Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
DISTRESS AND HOPE OF THE PRISONERS AND FUGITIVES: [EXPRESSED IN THE FORM OF A PRAYER OR, E. V., A PITIFUL COMPLAINT OF ZION IN PRAYER UNTO GOD.—W. H. H.]
Lamentations 5:1. Remember, Jehovah, what has come upon us!
Look down and see our reproach.
Lamentations 5:2. Our inheritance has fallen to strangers,
Our houses to aliens.
Lamentations 5:3. We have become orphans, without father,
Our mothers—as widows.
Lamentations 5:4. Our water we have drunk for money,
Our wood comes for a price.
Lamentations 5:5. On our necks we have been pursued;
We have been weary,—there was no rest for us.
Lamentations 5:6. Towards Egypt have we stretched the hand,—
Towards Assyria,—to be satisfied with bread.
Lamentations 5:7. Our fathers sinned. They are no more;
We have borne their iniquities.
Lamentations 5:8. Servants have ruled over us:
There was none to deliver from their hand.
Lamentations 5:9. At the peril of our lives we get our bread,
Because of the sword of the desert.
Lamentations 5:10. Our skin has been parched as an oven,
Because of the ragings of hunger.
Lamentations 5:11. Women in Zion have been humbled,—
Virgins—in the cities of Judah.
Lamentations 5:12. Princes have been hung up by the hand:
The persons of Elders have not been honored.
Lamentations 5:13. Young men have carried mill-stones;
And boys have fallen under [burdens of] wood.
Lamentations 5:14. Elders have forsaken the gate,—
Young men—their music.
Lamentations 5:15. Ceased has the joy of our heart;
Our dance has been changed to mourning.
Lamentations 5:16. The crown has fallen from our head.
Woe unto us! for we have sinned.
Lamentations 5:17. For this our heart has become faint;
For these things our eyes have become dim.
Lamentations 5:18. As to Mount Zion, which has become desolate,
The foxes have walked upon it!
Lamentations 5:19. But Thou, Jehovah, reignest forever;
Thy throne is from generation to generation.
Lamentations 5:20. Wherefore should’st Thou always forget us,
And abandon us for length of days?
Lamentations 5:21. Turn us, Jehovah, unto Thee, and we shall turn;
Renew our days as of old;—
Lamentations 5:22. If Thou hast not utterly rejected us,
And art wroth against us exceedingly!
The subject is chiefly composed of the particular incidents of those grievous days which followed the capture of Jerusalem. The Poet lets the people speak yet not as an ideal female person, but in the first person plural as a concrete multitude. The Song is divided into an introduction, Lam 5:1, two principal parts, Lam 5:2–7, 8–16, and a conclusion, Lam 5:17–22. In the introduction, Lam 5:1, the Lord is entreated to regard the sorrows that had befallen Zion [the people]. In the following two principal parts, Lam 5:2–16, these sorrows are described in detail. The first part embraces Lam 5:2–7. All their property, fixed and movable, is seized by the enemy, Lam 5:2; families are scattered, fathers have disappeared, mothers are as widows, Lam 5:3; the captives receive no subsistence, they must buy what they need, though as the product of their own land it is really their own property, Lam 5:4; on the march to Babylon, they are driven beyond their strength, and no rest is allowed them, Lam 5:5. Besides all this, the whole people do not even remain, together. Whilst one party is compelled to throw itself into the arms of the Egyptians, another party belongs to Assyria; both are in such straits as to rejoice if able only to prolong their lives, Lam 5:6. But this great misfortune is caused by the sins of the fathers, the consequences of which now their posterity have to bear, Lam 5:7. The second principal part embraces Lam 5:8–16. Whilst those forced to Babylon groan under the rods of the rough servants, who are their drivers, Lam 5:8, those who wander to Egypt, must seek for subsistence amidst constant danger from the robbers of the desert, Lam 5:9: both parties suffer the consuming pangs of hunger, Lam 5:10. To this is now added a recital, partly the recollection of what had already been endured, partly an exhibition of what they still experienced, of the sufferings from which no class of the population was exempted: women have been dishonored, Lam 5:11; noble princes hung up or outrageously ill-treated, Lam 5:12; young men compelled to carry heavy hand-mills, and boys loads of wood, Lam 5:13. Sitting in the gate—the delight and glory of old men, and playing on stringed instruments—the pleasure of young men, have come to an end, Lam 5:14. In general, among all classes, deep mourning has succeeded to pleasure and joy, Lam 5:15. The crown of glory has fallen from the head of Zion, and, verily, those who suffer this, are obliged to acknowledge, that it has happened, not merely because their fathers had sinned (Lam 5:7), but because they themselves have sinned, Lam 5:16. The conclusion contains a prayer, to which Lam 5:17, 18 are introductory. In these verses it is declared, that all the affliction of the Israelites culminates in the destruction of the Sanctuary. But this thought suggests the encouragement, which the Poet now presents in his prayer; although the external Sanctuary is destroyed, Thou Thyself, O Lord, remainest for ever, ver, 19. Wherefore shouldest Thou forget and forsake Thy people for ever? Lam 5:20. Lead us back to Thyself, that we may be again what we have been in former times, Lam 5:21. This will be done, for it is not to be supposed, that Thou canst have utterly rejected us, Lam 5:22. [Lam 5:1, introductory; Lam 5:2–10, descriptive of general suffering from oppression and want of necessaries of life; Lam 5:11–13, instances of individual suffering; Lam 5:14–18, effect on the feelings and sentiments of the people; Lam 5:19–22, the prayer.—W. H. H.]
PRELIMINARY NOTE ON LAM 5
This chapter is not acrostic. Yet it is evident from the agreement of the number of the verses with the number of the letters of the alphabet, that the chapter should be regarded as belonging to the four preceding ones as a member of the same family. The acrostic is wanting, because the contents are in prose. The Poet would make apparent, even in the external form, the decrescendo movement, which we perceive from the third chapter onward. Were there not 22 verses, this chapter might be regarded as an entirely disconnected supplement. But the number of verses is a vinculum, that in a way even externally observable, unites this prosaic chapter with the preceding poetical ones.
[Various reasons may be given for the absence of the acrostic in this chapter.1 1. There may be something in the notion that the alphabetical structure was not allowed to embarrass freedom of thought and expression in prayer (GERLACH, ADAM CLARKE). 2. We may suppose the writer felt less need of the artificial restraint in controlling his feelings and restricting their expression. It is not true that this Song “is of less impassioned character” than the others, as WORDSWORTH says, but it is true, as he further says, that “the writer, being less agitated by emotions, and having tranquillized himself by the utterance of his sorrow, and by meditations on the attributes of God, did not need the help of that artificial appliance to support and control him.” Besides, new restraints are imposed upon the writer in this Song, which more than supply any assistance derived from the alphabetical curb in the preceding songs. The verses are reduced from three and two members each, to a single member, and this not only balanced by a cesura or pause as in the other songs, but composed of corresponding parallelisms of ideas and expressions. To have added, to the production of these distinct and emphatic parallelisms, the difficulties of the acrostic, could have served no useful or artistic purpose. 3. In the last fact referred to, the introduction of parallelisms of thought and sentiment, may be found the most satisfactory reason for the absence of the acrostic. As long as the parallelisms were merely rhythmical, as in the first four songs, the alphabetical index served a good purpose in rounding off and defining the successive verses. Now it is no longer needed. We find here then an argument in favor of the theory advanced, in Additional Remarks to the Introduction, p. 23, in reference to the relation of the Acrostic to rhythmical parallelisms.
Is this chapter poetry or prose? Dr. NAEGELSBACH says, “the acrostic is wanting because the contents are in prose.”2 He certainly cannot mean that the chapter is prose, because the acrostic is wanting; and yet unless he implies this, he has not even suggested a reason for this most extraordinary assertion. This chapter has poetical characteristics, that the preceding chapters do not possess; besides having all that they do possess, except the acrostic, which in itself is unpoetical. 1. It has that unfailing mark of Hebrew poetry, of which the preceding chapters are nearly destitute, parallelisms of thought, one half the verse exactly and beautifully corresponding in its sentiment and form of construction to the preceding half, and successive verses connected by underlying analogies, comparisons, or relations, such as parallelisms involve. 2. The language is so unmistakably rhythmical as to be almost metrical. The first line of each verse never consists of more than four words, nor of less than three, counting compound words as one. The second line never consists of more than three words (unless in two instances, where לאֹ Lam 5:12, and כִּי or נָא Lam 5:16, may be joined to the word following them), and if it have two words only, those two are in that case invariably long words. In this song, if anywhere in Hebrew poetry, we can detect evidences of such metrical feet as the Hebrew language was capable of. 3. There is throughout the Song such assonance as cannot be accidental, and could only be allowed in poetry. The Song is full of rhymes. This may not justify us in calling it a “strictly rhymed Song” (as does BELLERMAN, Metr. d. Hebr., S. 220, quoted by GERLACH), but it is certainly a result of the evident regard to assonance in the choice of words. Thus in this Song that is composed of only 44 short lines, וּ occurs 55 times, and 44 times as final letter of words; ם occurs 21 times as final letter of words: out of the 134 words the Song contains, 65, or only 2 less than one half, end in either וּ or ם. 24, or more than half of the lines, end with וּ, 17 end with גוּ, 9 end with מ. In 9 verses (1, 2, 4, 5, 11, 12, 15, 16, 17) both lines end with the same letter (or letters) and vowel point. 28 lines end with the same letter that terminates one (or both) of the lines of the verse immediately preceding or following. Other evidences of a studied assonance are apparent: such as מָגוֹת ,אָב, as terminations of Lam 5:3; עֵצֵינוּ ,מֵימֵינוּ, first words in the lines of Lam 5:4; מִכְּנֵי as first word in second lines of verses 9, 10, making a parallelism in sound as well as in sense; שָׁבַת ,שָׁבָתוּ, in near relation and parallelism, Lam 5:14, 15, and possibly an equivalent for failure of rhyme in Lam 5:14; לִבֵּנוּ, as last word in first lines of Lam 5:15, 17; etc. So obvious is the prevailing paronomasia in this Song, that the remark has been made, that the Song appears like ‘the effort of a youth playing with words’ (quoted by GERLACH). To the slur contained in this remark, it may be replied, that no unskilled youth, even if capable of choosing his words so artfully, could have arranged them so as to give both harmony and sense, and thus produce a poem equal in fervor, force and beauty to this. But the fact that such an insult could be offered to this Song, proves that it is written in a style only adopted in poetry. 4. In spirit as well as in form, this chapter is poetry, and that of the highest order. There is nothing prosaic about it, not even in the recital of hard facts and detailed incidents. As the Song proceeds the lyre is tuned to higher chords than even inspired minstrels often reach, and Lam 5:14–19, are so exquisitely beautiful that we cannot imagine anything to excel them in all the Songs of Heaven and earth. I cannot repress the expression of these sentiments and be a silent instrument in giving to American readers, this strange opinion of an eminent man, that this chapter is a bit of prose writing, tacked on to a splendid poem, by the poor expedient of its containing twenty-two verses (though it is something new to write prose in verses). Were I more diffident of my own judgment, I might take refuge under the shadow of DEAN MILMAN, who in culling from the Lamentations what he regards as specimens of “the deepest pathos of poetry,” gives us a metrical translation of nearly the whole of the 5th chapter (14 out of the 22 verses), while he selects only three verses from chap. 1, eight verses from chap, 2, three verses from chap, 4, and none from chap. 3. It is to be inferred that in his judgment, the fifth Song excels in its poetry the four Songs that precede it. I agree with him.
That the only connection of this chapter with the preceding four chapters is found in the corresponding number of its verses, without which it might be regarded as a supplement to those chapters, but not as an integral part of the Poem, is an opinion that will not sustain examination. 1. It is, as we have seen, lyrical in its structure, and thus assimilated to the preceding Songs. 2. The Poem could not end with the fourth chapter. Such an ending were too painfully abrupt. Even as it is, the burden of Edom seems to be intruded at that place, and we only comprehend it, when we know that it was Jeremiah’s habit to represent the security of the church of God, by depicting the destruction of its enemies. But to end the Poem with that threat against Edom, would seem to be impossible. Something more is needed, and that something is just what we have in the prayer of Lam 5:3. The only way to account for the omission of the usual prayer (see 1, 2, 3) at the end of the 4th Song, is by the fact that its omission was to be more than supplied by the 5th Song. Here is the groove into which the fifth Song is dovetailed so securely, that we cannot break the connection, without marring the harmony and completeness of the whole poem. 4. The structure of this last Song, gives the last needed touch to the manifest unity of the whole poem. The preceding chapters may be regarded as composing a poem not unlike the modern ode, in which great liberties in the versification are allowed. But the Ode, complete in its main parts, is wound up at last with a Hymn of prayer to God, constructed according to the strictest rules of lyrical poetry, metrical and harmonious, and forming an apt conclusion because it recites all that has been before said, briefly and forcibly,—sums up, as it were, the whole case, and leaves it in the hands of God. Finally Dr. NAEGELSBACH’S beautiful fiction of a crescendo and a decrescendo movement, does not need the flattening out of the Poem into a piece of prose writing, attached to what precedes only by the number of its verses. It is enough that the decrescendo movement, in the music of the Poem, is arrested at the close, and the Poet’s most plaintive lyre pours forth a final strain of impassioned, yet melting and delicious harmony.—W. H. H.]
[The opinion of BERTHOLF, that the Prophet “either had no more time to spend in the troublesome choice of initial words, or that he grew tired of this trifling process and deliberately relinquished it,” (quoted by GERLACH in his Intr. p. x.), is sufficiently refuted, not only by its own irreverence, but by what has been said in reference to the acrostic in Additional Remarks to Intr. pp. 23, 24.—W. H. H.]
