on account of the punishment of his own sins; rather every one should lament on account of his own sin, which has brought that punishment upon him; every one should complain of himself (not of God), for this is an indication of true penitence.” LISCO.
14. Lam 3:39–42. The murmuring that is forbidden and that which is commanded. 1. Forbidden, because unjustifiable, is murmuring over the evil we are obliged to suffer as a punishment of our sins (Lam 3:39, 42). 2. Commanded, is murmuring over our sins, by which we have offended God; and this is right only when it results (1), in sincere repentance (Lam 3:40); (2), in hearty prayer for God’s grace.
15. Lam 3:44–50. Of wrestling with God in prayer; 1. This presupposes an attack that God has made upon us, through the cross and trouble (Lam 3:45–47, comp. Lam 3:1–17). 2. It consists (1), on our part, in vehement prayer (Lam 3:48, 49); (2), on God’s part, in the repeated rejection of our prayer (Lam 3:44.) 3. It ends (1), on our part, with believing perseverance in prayer; (2), on God’s part, with God-like acceptance of our prayers (Lam 3:50).
16. Lam 3:48–66. Prayer of the innocent and persecuted man for help against his enemies. 1. Description of the wanton oppression of his enemies and the heart-felt lamentation of the oppressed (Lam 3:48–54). 2. Whither this one had turned himself [for help] in this difficulty. (Lam 3:55–58; “We, who had been cast, as it were, into the pit of destruction and the abyss of terror and distress, knew not whither to betake ourselves, except unto Thee alone, O Lord! We called upon Thee out of our anguished hearts, and Thou didst hear us. Since Thou hast begun to hear, hide not now Thine ears from our sighs and our cries.”) 3. Prayer, that God will not let the wickedness of his enemies go unrevenged. (Lam 3:59–66: “With Thee, truly, O Lord, I have nothing to say, because one cannot answer Thee for one thing of a thousand. But this we commend to Thee, O Lord, as the Righteous Judge, that our enemies, without any justifying cause, have tyrannized over us so grievously. Thou hearest also their reproach, which is uttered not only against us, but much more against Thy holy name. Because they will not cease
from this outrageous insolence, do Thou then set about to requite them, as they have deserved. Let their heart be terrified, that is now defiant; let them feel Thy curse, which now they despise”). Fifth Sermon of EGID. HUNNIUS on the 3d chap. of Lamentations.
I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath.3:1–3
1, 2I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of His wrath. He hath led 3me and brought me into darkness, but not into light. Surely against me is he turned; he turneth his hand against me all the day.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Lam 3:1.—גֶבֶר not infrequent in Jer., 17:5, 7; 22:30; 23:9, etc. In Lamentations in this chapter only, and here four times, Lam 3:1, 27, 35, 39.—Jeremiah never uses אֳנִי see 1:13. The choice of the word here seems due to similarity of sound with אֲנִי, comp. Ps. 88:16.—שֵׁבֶט in Jeremiah only in the two critically suspected places, 10:16; 15:19, where שֵׁבֶט נַֽחֲלָתוֹ is found. This exact phrase שֵׁבֶט עֶבְדָתוֹ is found (as has not been before remarked, that I know of) in Prov. 22:8, in that part of the Proverbs, too, which is acknowledged to be the oldest and which extends from 10:1 to 22:16. The expression there is used in the sense of being blamed by men; here, the suffix refers to it God.—עֶבְרָה, see 2:2.
Lam 3:2.—נָהַג not in Jeremiah in any form.—Hiph. הוֹלִיךְ Jeremiah often uses, 2:16, 17; 31:9; 32:5.—The substantive חשֶׁךְ never in Jeremiah. He seldom expresses this general thought, and when he does, he uses other words; צַלְמָוֶת ,עֲרָפֶל ,נֶשֶׁף, 13:16, 17; 2:6, אֲפֵלָה; 23:12, מַאֲפֵלְיָה; 2:31. [If he preferred here a word he never used before, euphony alone would suggest it to him. It happens, however, that of the five words in his prophecies above cited, four of them he uses only once, and the fifth, צַלְמָוֶת, only twice; and one of the five, מַאֲפֵלְיָה, is not found elsewhere in the Bible. Where such variety of terms are used to express the same idea, the introduction of another new one may be deemed; as characteristic of the author. At least this word חשֶׁךְ, affords no evidence against Jeremiah’s authorship of Lamentations.—W. H. H.]—וְלֹא, see 2:1, 2, 14, 17; 3:7, 49; 4:6.—With respect to the Acc. loci, see 2:21.
Lam 3:3.—יָשֻׁב יַהֲפֹךְ יָדוֹ. In regard to the peculiar idiom by which an adverbial idea is expressed by a finite verb, see my Gr., § 95 g. n. [Also GREEN’S Gr., § 269]. In Jer. 18:4, שָׁב occurs in a similar construction [see marginal reading in E. V.]
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Lam 3:1. I am the man.—[The references to the personal experiences of the prophet Jeremiah in this chapter are too evident to be disputed. That these words were the words of Jeremiah himself must be the opinion of all who read this chapter unprejudiced by a theory to the contrary (see Introduction). But we are not to regard him as speaking here as a private person. He speaks as the Prophet of Jehovah raised up at that particular juncture, to stand between the people and their covenant God, to reveal His will to them and to present their interest to God at the throne of grace, for these were the twofold functions of the prophet’s office. The Prophet therefore was a representative man. He stood for the people. He suffered for the people. He spoke for the people. Hence in this Song Jeremiah easily passes from the singular to the plural forms of speech, from I and me, to we and us. [GERLACH: “The supposition that in this chapter the personal sufferings of the Prophet are the subject of his Lamentation (MICHAELIS, PAREAU, MAURER, KALKAR, BLEEK in his Introduction), cannot be certainly proved, either from Lam 3:14 (see Comm. on that ver.), nor from the description contained in 53–55, where the possibility of a figurative sense cannot be denied. In opposition to this opinion are the following arguments. 1. From the fact that we imperceptibly takes the place of I in Lam 3:22 and Lam 3:40–47, we may conclude that in the rest of the chapter also, the prophet does not speak only in his own name and of his own person. 2. Unless we would destroy the whole connection of the chapter, we must allow that the calamity, recognized in Lam 3:42, 43, as the punishment of the sins of the people (we have sinned), is the same calamity which is described in Lam 3:1–18 with reference to the experience of a single individual—an opinion, which, by manifold agreements between the two sections, is shown to be correct. 3. The lamentation of the Prophet over his own past suffering, in the actual presence of a great national calamity, would be no less improbable, than the position of this chapter, in the middle of four others lamenting the national calamity, would in that case be inappropriate. The Lamentation of this chapter is then correctly understood only, when it is regarded as a lamentation of every one of the individual pious Israelites, as a lamentation which, while proceeding from self-experienced mental sufferings, has its truth, neverthelesss, for all pious Israelites, in whose name the Prophet speaks. This was perceived by ABEN EZRA, when he designated the individual Israelites as the subject lamenting, and in this most, modern interpreters (ROSENMUELLER, EWALD, THENIUS, NEUMANN, VAIHINGER) agree.”—W. H. H.]—That hath seen affliction—who saw misery, i.e., experienced it. RASCHI is of the opinion that the verb here expresses the idea of living to see the fulfilment of the destruction predicted, which would suit Jeremiah alone. But in that case it would at least have been necessary to say (חָעֳנִי) the affliction, or misery. The verb may have the sense, in a general way, of experiencing or living to see, as frequently (see Jer. 5:12; Ps. 16:10; 49:10; Eccl. 8:16; 9:9). But the distinction between prophecy and fulfilment is too feebly indicated, to admit of RASCHI’S interpretation. The Poet has rather in view the distinction between higher and comparatively inferior degrees of suffering. He would simply say that he had suffered more than all other persons. Besides, man (גֶבֶר) would be too indefinite. We would expect seer (ראֵה), or prophet (נָבִיא); [I am the prophet, or seer, who has lived to see the fulfilment of my own predictions.]—By the rod of his wrath.—The expression can only mean, that the Poet had seen misery in consequence of God’s using the rod of His wrath. Compare Is. 10:5, where the Lord calls the Assyrian the rod of My anger, and Job 9:34; 21:9, where the rod of God is spoken of in a general way. [CALVIN: “At the very beginning he acknowledges that whatever he suffered had been inflicted by God’s hand … there is included in the word wrath a brief confession, especially when it is added by the rod, or staff.”]
Lam 3:2. He hath led me and brought me—He led and brought me—into darkness but (or, and) not into light.—The metaphor, [of light and darkness for prosperity and adversity] is found in Am. 5:18, 20; Job 12:25, expressed in the same Hebrew phrase.
Lam 3:3. Surely against me.—The threefold prominence given to the person speaking, by the repetition of the personal pronoun three times in the beginning of the Song, is not without a reason. These introductory verses thus acquire a thematic character, i.e., it is thus indicated that the speaker intends to make his own person especially a theme of discourse. His justification in this is, that he can with good reason assume to himself the personality punished to the greatest degree by sufferings of every sort. While he was this, he was also at the same time a leader, as it were, of all punished in the same way, therefore the representative of a whole class of sufferers,—of the Israel, hated by men but beloved of God, of the Ἰσραηλ κατὰ πνεῦμα—the spiritual Israel. This explanation would not stand, if we were to understand the whole people as indicated by the man in Lam 3:1. That the whole people are not so designated by the man, will be seen further on. For the present, the expression itself, the man, furnishes an argument against it: for throughout the book Zion is always spoken of as a female. See his strongholds,2:5, where only the masculine pronoun is used in reference to Zion, and there only because the words are a quotation. [Probably the pronoun there refers to God, not to Zion. See the Notes.—W. H. H.]—Is he turned; he turneth his hand against me all the day.—turned he his hand always again the whole day. [He turns His hand again and again the whole day long. The Hebrew is very idiomatic. The true construction is explained by the grammatical note of NAEGELSBACH above, referring to the use of a verb in an adverbial sense. The best grammarians and Versions agree in this construction. Our English Version is obviously wrong, not only because it translates both verbs transitively, but because it translates them in different tenses and is obliged to supply the words against me in the last clause. The verbs are both future and ought to be taken in the sense of the historical imperfect, because the Prophet would express the constant repetition of God’s strokes, or else as a present tense, because the prophet is referring to sufferings not yet at an end.—W. H. H.] All the day.—See 1:13; 3:14, 62. [He smote me and continues smiting me again and again, all the day long.—W. H. H.]
My flesh and my skin hath he made old; he hath broken my bones.3:4–9
4, 5My flesh and my skin hath he made old: he hath broken my bones. He hath 6builded against me, and compassed me with gall and travail. He hath set me in 7dark places, as they that be dead of old. He hath hedged me about, that I cann 8get out: he hath made my chain heavy. Also, when I cry and shout, he shutteth 9out my prayer. He hath inclosed my ways with hewn stone: he hath made my paths crooked.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Lam 3:4.—Jeremiah uses בָשָׂר often, 7:21; 12:12, etc.; עַוֹר, once, 13:23. The two words occur in connection, especially in Leviticus, 13:2–4; 11:38, 39. Comp. besides Job 19:20, Prov. 5:11; Lam. 4:8; 5:10.
Lam 3:5.—וַיַקַּף involves, like יָשׁוּב, Lam 3:3, an adverbial relation to the principal verb, see Lam 3:3. [There is no necessity for this construction here, nor are the verbs so nearly synonymous as to render this construction likely. It is better to take the two verbs as having the same relation to עַלָי, and the same subjective accusative in בָּנָה עָלַי—.רֹאשׁ וּתְלָאָה. GESENIUS: “God hath builded against me, obstructed me, shut up my way on every side so that I cannot get out.”—W. H. H.]—הֵקּיף, elsewhere frequently in the sense circuire, circumdare (see Jos. 6:3; Ps. 17:9; 48:13, etc.), means also circumponere, and that which is placed around in the accusative by itself. So also Job 19:6. The word is not found in Jeremiah.—רֹאשׁ (In Jeremiah only in the connection מֵי רֹאשׁ, 8:14; 9:14; 23:15) is of uncertain derivation, but indicates undoubtedly poison (see Deut. 29:17; 32:32, 33; Lam. 3:19). The word connected with it, תְּלָאָה, does not occur in Jeremiah, although he used the verb לָאָה, comparatively speaking, frequently, 6:11; 9:4; 12:5; 15:6; 20:9. The meaning is difficulty, labor, Ex. 18:8; Num. 20:14; Neh. 9:32; Mal. 1:13.
Lam 3:6.—מַחֲשַׁכִּים, not in Jeremiah.—הוֹשִׁיב, Jer. 32:37. [This word does not imply the posture of sitting, as HENDERSON imagines, when he says the language may refer “to an ancient custom of placing the dead bodies in a sitting posture in the sepulchres.”—W. H. H.]
Lam 3:7.—גָּדַר, Jeremiah never uses. [Observe, this is an initial word. See Intr., Add. Rem. (6), p. 31.—W. H. H.]—וְלֹא אֵצֵא is found in Ps. 88:9, word for word. For the construction [of וְ with the future, that I could not go forth] see my Gr., § 89, 3 b, 2; § 109, 3.—הִכְביד is, to say the least, foreign to Jeremiah’s style. Comp. 1 Kings 12:10, 14.—נְחשִׁת, in the sense of a fetter, only here; elsewhere נְחֻשְׁתַיִם, Jer. 39:7; 52:11, etc.
Lam 3:8.—זָעַק, in the sense of crying to God, frequently with Jeremiah, for example 11:11, 12; 20:8; 25:34.—The verb שָׁוַע (see Ps. 88:14) used only in Piel, does not occur in Jeremiah; he uses only the substantive derived from it שַׁוְעָה, which also occurs in our chapter, Lam 3:56.—The verb שָׂתַם, thus written, occurs only here. It is merely a scribal variety of סָתַם; see שִבּוֹ 2:6. Jeremiah uses neither. The sense is obstruere (of wells, Gen. 26:15, 18; 2 Kings 3:19, 25), occludere, recludere (of prophetical mysteries, Dan. 8:26; 4:9). [MICHAELIS, ROSENMUELLER, GERLACH: Obstruxit precibus meis viam qua pervenire ad suas aures possint.]
Lam 3:9.—גָּזִית, not in Jeremiah. May there not be an allusion to stones with which, the grave is built up ?—נְתִּיבוֹת in Jer. 6:16; 18:15.—Piel עִוָּה occurs only in Is. 24:1. Jeremiah uses Hiph. twice, חֶֽעֱווּ דַרְכָּם; 3:21, הַֽעֲוֵה ,נִלְאוּ, 9:4. That נְתִיבוֹתַי עִוָּה indicates the destruction of the via munita, as THENIUS would have it, I do not believe. For in Is. 24:1, עִוָּה signifies not evertere, but pervertere. [GERLACH: “נְתִיבָה is not a carefully constructed causeway (THENIUS), which is rather the meaning of מְסִלָּה, but is rather the path worn by the steps of the traveller, then any small by-road (see Jer. 18:15, where דֶּרֶךְ לֹא סְלוּלָה is added epexegetically to נְתִיבוֹת.”]
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
It may be observed here that the speaker, having in the introductory verses 1–3 designated himself, in general terms, as the man most severely punished, now proceeds to prove this in detail.
Lam 3:4. He begins with direct personal sufferings in his flesh, skin and bones. My flesh and my skin hath he made old.—He wasted away my flesh and my skin. The verb rendered he made old, in the Kal, has an intransitive signification, atteri, consumi, to be wasted away by attrition, to be consumed, especially of garments (Deut. 8:4; 29:5; comp. Is. 50:9; 51:6) and of the bodily faculties (Gen. 18:12): in the Piel, which is used here, it means atterere, to wear out by attrition [the verb means to rub], consumere, to consume, waste away; it is found in this sense, besides here, in Ps. 49:15; Job 21:13; Is. 65:22; 1 Chron. 17:19.—He hath broken my bones.He broke (see 2:9) my bones [HENDERSON:Broke in pieces]. The same phrase occurs in Is. 38:13. See Ps. 51:10; Job 30:17, and the declaration of the contrary in Ps. 34:21. [The breaking of the bones indicate, not only the loss of physical strength, but a condition of great suffering. “The bones are often represented in the Scriptures as the seat of acute pain” (BARNES.) Job 20:11; 30:17; Ps. 6:2; 22:14; 31:10; 38:3; 42:10; Prov. 14:30. We can only take the phrase here in the metaphorical sense. He was suffering both physical weakness and physical pain.—W. H. H.]
Lam 3:5. Now follow the hindrances which have been raised against him from without. And first he says, he had been built around with poison and trouble.—He hath builded against me and compassed me with gall and travail.He built up against me and round about me poison and difficulty. [He built around me, and encompassed [me] with bitterness and distress.—W. H. H.] The image of a beleaguered city lies at the foundation of the thought here. But we are not, with the older commentators, to supply wall (מָצוֹר), or some similar word after the verb built, but rather are to take gall and travail [poison and difficulty] as the object of that verb. The connection of words and thoughts here is singular, and has not up to the present time been sufficiently elucidated. Perhaps the Poet would say that the Lord had surrounded him, not only with hardships of every sort, but with adversities in themselves ruinous. It is however possible that in the word poison,רֹאשׁ, the idea of bitterness (see Ps. 69:22) may predominate. Any way a sudden transition, from a figurative to a literal style of speaking, is effected. [There is perhaps no more difficulty here than is created by an attempt to reduce a metaphorical expression to the terms of a literal and actual fact. To enclose and encompass one with bitterness and trouble or distress (using the abstract for the concrete, i.e., with circumstances causing bitterness and distress), as if these were obstructing walls, is undoubtedly the sense of our text, and is adopted by most of the versions and commentators.—W. H. H.]
[The SEPT., the TARG. and the ARAB. (not the VULG. as BLAYNEY says), render רֹאשׁ, as if it were רֹאשׁי, my head. But these and all the ancient versions translate the same word in Lam 3:19, by gall. The SEPT. also translates תִּלָאָה as a verb, ἐμόχθησεν. BLAYNEY adopts these readings of the SEPT., but instead of elucidating the meaning, confuses it still more by a new translation of the first clause: “He hath built upon me, and encompassed my head, so that it is weary.” HENDERSON adopts partially the SEPT. translation, but discovers a new and doubtful meaning for the second verb, הִקִּיף, He hath builded against me and struck me on the head, and it is distressed.FUERST proposes (See his Lex. under the word תְּלָאָה) to carry out the military idea suggested by the verbs, thus; He has surrounded me with fortifications and a trench. But it is hardly necessary to accept the new and unauthorized derivations of these words, when their frequent use gives us a sense, that is, indeed, metaphorical, but none the less clear and expressive, and sustained so generally by the Versions, old and new.—W. H. H.]
Lam 3:6. To the obstructions of the way are added the obstructions of light. This whole verse is reproduced word for word in Ps. 143:3.—He hath set me in dark places.He caused me to dwell in darkness.—As they that be dead of old.—As the dead of olden time.Ps. 88:5–7 and 11–13, afford the best commentary on this. There are those dead before the appointed time, whom the Lord remembers no more, and to whom He shows no more the wonders of His grace. The expression is found only here and in Ps. 143:3. [We may translate it either the dead of old, or the forever dead.BLAYNEY: “God had involved him in such a depth of distress, that he was as incapable of extricating himself, as those who had laid long in the dark mansions of the dead were of making their escape thence.” GERLACH; “He is thrust into the darkness of the grave (Ps. 88:5, 6), or of Sheol (Ps. 88:7; Job 10:21, 22)—as an image of distress, Ps. 30:4; 88—like the dead of eternity, the forever dead (Vulg., mortui sempiterni).—Most commentators (MICHAELIS, ROSENMUELLER, MAURER, DE WETTE, EWALD, THENIUS, NEUMANN, BÖTTCHER) explain, the dead old = those a long time dead; but whether dead a long or a short time makes no difference, and this, as CONZ has correctly remarked, ‘would occasion an absurd ambiguity, as if the dead, who have been but a little while dead and buried, might not lie in darkness.’ The CHAL.:Mortui qui vadunt in alterum seculum (mundum).”—W. H. H.]
Lam 3:7. A climax! Not only has the Lord surrounded him with obstacles and deprived him of light, but He has also taken away his freedom. He is imprisoned and fettered! He hath hedged me about, that I cannot get out.He hedged me in that I could not get out [or, that I should not escape, or go forth.—The very words of Christ in the passion psalm, 88:9 (WORDS-WORTH)]. He hath made my chain heavy,—He made heavy my chain, or fetter.
Lam 3:8. The Lord accepts none of the sufferer’s prayers. He hears him not. [HENDERSON: “The prophet places himself in the position of a prisoner, who is securely immured, and to whose supplications for deliverance, how earnestly soever they may be made, no attention is paid.”] Also when I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayer.Also though I cry and call for help, my prayer has he barred or bolted. [The idea is, hindered or obstructed. He has taken means, by anticipation, to prevent my prayer for help from being heard, either by Himself, or by any other who might possibly come to the rescue. The change from the future tenses, to the preterite tense, seems to indicate this meaning.—W. H. H.] The sense cannot be that the Lord prevented the prayer from going out of the man’s heart, for in fact, he cried (see ROSENMUELLERin loc), but that He shut up the way of access to His own ear and heart. Comp. Lam 3:44; Prov. 1:28. [WORDSWORTH: “So the suffering Messiah says, Ps. 22:2, “O my God, I cry in the daytime, but Thou hearest not.” GERLACH: “However loudly he prays, the Lord has closed His ear; Lam 3:44; Job 19:8; Is. 1:15; Jer. 7:16; Ps. 18:42; Prov. 1:28.”]
Lam 3:9. The right way is built up against the Poet, so that he seems compelled to false ways.—He hath inclosed—he hedged in [same word as in Lam 3:7]—my ways with hewn stones. If hewn, then large stones, for we do not build with small ones. Comp. Ex. 20:25; 1 Kings 5:31; Is. 9:9; Am. 5:11; Ezek. 40:42.—He hath made—he made—my paths crooked. The Poet would say that he had been forced to crooked and false paths. See crooked ways,Ps. 125:5; crooked things,Is. 42:16. [At the first glance this would seem to be a continuation of the figure contained in verses 7, 8. This impression is due to the repetition of the word גָּדַר, hedgedin, and to the climax implied by hewn stone. The idea, in that case, is, that having imprisoned him and loaded him with fetters and shut out his cry for help, God proceeds, as it were, to make his imprisonment permanent and secure, by building up around him a wall of hewn stone. If this is so, then the last clause cannot mean He made my paths crooked, for one in the situation described must remain an inactive, passive sufferer; but it would mean that God had made all paths of escape impassable. The principal avenues of escape (דְּרָכִי) are built up with hewn stones, barriers that cannot be scaled. The smaller paths (נִתִיבוֹתַי) are broken up, turned upside down, and thus rendered impassable. This is GERLACH’S view. It is better, however, to regard this verse as introducing a new metaphor, which is continued in Lam 3:10. “He next conceives of himself as a traveller whose way is blocked up by a solid wall, and who, being compelled to turn aside into the devious pathways of the forest, is exposed to the rapacity of wild beasts” (HENDERSON). This view is recommended by the following considerations. 1. The figure of an immured and fettered prisoner is already complete, and could receive no additional force from what is here said. 2. The repetition of the verb נָּדַר, hedged in, which in ordinary cases would indicate a continuance of the same subject, is accounted for here by the necessity of a word with the same initial letter. 3. The expressions “my ways” and “my paths,” favor this construction. They are his, because he is expected to pursue them. Were they simply the ways and paths of possible escape from the place of confinement, they would not, strictly speaking, be his at all, for he could not use them. 4. This explanation makes the next verse less abrupt, and produces a regular and beautiful succession of metaphorical pictures. 5. The idea of simply breaking up or turning over the bypaths, as expressed by the Hebrew verb עָוַה, does not correspond with the security against escape expressed by building up the main avenues of escape with hewn stone. 6. The common translation, He made my path crooked, best agrees with the force of the Hebrew verb, and is adopted with great unanimity by the Versions and commentators. OWEN: “The meaning is turned aside. He had built, as it were, a wall of hewn stones across his way, and thus He turned aside his goings or his paths, so that he was constrained to take some other course.” WORDSWORTH: “Not only hath He blocked up my way with hewn stones, but He has turned my paths aside from their proper direction.” So E. V., BROUGHTON, CALVIN, BLAYNEY, BOOTHROYD, HENDERSON, and NOYES.—W. H. H.]
