The faithful lament their calamities, and hope in God's mercies.
Verses 1-20 The prophet relates the more gloomy and discouraging part of his experience, and how he found support and relief. In the time of his trial the Lord had become terrible to him. It was an affliction that was misery itself; for sin makes the cup of affliction a bitter cup. The struggle between unbelief and faith is often very severe. But the weakest believer is wrong, if he thinks that his strength and hope are perished from the Lord.
Verses 21-36 Having stated his distress and temptation, the prophet shows how he was raised above it. Bad as things are, it is owing to the mercy of God that they are not worse. We should observe what makes for us, as well as what is against us. God's compassions fail not; of this we have fresh instances every morning. Portions on earth are perishing things, but God is a portion for ever. It is our duty, and will be our comfort and satisfaction, to hope and quietly to wait for the salvation of the Lord. Afflictions do and will work very much for good: many have found it good to bear this yoke in their youth; it has made many humble and serious, and has weaned them from the world, who otherwise would have been proud and unruly. If tribulation work patience, that patience will work experience, and that experience a hope that makes not ashamed. Due thoughts of the evil of sin, and of our own sinfulness, will convince us that it is of the Lord's mercies we are not consumed. If we cannot say with unwavering voice, The Lord is my portion; may we not say, I desire to have Him for my portion and salvation, and in his word do I hope? Happy shall we be, if we learn to receive affliction as laid upon us by the hand of God.
Verses 37-41 While there is life there is hope; and instead of complaining that things are bad, we should encourage ourselves with the hope they will be better. We are sinful men, and what we complain of, is far less than our sins deserve. We should complain to God, and not of him. We are apt, in times of calamity, to reflect on other people's ways, and blame them; but our duty is to search and try our own ways, that we may turn from evil to God. Our hearts must go with our prayers. If inward impressions do not answer to outward expressions, we mock God, and deceive ourselves.
Verses 42-54 The more the prophet looked on the desolations, the more he was grieved. Here is one word of comfort. While they continued weeping, they continued waiting; and neither did nor would expect relief and succour from any but the Lord.
Verses 55-66 Faith comes off conqueror, for in these verses the prophet concludes with some comfort. Prayer is the breath of the new man, drawing in the air of mercy in petitions, and returning it in praises; it proves and maintains the spiritual life. He silenced their fears, and quieted their spirits. Thou saidst, Fear not. This was the language of God's grace, by the witness of his Spirit with their spirits. And what are all our sorrows, compared with those of the Redeemer? He will deliver his people from every trouble, and revive his church from every persecution. He will save believers with everlasting salvation, while his enemies perish with everlasting destruction.
CHAPTER (ELEGY) 3
Lamentations 3:1-66 .
Jeremiah proposes his own experience under afflictions, as an example as to how the Jews should behave under theirs, so as to have hope of a restoration; hence the change from singular to plural ( Lamentations 3:22 Lamentations 3:40-47 ). The stanzas consist of three lines, each of which begins with the same Hebrew letter.
1-3. seen affliction--his own in the dungeon of Malchiah ( Jeremiah 38:6 ); that of his countrymen also in the siege. Both were types of that of Christ.
3. turneth . . . hand--to inflict again and again new strokes. "His hand," which once used to protect me. "Turned . . . turneth" implies repeated inflictions.
4-6. ( Job 16:8 ).
5. builded--mounds, as against a besieged city, so as to allow none to escape (so Lamentations 3:7 Lamentations 3:9 ).
6. set me--HENDERSON refers this to the custom of placing the dead in a sitting posture.
dark places--sepulchers. As those "dead long since"; so Jeremiah and his people are consigned to oblivion ( Psalms 88:5 Psalms 88:6 , 143:3 , Ezekiel 37:13 ).
7-9. hedged--( Job 3:23 , Hosea 2:6 ).
chain--literally, "chain of brass."
8. shutteth out--image from a door shutting out any entrance ( Job 30:20 ). So the antitype. Christ ( Psalms 22:2 ).
9. hewn stone--which coheres so closely as not to admit of being broken through.
paths crooked--thwarted our plans and efforts so that none went right.
10-13. ( Job 10:16 , Hosea 13:7 Hosea 13:8 ).
11. turned aside--made me wander out of the right way, so as to become a prey to wild beasts.
pulled in pieces--( Hosea 6:1 ), as a "bear" or a "lion" ( Lamentations 3:10 ).
12. ( Job 7:20 ).
13-15. arrows--literally, "sons" of His quiver (compare Job 6:4 ).
14. ( Jeremiah 20:7 ).
their song--( Psalms 69:12 ). Jeremiah herein was a type of Messiah. "All my people" ( John 1:11 ).
15. wormwood--( Jeremiah 9:15 ). There it is regarded as food, namely, the leaves: here as drink, namely, the juice.