[We cannot misunderstand our author, for besides speaking of this as a “prosaic chapter” and comparing it with the preceding “poetical chapters” (see also Intr. pp. 3, 4, 5), he puts his new translation into good German prose—while he has given us most beautiful metrical translations of the other four chapters.—W. H. H.]
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. Lam 5:1. Remember, O LORD. “It is unworthy of the majesty of God to impute the fault of forgetfulness to Him, but He maDOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. Lam 5:1. Remember, O LORD. “It is unworthy of the majesty of God to impute the fault of forgetfulness to Him, but He may be entreated to be mindful or to remember, in order to render speedy assistance to the needy, and thus make manifest what [viz. His remembrance] was before concealed.” RHABANUS in GHISLER., p. 213.
2. Lam 5:1. [Consider, and behold. CALVIN: “The words, though brief and concise, yet contain a useful doctrine, that God is pleased to bring help to the miserable when their evils come to an account before Him, especially when they are unjustly oppressed. It is indeed certain, that nothing is unknown to God, but this mode of speaking is according to the perceptions of men; for we think that God disregards our miseries, or we imagine that His back is turned to us when He does not immediately succor us. But He is simply to be asked to look on our evils,… as soon as He is pleased to look on the evils we suffer, aid is at the same time prepared for us.”—Our reproach. CALVIN: “There is mention especially made of reproach, that the indignity might move God the more; for it was for this end that He took the people under His protection, that they might be for His glory and honor, as Moses says. As then, it was God’s will that the riches of His glory should appear in that people, nothing could have been more inconsistent than that, instead of glory, they should have nothing but disgrace and reproach. This, then, is the reason why the Prophet makes a special mention of the reproach of the people.’]
3. Lam 5:1. “He does not say, ‘Remember, O Lord, our enemies, that they may suffer as their deeds deserve,’ but, ‘Be mindful of what has happened to us,’ as if he would say in effect, ‘Remembering the evils which we suffer take them away, but overlook the doers of them.’ When he says, ‘What has happened,’ or ‘what has been done to us,’ he discriminates between what we suffer and what is natural [normal], for these evils are not natural or normal, but accidental, resulting from the manifold effects of sin.” PASCHASIUS in GHISLER., p. 213.
4. Lam 5:1. “The cross seems all the lighter when we lament over it to a true, confidential friend, and show him how it pains us, and he with brotherly sympathy or good advice, removes from us a part of our burden. But men cannot always help us, however sincerely they desire to do so. But he who commends his affairs to God, complains to the right and faithful Helper, who has invited us to pray to Him (Ps. 13:6; 27:8; 37:5; 55:23; Sir. 2:11).” EGID. HUNNIUS. ”In adversity we should not, with the Papists, fly for assistance to the dead, who are ignorant of our afflictions (Is. 63:16;) nor, with the superstitious and profane, to magicians and wizards (Is. 8:19, 20); but, after the example of the church in this passage, we should fly to the Lord (Hos. 6:1–3 [E. V. Hos. 5:15–6:2]; 2 Chr. 20:12).” FÖRSTER.
5. Lam 5:2–16. “Because everything contained in this list of evils was long before predicted to the Israelites with the greatest exactness [lit. to a very hair’s breadth] in the ancient Mosaic list [of curses], contained in the twenty-eighth chapter of Deuteronomy,… we learn from the agreement of the Mosaic list with the manifest eventu or fulfilment in the captive people of Judah, how the threatenings, contained for us in God’s word are to be regarded, not as mere empty, inefficient words to terrify us, but for an undoubted, sure, and certain reckoning and list, whereby God’s temporal and eternal wrath from Heaven against the ungodly is revealed and threatened, as it is written in the first chapter of Romans.” EGID. HUNNIUS. “This is useful, that we may carry the cup straight, and look well to ourselves, lest it may happen to us in the same way that faith comes to be experience.” CRAMER.
6. Lam 5:2. “That these things may not happen to us also, let us be pious, upright, and temperate in the acquisition, possession, and use of our property; in reference to which Paul admonishes us in 1 Cor. 7:30, 31, that while we are in the world, we should not use the world [Vulg.], that we may have worldly possessions, but should possess them as though we had them not. Besides that, threefold woe of Habakkuk (2:6) presses hard upon us. Use is commendable, abuse criminal.” FÖRSTER.
7. Lam 5:3. Our mothers are as widows. “By mothers are intended the seven synagogues, which are known to have been established principally on the Mount Olives, from which flowed the milk of doctrine.… But in the time of the siege or of the Chaldean ravages, their children having been removed, they were abandoned and consumed with fire.” PASCHASIUS in GHISLER., p. 214.
8. Lam 5:4, 6, 9, 10. “We learn especially how God punishes the misuse of His gifts of plenty and abundance when, for instance, men are not thankful to God in times of profusion and cheapness, but squander uselessly His gifts, wine and fruits of the earth, by gormandizing and carousing, gluttonizing and guzzling, banqueting and tippling; then God withdraws His blessings and gifts; food becomes scarce so that it is not easily procured; and He sends a famine so that water and precious bread can hardly be obtained, as was the case with the Jewish people. But they had well deserved it by their rioting, which the Prophet Isaiah long before rebuked, when he enumerated, among other gross vices of the house of Judah, drunkenness also, and called down a woe upon it (Is. 5:11–13, comp. Amos 6:4–7) … But the punishment terminates not in temporal poverty. Excessive indulgence in eating and drinking is such a pernicious vice that a man forfeits thereby his part in the Kingdom of Heaven (1 Cor. 6:9, 10), and must be deprived of eternal happiness, and must suffer thirst with the rich drunkard eternally in the flames of Hell (Luke 16; Is. 5:14).” EGID. HUNNIUS.
9. Lam 5:6. “According to the real meaning of the Hebrew, the church weeps for her children, when members of Christ and ministers of the altar, for the sake of earthly things, give the hand to those more powerful or to worldly men, who are rendered foul by the blackness of their [ill-gotten] wealth or other crimes.” PASCHASIUS in GHISLER., p. 216.
10. Lam 5:7. “Undeservedly, O Roman, must thou pay the penalty for the sins of thine ancestors.” HORACE, Odes, B. III., Ode 6. “Already have we sufficiently expiated the perjury of the Laomedonian Troy with our blood.” VIRGIL. Georg. I., 501, 2. “This is rightly lamented in the church also, that when the priests and the princes of the earth are delinquent, for their faults, as it were, the people are punished.” PASCHASIUS in GHISLER., p. 218. “When their kings act the fool, the Greeks are punished.” HORACE.
11. Lam 5:7. [POOL’S Annot.: “We must not understand this in the same sense as Ez. 18:2, where God reflecteth upon them for using a proverb to this sense. It is the Prophet who here speaketh, and in the name of the godly Jews, who would not excuse themselves as if they suffered merely for their forefathers’ sins. But the Prophet confesseth and bewaileth that God had punished their iniquities and the iniquities of their forefathers together; and it was better with their forefathers who had sinned, and were dead and gone, than with them, upon whom the punishment of their iniquity did abide, and was like so to do for a long time.”—Our fathers have sinned, and are not. CALVIN: “Our Prophet’s object was to turn God to mercy; and to attain this object he says, ‘O Lord, Thou indeed hast hitherto executed just punishment, because our fathers had very long abused Thy goodness and forbearance; but now the time has come for Thee to try and prove whether we are like our fathers; as then, they have perished as they deserved, receive us now into favor.’ We hence see that thus no quarrel or contention is carried on with God, but only that the miserable exiles ask God to look on them, since their fathers, who had provoked God and had experienced His dreadful vengeance, were already dead.”—And we have borne their iniquities. CALVIN: “When he says that the sons bore the iniquities of the fathers, though it be a strong expression, yet its meaning is not as though God, without reason, punished their children and not their fathers; for unalterable is that declaration, ‘The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, nor the father the iniquity of the son; but the soul that sinneth it shall die’ (Ez. 18:20). It may yet be said that the children are loaded with the sins of their fathers, because God, as He declares by Moses, extends His vengeance to the third and fourth generation (Ex. 20:5). And He says also in another place, ‘I will return into the bosom of children the iniquity of their fathers’ (Jer. 32:18). God then continued His vengeance to their posterity. But yet there is no doubt but that the children who had been so severely punished, bore also the punishment of their own iniquity, for they deserved a hundred deaths. But these two things well agree together, that God returns the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children, and yet that the children are chastised for their own sins.” HENRY: “They acknowledge the reproach of sin which they bear. This comes in, in the midst of their complaints, but may well be put in the front of them. This is not here a peevish complaint, or an imputation of unrighteousness to God, like what we have in Jer. 31:29; Ez. 18:2, but a penitent confession of the sins of their ancestors, which they themselves had also persisted in, for which they now justly suffered. Thus they submit themselves to the Divine justice, and refer themselves to the Divine pity. And, truly, the sins God looks back upon in punishing, we must look back upon in repenting, and must notice all that will help to justify God in correcting us. And if we be penitent and patient under what we suffer for the sins of our fathers, we may expect that He who punishes will pity, and soon return in mercy.”]
11. Lam 5:8. “Here occurs a lesson concerning slavery, in reference to which we must hold, that it may be regarded as belonging to the law of nations, but cannot be considered as belonging to the law of nature, because man was created and born for a state of liberty, but slavery is the punishment of sin, as is evident from Gen. 9:25, where slavery was legally imposed upon Ham, who is, as it were, the patriarch of slaves.” FÖRSTER.—[Servants have ruled over us. CLARKE: “To be subject to such is the most painful and dishonorable bondage:—
Quid domini faciant, audent cum talia fures?
Virg. Ecl. iii. 16.
‘Since slaves so insolent are grown,
What may not masters do?’ ”]
12. Lam 5:11–14. “We see by means of a passage relating to the Jews of that same period, when women begin to be haughty and virgins proud, that they are brought to dishonor and shame (Is. 3:16–24). We see and learn also, when princes and chief men and the nobles in a land and nation boast of their position and worth, what perchance sometimes happens to them on that account.… Likewise when the old men or elders in the gates, or in their courts, let every sort of unrighteousness go free and for the sake of reward and gifts pervert the right, and yet will not allow their jurisdiction to be amended, as the elders in Judah would not be rebuked by the Prophets, then we see and learn, what follows thereon, that God lets the court and court-houses at last be reformed by the warriors with the broad axe, that court and judges may be converted, and court-houses lie in dust and ashes.… Further, if the young men make too much of their sports, and young women of their songs and dances, we see and learn that God can cast the instruments of music out of their hands, and change their songs and dances into woful lamentations, as happened to the wilful youth among the Jewish people: to those who, before the Babylonish captivity, treated that matter too lightly, misused their music in their feasts and entertainments, so that the Prophets, Isaiah in his fifteenth chapter, Amos in his sixteenth, as also Jeremiah and others, were compelled to preach against it with all their might. But because their preaching was not heeded, God sent the Babylonians, who stopped their proceedings, so that their pipes fell into the ashes, and their stringed instruments into the dirt, and they at Babylon had to hang up their harps on the willow-trees that were there, as is said in Ps. 137, and to carry instead of them mill-stones and wood, till they stumbled and fell under their burdens.” EGID. HUNNIUS.
13. Lam 5:13. “The children fell under the wood. The reason for this, according to our explanation was, because they were unwilling to believe on the Christ hanging on the wood. Hence one of the Apostles says, The cross is foolishness to the Gentiles, and to the Jews a stumbling-block. So then, they fell down under the wood, because they were unwilling to acknowledge that life which hangs upon the wood in order to destroy death.” PASCHASIUS in GHISLER., p. 218.
14. Lam 5:14. Music. “Music is an unsuitable mode of expression for grief.” Another saying of RHABANUS in GHISLER., p. 221. [And one wholly unworthy of repetition; especially impertinent as a comment on a lyrical dirge that sang its sorrows with the accompaniment of musical instruments. The young men gave up their merry, jovial songs, to stand weeping around their aged Prophet, as he poured out the lamentations of the church, in measured cadences, that added the melting pathos of music to his words and helped to relieve their swelling hearts of some of their tumultuous grief.—W. H. H.]
15. Lam 5:16. The crown is fallen from our head. “When the church loses the grace of faith, her crowning honor falls from her head, because she exchanges the Lord of glory for the perfidy of falsehood. But that the Lord is indeed the crown of the church, Isaiah testifies, when he says, ‘In that day the Lord of hosts shall be a crown of glory and a diadem of joy to the residue of His people’ (Is. 28:5).… Virtually the crown on our head vanishes, when His good-will is lost. In reference to which the Prophet sings in congratulatory strains, ‘With the shield of Thy goodwill Thou hast crowned us, O Lord,’ Ps. 5:13 (12).” PASCHASIUS. [CALVIN: “By the crown of the head he no doubt understands all those ornaments, by which that people had been adorned. They had a kingdom and priesthood, which were like two luminaries or two precious jewels; they had also other things by which the Lord had adorned them. As, then, they were endued with such excellent things, they are said to have borne a crown on their head. But a crown was not only taken for a diadem,—it was also a symbol of joy and of honor; for not only kings then wore crowns, but men were crowned at weddings and feasts, at games also, and theatres. The Prophet, in a word, complains; that though many ornaments did belong to the people, yet now they were denuded of them all: The crown, he says, has fallen from our head.”]—“We can use this plaint to-day, not inappropriately, with regard to the condition of the Roman empire; and that it may be restored, by Divine favor, to its integrity and splendor, we should devoutly pray.” FÖRSTER.
