Lamentations 4:3

3 Even the sea monsters draw out the breast, they give suck to their young ones: the daughter of my people is become cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness.

Lamentations 4:3 Meaning and Commentary

Lamentations 4:3

Even the sea monsters draw out the breast
Which some interpret of dragons; others of seals, or sea calves; but it is best to understand it of whales, as the word is rendered in ( Genesis 1:21 ) ; and elsewhere: and Bochart F4 has proved, out of various writers, that these have breasts and milk; but that their breasts, or however their paps, are not manifest, but are hid as in cases, and must be drawn out: and so Jarchi observes that they draw their breasts out of a case, for their breasts have a covering, which they uncover: so Ben Melech. Aristotle F5 says, that whales, as the dolphin, sea calf, and balaena, have breasts or paps, and milk, which he makes to be certain species of the whale; and each of these, he elsewhere says, have milk, and suckle their young: the dolphin and sturgeon, he observes F6 have milk, and are sucked; and so the sea calf, he says F7, lets out milk as a sheep, and has two breasts, and is sucked by its young, as four footed beasts are. Agreeably to which Aelianus F8 relates, that the female dolphins have paps like women, and suckle their young, with great plenty of milk; and the balaena, he says F9, is a creature like a dolphin, and has milk. And Pliny, speaking of the dolphins, observes F11, that they bring forth their "whelps", and so the young of this creature are called here in the next clause in the Hebrew text F12, and nourish them with their breasts, as the balaena; and of the sea calves the same writer says F13 they feed their young with their paps; but the paps of these creatures are not manifest, as those of four footed beasts, as Aristotle observes; but are like two channels or pipes, out of which the milk flows, and the young are suckled; they give suck to their young ones;
as they do, when they are hungry; which is mentioned, as an aggravation of the case of the Jewish women, with respect to their behaviour towards their children, by reason of the famine, during the siege of Jerusalem; which here, and in the following verses, is described in the sad effects of it; and which had a further accomplishment at the destruction of the same city by the Romans: now, though the monsters suckled their young when hungry, yet these women did not suckle theirs; the daughter of my people [is become] cruel;
or, is "unto a cruel one" {n}: that is, is changed unto a cruel one, or is like unto one, and behaves as such, though of force and necessity: the meaning is, that the Jewish women, though before tenderhearted mothers, yet, by reason of the famine, having no milk in their breasts, could give none to their children, and so acted as if they were cruel to them; nay, in fact, instead of feeding them, they fed upon them, ( Lamentations 4:10 ) ; like the ostriches in the wilderness;
which lay their eggs, and leave them in places easily to be crushed and broken; and when they have any young ones, they are hardened against them, as if they were none of theirs, ( Job 39:13-17 ) ; and this seemed now to be the case of these women; or, "like the owls", as the word is sometimes rendered; and which also leave their eggs, and for want of food will eat their young, as those women did. So Ben Melech says, it is a bird which dwells in the wilderness, and causes a voice of hooping to be heard.


F4 Hierozoic. l. 1. c. 7. p. 46.
F5 Hist. Animal. l. 3. c. 20.
F6 Ib. l. 6. c. 12.
F7 lbid.
F8 Hist. de Animal. 1. 10. c. 8.
F9 Ib. l. 5. c. 4.
F11 Nat. Hist. l. 9. c. 8.
F12 (Nhyrwg) "catulos suos", Pagninus, Montanus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius.
F13 Nat. Hist. l. 9. c. 13.
F14 (rzkal) "in crudelem", Montanus; "sub. mutata fuit", Piscator; "similis est crudeli", Munster.

Lamentations 4:3 In-Context

1 How is the gold become dim! how is the most fine gold changed! the stones of the sanctuary are poured out in the top of every street.
2 The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold, how are they esteemed as earthen pitchers, the work of the hands of the potter!
3 Even the sea monsters draw out the breast, they give suck to their young ones: the daughter of my people is become cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness.
4 The tongue of the sucking child cleaveth to the roof of his mouth for thirst: the young children ask bread, and no man breaketh it unto them.
5 They that did feed delicately are desolate in the streets: they that were brought up in scarlet embrace dunghills.