He was unto me as a bear lying in wait, and as a lion in secret places.3:10–18
10, 11He was unto me as a bear lying in wait, and as a lion in secret places. He 12hath turned aside my ways, and pulled me in pieces: he hath made me desolate. He 13hath bent his bow, and set me as a mark for the arrow. He hath caused the arrows 14of his quiver to enter into my reins. I was a derision to all my people, and their 15song all the day. He hath filled me with bitterness, he hath made me drunken 16with wormwood. He hath also broken my teeth with gravel-stones, he hath covered 17me with ashes. And thou hast removed my soul far off from peace: I forgat prosperity. 18And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the LORD.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Lam 3:10.—Jeremiah never mentions bears. [The need of an initial ד would naturally suggest the bear in connection with the lion. See Intr., Add. Rem. (6), p. 31.—W. H. H.]—Jeremiah uses אָרַב only once, in the phrase הָכִינוּ הָאֹרְבִים, 51:12,—מִסְתָּרִים Jeremiah uses often, 13:17; 23:24; 49:10.
Lam 3:11.—פְּשַׁח, ἄπ. λεγόμ. In the Aramaic it stands for נִתַּח in frustra dissecuit (Lev. 1:6, 12), for טָסַף dilaniavit (Job 16:9), for שָׁסַף dissecuit, פָּרַק fregit (1 Sam. 15:33; Ps. 6:3). See CHR. B. MICHAELIS in ROSENMUELLER and GES. Thes., p. 1153.—For relation of שׁוֹמֵם to Jeremiah’s style and use of language, see 1:4 שׁוּם Jeremiah uses not infrequently, 12:11; 13:16; 17:5, etc. [שׁוֹמֵם would be suggested here as alliterative with preceding word.—W. H. H.]
Lam 3:12.—הִצִיב in Jer. 5:26; 31:21—מַטָרָה, in the sense of custodia, a place of custody, frequently in Jeremiah, 32:2, 12, etc. In the sense of a mark, only here, Job 16:12, and 1 Sam. 20:20. See GESEN. Thes., p. 511 s. v., חֵץ. With regard to its Aramaic termination ־ָא—(see יִשְׁנֶא, 4:1). See OLSH., § 38 f., 108 e [GREEN’S, Gr., § 196 d]. This is no evidence against Jeremiac authorship, since, not only analogies occur in Jeremiah (see דָּשָׁא, 1, 11;. נָשׂא, 23:39), but scattered examples occur also in older books. See OLSH. as above.—חֵץ, Jer. 9:7; 1:9, 14, etc.
Lam 3:13.—Hiph. הֵבִיא often in Jeremiah, 3:14; 20:5; 25:9, 13, etc.—Jeremiah also uses אַשְׁפָּה (5:15), but בְּנֵי אַשְׁפָּה occurs only here. The arrow is called בֶּן־קֶשֶׁת in Job 41:20. See בְּנֵי־רֶשֶׁף, sons of flame, of lightning, by which many interpreters understand arrows, others sparks, and others birds. See also בְּנֵי יִצהָר, Zech. 4:14; בֶּן־שֶׁמֶן, Is. 5:1.
Lam 3:14.—The words הָיִיתִי שְׂחֹק are taken from Jer. 20:7, where it is said, הָיִיתִי לִשׂחוֹק כָּל־הַיּוּם כֻּלּה לֹעֵג לי נְגִינָה– Jeremiah never uses. See Lam, 3:63; 5:14.
Lam 3:15.—Jeremiah uses Hiph. השׂבּיעַ, 5:7.—מְרוֹרים, besides here only in Ex. 12:8; Num. 9:11.—Hiph. הרְוָה Jeremiah 31:25.—לַֽעֲנָה, wormwood, absinthium, Jeremiah uses in 9:14; 23:15.
Lam 3:16—The verb גָּרַם, contundere, comminuere, is found besides here only in Ps. 119:20.—The verb כָּפַשׁ occurs only here. It is in Hiph., and means obruit, cooperuit. [All the ancient Versions seem to have considered כָּפַשׁ same as כָּבַשׁ. The Sept., ἐψωμισέν με σποδόν, is rendered by Vulg. cibavit me cinere, “as if from כָּבַשׁ came the Latin word cibus” (BLAYNEY); but this meaning cannot be extracted from the fundamental sense of the root (see FUERST). The Targ. rendered it laid low, which gives good sense, and is adopted by BLAYNEY, BOOTHROYD, OWEN and C. B. MICHAELIS. The Arabic, rolled me in the ashes, which is adopted by LUTHER, E. V. marg., J. D. MICHAELIS and EWALD. The Syr, besprinkled, or covered, which is generally accepted as the correct meaning.—W. H. H.]—אֵפֶר in Jeremiah only in the kindred expression הִתְפַּלְשִׁי ,בָאֵפֶר, 6:26; Comp. Ezek. 27:30.
Lam 3:17.—זָנַח Jeremiah never uses: see 2:7.—נָשָׁה, Jer. 23:39.—טוֹבָח frequently in Jeremiah, 14:11; 18:10, 20, etc.
Lam 3:18.—וָֽאֹמַר. See Lam 3:54; Jer. 3:17, 19—נֵצֶח. Only נֶצַח occurs in Jeremiah, and that with reference to time, duration.—תוֹחֶלֶת, Jeremiah never uses: but see Prov. 11:7; Ezek. 19:5; 37:11.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Lam 3:10. While in what precedes we were told how the sufferer was deprived of all means of escape, what follows describes the positive weapons of offence with which he was assaulted. [By regarding Lam 3:9 as in close connection with what precedes, the introduction of the bear and lion in Lam 3:10 is abrupt and irrelevant. A prisoner, closely immured, has nothing to fear from bears and lions lurking in their coverts. Connect Lam 3:9 with Lam 3:10, however, and the sense is apparent. A traveller, prevented by barricades and stone walls from pursuing the way he would go, is compelled to follow crooked paths environed with danger of encountering lurking wild beasts. See notes on Lam 3:9—W. H. H.]—He was unto me as a bear lying in wait, and as a lion in secret places.A lurking bear was he to me,—a lion in, ambush. The image of a bear lying in wait occurs only here. See, however, Hos. 13:7, 8; Am. 5:19; Prov. 28:15. The figure of a lion lying in wait occurs in Jeremiah 49:19; 1:14; comp. 2:30; 4:7; 5:6; 12:8. Elsewhere, see Ps. 10:9; 17:12.
Lam 3:11. Bears or lions, when they attack a flock, spring upon them, tear the sheep in pieces and leave those they do not eat weltering alone in their blood. This last has happened to the Poet. He hath turned aside my ways—he drove me aside. He hath made my ways turn aside [lit.], that is to say, He drives me from the right, direct way. And pulled me in pieces, he hath made me desolate.He tore me in pieces and cast me away lonely and miserable. Should we translate, He tore me to pieces, mutilated me, and understand this to mean that the wild beast had eaten his victim, then this would not suit the other figures used in the text. On this account, we must understand this tearing in pieces only in the sense of discerpere, of mangling, lacerating. So EWALD,mich zerrupfend. The Poet would say that the beast of prey had seized one of the scattered flock, had throttled it and left it for dead, lying alone in its misery. For we must carefully observe the two ideas expressed here in the last Hebrew word, שׁוֹמֵם, that of desolation, destruction (see 1:4. 13, 16), and that of solitariness, loneliness (Is. 54:1; 2 Sam. 13:20). [This word, שׁוֹמֵם, may express any object of suffering forsaken of God and men, exciting, therefore, either pity or astonishment. See the use of the verb and its derivatives in Lam 1; Is. 54:1; Job 16:7; 21:5; Ps. 143:4. The fundamental signification of the root is to be motionless, filled with dread. This is the idea here. A solitary sheep, torn by the wild beast, lying alone in its suffering, and apparently dead. He made me desolate, or a desolation, may be a literal translation, but does not convey the sense which can only be done by inventing a phrase, as NAEGELSBACH has done. The idea is best condensed, perhaps, in the words, He left me suffering and alone.—W. H. H.]
סוֹרֵר cannot be taken here in the sense it always has elsewhere, refractarius, rebellis. The word in this sense is Part. Kal. of סָרַר, and occurs only in Hos. 4:16. Here it can only be, either Pilel of סוּר [so DAVIDSON], or Poel of סָרַר (OLSH. § 254). It is, in either case, a verbal form, occurring no where except here, and meaning He made my ways turn aside, that is to say, he drove me from the right, direct way. THENIUS lays too much stress on the word, when he translates, He has dragged me aside. [The idea is, He causes me to diverge from the way, to escape the lurking beast; but in vain, for he springs upon me, rends me, and leaves me weltering in blood. BLAYNEY gives us an original translation of his own. “He hath turned full upon me.סָרַר is applied, Hos. 4:16, to a refractory heifer, that turns aside, and will not go forward in the straight track, as she is directed. Here it is to be understood of a bear or lion turning aside toward a traveller, to fall upon him in his way.” GERLACH understands the word here to signify turning back, instead of turning aside, that is, arresting the fugitive and sending him back to prison. But neither the context, nor the signification of the word allow of this sense. JARCHI, according to GERLACH, regarded סוֹרֵר, as a denominative from סִיר, spinis opplevit vias meas. So HUGH BROUGHTON,My ways hath He made thorny.—W. H. H.]
Lam 3:12. In a new figure the Poet describes the Lord as an archer, who has made him his mark. [HENDERSON: “The idea of a hunter was naturally suggested by the circumstances just referred to. This is beautifully expressed in language borrowed from such employment.”] He hath bent—He bent—his bow.—See. 2:4. And set me as a—the—mark for the arrow. The second half of the verse seems to be an imitation of Job 16:12.
Lam 3:13. Continuation of the figure employed on ver, 12. He hath caused the arrows of His quiver to enter into my reins.—He shot into my reins the sons of his quiver. The Lord not only aims at the mark. He hits it, and that right in the centre. The reins are here regarded as the central organs, as frequently with Jeremiah (11:20; 12:2; 17:10; 20:12), not in a physical sense, however, but in a psychological sense, as appears from Lam 3:14. See DELITZSCHPsychologie, § 13, p. 268, 2d Edition.—The expression sons of the quiver, occurs only here. ROSENMUELLER quotes not inappropriately the pharetra gravida sagittis of HORACE (Ode. I. 22, 23).
Lam 3:14. It happens here that the Poet suddenly loses the figure. But it seems as if he would indicate by means of Lam 3:14, that by the arrows of which he spoke in Lam 3:13, he meant the arrows of derision. Jeremiah 9:7 explicitly calls the deceitful tongue (לְשׁוֹן מִרְמָה), a sharpened arrow (חֵץ שׁוֹחִט) See Is. 49:2.—I was a derision to all my people.—I have become a laughing stock to all my people. Altogether unnecessarily many interpreters (even THENIUS and EWALD) take עַמִי, my people, as a rare plural form for עַמִים, peoples, nations (as, it is asserted, in 2 Sam. 22:44; Ps. 144:2. See EWALD. § 177 a). This rests on the presumption that the subject of the Lamentation is not the Prophet, but the people of Israel. We have already above, at Lam 3:1–3, declared ourselves against, this opinion, and will return to the question again below, at Lam 3:40 sqq. [HENDERSON; “Instead of עַמִיmy people, a considerable number of MSS. read עַמִים, and four הָעַמִים in the plural; but this reading, though supported by the Syr., seems less suitable than the former. There is no evidence that the Prophet was treated otherwise than with respect by foreigners. Instead of meeting with any consideration from his countrymen, fidelity in the discharge of his duty to whom had been the occasion of all his personal troubles, he was made the butt of their ridicu e, and the theme of their satirical songs.” See Jer. 20:7.] And their song all the day. [The conjunction and is not in the original, and is omitted by NAEGELSBACH.—W. H. H.] The expression, their song (נְגִינָתָם), is from Job 30:9; comp. 12:4; Ps. 69:8–13.
Lam 3:15. After the short interruption of Lam 3:14, the Poet returns to the figurative style of speaking. He exhausts, as it were, his stock of images, in order to depict the adversities which befell him. He must also receive them as meat and drink, and that too in copious measure, and he must be covered with them as with ashes. [SCOTT: Lam 3:14–16. “In the midst of his other troubles, the prophet was derided and insulted by the people, over whose approaching calamities he so pathetically mourned; and they made him the subject of their profane songs, for which they were at length made a derision and a song to their enemies. Thus the Lord filled him with bitterness and intoxicated him with the nauseous cup, of which he was made to drink, instead of the cordials that his case seemed to require, and instead of nourishing, palatable food, his bread was as it were mixed with gravel, which brake his teeth, and put him to great pain when he attempted to eat: and he was covered with ashes, as a constant mourner and penitent.”]—He hath filled me with bitterness (marg., bitternesses). He satiated me with bitterness. [The Hebrew verb is used to denote satiety after eating, Deut. 6:11; Hosea 4:10. The connection seems to require this sense here He was required to eat bitter things, or bitter herbs (see FUERST’SLex.), and drink wormwood till he was filled.—W. H. H.]—He hath made me drunken with wormwood.—He made me drunk with [or, made me drink to excess of] worm wood. See Lam 3:19.
Lam 3:16. He hath also broken [lit. And he broke. Lam 3:16–18 each, begin with and (or vav conversive) for the sake of the initial letter, which is translated here also. It can be omitted in translation altogether, though it may denote here an intimate connection between this verse and Lam 3:15, as between eating and drinking.—W. H. H.] My teeth with gravel stones.—He broke my teeth with pebbles. It is a matter of indifference whether we regard this as meaning bread mixed with stones, or stones instead of bread. He hath covered me with ashes.—He covered me with ashes. The ashes here seem to be intended as a symbol of mourning, as they are in the well-known usages of mourning. See 2 Sam. 13:19; Job 2:8; Mic. 1:10.
חָצָץ, lapillus, a little stone, occurs besides here only in Prov. 20:17 (Ps. 77:18). [Prov. 20:17, “Bread of deceit is sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel,” seems to be an allusion to the grit that often is mixed with bread baked in ashes, and thus may explain this passage. BLAYNEY, BOOTHROYD, OWEN and HENDERSON, translate the word grit. HENDERSON’S inelegant translation, He hath made my teeth cranch grit, and EWALD’Ser liess meine Zähne zermalmen Steine, is inconsistent with the use of the preposition בְּ, the presumptive power of the verb גָרַם (see GERLACH), and the apparent meaning of this passage especially when compared with Prov. 20:17,—the pebbles were not broken by the teeth, but the teeth were broken by the pebbles.—A curious result of translating from a translation is exhibited in the VULG. The SEPT. having rendered this ’Εξέβαλεν ψήφῳ τοὺς ὁλότας μου, the VULG., taking ψήφος as calculus arithmeticus, translated Et fregit ad numerum (in full number, or by number, DOUAY “one by one”) denies meos.—W. H. H.]
Lam 3:17, 18. These verses constitute the conclusion and culmination point of the Lamentation. The speaker, dropping the metaphorical and adopting the literal style, utters a threefold declaration. 1. That the Lord had thrust him back, as it were, from the dominion of peace (שָׁלוֹּם, peace, is to be taken in its broadest sense, see below). To this objective act, what follows corresponds as subjective. 2. That the speaker has been deprived of all happiness, even to the recollection of it. 3. That he—and this is the acme of his sorrow—regarded even his confidence and hope in Jehovah as destroyed.
Lam 3:17. And thou hast removed my soul far off from peace.—Thou thrustedst away my soul from peace. This is a quotation from Ps. 88:15, which Psalm our Poet so often avails himself of. This explains why the Poet so suddenly addresses God in the second person. [WORDSWORTH: “By an affecting transition, the Prophet turns to the Almighty, whom he sees present, and addresses Him, Thou hast removed my soul far off from peace; adopting the language of another Passion Psalm (88:14–18).”] Peace (שָׁלוֹם) is happiness in the widest sense, as often, and stands in parallelism with good (טוֹבָה). See Jer. 8:15; 14:9, “We looked for peace, but no good came.” I forgat prosperity (marg., good).—I forgot good. The speaker has been deprived of all happiness, even to the recollection of it. [LOWTH: “So Joseph speaking of the seven years of famine saith that ‘plenty shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt.’ ”]
Many old translators take נַפְשִׁי as the subject of וַתִּזְנָח. JEROME:Expulsa est a pace anima mea. VENET. GR.:Ἀπέστητ’ ἀπ’ εἰρήνης ἡ έμὴ ψυχή. SYRIAC:data est oblivioni a pace anima mea. [CALVIN:Et remota fuit a pace anima mea. BROUGHTON:and my soul is cast off from peace.] But these translations evidently proceed from philological ignorance. For זָנַח is never used intransitively (not even in Hos. 8:5). These translators seem also to have stumbled at the fact that here suddenly God is addressed in the second person. Among the moderns also, THENIUS and EWALD take נַכְּשִׁי as the subject. But they take זָנַח מִן likewise in a sense it never has, namely, of loathing. THENIUS translates, so that I loathe happiness. EWALD:Happiness has become loathsome to me. To this we object, because no one ever feels a loathing of happiness,—nor is שָׁלוֹם equivalent to life, in which case it might indicate a satiety or weariness of life, but שָׁלוֹם is the enjoyment of life. They have overlooked the fact that this passage is a quotation from Ps. 88:15, of which our Poet so often avails himself. There it is said לָמָה יְהוָֹה תִּזְנַח נַפְשִׁי. This explains why the Poet so suddenly addresses God in the second person, and determines the meaning of זָנַח, which can only be, as everywhere else, rejicere, repellexe. That זָנַח is construed with מִן (as elsewhere, only once, in Hiphil, 2 Chron. 11:14) need not surprise us, for there is nothing in the word itself that would make this construction appear as unauthorized or even strange. [GERLACH, while rejecting the opinions of THENIUS and EWALD, adopts the idea of the old translators, Und es ward verstossen vom Frieden meine Seele, and strangely appeals to 2 Chron. 11:14, to justify the intransitive use of the verb.—W. H. H]
Lam 3:18. And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the Lord—Over and gone from Jehovah is my confidence and hope. [BROUGHTON:And I thought in myself, my state is undone and my hope from the Eternal. HENDERSON:And I said, My confidence is perished, and my hope from Jehovah. Not only had all present enjoyment been annihilated, but all prospect of future prosperity had been cut off.”] The Poet here represents the sum total, as it were, of his punishment, the separate details, which he has been narrating, beginning at Lam 3:1, being garded as the several items of a sum in arithmetic. The result is an alarming one. His confidence and his hope in the Lord had been almost destroyed by the unintermitted blows of the rod of wrath (Lam 3:1–3). But they had not been actually destroyed. This we learn from the expression, and I said, וָֽאֹמָר. Without this word Lam 3:18 would have a much more equivocal sense. But this indicates that the Poet would represent the loss of his confidence, not as an actual fact (else he would have said רַיִאָבֵד), but as merely an anticipatory thought. He said, i.e., he thought so to himself, as in Jer. 3:7, וָאֹמַר represents merely a speaking to one’s self, i.e, a thought, a feeling. [See instances of this use of the expression in Gen. 26:9; 1 Sam. 20:3; 2 Sam. 21:16; 1 Kings 8:12, etc.—W. H. H.] That he had not actually lost his confidence is, finally, most apparent from what follows, where the Poet, with all his soul’s energy, refastens the bond of confidence that had threatened to break. [HENRY: “Without doubt it was his infirmity to say thus, Ps. 77:10, for with God there is everlasting strength, and He is His people’s never failing hope, whatever they may think.”]
אָבַד followed by מִן, has different senses. This מִן often indicates the person or place suffering the loss; אָבַד מָנוֹם מִמֶּנִי; Ps. 142:5; comp. Job 11:20; 18:17; Jer. 18:18; 25:35; 49:7, 38, etc. It can be taken thus here. For the thought that Jehovah has lost the confidence of the Poet, can be expressed in the form here used. Yet it is well to observe here that the words cannot be translated, my confidence and my hope in Jehovah are lost [as NOYES does]. For the object of confidence is always indicated by אֵל ,עַל ,בְּ, or, as especially after תּוֹחֶלֶת, Ps. 39:8, by לְ. But the sense is, my confidence is perished away from Jehovah, it has lost its direction towards Him. It is a constructio prægnans: my confidence is turned away from God, and thus has become destroyed. מִן could also be taken with reference to the efficient cause. See מִנִּשְׁמַח אֶלוֹהַּ יֹאבֵדוּ, Job 4:9; Ps. 80:17. [So BLAYNEY and BOOTHROYD:Jehovah hath caused my strength and my hope to fail.] Yet, if מִן had only this sense, and not at the same time the local sense of away from, we would rather expect מִפְּנֵי as we read Ps. 68:3, —יֹאבְדוּ רְשָׁעִים מִפְנֵי אֶלֹהִים נֵצֶח. That this root contains the ideas of splendor, strength and endurance, is certain. Which is its original meaning is disputed. Here, as in 1 Sam. 5:29, the idea seems to be strength with the modification of perseverance, persevering steadfastness and confidence. At least this best suits the intimately connected word תּוֹחַלְתִּי.
Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall.PART II
ז Lam 3:19. Remember my affliction and my wandering,
The wormwood and the gall.
ז Lam 3:20. Yea, Thou wilt indeed remember
That my soul is bowed down in me.
ז Lam 3:21. This will I take to my heart,
Therefore will I hope.
ח Lam 3:22. Because of Jehovah’s mercies, we are not consumed;
For His compassions fail not:
ח Lam 3:23. They are new every morning:
Great is Thy faithfulness.
ח Lam 3:24. My portion is Jehovah, saith my soul;
Therefore will I hope in Him.
ט Lam 3:25. Good is Jehovah to them that wait for Him,
To the soul that seeketh Him.
ט Lam 3:26. Good is it both to hope and silently wait
For the salvation of Jehovah.
ט Lam 3:27. Good is it for a man,
That he bear the yoke in his youth.