16. Lam 5:16. The crown has fallen from our head. “Here arises a question, How can this be reconciled with the promise or prophecy of Jacob, in Gen. 49:10?… The Rabbins have given it as their opinion, that the prophecy of Jacob must be understood thus,—The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, until the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, comes, who will cast down the sceptre of Judah. To this we answer, firstly; That their banishment was only a punishment for an inconsiderably short time.… Again it happened, that after the Babylonish captivity they had again their own regent in their own country.… Besides, God so wonderfully ordered it, that in the midst of the Babylonish captivity this sceptre of Judah made itself plainly visible. Whereas Daniel and his companions, who were of the royal lineage, and also of the house of David, were not only elevated to high position at the Babylonian court, but Daniel was appointed at Babylon one of the chiefest princes over the whole land (Dan. 3).… Add to this, that Jehoiachin, the king of Judah, must be raised up again from the dust, and honored and treated as a king.” EGID. HUNNIUS.
17. Lam 5:16. [Woe unto us, that we have sinned! CALVIN: “When we are pressed down by adversities, Satan will excite us to sorrow, and at the same time hurry us on to rage, except this doctrine comes to our minds, that we have to do with God, who is a righteous Judge. For the knowledge of our sins will tame our pride, and also check all those clamorous complaints, which the unbelieving are wont to utter when they rise up against God. Our evils, then, ought to lead us to consider God’s judgment and to confess our sins.”—SCOTT: “As wasting wars, terrible famines, and heavy oppressions or persecutions come upon nations, for the sins of former and present generations, when their appointed measure of iniquity is filled up: so the accumulating sins of a man’s whole life will be punished with tremendous vengeance at last; except he obtain an interest in Him, ‘who bare our sins in His own body on the tree.’ The wrath of God turns the sinner’s mirth into mourning, his liberty into bondage, and his honor into disgrace: for this the crown is fallen from our heads, and woe unto us that we have sinned!”]
18. Lam 5:17. “Rightly is the heart said to be made sorrowful on account of sin, because where iniquity takes possession of the heart and burdens it, it is no longer the habitation of the Holy Spirit; but the whole mind is obscured by the mist of sin, while the grace of the Most High Paraclete disdains to shed abroad its enlightening influences in that mind. For the Holy Spirit of knowledge flees from deception (fictum, i.e. ficturam, fraudem), and wisdom will not enter a malevolent soul.” RHABANUS, in GHISLER., p. 221.
19. Lam 5:18. The foxes walk upon it.—“The same fate which Mount Zion formerly experienced, many Mount Zions, i.e. churches, experience to-day, which a few years ago were enthusiastically devoted to the Lutheran faith, but now, alas for their wretchedness! the foxes run about them destroying the vineyards (Cant. 2:15).” FÖRSTER.
20. Lam 5:19–21. “After Jeremiah has related copiously and in detail all his own sorrows and those of his people, he closes at last with a prayer, to be a lesson to us, that we should do likewise. And as Jeremiah did not permit himself to be deterred from prayer by his own sins and those of the people, which were more in number than the sands of the sea, nor frightened from it by the grievous wrath of God; so we also, neither on account of our sins, nor yet because of the wrath of God, should restrain prayer.” Würtemb. Summarien.
21. Lam 5:19. Thou, O LORD, remainest forever. “His is an eternal continuance. But that Being (Esse) which exists, is that Being (Esse), in which the Father in the Son and the Son in the Father exist, so that they have a common eternity and are essentially one forever.” PASCHASIUS in GHISLER., p. 223. [FAUSSET: “(Ps. 102:12). The perpetuity of God’s rule over human affairs, however He may seem to let His people be oppressed for a time, is their ground of hope of restoration.”—CALVIN: “When we fix our eyes on present things, we must necessarily vacillate, as there is nothing permanent in the world; and when adversities bring a cloud over our eyes, then faith in a manner vanishes, at least we are troubled and stand amazed. Now the remedy is, to raise up our eyes to God, for however confounded things may be in the world, yet He remains always the same. His truth may indeed be hidden from us, yet it remains in Him. In short, were the world to change and perish a hundred times, nothing could ever affect the immutability of God. There is, then, no doubt but that the Prophet wished to take courage and to raise himself up to a firm hope, when he exclaimed, ‘Thou, O God, remainest forever.’ By the word sitting or remaining, he doubtless meant that the world is governed by God. We know that God has no body, but the word sitting is to be taken metaphorically, for He is no God except He be the Judge of the world.”]
22. Lam 5:19. [Thy throne from generation to generation. CALVIN: “The throne of God designates the government of the world. But if God be the Judge of the world, then He doeth nothing, or suffereth nothing to be done, but according to His supreme wisdom and justice.… The throne of God is set in opposition to chance or uncertain changes which ungodly men dream of; for when they see things in great confusion in the world, they say that it is the wheel of fortune, they say that all things happen through blind fate. Then the Prophet, that he might not be cast down with the unbelieving, refers to the throne of God, and strengthens himself in this doctrine of true religion,—that God nevertheless sits on this throne, though things are thus confounded, though all things fluctuate; yea, even though storms and tempests mingle as it were heaven and earth together, yet God sits on His throne amid all these disturbances. However turbulent, then, all the elements may be, this derogates nothing from the righteous and perpetual judgment of God. This is the meaning of the words; and hence fruit and benefit may be easily gathered.”]
23. Lam 5:20. Wherefore dost Thou forget us forever? “Not that God could have lost the treasures of memory or of knowledge; but because He delays, on account of some hidden purpose, to render aid immediately, while He seems to contemn those who pray to Him and offers no consolation to their hearts.… By reason of human frailty, the mind burdened with troubles thinks God forgetful. For forgetfulness closes the fountain of charity, quickly takes away the faculty of compassion, blunts the edge of the grace that is to be conferred, and does not allow immediate assistance to those who are placed in misery.” PASCHASIUS in GHISLER., p. 224. [CALVIN: “He seems here to expostulate with God; but the faithful, even when they patiently bear their evils, and submit to God’s scourges, do yet familiarly deposit their complaints in His bosom, and thus unburden themselves. We see that David prayed, and no doubt by the real impulse of the Spirit, and at the same time expostulated, ‘Why dost Thou forget me perpetually?’ Ps. 13:1. Nor is there a doubt but that the Prophet took this complaint from David. Let us, then, know, that though the faithful sometimes take this liberty of expostulating with God, yet they do not put off reverence, modesty, submission, or humility. For when the Prophet thus inquired why God should forever forget His people and forsake them, he no doubt relied on his own prophecies, which he knew had proceeded from God, and thus he deferred his hope until the end of the seventy years, for that time had been prefixed by God. But it was according to human judgment that he complained in his own person and in that of the faithful, that the affliction was long; nor is there a doubt but that he dictated this form of prayer to the faithful, that it might be retained after his death. He, then, formed this prayer, not only according to his own feeling, and for the direction of those of his own age; but his purpose was to supply the faithful with a prayer after his own death, so that they might flee to the mercy of God. We now, then, perceive how complaints of this kind ought to be understood, when the prophets asked ‘How long?’ as though they stimulated God to hasten the time; for it cannot be, when we are pressed down by many evils, but that we wish help to be accelerated; for faith does not wholly strip us of all cares and anxieties. But when we thus pray, let us remember that our times are at the will and in the hand of God, and that we ought not to hasten too much. It is, then, lawful for us on the one hand to ask God to hasten; but, on the other hand, we ought to check our impatience and wait until the suitable time comes. Both these things the Prophet no doubt joined together when he said, Why shouldest Thou perpetually forget us and forsake us?”]
24. Lam 5:21, 22. “Since the people in their prayer longed so earnestly for their fatherland, that they might be permitted to return home again, we should take example from this, in what fashion we should yearn after the heavenly fatherland, out of which we have been driven by sin and transgression, and thrust into this empty Babylon of a sinful world.… In Ps. 126 the unspeakably great joy is described, which the Jews will experience when they return again into their fatherland, out of the Babylonish house of slavery and imprisonment.… If the people of God so rejoiced and exulted with loud shouts of joy, over the return to their earthly fatherland, how much greater joy there will be, when the elect are actually in the great blessed home-gathering, brought into the eternal, imperishable Jerusalem.” EGID. HUNNIUS.
25. Lam 5:21. “Whom the Lord hath converted, that one will assuredly be saved, ‘but whom He hath despised, no man can correct,’ Eccl. 7:13 [Vulg.]. But when he says, Renew our days as from the beginning, he seems to ask this, that as from the beginning He made the first Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob devoted to Himself in the plenitude of their faith, and love, that He would therefore make them [who offered this prayer] also faithful and devoted to Himself, by bestowing upon them the same gifts, which was promised to them in the advent of Elias, by the Prophet Malachi, as many think (Mal. 4:5).” RHABANUS in GHISLER., p. 224.
26. Lam 5:21. Turn Thou us unto Thee. “Except by grace no backslider can be converted; because it is of ourselves that we have fallen, but of God that we rise again.” PASCHASIUS in GHISLER., p. 224. [HENRY: “They here pray for converting grace, to prepare and qualify them for mercy; Turn us to Thee, O Lord. This implies an acknowledgment of their own weakness and inability to turn themselves, and that the cause of their distance was in themselves. There is in our nature a bent to backslide from God, but no disposition to return to Him, till His grace works in us both to will and to do. So necessary is that grace, that we may truly say, Turn us, or we shall wander endlessly; and so powerful and effectual is that grace, that we may as truly say, Turn us and we shall be turned; for it is a day of Almighty power, in which God’s people are made willing and obedient.’] And we shall be turned. “When we are converted, we are recalled to the beginning of renovation; but when that is attained, we will be renewed.” PASCHASIUS in GHISLER., p. 224. Renew our days as of old. “God has been ready to change His sentence, if thou hadst been willing to change thy wickedness by penitence.” AMBROSE on Luke, in FÖRSTER. [WILLIAM LOWTH: “Do Thou give us the grace of conversion and amendment, and then Thou wilt remove Thy heavy judgments, and restore us to that happiness and prosperity which we formerly enjoyed.’]
27. Lam 5:22. “He did not utter these words as if despairing of the salvation of his people, but that he might manifest his excessive grief on account of the prolonged humiliation and rejection of his nation. For he saw by the Spirit of prophecy, that the Jews themselves, at the advent of Christ, would not believe.… But of the ultimate conversion of his nation he entertained no doubt,—but believed most fully that in the seed of Abraham all the families of the earth would be blessed; in which universal promise themselves also are certainly comprehended.” RHABANUS in GHISLER.
28. Lam 5:22. “As long as we wander here in this world, we shall be called upon to observe the condition of the condemned and lost, and when we see it, we will indeed mourn over it. Yet the Church of Christ is everywhere to be found, if men seek her, and she triumphs over all death. In her also many ages perish; we shall mourn for her in time, but will be comforted in eternity, for our mother is that Jerusalem, which is from above, which is free. She is eternal, and those who here suffer for sin and have comfort only in grace, they are citizens of that eternal city.” DIEDRICH. [SCOTT: “Though we should mourn over the miseries of the world, and the low estate of the Church, yet the true Zion, to which believers are come, cannot be desolated, but remaineth for ever, even as the throne of our God in Heaven. This inheritance cannot be forfeited or alienated; nor can our mansions be possessed by strangers; or our relation to God, as espoused and adopted into His family, abrogated; or the liberty, wherewith Christ hath made us free, taken from us; the freeness of our salvation, disannulled; or our joy and glorying in Christ, made void. Various tribulations may make our hearts faint and our eyes dim: but our way to the mercy-seat of our reconciled God still is open; and we may beseech Him not to forsake or forget us; and plead with Him to turn, and renew us more and more by His grace; that our hopes may revive and our consolations abound as in the days of old. For the eternal and unchangeable God will not utterly reject His Church or any true believer, whatever our trials, fears or lamentations may be. Let us then, in all our troubles, put our whole trust and confidence in His mercy; let us confess our sins, and pour out our hearts before Him; and let us watch against repinings or despondency, whatever we suffer, or witness of the troubles of our brethren; for this we surely know, that it shall be well in the event with all who trust, fear, love and serve the Lord.”]
29. [PRAYER. CALVIN: “Grant, Almighty God, that as Thou didst formerly execute judgment so severe on Thy people,—O grant, that these chastisements may at this day teach us to fear Thy Name, and also keep us in watchfulness and humility, and that we may so strive to pursue the course of our calling, that we may find that Thou art always our leader, that Thy hand is stretched forth to us, that Thy aid is ever ready for us, until, being at length gathered into Thy celestial kingdom, we shall enjoy that eternal life, which Thine only-begotten Son has obtained for us by His own blood. Amen.”]
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
1. Lam 5:1. If we say. Remember, O LORD, consider and behold, this supposes that he Lord can, in some way, forget something or not see it. But in fact He is omniscient and omnipresent. If then He sometimes, in some way, seems not to know or to see something, this is to be regarded as a test (Prüfung) imposed upon us. He would then be awakened, as it were, He would be urged to think of these things and to look upon them. This reserve on the part of God has a twofold design. He would thereby, first of all, bring us to a knowledge of ourselves. For then only will we urge another, who will not hear us, with unceasing importunity, to render us assistance, when we find that we have not in ourselves, even with our utmost exertion, the means of relief. Secondly, God would thereby prove our faith. Compare the parables of the unjust Judge (Luke 18:2–8) and of the friend who knocks at midnight (Luke 11:5–10). On this text, therefore, a sermon might be preached with reference to The wise purposes which God has in view, when He long closes His ears to our prayer. He would by this means, 1. lead us to self-knowledge; 2. try the strength of our faith.
2. Lam 5:1–7. These verses would afford a text, in times of severe chastisement by the hand of foreign enemies, for a sermon on the theme, The cry of need of a people severely oppressed by an enemy. 1. This is a cry justified by the facts (Lam 5:2–6). 2. A penitential cry (Lam 5:7). 3. A believing cry (Lam 5:1).
