The Jewish nation supplicating the Divine favour.
Verses 1-16 Is any afflicted? Let him pray; and let him in prayer pour out his complaint to God. The people of God do so here; they complain not of evils feared, but of evils felt. If penitent and patient under what we suffer for the sins of our fathers, we may expect that He who punishes, will return in mercy to us. They acknowledge, Woe unto us that we have sinned! All our woes are owing to our own sin and folly. Though our sins and God's just displeasure cause our sufferings, we may hope in his pardoning mercy, his sanctifying grace, and his kind providence. But the sins of a man's whole life will be punished with vengeance at last, unless he obtains an interest in Him who bare our sins in his own body on the tree.
Verses 17-22 The people of God express deep concern for the ruins of the temple, more than for any other of their calamities. But whatever changes there are on earth, God is still the same, and remains for ever wise and holy, just and good; with Him there is no variableness nor shadow of turning. They earnestly pray to God for mercy and grace; Turn us to thee, O Lord. God never leaves any till they first leave him; if he turns them to him in a way of duty, no doubt he will quickly return to them in a way of mercy. If God by his grace renew our hearts, he will by his favour renew our days. Troubles may cause our hearts to be faint, and our eyes to be dim, but the way to the mercy-seat of our reconciled God is open. Let us, in all our trials, put our whole trust and confidence in his mercy; let us confess our sins, and pour out our hearts before him. Let us watch against repinings and despondency; for we surely know, that it shall be well in the end with all that trust in, fear, love, and serve the Lord. Are not the Lord's judgments in the earth the same as in Jeremiah's days? Let Zion then be remembered by us in our prayers, and her welfare be sought above every earthly joy. Spare, Lord, spare thy people, and give not thine heritage to reproach, for the heathen to rule over them.
CHAPTER (ELEGY) 5
Lamentations 5:1-22 . EPIPHONEMA, OR A CLOSING RECAPITULATION OF THE CALAMITIES TREATED IN THE PREVIOUS ELEGIES.
1. ( Psalms 89:50 Psalms 89:51 ).
2. Our inheritance--"Thine inheritance" ( Psalms 79:1 ). The land given of old to us by Thy gift.
3. fatherless--Our whole land is full of orphans [CALVIN]. Or, "we are fatherless," being abandoned by Thee our "Father" ( Jeremiah 3:19 ), [GROTIUS].
4. water for money--The Jews were compelled to pay the enemy for the water of their own cisterns after the overthrow of Jerusalem; or rather, it refers to their sojourn in Babylon; they had to pay tax for access to the rivers and fountains. Thus, "our" means the water which we need, the commonest necessary of life.
our wood--In Judea each one could get wood without pay; in Babylon, "our wood," the wood we need, must be paid for.
5. Literally, "On our necks we are persecuted"; that is, Men tread on our necks ( Psalms 66:12 , Isaiah 51:23 ; compare Joshua 10:24 ). The extremest oppression. The foe not merely galled the Jews face, back, and sides, but their neck. A just retribution, as they had been stiff in neck against the yoke of God ( 2 Chronicles 30:8 , Margin; Nehemiah 9:29 , Isaiah 48:4 ).
6. given . . . hand to--in token of submission
to . . . Egyptians--at the death of Josiah ( 2 Chronicles 36:3 2 Chronicles 36:4 ).
Assyrians--that is, the Chaldeans who occupied the empire which Assyria had held. So Jeremiah 2:18 .
to be satisfied with bread--( Deuteronomy 28:48 ).
7. ( Jeremiah 31:29 ).
borne their iniquities--that is, the punishment of them. The accumulated sins of our fathers from age to age, as well as our own, are visited on us. They say this as a plea why God should pity them (compare Ezekiel 18:2 , &c.).
8. Servants . . . ruled . . . us--Servants under the Chaldean governors ruled the Jews ( Nehemiah 5:15 ). Israel, once a "kingdom of priests" ( Exodus 19:6 ), is become like Canaan, "a servant of servants," according to the curse ( Genesis 9:25 ). The Chaldeans were designed to be "servants" of Shem, being descended from Ham ( Genesis 9:26 ). Now through the Jews' sin, their positions are reversed.
9. We gat our bread with . . . peril--that is, those of us left in the city after its capture by the Chaldeans.
because of . . . sword of . . . wilderness--because of the liability to attack by the robber Arabs of the wilderness, through which the Jews had to pass to get "bread" from Egypt (compare Lamentations 5:6 ).
10. As an oven is scorched with too much fire, so our skin with the hot blast of famine (Margin, rightly, "storms," like the hot simoom). Hunger dries up the pores so that the skin becomes like as if it were scorched by the sun ( Job 30:30 , Psalms 119:83 ).
11. So in just retribution Babylon itself should fare in the end. Jerusalem shall for the last time suffer these woes before her final restoration ( Zechariah 14:2 ).
12. hanged . . . by their hand--a piece of wanton cruelty invented by the Chaldeans. GROTIUS translates, "Princes were hung by the hand of the enemy"; hanging was a usual mode of execution ( Genesis 40:19 ).
elders--officials ( Lamentations 4:16 ).
13. young men . . . grind--The work of the lowest female slave was laid on young men ( Judges 16:21 , Job 31:10 ).
children fell under . . . wood--Mere children had to bear burdens of wood so heavy that they sank beneath them.
14. Aged men in the East meet in the open space round the gate to decide judicial trials and to hold social converse ( Job 29:7 Job 29:8 ).
16. The crown--all our glory, the kingdom and the priesthood ( Job 19:9 , Psalms 89:39 Psalms 89:44 ).
17. ( Lamentations 1:22 , 2:11 ).
18. foxes--They frequent desolate places where they can freely and fearlessly roam.
19. ( Psalms 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.
20. for ever--that is, for "so long a time."
21. ( Psalms 80:3 , Jeremiah 31:18 ). "Restore us to favor with Thee, and so we shall be restored to our old position" [GROTIUS]. Jeremiah is not speaking of spiritual conversion, but of that outward turning whereby God receives men into His fatherly favor, manifested in bestowing prosperity [CALVIN]. Still, as Israel is a type of the Church, temporal goods typify spiritual blessings; and so the sinner may use this prayer for God to convert him.
22. Rather, "Unless haply Thou hast utterly rejected us, and art beyond measure wroth against us," that is, Unless Thou art implacable, which is impossible, hear our prayer [CALVIN]. Or, as Margin, "For wouldest Thou utterly reject us?" &c.--No; that cannot be. The Jews, in this book, and in Isaiah and Malachi, to avoid the ill-omen of a mournful closing sentence, repeat the verse immediately preceding the last [CALVIN].