The deplorable state of the nation is contrasted with its ancient prosperity.
Verses 1-12 What a change is here! Sin tarnishes the beauty of the most exalted powers and the most excellent gifts; but that gold, tried in the fire, which Christ bestows, never will be taken from us; its outward appearance may be dimmed, but its real value can never be changed. The horrors of the siege and destruction of Jerusalem are again described. Beholding the sad consequences of sin in the church of old, let us seriously consider to what the same causes may justly bring down the church now. But, Lord, though we have gone from thee in rebellion, yet turn to us, and turn our hearts to thee, that we may fear thy name. Come to us, bless us with awakening, converting, renewing, confirming grace.
Verses 13-20 Nothing ripens a people more for ruin, nor fills the measure faster, than the sins of priests and prophets. The king himself cannot escape, for Divine vengeance pursues him. Our anointed King alone is the life of our souls; we may safely live under his shadow, and rejoice in Him in the midst of our enemies, for He is the true God and eternal life.
Verses 21-22 Here it is foretold that an end should be put to Zion's troubles. Not the fulness of punishment deserved, but of what God has determined to inflict. An end shall be put to Edom's triumphs. All the troubles of the church and of the believer will soon be accomplished. And the doom of their enemies approaches. The Lord will bring their sins to light, and they shall lie down in eternal sorrow. Edom here represents all the enemies of the church. And the corruption, and sin of Israel, which the prophet has proved to be universal, justifies the judgments of the Lord. It shows the need of that grace in Christ Jesus, which the sin and corruption of all mankind make so necessary.
CHAPTER (ELEGY) 4
Lamentations 4:1-22 . THE SAD CAPTURE OF JERUSALEM, THE HOPE OF RESTORATION, AND THE RETRIBUTION AWAITING IDUMEA FOR JOINING BABYLON AGAINST JUDEA.
1. gold--the splendid adornment of the temple [CALVIN] ( Lamentations 1:10 , 1 Kings 6:22 , Jeremiah 52:19 ); or, the principal men of Judea [GROTIUS] ( Lamentations 4:2 ).
stones of . . . sanctuary--the gems on the breastplate of the high priest; or, metaphorically, the priests and Levites.
2. comparable to . . . gold--( Job 28:16 Job 28:19 ).
earthen pitchers--( Isaiah 30:14 , Jeremiah 19:11 ).
3. sea monsters . . . breast--Whales and other cetaceous monsters are mammalian. Even they suckle their young; but the Jewish women in the siege, so desperate was their misery, ate theirs ( Lamentations 4:10 , Lamentations 2:20 ). Others translate, "jackals."
4. thirst--The mothers have no milk to give through the famine.
5. delicately--on dainties.
are desolate--or, "perish."
in scarlet embrace dunghills--Instead of the scarlet couches on which the grandees were nursed, they must lie on dunghills.
embrace--They who once shrank sensitively from any soil, gladly cling close to heaps of filth as their only resting-place. Compare "embrace the rock" ( Job 24:8 ).
6. greater than . . . Sodom--( Matthew 11:23 ). No prophets had been sent to Sodom, as there had been to Judea; therefore the punishment of the latter was heavier than that of the former.
overthrown . . . in a moment--whereas the Jews had to endure the protracted and manifold hardships of a siege.
no hands stayed on her--No hostile force, as the Chaldeans in the case of Jerusalem, continually pressed on her before her overthrow. Jeremiah thus shows the greater severity of Jerusalem's punishment than that of Sodom.
7. Nazarites--literally, "separated ones" ( Numbers 6:2 ). They were held once in the highest estimation, but now they are degraded. God's blessing formerly caused their body not to be the less fair and ruddy for their abstinence from strong drink. Compare the similar case of Daniel, &c. ( Daniel 1:8-15 ). Also David ( 1 Samuel 16:12 , 17:42 ). Type of Messiah ( Solomon 5:10 ).
rubies--GESENIUS translates, "corals," from a Hebrew root, "to divide into branches," from the branching form of corals.
polishing--They were like exquisitely cut and polished sapphires. The "sapphires" may represent the blue veins of a healthy person.
8. blacker than . . . coal--or, "than blackness" itself ( Joel 2:6 , Nahum 2:10 ).
like a stick--as withered as a dry stick.
9. The speedy death by the sword is better than the lingering death by famine.
pine away--literally, "flow out"; referring to the flow of blood. This expression, and "stricken through," are drawn from death by "the sword."
want of . . . fruits--The words in italics have to be supplied in the original ( Genesis 18:28 , Psalms 109:24 ).
10. ( Lamentations 2:20 , Deuteronomy 28:56 Deuteronomy 28:57 ).
pitiful--naturally at other times compassionate ( Isaiah 49:15 ). JOSEPHUS describes the unnatural act as it took place in the siege under Titus.
11. fire . . . devoured . . . foundations--( Deuteronomy 32:22 , Jeremiah 21:14 ). A most rare event. Fire usually consumes only the surface; but this reached even to the foundation, cutting off all hope of restoration.