י Lam 3:28. He sitteth alone and is silent,
Because HE imposed it upon him:
י Lam 3:29. He putteth his mouth in the dust,
Peradventure, there may be hope!
י Lam 3:30. He offereth his cheek to him that smiteth him;
He is filled with reproach.
כ Lam 3:31. For the Lord will not cast off
כ Lam 3:32. For though He hath caused grief.
Yet is He moved to compassion according to His great mercy.
כ Lam 3:33. For He doth not willingly afflict
And grieve the children of men.
ל Lam 3:34. To trample under his feet
All prisoners of the earth,—
ל Lam 3:35. To deprive a man of his rights
Before the face of the Most High,—
ל Lam 3:36. To subvert a man in his cause,—
The Lord approveth not!
מ Lam 3:37. Who is he that spoke and it was done,
Except the Lord commanded?
מ Lam 3:38. Cometh not the evil as well as the good
From the mouth of the Most High?
מ Lam 3:39. Why murmur living men—
Every one for his sins?
נ Lam 3:40. Let us search and try our ways,
And return to Jehovah.
נ Lam 3:41. Let us lift up our heart together with our hands
To God in the Heavens,
נ Lam 3:42. WE—have sinned and rebelled.
THOU—hast not pardoned.
In the second part, Lam 3:19–42, the Poet rises out of the night of sorrow into the clear day of comfort and hope; yet he allows, as it were, a morning dawn to precede, and an evening twilight to follow this day. Lam 3:19–21 contain a transition. The Poet can again pray! He prays the Lord to be once more mindful of him, Lam 3:19, 20; and on his own part he sets about to seek for grounds of comfort, Lam 3:21. These he finds, first of all, in the fact that Israel is not completely destroyed, that there is yet a remnant, as a starting point for a return to the better fortune which is now at hand. This fact is due to the grace and mercy of God, the continuation of which the Poet recognizes with the deepest joy, Lam 3:22–24. From this point of view, afforded by the Divine mercy, the Poet now looks upon his sorrows:—the Lord even when He smites, always means it for good, Lam 3:25–27;—if it be borne patiently, with silent submission, Lam 3:28–30,—then the rays of Divine compassion will again appear, Lam 3:31–33. Viewed from this stand-point, every sorrow, even that inflicted upon us by human malignity, seems a wholesome divine ordinance,—so that not the sorrow itself, but only the sin that caused it, is to be deplored, Lam 3:34–39. Such a lamentation for sin, the cause of the affliction suffered, the Poet now begins, not in his own name, but in that of all the people, Lam 3:40–42. And as he had skilfully introduced this lamentation by the self-accusation in Lam 3:39, so these three Lam 3:40–42, serve him as a means of transition to a new lamentation over the misfortunes that had befallen the nation. With the words לֹא סָלַחְתָּ, Thou hast not pardoned, Lam 3:42, he turns to the description of the common misfortune.
In this eminently consolatory passage, Lam 3:19–42, with its introduction, Lam 3:19–42, and conclusion, Lam 3:40–42, every triad of verses constitutes, as regards sense, a complete whole. The effect of similarity of construction is further heightened in Lam 3:25–39, by the fact that the triplets of each verse begin, not only with the same initial letter, but with the same word, or with similar words. Thus Lam 3:25–27 begin with טוֹב, Lam 3:28–30 with the Imperfects יִתֵּן ,יִתֵּן ,יֵשֵׁב, Lam 3:31–33 with כִּי, Lam 3:34–36 with ל before an Infinitive, and Lam 3:37–39 are interrogative sentences. It should also be observed that from Lam 3:22 the Poet no longer speaks in the first person singular. It is as if he felt the necessity, at this culmination point of the Poem, of letting the individual step back behind the sublime and universal truth which he pronounces.
My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me.3:19–21
19 Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall. 20, 21 My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humble in me. This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Lam 3:19.—עֳנְי. See remarks 1:3.—וּמְרוּדִי, see 1:7. [GERLACH translates it expulsion, exile, verstossung. BLAYNEY, BOOTHROYD, OWEN abasement. HENDERSON: persecution. BROUGHTON: vexation.]—לַֽעֲנָה, see Lam 3:15.—רֹאשׁ, see Lam 3:5.
Lam 3:20.—[illegible] שׁוּחַ occurs, except here, only in Ps. 44:26; Prov. 2:18. The root שִׁיחַ is nowhere found.—וְתָשִׁיהַ. To take וְ in the sense of quod (ROSENMUELLER, VAIHINGER, ENGELHARDT), is an arbitrary rendering that receives no support from the reference to Gen. 30:27.
Lam 3:21.—The expression הֵשִׁיב אֶל־לֶב, to take something to heart, is never found in Jeremiah: see Deut. 4:36; 30:1; Is. 44:19; 46:8; 1 Kings 8:47—אוֹחְיל. See Jer. 4:19. The anomalous form there found, אוֹחִולָה, is traced back to חוּל or חִיל, but יֶחַל in no form occurs in Jeremiah; therefore here again a difference in the use of language is apparent. Forms of יָחַל occur in Lamentations only in this chapter, namely, verb forms in Lam 3:21, 24, noun forms in Lam 3:18, 26. [If Jeremiah could coin an entirely new word in his prophecies and use it only once, we might allow him to introduce into the Lamentations words already coined and familiar to him in other Scriptures, even if he confine this use to one place or one chapter.—W. H. H.]—עַל־כֵּן has its usual signification, therefore, for that reason.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
The artistic management of the composition should be here observed. The whole preceding recital from Lam 3:1, constitutes a crescendo movement, which ends in Lam 3:18 with a shrill dissonance, enhanced by the fact that it closes with the name of Jehovah, here mentioned for the first, time. But this dissonance, after Lam 3:21, is lost in the most agreeable harmony. The three intervening verses, 19–21, constitute the transition from discord to harmony.
Lam 3:19, 20. As if shocked that so terrible a thought could come into his mind, the Poet rouses himself up and directs a cry of anguish from the depths of his heart to the Lord, that He would not forget and reject him, but would graciously remember him. [GERLACH: “The prophet is certain, that if God will only be rightly mindful of the misery poured out over him, His pity must be excited (VAIH.), and this certainly is immediately expressed with assurance in Lam 3:20.”]
Lam 3:19. Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall.—Remember [so E. V., margin, all the English versions except BLAYNEY, the TARG., VULG., and SYR.] my affliction and my wanderings (see 1:7), wormwood and gall! The Poet thus represents to the Lord the most striking features of his sufferings as depicted in the preceding verses. [The repetition of the three emphatic words, in which the idea of misery is condensed, עֳנִיaffliction or misery, Lam 3:1, לֽעֲנִהwormwood, Lam 3:15, רֹאשׁgall or bitterness, Lam 3:15, shows that this verse is a brief and emphatic recapitulation of the whole preceding description. But with all these in view, the Prophet rejects the thought he was tempted to indulge, as expressed in Lam 3:18, and “does not let go his hold on the God of his life; but is convinced that if He will only regard him, all will be well” (HENDERSON).—W. H. H.]
Many interpreters stumble at the fact that the Poet, immediately after the cry of despair in Lam 3:18, should again address a prayer to Jehovah. Many, therefore, (BÖTTCHER, THENIUS) take זְֹכר and זָכוֹר תִּזְכּוֹר, Lam 3:20, as the subject of a hypothetical proposition, Remember my misery … yea, my soul remembers it and humbles itself in me. [E. V.: Remembering mine affliction … My soul hath them still in remembrance and is humbled in me.] But to take the Inf. Constr. זְֹכר in a finite sense, is altogether ungrammatical and without precedent. EWALD, indeed, takes זְֹכר as an Imperative, but as an address “to the first best hearer.” He also takes תִּזְכּוֹר, Lam 3:20, for the third person feminine, My soul, holds up before itself [remembers with self-reproach], it humbles itself in me. It seems to me that all these interpreters exaggerate the suddenness of the transition from the cry of Lam 3:18 to the prayer of Lam 3:19, and do not rightly apprehend it. They overlook the softening effect of וָאֹמַר, and I said [i.e., to myself], and they fail to observe that the prayer immediately following in Lam 3:19, plainly shows that the language of Lam 3:18 was the expression of a rash but conquered moment of despair. Thus the Poet, by the fact that he can again pray in this way, plainly gives us to understand that his despair had secured no strong foot-hold in his breast. Some regard תִּזְכּוֹר, Lam 3:20, as the second person masculine indeed, but in the Indicative sense,—truly thou thinkest thereon,—indicating the hearing of the prayer uttered in Lam 3:19. But in that case the sentence should not be continued with the Imperfect. It should have been, וִשָׁחָה ו׳. See my Gr., § 84, n. f. [“The perfect is used to denote a fact which can only be represented as accomplished in actual reality, but which happens, as respects time, in the immediate, unconditioned future.” NAEGELSBACH’SGr.] We not only regard זְֹכר as a prayer directed to the Lord, but תִּזְכּוֹר, Lam 3:20, as an emphatic repetition of it. [Some old commentators translated זְֹכר as the Inf., but regarded Lam 3:19, as in close connection with Lam 3:18. See MUENSTER:Secundam quosdam estזכורinfinit., ut sit sensus: periit spes mea, recordante me afflictionis meæ (GERLACH). The interpretation of this verse must be determined by the gender and person, or subject of תִּזְכּור in Lam 3:20.—W. H. H.]
Lam 3:20. My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me.—Remember, yea remember, that my soul composes itself in me.1 [Lit. Remembering Thou wilt remember, i.e., according to the familiar Hebrew idiom, Thou wilt certainly remember. CRANMER BIB.:Yea thou shalt remember them; for my soul melteth away in me. OWEN:Remembering thou wilt remember them, for bowed down within me is my soul. NOYES:Yea, thou wilt remember them, for my soul is bowed down within me. GERLACH:Remembering Thou wilt indeed remember that my soul is bowed down within me. The last is undoubtedly most literal and exact.—W. H. H.]—After the prayer, so emphatically repeated, Remember, Oh do Thou remember, what immediately follows can only indicate something favorable,—that my soul composes itself in me. The meaning of the verb שׁוּחַ (see also שָׁחָה and שָׁחַח) can only be sedere, desidere, [to sit, sink or settle down]. The Kal in Ps. 44:26, is evidently taken in a bad sense, “For our soul is bowed down to the dust,” שָׁחָה לֶעָפָר נַפְשֵׁנוּ. The Hiphil (for there is no apparent reason for forsaking the K’tib) is to be taken either in the indirect causative sense, denoting to cause that something sinks, sits down, or in direct causative sense, to cause sinking, to sink one’s self, to sit down. Since, according to what precedes, the Poet’s soul had been excited in the highest degree, furiously agitated (see חֳמַרְמַר, 1:20; 2:11), the meaning to sink itself, sit down, become calm, would be admirably appropriate here, and the more so because, according to what precedes, the Poet had brought reproach upon his soul, by an ebullition of feeling of an unjustifiable kind, and bordering upon defiance. It is certainly seemly for such a soul to sink down, as it were, into itself, and to become still, as the ocean returning to rest after a furious storm. The expression in me, עָלַי, is used here as in Ps. 42:5, 6, 7, 12; 43:5; 131:2; 142:4; Jer. 8:18, etc. See DELITZSCHPsych., IV., § 1, pp. 151, 152. There lies in it the idea of heaviness, as if the heart felt burdened. [WORDSWORTH: “My soul * * * sinks down upon me. The soul (Hebr. nephesh) is the seat of the agitated affections, and it sinks down, as it were, in a swoon, upon the Spirit (Hebr. ruâch), the diviner faculty, and overwhelms it. Comp. Ps. 42:4–6; 44:25; 77:3; 142:3.”—The commentators have succeeded in obscuring the meaning of this verse, by many possible or impossible translations, for which the curious may safely consult GERLACH, but the real meaning is expressed by the most natural translation of the words, Remembering Thou wilt remember, i.e., Thou wilt surely remember, that my soul sinks within me, or is bowed down in me, or upon me (literally, according both to NAEGELSBACH and WORDSWORTH), i.e., is humbled in penitence and overwhelmed with sorrow. So GERLACH.—W. H. H.]
Lam 3:21. This I recall to my mind (marg., make to return to my heart), therefore have I hope.—This will I take to my heart, on this account will I hope. The effect of the soul’s becoming submissive and acquiescent is, that it now again takes to heart those facts which, notwithstanding all hardships endured at the hand of the Lord, yet always encourage the exercise of confidence in Him. This (זוֹת) cannot refer to what precedes. Still less can therefore (עַל־כֵּן), of the second clause. For what precedes is only a prayer, with no positive promise. Lam 3:21 is the immediate introduction to the impressive consolatory section which begins with Lam 3:22. It is shown in what follows, why the Poet still cherishes hope. See the conclusion of Lam 3:24, therefore will I hope in Him. [The awkward reference of the this and therefore of Lam 3:21, to what follows, which is rendered necessary by the translation of Lam 3:20, adopted by NAEGELSBACH and others, is a strong argument against the correctness of that translation. 1. The position of the this, as the first word of the sentence, strengthens the likelihood that it refers to something just stated, rather than to something about to be stated. If we explain its position in the sentence by the necessity of the proper initial letter, this may show how much the style is affected by the artificial structure of the poem, and greatly weakens the argument of those who imagine they discover differences between the style of the Lamentations, and of Jeremiah’s Prophecies. But 2. The this and therefore, if they refer to what follows, lead us to expect an immediate, clear and definite proposition, to which they would logically correspond. But there is no such proposition stated, but certain general truths follow, which only remotely and by a mental process of our own minds, can be made to satisfy the requirements of the this and therefore in Lam 3:21. 3. The attempt to establish a connection between the therefore I hope in Lam 3:21, and the same expression at the end of Lam 3:24, as if one were an index finger pointing forward, and the other an index finger pointing backward, showing that all that lies between them is the this, on account of which the prophet says therefore I hope, is open to the following objections. (a) The therefore of Lam 3:24, can only logically refer to the words immediately preceding, “Jehovah is my portion, saith my soul.” (b) The therefore, in Lam 3:24, is restricted to what immediately precedes by the addition of the words “in Him.” If it had been intended to correspond with and explain the declaration of Lam 3:21, it should have been “therefore I hope in this,” i.e., in the doctrine contained in all the preceding verses, to which the this of Lam 3:21 refers. (c) The fact that there is as much in the verses immediately following Lam 3:24, as in those immediately preceding it, to afford hope and comfort, makes it exceedingly improbable that Lam 3:24 terminates a section begun in Lam 3:21. (d) If the therefore, of Lam 3:24, refers to a proposition preceding and not following it, it is likely that the therefore of Lam 3:21 does also. 4. The translation of Lam 3:20, as CRANMER’S BIBLE, OWEN and NOYES translate it (see above on Lam 3:20), or as ROSENMUELLER translates it (Enim vero reminisceris, hoc animo meo meditor), and still more as GERLACH translates it, Thou wilt certainly remember that my soul is bowed down in me, or upon me, renders the meaning of Lam 3:21 clear and unequivocal. This assurance, that God is mindful of the soul that is bowed down upon itself, in sorrow and penitence, the Prophet takes to heart, and therefore hope revives in his bosom. We thus have a graceful and easy introduction to the beautiful passage that follows in which the thought expressed in Lam 3:20, that God is mindful of the submissive patient sufferer, is expanded and reappears at every point.—W. H. H.]
[WORDSWORTH mistranslates NAEGELSBACH,—Remember, remember Thou, that my soul sinks within me. Gedenke, ja gedenke, Dass meine Seele sich beruhige in mir. Sich beruhigen means to quiet, compose one’s self. Besides, his notes explain the Hebrew in the sense of sinking down into a state of rest after great agitation.—W. H. H.]
It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.3:22–24
22 It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions 23, 24 fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Lam 3:22.—[תָּֽמְנוּ. GERLACH argues that the use in Jer. 44 of תָּמְנוּ, in Lam 3:18, for the first person plural, and of תַמוּ, in Lam 3:12, 27, for the third person plural, is decisive evidence of the Jeremiac use of language in the Lamentations.—W. H. H.]—The plural חֲסָדִים, not found in Jeremiah, is frequent elsewhere, Lam 3:31; Gen. 32:11; Is. 63:7; Ps. 79:2; 107:43, etc.—רַֽחֲמִים, Jer. 16:5; 42:12.—כָלוּ, Jer. 8:20; 14:6; 16:4, etc.
Lam 3:23.—חֲדָשִׁים is in apposition to חָדָשׁ—.רַֽחֲמָו, Jer. 31:22, 31.—לַּבְּקָרִים, Is. 33:2; Ps. 73:14; 101:8. Jeremiah uses לַבּקֶר in this sense only once.—אֱמוּנָה, Jer. 5:1, 3; 7:28; 9:2.
Lam 3:24.—The expression אָֽמְרָה נַפְשִׁי occurs only here.—לוֹ. This construction with ל occurs, Ps. 38:16; 42:6, 12; 43:5; Mic. 7:7, etc.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Lam 3:22–24. It should be especially observed here that the passage which is full of the richest comfort and which includes Lam 3:22–42, constitutes the middle portion both of the third chapter and of the whole book. For as chapter third occupies the middle place among the five Songs, so the two decades of verses, Lam 3:22–42, constitute almost exactly the middle part of chapter third. Here the author skilfully introduces the sunshine. He permits the bright day of hope and resignation to follow the night of despair described in Lam 3:18. Immediately following these verses, however, the misery of the people and of the Prophet is again depicted in the gloomiest colors, so that this bright part is, as it were, framed in on both sides with deep darkness, which serves as a back-ground to make the colors of this picture of consolation stand out with greater distinctness. And so, as it were, the dome of the building, artistically constructed of these tearful Songs, rises up as a pyramid of light out of painful darkness, by which means the comforting truth, that for believers the sun of happiness will at last triumph over the night of misery and suffering, is placed conspicuously in the clearest and strongest light. First of all the joyful announcement is made, Lam 3:22–24, that, by the grace of God, Israel is not yet completely undone. There is still a remnant which can serve as a connecting link for the new order of things. This great favor Israel owes to the mercy of God, which is not yet exhausted, but rather in consequence of it the faithfulness of God renews itself every morning, so that the Poet can proclaim with assurance, as a noble anchor of hope and consolation, that the Lord is his portion, and that he may still say to his God “Thou art mine.”
Lam 3:22. It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.—Because of Jehovah’s mercies we are not consumed [Gnaden Jehovah’s sind es, dass wir nicht gar aus sind. So also, word for word, GERLACH], for his compassion has no end. [The E. V. is more accurate, because his compassions fail not.—W. H. H.] The fact that the Poet here speaks in the first person plural, when elsewhere, down to Lam 3:40, he speaks only of himself, is explained by what has been already shown, that he fastens the cords of his own personal hope to the fact that the people still exists, even if only as a weak remnant. But that even such a kernel remains, he ascribes to the grace of God. [See these transitions from singular to plural and back again, explained in remarks introductory to the chapter.] The use of the plural in mercies involves the idea of manifestations of grace, or illustrations of grace, in the way of instruction and of example. Many acts of Divine grace shown to many individuals, combine in the result. Since the mercies (the several acts of grace) of Jehovah can only be regarded as the effluence of His compassion, we take the second כִּי as a causative particle, “for His compassion has no end.” The compassion of God is the ground of His graciousness, in consequence of which Israel is not entirely undone.
If we could take תָּֽמְנוּ for the third person plural, as the CHALDAIC, SYRIAC and many moderns do (EWALD, THENIUS, DELITZCH on Is. 23:11), the sense of this place would be entirely clear. [We could then translate with CALVIN,The mercies of Jehovah! surely they are not consumed. In which OWEN, BLAYNEY and BOOTHROYD substantially agree.—W. H. H.] But, notwithstanding the fact that in Ps. 64:7, תָּמְנוּ seems even more plainly than here as if it must be taken for the third person plural [not necessarily. See J. A. ALEXANDERin loc.], yet OLSHAUSEN is certainly right when he shows, § 82 u, that the insertion of נ as a compensation for the reduplication of the consonant, is in violation of all the established rules of Grammar. It may be that at several of those doubtful places that are referred to (Is. 23:11; Lam. 3:22; Ps. 64:7; Prov. 26:7; Ezr. 10:16) false readings have slipped in. But here this supposition is unnecessary. Here as in Num. 17:28, and Jer. 44:18, תָּמְנוּ is the first person plural.
Lam 3:23. They are new every morning. [They, i.e., the mercies of Jehovah, which are ever renewed because His compassion fails not: for His mercies are the fruit of His compasson (see notes on Lam 3:22).—W. H. H.]—Great is thy faithfulness.—Faithfulness is only a form of compassionate love. It is love enduring in all circumstances. [CALVIN: “Were God to take away the promise, all the miserable would inevitably perish; for they can never lay hold on His mercy except through His word. This, then, is the reason why Scripture so often connects these two things together, even God’s mercy and His faithfulness in fulfilling His promises.”]
Lam 3:24. Lam 3:22, 23, treated only of objective facts. From these a subjective conclusion is now drawn. Since the Lord is so gracious, merciful and faithful, the Poet esteems Him as the dearest treasure of his soul, as his best portion, and the foundation of his hope. The LORD is my portion.—My portion is Jehovah. This seems to refer to Num. 18:20, where the Lord, having told Aaron that he should receive no hereditary portion in the land, says to him, “I am thy part [portion] and thine inheritance.” The same expression is found in Ps. 16:5; 73:26; 119:57; 142:6. See Jer. 10:16; 51:19; Deut. 32:9. Saith my soul.—[CALVIN: “He speaks emphatically, that his soul had thus said.… The unbelieving also confess that God is the fountain of all blessings, and that they ought to acquiesce in Him; but with the mouth only they confess this, while they believe nothing less. This then is the reason why the Prophet ascribes what he says to his soul, as though he had said, that he did not boast like hypocrites that God was his portion, but of this he had a thorough conviction.”] Therefore will I hope in him.—See Lam 3:21.
The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.3:25–33
25 The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.26 It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the 27, 28 LORD. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. He sitteth 29 alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him. He putteth his mouth 30 in the dust, if so be there may be hope. He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth 31 him: he is filled full with reproach. For the LORD will not cast off for ever.32 But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude 33 of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Lam 3:25.—Kal of קָוָה is not found in Jeremiah; he uses only Niphal 3:17, and Piel 8:15; 13:16; 14:19, 22. Kindred expressions are found in Ps. 25:3; 69:7; Is. 49:23.—The expression דָּרַשׁ אֵת יהֳוֹה is found in Jeremiah several times and in different senses, 10:21 (?); 21:2; 29:13; 37:7. Yet none of these places seem to have been in the Poet’s eye. If some earlier declaration was in his mind, it was apparently Deut. 4:29, where it is said כִּי תִדְשֶׁנּוּ בְּכָל־לְכָֽבְךָ וּכְכָל־נַפְשֶׁךָ.
Lam 3:26.—[See crit. notes below.]—תְּשׁוּעָה, Jer. 3:23.
Lam 3:27.—עֹל. See 1:14. נָשָׂא עֹל occurs only here.—נְעוּרִים frequently in Jeremiah, 3:4; 24:25, etc.
