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Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament
The Lamentations of Jeremiah
1. The Name, Contents, and Arrangement of the Book
The five Lamentations composed on the fall of Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judah, which have received their position in the canon of the Old Testament among the Hagiographa, have for their heading, in Hebrew MSS and in printed editions of the Hebrew Bible, the word איכה ("alas! how..."), which forms the characteristic initial word of three of these pieces (Lamentations 1:1; Lamentations 2:1, and Lamentations 4:1). The Rabbis name the collection קינות (Lamentations), from the nature of its contents: so in the Talmud (Tract. Baba Bathra, f. 14b); cf. Jerome in the Prol. galeat, and in the prologue to his translation: "incipiunt Threni, i.e., lamentationes, quae Cynoth hebraice inscribuntur." With this agree the designations Θρῆνοι (lxx), and Threni or Lamentationes, also Lamenta in the Vulgate and among the Latin writers.
The ancient custom of composing and singing lamentations over deceased friends (of which we find proof in the elegies of David on Saul and Jonathan, 2 Samuel 1:17., and on Abner, 2 Samuel 3:33., and in the notice given in 2 Chronicles 35:25) was even in early times extended so as to apply to the general calamities that befell countries and cities; hence the prophets often speak of taking up lamentations over the fall of nations, countries, and cities; cf. Amos 5:1; Jeremiah 7:29; Jeremiah 9:9, Jeremiah 9:17., Ezekiel 19:1; Ezekiel 26:17; Ezekiel 27:2, etc. The five lamentations of the book now before us all refer to the destruction of Jerusalem and of the kingdom of Judah by the Chaldeans; in them are deplored the unutterable misery that has befallen the covenant people in this catastrophe, and the disgrace which the fallen daughter of Zion has thereby suffered. This subject is treated of in the five poems from different points of view. In the first, the lamentation is chiefly made over the carrying away of the people into captivity, the desolation of Zion, the acts of oppression, the plundering and the starvation connected with the taking of Jerusalem, the scoffing and contempt shown by the enemy, and the helpless and comfortless condition of the city, now fallen so low. In the second, the destruction of Jerusalem and Judah is set forth as an act of God's wrath against the sins of the people, the impotency of human comfort in the midst of the terrible calamity is shown, and the people are exhorted to seek help from the Lord. In the third, the deep spiritual sufferings of God's people in the midst of the general distress form the subject of grievous complaint, out of which the soul endeavours to rise, and to see the compassion of the Lord, and the justice of His dealings on earth generally, as well as in this visitation of judgment; and on this is founded the confident expectation of help. In the fourth, the dreadful misery that has befallen Zion's citizens of every class is represented as a punishment for the grievous sins of the people and their leaders. And lastly, in the fifth, the Lord is entreated to remove the disgrace from His people and restore them to their former state of grace. According to this view, one may readily perceive in these poems a well-cogitated plan in the treatment of the material common to the whole, and a distinct progress in the execution of this plan. There is no foundation, on the other hand, for the opinion of De Wette, that a gradation may be traced in the description given of the condition of the city; and the attempt of earlier expositors (Horrer, Pareau, Jahn, etc.) to explain and apply the contents of the different poems to different leading features in the Chaldean catastrophe - such as the siege, the capture, the destruction of the city and the temple - has entirely failed. Ewald, again, assumes that the five poems were composed for a time to be solemnly spent in sorrow and penitence, and that in the five lamentations the prophet-writer presents a kind of changing act (drama), making five different acts follow each other progressively; and further, that it is only with the changing series of these that the entire great act of real lamentation and divine sorrow concludes. But neither in the design nor in the execution of these poems are any points to be found which form a safe foundation for this assumption. Ewald is so far correct, however, in his general remark, that the prophetic composer sought to present to the community, in their deep sorrow, words which were meant to direct the grieving heart to the only source of true comfort; and that he understood how "to lead the deeply sorrowing ones imperceptibly to a proper knowledge of themselves and of their own great guilt, and thereby, in the first place, to true sorrow and sighing; that he also knew how to resolve the wildest grief at last into true prayer for divine retribution, and to change new strength into rejoicing over the everlasting Messianic hope, and into the most touching request for the divine compassion" (Die Dichter des Alt. Bundes, 3 Ausg. i. 2, S. 322).
In order to give an air of continuity as well as of exhaustive completeness to the lamentation, which constantly assumes new figures and turns of thought, the poems, with the exception of the last (Lamentations 5), are alphabetically arranged, and in such a form that the first three consist of long stanzas, each of three lines, which are for the most part further divided about the middle by a caesura into two portions of unequal length. These poems are so arranged in accordance with the letters of the alphabet, that in the first two, every verse of three lines, and in the third, every line in the verse, begins with the letters of the alphabet in their order. In this last third poem, moreover, all the letters of the alphabet occur thrice in succession, for which reason the Masoretes have divided these lines of the verses as if each formed a complete verse. In the fourth poem, the verses, which are also arranged and marked alphabetically, consist only of lines which are likewise divided into two by a caesura; in the fifth, the alphabetic arrangement of the verses is departed from, and it is only in their number that the verses of the poem are made like the letters of the alphabet. This alphabetic arrangement of the verses is exactly carried out in the four poems, but with the remarkable difference, that in the first only does the order of the letters entirely agree with the traditional arrangement of the alphabet, while, in the other three, the verse beginning with פ stands before that beginning with ע. This deviation from the rule does not admit of being explained by the assumption that the verses in question were afterwards transposed in consequence of an oversight on the part of the copyist, nor by the supposition that the order of the letters had not yet been absolutely fixed. The former assumption, adopted by Kennicott, Jahn, etc., is shown to be utterly incorrect, by the circumstance that the supposed transmutation cannot be reconciled with the course of thought in the poems; while the latter, which has been maintained by C. B. Michaelis, Ewald, etc., is disproved by the fact that no change has taken place in the order of the letters in the Shemitic alphabets (cf. Sommer, Bibl. Abhandll. i. S. 145; Gesenius, 5, Rem. 2; Ewald, 12, a); and other alphabetic poems, such as Psalm 111:1-10, Psalm 112:1-10; 119, and Proverbs 31:10-31, exactly preserve the common arrangement of the letters. Still less does the irregularity in question permit of being attributed to an oversight on the part of the composer (which is Bertholdt's view), for the irregularity is repeated in three poems. It is rather connected with another circumstance. For we find in other alphabetic poems also, especially the older ones, many deviations from the rule, which undeniably prove that the composers bound themselves rigorously by the order of the alphabet only so long as it fitted in to the course of thought without any artificiality. Thus, for instance, in Psalm 145 the Nun verse is wanting; in Psalm 34 the Vav verse; while, at the close, after ת, there follows another verse with פ. Just such another closing verse is found in Psalm 25, in which, besides, the first two verses begin with א, while ב is wanting; two verses, moreover, begin with ר instead of ק and ר: in Psalm 37 ע is replaced by צ, which is again found after פ in its proper order. It is also to be considered that, in may of these poems, the division of the verses into strophes is not continuously and regularly carried out; e.g., in these same Lam; Lamentations 1:7 and Lamentations 2:19, verses of four lines occur among those with three. Attempts have, indeed, been made to attribute these irregularities to later reviewers, who mistook the arrangement into strophes; but the arguments adduced will not stand the test; see details in Hvernick's Einl. iii. S. 51ff.
If we gather all these elements together, we shall be obliged to seek for the reason of most, if not all of these deviations from the norm, in the free use made of such forms by the Hebrew poets. Gerlach here objects that, "in view of the loose connection of thought in alphabetic poems generally, and in these Lamentations particularly, and considering the evident dexterity with which the poet elsewhere uses the form, another arrangement of the series would not have caused him any difficulty." We reply that there is no want in these poems of a careful arrangement of thought; but that the skill of the poet, in making use of this arrangement, was not always sufficient to let him put his thoughts, corresponding to things, into the alphabetic form, without using artificial means or forced constructions; and that, in such cases, the form was rather sacrificed to the thought, than rigorously maintained through the adoption of forced and unnatural forms of expression.
Finally, the reason for the absence of the alphabetic arrangement from the fifth poem is simply, that the lamentation there resolves itself into a prayer, in which the careful consideration indispensable for the carrying out of the alphabetic arrangement must give place to the free and natural outcome of the feelings.
2. The Author, Time of Composition, and Position in the Canon
In the Hebrew text no one is named as the author of the Lamentations; but an old tradition affirms that the prophet Jeremiah composed them. Even so early as in the Alexandrine version, we find prefixed to Jeremiah 1:1, the words, Καὶ ἐγένετο μετὰ αἰχμαλωτισθῆναι τὸν ̓Ισραὴλ καὶ ̔Ιερουσαλὴμ ἐρημωθῆναι, ἐκάθισεν ̔Ιερεμίας κλαίων καὶ ἐθρήνησε τὸν θρῆνον τοῦτον ἐπὶ ̔Ιερουσαλὴμ, καὶ ει. These words are also found in the Vulgate; only, instead of et dixit, there is the amplification, et amaro animo suspirans et ejulans dixit. The Syriac is without this notice; but the Arabic exactly reproduces the words of the lxx, and the Targum begins with the words, Dixit Jeremias propheta et sacerdos magnus. After this, both in the Talmud (Baba bathr. f. 51. 1) and by the Church Fathers (Origen in Euseb. hist. eccl. iv. 25, Jerome in prolog. gal., etc.), as well as the later theologians, the Jeremianic authorship was assumed as certain. The learned but eccentric Hermann von der Hardt was the first to call in question the Jeremianic composition of the book, in a "Programm" published in 1712 at Helmstdt; he attributed the five poems to Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and King Jehoiachin (!). This doubt was resumed at a later period by an unknown writer in the Tbingen Theol. Quartalschr. 1819, part i.; it was mentioned by Augusti (Einl.), and further carried out by Conz in Bengel's Archiv, iv. p. 161f. and 422ff. Kalkar was the next to question the traditional belief, and urged against it the position of the book among the כּתוּבים, and the difference existing between the Greek translation of the Lamentations and that of the prophecies of Jeremiah; these objections he held to be not inconsiderable, yet not decisive. Then Ewald (Poet. Bcher des A. B. i. S. 145, and in the third edition of the same book, i. 2, S. 326; cf. Bibl. Jahrbb. vii. S. 151f., and History of the People of Israel, iv. p. 22) decidedly refused to ascribe the book to the prophet, and rather attributed it to one of his pupils, Baruch or some other; in this opinion he is followed by Bunsen, as is usual in questions regarding the criticism of the Old Testament. Finally, Ngelsbach (in Lange's series, see Clark's For. Theol. Lib.), with the help of the Concordance, has prepared a table of those words and forms of words found in the Lamentations, but not occurring in the prophecies of Jeremiah; by this means he has endeavoured to set forth the difference of language in the two books, which he accepts as a decisive reason for rejecting the Jeremianic authorship of the Lamentations. And Thenius assures us that, "in consequence of pretty long and conscientious examination, he has become convinced" that Lamentations 2 and 4, judging from their contents and form, undeniably proceeded from Jeremiah; while Lamentations 1 and 3 were composed by one who was left behind in the country, some time after the destruction of Jerusalem, and shortly before the last deportation; but Lamentations 5 is from a man "who was probably wandering about everywhere, as the leader of a band of nobles seeking a safe asylum, but unwilling to attach themselves to the caravan going to Egypt."
