Matthew Poole's Commentary
Remember, O LORD, what is come upon us: consider, and behold our reproach.A humble prayer, presenting to the Lord their great misery, Lamentations 5:1-15, confessing their sins, Lamentations 5:16-18, imploring deliverance, Lamentations 5:19-22.
It hath been before observed, that it is very frequent in Scripture to express those acts which are reasonably consequent to the exercise of our exterior or interior senses, by terms which signify the exercise of those senses. That which the prophet here prayeth for is God’s freeing the Jews from those calamities which oppressed them; this he prayeth for under the notion of God’s remembering them, and beholding their reproach.
Our inheritance is turned to strangers, our houses to aliens.What our fathers inherited as given them by thee, and we as left to us by them, is come into the hands of the Chaldeans.
We are orphans and fatherless, our mothers are as widows.We are all of us without a king, (who is the common father of the country,) we are deprived of thy fatherly care and protection, many young children amongst us are left without an earthly parent.
Our mothers are as widows; either our great cities are like widows, wanting magistrates; or, our women that were married are left widows.
We have drunken our water for money; our wood is sold unto us.This seemeth to refer to the state of the Jews in Babylon, where it is probable their adversaries made them buy both water and wood, which in the land of Canaan they had plentifully, and without any further charge to them than fetching the one, and cutting down and bringing home the other.
Our necks are under persecution: we labour, and have no rest.As the generality of prisoners of war are made slaves, and put to hard and incessant labour, so in probability the most of the Jews were at first at least.
We have given the hand to the Egyptians, and to the Assyrians, to be satisfied with bread.The ten tribes were all carried captives into Assyria, many of the kingdom of Judah, as we have heard, fled into Egypt after the taking of Jerusalem.
Giving the hand may either signify working with their hands, and labouring for them; or yielding up themselves to their power, or lifting up the hands as supplicants to them, or striking hands and making covenants with them, or lending them their hand, to help them, and all to get any thing to live upon.
Our fathers have sinned, and are not; and we have borne their iniquities.We must not understand this in the same sense as Ezekiel 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 a long time.
Servants have ruled over us: there is none that doth deliver us out of their hand.Either those who sometimes were our servants, tributary to us, or the posterity of Ham, condemned of old to be servants to our forefather Shem, Genesis 9:26; or the servants of those masters whom we serve in Babylon: and none will help us and give us more liberty.
We gat our bread with the peril of our lives because of the sword of the wilderness.The enemies lay encamped in all the plains, so as they could stir out no way but the sword of the Chaldeans was upon them, and what victuals they got they adventured their lives for, during the time of the siege.
Our skin was black like an oven because of the terrible famine.The want of bread caused leanness, and paleness, and ill colours in their faces.
They ravished the women in Zion, and the maids in the cities of Judah.Usual outrages of barbarous soldiers. The Hebrew is, They humbled, a modest term to express these actions by.
Princes are hanged up by their hand: the faces of elders were not honoured.Most probably by the enemies’ hands, though some would have it by their hands, intimating a more sharp and lingering death. Hanging was an ancient way in the Eastern countries of putting malefactors to death, Genesis 40:19.
They took the young men to grind, and the children fell under the wood.Their base, servile condition is expressed by the labour they were put to, which was either grinding in the mill, (an ordinary employment of slaves in those countries,) or carrying millstones; and the younger children in carrying great burdens of wood, under which they fell, as being not able to stand under the burdens laid upon them.
The elders have ceased from the gate, the young men from their musick.Our grave men were wont to sit and execute judgment in the gates, but now there is no such thing. Our young men were wont to play on music, and to have their merry meetings, but they are also ceased.
The joy of our heart is ceased; our dance is turned into mourning.Either our rejoicing at our solemn festivals, and dancings there, which were usual, as appeareth from many scriptures; or all our joy and dancings, as well at other times as in our solemn festivals.
The crown is fallen from our head: woe unto us, that we have sinned!Or, The crown of our head is fallen, by which is not only to be understood the cessation of their kingdom, but all their honour, splendour, and dignity (crown being taken in a metaphorical notion).
Woe unto us, that we have sinned! we must thank ourselves for all this, this woe is come upon us because of our sins·
For this our heart is faint; for these things our eyes are dim.Either for our sins these miseries are befallen us; or for these miseries our spirits fail us, and we are almost blinded with weeping.
Because of the mountain of Zion, which is desolate, the foxes walk upon it.Foxes and other wild beasts, which flee from places inhabited for fear of men inhabiting, and are much in desolate places. The mountain of Zion, where the temple once stood, and people met to worship God, was now a desolate, unfrequented place, so as will beasts ran up and down there.
Thou, O LORD, remainest for ever; thy throne from generation to generation.That is, Lord, though for our sins thou sufferest these things to be done unto us, and our throne be through thy righteous providence thrown down, and thy throne in thy sanctuary amongst us be thrown down; yet thou art still the same God, thy power is not diminished, nor thy goodness abated. Thou rulest the world, and shalt rule it for ever and for ever.
Wherefore dost thou forget us for ever, and forsake us so long time?Wherefore dost thou, in the dispensations of thy providence, carry thyself as if thou hadst forgotten us, and forsaken us, and that for a long time.
Turn thou us unto thee, O LORD, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old.See the like expression Jeremiah 31:18. Turn thou us unto thee by giving us repentance, and then our condition will be altered; or receive us into thy favour, and then it shall be well with us. Renew our days as of old; restore us to our former estate, that it may be with us as it hath formerly been.
But thou hast utterly rejected us; thou art very wroth against us.Our translators have here so rendered the particle yk that the words seem to express some diffidence in the prophet of God’s mercy in restoring the people to their former state, some expressions of which nature we find falling from the most eminent servants of God in an hour of great temptation; but where such a sense is not necessary, it is hard to put it upon a text. Some therefore expound Ma yb in this place by But if. Others translate them, Although thou hast, &c. Mr. Calvin preferreth the translation of them by Nisi, Unless thou hast utterly rejected us, and thinks that by this expression the prophet confirmeth himself against temptations of diffidence, because it was impossible God should utterly cast off his people, Romans 11:2. Others read it interrogatively, Hast thou utterly rejected us? which doth not suppose that the prophet believed he had, though his present providence showed him very angry with them.