Lam 3:28.—נָטַל, not in Jeremiah. It occurs, besides here, only in 2 Sam. 24:12; Is. 63:9. יִטוֹל, Is. 40:15, is probably from טוּל, to turn aside (see DELITZSCH at this place), of which verb Jeremiah makes frequent use, 16:13; 22:26, 28.
Lam 3:29.—[This verse is wanting in the Sept.]—אוּלַי Jeremiah uses often, 21:2; 26:3, 7; 51:8. [CALVIN: “The particle אוּלַי expresses what is difficult; for when anything appears to be incredible, the Hebrews say, If it may be.”]—The phrase יֵשׁ תִּקְוָה is found not only in Prov. 19:18, but also in Jer. 31:17.
Lam 3:30.—Neither the Part. מַכֶּה, nor לְחִי, see 1:2, occurs in Jeremiah: נָתַן לְחִי is found in Is. 1:6.—The expression שָׂבַע בְּחֶרְפָּה occurs only here, yet there is a similar construction [of שָׂבַע with בְּ, instead of Acc.] in Ps. 65:5; 88:4, The words שָׂבַע and חֶרְפָּה, by themselves, are current in Jeremiah; see for the first, 31:14; 46:10; 1:10, for the other 6:10; 15:15; 20:8; 24:9, etc.
Lam 3:31.—Jeremiah never uses זָנַח, see Lam 3:17; 2:7.
Lam 3:32.—הוֹגָה, see 1:4; 5:12.—רִחַם, often in Jeremiah, 12:15; 31:20; 42:12, etc.—כְּרֹב חֲסָדָו is found, pointed thus, Ps. 106:45, besides Is. 63:7.—With regard to grammatical construction, see Lam 3:22.
Lam 3:33.—The verb עָנָה inclinatum, depressum esse (Piel again in Lam. 5:11) Jeremiah uses in no form.—מִלִּבּוֹ, see Deut. 16:28.—יַגֶה is Imperf. Piel of יָנָה, the Hiph. of which we have in Lam 3:32. This form occurs only here: it is shortened from וַיְיַגֶה, as וַיְיַדּוּ, Lam 3:53, from וַיְיַדּוּ. See OLSH., p. 547.—בְּנֵי אִישׁ, not found in Jeremiah; he says only once בְנֵי אָדָם, 32:19. [If he could use this latter phrase “only once,” he was not so addicted to it that he could not use the other “only once.”—W. H. H.] The phrase, besides here, is found only in Ps. 4:3; 49:3; 62:10. At the last two places בְנֵי אָדָם occurs in the immediate context.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Lam 3:25–33. The thought underlying this section is,—the Lord has kind purposes towards the children of men in all circumstances; even if He chastises them, He does it for their good; men should so deport themselves in misfortune that they may ensure the attainment of the Lord’s wholesome intention. Then will He permit His mercy to return again. [Here we plainly see the expansion of the assertion made in Lam 3:20, that the Lord will be mindful of the soul bowed down upon itself in submissive sorrow.—W. H. H.]—The three verses, 25–27, begin with the same word טוֹב, good, and evidently belong together, as in this section generally the connection of verses beginning with the same initial is very apparent. Thus in the three following triads, Lam 3:28–30, 31–33, 34–36, the verses begin not only with the same letter, but with homogeneous words.
Lam 3:25. The LORD is good—Good is Jehovah—unto them that wait for him,—to them who trust in Him. [Wait, waiting in hope, is the correct idea.—W. H. H.],—to the soul that seeketh him.—The idea of טוֹב = good, is presented to us in three aspects in Lam 3:25–27. Here we have the fundamental idea, that the Lord Himself is good. This belongs to His nature. He is good even when He causes pain. Man though in trouble, perceiving the goodness of the Lord, cannot defiantly murmur or faintheartedly despair. He must rather hope even in Him who slays him, seek even Him who seems to thrust him away from Himself.
Lam 3:26. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.—Happy is he who keeping silence waits for the salvation of Jehovah. [The Hebrew construction is difficult. The authorities differ on important points. But all the translations result in the same essential meaning, which is, on the whole, as well expressed in our common English version, as in any. It is good both hopefully and silently, i.e, unmurmuringly, submissively, to wait for the salvation of Jehovah.—W. H. H.] From the proposition that the Lord is good to those who wait for Him and seek Him, follows necessarily this other, that the man is fortunate, even in the midst of chastisement, who patiently and silently hopes for the salvation of the Lord. Thence it appears that טוֹב, good, here is to be taken in the sense of felix, happy, fortunate, which it undoubtedly has in 4:9; Jer. 44:17; Is. 3:10; Ps. 112:5.
[טוֹב. The attempt has been made to take this word in verses 26, 27 as a repetition of the statement in Lam 3:25, that Jehovah is good. Thus NEUMANN (sec GERLACH), Good is Jehovah to those who hope in Him … Good—and who waits … Good to the man, etc. This creates a very harsh ellipsis in Lam 3:26, and reduces the meaning in Lam 3:27, down to this, that Jehovah is good to that man only who bears the yoke in his youth. BLAYNEY and BOOTHROYD avoid these two difficulties, by translating קוָֹו in Lam 3:25 as a singular noun (which OWEN claims as the correct reading on the authority of the Syr.), and by introducing an illative particle (therefore, hence) in Lam 3:26, that is not in the Hebrew, BLAYNEY:Jehovah is gracious unto him that waiteth for Him … He is gracious, therefore let him wait … He is gracious unto a man, etc.BOOTHROYD:Jehovah is good to him that waiteth for Him … He is good, hence let him hope, etc. Besides the grammatical difficulties above stated, these two translations, by making an independent proposition of Lam 3:27, teaches the wretched doctrine that God is necessarily gracious or good to a man who is afflicted in his youth They are, too, open to the grammatical objection that GERLACH brings against NEUMANN’S translation, that it would require the suffix at the end of verse 26, instead of the name Jehovah. The repetition of the word טוב in these verses should, doubtless, be regarded merely as a sort of initial rhyme, intended to please the ear and the eye, and to fix the attention.—W. H. H.]—If טוֹב is taken in the sense of felix, the following יָחִיל explains itself. It is insufferably harsh to take this as Imperf. Hiph. as many do. EWALD refers to this, § 235 a. The examples adduced by him in that place, afford no analogy to the case before us Why should not טוֹב here be construed precisely as it is immediately afterwards in ver 27? The double וְ is easily explained, if we take יָהִיל as a verbal adjective from יָחַל, as GESENIUS (Thes, p 590. comp. 327). WINER, FUERST and others do, although this adjective does not occur elsewhere. An objection to this may be urged from דּוּמָם, which is only found besides here in Is. 47:5, and Hab. 2:19, where it has an adverbial signification. But the question is, whether דוּמָם is a a pure adverb, or not rather an original adjective noun (see אוּלָם, a forefront, porch). EWALD affirms the latter, § 204 b. Comp. § 163 g. In this original adjective signification may דוּמָם stand here. MAURER, indeed, proposes to take יָחִיל and דוּמָם substantively, bonum est expectare et silere; propr., expectatio et silentium = tacita expectatio. He refers in this connection to רָכִיל. But, as EWALD shows, § 153 a, this formation occurs even where it has an abstract sense, as רָכִילobtrectratio, כָּלִילtotality, yet there is always a passive idea beneath it, as, for example, retributio originally retribution, disposition originally the being disposed. So also רָכִיל was originally obtrectatum, כָּלִילconsummatum. According to this יָחִיל would be expectatum. But this sense does not suit here. The connection requires the pure abstract idea of expectatio. Therefore we take יָחִיל and דּוּמָם in the adjective sense, and the double וְ for as well as, as also, or both—and. [Both hopeful and silent or submissive.]
Lam 3:27. It is good—Good is it—for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.—If that one is happy, who silently waits and endures, then it follows that sorrow itself has its good side: for it begets that silent endurance. It is the hot fire that ripens that noble fruit. Therefore in the next place the Poet calls bearing the yoke something good. He adds, it is true, in his youth. This seems to have caused the interpreters difficulty, even in old times. The Aldine edition of the Sept., and thereupon THEODOTION, translated ἐκ νεότητος αὐτοῦ, from his youth. And in fact many Codices read מִנְּעוּרָיו, from his youth. But the idea of youth is not to be taken in too restricted a sense. By it the Poet would indicate evidently, not youth in opposition to manhood, but the period of still fresh unbroken strength, in opposition to the period of broken and diminished vitality. He would then understand manhood as included in youth. He would not exclude the thought that it may be wholesome, in a certain sense, for the old to bear the yoke. He means only that the time of vigorous strength is especially the time when bearing the yoke may be of advantage. For then a man is pre-eminently pliable. Then can he learn, in the school of the cross, things that will be of the greatest use to him in his later life. [CALVIN understands the yoke as that of instruction, instead of chastisement; submission to the teacher. So the Chaldee paraphrases explain it. But the whole context requires us to understand the yoke of affliction and submission to Divine Providence. See especially the following verses, 28–33.—W. H. H.]
J. D. MICHAELIS has concluded from this verse, that Jeremiah wrote it when a young man. It seems to me that there is some truth at the foundation of this remark. In this third chapter the person of the speaker stands out in the foreground. In the connection of this chapter, then, this expression can certainly be better understood in the mouth of a man in the vigor of his strength, than in the mouth of an old man. Since then Jeremiah, at the time of the capture of Jerusalem, stood at the very least on the threshold of old age, having a ministry of forty-two years behind him, which he had begun rather after, than before, or at his twentieth year (see Introduction to Jer. Proph., p. xiii.), therefore this place is rather against than for Jeremiah’s authorship of this Song. [Is it natural for a young man to talk about patiently and silently bearing a yoke? Is it not natural for an old man, looking back upon a long experience, to recognize the benefit of early crosses and afflictions? Could we imagine anything more likely to be said by the pious Prophet in his old age, than what is here said? And is it not just what his personal sufferings that begun in his youth long before Jerusalem was destroyed, would have led him to say? And, finally, do we not recognize everywhere in these Lamentations, the spirit of one who has been long a stranger to happiness, who,—unlike the young man, strong, sanguine and self-reliant,—has lost all hope save a hope in God, looking far onwards into the hidden future, that is to be waited for in silent passive, submission?—WORDSWORTH: “The sentiment before us is very appropriate to Jeremiah, who had been chastened in early life by God, and had thus learnt a lesson of patience and cheerful resignation under the severest personal afflictions; and he here recognizes the benefit of that early discipline.”—W. H. H.]
Lam 3:28. He sitteth alone and keepeth silent.—The bearing of the yoke is not unconditionally wholesome for a man, but only when it is done in the right way. That is no right and wholesome way of bearing the cross, when one is impatient and perverse, and desires to shake off the yoke. Rather, the yoke should be borne in silent and patient submission.—The sitting alone is in opposition to cheerful intercourse with men. This Jeremiah himself makes explicitly conspicuous, when he says, 15:17, “I sat not in the assembly of the joyful [E. V., the mockers], nor rejoiced; I sat alone, because of Thy hand: for Thou hast filled me with indignation.” Only in silence and solitude do Divine chastisements affect the heart. Whoever permits himself to be diverted by the noise of the world, drowns the voice of God, which speaks to our heart by means of the yoke. Compare, besides, 1:1; Lev. 13:46.—And is silent: comp. 2:10. 18; Jer. 47:6; 48:2.—Because he hath borne it upon him,—when [because] He imposed it on him. The old translators (SEPT., JEROME, SYRIAC) have taken the verb in the sense of taking upon one’s self [so E. V., CALVIN and OWEN], because they thought, the subject being wanting, the subject of the immediately preceding verbs must be supplied. But the Hebrew verb (נָטַל, as also טוּל) means tollere, imponere [to lay upon, to impose]. The whole context readily supplies Jehovah as the subject, and the word itself gives the object. [BROUGHTON, HENDERSON, NOYES and GERLACH, all agree with NAEGELSBACH, in taking the verb in an active sense, and in making God the subject of the verb,—because, or when He laid it upon him. CALVIN, evidently dissatisfied with his own rendering, confesses that the expression does not seem natural to him, and suggests another reading. NOYES remarks that “the name of God is understood, as often in Job.” and refers to his note on Job 3:20.—W. H. H.]
[LUTHER, PAREAU, DE WETTE, MAURER, THENIUS and NOYES, make Lam 3:28–30 dependent on כִּי, that, in verse 27, and expository of the meaning of bearing the yoke. It is good that a man bear the yoke in his youth, that he sit alone and is silent, etc., that he put his mouth in the dust, etc., that he give his cheek to him that smiteth him, etc. This gives a good sense; but the emphatic idea in Lam 3:27, is,—not that a man bear the yoke, but that he bear it in his youth; it is hardly possible, therefore, that Lam 3:28–30 can be an expansion of Lam 3:27, without showing why it is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth. We are compelled, therefore, to interpret Lam 3:28–30, independently of Lam 3:27.—W. H. H.]
Lam 3:29. He putteth his mouth in the dust.—This expression is found only here. It is different from the expression lick the dust (Ps. 72:9; Mic. 7:17; Is. 49:23). For whilst the latter denotes only the lowest degree of subjection, the former denotes likewise speechlessness, since he who has put his mouth in the dust cannot speak. Yet it is not meant that he who is humbled in the dust cannot say anything at all. Only he shall restrain himself from murmuring. Ejaculations of humble imploring prayer may be extorted from the heart. As such an ejaculation we must regard the words—if so be there may be hope,—perhaps there is hope. For if we take these as the words of the Poet, then we cannot understand why they occur just here. They would in that case stand as well or better at the end of Lam 3:30, in place of he is filled full with reproach. Here at the close of Lam 3:29, they are only in place, if they can be brought into organic union with the first member of the verse. This is done if we take them as what the humbled one is permitted to say, or rather to think, in spite of his putting his mouth in the dust. I do not on this account think, that we should supply לֵאמֹר, saying, for it would illy suit to say—he becomes dumb speaking. We must, therefore, understand the sentence, as indeed a declaration of the humbled one, but as an independent exclamation, not grammatically connected with the preceding sentence.
Lam 3:30. If the three propositions, Lam 3:28–30, be compared one with another, a certain gradation will be perceived. For sitting alone and silent is comparatively easy. To put the mouth in the dust and yet to hope, is more difficult. But the hardest of all, without question, is to present the cheek to the smiter and patiently accept the full measure of disgrace that is to come upon us.—He giveth—offers—his cheek to him that smiteth him.—By him that smiteth him we are not to understand, exclusively and immediately, God. For God smites not immediately, but by the instrumentality of men. “The Lord hath bidden him,” said David in reference to the revilings of Shimei (2 Sam. 16:11). For the sense, see Job 16:10; Matt. 5:39. [CALVIN: “There are many who submit to God when they perceive His hand; as, for instance, when any one is afflicted with a disease, he knows that it is a chastisement that proceeds from God; when pestilence happens, or famine, from the inclemency of the weather, the hand of God appears to them; and many then conduct themselves in a suitable manner: but when an enemy meets one, and when injured, he instantly says, ‘I have now nothing to do with God, but that wicked enemy treats me disgracefully.’ It is then for this reason that the Prophet shows that the patience of the godly ought to extend to injuries of this kind.”]—He is filled full with reproach.—[CALVIN: “There are two kinds of injuries; for the wicked either treat us with violence, or assail us with reproaches; and reproach is the bitterest of all things, and inflicts a most grievous wound on all ingenuous minds.”]
Lam 3:31–33. The triad now following states the reason why it is good not to despair in trouble, but to persevere in silent hope. The reason is contained in three specifications; or, more correctly, in two, the second of which is shown in two particulars.
Lam 3:31. The first reason is a negative one. For the Lord [Adonai, not Jehovah. Yet see Intr., Add. Rem., p. 32,] will not cast off for ever.—The same expression as Ps. 77:8; comp. 44:24; 74:1. CALVIN: “It is certain there will be no patience, except there be hope … As patience cherishes hope, so hope is the foundation of patience; and hence consolation is, according to Paul, connected with patience; Rom. 15:4.”]
Lam 3:32. The second reason contains two particulars. The first is a positive one: the compassion of God after He has a long time smitten, will yet appear again. But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies.—For if He has afflicted, then is He moved to compassion according to His great mercy. With regard to the meaning, see Hos. 6:1, Job 5:18; Ps. 30:6 (5). [See also Is. 54:7, 8; Ps. 89:32–34.]
Lam 3:33. The second particular of the second reason is expressed in a negative form: God must, after He has smitten, have compassion again, because chastisement is not with Him an end, but a means. The essential disposition of His heart is love. Therefore chastisement is not the proper or true expression of His feeling towards us. For he doth not afflict willingly [marg., from his heart], nor grieve—yet He grieves [and grieve.—W. H. H.] the children of men.—From the heart: Not out of His heart, but if we may be allowed to speak of God anthropopathically, chastisement comes from His head. The antithesis indicated here is not expressed in the context [willingly, see Num. 16:28]. For the sense, see Ps. 119:75; Jer. 32:41; Deut. 28:63.
To crush under his feet all the prisoners of the earth,3:34–39
34, 35To crush under his feet all the prisoners of the earth. To turn aside the 36right of a man before the face of the Most High. To subvert a man in his cause,37the Lord approveth not. Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the38Lord commandeth it not? Out of the mouth of the Most High proceedeth not 39evil and good? Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment, of his sins?
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Lam 3:34–36.—The three infinitives which begin these verses, can only depend on רָאָה. But רָאָה in connection with אֵל or עַל has the meaning of intueri in aliquid, fixing the eyes on something (Is. 17:7; Ex. 5:21). Owing to the affinity between אֵל,עַל and לְ (See Ew., § 217, c, d, i), רָאָה לְ can be used for רָאָה אֵל. So Ps. 64:6, and here [GERLACH refers also to 1 Sam. 16:7]. The necessity of choosing a word beginning with ל, on account of the alphabetical arrangement, has here at any rate decidedly prevailed. [NEUMANN, according to GERLACH, makes these infinitives dependent on לֹא of Lam 3:33, God does not willingly allow all that Israel suffers; but this involves great difficulty in interpreting last clauses of Lam 3:35, 36.—W. H. H.]
Lam 3:34.—דָכָּא does not occur in the Kal, Jeremiah uses it once in the Pual, 44:10.—The suffix in רַגְלָיו (the peculiar opinion of OTTO, who takes it as synonymous with לִפְנֵי יי, we dismiss), can only be referred to the subject concealed in דָכָּא. Use the Participle instead of the Infinitive, and the reference is instantly plain.—אָסִיר Jeremiah never uses.
Lam 3:35.—The phrase הִטָּה מִשְׁפַּט פ׳ never occurs in Jeremiah. [Yet he was most familiar with it, especially in his favorite book of Deuteronomy.—W. H. H.] He uses הִטָּה many times in another sense, 5:25; 6:12; 7:24, etc.—מִשְׁפַּט־נָּבֶר, comp. מִשְׁפַּט אֶבְיוֹנִים, Jer. 5:28.—עֶלְיוֹן as a name of God, not in Jeremiah; he uses the word only twice, in a local sense 20:2; 36:10. [See Intr., Add. Rem. p. 32.]
Lam 3:36. עַוֵּת, only Piel, Pual and Hithp., occur. The word does not occur at all in Jeremiah. In Lamentations the substantive עַוָּתָה, Lam 3:59, is also found.—רִיב, Jer. 15:10; 25:31, etc.—The construction עַוֵּת אָדָם בְּרִיבוֹ seems to be chosen to vary the phrase from Lam 3:35; for elsewhere we find only עַוֵּת מִשְׁפָּט (Job 8:3; 34:12), עֶדֶק (Job 8:3), or דֶּרֶןְ פ׳ (Ps. 146:9).
Lam 3:37.—[וַתֶּהִי. NAEGELSBACH in his Grammar refers to a similar use of 3d Pers. Fem. Sing, of verb in Jud. 10:9; 1 Sam. 30:6, וַתֶּצֶר לִי; Jer. 7:31; 19:5, עָֽלְתָה עַל־לִבִּי; Jer. 44:21, וַתַּֽעֲלֶה עַל־לִבּוֹ; and Josh. 11:20; 2 Kings 24:3, הַֽיְתָה The last two examples show that OWEN is wrong when he says that this verb is “probably always masculine when it has this meaning,” and should, therefore, be taken here as second person masculine.—W. H. H.]
Lam 3:38.—I do not think that Lam 3:38 depends on אָמַר in Lam 3:37, as LUTHER translates, Who then may say, that such a thing is done without the Lord’s command, and that neither evil nor good comes out of the mouth of the Most High ? For אָמַר in Lam 3:37 is not merely to say, but it involves here the abstract idea of command, which does not need an object following after it, in order to define it. But Lam 3:38 must be taken independently as a question. See Exeg. notes below on Lam 3:36.—רָמוֹת, Jer. 44:9.
Lam 3:39.—אָדָם חי reminds us of the grammatical construction of אֵל חַי, Ps. 42:3; 84:3; 2 Kings 19:4, 16. Jeremiah uses the adjective חַי only in the formula of an oath, חַי יי׳; or, חי אֲנִ, 4:2; 5:2; 12:16, etc.: in 38:2, it seems to be a verb,—see at that place.—חֵטְא, see 1:8; Jeremiah uses neither in the singular nor in the plural.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Lam 3:34–39. We have already, at Lam 3:30, discriminated between an indirect and an immediate chastisement. It is there left undecided, which may be intended. But this point remaining uncertain must now be made plain. All the grounds of consolation, brought together in what precedes, must be acknowledged as valid and substantial. But they apply only to such sorrows as those of which God is esteemed the immediate author. But how is it with those sorrows which the malice of men inflict upon us? The opinion might arise, that these evils befall us without the intervention of God, and that He takes no notice of them. Yet these evils are very numerous; and what consolation can be afforded against these evils from what is said in Lam 3:25–33, to those who are suffering under the hand of God? To this question it is now explicitly answered, in Lam 3:37, 38, that nothing in the world is done without God’s will, that no man has the power to act with absolute creative independence, that both good and bad fortune depend on the will of the Lord. Consequently there is no reason for sighing despairingly over any calamity, whatever it may be. There is no absolute misfortune—except sin! All sorrow of the heart then concentrates itself on the source of evil, on wickedness.
Lam 3:34. To crush—to trample—under his feet.—The pronoun his must refer to the subject of the infinitive to crush. [OWEN absurdly refers it to man in the last verse, where the last words literally are children of man.—W. H. H.] All the prisoners of the earth.—This cannot mean literally all the prisoners on the whole earth. This is evident from the use of the verbto see (רָאָה), Lam 3:36, in the perfect tense. The Poet can only have in his eye real, concrete circumstances. Only those prisoners can be intended, already spoken of above, 1:3, 5, 18. אֶרֶץ, earth, [improperly translated land, by BLAYNEY, BOOTHROYD and HENDERSON] is not against this; see Ps. 44:4; 37:3. DELITZSCH at this place, GESEN.Thes., p. 154. [BLAYNEY’S arguments that the prisoners intended are those held and enslaved for debt, could satisfy no one but himself.—W. H. H.]