Schrader, in his late revision of De Wette's Introduction, 339, has thus condensed the results of these critical investigations: In support of the old tradition, which mentions Jeremiah as the author, "one might appeal to the affinity in contents, spirit, tone, and language (De W.). Nevertheless, this same style of language, and the mode of representation, exhibit, again, so much that is peculiar; the artificiality of form, especially in Lamentations 1, 2, and 4, is so unlike Jeremiah's style; the absence of certain specific Jeremianic peculiarities, and the contradiction between some expressions of the prophet and those of the author of the Lamentations, is again so striking, that one must characterize the authorship of Jeremiah as very improbable, if not quite impossible, especially since the points of likeness to the language used by Jeremiah, on the one hand, are sufficiently accounted for in general by the fact that both works were composed at the same time; and on the other hand, are nullified by other points of likeness to Ezekiel's style, which show that use has already been made of his prophecies." Again: "The hypothesis of Thenius, that the poems are by different authors, is refuted by the similarity in the fundamental character of the poems, and in the character of the language." We may therefore dispense with a special refutation of this hypothesis, especially since it will be shown in the exposition that the points which Thenius has brought forward in support of his view are all founded on a wretchedly prosaic style of interpretation, which fails to recognise the true nature of poetry, and regards mere poetic figures as actual history. Of the considerations, however, which Schrader has adduced against the Jeremianic authorship, the last two that are mentioned would, of course, have decided influence, if there were any real foundation for them, viz., the contradiction between some expressions of Jeremiah and those of the author of the Lamentations. But they have no foundation in fact.
The only instance of a contradiction is said to exist between Lamentations 5:7 and Jeremiah 31:29-30. It is quoted by Schrader, who refers to Nldeke, die alttest. Literat. S. 146. But the expression, "Our fathers have sinned, they are no more, we bear their iniquities" (Lamentations 5:7), does not stand in contradiction to what is said in Jeremiah 39:29f. against the current proverb, "The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth have become blunt," viz., that in the future, after the restoration of Israel, "every one shall die for his own iniquity, and the teeth of every one who eats sour grapes shall become blunt." One statement would contradict the other only if the latter meant that those who bear the punishment were guiltless, or thought themselves such. But how far this thought was from the mind of the suppliant in Lamentations 5:7, is shown by what he says in Lamentations 5:16 : "Woe unto us, for we have sinned." According to these words, those in Lamentations 5:7 can only mean, "We atone not merely for our own sins, but also the sins of our fathers," or, "The sins of our fathers as well as our own are visited on us." This confession accords with Scripture (cf. Exodus 20:5; Jeremiah 16:11, etc.), and is radically different from the proverb, "The fathers have eaten sour grapes," etc., which was constantly in the mouth of those who considered themselves innocent, and who thereby perverted the great truth, that God visits the sins of the fathers upon the children who hate Him, into the false statement, that innocent children must atone for the sins of their fathers. On this, cf. also the exposition of Lamentations 5:7. But when Schrader, following Nldeke, further remarks, "that Jeremiah would hardly have said nothing whatever about God's having foretold all this suffering through him," there lies at the foundation of this remark the preposterous notion, that Jeremiah ought to have brought himself prominently forward in the Lamentations (supposing him to have written them), as one who ought not to suffer the evil under which the people were groaning. Such gross Pelagianism was foreign to the prophet Jeremiah. No one need speak, therefore, of a contradiction between the Lamentations and the prophecies of Jeremiah.
As little proof is there for the assertion that the author of the Lamentations made use of the prophecies of Ezekiel. Ngelsbach and Schrader, in support of this allegation, have adduced only Lamentations 2:14, compared with Ezekiel 12:24; Ezekiel 13:5.; and Lamentations 2:15, compared with Ezekiel 27:3; Ezekiel 28:12. Ngelsbach says: "The words, נביאיך חזוּ לך, in Lamentations 2:14, are no doubt a quotation from Ezekiel 12:24; Ezekiel 13:6-11, Ezekiel 13:14-15, Ezekiel 13:23; Ezekiel 21:28, 34; Ezekiel 22:28. For it is only in these passages, and nowhere else in the Old Testament, that the expression חזוּ occurs, and in combination with תפל. Moreover, כּלילת יפי, in Lamentations 2:15, is an expression decidedly peculiar to Ezekiel, for it occurs only in Ezekiel 27:3 (cf. Ezekiel 28:12), and nowhere else." But the three expressions of these two passages form really too weak a proof that the author of the Lamentations made use of the prophecies of Ezekiel. Of course, as regards the mere form of the words, it is true that the expression כּלילת יפי, "she who is perfect in beauty," is found, besides Lamentations 2:15, only in Ezekiel 27:3, where the prophet says of Tyre, "Thou sayest, I am perfect in beauty," and in Ezekiel 28:12, where it is said of the king of Tyre, "Thou art... כּליל;" but the thing occurs also in Psalm 50:2, with the unimportant change in the form of the words מכלל יפי, "perfection of beauty," where Zion is so designated. Now, if we not merely gather out of the Concordance the expressions of like import, but also keep in view the idea presented in Lamentations 2:15, "Is this the city שׁיּאמרוּ?" and at the same time consider that the poet says this of Jerusalem, there cannot be the least doubt that he did not take these epithets, which are applied to Jerusalem, from Ezekiel, who used them to designate Tyre, but that he had Psalm 50:2 in view, just as the other epithet, "a joy of the whole earth," points to Psalm 48:3. Only on the basis of these passages in the Psalms could he employ the expression sheשׁיּאמרוּ, "which they call." Or are we to believe that the word כּליל, כּלילה was originally unknown to the author of the Lamentations, and that he first became acquainted with it through Ezekiel? Nor, again, can we say that the words taken by Ngelsbach out of Lamentations 2:14 are "undoubtedly a quotation from Ezekiel," because they do not occur in this way in any of the passages cited from Ezekiel. All that we can found on this assertion is, that in the prophecies of Jeremiah neither חזה שׁוא or the word-form תּפל occurs; while Ezekiel not only uses חזון שׁוא, Ezekiel 12:14, חזה שׁוא, and מחזה שׁוא, as synonymous with דּבּר שׁוא, קסם שׁוא, and חזה כזב (Ezekiel 13:6-9, Ezekiel 13:23), but also says of the false prophets, Ezekiel 13:9-11, "They build a wall, and plaster it over with lime" (טחים, Ezekiel 13:10, cf. Ezekiel 13:14, Ezekiel 13:15, Ezekiel 13:18). These same false prophets are also called, in Ezekiel 13:11, טחי תפל, "those who plaster with lime." But Ezekiel uses the word תפל only in the meaning of "lime," while the writer of these Lamentations employs it in the metaphorical sense, "absurdity, nonsense," in the same way as Jer; Jeremiah 23:13, uses תּפלה, "absurdity," of the prophets of Samaria. Now, just as Jeremiah has not taken תּפלה from Ezekiel, where it does not occur at all (but only in Job 1:22; Job 24:12), so there is as little likelihood in the opinion that the word תפל, in Lamentations 2:14, has been derived from Ezekiel, because Job 6:6 shows that it was far from rarely used by the Hebrews.
Nor does the non-occurrence of חזה שׁוא in Jeremiah afford any tenable ground for the opinion that the expression, as found in Lamentations 2:14, was taken from Ezekiel. The idea contained in חזה was not unknown to Jeremiah; for he speaks, Jeremiah 14:14, of חזון שׁקר, and in Jeremiah 23:16 of חזון מלבּם, referring to the false prophets, whose doings he characterizes as שׁקר sa sezi; cf. Jeremiah 6:13; Jeremiah 8:10; Jeremiah 14:14; Jeremiah 23:25., 32, Jeremiah 27:10, Jeremiah 27:15; Jeremiah 28:16; Jeremiah 29:9, Jeremiah 29:23, Jeremiah 29:31. Further, if we consult only the text of the Bible instead of the Concordance, and ponder the connection of thought in the separate passages, we can easily perceive why, instead of שׁקר (חזון) חזה, which is so frequent in Jeremiah, there is found in Lamentations 2:14, חזה שׁוא and חזה משּׂאות שׁוא dna . In the addresses in which Jeremiah warns the people of the lying conduct of the false prophets, who spoke merely out of their own heart, שׁקר was the most suitable expression; in Lamentations 2:14, on the contrary, where complaint is made that the prophecies of their prophets afford no comfort to the people in their present distress, שׁוא was certainly the most appropriate word which the composer could select, even without a knowledge of Ezekiel. There can be no question, then, regarding a quotation from that prophet. but even though it were allowed that 2:14 implied an actual acquaintance with Lamentations 12 and 13 of Ezekiel, still, nothing would follow from that against the Jeremianic authorship of the Lamentations. For Jeremiah uttered these prophecies in the sixth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin, i.e., in the third year before the last siege, and the fifth before the destruction of Jerusalem; and considering the frequent intercourse carried on between the captives in Babylon and those who still remained in Judah and Jerusalem, in virtue of which the former even sent letters to Jerusalem (cf. Jeremiah 29:25), some of Ezekiel's prophecies might have become known in the latter city a considerable time before the final catastrophe, and even reached the ears of Jeremiah.
With the demolition of these two arguments, the main strength of our opponents, in the bringing forward of proof, has been broken. Schrader has not adduced a single instance showing "the absence of certain specific Jeremianic peculiarities." For "the comparatively less emphasis given to the sins of the people," which is alleged in Nldeke's note, cannot be applied in support of that position, even if it were correct, in view of the prominence so frequently assigned to grievous sin, Lamentations 1:5, Lamentations 1:8,Lamentations 1:14, Lamentations 1:18, Lamentations 1:22; Lamentations 2:14; Lamentations 3:39, Lamentations 3:42; Lamentations 4:6, Lamentations 4:13; Lamentations 5:7; because the Lamentations were not composed with the design of punishing the people for their sin, but were intended to comfort in their misery, and to raise up again, the people who had been severely chastised for the guilt of their sin, which was greater than the sin of Sodom (Lamentations 4:6). Add to this, that Schrader, by using this argument, contradicts himself; for he has shortly before adduced the affinity in contents, spirit, tone, and language as an argument to which one might appeal in support of the Jeremianic authorship, and this affinity he has established by a long series of quotations.
(Note: The passages are the following: Lamentations 1:8., cf. with Jeremiah 4:30; Jeremiah 13:21., 26; Lamentations 1:20; Lamentations 4:13., with Jeremiah 14:7, Jeremiah 14:18; Lamentations 2:14 with Jeremiah 14:13; Lamentations 1:16; Lamentations 2:11; Lamentations 3:48-49, with Jeremiah 8:21., Jeremiah 9:16., Jeremiah 13:17; Jeremiah 14:17;Lamentations 3:52 with Jeremiah 15:26f.; Lamentations 3 with Jeremiah 15:10., Jeremiah 17:5., 14ff., Jeremiah 20:7., 14ff. (De Wette). Further, בּתוּלת בּת , Lamentations 1:15; Lamentations 2:13, cf. Jeremiah 14:17; Jeremiah 46:11; מגור, Lamentations 2:22, cf. Jeremiah 4:25; Jeremiah 10:3, Jeremiah 10:10; זולל, Lamentations 1:11, cf. Jeremiah 15:19; מחמוּדים instead of מחמדּים, Lamentations 1:11; נידה instead of נדּה, Lamentations 1:8; לוא instead of לא; אכל ל, Lamentations 4:5; גּאל, Lamentations 4:14; תּפל, Lamentations 2:14. Finally, Chaldaizing forms: שׁוממין, Lamentations 1:4; ישׁנא instead of ישׁנה, Lamentations 4:1; מטּרא, Lamentations 3:12; העיב, Lamentations 2:1; שׂרג, Lamentations 1:14.)
Further, the remark that "the artificiality of form, especially in Lamentations 1, 2, and 4, is unlike Jeremiah," is correct only in so far as no alphabetic poems are to be found in the prophetic book of Jeremiah. But are we then to look for poetic compositions in prophetic addresses and historical narratives? The remark now quoted is based on the assertion made by other critics, that the alphabetic arrangement of poetic compositions generally is a mere rhetorical work of art, and the production of a later but degenerate taste (Ed. Reuss and others), or a piece of trifling unworthy of the prophet. This view has long ago been shown groundless; cf. Hvernick's Einl. iii. S. 46ff. Even Hupfeld, who calls the alphabetical arrangement "artificiality or trifling," considers that it is of a kindred nature with collections of proverbs, and with small poems of a didactic character but deficient in close connection of thought; he thinks, too, that it may be comparatively ancient as a style of composition, and that it was not applied till later to other species of writing (as Lamentations). To this, Ed. Riehm, in the second edition of Hupfeld on the Psalms, i. p. 31, has added a very true remark: "In lyric poetry proper, the employment of this artificial form is naturally and intrinsically justified only when a single fundamental strain, that fills the whole soul of the poet, - deep, strong, and sustained, - seeks to die away in many different forms of chords; hence its employment in the elegy." The application of this artificial form to such a purpose is perfectly justified in these Lamentations; and the attempt to deny that these poems are the work of Jeremiah, on the ground of their artificial construction, would be as great an exhibition of arbitrary conduct, as if any one refused to ascribe the hymn "Befiehl du deine Wege" to Paul Gerhardt, or "Wie schn leucht uns der Morgenstern" to Philip Nicolai, on the ground of the "artificiality" that manifests itself in the beginning of the verses.