3. Lam 5:8–16. On these verses also a sermon could be preached in the days of a great national calamity brought about by the oppression of the public enemy. The thought might be extracted from these verses, that the separate items of suffering correspond with the sins that have been perpetrated (per quod quis peccat, per idem punitur et ipse, Wisdom of Sol. 11:16). Theme: The just judgments of God. I. What they consist in. 1. Because we allowed ourselves to be ruled by our sins, now servants rule over us. 2. Because we despised the bread of life, which was freely and generously proffered to us, we must ourselves seek, with great difficulty, to get our daily bread. 3. Because we hungered not after righteousness, we must now suffer great pain from bodily hunger. 4. Because we crucified not our lust and passions, our wives and daughters are become the victims of the lusts of others. 5. Because we honored not our old men and rulers, our Princes and Elders are now ill-treated by foreigners. 6. Because the youths and boys would not bear the easy yoke of the Lord, they must now bear the heavy yoke of our enemies. 7. Because old and young had been too much addicted to worldly pleasure, they must now relinquish all joy, even that which in itself is innocent and allowable (Lam 5:14, 15). 8. Because we have not striven after the crown of life, the crown of earthly honor is dashed from our head. II. Whereto they should excite us. 1. To genuine lamentation over our sins. 2. To believing invocation of Divine grace and mercy.
4. Lam 5:15, 16. FÖRSTER remarks, “These verses afford material for an address to be delivered in a time of public mourning, or at the funeral of a prince or any man of illustrious merit in the commonwealth, either ecclesiastical or civil.”
5. Lam 5:17–22. In times of great internal or external distress of the church, these words would afford a text for a sermon, and the theme thence deduced is, The complaint and consolation of the Church. I. The complaint. 1. The cause of it (Lam 5:18). 2. The expression of it (Lam 5:17). II. The consolation. 1. The power of the Lord of the Church is not shaken. 2. He has not rejected His Church forever, but will re-establish it, (a) inwardly, (b) externally.
6. Lam 5:21, 22, and 3:24–26, preached upon by CUNO MAURICE ZIMMERMANN, when pastor in Döbeln; How God the Lord renews His Church. 1. Behold with adoration and thanksgiving how He did it in the days of Luther 2. Behold with rapture and obedience, how He does it in our day. In “My last six official sermons in Döbeln, in the year 1863.” Leipzig, Teubner, 1864.
Remember, O LORD, what is come upon us: consider, and behold our reproach.5:1
1Remember, O LORD, what is come upon us: consider and behold our reproach.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Lam 5:1.—זְכֹר יי׳. See Is. 38:3; Mic. 6:5; Job 4:7.—הַבִּיטָ. See 1:11. [BLAYNEY: “Forty-one MSS. and four Editions read with the Masora הַבִיטָה, with the ה paragogic.” HENDERSON: “The ה thus added to the Imperative, expresses the emotion of ardent desire on the part of the speaker.”]—חֶרְפָתֵנוּ. See 3:30; Ps. 74:22; 89:51.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Lam 5:1. Remember, O LORD, what is come upon us,—Remember, Jehovah, what has befallen us,—consider and behold—look and see—our reproach.—[The word translated consider (see 1:11), when followed by רָאָה, to see, means to direct attention to a thing in order to see it. BLAYNEY and NOYES translate, Look down and see—which gives the sense, but the word does not express direction, but the intensity of looking.—W. H. H.] This first verse constitutes the introduction. It contains the prayer, that Jehovah would regard the affliction and reproach fallen on Zion [the people], some features of which the Poet recounts in what follows. The Poet presents himself before God, as it were, and all that follows is to be regarded as addressed to God.
Our inheritance is turned to strangers, our houses to aliens.5:2–10
2, 3Our inheritance is turned to strangers, our houses to aliens. We are orphans 4and fatherless, our mothers are as widows. We have drunken our water for money; 5our wood is sold unto us. Our necks are under persecution: we labour, and have 6no rest. We have given the hand to the Egyptians, and to the Assyrians, to be 7satisfied with bread. Our fathers have sinned, and are not: and we have borne 8their iniquities. Servants have ruled over us: there is none that doth deliver us 9out of their hand. We gat our bread with the peril of our lives, because of the 10sword of the wilderness. Our skin was black like an oven, because of the terrible famine.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Lam 5:2.—נַֽחֲלָה, frequent in Jeremiah, 2:7; 3:19; 12:7–9, etc.—נֶהֶפַּךְ, see 1:20; 4:6. Jeremiah uses in this sense נָסַב, 6:12. This word represents the transfer of property to another owner, in Is. 60:5 also.—זָרִים Jeremiah uses frequently, 6:25; 3:13; 5:19, etc.—נָכְרִים Jeremiah uses only once, in the fem., גֶּפֶן נָכְרִיָה, 2:21.
Lam 5:3.—יתָוֹם, Jer. 5:28; 7:6, etc.; in Lamentations only here.—אֵץ אָב. See Is. 47:1; Jer. 2:32; my Gr., § 106, 3. [אֵין. = ohne, without, NAEGELS. Gr.] The K’ri, וְאֵין is unnecessary.
Lam 5:4.—מֵימֵינוּ, Jer. 6:7; 46:7; 50:38.—כֶסֶף, Jer. 6:30, etc.—עֵצִים, Jer. 5:14; 7:18, etc.—מְחִיר, Jer. 15:13.—יָבֹאוּ. EWALD translates, our wood is sold for silver. He also takes בּוֹא in the sense of the Latin vineo, venire. But I do not think that בּוֹא is ever used in this sense. At the most, only 1 Kings 10:14 could be cited, where the word is used with reference to the revenues.
Lam 5:5.—צַוָּאר, see 1:14.—רָדַף, Jer. 19:18; Lam. 1:6: in the sense of driving, chasing, the word is not elsewhere found in Jeremiah. [It is doubtful if that is its sense here.—W. H. H.]—יָגַע, Jer. 45:3, which place is very closely allied in sense to our place here, 51:58.—הוּנַח. The Hophal is found only here: Jeremiah uses only the Hiphil הִנִּיחַ, 14:9; 27:11; 43:6.
Lam 5:6.—מִצְרַיִם and אַשּׁוּר are to be taken as Acc. localis, in answer to the question whither? See my Gr., § 70, b. [There is no necessity of supposing an ellipsis of the preposition לְ, as HENDERSON; nor any grammatical reason for translating, O Egypt, O Assyria, as BLAYNEY does, diverting the prayer from God to these heathen nations.—W. H. H.]—שָׂבַע see 3:30.
Lam 5:7.—אֵינָם. Four times in this chapter, the Masorites would read וְ, where it is wanting in the word, Lam 5:3, 5, 7 twice. But the author generally uses Vav sparingly. Only once is the second clause of the verse begun with וְ. In this verse, an error might arise from its use. If it were וְאֵינָם, some would be led to understand their non-existence, as the consequence of their sinning. See Jer. 10:20. But this cannot be the author’s meaning; for he immediately asserts that the generation now living has to bear the punishment. Their being no longer in existence, therefore, is the simple result of the course of nature.—סָבַל Jeremiah never uses. It represents bearing the burden of sin, Is. 53:4, 11; comp. 46:4, 7.—עַוֹן, see 2:14.
Lam 5:8.—מָשַׁל, Jer. 22:30; 30:21, etc.—פָרַק, see Gen. 27:40; Ps. 7:3; 136:24; Jeremiah never uses the word, neither does it occur again in the Lamentations.
Lam 5:9.—.בְּנַסְּשֵׁנוּ (בְּ pretii, see my Gr., § 112, 5 a). See 1:11; 2 Sam. 23:17; 1 Chron. 11:19.—הֵבִיא, see 1:21. [We have the future here, as the historical imperfect, implying the recurrence of what is related.—W. H. H.]—לֶחֶם, 1:11.—חֶרֶב הַמִּדְבָּר, which can only indicate the robber tribes of the desert (Gen. 16:12), is found only here. [CALVIN translates הֶרֶב, drought, and wonders that any one ever thought of calling it sword. It may have the meaning of drought in Deut. 28:22, though even there E. V. has sword. In this verse, all the Versions, and commentators generally, translate sword.—W. H. H.]
Lam 5:10.—כָּמַר occurs only in Niphal, and besides here only in three places, Gen. 43:30; 1 Kings 3:26; Hos. 11:8. The sense is calefactum, adustum esse (see חָמַר, 1:20; 2:11). The plural shows that עוֹר is regarded collectively. [It also shows the preference in this Song for termination in וּ. Yet, “fifty eight MSS., and the Soncin. Bible read עוֹרֵינוּ in the plural” (HENDERSON).—W. H. H.]—עוֹר, see 4:8.—תַּנּוּר, see Hos. 7:6, 7, is not found in Jeremiah, [nor any equivalent for it.—W. H. H.]—זַלְעֲפוֹת, æstus vehemens, Jeremiah never uses. It is found, besides here, only in Ps. 119:53; 11:6.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
[Lam 5:2–10 describe the distressed condition of the people generally, and especially the sufferings caused by deficiency in the necessaries of life. Lam 5:2, 3, describe their disinherited and bereaved condition.—W. H. H.]
Lam 5:2. Our inheritance is turned to strangers, our houses to aliens—foreigners. [CALVIN: “The land had been promised to Abraham four hundred years, before his children possessed it; we know that this promise had been often repeated, ‘This land shall be to you for an inheritance.’… No land has ever been given to men in so singular a way as the land of Canaan to the posterity of Abraham. As, then, this inheritance had been for so many ages possessed by the chosen people, Jeremiah does not without reason complain that it was turned over to aliens.”]—Our houses to aliens. Many expositors (VAIHINGER for instance) understand from the second clause of this verse, that not all the houses of Jerusalem had been destroyed, but those which still remained were at the disposal of the Chaldeans; which is the same as saying that they dwelt in them. They appeal to 2 Chron. 36:19, where the destruction of the palaces only is spoken of. Although in Jer. 52:13; 2 Kings 25:9, it is expressly said that all the houses of Jerusalem were destroyed, yet, they say, this is to be regarded as merely a rhetorical hyperbole, since elsewhere the houses of the great [the nobility] are alone specified. Compare Jer. 52:13. We have, however, no evidence that the Chaldeans inhabited Jerusalem after its destruction; and Nehemiah (2:3) mourns that Jerusalem is חֲרֵבָה, desolate, and its gates burned with fire. When it is said here that the houses were given up to the Chaldeans, this can only mean that they disposed of them as they pleased. In fact, they destroyed the houses, but carried away the movable property found in them as booty. Although the houses and their contents could be designated as an inheritance, yet by נַֽחֲלָה, inheritance, which is here distinguished from the houses, the land is especially intended (see. Lev. 20:24; Num. 16:14; 36:7–9; Jos. 13:23; etc.). We may say, therefore, that נַֽחֲלָה, inheritance, and בָּתִּים, houses, are related to each other substantially as fixed and movable property.
Lam 5:3. We are orphans and fatherless—we have become orphans, fatherless [without a father,CALVIN, BLAYNEY, BOOTHROYD, NOYES, GERLACH]—and our mothers are as widows. That the first words cannot be understood exclusively of the loss of their own fathers, is evident from the expression as widows.PAREAU is of the opinion that widows and orphans indicate, in a general way only, as a proverbial formula, tritissimam sortem [a very sad lot], and appeals to Is. 1:17; Ps. 94:6; James 1:27. But in all those places, widows and orphans in the strict sense of the terms, are to be understood. THENIUS understands by the mothers, the wives of the King, who were with the little company among whom our song originated. But even if we allow, that as some of the Princesses of the royal family, according to Jer. 41:10, escaped transportation, so also may some of the wives of the royal harem, yet we cannot suppose that the Poet indicated these as the mothers of himself and his companions, because they were not, in fact, their mothers, nor was it customary to call them so. EWALD refers orphans and fatherless to the loss of the sovereign (the father of his country, 2:9; 4:20) and of the theocracy, but widows to the communities and cities (1:1). This is without doubt correct, as far as this, that all the Israelites had, in this respect, become fatherless and their mothers widows. But why might not the Poet, at the same time, have alluded to the fact, that in the prevailing confusion most of the mothers could not certainly know whether their husbands were dead or alive, and therefore it could be correctly said of them that they were “as widows” (see 1:1)? I believe, therefore, that Lam 5:3 embraces every species of orphanage that might have existed at that time. [There were so many orphans and mothers separated from their husbands among the people, that a Poet might well exclaim, Behold in us a people composed of fatherless orphans, whose mothers are as widows! But the particle of comparison attached to the last word, as widows, suggests the probability that the whole verse is intended metaphorically. We are like fatherless orphans and our mothers like widows. This is GERLACH’S explanation.—W. H. H.]
[Lam 5:4–10 relate to the general distress occasioned by the want of the necessaries of life and the oppression of their masters.—W. H. H.]