Lam 3:35. To turn aside the right of a man—to bend the right of a man [i.e., to deprive a man of his legal rights.—W. H. H.]. See Ex. 23:6; Deut 16:19; 24:17; 27:19; 1 Sam. 8:3; comp. Prov. 17:23; 18:5; Is. 10:2.—Before the face of the Most High.—The author thinks here of the omnipresent and omniscient God, who enthroned on high looks far down on Heaven and earth (Ps. 113:5, 6). [BLAYNEY translates עֶלְיוֹן (the Most High) here a superior: asserting that it cannot refer to God, because no one can wrest judgment where HE is the Judge. The meaning evidently is, however, to pervert judgment at earthly tribunals, though this is done, as it were, before the very face of the Most High, who sees all things and is present everywhere.—W. H. H.]
Lam 3:36. To subvert.—The word means to bend, to bend down, and is used both in reference to persons (Job 19:6; Ps. 119:78; Eccl. 7:13), and things (Am. 8:5; Job 8:3, etc.). A man in his cause—in his law-suit.The Lord approveth (marg., seeth) not.Has not the Lord seen that? In this sentence the signification of the verb and the form of the proposition are doubtful. As regards the meaning of the verb רָאָה, I do not believe it can be taken in the sense of choosing, preferring (see Gen. 41:33; Deut. 12:13; 2 Sam. 24:13); or in a sense derived from that meaning, agreeing to, allowing (EWALD). For where רָאָה has the meaning of choosing, there are always a number of objects placed before the sight, among which the subject, after looking round by way of examination, makes his choice. But it cannot be said that where God permits the injustice done by men, He has positively chosen it. [The learned and sagacious commentator, in the heat of his argument, has made a singular blunder. The proposition is not necessarily a question, involving an affirmative answer, but may be a direct affirmation, that God does not approve, choose, or look with favor on such injustice (לֹארָאָה).—W. H. H.] Further, this sense would not suit the construction of the infinitive with לְ depending on רָאָה (see Gram note, Lam 3:34–36, above). We are obliged then to take this verb in its natural, original sense of seeing. But in that case it is clear that the proposition must be taken as a question, as in verse 38. For it were a contradiction to say, the perverting of the right before the face of the Most High, the Lord does not see. What is done before the face of the Lord, He cannot fail to see. This is the very basis of the argument. If there were anything which the Lord doth not see, we might allow that that particular thing was done without His consent. But since He sees everything, then must everything that is done, be done with His consent. The absence of the interrogation is no more remarkable than at Lam 3:38. See for example Job 2:10, my Gr., § 107, 1. The perfect form of the verb, רָאָה, shows that the Poet had here especially in mind the oppression that had befallen Israel and the Prophet. He would say, Must not the Lord have seen all the misery which the Israelites had suffered as captives, or by the injustice of the mighty, all the misery especially which had extorted from the Poet the foregoing lamentation? If he had had in his eye, not the concrete and actual, but merely general and possible facts, he would, without doubt, have used יִרְאֶה, as BÖTTCHER has remarked. See below תֵּצֵא, Lam 3:38. [The English version, the Lord approveth not; or as BROUGHTON has it, the Lord liketh not, is undoubtedly correct, and is adopted by BLAYNEY (who translates the verb seeth not, but explains it in the sense of not approving), BOOTHROYD, HENDERSON and WORDSWORTH. It avoids the harsh and arbitrary explanation of supposing Lam 3:34–36, the language of an objector, who affirms the Lord doth not regard these acts of oppression and injustice, as CALVIN and OWEN suggest. It also avoids the equally arbitrary assumption of NAEGELSBACH, GERLACH and NOYES, that these words are put interrogatively. There is nothing in the form or context to suggest a question. Lam 3:38 is no parallel to this case: for there the question is suggested by the question that precedes and the question that follows it: the whole triplet is in the interrogative style. It is dangerous to allow the right to assume an interrogation for the sake of surmounting a difficulty. Were this license generally accepted, the Bible could be made to teach the very reverse of what it does teach, by assuming that its positive affirmations, are interrogations emphasizing the contradiction of what is apparently asserted. The opinion that רָאָה means to view with pleasure, preference or approbation, only when followed by the preposition בְּ, has been so generally accepted, that Dr. J. A. ALEXANDER hesitated to give רָאָה followed by לְ that meaning in Is. 53:2. Yet only that meaning suits that passage: and in 1 Sam. 16:7, we have רָאָה with לְ twice in this exact meaning of regarding with pleasure, with favor, with approbation,—“man looketh on the outward appearance, but Jehovah looketh on the heart.” It will be found on examination of those passages where רָאָה is construed with בְּ, that the preposition intensifies the sense and seems to denote looking steadfastly at a thing, feasting the eyes upon it with inward delight, or with exultation as over a prostrate foe. But רָאָה without בְּ, is also used to express the idea of looking at a thing with indulgence and allowance, where no special complacency is implied. It is thus used here, and in exactly the same sense that it has in Hab. 1:13, “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil,” מֵֽרְוֹת רָע. WORDSWORTH: “The sense is,—For a man to crush under his feet all the captives of the earth (as the Chaldeans crushed indiscriminately their Hebrew captives, without regard to sex or age), to pervert a man’s cause in the face of the Most High, to subvert a man in his cause—this the Lord does not look on with approval. For He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity.”—W. H. H.]
Lam 3:37. Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not?—Who is he that spoke and it was done, unless the Lord commanded it? [NOYES: “Who is he that can command anything to be done, so that it shall be effected, unless Jehovah permit or order it to be done?”] This verse affords the proof that the evils, enumerated in Lam 3:34–36, had not befallen those who suffered them, without God’s consent. This verse reminds us that there is only one single absolute creative causality; for the words אָמַר וַתֶּהִי [He said—and there was] do, without doubt, refer to the creative-word (Gen. 1:3, etc.). Were there a man of whom it could be said,—He spake and it was done, He commanded and it stood fast (Ps. 33:9), then it might be possible that those evils had befallen Israel at his command, and not Jehovah’s. Evidently the Poet has in mind these words just quoted from Ps. 33:9, although he quotes from memory as appears from the substitution of וַתֶּֽהִי for וַיֶּֽהִי. But see the femin. in such cases, my Gr., § 60, 6 b [see Gram note above]. The second clause of Lam 3:37 is evidently suggested by the second clause of Ps. 33:9, only it is changed into a negative sentence, which serves likewise to define the implied negative of the first clause. There are some, indeed, in reference to whom the expression אָמַר וַּתֶּֽהִי [he spoke and it came to pass] might in a certain sense be used, but only when the Lord has also commanded what is done. There is no one whose will is efficient without the consent and command of the Lord. The explanation, Who then may say, that such a thing is done without the Lord’s command? (LUTHER, ROSENMUELLER and others), is ungrammatical. It ignores the Imperfect with Wav consecut. [The thought is the same as in Amos 3:6, Shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?—OWEN gives an entirely new version. Who is he who says, That Thou art Lord who dost not command? This is on the assumption that Lam 3:34–38 contain the sentiments of an objector, whose argument now is, in Lam 3:37, 38, “that God as a Lord or Sovereign does not command or order events, and for this reason, because both evil and good cannot come from Him.” This interpretation, harsh, difficult and against authority, could only be accepted in case לֹא רָאָה, Lam 3:36, must mean does not see, regard or observe, and not does not approve, (see notes, Lam 3:36), and also in case וַתֶּהִי in this verse, must be rendered as 2d person masculine, and not 3d person feminine (see Gram note above).—The connection of this triplet with the preceding one, according to Dr. NAEGELSBACH’S interpretation of Lam 3:36,—has not the Lord seen that?—is very obvious. But it is no objection to the other interpretation—the Lord does not approve, that these three verses recognize God’s agency in the evils that befall men. It is the problem constantly recurring in the Bible, that God does not approve of oppression and injustice, and yet God makes sin the punishment of sin. No one can sinfully injure his neighbor with God’s approbation: and yet the injury he does is God’s providential chastisement of transgressors.—W. H. H.]
Lam 3:38. Out of the mouth of the Most High proceedeth not evil and good?—Goes not out of the mouth of the Most High the evil and the good? If there is no one who is able to make his will efficient without God’s permission, then follows necessarily the general proposition, that everything, as well evil as good, proceeds from the mouth of God, i.e., is done by God’s command. It certainly is not the Poet’s intention here to suggest any reflections on the origin of moral evil. He has in his eye, according to the whole context, only the contrast of prosperity and adversity. By the evil he means physical evil or misfortune, and by the good—physical good or happiness. And although misfortune is frequently a consequence of moral evil, according to Lam 3:34–36, yet he regards this consequence only with reference to its bearing on human welfare, and not with reference to its causation. What he wishes to say is, that the Lord permits wrong and violence, as well as those actions that tend to promote happiness, in order, according as His purpose may be, to chastise or to bless. But he did not intend to say that God had positively willed what is evil, although the signification of evil is not exhausted in the idea of chastisement.
Lam 3:39. Since happiness and misfortune are both equally willed of God, both must be good, and nothing belonging to either of them should cause us to murmur. As a man who has brought upon himself wholesome sickness by means of bitter medicine, ought not to complain of that medicine, but should blame himself for having caused the necessity of using it, so a man should not complain of the evils which befall him, for these are only the necessary means of curing the sickness of sin, of which he himself is guilty. If he will lament, let him lament for his sin. See Jer. 30:15.—Wherefore doth a living man complain (marg., murmur).—For what sighs the man who lives? The verb, הִתְאוֹנֵן, is respirare, gemere, to sigh with the kindred idea of murmuring,Num. 11:1, which is the only place except this, where the word occurs. The expression a living man,אָדָם חַי, is difficult. It cannot be taken, with PAREAU and ROSENMUELLER, as synonymous with אָדָם, a man, in which case חַי, living, would be, properly speaking, superfluous. Neither can it be taken for חַיּים, vita, life, in which case the sense would be cur queritur homo vitam scil. calamitosam (MAURER) [why complains man of life, i.e., because it is calamitous]? As little can it be called as long as he lives (J. D. MICHAELIS); or, although he lives, since he yet lives and could do something better than sigh (EWALD). The only sense corresponding to the context is, what does the man as a living one sigh for? As a living one, i.e., as one who still finds himself in this life’s school of discipline. How should we in the time appointed for affliction mourn over our afflictions? A living man should not allow himself to be surprised by “the fiery trial” as if thereby some strange thing happened unto him (1 Peter 4:12): only that happens to him which is natural and inevitable. A man for the punishment of his sins?—Every one on account of his sins. This can only be the answer to the question proposed in the first member of the verse, designed to rectify the evil in view,—not sufferings, but sins should be lamented.
[The difficulties of this verse are great, as is evident from the variety of translations and interpretations it has suffered. Four questions are to be answered. 1. The meaning of the verb rendered complain or murmur? 2. The force of חַי, living? 3. The sense in which a man,גֶבֶר of the second member of the verse is to be taken? 4. Whether the whole verse composes one question, or includes a question and a responsive exhortation or a question and a simple answer?—1, The meaning of the verb יִתְאוֹנַן? ABEN EZRA derived it from אוּן, and rendered it by שָׁקַר, to lie (see CALVIN, FUERST, GERLACH). Hence MUENSTER, taking Lam 3:38 as a denial of Divine Providence, explains Lam 3:39 thus: blasphema hæc vox est ‘mentiturque homo in peccatis suis,’—this is a blasphemous saying ‘and man is a liar in his sins’ (GERLACH). ISAAKI derived the verb from אָנָה (FUERST). From this root possibly, by some far-fetched analogy, BROUGHTON brought his unique translation, which has the sole merit of relieving us of the difficulty of explaining a living man,אָדָם חַי, and a man,גֶבֶר, by making one the subject, and the other the object of the verb,—what should living man grudge any person after his sin? But what this means the learned Hebraist has not explained. CALVIN is very positive that the word here and in Numbers, means to weary one’s self. “Why should he weary himself, a living man, and a man in his sins? for as long as men thus remain in their own dregs, they will never acknowledge God as the judge of the world, and thus they always go astray through their own perverse imaginations.” Others render it in a similar sense: “Why doth he afflict himself by his sins? Why doth he procure evils to himself by the committing of sin?”—“Why doth he vex himself? (to wit, by impatient carriage under God’s hand), even a man in his sin, persisting still in the same” (see GATAKER). The Versions and Lexicographers, however, with great unanimity, and apparent reason, derive the verb from אָנַן, to breathe hard, to sigh, and take it in the sense of murmuring, complaining, as above. There is no room to doubt that this is its meaning. 2. What is the force of חַי. PAREAU and ROSENMUELLER, deny that this word is emphatic. They claim that חַי, alone, is used for man, referring to Ps. 143:2, and regard אָדָם, added here, as a mere redundancy of language by Jeremiah, who was not chary of words, verborum non parcior. We are then to take the expression living man, as meaning simply a man, as we often say living man, or mortal man where the adjective is superfluous: (ROSENMUELLER translates the text simply mortalis.) To this we answer 1. The word חַי in Ps. 143:2, is emphatic:—None living, i.e., no living man is just, or innocent in God’s sight. The inference may be allowed, possibly intended, that those not now living may have passed into a state of innocency in God’s sight. 2. The position of the word after אָדָם (reminding us, as NAEGELSBACH says, of אֵל חַי, see gram note above) and also the accent it bears2 show that the word is emphatic. In this case it is difficult to assign any other meaning to it, than that which EWALD and most commentators do, why sighs man living, i.e., since he lives. Dr. NAEGELSBACH says it cannot have this meaning: but he gives no reason why it cannot: and his own translation involves this sense, (what does a man sigh for who lives, der lebt?) while his explanation in the commentary, man as a living one (als ein Lebender), “i.e., as one who still finds himself in this life’s school of discipline,” adds to the original, and what he calls impossible idea, of one who yet lives, another and fanciful notion of his own. MICHAELIS, EWALD, GERLACH, BLAYNEY, BOOTHROYD, HENDERSON and NOYES, all agree in the sense which our English Version seems to suggest, which WORDSWORTH also adopts and explains thus: “Wherefore does a man, whose life is still spared by God’s mercy, and to whom, therefore, the door of repentance and pardon is not yet closed, murmur (see Num. 11:1, where the same word, literally signifying to breathe hard, is used), instead of using his breath and life in order to pray for forgiveness, and to amend his practice?” 3. In what sense are we to take גֶּבֶר, a man, in the second member of the verse? While אָדָם is the generic name for man in the widest sense, גֶּבֶר is supposed to be a more distinctive and honorable designation, as implying a man possessed of manly qualities. Some suppose that it is used emphatically here in this sense, as BLAYNEY suggests. Since most languages have a variety of words signifying man, most of the Versions render אָדָם of the first member, and גֶבֶר of the second, by terms of corresponding significance, as if intending to express an emphasis in the last term,—ἅνθρωπος, ἀνὴρ; homo, vir; Mensch, Mann,—a distinction that seems to be aimed at in English in a version given by GATAKER,Why should a living wight complain, or murmur, any man for his sin? This distinction, if intended, would give a good sense, Why should a living man, a truly manly man murmur at the punishment of his sins? The Arabic gives the following sense: He who dissolves himself in lamentations and sighs, is a weak man; the strong man is ashamed of his sins (Prediger-Bible).CORN. VAN WAENEN, according to ROSENMUELLER, inferred from the Arabic that חַי has the sense of being affected with shame, and joining it to גֶּבֶר in spite of the strong disjunctive accent, translated thus: Why does the mean man (homo vilis) dissolve himself in lamentations? The noble man (vir nobilis) will restrain himself for shame on account of his crimes. But there are no proofs or analogies for this strongly contrasted use of אָדָם and גֶּבֶר. We can, however, take גֶּבֶר here, as Dr. NAEGELSBACH does, in a sense that אִישׁ often has, of every one, each man individually considered. See Joel 2:8: Jer. 17:5, 7; Jos. 7:14, 17, 18; 1 Chron. 23:3. There are many other passages where the word may be rendered every man or every one.GESENIUS gives it this meaning in our text. This rendering prevents the necessity of breaking up the verse into two separate and distinct members. 4. Does the whole verse include a single question? Many versions take the first member as a question, and the second as a responsive exhortation. So the old Geneva, which NOYES adopts: Wherefore then murmureth the living man? Let him murmur at his own sins!GERLACH’S objections to this are well taken. The antithesis would then require that in the question some cause of murmuring should be stated, which the prophet would indicate as an improper one; as, ‘Wherefore murmureth living man on account of his misfortunes? Let him murmur on account of his sins.’ It may be said that the cause may easily be inferred from the context. Still it would seem strange that such an important antithesis was not distinctly expressed. Besides, this rendering makes it necessary, not only to repeat the verb contained in the first member and not expressed in the second, but to change it from the Indicative mood to the Imperative, why does he murmur, let him murmur. These difficulties are overcome by taking the verse as a question and a simple answer, not expressed in a hortatory form. So Dr. NAEGELSBACH:Why does the man who lives, mourn? Every one on account of his sins. So MAURER, quoted by GERLACH,quid i.e., cur queritur homo dum vivit? Unusquisque ob peccata sua. Hinc illæ lacrymæ! Peccatis sibi quisque contraxit de quibus queritur mala. “Why does man mourn whilst he lives? Every one on account of his sins. Hence those tears! By his sins each one has brought on himself the evils he complains of.” A great objection to dividing this verse into question and answer is, that it mars the rhythmical parallelism which is a peculiar feature of this poem [see Intr., Add. Rem., p. 23], and quite destroys the remarkable and beautiful symmetry between the several verses of each triplet, which prevails in this part of the poem. For the same reason that each verse in this triplet should be a question, if one is, each verse ought to contain a question and an answer, if one does,—or else each verse should form an entire question by itself. Besides, the connection seems to require such a construction. The declarations that God does not inflict evil willingly, from His heart, that He does not look with favor on oppression and injustice, and yet that nothing comes to pass without His permission, whether it be evil or good, prepares us for the question, Why then does man murmur when he suffers in the righteous Providence of God for his sins? Why should living man—man whose life is mercifully spared—complain or murmur, every one on account of his sins, i.e., of the effects of his sins? The idea of dividing the sentence into a question and response arose, undoubtedly, from the difficulty of taking גֶּבֶר in the usual sense of a man. But by rendering it every one, and remembering that אָדָם is generic, like homo,ἅνθρωπος, Mensch, and can be best expressed in English by men, as even in German LUTHER rendered it, Wie murren denn die Leute im Leben also? the apparent difficulty of construction entirely disappears. Why should living men complain or murmur, every one on account of his sins? There can be no valid objection to understanding sins as put for their effects, the sufferings or punishment they involve. So most of the versions and interpreters. Or we can take sin in the sense of guilt, liability to punishment. WORDSWORTH: “Literally, for his sins—for his own fault. Why does the sinner murmur at God for that which he has brought on himself by his own sin, and which may be removed by repentance? See what follows.”—The Future form of the verb implies here a conditional sense, why should, etc.—W. H. H.]
 OWEN, in utter violation of the accents, connects חַי with גֶּבֶּר, and translates,
Why complain should man,
Any man alive, for his sin?
Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD.3:40–42
40Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD. Let us lift 41up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens. We have transgressed 42and have rebelled: thou hast not pardoned.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Lam 3:40.—חָפַשׂ, perfodere, pervestigare, is not found in Jeremiah. See Ps. 64:7; Prov. 2:4; 20:27.—חָקַר, fodere, eruere, perscrutari, occurs in Jer. 17:10; 31:37.—[GERLACH: “The LXX have taken the forms נַחְפְּשָּׂה and נַתְקֹרֳה for fem. part. niph.”]—עַד is emphatic, EWALD, § 217, e. let us go back, not half way, but the whole. [ROSENMUELLER and THENIUS deny that it is emphatic, and represent it as equivalent to אַל. GERLACH agrees with NAEGELSBACH, and refers to Hos. 14:2, 3, where both prepositions stand side by side with a difference of meaning not to be mistaken.]
Lam 3:41.—אֶל is cumulative, as Lev. 18:18; Ez. 44:7. [Also Ez. 7:26. The unusual use of this preposition led the Rabbins to fanciful interpretations of the text. Some have put upon it the mystical sense, lift up our heart to our hands, in order to second prayer with practice, (GATAKER).—W. H. H.]—נָשָׂא לֵבָב occurs only here. אֵל בַּשָּׁמַיִם occurs not in Jer. See Deut. 3:24; 1 Kings 8:23.
Lam 3:42.—נַחְנוּ, only occurs six times in the Old Testament, viz., besides here, Gen. 42:11; Ex. 16:7, 8; Num. 32:33; 2 Sam. 17:12, seems to be chosen here only for the sake of the acrostic. [Very likely; yet, as a master of art, the Poet has made the necessity of the choice subserve the force and beauty of thought and expression. נָחְנוּ and אַתָּה, both expressed, are emphatic and antithetical.—W. H. H.]—פָשַׁע in Jer. 2:8, 29; 3:13, etc.—מָרָה, See 1:13, 20; Jer. 4:17, 5:23.—סָלַח, frequently in Jer. 5:1, 7; 31:34, etc.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Lam 3:39 constitutes the transition to something new. If there must be sighing, let it be sighing over sin says Lam 3:39. This exhortation is responded to in Lam 3:40–42, for these contain a penitential lamentation of the people for their sins. This shows that our explanation of the last member of Lam 3:39 is right. For, unless חֵטְא, sin, be taken in the entirely unadmissible sense of punishment (MEIER, EWALD), [E. V. See notes on Lam 3:39], that second member of Lam 3:39 cannot be taken as a continuation of the question, but only in the sense of an affirmatory restriction, as we have done. It is to be observed, moreover, that the Poet here again speaks in the first person plural. We have shown above, at Lam 3:22 (תַּמְנזּ), that the consoling hope, declared in the passage beginning with Lam 3:22, rests directly upon the fact that the people is not extinct, that there is yet a kernel remaining which can serve as a point of connection for the restoration. After the Poet, on the ground of this matter of fact, which he regarded as a pledge for the continuance of Divine grace, had made known his hope, and declared likewise his convictions that sufferings were no real misfortune, and that not on their account, but for sin, should men sigh, it is entirely natural that he utters the penitential lamentation, enjoined in Lam 3:39, not in his own name alone, but in that of the whole people. For the sufferings, of which he had before spoken, were not in fact punishments for his sins; but they were the righteous chastisement of the sin of the whole people. The whole people then has to join in the penitential lamentation, which the Poet begins to sing in Lam 3:40.
Lam 3:40. All true penitence must begin with acknowledgment of sin. But the knowledge of sin with men is the result of candid self-examination. Therefore, the penitential lamentation of the people begins with an exhortation to self-examination. Let us search and try our ways.Let us examine our ways and search. [Instead of murmuring against God, let us examine and search our conduct for the causes of God’s displeasure and our misfortunes, in order to correct them.—W. H. H.].—And turn again to the LORD.—And return to Jehovah. The preposition in the Hebrew is forcible. [See Gram, note above]. Let us go, not half way back, but all the way back to Jehovah. Such a half-way return was, for example, the Reformation under Josiah; see Jer. 4:1–4, and the remarks at that place. This idea of returning to Jehovah, as is well known, plays a very conspicuous role in Jeremiah; see 3:1, 4,12; 8:4, 5; 31:16–22, and the comments on those passages. [HENDERSON: “From the assumption of the plural in this and the immediately following verses, it is obvious that, in those which just precede, Jeremiah has in view the punishment to which the Jews, as a people, were subjected.”]