12. Jerusalem was so fortified that all thought it impregnable. It therefore could only have been the hand of God, not the force of man, which overthrew it.
13. prophets--the false prophets ( Jeremiah 23:11 Jeremiah 23:21 ). Supply the sense thus: "For the sins . . . these calamities have befallen her."
shed the blood of the just--( Matthew 23:31 Matthew 23:37 ). This received its full fulfilment in the slaying of Messiah and the Jews' consequent dispersion ( James 5:6 ).
14. blind--with mental aberration.
polluted . . . with blood--both with blood of one another mutually shed (for example, Jeremiah 2:34 ), and with their blood shed by the enemy [GLASSIUS].
not touch . . . garments--as being defiled with blood ( Numbers 19:16 ).
15. They . . . them--"They," that is, "men" ( Lamentations 4:14 ). Even the very Gentiles, regarded as unclean by the Jews, who were ordered most religiously to avoid all defilements, cried unto the latter, "depart," as being unclean: so universal was the defilement of the city by blood.
wandered--As the false prophets and their followers had "wandered" blind with infatuated and idolatrous crime in the city ( Lamentations 4:14 ), so they must now "wander" among the heathen in blind consternation with calamity.
they said--that is, the Gentiles said: it was said among the heathen, "The Jews shall no more sojourn in their own land" [GROTIUS]; or, wheresoever they go in their wandering exile, "they shall not stay long" [LUDOVICUS DE DIEU], ( Deuteronomy 28:65 ).
16. Ain and Pe are here transposed ( Lamentations 4:16 Lamentations 4:17 ), as in Lamentations 2:16 Lamentations 2:17 , 3:46-51 .
anger--literally, "face"; it is the countenance which, by its expression, manifests anger ( Psalms 34:16 ). GESENIUS translates, "the person of Jehovah"; Jehovah present; Jehovah Himself ( Exodus 33:14 , 2 Samuel 17:11 ).
divided--dispersed the Jews.
they respected not . . . priests--This is the language of the Gentiles. "The Jews have no hope of a return: for they respected not even good priests" ( 2 Chronicles 24:19-22 ) [GROTIUS]. MAURER explains it, "They (the victorious foe) regard not the (Jewish) priests when imploring their pity" ( Lamentations 5:12 ). The evident antithesis to "As for us" ( Lamentations 4:17 ) and the language of "the heathen" at the close of Lamentations 4:15 , of which Lamentations 4:16 is the continuation, favor the former view.
17. As for us--This translation forms the best antithesis to the language of the heathen ( Lamentations 4:15 Lamentations 4:16 ). CALVIN translates, "While as yet we stood as a state, our eyes failed," &c.
watched for a nation that could not save us--Egypt ( 2 Kings 24:7 , Isaiah 30:7 , Jeremiah 37:5-11 ).
18. They--the Chaldeans.
cannot go--without danger.
19. The last times just before the taking of the city. There was no place of escape; the foe intercepted those wishing to escape from the famine-stricken city, "on the mountains and in the wilderness."
swifter . . . than . . . eagles--the Chaldean cavalry ( Jeremiah 4:13 ).
pursued--literally, "to be hot"; then, "to pursue hotly" ( Genesis 31:36 ). Thus they pursued and overtook Zedekiah ( Jeremiah 52:8 Jeremiah 52:9 ).
20. breath . . . anointed of . . . Lord--our king, with whose life ours was bound up. The original reference seems to have been to Josiah ( 2 Chronicles 35:25 ), killed in battle with Pharaoh-necho; but the language is here applied to Zedekiah, who, though worthless, was still lineal representative of David, and type of Messiah, the "Anointed." Viewed personally the language is too favorable to apply to him.
live among the heathen--Under him we hoped to live securely, even in spite of the surrounding heathen nations [GROTIUS].
21. Rejoice--at our calamities ( Psalms 137:7 ). This is a prophecy that Edom should exult over the fall of Jerusalem. At the same time it is implied, Edom's joy shall be short-lived. Ironically she is told, Rejoice while thou mayest ( Ecclesiastes 11:9 ).
cup--for this image of the confounding effects of God's wrath, see Jeremiah 13:12 , Jeremiah 25:15 Jeremiah 25:16 Jeremiah 25:21 ; as to Edom, Jeremiah 49:7-22 .
22. ( Isaiah 40:2 ). Thou hast been punished enough: the end of thy punishment is at hand.
no more carry thee . . . into captivity--that is, by the Chaldeans. The Romans carried them away subsequently. The full accomplishment of this prophecy must therefore refer to the Jews' final restoration.
discover--By the severity of His punishments on thee, God shall let men see how great was thy sin ( Jeremiah 49:10 ). God "covers" sin when He forgives it ( Psalms 32:1 Psalms 32:5 ). He "discovers," or "reveals," it, when He punishes it ( Job 20:27 ). Jeremiah 49:10 shows that Margin is wrong, "carry captive" (this rendering is as in Nahum 2:7 ; compare "discovered," Margin).