Finally, the language and the mode of representation in these poems certainly exhibit much that is peculiar; and we find in them many words, word-forms, and modes of expression, which do not occur in the prophecies of Jeremiah. But it must also be borne in mind that the Lamentations are not prophetic addresses intended to warn, rebuke, and comfort, but lyric poetry, which has its own proper style of language, and this different from prophetic address. Both the subject-matter and the poetic form of these poems, smooth though this is in general, necessarily resulted in this, - that through the prevalence of peculiar thoughts, modes of representation, and feelings, the language also received an impress, in words and modes of expression, that was peculiar to itself, and different from the prophetic diction of Jeremiah. The mere collection of the words, word-forms, and expressions peculiar to the Lamentations, and not occurring in the prophecies of Jeremiah, cannot furnish irrefragable proof that the authors of the two writings were different, unless it be shown, at the same time, that the character of the language in both writings is essentially different, and that for the ideas, modes of representation, and thoughts common to both, other words and expressions are used in the Lamentations than those found in the prophecies of Jeremiah. But neither the one nor the other has been made out by Ngelsbach. After giving the long list he has prepared, which occupies five and a half columns, and which gives the words occurring in the different verses of the five chapters, he explains that he does not seek to lay any weight on the ἅπαξ λεγόμενα, probably because Jeremiah also has many such words; but then he raises the question, "How is the fact to be accounted for, that Jeremiah never uses עליון or אדני except as divine names, while the latter, nevertheless, occurs fourteen times in the Lamentations; that Jeremiah never uses הבּיט, יגה, אנח, זנח, חטא, מחמד, בּלּע, לא חמל, עפר, עטף, חזה, חשׁך, נגינה, יחל, נשׂא פּנים, nor למו, the relative שׁ, or בּקרב without a suffix, while all these expressions occur more or less frequently in the Lamentations? And it has been well remarked that these expressions are not of so specific a kind, that the fact of their not being used in the prophetic book, but employed in the Lamentations, might be explained from the nature of the contents; but they belong, in great measure, to what I may call the house-dress of the author, which he constantly wears, - which he more or less unconsciously and unintentionally uses." We answer that the simile of the house-dress has been most unhappily chosen. Although the style of a writer may possibly be compared to his coat, yet nobody is in the habit of wearing his house-coat always, on Sundays and week-days, in the house and out of it; so, too, no writer is in the habit of using always the same words in prose and poetry. When we investigate the matter itself, we find we must, first of all, deduct fully one-third of the words enumerated, although these have evidently been collected and arranged as the most convincing proof; the words thus rejected are also found in the prophetic book of Jeremiah, though not quite in the same grammatical form, as the note shows.
(Note: For בּקרב, without a suffix, Lamentations 3:45, exactly corresponds to מקּרב, Jeremiah 6:1 : cf. besides, בּקרבּי, Lamentations 4:15, Lamentations 4:20, with Jeremiah 23:9; בּקרבּהּ, Jeremiah 4:13, and Jeremiah 6:6; Jeremiah 46:21. לא, Lamentations 2:2, Lamentations 2:17, Lamentations 2:21; Lamentations 3:43, is found five times in Jeremiah (Jeremiah 13:14; Jeremiah 15:5; Jeremiah 21:7; Jeremiah 50:14; Jeremiah 51:3), not only in the 3rd pers. perfect, but also in the imperfect. Of בּלע there occurs the Kal, Jeremiah 51:34, and the noun בּלע, Jeremiah 51:44; from חשׁך, the noun חשׁך certainly is not found, but perhaps the verb is used in the Hiphil, Jeremiah 13:16, as the Kal in Lamentations 4:8; Lamentations 5:16. With חטא, Lamentations 1:8 and Lamentations 3:39, alternates חטּאת, Lamentations 4:6, Lamentations 4:22, which Jeremiah frequently uses. Of שׁמם, the participle שׁומם certainly is not found in Jeremiah, but the adj. שׁמם is found in Jeremiah 12:11, as in Lamentations 5:8; and the Niphal of the verb in Jeremiah 4:9 and Jeremiah 33:10, as in Lamentations 4:5. Lastly, neither is ענה wholly wanting in Jeremiah; for in Jeremiah 22:16 we are to read עני, miser, although the noun עני and the verb are not met with in his book.)
Then we ask the counter question, whether words which one who composed five poems employs only in one of these pieces, or only once or twice throughout the whole, ought to be reckoned as his house-dress? Of the words adduced, we do not find a single on in all the five poems, but חשׁך only in Lamentations 3:2, נשׂא פּנים only in Lamentations 4:16, נגינה only in Lamentations 3:14 and Lamentations 5:14, פּצה פה only in Lamentations 2:16 and Lamentations 3:46, עליון only in Lamentations 3:35 and Lamentations 3:38, אנח (Niphal) only in Lamentations 1 (four times). Moreover, we ask whether Jeremiah might not also, in lyric poems, use poetic words which could not be employed in homely address? But of the words enumerated, למו, עליון, and אדני alone as a name of God, together with נגינה, belong to the poetic style.
(Note: עליון as a name of God (3:35 and 38), besides Isaiah 14:14, is found only in poetic pieces, Numbers 26:16; Deuteronomy 32:8, and about twenty times in the Psalms; אדני used by itself, except in direct addresses to God and interviews with Him, occurs in the Psalms about forty times, and also in the addresses of particular prophets, composed in the loftier style, particularly Isaiah and Amos; lastly, נגינה, in Amos 3:14, occurs as a reminiscence of Job 30:9, and in the Psalms and hymns, Isaiah 38:20, and Habakkuk 3:10.)
They are therefore not found in Jeremiah, simply because his prophetic addresses are neither lyric poems, nor rise to the lyric height of prophetic address. The rest of the words mentioned are also found in the Psalms especially, and in Job, as will be shown in the detailed exposition. And when we go deeper into the matter, we find that, in the Lamentations, there is the same tendency to reproduce the thoughts and language of the Psalms (especially those describing the psalmist's sufferings) and of the book of Job, that characterizes the prophecies of Jeremiah, in the use he makes of Deuteronomy and the writings of earlier prophets. Another peculiarity of Jeremiah's style is seen in the fact that the composer of the Lamentations, like Jeremiah in his addresses, repeats himself much, not merely in his ideas, but also in his words: e.g., לא חמל occurs four times, of which three instances are in Lamentations 2 (Lamentations 2:2, Lamentations 2:17, Lamentations 2:21) and one in Lamentations 3:43; מחמד (and מחמוד) also occurs four times (Lamentations 1:7, Lamentations 1:10-11; Lamentations 2:4), and נאנה as frequently (Lamentations 1:4, Lamentations 1:8,Lamentations 1:11, Lamentations 1:21); יגה is found five times (Lamentations 1:4-5, Lamentations 1:12; Lamentations 3:32-33), but in all the other Old Testament writings only thrice; and Jeremiah also uses יגון four times, while, of all the other prophets, Isaiah is the only one who employs it, and this he does twice.
These marks may be sufficient of themselves to show unmistakeably that the peculiarity of the prophet as an author is also found in the Lamentations, and that nothing can be discovered showing a difference of language in the expression of thoughts common to both writings. But this will be still more evident if we consider, finally, the similarity, both as regards the subjects of thought and the style of expression, exhibited in a considerable number of instances in which certain expressions characteristic of Jeremiah are also found in Lamentations: e.g., the frequent employment of שׁבר and שׁבר בּת עמּי, Lamentations 2:11, Lamentations 2:13; Lamentations 3:47-48; Lamentations 4:10, cf. with Jeremiah 4:6, Jeremiah 4:20; Jeremiah 6:1, Jeremiah 6:14; Jeremiah 8:11, Jeremiah 8:21; Jeremiah 10:19; Jeremiah 14:17, etc.; מגוּרי, Lamentations 2:22, with מגור מסּביב, Jeremiah 6:25; Jeremiah 20:3, Jeremiah 20:10; Jeremiah 46:5; Jeremiah 49:29; (מים, or) עין, Lamentations 1:16; Lamentations 2:18; Lamentations 3:48; Lamentations 2:11, cf. with Jeremiah 8:23; Jeremiah 9:17; Jeremiah 13:17; Jeremiah 14:17; הייתי שׂחק, Jeremiah 3:14, with הייתי לשׂחק, Jeremiah 20:7; פּחד ופחת, Lamentations 3:47, as in Jeremiah 48:43. Cf. also the note on p. 471, after the passages quoted by De Wette. Pareau, then, had good reason when, long ago, he pointed out the peculiarities of Jeremiah in the style of the Lamentations; and only a superficial criticism can assert against this, that the existing coincidences find a sufficient explanation in the assumption that, speaking generally, the two books were composed at the same period.
(Note: Pareau has discussed this question very well in the Observatt. general., prefixed to his Commentary, 6-8, and concludes with this result: Non tantum regnant in Threnis varii illi characteres, quos stilo Jeremiae proprios esse vidimus, verum etiam manifesto cernitur in eorum scriptore animus tener, lenis, ad quaevis tristia facile commotus ac dolorem aegre ferens. Quod autem in iis frequentius observetur, quam in sermonibus Jeremiae propheticis, dictionis sublimitas et brevitas majorque imaginum copia et pulchritudo, atque conceptuum vis et intentio: illud vix aliter fieri potuisse agnoscemus, si ad argumenti naturam attendamus, quo vehementur affici debuerit Jeremias; etc., p. 40.)
We therefore close this investigation, after having proved that the tradition which ascribes the Lamentations to the prophet Jeremiah as their author is as well-founded as any ancient historical tradition whatever.
Time of Composition
From the organic connection of the five poems, as shown above, it follows of itself that they cannot have proceeded from different authors, nor originated at different periods, but were composed at brief intervals, one after the other, not long after the destruction of Jerusalem and the fall of the kingdom of Judah, and in the order in which they have been transmitted to us. What gives special support to this conclusion is the circumstance that, throughout these Lamentations, there is no possibility of mistaking the expression of grief, still fresh in the writer's mind, over the horrors of that fearful catastrophe. The assumption, however, that the prophet, in the picture he draws, had before his eyes the ruins of the city, and the misery of those who had been left behind, cannot be certainly made out from a consideration of the contents of the poems. But there seems to be no doubt that Jeremiah composed them in the interval between the destruction of Jerusalem and his involuntary departure to Egypt. There is no tenable ground for the confident assertion of Ewald, that they were composed in Egypt; for the passages, Jeremiah 1:3; Jeremiah 4:18., Lamentations 5:5, Lamentations 5:9, do not mean that the writer was then living among the fugitives who had fled in such vast multitudes to Egypt, partly before and partly after the destruction of the city.