Lam 5:4. We have drunken our water for money; our wood is sold unto us (marg. cometh for price unto us). Our water we drink for money; our wood comes to us for payment. That the want of water before the capture of the city is not here intended, is evident from the expressions our water, our wood; for the prominence of this idea can only signify that the Jews were obliged to buy from their enemies the wood and water that were rightly their own; but this could have been the case only after the capture of the city. We perceive from the description, that the companies of the captives, in all cases narrowly watched, were not at liberty to go, at their own pleasure, to bring wood and water. But they were furnished, either with no provisions at all, or in insufficient quantities, so that in order to secure the necessaries of life, they were obliged to apply to their guards, who made them pay dearly for the services rendered them. It appears further from this passage, that the Poet has here in his eye that period of the captivity when the captives were still in their own land, else he could not say “our water, our wood.” There seems to be a rhetorical reason for the use of the perfect (שָׁתִינוּ) in the first clause, and of the imperfect (יָבאוּ) in the second. For, grammatically considered, either the perfect or imperfect should be used both times, since the two acts are entirely homogeneous. But the Poet wished to bring variety into his period, perhaps also to avoid the clashing together of two tone-syllables, which would have happened, if it had been written בָּאוּ. He could introduce this variety, since the limit between these two verbal forms is a fluctuating one, determined by the subjective conception of the speaker. For, in many cases, the same action can be regarded as already completed and as still in progress. See for example מֵאַיִך תָּבֹאוּ (Jos. 9:8) and מֵאַיך בָּאתֶם (Gen. 42:7), my Gr. §§ 84, 87. So here the drinking of water for money is represented by שָׁתִינוּ as something accomplished, being constituted by many acts of drinking, but by יָבֹאוּ the fetching of the wood is represented as something not yet finished, something still continuing. We are at liberty to translate both tenses, so far as they are concerned, by the present or by the preterit. The context shows which the Poet intends. He evidently is describing the journey of the captives going into exile. But nothing indicates that he looks back upon it as already accomplished, that he would represent it as already terminated in the land of exile. Consequently, we are obliged to translate all the tenses, which refer to different incidents of the journey, in the present. [There is a studied effort in this Song, as shown in the preliminary note to this chapter, to multiply words ending in נוּ ,וּ, and we may add in ־ֵנוּ In the expressions “Our water,” “our wood,” the pronoun is added merely, if we may so say, for the sake of the rhyme, or, more correctly, the assonance, just as in Lam 5:9 he says, “our bread.” The writer could legitimately gratify the ear by this expedient, for what they bought and used certainly became their own. It is obvious, therefore, that the meaning of the verse can not turn on the use of the word our. If this had been intended to be emphatic, and to represent the water and the wood as their property before they bought it, then this verse should have immediately followed Lam 5:2, where the transfer of their property to new owners is represented. Otherwise, the third verse intrudes a new idea between two thoughts that are closely related, the loss of their inheritance and houses, and the necessity of purchasing what had been their own property. If, on the other hand, we take our text as a simple statement of the fact that they were obliged to purchase such common necessaries of life as water and wood, we are enabled to translate the preterit verb in the past indefinite time. The Prophet is by no means describing the incidents of the journey of the exiles from their own land. He is enumerating and heaping together en masse the various features of sorrow and suffering experienced by the un-happy people, without particular reference either to the time or place of their happening. Among other things that had happened was their having to pay money for the water they drank: and he uses the preterit tense, We have drunken our water for money,—this is among the things that had happened, perhaps once only, perhaps oftener; but there was another hardship of more frequent occurrence, one often repeated, and that may have continued down to the time when he wrote, and this he expresses, as the Hebrew so constantly expresses the recurrence of events even after they are past, by the future form of the verb, which we may render as an historical imperfect—our wood came to us, or was coming, that is, it came in that way only, for a price, or we may render it as a present—it comes still only for pay.—W. H. H.]
Lam 5:5. Our necks are under persecution (marg. On our necks are we persecuted); we labor and have no rest.We are driven headlong [Ueber Hals und Kopf werden wir gejagt, lit. over neck and head (over head and ears, as we say in English) are we driven]; are we tired, rest is not permitted us. The Septuagint connects עֵל צַוַּארֵנוּupon our necks, with what precedes, ξὐλα ἡμῶν ἐν ἀλλάγματι ἠλθεν ἐπὶ τὸν τράχηλον ἥμῶν, our wood in exchange for our money came upon our neck. So also the Arabic version. The Syriac closes Lam 5:4 with בִּמְחִיר. and refers יָבֹאוּ to what follows, so that it also translates venerunt super collum nostrum, they came upon our neck, where either ligna, wood, or hostes, the enemy, may be regarded as the subject. Among the moderns, ABEN-EZRA and J. DAV. MICHAELIS also connect the phrase upon our necks with what precedes. The latter gives the sense thus, ligna nostra pretio empta cervicibus nostris imposita in urbem importantur, our wood bought with a price and laid upon our necks is carried into the city. The explanation of the Syriac produces a very harsh zeugma in Lam 5:4, renders the following sentence unintelligible, and expresses a thought that may be termed at least unnecessary. The objections to the other versions are as follows. 1. בִּמְחִיר, for pay, Lam 5:4 must be taken, either as dependent on a verb to be supplied (emta), or as belonging to יָבֹּאוּ, in the very unsuitable sense, that the Jews were paid for carrying the wood. 2. The symmetrical proportions of the verses are destroyed; Lam 5:4 is too long, Lam 5:5 too short. We will then follow the Masoretic division of the verses. But as thus arranged, this verse has undergone various interpretations. PAREAU translates super cervicibus nostris insessores patimur, we bear sitters [riders] upon our necks. But נִרְדַּפְנוּ cannot mean we are ridden, or we carry riders. As little can it mean naturally, we bear persecutors or oppressors, which would correspond with PAREAU’S idea, only without a figure. Others (RASCHI, DE WETTE, EWALD, 1st ed., MEYER, VAIHINGER, ENGELHARDT) translate on our necks the yoke, or the yoke on the neck are we persecuted. But as THENIUS has remarked, the yoke here is a superadded idea entirely arbitrary. [BLAYNEY reads עֹל, yoke, instead of the preposition עַל, upon. But we must then, as he does, take the verb in a sense it cannot have of being burthened with, With the yoke of our necks are we continually burthened; or, as BOOTHROYD does, supply the preposition on and the verb is, and make an independent proposition of the first two words, The yoke is on our necks, we are pursued; or, as NOYES does, supply two prepositions, With the yoke upon our necks, we are driven.HENDERSON, without changing עַל into עֹל, thinks that upon our necks we are persecuted expresses “elliptically the great hardship to which the Jews were reduced in being compelled as captives to bear a heavy yoke on their necks;” and translates, We are persecuted with a yoke on our necks. So WILLIAM LOWTH seems to understand the text and refers to Deut. 28:48. “We are driven to our work like the bullock that has a yoke about his neck” (ADAM CLARKE).—W. H. H.] All these explanations fail in this that they let עַל depend, not immediately on נִרְדַּפְנוּ, but very unnecessarily on an entirely different idea supposed to be concealed therein. THENIUS and EWALD (2d ed.) have perceived the right sense, when they translate, on the neck were we pursued (so EWALD: THENIUS expresses the same sense by the words, they pursued us over our necks, i.e. since they are ever close behind us). I translate, We are driven on over our necks, that is to say, so that the driving goes over our necks onwards—and this idea corresponds exactly with our German phrase, “über Hals und Kopf” [lit. over neck and head, i.e. headlong]. LUTHER: “über Hals.” [In full: Man treibt uns über Hals.] Besides, רָדַף cannot be taken in the sense of pursuing, for not fugitives, but captives are here spoken of, who are already in the hands of the enemies and are driven onward without mercy. This appears plainly from Lam 5:5, 8. The meaning to drive, to chase, undoubtedly lies in the root רָדַף (see the kindred roots דָּפַה ,נָדַף ,הָדַף), and is as plain as daylight in such places as Lev. 26:36 (the sound of a falling leaf shall chase them). Job 30:15; Is. 17:13. [It would be a relief to accept Dr. NAEGELSBACH’S simple explanation, and translate, They drove us, or we were driven headlong, or as we would say in our colloquial English, heels over head, but there is no evidence that the Hebrew words are used in any such colloquial sense. The next best thing is to adopt the translation of MAURER, THENIUS, EWALD, OWEN and GERLACH, which Dr. NAEGELSBACH also approves of, On our necks were we pursued, i.e. our pursuers followed us so closely as to be, as it were, on our necks. “We are hunted by pursuers who are ever hanging over our neck” (WORDSWORTH). The objection to taking the verb in the sense of pursuing, on the ground that the people are here considered as captives and not fugitives, grows out of the incorrect interpretation of Lam 5:4, and involves an entire misconception of the intention of this Song. It is not the design of the Prophet to give a detailed account of successive and related events, but to heap up together, in one rapid and vehement recapitulation, all the wrongs, indignities and sufferings the people had endured, without reference to times or places.—W. H. H.]
Lam 5:6. Whilst the Poet describes the onward march of the larger part of the people to the land of banishment, he is reminded that the people are, by this means, still more widely separated and torn asunder; for one part, by far the smaller part, has been compelled to turn southwards towards Egypt. [This verse confirms the opinion that the Prophet is not relating successive events in the order of their occurrence and in their relations to each other; but is stating independent facts and instances, all of which contribute to present to God an appeal for pity and mercy. There is no close connection, therefore, between Lam 5:5, 6, such as OWEN and GERLACH would find, when they say that Lam 5:6 relates what they did when so closely pursued. According to Dr. NAEGELSBACH’S interpretation, that Lam 5:5 refers to the Jews on their way to Babylonia, driven before their captors, the connection of Lam 5:6 is impossible. While they were so closely pursued that their pursuers were on their necks, did even a small part of them miraculously escape and flee to Egypt? Dr. NAEGELSBACH does not mean to assert this; but his theory of interpretation would seem to demand it.—W. H. H.]—We have given the hand to the Egyptians, and to the Assyrians to be satisfied with bread,—Towards Egypt stretched we the hand,—Towards Assyria,—in order to be satisfied with bread. To stretch out the hand can mean here only, to stretch out the hand as a suppliant; see Jer. 50:15; 1 Chron. 29:24. [CALVIN: “To give the hand, is explained in three ways: some say that it means humbly to ask; others, to make an agreement; and others, to extend it in token of misery, as he who cannot ask for help, intimates his wants by extending his hand. But the Prophet seems simply to mean that the people were so distressed by want, that they begged bread.”] But in what sense did the Jews stretch out the hand to Assyria? They had submitted to this great power, not willingly, as they had thrown themselves into the arms of the Egyptians, but by compulsion. Yet they must, if they would live, stretch out their suppliant hand, to receive a morsel of bread from the hand of Assyria bestowing it upon them. But what power is intended by Assyria? It has been understood of Assyria strictly speaking, which carried the ten tribes into exile. But it would be strange, indeed, if the Poet here overlooked the Babylonish exile. That he says Assur, and not Babel, may be explained on the ground that he has in mind the Assyrian, as well as the Babylonish captivity. While Babel never stands for Assur and Babel, the name Assur is so used as to embrace both countries; see 2 Kings 17:24; 18:11; 23:29; 2 Chron. 33:11. The brief words of our text exhibit also the fact, that Israel no longer existed as a nation, but was entirely given over to the power of the kingdoms of this world, on whose favor its very life depended; and, while the smaller part found itself in the power of Egypt, the larger part, which included both Israel, carried away into Assyrian exile, and Judah, deported to Babylon, is subject to Assur,—to Assur in the widest sense of the term, understanding thereby, not only Assyria in the strict sense, but Babylon also. See also Jer. 2:18. [NOYES is of the opinion that giving the hand, imports submission, as in Jer. 50:15; to stretch out the hand to be bound, as it were. Thus, he remarks, “in 2 Chron. 30:8, what is translated in the common version yield yourselves unto the Lord, is in the original give the hand to the Lord.” The context here, nevertheless, favors the idea that the Jews were reduced in many instances to abject beggary, and entire dependence for the necessaries of life on these heathen nations, the greatest enemies their country had.—W. H. H.]
Lam 5:7. Our fathers have sinned and are not: and we have borne their iniquities.—Our fathers have sinned: they are not; we bear their sins. [There is no sufficient reason for rendering the last verb as a present. The English version is more literal.—W. H. H.] Comparing this verse with Lam 5:16, a certain parallelism is observable. In both the sins of the people are asserted to be the cause of the calamities previously described. But Lam 5:7 says, Our fathers have sinned and we bear their guilt. Lam 5:16, on the contrary says, Woe to us, we have sinned. Here, as in 1:5, 8, 9, 14, 18; 2:14; 3:42; 4:6, 12–14, the description of calamities endured constitute a principal feature in the confession of sin. As one paragraph ends with Lam 5:7, and another with Lam 5:16, Lam 5:8 begins a new paragraph. [This division separates verses closely allied. The subject down to Lam 5:10 is chiefly related to sufferings connected with the want of the necessaries of life. With Lam 5:11 begins a description of individual instances of outrage and cruelty (Lam 5:11–14), followed by a description of the effects of all these calamities, public and private, on the theocratic people who offer the prayer. Lam 5:16 is as intimately connected with what follows, as with what precedes it.—W. H. H.] There is at least some truth in the assertion made in Lam 5:7. For the great catastrophe had been brought about, not only by the guilt of the last generation, but also by that of previous generations (Jer. 3:25; 15:4; 16:11, 12). But Lam 5:7, without Lam 5:16, would contain only a partial view of the truth. The two verses complete each other. [WORDSWORTH: “The sins of their forefathers were visited upon them, because they themselves had sinned, as they themselves confess.… There is, therefore, no reason for supposing, with some, that these words could not have been written by Jeremiah, being at variance with the doctrine in Jer. 31:29.”]—And are not (אֵינָם, without ו, see GR. notes above; they are not.) These words connect themselves rather with what follows, than with what precedes. Our fathers have sinned. Whilst they are no more, we bear their sins.
Lam 5:8. Servants have ruled over us: there is none that doth deliver us out of their hands.—[None delivered from their hands.] Who are these servants? Satraps are suggested. So say those who understand Lam 5:5 of the residence of a part of the people in Palestine or elsewhere. But we see from Lam 5:5, that the subject of discourse is the march of the actually exiled hosts. Satraps, it is true, are the king’s servants, but they are not merely servants, they are not slaves. That men of distinguished descent and high rank should stand under Satraps was a reproach, when considered in a theocratic point of view, but not to be regarded as a matter of sufficient importance to be mentioned in this place. Besides, in fact Gedaliah ruled in Judea, himself a Jew and, according to the testimony of Jeremiah (40:7–12), a well-disposed man. But that real slaves were employed for overseers and drivers of the marching captives, this was certainly in the highest degree hard and likewise disgraceful. [This again is to be regarded as one feature of the great variety of sufferings that befell the people. It is not necessary to suppose that the whole people were at any time under the lordship of slaves or under-servants. It is not necessary to suppose an exclusive reference to the bands of captives that were driven to Babylonia. It is enough that in their degraded state it often happened that they had to submit to domineering and harsh treatment from men that were themselves menials.—W. H. H.]