16-18. gravel--referring to the grit that often mixes with bread baked in ashes, as is the custom of baking in the East ( Proverbs 20:17 ). We fare as hardly as those who eat such bread. The same allusion is in "Covered me with ashes," namely, as bread.
17. Not only present, but all hope of future prosperity is removed; so much so, that I am as one who never was prosperous ("I forgat prosperity").
18. from the Lord--that is, my hope derived from Him ( Psalms 31:22 ).
19-21. This gives the reason why he gave way to the temptation to despair. The Margin, "Remember" does not suit the sense so well.
wormwood . . . gall--( Jeremiah 9:15 ).
20. As often as my soul calls them to remembrance, it is humbled or bowed down in me.
21. This--namely, what follows; the view of the divine character ( Lamentations 3:22 Lamentations 3:23 ). CALVIN makes "this" refer to Jeremiah's infirmity. His very weakness ( Lamentations 3:19 Lamentations 3:20 ) gives him hope of God interposing His strength for him (compare Psalms 25:11 Psalms 25:17 , Psalms 42:5 Psalms 42:8 , 2 Corinthians 12:9 2 Corinthians 12:10 ).
22-24. ( Malachi 3:6 ).
23. ( Isaiah 33:2 ).
24. ( Numbers 18:20 , Psalms 16:5 , 73:26 , 119:57 , Jeremiah 10:16 ). To have God for our portion is the one only foundation of hope.
25-27. The repetition of "good" at the beginning of each of the three verses heightens the effect.
wait--( Isaiah 30:18 ).
26. quietly wait--literally, "be in silence." Compare Lamentations 3:28 and Psalms 39:2 Psalms 39:9 , that is, to be patiently quiet under afflictions, resting in the will of God ( Psalms 37:7 ). So Aaron ( Leviticus 10:2 Leviticus 10:3 ); and Job ( Job 40:4 Job 40:5 ).
27. yoke--of the Lord's disciplinary teaching ( Psalms 90:12 , 119:71 ). CALVIN interprets it, The Lord's doctrine ( Matthew 11:29 Matthew 11:30 ), which is to be received in a docile spirit. The earlier the better; for the old are full of prejudices ( Proverbs 8:17 , Ecclesiastes 12:1 ). Jeremiah himself received the yoke, both of doctrine and chastisement in his youth ( Jeremiah 1:6 Jeremiah 1:7 ).
28-30. The fruit of true docility and patience. He does not fight against the yoke ( Jeremiah 31:18 , Acts 9:5 ), but accommodates himself to it.
alone--The heathen applauded magnanimity, but they looked to display and the praise of men. The child of God, in the absence of any witness, "alone," silently submits to the will of God.
borne it upon him--that is, because he is used to bearing it on him. Rather, "because He (the Lord, Lamentations 3:26 ) hath laid it on him" [VATABLUS].
29. ( Job 42:6 ). The mouth in the dust is the attitude of suppliant and humble submission to God's dealings as righteous and loving in design (compare Ezra 9:6 , 1 Corinthians 14:25 ).
if so be there may be hope--This does not express doubt as to whether GOD be willing to receive the penitent, but the penitent's doubt as to himself; he whispers to himself this consolation, "Perhaps there may be hope for me."
30. Messiah, the Antitype, fulfilled this; His practice agreeing with His precept ( Isaiah 50:6 , Matthew 5:39 ). Many take patiently afflictions from God, but when man wrongs them, they take it impatiently. The godly bear resignedly the latter, like the former, as sent by God ( Psalms 17:13 ).
31-33. True repentance is never without hope ( Psalms 94:14 ).
32. The punishments of the godly are but for a time.
33. He does not afflict any willingly (literally, "from His heart," that is, as if He had any pleasure in it, Ezekiel 33:11 ), much less the godly ( Hebrews 12:10 ).
34-36. This triplet has an infinitive in the beginning of each verse, the governing finite verb being in the end of Lamentations 3:36 , "the Lord approveth not," which is to be repeated in each verse. Jeremiah here anticipates and answers the objections which the Jews might start, that it was by His connivance they were "crushed under the feet" of those who "turned aside the right of a man." God approves (literally, "seeth," Habakkuk 1:13 ; so "behold," "look on," that is, look on with approval) not of such unrighteous acts; and so the Jews may look for deliverance and the punishment of their foes.
35. before . . . face of . . . most High--Any "turning aside" of justice in court is done before the face of God, who Is present, and "regardeth," though unseen ( Ecclesiastes 5:8 ).
36. subvert--to wrong.
37-39. Who is it that can (as God, Psalms 33:9 ) effect by a word anything, without the will of God?
38. evil . . . good--Calamity and prosperity alike proceed from God ( Job 2:10 , Isaiah 45:7 , Amos 3:6 ).