Position of the Lamentations in the Canon
The separation of the Lamentations from the book of the prophecies of Jeremiah, and their reception into the third division of the Old Testament canon (the Kethubim), - which Kalkschmidt and Thenius, in complete misunderstanding of the principle on which the tripartition of the canon is founded, would bring to bear as an argument against their having been composed by Jeremiah, - are fully accounted for by their subjective, lyric contents; in consequence of this they differ essentially from the prophecies, and take their place alongside of the Psalms and other productions of sacred poesy. This position of theirs among the Kethubim must be considered (against Bleek) as the original one; their arrangement by the side of the prophetic writings of Jeremiah in the lxx and Vulgate, which Luther as well as the translators of the "authorized" English version has retained, must have originated with the Alexandrine translators, who could not understand the arrangement of the Hebrew canon, and who afterwards, in order to make the number of the books of the Bible the same as that of the letters of the alphabet (twenty-two), counted the Lamentations as forming one book with the prophecies of Jeremiah. That this arrangement and enumeration of the Lamentations, observed by the Hellenists, deviated from the tradition of the Jews of Palestine, may be perceived from the remark of Jerome, in his Prol. galeat., regarding this mode of reckoning: quamquam nonnulli Ruth et Cynoth inter hagiographa scriptitent, et hos libros in suo putent numero supputandos. Their arrangement in the series of the five Megilloth (rolls appointed to be read on certain annual feast-days and memorial-days) in our editions of the Hebrew Bible was not fixed till a later period, when, according to the ordinance in the synagogal liturgy, the Lamentations were appointed to be read on the ninth of the month Ab, as the anniversary of the destruction of the temples of Solomon and of Herod. (Cf. Herzog's Real-Encykl. xv. 310.)
The importance of the Lamentations, as a part of the canon, does not so much consists in the mere fact that they were composed by Jeremiah, and contain outpourings of sorrow on different occasions over the misery of his people, as rather in their being an evidence of the interest with which Jeremiah, in the discharge of his functions as a prophet, continued to watch over the ruins of Jerusalem. In these Lamentations he seeks not merely to give expression to the sorrow of the people that he may weep with them, but by his outpour of complaint to rouse his fellow-countrymen to an acknowledgement of God's justice in this visitation, to keep them from despair under the burden of unutterable woe, and by teaching them how to give due submission to the judgment that has befallen them, to lead once more to God those who would not let themselves be brought to Him through his previous testimony regarding that judgment while it was yet impending. The Jewish synagogue has recognised and duly estimated the importance of the Lamentations in these respects, by appointing that the book should be read on the anniversary of the destruction of the temple. A like appreciation has been made by the Christian Church, which, rightly perceiving that the Israelitish community is the subject in these poems, attributed to them a reference to the church militant; and, viewing the judgment on the people of God as a prophecy of the judgment that came on Him who took the sins of the whole world upon Himself, it has received a portion of the Lamentations into the ritual for the Passion Week, and concludes each of these lessons with the words, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, convertere ad Dominum, deum tuum." Cf. The Passion Week in its Ceremonies and Prayers, Spires 1856, and the Officium hebdomadae sanctae, a reprinted extract from Dr. Reischl's Passionale, Mnich 1857. The motives for this choice are so far set forth by Allioli (in Neumann, ii. S. 486) in the following terms: "The church wished believers to see, in the great punishments which God had ordained against Jerusalem by the instrumentality of Nebuchadnezzar, the still more severe chastisement that God has brought on Israel after the dreadful murder of the Messias. She seeks to bewail the unhappy condition of the blinded nation, once favoured with the divine revelation. In the fall of Jerusalem, she seeks to deplore the evil that has come on herself from external and internal foes, the persecution of brother by brother, the havoc made by false teachers, the looseness of opinions, the sad advances made by indifference in matters of faith and by the corruption of morals. In the devastation and the penalties inflicted on Jerusalem, she wishes to present for consideration the destruction which comes on every soul that dies the death in sins. In the condition of the ruined city and the homeless nation, she seeks to make men bewail the homeless condition of the whole race, who have fallen into decay and disorder through Adam's sin. And lastly, in the nation visited with punishment, she seeks to set forth Jesus Christ Himself, in so far as He has become the substitute of all men, and suffered for their sins." This display of all these references is sadly deficient in logical arrangement; but it contains a precious kernel of biblical truth, which the Evangelical Church
(Note: i.e., the "United Evangelical Church" of Germany, the National Protestant Church, which was formed by the coalition of the Lutheran and Reformed (or Calvinistic) communions. This union began in Prussia in 1817, and was gradually effected in other German states. But many staunch adherents of the old distinctive (Augsburg and Helvetic) Confessions endured persecution rather than consent to enter the "United" Church. The liturgy was framed under the special direction of the Prussian king in 1821, and after some alterations were made on it, appointed by a royal decree, in 1830, to be used in all the churches. - Tr.)
has endeavoured in many ways to turn to advantage. Regarding the adaptations of the Lamentations made for liturgical use in the Evangelical Church, see particulars in Schberlein, Schatz des liturgischen Chor-und Gemeindegesanges, ii. S. 444ff.
As to the commentaries on the Lamentations, see Keil's Manual of Introduction to the Old Testament, vol. i. p. 508 Clark's Foreign Theol. Library. To the list of works therein given are to be appended, as later productions, Ewald's recent treatment of the book in the third edition of the Dichter des A. Bundes (1866), i. 2, where the Lamentations have been inserted among the Psalms, S. 321ff.; Wilh. Engelhardt, die Klagel. Jerem. bersetzt. 1867; Ernst Gerlach, die Klagel. erkl. 1868; and Ngelsbach, in Lange's series of commentaries (Clark's English edition), 1868.
Sorrow and Wailing over the Fall of Jerusalem and Judah
(Note: Keil has attempted, in his German translation of this and the next three chapters, to reproduce something of the alphabetic acrosticism of the original (see above, p. 466); but he has frequently been compelled, in consequence, to give something else than a faithful reproduction of the Hebrew. It will be observed that his example has not been followed here; but his peculiar renderings have generally been given, except where these peculiarities were evidently caused by the self-imposed restraint now mentioned. He himself confesses, in two passages omitted from the present translation (pp. 591 and 600 of the German original), that for the sake of reproducing the alphabeticism, he has been forced to deviate from a strict translation of the ideas presented in the Hebrew. - Tr.)
1 Alas! how she sits alone, the city that was full of people!
She has become like a widow, that was great among the nations;
The princess among provinces has become a vassal.
2 She weeps bitterly through the night, and her tears are upon her cheek;
She has no comforter out of all her lovers:
All her friends have deceived her; they have become enemies to her.
3 Judah is taken captive out of affliction, and out of much servitude;
She sitteth among the nations, she hath found no rest;
All those who pursued her overtook her in the midst of her distresses.
4 The ways of Zion mourn, for want of those who went up to the appointed feast;
All her gates are waste; her priests sigh;
Her virgins are sad, and she herself is in bitterness.
5 Her enemies have become supreme; those who hate her are at ease;
For Jahveh hath afflicted her because of the multitude of her transgressions:
Her young children have gone into captivity before the oppressor.
6 And from the daughter of Zion all her honour has departed;
Her princes have become like harts [that] have found no pasture,
And have gone without strength before the pursuer.
7 In the days of her affliction and her persecutions,
Jerusalem remembers all her pleasant things which have been from the days of old:
When her people fell by the hand of the oppressor, and there was none to help her,
Her oppressors saw her, - they laughed at her times of rest.
8 Jerusalem hath sinned grievously, therefore she hath become an abomination:
All those who honoured her despise her, because they have seen her nakedness;
And she herself sighs, and turns backward.
9 Her filth is on her flowing skirts; she remembered not her latter end;
And so she sank wonderfully: she has no comforter.
"O Jahveh, behold my misery!" for the enemy hath boasted.
10 The oppressor hath spread out his hand upon all her precious things;
For she hath seen [how] the heathen have come into her sanctuary,
[Concerning] whom Thou didst command that they should not enter into Thy community.
11 All her people [have been] sighing, seeking bread;
They have given their precious things for bread, to revive their soul.
See, O Jahveh, and consider that I am become despised.
12 [Is it] nothing to you, all ye that pass along the way?
Consider, and see if there be sorrow like my sorrow which is done to me,
Whom Jahveh hath afflicted in the day of the burning of His anger.
13 From above He sent fire in my bones, so that it mastered them;
He hath spread a net for my feet, He hath turned me back;
He hath made me desolate and ever languishing.
14 The yoke of my transgressions hath been fastened to by His hand;
They have interwoven themselves, they have come up on my neck; it hath made my strength fail:
The Lord hath put me into the hands of [those against whom] I cannot rise up.
15 The Lord hath removed all my strong ones in my midst;
He hath proclaimed a festival against me, to break my young men in pieces:
The Lord hath trodden the wine-press for the virgin daughter of Judah.
16 Because of these things I weep; my eye, my eye runneth down [with] water,
Because a comforter is far from me, one to refresh my soul;
My children are destroyed, because the enemy hath prevailed.
17 Zion stretcheth forth her hands, [yet] there is none to comfort her;
Jahveh hath commanded concerning Jacob; his oppressors are round about him:
Jerusalem hath become an abomination among them.
18 Jahveh is righteous, for I have rebelled against His mouth.
Hear now, all ye peoples, and behold my sorrow;
My virgins and my young men are gone into captivity.
19 I called for my lovers, [but] they have deceived me;
My priests and my elders expired in the city,
When they were seeking bread for themselves, that they might revive their spirit.
20 Behold, O Jahveh, how distressed I am! my bowels are moved;
My heart is turned within me, for I was very rebellious:
Without, the sword bereaveth [me]; within, [it is] like death.
21 They have heard that I sigh, I have no comforter:
All mine enemies have heard of my trouble; they are glad because Thou hast done it.
Thou bringest the day [that] Thou hast proclaimed, that they may be like me.
22 Let all their wickedness come before Thee,
And do to them as Thou hast done to me because of all my transgressions;
For my sighs are many and my heart is faint.
Lamentations 1The poem begins with a doleful meditation on the deeply degraded state into which Jerusalem has fallen; and in the first half (Lamentations 1:1-11), lament is made over the sad condition of the unhappy city, which, forsaken by all her friends, and persecuted by enemies, has lost all her glory, and, finding no comforter in her misery, pines in want and disesteem. In the second half (Lamentations 1:12-22), the city herself is introduced, weeping, and giving expression to her sorrow over the evil determined against her because of her sins. Both portions are closely connected. On the one hand, we find, even in Lamentations 1:9 and Lamentations 1:11, tones of lamentation, like signs from the city, coming into the description of her misery, and preparing the way for the introduction of her lamentation in Lamentations 1:12-22; on the other hand, her sin is mentioned even so early as in Lamentations 1:5 and Lamentations 1:8 as the cause of her misfortune, and the transition thus indicated from complaint to the confession of guilt found in the second part. This transition is made in Lamentations 1:17 by means of a kind of meditation on the cheerless and helpless condition of the city. The second half of the poem is thereby divided into two equal portions, and in such a manner that, while in the former of these (Lamentations 1:12-16) it is complaint that prevails, and the thought of guilt comes forward only in Lamentations 1:14, in the latter (Lamentations 1:18-22) the confession of God's justice and of sin in the speaker becomes most prominent; and the repeated mention of misery and oppression rises into an entreaty for deliverance from the misery, and the hope that the Lord will requite all evil on the enemy.
1How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! how is she become as a widow! she that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary!
Doleful consideration and description of the dishonour that has befallen Jerusalem. In these verses the prophet, in the name of the godly, pours out his heart before the Lord. The dreadful turn that things have taken is briefly declared in Lamentations 1:1 in two clauses, which set forth the fall of Jerusalem from its former glory into the depths of disgrace and misery, in such a way that the verse contains the subject unfolded in the description that follows. We have deviated from the Masoretic pointing, and arranged the verse into three members, as in the succeeding verses, which nearly throughout form tristichs, and have been divided into two halves by means of the Athnach; but we agree with the remark of Gerlach, "that, according to the sense, היתה למס and not היתה כּאלמנה is the proper antithesis to רבּתי בגּוים." איכה is here, as in Lamentations 2:1; Lamentations 4:1-2, an expression of complaint mingled with astonishment; so in Jeremiah 48:17; Isaiah 1:21. "She sits solitary" (cf. Jeremiah 15:17) is intensified by "she has become like a widow." Her sitting alone is a token of deep sorrow (cf. Nehemiah 1:4), and, as applied to a city, is a figure of desolation; cf. Isaiah 27:10. Here, however, the former reference is the main one; for Jerusalem is personified as a woman, and, with regard to its numerous population, is viewed as the mother of a great multitude of children. רבּתי is a form of the construct state, lengthened by Yod compaginis, found thrice in this verse, and also in Isaiah 1:21, elegiac composition; such forms are used, in general, only in poetry that preserves and affects the antique style, and reproduces its peculiar ring.