Lam 5:9. We gat our bread with—at—the peril of our lives, because of the sword of the wilderness.ROSENMUELLER refers this verse to the dangers which the corn-transports out of Egypt may have had to encounter in the wilderness. But is it supposable that corn was brought from Egypt, when the larger part of the people had been led away to Babylon, and the smaller part had themselves fled to Egypt? EWALD, on the other hand, finds in these words “a remarkable indication, that most of the fugitives in Egypt dwelt at the northeastern border close to the desert,” and so were compelled “to wring their bread from the desert and its robbers.” But when in the world was bread brought from the desert, even by those dwelling on the borders of Egypt, and not from the interior of the country? THENIUS presumes that this Song was written amid the circumstances of one of those small companies that remained in Palestine and were scattered about in that land. These, falling in on their pasture-grounds with the warlike tribes sojourning among them, would be compelled to get their subsistence by fighting for it. But that supposition is confirmed neither by the history (observe Jer. 42:1, “all the people,” etc.,), nor by the contents of our Song (compare Lam 5:8 especially, with the opinion of THENIUS, that the little company, among whom the Song was written, preferred liberty in poverty, to dependence in prosperity, Lam 5:6). The view of VAIHINGER rests on the same opinion, and differs from that of THENIUS only in this, that he understands the bringing of bread to refer to merchant travellers who were in peril from Bedouin robbers. I am of the opinion, that the expedition here indicated, was an incident belonging to the experience of those Israelites who had not been led away to Babylon, and especially of those who had fled to Egypt. It is allowable to suppose, both from general reasons and particularly from Lam 5:6, that this one of the two parts of the people is intended. Much is touched upon in the Song, that happened to all in common (Lam 5:2, 3, 7, 10–12); much that only befell those who suffered captivity (Lam 5:4, 5, 8); here (Lam 5:9) we have a description that suits only the condition of those fugitives to Egypt, who yet retained their freedom. But I refer the verse, not as EWALD to those already settled in Egypt, but to events and circumstances preceding their settlement. According to Jeremiah 41:8, ten men bought their lives of Ishmael, the murderer of Gedaliah, at the price of provisions which they had hidden. From this we see that provisions were scarce and that there were bands of robbers who hunted for them. Is it not then in the highest degree probable, that the crowd which fled to Egypt (Jer. 41:16–18), both while they were still in Palestine, and frequently when they were in the desert, could obtain what was necessary for subsistence only at the peril of their lives?—[We gat our bread. Here again we have a future tense, נָבִיא; intimating the frequent recurrence, and doubtless the continuance, at the time of writing, of this peril.—W. H. H.]
Lam 5:10. Our skin was black like an oven. [So BROUGHTON, CALVIN and HENDERSON. See Ps. 68:13.] Our skin is burnt [has been burnt] like an oven. [This sense is the one generally adopted, on the ground that it is more consistent with the effects of famine, and more congenial with the derivation and use of the Hebrew word. BLAYNEY and NOYES translate the verb parched.—W. H. H.]. The effect of hunger on the skin is compared to that of heat on the walls of the oven. Like these, that has become hot, dry, hard, cracked. There was hunger enough with the two parts of the people, who stretched out their hands, one to Assyria, the other to Egypt, until the one had arrived in Assyria and the other in Egypt.—Because of the terrible (marg. terrors, or storms of) famine,—because of the heat (or hotness, Gluten) of hunger. [Because of the burning (BROUGHTON) or burnings (CALVIN, NOYES). GERLACH translates the word raging, or fury (Wüthen), and so it is rendered by ALEXANDER (in Ps. 11:6; 119:53, the only other places where the word occurs), who remarks, that “no English word is strong enough to represent the Hebrew except rage or fury.” BLAYNEY translates stormy blasts of hunger, and HENDERSONthe hot blasts of famine.—W. H. H.]
They ravished the women in Zion, and the maids in the cities of Judah.5:11–13
11They ravished the women in Zion, and the maids in the cities of Judah.12, 13Princes are hanged by their hand: the faces of elders were not honoured. They took the young men to grind, and the children fell under the wood.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Lam 5:11.—עִנָּה, see 3:33.—עָרֵי יְהוּדָה, see Jer. 1:15; 4:16; 9:10; and elsewhere very frequently.
Lam 5:12.—תָּלָה is found nowhere in Jeremiah.—הָדַר Jeremiah never uses; see Lev. 19:15, 32; Ex. 23:3.
Lam 5:13.—טְחוֹן, handmill, is ἅπ. λεγ. See elsewhere טַֽחֲנָה Prov. 12:4, and the verb Deut. 11:8; Jud. 16:21; Is. 47:2, etc. Jeremiah uses neither the verb nor the substantive.—כָּשַׁל with בְּ, Jer. 6:21; Is. 8:15; Lev. 26:37.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
[Lam 5:11–13. The sufferings of individuals, of all ages and conditions, especially their degradation, are described. These verses still further confirm the opinion, that this Song belongs to no special time or locality, but that it is a general enumeration of the various evils the people had suffered, from the time when Jerusalem was invaded, to the time when the Prophet indited this Poem.—W. H. H.]
Lam 5:11. In this and the following verses (to Lam 5:15) are described the sorrows which befell particular classes of persons at the capture of the city. These are incidents which partly belong to an earlier period of the history, and partly still continue in force. The violation of the women and the hanging up of the Princes are past events, but the pain they caused still survives.—They ravished—dishonored. [OWEN: “There is here a delicate word for a disgraceful act. The words literally are,—Women in Zion they humbled (or, were humbled). It is humbled by the Sept. and Vulg.” They suffered not only the worst, but all sorts of indignities.—W. H. H.].—The women in Zion and the maids—virgins—in the cities of Judah. [BLAYNEY, BOOTHROYD, HENDERSON and NOYES translate the first word matrons. The Hebrew word is as generic as our word women. Besides, this transfers the antithesis from Zion and the cities of Judah, where it belongs, to the distinction between matrons and maids, which the parallelism does not require. The women generally were humbled, even in Zion, yea and throughout all the cities of Judah.CALVIN: “He mentioned Sion rather than Jerusalem,—it was indeed to state a part for the whole; but that place we know had been chosen by God that His name might be there worshipped.… As, then, God had there His palace, that He might dwell in the midst of His people, it was a disgraceful sight in the extreme to see women ravished there, for the temple of God was thus violated.”—W. H. H]
Lam 5:12. Princes are—were [have been]—hanged up—hung—by their hand [i.e. suspended by the hand.—W. H. H.]. This has been explained in three ways. 1. The Princes hung themselves with their own hand. But since, according to Deut. 21:23, he that is hanged is accursed of God, this is incredible. Why could they not have killed themselves in some other way? CALVIN indeed surmises, that they were compelled to hang themselves. But would not this have been explicitly stated, if the Jews had been compelled to do it? 2. At their side [i.e. Princes were hung beside or near the cities (so EWALD), or at the side, or in near proximity to the humbled women]. But against this are (1) the masculine suffix, (2) and yet more the preposition בְּ,—it should be לְיָדָם (1 Sam. 19:3; Prov. 8:3; 1 Chron. 18:17; 23:28). Only two places can be named, where בְּיַד may stand for לְיַד, namely, 1 Sam. 21:14; Job 15:23. But in the first passage it is, וַיִּתהֹלִל בְּיָדָם, he raved in or under their hands; and in Job 15:23, the sense, as the connection shows, is—he knows that he himself (by his own hand) has prepared the day of darkness. Nothing else remains for us, therefore, but to translate, 3. by their hand, and to refer the suffix to their enemies. The sense, indeed, is somewhat feeble; but verbal and substantial arguments render this explanation necessary. [GERLACH adopts the same view. Besides the evident awkwardness of this construction, it is open to the very serious objection, that the enemies have not been mentioned in the preceding context, nor are they prominently in the mind of either writer or speaker. The preceding verse merely tells us that women in Zion and virgins in the cities of Judah had been humbled. But by whom? The natural inference is, by the public enemy. Yet this is not said; is not even inevitable, and if it were, the mind of the reader is occupied with the women who suffered, not with the men who inflicted the injury. The pronoun, if it refers to any subject in the preceding verse, must, it would seem, refer to the women, or possibly to the cities. But that it does not refer to either of these is evident from its gender, and from the absence of any intelligible sense in which it can refer to them. We must conclude that it refers to the persons immediately named in close and preceding connection, and who according to all fixed rules of grammar, must be its subject. If this is so, then it can only mean either, what CALVIN says, that the Princes committed suicide, and that by hanging themselves, which as has been said is utterly incredible; or else, what the collocation of the words in the original naturally suggests, that the princes were hung up, i.e. suspended, by the hand, or their hand. The pronoun may properly be dispensed with, for its presence here seems entirely due to the preference of the writer for words ending in ם; it belongs to the rhyme, or assonance, and is not intended to be emphatic. So the Vulgate translates, omitting the pronoun: Principes manu suspensi sunt.—HENDERSON also omits the pronoun: but he overlooks the Niphal form of the verb and makes the enemy its subject. He translates, Princes they hung up by the hand.BOOTHROYD, more correctly, Princes were hung up by the hand. He supposes that the Princes and elders were first murdered and then hung up. OWEN: “The most obvious meaning of the words is, that Princes were hung or suspended by the hand, and not by the neck. Such a punishment.… may have been a barbarity resorted to by the Chaldeans. This seems to be the meaning conveyed by the Versions and the Targum.” If they were not tortured to death in this way, it is not unlikely that “the sons of Zedekiah,” and “all the Princes of Judah” were slain in Riblah, by being beheaded, and that their headless trunks were suspended by the hands on the walls of the city. Thus the headless, naked body of Saul, and the bodies of his three sons, were fastened to the walls of Bethshan (1 Sam. 31:8–12). “It was a custom with the Persians, after they had slain, strangled, or beheaded their enemy, to hang their bodies upon poles or empale them. In this way they treated Hirstæus of Miletum, and Leonidas of Lacedæmon. See Herodotus, Lib. vi. c. 30; Lib. vii. c. 238” (ADAM CLARKE). Or, there may have been instances in which Princes were thus suspended, not after death, nor for the purpose of killing them, but as an ignominious and torturing punishment. It is said that “no punishment is more common in the East. Has a master a refractory slave,… several men are called, who tie the offender’s hands and hoist him to the roof till he beg forgiveness” (Comp. Comm.).—W. H. H.] The faces of Elders were not regarded. This is said in allusion to Lev. 19:32, “Thou shalt honor the face of the old man,” comp. Lev. 19:15; Ex. 23:3. Although in the places referred to, the word Elders is intended as a designation of age, not of dignity, yet we are obliged to take it in the latter sense here; because it is placed in parallelism with Princes, and because the aged in contrast with the youthful are spoken of in Lam 5:14.
Lam 5:13. They took the young men to grind—the young men are obliged to carry the mill—[NOYES:Young men carried mill-stones]. The Vulgate translates, Adolescentibus impudice abusi sunt (same as, Adolescentes molitionem passi sunt). [DOUAY:They abused the young men indecently,which is explained by this note, “i.e., made them grind naked in the mill.” But the second clause of the verse is against any such interpretation of the first clause. The explanations, Juvenes ad molendum sumserunt, Young men were taken to grind, and Juvenes molas agitarunt or versarunt, Young men shook or turned mills, are verbally incorrect, for the verb נָשָׂא does not mean agitare, to shake: to give it the sense of turning,לְ would be necessary. But the simple literal meaning of the word [to lift,GERLACH:—to carry], entirely suffices. For not only was the carrying of the hand-mills on the journey a heavy burden, but that they carried these implies that they were also compelled to turn them, i. e., to grind with them. As thus explained, the first clause corresponds with the second. And [The omission of the conjunction in this song, where it might be expected, makes its expression here more emphatic. Young men have been compelled to carry mill-stones, even boys, or mere children have fallen under the heavy burdens of wood they were forced to carry.—W. H. H.] the children fell under the wood.—Boys fall [properly, fell, or have fallen.—W. H. H.] under the wood. The בַּחוּרִים, the most blooming and strongest of the youth were obliged to carry the mill-stones (see HERZ.R.-Enc. x. p. 82), the boys generally were required to drag the wood. [The most laborious and menial services were required of the Jewish youth and children.—W. H. H.]
The elders have ceased from the gate, the young men from their musick.5:14–18
14The elders have ceased from the gate, the young men from their music. The 15joy of our heart is ceased; our dance is turned into mourning. The crown is 16fallen from our head: woe unto us, that we have sinned! For this our heart is 17faint; for these things our eyes are dim. Because of the mountain of Zion, which 18is desolate, the foxes walk upon it.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Lam 5:14. שָׁבַת with מִך following, Jer. 7:34; 16:9; 31:36; 36:29; 48:33.—נְגִנָתָם. See 3:14.
Lam 5:15. מְשׂוֹשׂ Jeremiah uses only once, 49:25. The expression שָׁבַת מְשׂוֹשׂ פ׳ is found in Is. 24:8; comp. Hos. 2:13.—נֶהְפַךְ see Lam 5:2.—לְאֵבֶל, see Am. 8:10. Jeremiah uses the word three times, 6:26; 16:7; 31:13.—מְהוֹלֵנוּ, see Ps. 30:12; Jer. 31:4, 13.