Lam 3:41. Let us lift up our heart with—together with—our hands unto God in the Heavens.—Without the lifting up of heart and hands to God there is naturally no right return to God imaginable. [CALVIN: “He bids us banish all hypocrisy from our prayers. * * When affliction comes, it is a common thing with all to raise up their hands to heaven, though no one should bid them to do so; but still their hearts remain fixed on the earth, and they come not to God. * * As prayers, when they are earnest, move the hands, our Prophet refers to that practice as useful. At the same time he teaches us that the chief thing ought not to be omitted, even to raise up the hearts to God; Let us, then, he says, raise up our hearts together with our hands to God; and, he adds, to God who is in Heaven: for it is necessary that men should rise up above the world and go out of themselves, so to speak, in order to come to God.” It should not be overlooked that the Prophet connects the outward forms of expression with the heart’s sincerity as constituting the prayer of true penitence. There is nothing here to encourage those to think that they pray, who discard the attitude and gestures and even words of prayer, and fancy that they pray in their hearts. That prayer is an unuttered desire, a trembling emotion of the soul, a sigh, a tear, the glancing of an eye,—are only poetical truths, and, in plain prose, are only half-truths, and, as sometimes understood, half-falsehoods. The Bible never separates the prayer of the heart from its formal expression in words and acts.—W. H. H.]
Lam 3:42. The first half of the verse attains the summit of the succession of thoughts begun in Lam 3:40, and to which the path was broken in Lam 3:39.—We have transgressed and rebelled.—We have sinned and have been disobedient. [Rebelled is a better rendering. The pronoun we, doubly expressed in the original, as the first word in the sentence and in the forms of the verb, “is here emphatical, as though the faithful had taken on themselves the blame of all the evils, which the greater part ever sought to disown” (CALVIN). OWEN: “To give the proper; emphasis to the pronoun, the version ought to be as follows, We, transgressed have we, and rebelled.”—W. H. H.]—By these words the exhortation contained in last clause of Lam 3:39 is complied with, for they are the expression of a deep and sincere grief for sin. The second half of the verse constitutes, in a way similar to that of the last clause of Lam 3:39, the transition to what follows. For the words—Thou hast not pardoned—constitute an intermediate member between the two statements, which have respectively for their subjects, guilt and punishment. Guilt is followed with punishment, if not pardoned. That it is not pardoned in the present instance, this last clause of the verse declares.—Observe the pronouns answering to each other. We—Thou. [Both doubly expressed in the Hebrew. Both, therefore, emphatic.—W. H. H]—Hence it is evident that the Poet does not wish to reproach the Lord, but, on the contrary, to make His proceedings conspicuous. [HENDERSON: “The confession is supposed to be made while the exile still continued. There is implied a fervent hope, that now it was made, the captivity would be reversed.”—The breaking up of this verse into two distinct separate propositions is not such an injury to the versification as was deprecated in Lam 3:39. Because we have now passed the section where the symmetrical uniformity of the verses was to be preserved: because, again, this verse is a real transition to what follows, with which it is so intimately connected that GERLACH begins the new section with Lam 3:40: because, again, the We,נַחְנוּ, and Thou,אַתָּה, preserve a perfect antithesis, and give us a parallelism in sentiment as well as in rhythm and because, finally, the poetical effect of this abrupt appeal to God, like the sudden outburst at the end of 1:11, See, O Jehovah, and consider, justifies the departure from the stricter forms of construction.—W. H. H.]
Thou hast covered with anger, and persecuted us: thou hast slain, thou hast not pitied.PART III
ם Lamentations 3:43. Thou didst cover Thyself with wrath and pursue us,
Thou didst slay,—Thou didst not pity.
ם Lamentations 3:44. Thou didst cover Thyself with clouds
So that no prayer could pass through.
ם Lamentations 3:45. Thou madest us offscourings and
In the midst of the nations.
פ Lamentations 3:46. All our enemies
Gaped at us with their mouth.
פ Lamentations 3:47. Terror and the pit came upon us—
Desolation and destruction.
פ Lamentations 3:48. Mine eye runneth down with streams of water
For the ruin of the daughter of my people.
ע Lamentations 3:49. Mine eye overfloweth unceasingly,
ע Lamentations 3:50. Until Jehovah from Heaven
Look down and behold.
ע Lamentations 3:51. Mine eye paineth my soul
Because of all the daughters of my city.
צ Lamentations 3:52. They that were without cause my enemies
Hunted me down like a bird.
צ Lamentations 3:53. They destroyed in the pit my life
And cast a stone over me.
צּ Lamentations 3:54. Waters flowed upon my head.
I said,—I am lost!
ק Lamentations 3:55. I called upon thy name, O Jehovah,
Out of the depths of the pit.
ק Lamentations 3:56. Thou heardest my cry—hide not Thine ear
From my prayer for relief!
ק Lamentations 3:57. Thou drewest near on the day when I called to Thee:
Thou saidst,—Fear not!
ר Lamentations 3:58. Thou didst espouse the causes of my soul,
Thou didst rescue my life.
ר Lamentations 3:59. Thou, O Jehovah, hast seen the wrong done to me.
Judge Thou my cause.
ר Lamentations 3:60. Thou hast seen all their vengeance,
All their devices against me.
ש Lamentations 3:61. Thou hast heard their revilings, O Jehovah,
All their devices against me.
ש Lamentations 3:62. The lips of my enemies and their thoughts
Against me, all the day long,
ש Lamentations 3:63. Their sitting down and rising up, observe Thou;
I am their song!
ת Lamentations 3:64. Render to them a recompence, O Jehovah,
According to the work of their hands.
ת Lamentations 3:65. Give them blindness of heart.
Thy curse on them!
ת Lamentations 3:66. Pursue them in wrath and exterminate them
From under the Heaven of Jehovah.
The third part, Lam 3:43–66, is to be compared to the night returning again after the day. From Lam 3:43 to Lam 3:48, the Poet speaks in the first person plural. The whole people unite in describing the severe calamity suffered on account of God’s wrath. From Lam 3:48 to the end, the Poet again speaks in the first person singular. But in the first part of this passage, in Lam 3:48–51, the common misfortune is still the subject of his lamentation. He begins again to speak of himself in Lam 3:52. He first describes, Lam 3:52–54, the terrible ill-treatment suffered at the hands of men, according to Jer. 38:6 Lam 3:55–66 contain a prayer, so that this Song, as well as the first and second, closes with a prayer. This prayer is in three parts. Lam 3:55–58, thanks for deliverance from the grave. Lam 3:59–63, a statement of all the injury which his enemies had done, and were constantly doing to the Prophet. Lam 3:64–66, a prayer for righteous vengeance. The symmetry of the external form, which we have observed in the middle section of the Song, is wanting here, as it is also in the first part of the Song. For according to the sense, first, five verses are connected together, Lam 3:43–47; then, four, Lam 3:48–51; then, three, Lam 3:52–54; finally, twelve, which are again separated into subdivisions of four, five and three verses. The articulations of the discourse no longer correspond with the triplets of verses: neither is the symmetry of the initial words carried out.
As the evening twilight gradually deepens into night, so the discourse of our Poet passes over from the bright day-light of consolation, which irradiates the noble central section of our book, back again into the gloomy description of those sufferings with which Israel and the Prophet of the Lord were punished. We stand at the threshold of the last of the three sections of the third Song. If not exactly, yet almost exactly has the Poet distributed the lights and shadows, so that the first and the last of the three parts contain the shadows, and the second one affords the light. For of the 66 verses of the chapter, 22 constitute a third part. But the middle section, after the transition verses, 19–21, extends from Lam 3:22 to Lam 3:40, after which Lam 3:40–42 follow as another transition, corresponding to the first one as the evening twilight does to the dawning of the morning. If we add both of these transition passages to the middle section, then the first of the three sections consists of 18, the second of 24, and the last again of 24 verses.
Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud, that our prayer should not pass through.3:43–47
43Thou hast covered with anger, and persecuted us: thou hast slain, thou hast not 44pitied. Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud, that our prayer should not pass 45through. Thou hast made us as the offscouring and refuse in the midst of the people. 46, 47All our enemies have opened their mouths against us. Fear and a snare is come upon us, desolations and destruction.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Lam 3:43.—סָכַןְ, which does not occur in Jeremiah, is used as a direct causative, as afterwards, Lam 3:44; See Ps. 140:8. [GERLACH: “GESENIUS Thes., and OTTO take סָכַןְ as a reflective verb.” OTTO, quoted by ROSENMUELLER, says At reciprose verbum סָכַןְ usurpari posse, non dubium; but he prefers here to supply nos as the object of the verb. To make the pron. suf. in תִּרְדְּפֵנוּ the object of סָכַןְ, however, is impossible, since the latter, when it has the meaning of covering, is always construed with עַל, or לְ affixed to its object.—W. H. H.]—בָאַף, see Jer. 21:5.—[לֹא. HENDERSON: “Upwards of eighty MSS., twelve printed editions, the ALEX. copy of the LXX., the Arab., Syr., Vulg. and Targ, read וְלֹא.”]
Lam 3:44.—Jeremiah uses only the plural of עָנָן, and that only once, 4:13.—מֵֽעֲבוֹר תְּפִלָה. for the construction, see my Gr., § 106, 6. [The preposition מִן is very peculiarly used as a negative. When the idea of motion from a place is involved, then that which is denied is connected with the verb simply by מִן. NAEGLELSBACH’S Gr., § 106, 6.]
Lam 3:45.—סְחִי from סָחָה, detergere, everrere, Esr. 26:4, is sweepings, dirt. It occurs only here. [In Is. 5:25 we have סוּחָה, sweeping, refuse, fifth (J. A. ALEXANDER).—W. H. H.]—מָאוֹם, as a substantive, only here. See EWALD, § 240, a—Jeremiah expresses the thought contained in this verse in another fashion, see 15:4; 24:9; 29:18; 34:17; 42:18.—בְּקֶרֶב הָעַמִּים seems to imply the dispersion of Israel among the nations. בְּקֶרֶב is nowhere found in Jeremiah, he always uses instead בְּתוֹךְ, 12:16; 29:32; 40:1; 41:8, etc.; once only he uses מִקֶּרֶב, 6:1, and besides בְּקֶרֶב with suffixes frequently 4:14; 14:9; 23:9. etc. [Certainly then בְּקֶרֶב is not foreign to his style.—W. H. H.]
Lam 3:47.—פַּחַד וָפַחַת is a quotation from Jer. 48:43; Is. 24:17.—הַשֵּׁאת וְהַשָׁבֶר. The paronomasia, an imitation of פַּהַד וָפַחַת, is an invention of our Poet, for it is found only here.—שֵׁאת, apparently from שָׁאָה, tumultuari, strepere, is contracted from שֶׁאֶת. In Num. 24:17, is found שֶׁת. The meaning seems to be the same as that of שָׁאוֹן, strepitus, tumultus. See בְּנֵי שָׁאוֹן, Jer. 48:45, and the remarks at that place. Also שׁד וַשֵׁבֶר, Is. 59:7; 60:18.—שֶׁבֶר, see Lam 3:48; 2:11,13; 4:10, is very frequent with Jeremiah, 4:20; 6:14; 8:11, 21, etc.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Lam 3:43. Thou hast covered with anger, and persecuted us.—Thou madest out of Thy wrath a veil [or covering] and didst pursue us. As Thou hast not pardoned, Lam 3:42, constitutes a negative term of connection, so does Thou madest a covering of Thy wrath a positive one. For the veil of wrath with which the Lord covers Himself, conceals in its bosom the lightnings of wrath of which the Poet proceeds to speak. [The causative meaning given to the verb by Dr. NAEGELSBACH, and implied, though not affirmed by GERLACH, is certainly possible (see Ps. 91:4, בְּאֶבְרָתוֹ יָסֶךְ לָךְ, lit., With his wing He will make, or provide, J. A. ALEXANDER,a covering for thee), and is strongly recommended here by the absence of an object expressed. He made a covering of the wrath and pursued us, is the same as saying. He enveloped Himself in His wrath and pursued us. The definite article before wrath, the wrath, points to Jehovah’s wrath, and makes the reflective force of the verb more apparent. In the next verse, where the cloud does not specify any particular cloud, but only clouds generically, the expression of לָךְ, for Thyself, is more elegant. These slight grammatical distinctions can hardly be expressed in English, in which it is best to give the same form in both verses.—The purpose of the covering not that of concealment, but of preparation for the pursuit of His enemies. He dismisses His pity and gathers His wrath around Him as a veil that covers the whole person, that He may slay and not pity. Or His wrath itself may be regarded as furnishing His weapons of offence, the armory out of which flash the lightnings of His wrath. Therefore the objection of J. D. MICHAELIS, BOETTCHER and THENIUS, that he who conceals himself, does not pursue others (although a concealed enemy may, nevertheless, be a pursuer), is not valid. We must, either take the verb in a causative or reflective sense, or supply לָךְ, Thyself, from the next verse. This last is exceedingly awkward. If the order of the verses was reversed, this might be tolerated, though even then it is inconsistent with the usual independent completeness of each separate verse in the Lamentations. But to say “Thou didst cover with wrath”—and then hold the mind in suspense, as to the object covered, till it is announced in the next verse, is awkward to say the least, and certainly has the effect, as THENIUS asserts, of throwing all that follows the word wrath into a parenthesis.—Our English Version and others which make us, at the end of the verse, the object of the covering cannot be correct if the verb is here used in the sense of covering (see Gram, note above). Some old expositors, alluded to by GATAKER, take the verb in the sense of being hedged in.BLAYNEY and OWEN take it in this sense, and suppose an allusion to the practice of hunters, who surrounded their game with toils, and then attacked them. Thou hast fenced in with anger and chased us (BLAYNEY). Thou hast in wrath enclosed us and chased us (OWEN). But how can there be an allusion to this practice of hunters in the next verse, where they give the verb the same meaning,—Thou hast enclosed Thyself in a cloud (OWEN)? HENDERSON also, without allusion to hunting however, gives the verb in both verses a similar meaning, Thou hast shut us up in anger,—Thou hast shut Thyself up in a cloud. But the Hebrew verb when followed by the preposition לְ, to, prefixed to the pronoun, as it is in the next verse, certainly means covering one’s self with something, as with a garment or a veil. See Lam 3:44, note. Hence it is best to take it in the same sense in this verse.—W. H. H.]—Thou hast slain, thou hast not pitied.—Thou didst kill without mercy. [The E. V. is more literal. Many versions have spared, instead of pitied. The latter meaning is better here, and the more usual signification of the verb when not joined to a preposition. See 2:2, 17.—W. H. H.] See 2:21. Here begins the enumeration of the aggressive acts of the Divine punishment, through which the wrath, as it were, spent itself. See Lam 3:66; 1:6; Jer. 29:18, etc.
Lam 3:44. Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud, that our prayer should not pass through.—Thou madest of the cloud a covering for Thyself that no prayer could pass through. See at Lam 3:8. The twice recurring verb סַכּוֹתָה, thou coveredst, has been differently interpreted. EWALD would take what follows the word wrath, in Lam 3:43, as a parenthesis. But these words closely connected with what precedes by ו consecutive, contain no mere secondary thought. Others (LUTHER, THENIUS) translate, Thou hast covered (overwhelmed) us with wrath. But the verb has always and only the meaning of friendly sheltering, veiling or covering: and further, in that case we would expect at least בְּאַף [instead of בָאַק, with wrath, instead of with the wrath]. But, aside from the constraint put upon the Poet by the alphabetical arrangement [inducing him to repeat the same word for the sake of the initial letter], I think that two grades or kinds of covering are indicated. The first was that, in consequence of which persecution and war came upon Israel,—the second was that, in consequence of which, God heard not the prayers addressed to Him amidst the calamity of war. In favor of this view is the twofold nature of the veils or coverings indicated. The first time it is the wrath with which the Lord envelops Himself. Out of this veil of wrath shoot forth the lightnings, as out of a thunder-cloud, which kindle the fire of war in Israel. The second time the veil or covering is only a gloomy, dense cloud, which, like a bulwark, prevents prayer from passing through. Whether the Poet here thought of the historical pillar of cloud (Ps. 99:7), or of an ideal one (Ps. 97:2), must remain undecided. See, besides Lam 3:8; Ps. 55:2, and especially Sir. 32:16, 17.
Lam 3:45. Thou hast made us as the offscouring and refuse in the midst of the people.—Thou didst make us offscourings and refuse in the midst of the nations. Since the Lord permitted no prayer to pass through to Him, the work of destruction, spoken of in Lam 3:43, made unimpeded progress; the consequence of which was, that Israel, ground down to the dust, is now an object of contempt among heathen nations. [Offscouring, sweepings, what is swept away.—Refuse, what is rejected as worthless, what is thrown away.—CALVIN: “Paul says, that he and his associates were the offscouring (περιψήματα) of the world, 1 Cor. 4:13. He means that they were despised as offscourings or scrapings. * * What the Prophet had in view is not obscure; for he means that the degradation of the people was not hidden, but open to all nations, as though God had erected a theatre in Judea, and there exhibited a remarkable and an unusual example of His vengeance,”—among the nations.WORDSWORTH: “The nations, among which we Israelites are scattered. Such the Jewish nation has been for 1800 years; and such it will remain till it turn to God in Christ.”—W. H. H.] See Is. 24:13.
Lam 3:46. Here again, in the order of the initial letters, ם is followed by פ, and not ע. That this was the original order of the verses and not the result of later changes, the context undeniably proves. It is, therefore, certainly incomprehensible how any one could have thought of placing the triad of Lam 3:46–48, after that of Lam 3:49–51 (MEIER) [BOOTHROYD, likewise].—All our enemies have opened their mouths against us,—gaped at us with their mouth. This verse, which contains only a more particular definition of what is meant by מָאוֹם [refuse, or as Dr. NAEGELSBACH translates it Schande, shame, disgrace] in Lam 3:45, has already occurred almost word for word, in 2:16, which see.
Lam 3:47. Fear and a snare—terror and the pit. A quotation from Jer. 48:43; Is. 24:17. [CALVIN, BROUGHTON, BLAYNEY, NOYES, NAEGELSBACH and GERLACH, all translate the second word pit, as it is rendered in Jeremiah and Isaiah, in the places cited above. In the latter place, Dr. J. A. ALEXANDER says, “It is a probable, though not a necessary supposition, that the terms here used are borrowed from the ancient art of hunting. פחד [fear] would then denote some device by which wild beasts were frightened into snares and pitfalls. It is at least a remarkable coincidence that the Romans gave the name formido to an apparatus used for this purpose.” We may, however, take fear in its usual sense, without destroying the allusion to hunted wild beasts, suggested in this passsage by pit, and in Jeremiah and Isaiah by pit and snare. He who flies for terror falls into the pit. So JARCHI, quoted by GERLACH. CALVIN: “He compares here the anxieties into which the people had been brought, to a pitfall and dread. * * The meaning is, that the people had been reduced to such straits, that there was no outlet for them; * * filled with dread, they sought refuge, but saw pitfalls on every side.”—W. H. H.] Is come upon us,—fell to our lot [happened to us, or came upon us], desolation and destruction—shame and hurt. [The E. V. is better, and is adopted by most versions. See Gram. note above.—W. H. H.] In these pithy and forcible words the Poet sums up all that Israel had suffered.
Mine eye runneth down with rivers of water for the destruction of the daughter of my people.3:48–51
48Mine eye runneth down with rivers of water for the destruction of the daughter 49of my people. Mine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not, without any intermission. 50, 51Till the LORD look down, and behold from heaven. Mine eye affecteth mine heart, because of all the daughters of my city.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Lam 3:48.—The first clause is found in Ps. 119:136, almost word for word. For construction, see my Gr., § 69, 2 a. [After verbs of plenty and want, the accusative denotes the more remote object (NAEG. Gr.)].—פֶלֶג Jeremiah never uses. [Observe it is here the initial word, where special choice and even preference for novelty of expression would be expected.—W. H. H.]
Lam 3:49.—The verb נָגַר, of which Jeremiah uses the Hiphil, once only [Jeremiah seems to have been predisposed to use words only once,—so new words in Lamentations need not surprise us, Jeremiah being the author.—W. H. H.], 18:21, occurs only in Niph., Hiph. and Hoph. Such places as 2 Sam. 14:14; Job 20:28; Ps. 77:3, give it the sense of overflowing, as well as of being poured out.—וְלֹא תִדְמֶה reminds us of וְאַל־תִּדְמֶינָה, Jer. 14:17.—מֵאֵין הֲפגֻוֹת seems to be only another form of the same thought in Ps. 77:3, where we read the words פוּג ּיָדִי נִגְרָה וְלֹא תָפוּג is debilem, languidum esse, viribus defici (Gen. 45:26; Hab. 1:4). Both פּוּגָה, 2:18, and הֲפוּגָה, signify remissio, relaxatio. Both are ἄπ. λεγ. See 2:18 and remarks there.
Lam 3:50.—שָׁקַף (comp. σκἐπ–τεσθαι, spectare) is prospicere, despicere. It occurs only in Hiph. and Niph.; is not found in Jeremiah; see Deut. 26:15; Ps. 14:2; 53:3; 102:20, in all of which places the word is used with the addition of מִשָּׁמַיִם or מִמָּרוֹם.
Lam 3:51.—If we compare the Hithp. הִתעַלֵל, which in such places as Num. 22:29; Judg. 19:25; 1 Sam. 31:4; Jer. 38:19, has the sense of satisfying one’s desire by violence; if, further, we compare the substantives עֲלִיִלָה ,עֲלִילִיָה, and מַֽעֲלָל, which denote, not merely generally facinus, a deed, but also especially a bad deed (see Deut. 22:14, 17; Ps. 141:4; Ez. 20:43; Jer. 14:18; 11:18, etc.);—there can be no doubt that the idea of doing a harm inheres in the Poel also. In 1:12, 22; 2:20, where also this word occurs, this idea is made expressly apparent by other words of this sense. But we are authorized by the above citations, to take the word in this sense, without such express indication of its meaning in the context. [GERLACH: עולל with ל, to do some one an injury, occurs in 1:12, 22; 2:20; therefore there is nothing unusual in the ל here, as EWALD says.]—BÖTTCHER would read מִכֹּל בַּכּוֹת עִירִי, of all the weeping of my city. But even if Piel is authorized by Jer. 31:15; Ez. 8:14,—and בֹּל with the Inf., by Deut. 4:7, yet בַּכּוֹתִי would be expected [and then would be ungrammatical, as GERLACH shows]. But no change in the reading is necessary.—מִן is causal, as Deut. 7:7, 8; Joel 4:19; Is. 53:5; Prov. 20:4, etc.—עִירִי, Is. 45:13; 2 Sam. 19:38.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Lam 3:48–51. These four verses treat of the eye of the speaker, as the organ by means of which he manifests his pain:—for Lam 3:50 contains only a thought subordinated to that of Lam 3:49. The new succession of thoughts begins with the last member of a triad (the פ triad). Nothing like this has occurred before in this Song [where the triplets have been remarkable for their unification]. Would the Poet thus intimate that he has passed the culmination-point of his Poem, and therefore the culmination-point of its artistic structure also? It is not easy to decide. Besides, the fact that these verses are of the character of one sustained and continuous transition period, is itself an indication of artistic execution. For while in these verses the Poet himself is the speaker, yet he speaks of his own pain with reference to the public calamity [thus connecting what is here said with what precedes], whilst from Lam 3:52 he not only himself speaks, but he speaks of himself [so that these verses form a connecting link with what follows, and the subject gracefully passes from the public calamities to the private griefs of the speaker.—W. H. H.].