(Note: On the different views regarding the origin and meaning of this Yod compaginis, cf. Fr. W. M. Philippi, Wesen u. Ursprung des Status constr. im Hebr. S. 96ff. This writer (S. 152ff.) takes it to be the remnant of a primitive Semitic noun-inflexion, which has been preserved only in a number of composite proper names of ancient origin e.g., מלכּיחדק, etc.]; in the words אב, אח, and חם, in which it has become fused with the third radical into a long vowel; and elsewhere only between two words standing in the construct relation see Ges. 90; Ewald, 211.)
According to the twofold meaning of רב (Much and Great), רבּתי in the first clause designates the multiplicity, multitude of the population; in the second, the greatness or dignity of the position that Jerusalem assumed among the nations, corresponding to the שׂרתי במּדינות, "a princess among the provinces." מדינה, from דּין (properly, the circuit of judgment or jurisdiction), is the technical expression for the provinces of the empires in Asia (cf. Esther 1:1, Esther 1:22, etc.), and hence, after the exile, was sued of Judah, Ezra 2:1; Nehemiah 7:6, and in 1 Kings 20:17 of the districts in the kingdom of Israel. Here, however, המּדינות are not the circuits or districts of Judah (Thenius), but the provinces of the heathen nations rendered subject to the kingdom of Israel under David and Solomon (corresponding to הגּויים), as in Ecclesiastes 2:8. Jerusalem was formerly a princess among the provinces, during the flourishing period of the Jewish kingdom under David and Solomon. The writer keeps this time before his mind, in order to depict the contrast between the past and present. The city that once ruled over nations and provinces has now become but dependent on others. מס (the derivation of which is disputed) does not mean soccage or tribute, but the one who gives soccage service, a soccager; see on Exodus 1:11 and 1 Kings 4:6. The words, "The princess has become a soccager," signify nothing more than, "She who once ruled over peoples and countries has now fallen into abject servitude," and are not (with Thenius) to be held as "referring to the fact that the remnant that has been left behind, or those also of the former inhabitants of the city who have returned home, have been set to harder labour by the conquerors." When we find the same writer inferring from this, that these words presuppose a state of matters in which the country round Jerusalem has been for some time previously under the oppression of Chaldean officers, and moreover holding the opinion that the words "how she sits..." could only have been written by one who had for a considerable period been looking on Jerusalem in its desolate condition, we can only wonder at such an utter want of power to understand poetic language.
2She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks: among all her lovers she hath none to comfort her: all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies.
In this sorrow of hers she has not a single comforter, since all her friends from whom she could expect consolation have become faithless to her, and turned enemies. בּכו תבכּה, "weeping she weeps," i.e., she weeps very much, or bitterly, not continually (Meier); the inf. abs. before the verb does not express the continuation, but the intensity of the action Gesenius, 131, 3, a; Ewald, 312]. בּלּילה, "in the night," not "on into the night" (Ewald). The weeping by night does not exclude, but includes, weeping by day; cf. Lamentations 2:18. Night is mentioned as the time when grief and sorrow are wont to give place to sleep. When tears do not cease to flow even during the night, the sorrow must be overwhelming. The following clause, "and her tears are upon her cheek," serves merely to intensify, and must not be placed (with Thenius) in antithesis to what precedes: "while her sorrow shows itself most violently during the loneliness of the night, her cheeks are yet always wet with tears (even during the day)." But the greatness of this sorrow of heart is due to the fact that she has no comforter, - a thought which is repeated in Lamentations 1:9, Lamentations 1:16, Lamentations 1:17, and Lamentations 1:21. For her friends are faithless, and have become enemies. "Lovers" and "friends" are the nations with which Jerusalem made alliances, especially Egypt (cf. Jeremiah 2:36.); then the smaller nations round about, - Edomites, Moabites, Ammonites, and Phoenicians, with which Zedekiah had conspired against the king of Babylon, Jeremiah 27:3. Testimony is given in Psalm 137:7 to the hostile dealing on the part of the Edomites against Judah at the destruction of Jerusalem; and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 25:3, Ezekiel 25:6) charges the Ammonite and Tyrians with having shown malicious delight over the fall of Jerusalem; but the hostility of the Moabites is evident from the inimical behaviour of their King Baalis towards Judah, mentioned in Jeremiah 40:14.
3Judah is gone into captivity because of affliction, and because of great servitude: she dwelleth among the heathen, she findeth no rest: all her persecutors overtook her between the straits.
With Lamentations 1:3 begins the specific account of the misery over which Jerusalem sorrows so deeply. Judah has gone into exile, but she does not find any rest there among the nations. "Judah" is the population not merely of Jerusalem, but of the whole kingdom, whose deportation is bewailed by Jerusalem as the mother of the whole country. Although יהוּדה designates the people, and not the country, it is construed as a feminine, because the inhabitants are regarded as the daughter of the land; cf. Ewald, 174, b [and Gesenius, 107, 4, a]. 'מעני וגו has been explained, since J. D. Michaelis, by most modern expositors (Rosenmller, Maurer, Ewald, Thenius, Ngelsbach), and previously by Calvin, as referring to the cause of the emigration, "from (because of) misery and much servitude;" and in harmony with this view, גּלתה יהוּדה has been understood, not of the deportation of Judah into exile, but of the voluntary emigration of the fugitives who sought to escape from the power of the Chaldeans by fleeing into foreign countries, partly before and partly after the destruction of Jerusalem. But this interpretation neither agrees with the meaning of the words nor the context. Those fugitives cannot be designated "Judah," because, however numerous one may think they were, they formed but a fraction of the inhabitants of Judah: the flower of the nation had been carried off to Babylon into exile, for which the usual word is גּלה. The context also requires us to refer the words to involuntary emigration into exile. For, in comparison with this, the emigration of fugitives to different countries was so unimportant a matter that the writer could not possibly have been silent regarding the deportation of the people, and placed this secondary consideration in the foreground as the cause of the sorrow. מעני is not to be taken in a causal sense, for מן simply denotes the coming out of a certain condition, "out of misery," into which Judah had fallen through the occupation of the country, first by Pharaoh-Necho, then by the Chaldeans; and רב עבדה does not mean "much service," but "much labour." For עבדה does not mean "service" ( equals עבדוּת), but "labour, work, business," e.g., עבדת המּלך, "the service of the king," i.e., the service to be rendered to the king in the shape of work (1 Chronicles 26:30), and the labour connected with public worship (1 Chronicles 9:13; 1 Chronicles 28:14, etc.); here, in connection with עני, it means severe labour and toil which the people had to render, partly for the king, that he might get ready the tribute imposed on the country, and partly to defend the country and the capital against those who sought to conquer them. Although Judah had wandered out from a condition of misery and toil into exile, yet even there she found no rest among the nations, just as Moses had already predicted to the faithless nation, Deuteronomy 28:65. All her pursuers find her בּין המּצרים, inter angustias (Vulgate). This word denotes "straits," narrow places where escape is impossible (Psalm 116:3; Psalm 118:5), or circumstances in life from which no escape can be found.
4The ways of Zion do mourn, because none come to the solemn feasts: all her gates are desolate: her priests sigh, her virgins are afflicted, and she is in bitterness.
Zion (i.e., Jerusalem, as the holy city) is laid waste; feasts and rejoicing have disappeared from it. "The ways of Zion" are neither the streets of Jerusalem (Rosenmller), which are called חוּצות, nor the highways or main roads leading to Zion from different directions (Thenius, who erroneously assumes that the temple, which was situated on Moriah, together with its fore-courts, could only be reached through Zion), but the roads or highways leading to Jerusalem. These are "mourning," i.e., in plain language, desolate, deserted, because there are no longer any going up to Jerusalem to observe the feasts. For this same reason the gates of Zion (i.e., the city gates) are also in ruins, because there is no longer any one going out and in through them, and men no longer assemble there. The reason why the priests and the virgins are here conjoined as representatives of the inhabitants of Jerusalem is, that lamentation is made over the cessation of the religious feasts. The virgins are here considered as those who enlivened the national festivals by playing, singing, and dancing: Jeremiah 31:13; Psalm 68:26; Judges 21:19, Judges 21:21; Exodus 15:20. נגות (Niphal of יגה) is used here, as in Zephaniah 2:13, of sorrow over the cessation of the festivals. Following the arbitrary rendering, ἀγόμενοι, of the lxx, Ewald would alter the word in the text into נהוּגות, "carried captive." But there is no necessity for this: he does not observe that this rendering does not harmonize with the parallelism of the clauses, and that נהג means to drive away, but not to lead captive.
(Note: See, however, 1 Samuel 20:2, with Keil's own rendering, and Isaiah 20:4, with Delitzsch's translation. - Tr.)
והיא, "and she (Zion) herself" is in bitterness (cf. Ruth 1:13, Ruth 1:20), i.e., she feels bitter sorrow. In Lamentations 1:6, Lamentations 1:7, are mentioned the causes of this grief.
5Her adversaries are the chief, her enemies prosper; for the LORD hath afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions: her children are gone into captivity before the enemy.
Her adversaries or oppressors, in relation to her, have become the head (and Judah thus the tail), as was threatened, Deuteronomy 28:44; whereas, according to Deuteronomy 28:13 in that same address of Moses, the reverse was intended. Her enemies, knowing that their power is supreme, and that Judah has been completely vanquished, are quite at ease, secure (שׁלוּ, cf. Jeremiah 12:1). This unhappy fate Zion has brought on herself through the multitude of her own transgressions. Her children (עוללים, children of tender age) are driven away by the enemy like a flock. The comparison to a flock of lambs is indicated by לפני. But Zion has not merely lost what she loves most (the tender children), but all her glory; so that even her princes, enfeebled by hunger, cannot escape the pursuers, who overtake them and make them prisoners. Like deer that find no pasture, they flee exhausted before the pursuer. כּאיּלים has been rendered ὡς κριοὶ by the lxx, and ut arietes by the Vulgate; hence Kalkschmidt, Bttcher (Aehrenl. S. 94), and Thenius would read כּאילים, against which Rosenmller has remarked: perperam, nam hirci non sunt fugacia animalia, sed cervi. Raschi had already indicated the point of the comparison in the words, quibus nullae vires sunt ad effugiendum, fame eorum robore debilitato. The objections raised against כּאיּלים as the correct reading are founded on the erroneous supposition that the subject treated of is the carrying away of the princes into exile; and that for the princes, in contrast with the young, no more suitable emblem could be chosen than the ram. But רודף does not mean "the driver," him who leads or drives the captives into exile, but "the pursuer," who runs after the fugitive and seeks to catch him. The words treat of the capture of the princes: the flight of the king and his princes at the taking of Jerusalem (2 Kings 25:3.) hovered before the writer's mind. For such a subject, the comparison of the fugitive princes to starved or badly fed rams is inappropriate; but it is suitable enough to compare them with harts which had lost all power to run, because they had been unable to find any pasture, and בּלא־כח (without strength, i.e., in weakness) are pursued and caught.
6And from the daughter of Zion all her beauty is departed: her princes are become like harts that find no pasture, and they are gone without strength before the pursuer.
7Jerusalem remembered in the days of her affliction and of her miseries all her pleasant things that she had in the days of old, when her people fell into the hand of the enemy, and none did help her: the adversaries saw her, and did mock at her sabbaths.