Lam 5:16. עֲטֶרֶת רֹאשׁ, only elsewhere in Job 19:9. Jeremiah uses עֲטֶרֶת once, 13:18.—אוֹי Jeremiah uses frequently; 4:13; 6:4; 10:19; 13:26; 15:10; 48:46. Also אוֹי־נָא, 4:31; 45:3. [OWEN insists on translating the particle נָא, Woe is now to us. But to one ignorant of the Hebrew, the now would inevitably be taken in its temporal sense, which the Hebrew particle never has. The E. V. is followed by all the English translators, except OWEN.—W. H. H.]—כִּי חָטָאנוּ, see Jer. 3:25; 8:14; 14:7, 20.
Lam 5:17. דָוֶה, see 1:13, 22.—חָֽשְׁכוּ עֵינֵינוּ occurs elsewhere only in Ps. 69:24.—חָשַׁךְ, see 4:8.
Lam 5:18, שֶׁשָׁמֶם, see Jer. 12:11; Dan. 9:17.—שׁ relat., 2:15.—שׁוּעָלִים, Jeremiah never uses the word. He expresses the same idea otherwise, 9:10; 10:22; 49:33; 51:37.—Jeremiah never uses the Piel הִלֵּךְ, see Ps. 89:16.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
[Lam 5:14–18 depict the depressing effects of these various wrongs and humiliations on the feelings and deportment of the people.—W. H. H.]
Lam 5:14. The elders have ceased from the gate, the young men from their music. [The German language enables GERLACH to give a verbally literal translation: Die Aeltesten feiern vom Thor, die Jünglinge von ihrem Saitenspiel. We have no words in English that so accurately translate שָׁבַת and נְגִינָה. NOYES’ translation, which is also LUTHER’S—The elders sit no more at the gate; the young men have ceased from their music—restricts the meaning of the first clause, mistranslates the verb, and renders it necessary to supply a verb in the second clause. The idea is not merely that the elders no longer occupy their seats in the gates,—but that they rest or cease from all those duties and pleasures that pertain to their age and dignity. While elders here designate old men, in antithesis to young men, it is not to the exclusion of the official elders, who are regarded as types and representatives of those past middle-life,—of those who especially delighted in resorting to the gates of the city, whether their official duties called them there or not. HENDERSON: “It is common in the East for aged men to meet in the open space without the gate of the city, to pass the time in narrating or hearing the news of the day, or the stories of bygone years. From this an easy transition is made to the jocund pastime of the young.”—W. H. H.] The gate was, as it were, the court of the elders of the people, and, at the same time, the principal place of social entertainment. See WINER, R. W. B. s. v. Thore. For this reason, and also on account of the second clause of the verse, we must consider, not only the discontinuance of public business, but the loss of that pleasure which the gate afforded to the older men. The young men from their music.THENIUS remarks correctly that Jeremiah “in the threatenings, 7:34 and 16:9, expresses himself concerning the loss of happiness in a way similar to this, and yet differing from what is said here.” [To suppose this verse to refer especially to the city of Jerusalem (CALVIN) is in itself absurd. There were no longer gates, elders, or young men in Jerusalem, of whom these things could be said. Throughout this song, the Prophet generalizes and does not particularize with reference to times and places.—W. H. H.]
Lam 5:15. Whilst, as has been said, Lam 5:11–14 enter into details, Lam 5:15, 16, generalize the facts. [Lam 5:14 is more closely connected with what follows than with what precedes it. It describes the disheartening effects, on the minds and conduct of the people, of what had happened. It does not state, as all the preceding verses do, some special cause of humiliation or suffering.—W. H. H.] The joy of our heart is ceased; our dance is turned into mourning.—[Ceased has the joy of our heart, changed to mourning our dance.Is ceased.GATAKER: “Heb. hath rested: the same term that was before, Lam 5:14, and it may seem to have some glance at such mirth and cheer, as they were wont to have at their solemn festivals and on their Sabbaths, Deut. 16:11, 14; 28:47, 48; 2 Chron. 29:36; Ps. 42:4; 81:1, 2; 92:1, 2.”—W. H. H.]
Lam 5:16. The crown is fallen from our head [marg. The crown of our head. So BLAYNEY, BOOTHROYD, HENDERSON, OWEN. It is more literal, but bad English. The crown of the head, in English, is something very different from the crown on the head. The one cannot fall without the head it belongs to. The other may fall from the head; so here: Fallen has the crown from our head.—W. H. H.] Woe unto us, that—for—we have sinned. I must regard the second half of this verse as a conclusion [i. e. of a paragraph, or one of the principal parts of the chapter], corresponding to that of Lam 5:7. I do not, therefore, believe that Lam 5:16 is to be connected with Lam 5:17, and that by the crown on our head is to be understood “Jerusalem, as a diadem set upon Zion with its splendid palaces” (THENIUS), although the expression by itself could have such an interpretation. Rather, I believe that the first clause of Lam 5:16 is in very close connection with Lam 5:15; and that the first clause of Lam 5:16 declares, that not only all joy, but also all honor has forsaken Jerusalem. The crown on the head of Jerusalem had consisted in this, that she was great among the nations, a princess among the provinces, and perfect in beauty, the joy of the whole earth (1:1; 2:15). [It confuses the sense to suppose that Jerusalem is the subject from whose head the crown has fallen. The people generally are the subject; “the crown of our head has fallen.” In the loss of independent nationality, and of all honor among the nations, who now treated them with the utmost contempt, the crown had indeed fallen from their heads. However intimately related are Lam 5:7 and 16, however striking and fine it would be, rhetorically considered, if each stood in the position of an emphatic conclusion to corresponding strophes (if this is poetry), or paragraphs (if it is prose); yet, in point of fact, each of these verses is too intimately connected with the verses immediately following it, to be separated from them without injuring the logical connection of the thoughts.—W. H. H.]—We have sinned! A gratifying advance is observable here, in so far as the people now openly and honorably confess their own guilt. See 3:39–42.
Lam 5:17, 18. These two verses constitute the introduction to the closing prayer, Lam 5:19–22. They refer to a fact which must be the cause of deepest pain to a heart truly attached to the theocracy,—the desolation of the holy mountain. But this gloomy and dark image constitutes only the back-ground for those noble and consolatory thoughts with which the Bard (Sänger) comforts himself in his prayer.
Lam 5:17. For this our heart is faint; for these things our eyes are dim.On this account is our heart faint, therefore are our eyes become dim. For the reasons given above we refer the pronominal phrases עַל־זֶה, on this account (darob) [E.V., for this], and עַל־אֵלֶּה, therefore (darüber) [E. V., for these things], to what follows in reference to Mount Zion in Lam 5:18. [The objections to this interpretation are insuperable. 1. In point of fact, the desolation of Zion was not the only, nor the absorbing cause of grief, as is evident from the whole of the preceding part of this Song, in which abundant and terrible causes of distress are given, without a single allusion to the desolation of Zion. 2. The second pronominal suffix עַל־אֵלֶה (correctly translated in English Version, for these things) is plural, and must include more than the first suffix עַל־זֶה (for this thing), which is singular. It is obvious that both cannot refer to the single statement in Lam 5:18, that Mount Zion has become desolate. Nor can it be said, that two things are stated in Lam 5:18, namely, that Mount Zion is desolate; and that the foxes run upon it. For the latter statement is a mere expansion or illustration of the first: and it would be very absurd to make the latter a special and additional cause of grief, regarded as in any sense distinct from the first great fact that the mountain is desolate. 3. This interpretation involves a redundancy of relative expository phrases, all referring to the same thing, that is useless, inelegant, and utterly incongruous with the prevailing style of composition in the Lamentations, which is terse, compressed and remarkable for the absence of words not actually indispensable, as, for example, of the connecting וְ (which the Masorites were so anxious to insert), and of the repeated verb, causing a constant recurrence of the Zeugma, see Lam 5:2, 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 19. Is it likely that such a writer would say, on account of this thing (עַל־זֶה), on account of these things (עַל־אֵלֶּה), on account of (עַל) Mount Zion, etc., our heart is faint, our eyes are dim; using three relative expository phrases, where one would have sufficed? 4. By referring the verse to what precedes it, these relative phrases, instead of being redundant and cumbersome, become significant and impressive. For this (namely, that the crown has fallen from our head because we have sinned), our heart is faint; for these things (namely, all the evils that have been recited), our eyes are dim. We may then take Lam 5:18 as an additional reason for lamentation, translating עַל, on account of, or take it as an independent, but not unrelated, thought, translating עַל, as to: see remarks on that verse.—W. H. H.]—Our eyes are dim [our eyes have become dim]. We must regard weeping, according to 2:11, as the immediate cause of the eyes becoming dim. [Weeping suggests itself as a sufficient physical cause, and if the Prophet means this, then our eyes have become dim, is a poetical way of intimating how greatly they have wept. But there is no allusion to tears in the context; the period of violent weeping, indeed, we may regard as past: and the parallelism is better carried out by regarding the dimness of the eyes as the effect of the faintness of the heart. So NOYES: “our eyes are dim; i.e., through faintness the sight of our eyes departs. On the other hand, the eyes are said to be enlightened when the strength is restored and faintness departs. See 1 Sam. 14:29.” We are not to restrict the thought to merely physical causes and effects. The faintness of the heart suggests a moral cause, the effect of which would be that moral dimness of sight which ensues, when God is no longer seen and hope expires. It is this underlying thought that connects Lam 5:17 with Lam 5:18.—W. H. H.]
Lam 5:18. Because of the mountain of Zion, which is [has become] desolate, the foxes walk upon it. The Mount of Zion is here evidently intended, not in the restricted sense, but in the wider sense in which it “includes Moriah.” See DELITZSCH on Ps. 2:6; 9:12; 76:3, etc. [The name Zion is used throughout the Lamentations, with great uniformity and precision, of Jerusalem as the theocratic city, where God has His dwelling-place, and always with special reference to the most sacred precincts of that city, where were the Temple of God and the palace of the king. Here the word Mount makes the designation more plain. The whole city, doubtless, is intended; but it is the city regarded as the dwelling-place of God, the throne of the Theocracy. Probably the word is always used by the Prophets in this sense; and a regard to this fact will spare us the difficulties of determining whether Mount Moriah, the Temple mount, was included generically in Mount Zion, or is always to be distinguished from Mount Zion.—W. H. H.]—The foxes walk [have walked] upon it. Where these beasts live the habitations of men must have ceased to exist. See Ps. 63:11; comp. Judg. 15:4; Ez. 13:4. It may also be properly assumed, that if Jerusalem had been destroyed within a few weeks, those ravenous beasts were busily engaged roaming through its holy precints seeking for the carcases of the dead. [Foxes.שׁוּעָלִים. Jackals,BOOTHROYD, WORDSWORTH, GERLACH. See KITTO’SCyc. Bib. Lit. If preying on dead men was mentioned, or even distinctly hinted at, we might be sure that the jackal, or wolf, or some other ravenous member of the canine species, is probably intended; for foxes are not addicted to this. A better reason for supposing that jackals are meant, is the plural form of the word (though this could be explained by the preference of the writer for terminations in ם), as if they went about on the Holy Mount in companies; for the jackal is a gregarious, the fox a solitary animal. But the Hebrew הִלְּכוּ־בּוֹ, may mean, not walking about on the mountain, but walking in the frequentative sense, or living (see הִלֵּךְ, Piel in Eccl. 4:15) in the mountain. In this case the reference would be to these animals, whether foxes or jackals, having their burrows there, remaining there permanently and undisturbed. This gives a better idea of the utter desolation that reigned on Mount Zion, and is more consonant with the fact, that more than “a few weeks” must have elapsed since the city was completely destroyed and consumed to its foundations, and, therefore, there were no corpses there to invite the predatory excursions of the jackals.—But what is the connection of Lam 5:18 with Lam 5:17? How is the preposition עַל to be translated? BROUGHTON very elegantly preserves the obscurity of the original; “For this our heart is sick, for these things our eyes be dim. For Mount Sion which is desolate, the foxes walk upon it.” We can translate עַל, as in the preceding verse, on account of, and then this verse is immediately connected with the preceding verse, and assigns an additional reason, why the heart is sick, and the eyes dim, namely, that Mount Zion is desolate. That is the same as saying, that God has withdrawn from His people: their heart is faint and their eyes dim on account of past and present troubles, and also because there is no prospect of relief for them, for God’s house is destroyed, and Jehovah has forsaken His people. This is excellent sense, and were there no question as to the grammatical construction we might be satisfied with it. But we may translate עַל, as to (GERLACH, über), as to Mount Zion which has become desolate, the foxes have walked upon it. Thus rendered, this verse is independent of the preceding verse as to grammatical construction, but intimately related to it in sense. This is recommended by several considerations. 1. עַל, by itself, rarely has the sense of on account of. 2. The שְׁ, relativum, properly throws the idea connected with it into a parenthesis. If so, then the idea that Zion lies waste, is not the prominent idea, but is subordinate to what, in itself is an insignificant fact, that the foxes walk upon it. Surely that could not constitute the climax of their grief, who had to lament for dishonored women, princes, and elders, and the cruellest oppression of tender children! 3. If the foxes walking on Zion is a fact significant of something else of far deeper import (as in truth it is, though this method of construction does not suggest that interpretation), yet in such a case it is to be observed, that the עַל should be repeated before the last clause. Our heart is faint, our eyes dim, Because of Mount Zion, because the foxes walk upon it. In every case the construction is awkward. 4. By taking עַל in the sense of as to, we have perfect grammatical construction: As to Mount Zion, which has become desolate, the foxes walk uponit! 5. This at once suggests the real force of the expression, the foxes walk upon it, and gives dignity to what else would be an insignificant culmination point of the sublime grief expressed in what precedes. As to Mount Zion, from whence ought to come our help and salvation, the foxes have it now for their home! It is no longer the dwelling-place of God, and the refuge of His people. This is no sentimental effusion of grief, that the foxes roam where the proud and happy city once stood. It is the expression of a terrible truth, that Jehovah had forsaken His people; and what had been His dwelling-place, now laid waste and destroyed, is the home of wild beasts. 6. This explanation is favored by the emphatic declaration that follows in Lam 5:19, and especially by the emphatic expression of the personal pronoun: Thou, Jehovah art forever. Thy dwelling-place is the home of the wild beasts, but THOU Thyself dost still exist, dost still reign, and Thy people pray Thee to return to them, and have mercy upon them.—W. H. H.]