Lam 3:48. Mine eye runneth down with rivers of water.—See Ps. 119:136. We find the same sentiment in Jer. 8:23 [E. V., 9:1], 9:17 [E. V., 9:18], 13:17; 14:17; Lam. 1:16.—For the destruction of the daughter of my people.—See 2:11.
Lam 3:49. Mine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not, without any intermission.—Mine eye overflows unceasingly, without intermission. [Lit., My eye is poured out, or overflows, and ceaseth not, so as not to be (from not being) intermission. In correct English, My eye overfloweth, unceasingly without intermission. GERLACH: “intermissions, not of miseries (MICHAELIS, ROSENMUELLER, see Vulg.), but so that there is no cessation, without discontinuance. See Lexicons and EWALD, § 323, a.”—W. H. H.]
Lam 3:50. Till—or until—the LORD—Jehovah—look down and behold from Heaven.—As already remarked, this is a thought subordinate to that of Lam 3:49, which it limits, or qualifies. The Poet’s tears shall flow without ceasing, not absolutely for ever, but until the Lord, by graciously regarding them, shall cause them to cease. [When God looks down and beholds, He begins to hear prayer and afford saving grace. See Ps. 102:19, 20. HENDERSON translates, While Jehovah looketh down and beholdeth from Heaven, and remarks, “The Prophet regarded it as a great aggravation of the calamity, that the Lord should see it all, and yet not interpose for its removal.” But this is to take the Hebrew preposition עַד, in an unusual sense, and is wholly inconsistent with the constant tenor of Bible language, which represents God as averting His face from those who offend Him, and as looking only on those who are objects of His favor. Besides, here God has wrapped Himself in His wrath, Lam 3:43, and in dark impenetrable clouds, Lam 3:44, that He may not be moved to compassion either by the sight or the cries of the sufferers.—W. H. H.]
Lam 3:51. The description passes, as it were, from without to within. In Lam 3:48, 49, the weeping of the Poet had been described with regard to its extent [its unintermitted continuance], but here the intensity of that weeping is made apparent from its internal effect on his soul.—Mine eye affecteth mine heart (marg., my soul)—Mine eye paineth my soul [or gives it pain, thut meiner Seele weh, makes my soul ache.] The eye hurts the soul, when it increases the pain of the soul, by adding thereto a physical pain. It is true that weeping is generally a relief to the sorrowful. But when weeping weakens the eye so that it smarts, then the soul, as I said, feels that as an aggravation of its own pain. See Ps. 6:7. [CALVIN: “Mine eye grieves my soul. He had said, that his eye flowed down, and then, that it was like a fountain, from which many streams or rivers flowed: he now adopts another mode of speaking, that his eye troubled or grieved his soul.” BROUGHTON: Mine eye worketh into my soul. BLAYNEY: Mine eye worketh trouble to my soul. NOYES and GERLACH take my soul as if it were simply a personal pronoun. Mine eye is painful to me (NOYES), or pains me (GERLACH). But to my soul, לְנַפְשִׁי, as the expressed object of the verb, is indubitably emphatic. So WORDSWORTH: “Mine eye vexeth my soul (nephesh), the seat of passion (see Lam 3:20) by the misery which it sees, and for which it weeps.” See Gram. notes above.—W. H. H.]—Because of all the daughters of my city. It is not necessary to change the Hebrew here, as BÖTTCHER proposes (see Gram. notes above), for 1:4, 18; 2:10, 21, show that the Poet regarded the sad fate of the tender virgins as one of the culmination points of the general calamity. For the same reason, I do not think that by the daughters of my city are intended daughter cities. [Töchterstädte, i.e., cities dependent on Jerusalem. So EWALD, BLAYNEY too: “Probably the lesser cities and towns dependent on the metropolis are hereby intended, see Jer. 49:2.”] The Poet nowhere else refers to such cities. Besides, it should be observed, that daughters of my city is in parallelism with daughter of my people, Lam 3:48. This gives a beautiful symmetry to the whole paragraph; the first and last verses, Lam 3:48, 51, each closes with a statement of a reason for his weeping, while the intervening verses describe the extent and character of his weeping. [The English version indicates in the margin a possible translation, which CALVIN alone has had the audacity to adopt: Mine eye affecteth mine heart more than all the daughters of my city. This would seem to mean, that his heart was more affected by his own grief, than by that of all the daughters of Jerusalem; or, that his grief affected his own heart, more than it did the daughters of his city. But CALVIN explains it as meaning, that he wept more than all the girls in Jerusalem! “As the female sex, as it is well known, are more tender and softer than men, the Prophet amplifies his lamentation by this comparison, that in weeping he exceeded all the young women of the city, so that he had almost forgotten his manhood.” KALKAR takes the daughters of the city in the impossible sense of incolæ urbis (an ingenious adoption of a feminine form used for common gender), and translates I was more vehemently affected than all the inhabitants of the city. The simple and natural translation of the words gives such good sense and is so in harmony with the sentiments of the whole poem, as shown above, that it is astonishing what wasteful invention has been used to find out some other sense.—W. H. H.]
Mine enemies chased me sore, like a bird, without cause.3:52–54
52, 53Mine enemies chased me sore, like a bird, without cause. They have cut off 54my life in the dungeon, and cast a stone upon me. Waters flowed over mine head; then I said, I am cut off.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Lam 3:52.—The verb צוּד Jeremiah uses once, 16:16.—צִפּוֹר Jeremiah never uses. [Jeremiah often uses צוֹף in the collective sense for fowl or birds. In one single verse, 12:9, he twice uses עַיִט, meaning birds of prey, ravenous birds. This passage in Lamentations is the only place where he has occasion to speak of a single bird pursued by the hunter. If he had ever used another word in the same sense, צִפוֹר would have been chosen for this place for the sake of the alliteration, צוֹד צָדוּנִי כַּצִּפוֹר, and also as suggesting the twittering of the helpless victim.—W. H. H.]—The expression אֹיְבַי חִנָּם occurs only here. In Ps. 35:19; 69:5, שׂנְאַי חִנָּם occurs, both times in parallelism with אֹיְבַי שֶׁקֶר. This shows that חִנָּם belongs, as an adverbial qualification, to אֹיְבַי, not to צָדוּנִי.
Lam 3:53.—צָמַת occurs in Kal only here. Niph. is without doubt extingui (Job 23:17), exarescere (of water, Job 6:17); Piel is perdere, to destroy (Ps. 88:17; 119:139); Hiph. has the same sense (Ps. 18:41; 54:7; 69:5, etc.). צָמַת might indeed have an intransitive sense, to be sunk in silence, in speechlessness, that is to say, to be destroyed, to perish, in favor of which sense are the kindred roots דָּמָה ,דָּמַם ,דוּם, and the Dialects. [So HENDERSON: They have made my life silent in the dungeon.] But since in all the parallel members of the paragraph, Lam 3:52–54, the enemies are the subject, it is necessary to regard them as the subject of צָמְתוּ also, and to take this word in a transitive sense. If צָמַת signifies destroy, בַּבּוֹר can signify in the pit, or into the pit. In the latter case it would be constr. prægnans. This would be more correct, because it better answers to the fact. For the enemies did not succeed in destroying the life of the prophet in the pit, but casting it down into the pit for the purpose of destruction.—וַיַדּוּ. with reference to the form, see וַיַגֶה Lam 3:33 [GREEN’S Gr., § 150, 2.]
Lam 3:54.—צוּף is manare, fluere. Kal occurs only here. Elsewhere the Hiphil at two places, Deut. 11:4; 2 Kings 6:6. [The use of Kal may indicate that the word here denotes, not as in Hiphil, dashing over, overwhelming, but, like זוּף and זוּבּ, to melt, dissolve, flow, trickle down. This sense is favored by the preposition עַל, to, on, not over.—W. H. H.]—אָמַרְתִי, see וָאֹמַר, Lam 3:18.—גָּזַר ּנִגְזָֽרְתִּי is dissecare, discindere. Jeremiah never uses it. Niph., besides here, in Is. 51, 1:8; Ps. 88:6; Ez. 37:11, etc.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Lam 3:52–54. The speaker here returns to the description of his own personal sufferings. The central point of these sufferings is the pit, into which the Prophet has been thrown, and that by enemies who were personally hostile to him without cause (Lam 3:52), and who pursued him incessantly (Lam 3:52) with vindictiveness and mockery (Lam 3:60–63). Ought we to interpret all that is said of the pit as merely figurative? So far as what is said of the pit alone, this could be done. But what the Poet says of his enemies, cannot possibly be a mere figure of speech. When he mourns that though he had given them no cause for hatred, they had, nevertheless, incessantly insulted him and pursued him with measureless vengeance,—this surely is no figurative way of speaking. We have already shown that the subject who speaks in this song (except in those parts in which the Poet speaks in the first person plural) cannot be the people. The enemies, further, cannot be the Chaldeans, because they are called those that are my enemies without cause, and because the Poet speaks of his being already delivered from their power and now only invokes [not deliverance from them but] the vengeance of God upon them (Lam 3:55–66). On the other hand, Jeremiah speaks of his enemies, 20:7–12, exactly as is done here. He describes their insulting mockery (For I heard the defaming of many) and their vindictiveness (we shall take our revenge on him, נִקְחָה נִקְמָתֵנזּ מִמֶּנּזּ, Lam 3:10, comp. Lam. 3:60), and hopes that God will avenge him upon them (let me see thy vengeance on them, Lam 3:12). Since the description of his enemies in this place exactly corresponds with that which Jeremiah gives of his enemies, all of which is confirmed by so many facts related in his prophetical book (11:18–20; 12:1–6; 26:8; 37:11–15; 38:4–6), can we doubt that what is said of the pit should be taken literally, especially if we consider the fact that what is here said agrees substantially with what Jeremiah says, chap. 38, of the pit into which he was actually thrown by his enemies? We are sure, therefore, that the Poet here had in his eye the persecutions which Jeremiah suffered from his enemies. He personates Jeremiah. The chief subject of the third song is Jeremiah.
Lam 3:52. Mine enemies chased me sore, like a bird, without cause.—Hunted, hunted have they me like a bird, all mine enemies without cause. Like a bird: see Ps. 11:1, where the soul of the persecuted innocent is likewise compared to a bird. [They that were without cause mine enemies hunted me down like a bird. So BLAYNEY and NOYES render the verb צוּד, which seems to mean, not to hunt, in the abstract sense, but to obtain by hunting, to seize, to lay hold of, and as used here in an intensive sense, would imply persevering and successful hunting. DOUAY: My enemies have chased me and caught me like a bird. Hunted me down like a bird expresses the idea suggested by the comparison.—As even a bird is at last tired out and hunted down by a persevering pursuer. The point of the comparison is the perseverance of the successful hunter in pursuit of a bird: as David says of Saul’s tireless and remorseless pursuit of him, “The King of Israel is come out to seek a flea, as when one doth hunt a partridge in the mountains” (1 Sam. 26:20). This idea is expressed in the Paris ed., 1805, of the French, Ceux qui sont mes ennemis sans cause m’ont poursuivi à outrance, comme on poursuit un oiseau. The French of MARTIN gives the same sense. The commentators generally fail to explain the comparison. CALVIN, who supposes the lack of “both prudence and courage” in birds is referred to, is evidently wrong, both as to the fact that birds are thus deficient, and as to its application here. Both GESENIUS and FUERST explain the verb, צוּד, as used here, in the sense of laying snares as for a bird. This gives a good sense, and carries out the comparison; but it is adopted by none of the versions, and seems inconsistent with the general use of the verb and the intensive meaning suggested by the duplication.—W. H. H.]
Lam 3:53. They have cut off my life in the dungeon.—They destroyed in the pit my life [i.e., sought to destroy it. See Gram. notes above. From Jer. 38:4, it is certain that their object in throwing him into the pit was to kill him.—W. H. H.]—And cast a stone upon me,—and threw stones upon me. But should we translate they threw stones upon me, or they cast a stone over me [i.e., over the mouth of the pit]? Jer. 38 says nothing of either the one or the other. Yet it is possible that Jeremiah, whose statements in that chapter were confined, with admirable reserve, to the principal circumstances, might have omitted this point. And it is also possible that the author of our song, in case he were not Jeremiah himself, may have added this particular, either from hearsay, or out of his own invention. [The addition of a new fact affords a strong presumption that Jeremiah wrote this book. One personating him would have adhered to facts well authenticated in his history.—W. H. H.] Grammatically considered there is nothing in either the verb or the noun decisive in favor of the one or the other explanation. The verb יָדָה, which is used in Joel 4:3, Ob. 11; Nah. 3:10 of casting the lot, and in Jer. 1:14 of shooting an arrow, Zechariah uses also of throwing down iron [?] horns (2:4; E. V. 1:21). The word only occurs in the places cited. But if Zechariah uses the word of throwing down objects of such size and weight, then it could properly be used also of throwing a heavy stone over the opening of the pit. The noun, אֶבֶן, further, can as well signify collectively a number of stones as one stone, for it frequently has that meaning after רָגם, Lev. 20:2, 27; 24:23; Josh. 7:25; 1 Kings 12:18 (זַיִרגִמוּ בּו אֶבֶן), comp. Num 14:10, 15:35; Deut. 21:21. But the preposition, בִּי, upon me, favors the explanation they cast stones on me. For the difference between בּ and אֵל or עַל is, that the former, as FUERST says, denotes “decided vicinity,” or “such motion as is connected with the attainment of its object,” whilst by the latter is expressed “motion toward without nearness.” They threw a stone on me, that is to say, over me on the mouth of the pit, would be expressed by עַל. [Though there is a foundation for this distinction between these two prepositions, yet they are often used indiscriminately, without affecting the sense, as for instance with the verbs בּ .דָרַשׁ .וָגַע ,דָּכַק, too, is used in the general sense of over, as with מָשַׁל, in the sense of ruling over, or having the management of affairs, see Ps. 103:19; Gen. 24:2; 45:8, 26; Deut. 15:6; Judges 8:22; Josh. 12:5; 1 Kings 5:1. If the use of בְּ here in the sense indicated by E. V. is not absolutely forbidden, it is certainly to be preferred. 1. It would have been a wanton outrage to throw stones upon the Prophet after he was cast into the pit. 2. It seems incredible that Jeremiah should not in his narrative of the affair have mentioned such a remarkable incident, if it had occurred. 3. They could only have thrown the stones for the purpose of killing him, and how then had he escaped death? 4. The fact that the pit was covered over with a stone, to prevent his possible escape, was a most likely occurrence, and yet one that, because likely and even to be presumed, might have been passed over without special mention. Finally, all the versions, except NAEGELSBACH’S and GERLACH’S, render it as in E. V.; GATAKER indicates both senses without deciding in favor of either.—W. H. H.]
Lam 3:54. Waters flowed over my head.—Waters dashed (surged) over my head. This cannot be meant of the flowing together of the water in a physical sense, over his head. For in Jer. 38:6, it is expressly said that there was no water in the pit, only mud. Besides, the flowing together of water over his head must inevitably have had for its speedy consequence the death of him who was thrown into the pit. Either the words mean merely, water ran on my head; or, what is more likely, this way of speaking should be understood as metaphorical, as also in Ps. 69:3 (2), 15 (14), 16 (15), he who is sunk in the mire, speaks at the same time of being drowned by the water-flood. That he intends this as an image descriptive of the greatest peril of death (see Ps. 18:17 (16); 32:6; 42:8 (7); 88:17 (16), 18 (17); 130:1; 144:7), is evident also from Ps. 69:2 (1), where for the waters are come in even to my soul can only be taken in a figurative sense. [In Ps. 69 all is figurative. But here, where all the rest is literal, to take one term alone as figurative, is unnatural. It would be better, with HENDERSON, to take the whole description as figurative, and as having no direct allusion to the account given in Jer. 38:6–12. But this is not necessary. The words may only mean Water ran on my head. See Gram. notes above. If there was mud in the bottom of the pit, there was a supply of water in some quantities from some source. The mere condensation of the vapor in the atmosphere against the sides of the pit, would produce some, and there may have been from small springs supply enough to trickle down and splash upon his head. The language, if suggested by any Psalm, was more likely that of 40:3 (2), than of the 69—and brought me up from a pit of noise, and from the miry clay,—where the noise referred to seems to be that of running water. The Prophet, sinking in the mud beneath, and reminded by the water falling on his head that he was in danger of drowning, might well exclaim I am lost, I am already as good as gone!—W. H. H.]—Then I said, I am cut off,—I said, I am cut off. NOYES: I am undone. GERLACH: I am lost. Comp. Ps. 88:5.]
I called upon thy name, O LORD, out of the low dungeon.3:55–66
55, 56I called upon thy name, O LORD, out of the low dungeon. Thou hast heard 57my voice; hide not thine ear at my breathing, at my cry. Thou drewest near 58in the day that I called upon thee: thou saidst, Fear not. O Lord, thou hast 59pleaded the causes of my soul; thou hast redeemed my life. O LORD, thou hast 60seen my wrong; judge thou my cause. Thou hast seen all their vengeance, and 61all their imaginations against me. Thou hast heard their reproach, O LORD, 62and all their imaginations against me. The lips of those that rose up against 63me, and their device against me all the day. Behold their sitting down, and 64their rising up; I am their music. Render unto them a recompence, O LORD, 65according to the work of their hands. Give them sorrow of heart, thy curse 66unto them. Persecute and destroy them in anger from under the heavens of the LORD.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Lam 3:55.—קָרָא שֵם יי׳. This expression does not occur in Jer.; he uses only once קָרָא בְּשֵׁם יי׳, 10:25. [There is not enough difference in the two expressions to afford the shadow of an argument for or against the authorship of Lamentations, even if the latter expression had been frequent with Jeremiah; but as in fact it only occurs once, who can say which of the two expressions was characteristic of his style?—W. H. H.]—מִבּוֹר תַּהְתִּיּוֹת. Ps. 87:7, בְּבוֹר תַּ׳. Elsewhere occur only the expressions גֻלּתֹ תַּ׳, Jos. 15:19, and אֶרֶץ תַּ׳, Ez. 26:20; 32:18, 24 [in each case in close connection with בוֹר.—W. H. H.], or תּ׳ אֶרֶץ, Is. 44:23; Ps. 63:10; 139:15. תַּחְתִּיות is to be regarded as related to בּוֹר in the genitive not in the accusative sense.
Lam 3:56. The verb עָלַם Jeremiah uses in no form. The expression עָלַם אֶֹזן occurs only here.—[HENDERSON: “Before לְרַוְחָתִי, the preposition has the signification of with a view to; before לֲשַׁועָתִי, it takes its temporal signification, at, at the time of.”]—שַׁוְעָה, once in Jer., 8:19; see Lam 3:8; Ps. 34:16.
Lam 3:57. קָרַב Jeremiah uses only once in the Hiphil, 30:21.—The Perfects, אָמַרְתָּ ,קָרַבְתָּ, of this verse and רַבְּתָּ ,גָאַלְתָּ, Lam 3:58, stand parallel to the Perfect שָׁמַעְתָּ Lam 3:56. They contain the specifications of that general declaration. They are therefore to be translated in the Perfect, not in the Present. אְקְרָאֶךָ does not conflict with this, as THENIUS thinks, for the Imperfect stands here to represent the repetition of the act in times past. See my Gr. § 87, f.
Lam 3:58. The expression רָב רִיב is found in Jeremiah twice, 50:34; 51:36. Yet Jeremiah never uses the plural רִיבִים, which occurs, besides here, only in Ps. 18:44 (2 Sam. 22:44). [The singular here would be inappropriate, if the meaning of the phrase is that God interposed to deliver him from all the causes which endangered his life, see Lam 3:53.—נַפְשׁי is not merely a circumlocution for the suffix, my, (NOYES), but רִיבֵי נַפְשִׁי are causæ quæ vitam ac salutem meam concernunt (GERLACH), dangerous transactions (FUERST’S Lex.).—W. H. H.]—Jeremiah uses only the Part. גֹאֵל of גָאַל, and that only once, 50:34. See elsewhere, Ps. 69:19; 103:4; 119:154.
Lam 3:60. Instead of לִי several Codd. have עָלַי, which corresponds better with the way in which Jeremiah expresses himself in 11:19; 18:18; but is apparently only a correction suggested by Lam 3:61. See besides at לְדַכֵּא, Lam 3:34. [HENDERSON: “For לִי twenty-three MSS., originally thirteen more, now two, the LXX., Targ., Syr., Vulg., and Venet. Greek, read עָלַי as in Lam 3:61; where, on the other hand, seventeen MSS. read לִי for עָלַי.”]
Lam 3:61. חֶרְפָה is used here in an active sense, as in Jer. 51:51; Job 16:10; Zeph. 2:8, etc.—[The difference between עָלַי of this verse, and לי of Lam 3:60, according to OWEN, “is occasioned by the verbs Thou hast seen and Thou hast heard. God had seen the thoughts or purposes effected against him; and He had heard the purposes formed concerning him. He refers first to the purposes carried into effect, and then, as it is common in the prophets, he refers to the purposes previously formed respecting him.” This difference of meaning in the two verses is, however, entirely due to the verbs, and not at all to the prepositions, which would even better express the ideas OWEN attaches to them if their positions were reversed,—have seen their devices executed עַל upon me, and heard their devices devised לִ with reference to me.—W. H. H.]
Lam 3:62.—[This verse may be dependent on שָּׁמַעְתָּ Lam 3:61, GERLACH and most of the translators; or on הַבִּיטָה Lam 3:63, THENIUS, NAEGELSBACH. To supply the substantive verb הָיוּ, sunt, before עָלַי, as ROSENMUELLER suggests, is altogether unnecessary and inelegant.—W. H. H.].—קָמִים, for enemies, is found in Jeremiah only in the expression לֵב קָמַי, 51:1.—הִגָּיוֹן is not found in Jeremiah; [nor anywhere else except Ps. 9:17; 19:15; 92:4. It is an unusual word on which no theory of authorship can be rested.—W. H. H.]
Lam 3:63.—קימָה is found only here.—הַבִּיטָה , see 1:11.—מַנְגִּינָה is ἅπ. λεγόμ. [GERLACH: “The opinion of BOETTCHER deserves at least some consideration, that here as in Mal. 1:13, there lies concealed in the מ a מַה (quam, quale; what a Saitenspiel [derisive song] I am to them). But this is not in accordance with the punctuation and receives support from none of the versions except the Syr. See Ps. 89:48.”]
Lam 3:64.—הֵשִׁיב גְמוּל is found in Ps. 28:4; 94:2; Joel 4:4, 7; Ob. 15; Prov. 12:14. In Jeremiah occurs only שִׁלֵם גְמוּל 51:6.—כְּמַֽעֲשֵׂה יְדֵיהֶם is found in Jer. 25:14 (a place critically suspicious), Ps. 28:4.