The loss of all her magnificence (Lamentations 1:7) brings to the remembrance of the sorrowing city, in her trouble, the former days of her now departed glory. "Jerusalem" is not the totality of those who are carried away (Thenius), but the city personified as the daughter of Zion (cf. Lamentations 1:6). "The days of her affliction," etc., is not the direct object of "remembers," as Pareau and Kalkschmidt assume, with the lxx; the object is "all her pleasant things." If "the days of her affliction" were also intended to be the object, "all her pleasant things" would be preceded by the copula w, which Pareau indeed supplies, but arbitrarily. Moreover, the combination of the days of misery with the glory of bygone days is inappropriate, because Jerusalem feels her present misery directly, and does not need first to call them to remembrance. "The days of her affliction," etc., is the accusative of duration. Living through the times of her adversity, Jerusalem thinks of former happy times, and this remembrance increases her sorrow. מרוּדים occurs only here, in Lamentations 3:19 and in Isaiah 58:7 : in meaning it is connected with רוּד, vagari, and signifies roaming, - not voluntary, but compulsory, - rejection, persecution; while the adjective מרוּדים, found in Isaiah, is, as regards its form, taken from מרד, which is cognate with רוּד. מחמדּים or מחמוּדים (Lamentations 1:11, Kethib) is perhaps used in a more general sense than מחמדּים, Lamentations 2:4 and Lamentations 1:11 (Qeri), an signifies what is costly, splendid, viz., gracious gifts, both of a temporal and spiritual kind, which Israel formerly possessed, while מחמדּים signifies costly treasures. "The days of old" are the times of Moses and Joshua, of David and Solomon. In the words, "when her people fell," etc., the days of misery are more exactly specified. The suffix in ראוּה refers to Jerusalem. צרים are the foes into whose power Jerusalem fell helplessly, not specially the escorts of those who were carried away (Thenius). They made a mockery of her משׁבּתּים. This word is ἅπ. λεγ. It is not identical in meaning with ,שׁבּתותsabbata (Vulgate, Luther, etc.), though connected with it; nor does it signify deletiones, destructions (Gesenius), but cessationes. This last rendering, however, is not to be taken according to the explanation of Rosenmller: quod cessasset omnis ille decor, qui nominatus este ante, principatus et prosper rerum status; but rather as L. Cappellus in his nott. crit. expresses it: quod nunc terra ejus deserta jacet nec colitur et quasi cessat et feriatur, though he does not quite exhaust the meaning. As Gerlach rightly remarks, the expression is "evidently used with reference to the threatenings given in the law, Leviticus 26:34-35, that the land would observe its Sabbaths, - that it will keep them during the whole period of the desolation, when Israel is in the land of his enemies." We must not, however, restrict the reference merely to the uncultivated state of the fields, but extend it so that it shall be applied to cessation from all kinds of employment, even those connected with the worship of God, which were necessary for the hallowing of the Sabbath. The mockery of enemies does not apply to the Jewish celebration of the Sabbath (to which Grotius refers the words), but to the cessation of the public worship of the Lord, inasmuch as the heathen, by destroying Jerusalem and the temple, fancied they had not only put an end to the worship of God of the Jews, but also conquered the God of Israel as a helpless national deity, and made a mock of Israel's faith in Jahveh as the only true God.
8Jerusalem hath grievously sinned; therefore she is removed: all that honoured her despise her, because they have seen her nakedness: yea, she sigheth, and turneth backward.
But Jerusalem has brought this unutterable misery on herself through her grievous sins. חטאה is intensified by the noun חטא, instead of the inf. abs., as in Jeremiah 46:5. Jerusalem has sinned grievously, and therefore has become an object of aversion. נידה does not mean εἰς σάλον (lxx), or instabilis (Vulgate); nor is it, with the Chaldee, Raschi, and most of the ancient expositors, to be derived fromנוּד: we must rather, with modern expositors, regard it as a lengthened form of נדּה, which indeed is the reading given in twenty codices of Kennicott. Regarding these forms, cf. Ewald, 84, a. נדּה (prop. what one should flee from) signifies in particular the uncleanness of the menstrual discharge in women, Leviticus 12:2, Leviticus 12:5, etc.; then the uncleanness of a woman in this condition, Leviticus 15:19, etc.; here it is transferred to Jerusalem, personified as such an unclean woman, and therefore shunned. הזּיל, the Hiphil of זלל (as to the form, cf. Ewald, 114, c), occurs only in this passage, and signifies to esteem lightly, the opposite of כּבּד, to esteem, value highly; hence זולל, "despised," Lamentations 1:11, as in Jeremiah 15:19. Those who formerly esteemed her - her friends, and those who honoured her, i.e., her allies - now despise her, because they have seen her nakedness. The nakedness of Jerusalem means her sins and vices that have now come to the light. She herself also, through the judgment that has befallen her, has come to see the infamy of her deeds, sighs over them, and turns away for shame, i.e., withdraws from the people so that they may no longer look on her in her shame.
9Her filthiness is in her skirts; she remembereth not her last end; therefore she came down wonderfully: she had no comforter. O LORD, behold my affliction: for the enemy hath magnified himself.
In Lamentations 1:9 the figure if uncleanness is further developed. Her uncleanness sticks to the hems or skirts of her garment. טמאה is the defilement caused by touching a person or thing Levitically unclean, Leviticus 5:3; Leviticus 7:21; here, therefore, it means defilement by sins and crimes. This has now been revealed by the judgment, because she did not think of her end. These words point to the warning given in the song of Moses, Deuteronomy 32:29 : "If they were wise, they would understand this (that apostasy from the Lord brings heavy punishment after it), they would think of their end," i.e., the evil issue of continued resistance to God's commands. But the words are especially a quotation from Isaiah 47:7, where they are used of Babylon, that thought she would always remain mistress, and did not think of the end of her pride; therefore on her also came the sentence, "Come down from thy glory, sit in the dust," Isaiah 47:1, cf. Jeremiah 48:18.
Jerusalem has now experienced this also; she has come down wonderfully, or fallen from the height of her glory into the depths of misery and disgrace, where she has none to comfort her, and is constrained to sigh, "O Lord, behold my misery!" These words are to be taken as a sign from the daughter of Zion, deeply humbled through shame and repentance for her sins. This is required by the whole tenor of the words, and confirmed by a comparison with Lamentations 1:11 and Lamentations 1:20. פּלאים is used adverbially; cf. Ewald, 204, b [Gesenius, 100, 2, b.] There is no need for supplying anything after הגדּיל, cf. Jeremiah 48:26, Jeremiah 48:42; Daniel 8:4, Daniel 8:8,Daniel 8:11, Daniel 8:25, although לעשׂות originally stood with it, e.g., Joel 2:20; cf. Ewald, 122, c [and Gesenius' Lexicon, s.v. גּדל]. The clause כּי הגדּיל, which assigns the reason, refers not merely to the sighing of Jerusalem, but also to the words, "and she came down wonderfully." The boasting of the enemy shows itself in the regardless, arrogant treatment not merely of the people and their property, but also of their holy things.
10The adversary hath spread out his hand upon all her pleasant things: for she hath seen that the heathen entered into her sanctuary, whom thou didst command that they should not enter into thy congregation.
This is specially mentioned in Lamentations 1:10. The enemy has spread out his hand over all her jewels (מחמדּיה, the costly treasures of Jerusalem which were plundered), and even forced into the sanctuary of the Lord to spoil it of its treasures and vessels. C. B. Michaelis, Thenius, Gerlach, Ngelsbach, etc., would restrict the meaning of מחמדּיה to the precious things of the sanctuary; but not only are there no sufficient reasons for this, but the structure of the clauses is against it. Neither does the expression, "all our precious things," in Isaiah 69:10, signify merely the articles used in public worship on which the people had placed their desire; nor are "all her pleasant vessels" merely the sacred vessels of the temple. In the latter passage, the suffix in מחמדּיה refers to Jerusalem; and inasmuch as the burning of all the palaces of the city (ארמנתיה) has been mentioned immediately before, we are so much the less at liberty to restrict "all her precious vessels" to the vessels of the temple, and must rather, under that expression, include all the precious vessels of the city, i.e., of the palaces and the temple. And Delitzsch has already remarked, on Isaiah 64:10, that "under מחמדּיה may be included favourite spots, beautiful buildings, pleasure gardens; and only the parallelism induces us to think especially of articles used in public worship." But when Thenius, in the passage now before us, brings forward the succeeding words, "for she hath seen," as a proof that by "all her pleasant things" we are to understand especially the vessels and utensils of the temple, he shows that he has not duly considered the contents of the clause introduced by כּי (for). The clause characterizes the enemy's forcing his way into the sanctuary, i.e., the temple of Jerusalem, as an unheard of act of sacrilege, because גּוים were not to enter even into the קהל of Jahveh. The subject treated of is not by any means the robbing of the temple - the plundering of its utensils and vessels. The prohibition against the coming, i.e., the receiving of foreigners into the "congregation," is given, Deuteronomy 23:4, with regard to the Ammonites and Moabites: this neither refers to the jus connubii (Grotius, Rosenmller), nor to the civil rights of Jewish citizens (Kalkschmidt), but to reception into religious communion with Israel, the ecclesia of the Old Covenant (קהל יהוה). In Deuteronomy 23:8, the restriction is relaxed in favour of the Edomites and Egyptians, but in Ezekiel 44:7, Ezekiel 44:9, in accordance with the ratio legis, extended to all uncircumcised sons of strangers. Hence, in the verse now before us, we must not, with Rosenmller and Thenius, restrict the reference of גּוים to the Ammonites and Moabites as accomplices of the Chaldeans in the capture of Jerusalem and the plundering of the temple (2 Kings 24:2); rather the גּוים are identical with those mentioned in the first member of the verse as צר, i.e., the Chaldeans, so called not "because their army was made up of different nationalities, but because the word contains the notice of their being heathens, - profane ones who had forced into the sanctuary" (Gerlach). But if we look at the structure of the clauses, we find that "for she saw," etc., is parallel to "for the enemy hath boasted" of Lamentations 1:9; and the clause, "for she saw nations coming," etc., contains a further evidence of the deep humiliation of Jerusalem; so that we may take כּי as showing the last step in a climax, since the connection of the thought is this: For the enemy hath boasted, spreading his hand over all her precious things, - he hath even forced his way into the sanctuary of the Lord. If this is mentioned as the greatest disgrace that could befall Jerusalem, then the spreading out of the hands over the precious things of Jerusalem cannot be understood of the plundering of the temple. The construction ראתּה גּוים בּא is in sense exactly similar to the Latin vidit gentes venisse, cf. Ewald, 284, b; and on the construction צוּיתה לא יבאוּ, cf. Ewald, 336, b. בּקהל לך does not stand for בּקהלך (lxx, Pareau, Rosenmller), for הקהל is not the congregation of Judah, but that of Jahveh; and the meaning is: They shall not come to thee, the people of God, into the congregation of the Lord.
11All her people sigh, they seek bread; they have given their pleasant things for meat to relieve the soul: see, O LORD, and consider; for I am become vile.
Besides this disgrace, famine also comes on her. All her people, i.e., the whole of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, sigh after bread, and part with their jewels for food, merely to prolong their life. The participles נאנחים, מכקשׁים, are not to be translated by preterites; they express a permanent condition of things, and the words are not to be restricted in their reference to the famine during the siege of the city (Jeremiah 37:21; Jeremiah 38:9; Jeremiah 52:6). Even after it was reduced, the want of provisions may have continued; so that the inhabitants of the city, starved into a surrender, delivered up their most valuable things to those who plundered them, for victuals to be obtained from these enemies. Yet it is not correct to refer the words to the present sad condition of those who were left behind, as distinguished from their condition during the siege and immediately after the taking of the city (Gerlach). This cannot be inferred from the participles. The use of these is fully accounted for by the fact that the writer sets forth, as present, the whole of the misery that came on Jerusalem during the siege, and which did not immediately cease with the capture of the city; he describes it as a state of matters that still continues. As to מחמוּדיהם, see on Lamentations 1:7. השׁיב נפשׁ, "to bring back the soul," the life, i.e., by giving food to revive one who is nearly fainting, to keep in his life ( equals השׁיב רוּח); cf. Ruth 4:15; 1 Samuel 30:12, and in a spiritual sense, Psalm 19:8; Psalm 23:3. In the third member of the verse, the sigh which is uttered as a prayer (Lamentations 1:9) is repeated in an intensified form; and the way is thus prepared for the transition to the lamentation and suppliant request of Jerusalem, which forms the second half of the poem.
12Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the LORD hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger.
The lamentation of the city. - Lamentations 1:12. The first words, לוא אליכם, are difficult to explain. The lxx have οἱ πρὸς ὑμᾶς; but the reading ought certainly to be οἴ π. ὑ.. The Vulgate is, o vos omnes; the Chaldee, adjuro vos omnes. They all seem to have taken לוא as an exclamation. Hence Le Clerc and others would read לוּא; but in this case one would require to supply a verb: thus, Le Clerc renders utinam adspiciatis, or, "O that my cry might reach you!" But these insertions are very suspicious. The same holds true of the explanation offered by J. D. Michaelis in his edition of Lowth on Hebrew Poetry, Lect. xxii.: non vobis, transeuntes in via, haec acclamo (viz., the closing words of Lamentations 1:11): this is decidedly opposed by the mere fact that passers-by certainly could not regard a call addressed to Jahveh as applying to them. Without supplying something or other, the words, as they stand, remain incomprehensible. Ngelsbach would connect them with what follows: "[Look] not to yourselves...but look and see...." But the antithesis, "Look not upon yourselves, but look on me (or on my sorrow)," has no proper meaning. If we compare the kindred thought presented in Lamentations 1:18, "Hear, all ye peoples, and behold my sorrow," then לוא seems to express an idea corresponding to שׁמעוּ נא. But we obtain this result only if we take the words as a question, as if לוא equals הלוא, though not in the sense of an asseveration (which would be unsuitable here, for which reason also הלוא is not used); the question is shown to be such merely by the tone, as in Exodus 8:22; 2 Samuel 23:5. Thus, we might render the sense with Gerlach: Does not (my sighing - or, more generally, my misery - come) to you? The Syriac, Lowth, Ewald, Thenius, and Vaihinger have taken the words as a question; Ewald, following Proverbs 8:4, would supply אקרא. But such an insertion gives a rendering which is both harsh and unjustifiable, although it lies at the foundation of Luther's "I say unto you." Hence we prefer Gerlach's explanation, and accordingly give the free rendering, "Do ye not observe, sc. what has befallen me, - or, my misery?" The words are, in any case, intended to prepare the way for, and thereby render more impressive, the summons addressed to all those passing by to look on and consider her sorrow. עולל is passive (Poal): "which is done to me." Since הוגה has no object, the second אשׁר does not permit of being taken as parallel with the first, though the Chaldee, Rosenmller, Kalkschmidt, and others have so regarded it, and translate: "with which Jahveh hath afflicted me." With Ewald, Thenius, Gerlach, etc., we must refer it to לי: "me whom Jahveh hath afflicted." The expression, "on the day of the burning of His anger," is pretty often found in Jeremiah; see Jeremiah 4:8, Jeremiah 4:26; Jeremiah 25:37, etc.
13From above hath he sent fire into my bones, and it prevaileth against them: he hath spread a net for my feet, he hath turned me back: he hath made me desolate and faint all the day.
In Lamentations 1:13-15, the misfortunes that have befallen Jerusalem are enumerated in a series of images. "Out from the height (i.e., down from heaven) hath He sent fire into my bones;" ויּרדּנּהּ is rendered by Luther, "and let it have the mastery" (Ger. und dasselbige walten lassen). Thenius explains this as being correct, and accordingly seeks to point the word ויּרדּנּהּ, while Ewald takes רדה to be cognate with רתח, and translates it "made them red-hot;" and Rosenmller, following N. G. Schrder, attributes to רדה, from the Arabic, the meaning collisit, percussit lapide. All these explanations are not only far-fetched and incapable of lexical vindication, but also unnecessary. The change of vowels, so as to make it the Hiphil, is opposed by the fact that רדה, in the Hiphil, does not mean to cause to manage, rule, but to read down, subdue (Isaiah 41:2). In Kal, it means to tread, tread down, and rule, as in Jeremiah 5:31, where Gesenius and Deitrich erroneously assume the meaning of "striding, going," and accordingly render this passage, "it stalks through them." The lexically substantiated meaning, "subdue, rule, govern, (or, more generally,) overpower," is quite sufficient for the present passage, since רדה is construed not merely with בּ, but also with the accusative: the subject is אשׁ, which is also construed as a masc. in Jeremiah 48:45; and the suffix ־נּה may either be taken as a neuter, or referred to "my bones," without compelling us to explain it as meaning unumquodque os (Rosenmller, etc.). The bones are regarded as bodily organs in which the pain is most felt, and are not to be explained away allegorically to mean urbes meas munitas (Chaldee). While fire from above penetrated the bones, God from beneath placed nets for the feet which thus were caught. On this figure, cf. Jeremiah 50:24; Hosea 7:12, etc. The consequence of this was that "He turned me back," ita ut progredi pedemque extricare non possem, sed capta detinerer (C. B. Michaelis), - not, "he threw me down backwards," i.e., made me fall heavily (Thenius). "He hath made me desolate" (שׁוממה), - not obstupescentem, perturbatam, desperatam (Rosenmller); the same word is applied to Tamar, 2 Samuel 13:20, as one whose happiness in life has been destroyed. "The whole day (i.e., constantly, uninterruptedly) sick," or ill. The city is regarded as a person whose happiness in life has been destroyed, and whose health has been broken. This miserable condition is represented in Lamentations 1:14, under another figure, as a yoke laid by God on this people for their sins. נשׂקד, ἅπ. λεγ., is explained by Kimchi as נקשׁר או נתחבר, compactum vel colligatum, according to which שׂקד would be allied to עקד. This explanation suits the context; on the other hand, neither the interpretation based on the Talmudic סקד, punxit, stimulavit, which is given by Raschi and Aben Ezra, nor the interpretations of the lxx, Syriac, and Vulgate, which are founded on the reading נשׁקד, harmonize with על, which must be retained, as is shown by the words עלוּ על־צוּארי. Ewald supposes that שׂקד was the technical expression for the harnessing on of the yoke. "The yoke of my transgressions" (not "of my chastisements," as Gesenius, Rosenmller, and Ewald think) means the yoke formed of the sins. The notion of punishment is not contained in פּשׁעי, but in the imposition of the yoke upon the neck, by which the misdeeds of sinful Jerusalem are laid on her, as a heavy, depressing burden which she must bear. These sins become interwoven or intertwine themselves (ישׂתּרגוּ), after the manner of intertwined vine-tendrils (שׂריגים, Genesis 40:10; cf. remarks on Job 40:17), as the Chaldee paraphrase well shows; and, through this interweaving, form the yoke that has come on the neck of the sinful city. Veluti ex contortis funibus aut complicatis lignis jugum quoddam construitur, ita h. l. praevaricationis tanquam materia insupportabilis jugi considerantur (C. B. Michaelis). עלה is used of the imposition of the yoke, as in Numbers 19:2; 1 Samuel 6:7. The effect of the imposition of this yoke is: "it hath made my strength to stumble (fail)." Pareau, Thenius, Vaihinger, and Ngelsbach assume God as the subject of the verb הכשׁיל; but this neither accords with the current of the description, nor with the emphatic mention of the subject אדני in the clause succeeding this. Inasmuch as, in the first member of the verse, God is not the subject, but the address takes a passive turn, it is only the leading word על that can be the subject of הכשׁיל: the yoke of sins which, twined together, have come on the neck, has made the strength stumble, i.e., broken it. This effect of the yoke of sins is stated, in the last member, in simple and unfigurative speech: "the Lord hath given me into the hands of those whom I cannot withstand," i.e., before whom I cannot maintain my ground. On the construction בּידי לא אוּכל, cf. Ewald, 333, b; Gesenius, 116, 3. קוּם is here viewed in the sense of standing fast, maintaining ground, as in Psalm 18:39; and, construed with the accusative, it signifies, to withstand any one; its meaning is not surgere, which Thenius, following the Vulgate, would prefer: the construction here requires the active meaning of the verb.
14The yoke of my transgressions is bound by his hand: they are wreathed, and come up upon my neck: he hath made my strength to fall, the Lord hath delivered me into their hands, from whom I am not able to rise up.
15The Lord hath trodden under foot all my mighty men in the midst of me: he hath called an assembly against me to crush my young men: the Lord hath trodden the virgin, the daughter of Judah, as in a winepress.
In Lamentations 1:15 this thought is further carried out. סלּה and סלה, "to lift up," is only used in poetry; in Psalm 119:118 it takes the Aramaic meaning vilipendere, as if in reference to things that can be lifted easily; here it means tollere, to lift up, take away (lxx ἐξῇρε, Vulgate abstulit), tear away forcibly, just as both meanings are combined in נשׂא: it does not mean to outweigh, or raise with a jerk, - the warriors being regarded as weighty things, that speedily were raised when the Chaldean power was thrown into the scale (Thenius, and Bttcher in his Aehrenl. S. 94). This meaning is not confirmed for the Piel by Job 28:16, Job 28:19. קתא מועד does not mean to summon an assembly, i.e., the multitude of foes (Raschi, Rosenmller, Gesenius, Neumann), but to proclaim a festival (cf. Lamentations 2:22), because in Lamentations 1:4 and Lamentations 2:6 (cf. Leviticus 23:4) מועד denotes the feast-day, and in Lamentations 1:21 קתא יום means to proclaim a day. עלי means "against me;" for those invited to the feast are the nations that God has invited to destroy the youths, i.e., the young troops of Jerusalem. These celebrate a feast like that of the vintage, at which Jahveh treads the wine-press for the daughter of Judah, because her young men are cut off like clusters of grapes (Jeremiah 6:9), and thrown into the wine-press (Joel 3:13). The last judgment also is set forth under this figure, Isaiah 63:2.; Revelation 14:19., Revelation 19:15. לבּתוּלת יהוּדה, "to (for) the virgin of Judah;" her young men are regarded as a mass of grapes, whose life-sap (blood) is trodden out in the wine-press. As to the expression 'בּתוּלת בּת י, see on Jeremiah 14:17. "The addition of the word 'virgin' brings out the contrast between this fate, brought on through the enemy, at God's command, and the peculiar privilege of Judah as the people of God, in being free from the attacks of enemies" (Gerlach).
16For these things I weep; mine eye, mine eye runneth down with water, because the comforter that should relieve my soul is far from me: my children are desolate, because the enemy prevailed.
Lamentations 1:16 concludes this series of thoughts, since the address returns to the idea presented in Lamentations 1:12, and the unprecedented sorrow (Lamentations 1:12) gives vent to itself in tears. "Because of these things" refers to the painful realities mentioned in Lamentations 1:13-15, which Jerusalem has experienced. The form בּוכיּה is like the feminine form פּריּה in Psalm 128:3; Isaiah 17:6; cf. Ges. 75, Rem. 5. The repetition of "my eye" gives greater emphasis, and is quite in the style of Jeremiah; cf. Jeremiah 4:19; Jeremiah 6:14 (Jeremiah 8:11), Jeremiah 22:29; Jeremiah 23:25; the second עיני is not to be expunged (Pareau and Thenius), although it is not found in the lxx, Vulgate, Arabic, and some codices. On ירדה , cf. Jeremiah 9:17; Jeremiah 13:17; Jeremiah 14:17. In these passages stands דמעה, but here מים, as the stronger expression: the eye flows like water, as if it were running to the ground in water. Gesenius, in his Thesaurus, appositely cites the German "sich die Augen aus dem Kopfe weinen" with which the English corresponds: "to weep one's eyes out of his head". Still stronger is the expression in Lamentations 3:48. But the sorrow becomes thus grievous, because the weeping one has none to comfort her; friends who could comfort her have faithlessly forsaken her (cf. Lamentations 1:2, Lamentations 1:9), and her sons are שׁוממים, i.e., destroyed, not "astonished" (Jeremiah 18:16; Jeremiah 19:8), but, as in Lamentations 1:13, made desolate, i.e., made so unhappy that they cannot bring their mother comfort in her misery. On משׁיב , cf. Lamentations 1:11. "Because the enemy hath become strong," i.e., prevailed (גּבר as in Jeremiah 9:2).