Thou, O LORD, remainest for ever; thy throne from generation to generation.5:19–22
19Thou, O LORD, remainest forever; thy throne from generation to generation. 20, 21Wherefore dost thou forget us forever, and forsake us so long time? Turn thou 22us unto thee, O LORD, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old. But thou hast utterly rejected us; thou art very wroth against us.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Lam 5:19.—[BLAYNEY: “The LXX., Syr., Vulg. and Arabic all express the conjunction at the beginning of this verse. Two MSS. read ואתה, and so it is found in the notes of the celebrated printed Bible, No. 300”]—בִּסֵּא, frequently in Jeremiah, 1:15; 3:17, etc.—לְדוֹר וָרוֹר Jeremiah never uses. He says only once עַר דּוֹר וָרוֹר, 50:39. [The writer who only once used a common expression with a common preposition, is the very one who would be likely only once to use the same expression with another preposition.—W. H. H.]
Lam 5:20.—לָנֶצַח, Jer. 3:5; 50:39.—שָׁכַח, Jer. 2:32; 3:21, etc.—עַזַב, Jer. 2:13; 12:7, etc.—אֹרֶךְ Jeremiah never uses. See Ps. 23:6; 93:5.
Lam 5:21.—The verb הָדַשׁ (except here, used only in Piel and Hiph.) is not found in Jeremiah.—כְקֶדֶם, see Jer. 30:30.
Lam 5:22.—מָאַם, Jer. 14:19, 2:37; 6:30, etc.—קָצַף, Jer. 37:5.—מְאד Jeremiah uses twice, 18:13; 48:16; עַד־מְאֹד never. [Poor little עַד, slighted by Jeremiah twice! takes its revenge by having the last word to say against his authorship of the Lamentations.—W. H. H.]
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Lam 5:19–22. This short prayer contains four thoughts. 1. A positive source of consolation; the throne of the Lord stands immovably fast, Lam 5:19. 2. A question: Why then should the Lord forget His people forever? Lam 5:20. 3. A petition: that the Lord would re-establish His people spiritually and temporally, Lam 5:21. 4. A negative source of consolation: the Lord cannot be angry forever, Lam 5:22.
Lam 5:19. Thou, O LORD,—Thou, Jehovah. [BLAYNEY, BOOTHROYD, NOYES:But Thou, Jehovah. See Textual notes above. Whether the וְ originally belonged to the text or not, the emphatic expression of the personal pronoun אַתָּא, and the parallelism between Lam 5:18 and 19, involve the sense of but, yet, or as to, before the pronoun. As to Zion, it is desolate,—but Thou endurest forever, or as to Thee, though Thy dwelling-place is gone, Thou endurest.GATAKER indicates this in this brief note. “But, or Yet, to be supplied.”—W. H. H.].—Remainest forever,—[lit., sittest forever. But when this is said of God or of human monarchs, it always refers to their occupying the throne; see Ps. 61:8 (7); 9:5 (4), 12 (11); Zech. 6:13. The king sits, the subject stands. The instant mention of the throne, shows that this must be the meaning here. Not God’s continual existence, but His uninterrupted sovereignty over His creatures. HENDERSON and NOYES translate, sittest as king. But this seems to lower the thought to a comparison with human monarchs. Though God is called and is a King, yet it is not as any ordinary king that He occupies the throne GERLACH translates, Thou art enthroned forever. This produces a slight tautology. Thou reignest forever (GATAKER), may, perhaps, be as accurate a translation of the word, as our English affords.—W. H. H.].—Thy throne from generation to generation. See Ps. 45:7; 89:5; 93:2. In opposition to the desolation of the external sanctuary, the Poet holds up before himself the consolation, that the Lord Himself nevertheless sits firmly on His throne and His kingdom remains immovable. The heathen could destroy the Temple; to the Lord Himself they could do no harm. See Ps. 9:8 (7); 29:10, 146:10; 125:1.
Lam 5:20. Wherefore dost thou forget us forever, and forsake us so long time? (marg. for length of days). Why shouldest Thou forever forget us, and forsake us for long time? It ought to be distinctly observed, that it is not said שְׁכַחְתָּנוּ, Thou hast forgotten,עֲזַבְתָּנוּ, Thou hast forsaken. The Poet does not ask, Why hast Thou forgotten and forsaken us forever? But why wouldst or shouldst Thou forsake us forever? That He would do this, the Poet cannot believe. See Ps. 74:2 (1); 77:8–10 (7–9). [As OWEN has suggested, we are undoubtedly to regard this as a prayer for present and immediate relief. The Prophet well understood that the captivity would not end before seventy years. That for that time at least Zion must remain desolate. He also firmly believed that after that time, the people would return to their own land, and God would dwell on Mount Zion. He could not therefore ask, with any reference to the possibility of such a thing, if God intended to forsake the Jewish people forever? But what He does ask is, if He would forever or always (נֶצַח, constantly, continuously) forget and forsake for length of days, for a long period of time, or for all their life-time, that suffering generation of His people? Would He leave them in their present misery without any relief, any show of mercy? Though Zion was desolate, and God had withdrawn His theocratic presence from the people, and the Prophet knew that He would not in that sense return to the people again, till that sinful generation was dead, yet, he says, Thou still art God, Thou reignest forever, Thy throne remains unmoved by any mundane events,—why then shouldst Thou continuously, persistently forget us and completely abandon us to our present sorrow? The pronoun us here, embraces the persons of those embraced by the us in the preceding verses of the Song. Had he intended the people as such, and not the people individually considered, he would probably have used some such designation as the daughter of Thy people, or simply Thy people. The prayer as thus interpreted was answered. Long before the captivity ended, God had mercy on the sufferers, gave them favor in the eyes of men, and relieved them from many of their distresses. The verse then ought to be translated, Wherefore shouldst Thou always forget us, shouldst Thou abandon us—i.e. to our present misery—for length of days, that is, for any long but indefinite period of time?—W. H. H.]
Lam 5:21. Turn Thou us unto Thee, O LORD—Jehovah—and we shall be turned. The Poet well knows that a restoration is possible; but he also knows its conditions. He has before his eyes what is said in Jer. 31:16–22; 3:1–4, 12, in which the idea שׁוּב [to turn] is employed in a variety of ways.—The words הֲשִׁיבֵנוּ וְנָשׁוּבָה [turn us and we shall turn] are a direct quotation from Jer. 31:18. See remarks on that passage. Comp. Ps. 80:4 (3), 8 (7), 20 (19). The question is whether the Poet prayed only for temporal, or only for spiritual restoration? It is in point of fact not imaginable, that there could be one without the other. But he knows that in order to either kind of restoration, the Lord must take the initiative. And especially, first of all, He must lead back the people to Himself. Only when the Lord has accomplished this—but then most certainly—will the people return back to the Lord and to the place of His gracious presence and so be restored to the old covenant relationship. [There are three ways of understanding this prayer, which Dr. NAEGELSBACH has not distinguished with his usual admirable perspicuity. 1. It can be understood as a prayer for the restoration of the old condition of things, involving a return to their own land. OWEN: “’The meaning of this sentence is,’ says GROTIUS, ‘Restore us to Thy favor, that we may be restored to our ancient stale.’ Were this evidently the meaning, the rendering ought to be thus,—Restore us, O Jehovah, to Thyself, that we may be restored.” It is obvious that the words so translated do not express what is claimed for them. Restore us to Thyself, that we may be restored, can only mean that we may be restored to Thyself. This might involve as a consequence the return of the “ancient state.” But if that had been the main idea, it would have been differently expressed. Besides people are apt to pray for what they most need and are likely to get. The pressing need of the people now, was instant relief from suffering. This they might have without a return to their land. The latter they could not expect for themselves, and were sure that it would come eventually to a future generation. 2. In a strictly theocratic sense. That God would bring them back to Himself and they be restored to His favor and blessed with all the blessings of the covenant. This would not involve necessarily an immediate return to their own land; and gives a good sense. Yet it does not seem fully to express the natural meaning of the words. Nor is it grammatically correct to take נָשׁוּב in a passive, instead of an active sense. 3. It can be regarded as a prayer for converting grace. Turn Thou us to Thyself and we shall turn, i. e. to Thee. This is the simplest and most natural translation. It is consistent with the fact, that the people throughout this Song, while speaking collectively, are yet regarded as individuals. It harmonizes with the evident meaning of Lam 5:20. It is such a prayer as was eminently proper in their circumstances. It is consistent with the whole doctrine of the Bible in regard to converting grace, or the grace of repentance. Finally, it prepares the way for the final petitition, renew our days as of old.—W. H. H.].—Renew our days as of old. The construction is a prolepsis. Renew our days, i.e.vitam, vitæ conditionem,Job 10:5, so that they may be as they were formerly. [This petition is general and comprehensive. It reaches forward to the time when all they had possessed and enjoyed would be theirs again as a people,—Country, Temple, Priest, Prophet, and King. But it does not require the instant or even speedy fulfilment of these things; nor does this petition afford any ground for the argument (OWEN) that the preceding petition must be of the same purport.—W. H. H.]
Lam 5:22. But Thou hast utterly rejected us; (marg. For wilt Thou utterly reject us?) Thou art very wroth against us.Or hast Thou wholly rejected us, and art exceedingly angry with us? The verse contains, as remarked above, a negative fundamental statement. The meaning of the conjunction כִי אִם [but, except, unless] is, it may be then that. See Gen. 28:17; Is. 42:19; Prov. 3:12; my Gr. § 110. 4, note, EWALD, § 356. The idea of realization is to be supplied before the conjunction, from the foregoing prayer; this will be done, unless Thou mayest have utterly abandoned us. [CALVIN:Except Thou hast wholly rejected us, and hast become very angry with us.BOOTHROYD puts the first clause interrogatively, For wilt Thou altogether cast us off? Thou hast been wroth against us exceedingly. But both verbs are preterites, and neither can be taken in a future sense. For the same reason, the verbs cannot be translated as NOYES renders them, taking both clauses interrogatively, For shouldst Thou utterly reject us? Shouldst Thou be so exceedingly wroth against us? We must either accept the sense of Dr. NAEGELSBACH’S translation, with which CALVIN and GERLACH agree, or accept the text of the English Version, with which agree Sept., Syr., Arab., Vulg., Targ., BROUGHTON, BLAYNEY, HENDERSON, and OWEN, an imposing weight of authority. If we adopt the latter sense, then we must accept of OWEN’S as the only possible explanation, that the reference is to themselves as individuals, not as representatives of the Jewish race. They knew that God had not utterly rejected the nation. They knew that as a nation, they would be restored to their land. In either case, the opinion that this prayer is a prayer for immediate relief as individuals, and not for final restoration as a nation, is evident. For, if we adopt the sense of the text of the English version, we cannot believe that Jeremiah meant to announce the utter rejection of the nation; and if we prefer the sense of the margin of the English version, we cannot believe that Jeremiah would close this magnificent poem with a question involving the possibility of God’s utter rejection of the whole nation. Rather, we must regard these closing words as one last plaintive cry for mercy,—unless Thou hast utterly rejected us, who are now in misery, and hast become exceedingly angry with us, so that Thy wrath cannot be appeased, and the mercy, we implore in vain for ourselves, is to be reserved for another and more pious generation of Israelites.—W. H. H.]
The Hebrew codices repeat, for the purpose of synagogue reading, after Lam 5:22, the words of Lam 5:21, as they do also [repeat the verse before the last, after the last verse] at the close of Isaiah, Malachi, and Ecclesiastes, “in order to close with consolatory words.” See DELITZSCH, Is. p. 651. [HUGH BROUGHTON:Turn us, O Eternal, unto Thee, and we shall return; renew our days as of old. The Lam 5:21 is one of the four which, in the Massoreth Bible, are printed as a postscript for better memory. Another is the last save one in Ecclesiastes, another the last save one in Esay, the fourth the last save one in Malachi, as I noted upon Ecclesiastes. These sayings contain the main of the writers. That in Ecclesiastes biddeth us look for all happiness in the world to come, that of Esay telleth how all Moyses’ policy shall end. That of Malachi showeth how John Baptist shall begin the New Testament. And this of Jeremy telleth that God will begin a new state for his people. Upon that they studied in Babylon fifty years, and they made themselves a golden age, knowing that the kingdom of Christ was in suffering. Afterwards they are plainly told of the true kingdom, and be renewed, as of old. This verse was given in the beginning of the captivity for a comfort that way.” WORDSWORTH: “Turn Thou us unto Thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned. A very appropriate prayer for Israel weeping over the ruins of Jerusalem,—destroyed first by the Chaldean armies, and next, on the anniversary of the same day, by the power of Rome, for its sins. Israel says, ‘Turn Thou us, O Lord, and we shall be turned;’ and the Apostle of Israel, the great Hebrew of the Hebrews, St. Paul, says, ‘Even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart. Nevertheless, when it shall turn unto the Lord, the veil shall be taken away’ (2 Cor. 3:15, 16). May He hasten the time! Then the dirge of Lamentation will be changed into a jubilee of joy.”]