39. living--and so having a time yet given him by God for repentance. If sin were punished as it deserves, life itself would be forfeited by the sinner. "Complaining" (murmuring) ill becomes him who enjoys such a favor as life ( Proverbs 19:3 ).
for the punishment of his sins--Instead of blaming God for his sufferings, he ought to recognize in them God's righteousness and the just rewards of his own sin.
40-42. us--Jeremiah and his fellow countrymen in their calamity.
search--as opposed to the torpor wherewith men rest only on their outward sufferings, without attending to the cause of them ( Psalms 139:23 Psalms 139:24 ).
41. heart with . . . hands--the antidote to hypocrisy ( Psalms 86:4 , 1 Timothy 2:8 ).
42. not pardoned--The Babylonian captivity had not yet ended.
43-45. covered--namely, thyself (so Lamentations 3:44 ), so as not to see and pity our calamities, for even the most cruel in seeing a sad spectacle are moved to pity. Compare as to God "hiding His face," Psalms 10:11 , 22:25 .
44. ( Lamentations 3:8 ). The "cloud" is our sins, and God's wrath because of them ( Isaiah 44:22 , 59:2 ).
45. So the apostles were treated; but, instead of murmuring, they rejoiced at it ( 1 Corinthians 4:13 ).
46-48. Pe is put before Ain ( Lamentations 3:43 Lamentations 3:46 ), as in Lamentations 2:16 Lamentations 2:17 , Lamentations 4:16 Lamentations 4:17 . ( Lamentations 2:16 .)
47. Like animals fleeing in fear, we fall into the snare laid for us.
48. ( Jeremiah 4:19 ).
49-51. without . . . intermission--or else, "because there is no intermission" [PISCATOR], namely, Of my miseries.
50. Till--His prayer is not without hope, wherein it differs from the blind grief of unbelievers.
look down, &c.--( Isaiah 63:15 ).
51. eye affecteth mine heart--that is, causeth me grief with continual tears; or, "affecteth my life" (literally, "soul," Margin), that is, my health [GROTIUS].
daughters of . . . city--the towns around, dependencies of Jerusalem, taken by the foe.
52-54. a bird--which is destitute of counsel and strength. The allusion seems to be to Proverbs 1:17 [CALVIN].
without cause--( Psalms 69:4 , Psalms 109:3 Psalms 109:4 ). Type of Messiah ( John 15:25 ).
53. in . . . dungeon--( Jeremiah 37:16 ).
stone--usually put at the mouth of a dungeon to secure the prisoners ( Joshua 10:18 , Daniel 6:17 , Matthew 27:60 ).
54. Waters--not literally, for there was "no water" ( Jeremiah 38:6 ) in the place of Jeremiah's confinement, but emblematical of overwhelming calamities ( Psalms 69:2 , Psalms 124:4 Psalms 124:5 ).
cut off--( Isaiah 38:10 Isaiah 38:11 ). I am abandoned by God. He speaks according to carnal sense.
55-57. I called out of dungeon--Thus the spirit resists the flesh, and faith spurns the temptation [CALVIN], ( Psalms 130:1 , Jonah 2:2 ).
56. Thou hast heard--namely formerly (so in Lamentations 3:57 Lamentations 3:58 ).
breathing . . . cry--two kinds of prayer; the sigh of a prayer silently breathed forth, and the loud, earnest cry (compare "prayer," "secret speech," Isaiah 26:16 , Margin; with "cry aloud," Psalms 55:17 ).
57. Thou drewest near--with Thy help ( James 4:8 ).
58-60. Jeremiah cites God's gracious answers to his prayers as an encouragement to his fellow countrymen, to trust in Him.
pleaded--( Psalms 35:1 , Micah 7:9 ).
59. God's past deliverances and His knowledge of Judah's wrongs are made the grounds of prayer for relief.
60. imaginations--devices ( Jeremiah 11:19 ).
Their vengeance--means their malice. Jeremiah gives his conduct, when plotted against by his foes, as an example how the Jews should bring their wrongs at the hands of the Chaldeans before God.
61-63. their reproach--their reproachful language against me.
63. sitting down . . . rising up--whether they sit or rise, that is, whether they be actively engaged or sedentary, and at rest "all the day" ( Lamentations 3:62 ), I am the subject of their derisive songs ( Lamentations 3:14 ).
64-66. ( Jeremiah 11:20 , 2 Timothy 4:14 ).
65. sorrow--rather, blindness or hardness; literally, "a veil" covering their heart, so that they may rush on to their own ruin ( Isaiah 6:10 , 2 Corinthians 3:14 2 Corinthians 3:15 ).
66. from under . . . heavens of . . . Lord--destroy them so that it may be seen everywhere under heaven that thou sittest above as Judge of the world.