17Zion spreadeth forth her hands, and there is none to comfort her: the LORD hath commanded concerning Jacob, that his adversaries should be round about him: Jerusalem is as a menstruous woman among them.
The complaint regarding the want of comforters is corroborated by the writer, who further developes this thought, and gives some proof of it. By this contemplative digression he breaks in on the lamentation of the city, as if the voice of the weeping one were choked with tears, thus he introduces into the complaint a suitable pause, that both serves to divide the lamentation into two, and also brings a turn in its contents. It is in vain that Zion stretches out her hands (פּרשׁ בּ, to make a spreading out with the hands) for comforters and helpers; there is none she can embrace, for Jahveh has given orders against Jacob, that those round about him should act as oppressors. סביביו are the neighbouring nations round about Israel. These are all of hostile disposition, and strive but to increase his misery; cf. Lamentations 1:2. Jerusalem has become their abomination (cf. Lamentations 1:8), since God, in punishment for sins, has exposed her before the heathen nations (cf. Lamentations 1:8). בּיניהם, "between them," the neighbouring nations, who live round about Judah. The thought that Jahveh has decreed the suffering which has come on Jerusalem, is laid to heart by her who makes complaint, so that, in Lamentations 1:18, she owns God's justice, and lets herself be roused to ask for pity, Lamentations 1:19-22.
Starting with the acknowledgment that Jahveh is righteous, because Jerusalem has opposed His word, the sorrowing one anew (Lamentations 1:18, as in Lamentations 1:12) calls on the nations to regard her sorrow, which attains its climax when her children, in the bloom of youth, are taken captives by the enemy. But she finds no commiseration among men; for some, her former friends, prove faithless, and her counsellors have perished (Lamentations 1:19); therefore she turns to God, making complaint to Him of her great misery (Lamentations 1:20), because the rest, her enemies, even rejoice over her misery (Lamentations 1:21): she prays that God may punish these. Gerlach has properly remarked, that this conclusion of the chapter shows Jerusalem does not set forth her fate as an example for the warning of the nations, nor desires thereby to obtain commiseration from them in her present state (Michaelis, Rosenmller, Thenius, Vaihinger); but that the apostrophe addressed to the nations, as well as that to passers-by (Lamentations 1:12), is nothing more than a poetic turn, used to express the boundless magnitude of this her sorrow and her suffering. On the confession "Righteous is Jahveh," cf. Jeremiah 12:1; Deuteronomy 32:4; 2 Chronicles 12:6; Psalm 119:37, etc. "Because I have rebelled against His mouth" (i.e., His words and commandments), therefore I am suffering what I have merited. On מרה , cf. Numbers 20:24; 1 Kings 13:26. כּל־עמּים (without the article, which the Qeri supplies) is a form of expression used in poetry, which often drops the article; moreover, we must here bear in mind, that it is not by any means the idea of the totality of the nations that predominates, but nations are addressed merely in indefinite generality: the expression in the text means nations of all places and countries. In order to indicate the greatness of her grief, the sorrowing one mentions the carrying into captivity of the young men and virgins, who are a mother's joy and hope.
18The LORD is righteous; for I have rebelled against his commandment: hear, I pray you, all people, and behold my sorrow: my virgins and my young men are gone into captivity.
19I called for my lovers, but they deceived me: my priests and mine elders gave up the ghost in the city, while they sought their meat to relieve their souls.
Lamentations 1:19 is not a continuation of the direct address to the nations, to whom she complains of her distress, but merely a complaint to God regarding the sorrow she endures. The perfects קראתי, רמּוּני, are not preterites, and thus are not to be referred to the past, as if complaint were made that, in the time of need, the lovers of Jerusalem forsook her; they rather indicate accomplished facts, whose consequences reach down to the present time. It was not merely in former times, during the siege, that Jerusalem called to her friends for help; but even now she still calls, that she may be comforted by them, yet all in vain. Her friends have deceived her, i.e., shamefully disappointed her expectations. From those who are connected with her, too, she can expect neither comfort nor counsel. The priests and the elders, as the helpers and advisers of the city, - the former as representing the community before God, and being the medium of His grace, the latter as being leaders in civil matters, - pined away ( ,גּועexspirare; here, to pine away through hunger, and expire). כּי is a temporal particle: "when they were seeking for bread" to prolong their life ('השׁיב נ as in Lamentations 1:11). The lxx have added καὶ οὐχ ευ, which Thenius is inclined to regard as a portion of the original text; but it is very evidently a mere conjecture from the context, and becomes superfluous when כּי ne is taken as a particle of time.
20Behold, O LORD; for I am in distress: my bowels are troubled; mine heart is turned within me; for I have grievously rebelled: abroad the sword bereaveth, at home there is as death.
Since neither comfort nor advice is to be found with men, Jerusalem makes her complaint of need to God the Lord. "See, Jahveh, that I am distressed. My bowels glow." חמרמרוּ, the passive enhancing form, from חמר, is found, besides, only in Lamentations 2:11, where the clause before us is repeated, and in Job 16:16, where it is used of the countenance, and can only mean to be glowing red; it is scarcely legitimate to derive it from חמר, Arab. h[mr, to be made red, and must rather be referred to Arab. chmr, to ferment, rise into froth; for even in Psalm 55:9 חמר does not mean to be red, but to rise into froth. מעים, "bowels," are the nobler portions of the internal organs of the body, the seat of the affections; cf. Delitzsch's Biblical Psychology (Clark's translation), p. 314ff. "My heart has turned within me" is an expression used in Hosea 11:8 to designate the feeling of compassion; but here it indicates the most severe internal pain, which becomes thus agonizing through the consciousness of its being deserved on account of resistance to God. מרו for מרה, like בּכו ekil, Jeremiah 22:10; Jeremiah 30:19, etc. Both forms occur together in other verbs also; cf. Olshausen, Gram. 245, h [Ewald, 238, e; Gesen., 75, Rem. 2]. But the judgment also is fearful; for "without (מחוּץ, foris, i.e., in the streets and the open country) the sword renders childless," through the slaughter of the troops; "within (בּבּית, in the houses) כּמּות, like death." It is difficult to account for the use of כּ; for neither the כ of comparison nor the so-called כveritatis affords a suitable meaning; and the transposition of the words into sicut mors intus (Rosenmller, after Lצwe and Wolfsohn) is an arbitrary change. Death, mentioned in connection with the sword, does not mean death in general, but special forms of death through maladies and plagues, as in Jeremiah 15:2; Jeremiah 18:21, not merely the fever of hunger, Jeremiah 14:18; on the other hand, cf. Ezekiel 7:15, "the sword without, pestilence and hunger within." But the difficulty connected with כּמּות is not thereby removed. The verb שׁכּל belongs to both clauses; but "the sword" cannot also be the subject of the second clause, of which the nominative must be כּמּות, "all that is like death," i.e., everything besides the sword that kills, all other causes of death, - pestilences, famine, etc. כּ is used as in כּמראה, Daniel 10:18. That this is the meaning is shown by a comparison of the present passage with Deuteronomy 32:25, which must have been before the writer's mind, so that he took the words of the first clause, viz., "without, the sword bereaves," almost as they stood, but changed וּמחדרים into בּבּית כּמּות, - thus preferring "what is like death," instead of "terror," to describe the cause of destruction. Calvin long ago hit the sense in his paraphrase multae mortes, and the accompanying explanation: utitur nota similitudinis, quasi diceret: nihil domi occurrere nisi mortale (more correctly mortiferum). Much light is thrown on the expression by the parallel adduced by Kalkschmidt from Aeneid, ii. 368, 369: crudelis ubique Luctus, ubique pavor, et plurima mortis imago.
From speaking of friends, a transition is made in Lamentations 1:21 to enemies. Regarding the explanation of Rosenmller, audiverunt quidem amici mei, a me implorati Lamentations 1:19, quod gemens ego...imo sunt omnes hostes mei, Thenius observes that it introduces too much. This remark is still more applicable to his own interpretation: "People (certainly) hear how I sigh, (yet) I have no comforter." The antithesis introduced by the insertion of "yet" destroys the simplicity of arrangement among the clauses, although C. B. Michaelis and Gerlach also explain the passage in the same manner. The subject of the words, "they have heard," in the first clause, is not the friends who are said in Lamentations 1:19 to have been called upon for help, nor those designated in the second clause of Lamentations 1:21 as "all mine enemies," but persons unnamed, who are only characterized in the second clause as enemies, because they rejoice over the calamity which they have heard of as having befallen Jerusalem. The first clause forms the medium of transition from the faithless friends (Lamentations 1:19) to the open enemies (Lamentations 1:21); hence the subject is left undefined, so that one may think of friends and enemies. The foes rejoice that God has brought the evil on her. The words 'הבאת וגו, which follow, cannot also be dependent on כּי ("that Thou hast brought the day which Thou hast announced"), inasmuch as the last clause, "and they shall be like me," does not harmonize with them. Indeed, Ngelsbach and Gerlach, who assume that this is the connection of the clause "Thou hast brought," etc., take 'ויהיוּ כ adversatively: "but they shall be like me." If, however, "they shall be," etc., were intended to form an antithesis to "all mine enemies have heard," etc., the former clause would be introduced by והם. The mere change of tense is insufficient to prove the point. It must further be borne in mind, that in such a case there would be introduced by the words "and they shall be," etc., a new series of ideas, the second great division of the prayer; but this is opposed by the arrangement of the clauses. The second portion of the prayer cannot be attached to the end of the verse. The new series of thoughts begins rather with "Thou hast brought," which the Syriac has rendered by the imperative, venire fac. Similarly Luther translates: "then (therefore) let the day come." C. B. Michaelis, Rosenmller, Pareau, etc., also take the words optatively, referring to the Arabic idiom, according to which a wish is expressed in a vivid manner by the perfect. This optative use of the perfect certainly cannot be shown to exist in the Hebrew; but perhaps it may be employed to mark what is viewed as certain to follow, in which case the Germans use the present. The use of the perfect shows that the occurrence expected is regarded as so certain to happen, that it is represented as if it had already taken place. The perfects in Lamentations 3:56-61 are taken in this sense by nearly all expositors. Similarly we take the clause now before us to mean, "Thou bringest on the day which Thou hast proclaimed (announced)," i.e., the day of judgment on the nations, Jeremiah 25, "so that they become like me," i.e., so that the foes who rejoice over my misfortune suffer the same fate as myself. "The day [which] Thou hast proclaimed" has been to specifically rendered in the Vulgate, adduxisti diem consolationis, probably with a reference of the proclamation to Isaiah 40:2. - After this expression of certainty regarding the coming of a day of punishment for her enemies, there follows, Lamentations 1:22, the request that all the evil they have done to Jerusalem may come before the face of God, in order that He may punish it (cf. Psalm 109:15 with Lamentations 1:14), - do to them as He has done to Jerusalem, because of her transgressions. The clause which assigns the reason ("for many are my sighs," etc.) does not refer to that which immediately precedes; for neither the request that retribution should be taken, nor the confession of guilt ("for all my transgressions"), can be accounted fore by pointing to the deep misery of Jerusalem, inasmuch as her sighing and sickness are not brought on her by her enemies, but are the result of the sufferings ordained by God regarding her. The words contain the ground of the request that God would look on the misery (Lamentations 1:20), and show to the wretched one the compassion which men refuse her. לבּי is exactly the same expression as that in Jeremiah 8:18; cf. also Isaiah 1:5. The reason thus given for making the entreaty forms an abrupt termination, and with these words the sound of lamentation dies away.
21They have heard that I sigh: there is none to comfort me: all mine enemies have heard of my trouble; they are glad that thou hast done it: thou wilt bring the day that thou hast called, and they shall be like unto me.
22Let all their wickedness come before thee; and do unto them, as thou hast done unto me for all my transgressions: for my sighs are many, and my heart is faint.