Lam 3:65.—מְגִנָּה is ἅπ. λεγόμ. [BROUGHTON translates it a bursting of heart, following CHALDÆUS, תְּבִירוּת לִבָּא, confractio cordis. BLAYNEY derives the word from Piel of מָגַן, to deliver or make over; “a delivery of the heart, that is, a willing one, to which the heart consents;” and translates, omitting the first לָהֶם on the authority of the ancient versions and one MS., and making a single member of the verse in defiance of accents and analogy, Thou wilt give with a hearty accordance Thy curse unto them. SEPT. ὑπεραπίσμον, covering; VULG. scutum, a shield; SYR. sorrow.—W. H. H.].—תַּֽאֲלָה, from אָלַל, a curse, is ἅπ. λεγόμ. [SEPT. and VULG. seem to have read תְּלָאָה from לָאָה. For construction see Ps. 3:9. עַל־עַמְךָ בִרְכָהֶךָ super populo tuo sit benedictio tua. ROSENMUELLER, GERLACH.—W. H. H.]
Lam 3:66.—תִּרְדֹף וגו׳. See 1:6; Isa. 14:6; Jer. 21:15.—Of the root שָׁמַד Jeremiah uses only the Niphal, 48:8, 42.—The expression שְׁמֵי יי׳ is found only here.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Lam 3:55–66. These twelve closing verses contain a prayer, so that Lam 3, like chs. 1 and 2, ends with a prayer. This prayer is divided into three parts. In the first part, Lam 3:55–58, the speaker thanks the Lord for his deliverance from the pit. In the second part, Lam 3:59–63, he reminds the Lord of all that his (the speaker’s) enemies had done and were still doing to him. In the third part, Lam 3:64–66, he prays the Lord to avenge upon his enemies the evil they had done to him.
Lam 3:55. I called upon thy name, O LORD—Jehovah. The speaker begins by recalling the prayer which he had addressed to the Lord out of the pit. HITZIG is of the opinion that we have this prayer in Ps. 49. DELITZSCH also concedes that there is much to favor this opinion; see his Bible Commentary on the Psalms, 1867, p. 438. [The caption of this Psalm ascribes it to David. There is no internal evidence sufficient to set this aside and to prove that the Psalm was written by Jeremiah or some one else “during the captivity at Babylon.” Its appropriateness to Jeremiah when in the pit, is only a proof of the singular adaptation of the inspired psalms to the wants of God’s children in all varieties of emergencies and circumstances. That Jeremiah repeated this Psalm when in the pit, is most likely. That it was present to his mind when writing these Lamentations is rendered probable by many suggestive thoughts and sentiments.—GERLACH and NOYES translate the verbs, from Lam 3:55 to the end, in the present tense. This makes the translation in some respects smoother and the sense in some places more apparent. But the references are to deliverances past, pointing hopefully, amidst present and unrelieved afflictions, to deliverances yet in the future. For this reason alone, the preterite sense of the verbs should be retained, even if the difficulties of translation were greater than they really are.—W. H. H.].—Out of the low dungeon—out of the hellish (höllischen) pit. A similar expression [differing only in the preposition.—W. H. H.] is found in Ps. 88:7. If our Poet had in mind Ps. 88, which I regard as certain, then it is probable that he used this peculiar expression in the same sense in which it is used there. Ps. 88, it is true, is commonly understood of an affliction of another kind (by leprosy, Lam 3:9, 16): but there is room for the question, whether this psalm, “the gloomiest of all the lamentation psalms,” as DELITZSCH says, does not also apply to that gloomiest of all situations which any servant of the Lord in the Old Testament ever experienced? In that case תַּחְתִּיוֹת, hellish, should be understood, not of Hades itself, but of the Hades-like place in which the Prophet found himself. It would then indicate not merely the locality, but the condition of the Prophet. [See Gram. notes above. There is not necessarily in these words an allusion to Sheol, nor is hellish pit even a correct translation of the words, which mean literally, a pit of low or under places, or pit of depths; out of the depths of the pit, if not an exact is yet a sufficiently accurate rendering. GERLACH, while he also supposes an allusion, in a figurative sense, to Sheol, translates, aus der Grube der Tiefen, out of the pit of the depths, meaning perhaps, figuratively, the infernal regions. But the passages in which this and similar expressions occur do not justify the idea that the pit of Hell or Sheol, i.e. the place of the dead, is intended, even figuratively. The literal sense out of the pit of depths, a poetical expression for depths of the pit, is most consonant with the fact that the Prophet alludes to the time when he was literally sinking in the mire at the bottom of the well.—W. H. H.]
Lam 3:56. Thou hast heard my voice,—Thou heardest my voice. The Poet gratefully recognizes the fact that the Lord heard his cry,—Hide not thine ear at my breathing, at my cry.—[saying] Hide not Thine ear to my refreshment, to my cry. This is not a prayer which the speaker now addresses to the Lord [but the prayer which he did make when he was in the pit]. It is connected with קוֹלִי, my voice, as an explanation of the purport of that cry, and it shows what the speaker prayed for at that time.—The word רְוָחָה [E. V. breathing, NAEGELSB.refreshment] occurs besides here only in Ex. 8:11 (15) [and is there rendered by Sept. ἀνάψυξις], signifies undoubtedly the obtaining breath, ἀνάψυξις (see 1 Sam. 16:23; Job 32:20; Esth. 4:14). It is not synonymous with שַׁוְעָח, cry, but it denotes the end to which the latter serves as the means. [The sense is, as given by NOYES: Hide not Thine ear from my cry for relief. But a more exact translation is given by BLAYNEY: Hide not Thine ear from my relief at my cry;—so BROUGHTON: Hide not Thine ear from my release at my prayer. The verb means strictly to veil (and is so rendered here by GERLACH, Veil not Thine ear), and then to conceal, hide. “To veil the eye is, not to look at what is set before it; and to veil the ear is, to render it deaf to what is said;” remarks OWEN, who proposes the translation Deafen not Thine ear. FUERST, in his Lex, says, Turn not away Thine ear. CALVIN renders it, Close not Thine ear.—My breathing. WORDSWORTH: “My respiration, my recovery of breath. Comp. Ex. 8:15, the only other place where the word occurs, and where it is rendered respite.” The word relief seems in accordance with the use of the word in that passage, and exactly to represent the sense it has here.—But how are these last words connected with the first words of the verse? The difficulty which has embarrassed commentators here, is one of GERLACH’S arguments for taking the perfect verbs in a precative sense and rendering them in the present, which apparently meets the difficulty. But the objections to this have been stated above on Lam 3:55. To supply intermediate words and thoughts between the first and second members of the verse, as Thou heardest my voice, therefore now, in my present exigency, hide not Thine ear, etc., or therefore I now am encouraged to pray Hide not, etc., is at least arbitrary.3 To regard the last member as independent of the first, an interjectional prayer, introduces an abrupt and serious break in the consecutive flow of the thought. Besides, both of these interpretations are open to the objection that קוֹלִי שָׁמָעְתָּ, Thou heardest my voice, is not equivalent to saying, Thou didst answer my prayer, or receive it favorably; a mistake that even GERLACH has fallen into. The word קול denotes any audible sound or noise. Thunder (1 Sam. 7:10), the blast of a trumpet (Ex. 19:19), the crackling of thorns under a pot (Eccl. 7:6), the rustling of a shaken leaf (Lev. 26:36), the singing of birds (Ps. 104:12), the bleating of sheep and lowing of oxen (1 Sam. 15:14), the roaring of a lion (Jer. 12:8), the shout of a multitude and clamor of a battle (Ex. 32:17), etc., the sound of the human voice in speaking, singing, weeping, etc., are all represented by the common generic word קוֹל, a sound, a noise. In three passages the word is used in the sense of rumor, or the bruit of common fame: Gen. 45:16; Eccl. 10:20; Jer. 3:9. When connected by בְּ or לְ to verbs implying compliance with a request, obedience to a command, acceptance of advice, or the like, usage allows the word to stand in a specific sense for prayer, command, injunction, or the like; as Gen. 30:6, שָׁמַע בְּקוֹלִי, hath heard my voice, i.e. my prayer. In no other case does this word, alone and by itself, signify a command, prayer, or speech, or words spoken. It does not designate articulate utterance, but the sound produced by speech, or aught else that makes a noise, or is audible. Its meaning is always evolved from the context, and when spoken words are intended, it is almost invariably followed by לֵמוֹר ,אָמַר, or some similar word. Its use in Hebrew is so purely idiomatic, that the sense may often be better given in English by its entire omission, than by a verbally literal translation. This is often done in our English version: Gen. 45:2, he wept aloud; 1 Kings 18:27, cry aloud, Lam 3:28, they cried aloud; Neh. 8:15, publish and proclaim; Job 29:10, The nobles held their peace; Prov. 26:25, when he speaketh fair, etc. In Cant. 2:8; 5:2 (see Prof. GREEN in LANGE), and Isa. 40:3, 6 (see EWALD.), the word may be rendered as an interjection, Hark! It is obvious, therefore, that קוֹל cannot be translated prayer. שָׁמָעְתָּ קוֹלִי can only mean Thou heardest the sound of my voice. What that sound was, whether of weeping, lamentation or supplication, is left to be explained, and is explained by the words following; the sound, or cry was, Hide not Thine ear from my prayer for relief. Similar constructions are frequent, especially with Jeremiah. Jer. 3:21, a sound was heard upon the high places—weeping supplications; 4:31, The cry of the daughter of Zion—woe is me now! etc.; 8:19, The voice of the daughter of my people—Is not Jehovah in Zion? etc.; see Jer. 31:15; Ez. 3:12, I heard a voice—Blessed be the glory of Jehovah, etc.; Job 33:8, 9, I have heard the cry of words—I am clean, etc.; 4:16, 17, I heard a voice—shall mortal man, etc.; Ps. 116:1, He hath heard my voice—my supplications; 119:149, Hear my cry—Jehovah quicken me, etc. See Isa. 28:23, 24; 32:9, 10; Prov. 8:4, 5; Micah 6:1, 2; Prov. 1:20, 22; 8:1, 4, 5. In all these passages the word קוֹל is immediately put into expository words. So in our text, the second member of the verse is in apposition with the first and explanatory of the word קול, Thou heardest my cry—Hide not Thine ear from my prayer for relief.—W. H. H.]
Lam 3:57. The Poet now describes what the Lord did after hearing the prayer of the suppliant.—Thou drewest near in the day that—on the day when—I called upon Thee. See Ps. 20:10; 56:10; 102:3; 138:3.—Thou saidst, Fear not. See Jer. 1:8; 30:10; 46:27, 28.
Lam 3:58. The Lord has not only spoken, but also acted. [Lam 3:57, 58 are amplifications of Lam 3:56, showing how the Lord heard the prayer there recorded.—W. H. H.].—O Lord, thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul.—Thou hast fought, O Lord, the fights of my soul! It is evident that the Poet intends by these conflicts (ריבִים) the attacks of his enemies, which he has described in Lam 3:52–55, and for which, from Lam 3:59 onward, he implores vengeance. That the struggles on which his life depended were severe, appears both from Lam 3:52–55 and from the following words Thou hast rescued my life. [The Versions generally take the words in the judicial sense, as in our English Bibles. The commentators fail to explain the significance of the metaphor. Pool’s annotation is a curious instance of blindly unsaying in the note what is said in the text,—“Thou hast been wont to take my part against my enemies, not like a lawyer by word of mouth, but actually and really pleading my cause.” Pleading a cause, metaphorically speaking, must at least involve the idea of securing justification, or exemption from punishment, before some legal tribunal, real or imaginary. This idea is not appropriate here, nor is it so in other places of the Bible where the same Hebrew words are similarly translated. This leads us to doubt the judicial interpretation of the terms used. Dr. NAEGELSBACH’S translation is supported by Is. 49:25, I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children; 41:11, they that strive with, thee shall perish; 34:8, the controversy of Zion; Ps. 35:1, E. V., Plead my cause, O LORD, with them that strive with me: fight against them, that, fight against me, where the first clause is rendered by Dr. ALEXANDER, Oppose my opposers, strive with my strivers, or contend with my contenders, which is recommended by the parallelism; and Jer. 51:36, E. V., I will plead thy cause and take vengeance for thee, which Dr. NAEGELSBACH translates, I fight thy fight, and avenge thy vengeance. But the words may have another meaning still. רוּב has an acquired sense, from the idea of conducting a cause before a tribunal, of managing another’s affairs, and also of protecting their person, properly and rights. In this sense the word seems to be used in Is. 1:17, E. V., plead for the widow. J. A. ALEXANDER: “Befriend the widow, take her part, espouse her cause. * * The common version (plead for the widow) seems to apply too exclusively to advocates, as distinguished from judges;”—a remark that will especially apply in the present case. The word seems to have the same sense in Is. 51:22, and Jer. 50:34. In the last the expression is רִיב יָריב אֶת־רִיבָם, E. V.: He shall thoroughly plead their cause, LUTHER and NAEGELSBACH, He will certainly accomplish, or carry through (durchführen) thy cause, where the idea seems to be that of zealously and successfully prosecuting the interests of another. This is the meaning which GERLACH adopts, Thou managest the business of my soul, i.e., as he explains, the affairs which concern his life and his salvation. This idea of God’s controlling interposition in those matters in which the Prophet’s life was in jeopardy seems to me the idea here expressed.—W. H. H.]—Thou hast redeemed my life.—Thou hast rescued my life. [The propriety of connecting this verse with Lam 3:55–57, instead of with Lam 3:59, 60, and thus dismembering the triplets, is very dubious.—W. H. H.]
Lam 3:59–63. These verses embrace, as remarked above, the second part of the prayer. The speaker here reminds the Lord of all the evil which he had suffered from his enemies, as the Lord Himself had seen and heard, and prays Him (Lam 3:62, 63) to consider well what, his enemies yet continually designed against him. These verses contain a brief intimation of the prayer which he presents at large in Lam 3:64–66, that the Lord would execute justice (Lam 3:59).
Lam 3:59. LORD—Jehovah—thou hast seen.—By these words, which are repeated in Lam 3:60, and the words Thou hast heard in Lam 3:61, the speaker confirms the reality of the deeds of which he accuses his adversaries. [They are also to be understood as expressions of faith in God’s love, and personal interest in His saints. Not only is everything open to the eye and ear of God. But He is observing the conduct and the language of those who injure His people, with jealous indignation, which will eventually break out in judgments.—W. H. H.]—My wrong. The Hebrew word עַוָּתָה, occurs only here, but the verb from which it is derived is found in Lam 3:36, עִוֵּת. If the latter is used in the sense of bending [deflection, subversion] and in particular of bending of the right [subverting one in his cause], then the noun here means, violation of right, injury illegally done to one. [CALVIN and GERLACH translate the word oppression, or subversion, suggesting judicial perversion of justice. It is generally, however, taken in the more general sense of wrong or injury. CALVIN says “the word is rendered by some iniquity, but in an ironical sense,” i.e., the wrong my enemies impute to me. But the word is with almost entire unanimity taken in a passive sense. ROSENMUELLER: quæ mihi fiat injuria. NOYES: the wrong done to me; so BLAYNEY and BOOTHROYD,—W. H. H.].—Judge thou my cause—judge my right. [So BROUGHTON. GERLACH: Secure to me right or justice. Literally, it is judge my judgment, where the noun seems to be taken in the cognate sense of my cause. See FUERST, Lex. NOYES: Maintain Thou my cause.—W. H. H.] These words are a pious ejaculation, anticipatory of the prayer fully detailed in Lam 3:64–66, and evidently called forth by the antithesis of עַוָּתָתִי, my wrong. To judge the right of a man is to bring it to its deserts by means of judgment. A kindred passage is Jer. 5:28. Comp. Zech. 7:9; 1 Kings 3:28; Is. 16:5. [See also Ps. 9:5 (4).]
Lam 3:60. Thou hast seen all their vengeance.—The word נְקָמָה is not in its original meaning vindictiveness, as THENIUS supposes, but simply ultio [taking vengeance] (comp. נִקְמַת דָּם, Ps. 79:10, קְמַת חֵיכָלוֹJer. 50:28, אֵל נְקָמוֹת, Ps. 94:1, etc.). Here also it is vengeance, but in an abstract-collective signification, inasmuch as his adversaries had executed on the Prophet more than one single act on vengeance. See 11:20; 20:12. [CALVIN: vengeances. GERLACH: revengefulness.]—And all their imaginations against me—all their devices against me. The Poet seems to allude to certain passages in Jeremiah, namely, 11:19; 18:18, where this very same word, מֲחַשָׁבֹת, is emphatically used of the machinations of his adversaries.
Lam 3:61. Thou hast heard their reproach—reviling—O LORD—Jehovah. See the introductory remarks above on Lam 3:22–24.—And all their imaginations—all their devices—against me.—Twice in the Book of Jeremiah the devices, מַֽחֲשָׁבֹת, of his adversaries are spoken of; twice also the Poet uses it here.
Lam 3:62. It is better every way to refer this verse to the Behold or observe, הַבִּיטָה, of Lam 3:63, than to the, שָׁמַעְתָּ, Thou hast heard, of Lam 3:61. For if referred to what precedes, Lam 3:62 would contain a tautology, because what is the product of their lips and their thoughts must be, in any case, substantially the same with what the Lord has heard according to Lam 3:61. But if Lam 3:62 be referred to what follows then we gain a beautiful gradation; the lips indicate what the enemies speak, הֶגְיוֹנָם, their meditation, what they think, and their sitting down and their rising up, what they do. [The position of the word Behold, חַבִּיטָה, in the Hebrew, at the end of the first member of Lam 3:63, favors this construction. Yet it ought to be remarked, that the connection of Lam 3:62 with Lam 3:61, creates no unpleasant tautology but the repetition of the same ideas under new terms would be forcible and poetical—W. H. H.]—The lips stand for what they utter. [CALVIN, BOOTHROYD, HENDERSON, translate speeches; NOYES, words.] See שְׂפַת כְּנַעַן, lips, or language of Canaan, Is. 19:18; a lip or language I understood, not, Ps. 81:6 (5). Compare מוֹצָא שְׂפָתַיutterance of my lips, Jer. 17:16.—Of those that rose up against me—my adversaries [so BLAYNEY, BOOTHROYD, NOYES, ROSENMUELLER, GERLACH].—And their device against me—and their thoughts against me. Thoughts, הִגִיוֹן, meditation, Ps. 19:15 (14). [BLAYNEY, BOOTHROYD and OWEN, render the word muttering. HENDERSON and NOYES, machinations. But the sense of meditation, thoughts, is adopted generally. ROSENMUELLER, cogitatio.—W. H. H.]—All the daylong: a particular conspicuous also in Jer. 20:7, 8.
Lam 3:63. Behold their sitting down and their rising up.—To refer these words, with THENIUS merely to consessus [sitting and deliberating together] of the enemies, is inconsistent with the context and the use of the words. For evidently, according to the context, the Lord should observe the whole conduct and doing of the enemies, and that not merely with regard to what was common to them all, but with respect to individuals. And further, according to the usage of the word, as apparent in such places as Ps. 139:2; Is. 37:28: Deut. 6:7; 11:19, the expression indicates the daily conduct and actions of a man. [GROTIUS: otia et negotia. CALVIN: “By sitting and rising, he means all the actions of life, as when David says, ‘Thou knowest my sitting and my rising,’ Ps. 139:2; that is, whether I rest or walk, all my actions are known to Thee. By rising, then, the Prophet denotes here, as David did, all the movements or doings of men; and by sitting, he means their quiet counsels; for men either deliberate and prepare for work while they sit or rise, and thus move and act.”]—I am their music—song. See Lam 3:14. He calls himself their song, their sing-song (EWALD), because they busy themselves with him all the day long, though in a malevolent and scornful way. As one often hums a melody to himself all day long so they do not let the thought of the hated servant of God depart out of their heads, but are constantly devising evil against him. I am their song denotes, then, the result of what is said in the first member of Lam 3:62 [Thou hast heard their reproach], and the first member of Lam 3:63 [observe the lips—the language—of my enemies], and relates to the all the day long, of Lam 3:62, and their sitting down and rising up, of Lam 3:63. [I am the constant subject of their derision and merriment. WORDSWORTH: “Compare the Passion Psalm, 69:12, I was the song of the drunkards. There the word neginah is used, here the cognate word manginah.”—W. H. H.]
Lam 3:64–66. In these last three verses, the Poet prays directly that the Lord would take vengeance on his enemies according to their desert.
Lam 3:64. Render unto them a recompense, O Lord—Jehovah,—according to the work of their hands. [BROUGHTON: “St. Paul translateth this verse against ALEXANDER, the copper-smith, 2 Tim. 4:14” The phrase is borrowed from Ps. 28:4.—W. H. H.]
Lam 3:65. Give them sorrow (marg., obstinacy) of heart. Thou wilt give them blindness of heart. The word rendered blindness, מְגִנָּה, according to the fundamental idea of the root נָּנַן, to enclose, to veil (see מָגֵן ,נַּנָּה ,גַּן), can only mean veiling, covering (κἁλυμμα τῆς καρδίας, veil of the heart, 2 Cor. 3:15). It seems then that blindness [CALVIN, ROSENMUELLER, NOYES, GERLACH], not hardness [BOOTHROYD, HENDERSON], is meant. See Deut. 28:28. On what DELITZSCH (Psychol., p. 291) grounds his conjecture, that it may be a name for madness, I do not comprehend. [The opinion that the word means madness is derived from the Arabic, and is maintained by C. B. MICHAELIS and A. SCHULTENS. See ROSENMUELLER, GERLACH. See Text. and Gram. notes.—By blindness of heart we are to understand a reprobate mind, involving the idea of stupidity (CALVIN) produced by sin.—If the future verbs in Lam 3:54, 56, are taken as Imperatives, the verb in this verse should also be so translated, Give them blindness of heart—W. H. H.]—Thy cur unto them.—upon them.
Lam 3:66. Persecute and destroy them in anger—Pursue them in wrath and exterminate them—from under the Heavens of the LORD—Jehovah. See Deut. 9:14, which place seems to have been in the eye of the author. [CALVIN, regarding the Heavens as designating God’s throne, interprets the meaning to be that their destruction should testify the Divine sovereignty and Providence. So FAUSSET: “destroy them so, that it may be seen everywhere under heaven that Thou sittest above as Judge of the world.” This is very forced. The idea is simply that of utter extermination; destroy them so completely, ut non sint amplius sub cœlis, that they may no longer exist under Heaven. MICHAELIS, GERLACH.—BROUGHTON concludes the chapter with the following characteristic note: “Jeremy, Lam 24, told how the men of the third captivity should come to nothing. And Ezekiel prophesied only in their days, but they would take no warning. This threefold alphabet endeth in their threefold and absolute destruction. Yet Ezra was of that captivity; but an infant. And of Anathoth, cursed by Jeremy, one hundred and twenty-eight returned, Ezra 2.”—The enemies of Jeremiah returned not.—W. H. H.]
 DIODATI’s comment on this verse is an instance of interpretation, where a fervid imagination supplies ideas not contained in the words themselves: “Thou hast always been ready to relieve me when I have called upon Thee; O continue in doing so now at this present.”