Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
In this poem Lam. 4 the distinctive idea is, that the miseries Lam 4:1-11 which have befallen Judah are the punishment of her sin Lam 4:12-20, and will therefore end - when chastisement has had its proper effect - in her restoration Lam 4:21-22.
The stones of the sanctuary - Or, the hallowed stones, literally stones of holiness, a metaphor for the people themselves. The actual stones of the temple would not be thus widely thrown about as to be seen everywhere, but the prophet has already affirmed this of the young children dying of hunger (compare Lam 2:19).
The precious sons of Zion - The whole nation was consecrated to God, and formed "a kingdom of priests" Exo 19:6 : in this respect, a type of the Christian Church Pe1 2:5.
Comparable to fine gold - literally, "weighed with" solid gold, and so equal to their weight in it. With this is contrasted the hollow pitcher easily broken, and made of materials of no intrinsic value.
Sea monsters - Rather, jackals.
Their young ones - "Their" whelps. The term is applied only to the young of dogs, lions, and the like.
They that were brought up in scarlet - literally, "those that were carried upon scarlet;" young children in arms and of the highest birth now lie on the dirt-heaps of the city.
Rather, "For" the iniquity "of the daughter of my people was greater than" the sin "of Sodom." The prophet deduces this conclusion from the greatness of Judah's misery (compare Jer 30:11; see also Luk 13:1-5).
No hands stayed on her - Or, "no hands were round about her." Sodom's sufferings in dying were brief: there were no starving children, no mothers cooking their offspring for food.
The Nazarites from their temperance were remarkable for health and personal beauty, besides being held in religious veneration.
Rubies - Or, corals.
Their polishing was of sapphire - Or, their shape was "a sapphire." The allusion is no longer to color, but to form. Their shape was exact and faultless as the cutting of a precious stone.
Their visage ... - Their form (their whole person, see Sa1 28:14)... as in the margin. See Job 30:30.
It is withered, it is become like a stick - Or, It has become dry like a piece of wood.
Pitiful - i. e. tender-hearted, compassionate. meat is used for food Psa 69:21. What is here stated actually occurred during the siege of Jerusalem by Titus.
Though Jerusalem had been several times captured Kg1 14:26; Kg2 14:13; Kg2 23:33-35, yet it had been so strongly fortified by Uzziah and his successors as to have been made virtually impregnable. Its present capture by Nebuchadnezzar had cost him a year and a half's siege.
The blood of the just - Jer. 26:7-24 exhibits priests and prophets as the prime movers in an attempt to silence the word of God by putting Jeremiah to death. Compare the margin reference to Matthew.
They have wandered - God's ministers, consecrated to His service, wandered through the city blinded by the insatiable lust of slaughter. It was a pollution to touch their garments.
Men cried to these priests, "Away! Unclean! Away! Away! Touch not." "Unclean" was the cry of the leper whenever he appeared in public: here it is the warning shout of those who meet the murderers.
When they fled away and wandered - These priests fled away from the city, but with uncertain steps, not knowing where to find refuge. They find themselves abhorred abroad as well as at home.
It is quite possible that this verse records a real occurrence, if not during the siege, at all events during the last years of Zedekiah's reign.
Literally, The countenance of Yahweh hath scattered them, has driven these outlawed priests here and there, "and He will no more regard them" with favor.
A rapid sketch of the last days of the siege and the capture of the king.
Rather, "Still do our eyes waste away looking for our vain help."
In our watching - Or, "on our watchtower."
Or, They hunted "our steps that we could not go out into the streets. To hunt" means here to lie in ambush, and catch by snares; and the streets are literally "the wide places," especially at the gates. Toward the end of the siege the towers erected by the enemy would command these places.
Our persecutors are ... - Our pursuers (Lam 1:3 note) "were swifter thorn the eagles of heaven."
They pursued us - Or, they chased us.
Mountains ... wilderness - The route in going from Jerusalem to Jericho leads first over heights, beginning with the Mount of Olives, and then descends into the plain of the Ghor.
The breath of our nostrils - Zedekiah is not set before us as a vicious king, but rather as a man who had not strength enough of character to stem the evil current of his times. And now that the state was fallen he was as the very breath of life to the fugitives, who would have no rallying point without him.
In their pits - The words are metaphorical, suggesting that Zedekiah was hunted like a wild animal, and driven into the pitfall.
The prophet ends his elegy with the language of Messianic hope. The earthly king had fallen Lam 4:20; but Israel cannot really perish. First then Edom, the representative of the Church's foes, is ironically told to rejoice. Rejoice she did at the capture of Jerusalem Jer. 49:7-22; but her punishment is quickly to follow.
The punishment of thine iniquity is accomplished - literally, Thy iniquity is ended. This is the result of Judah having borne her punishment. And as it is not just to punish twice for the same thing, therefore Jeremiah adds, "He will not send thee again into captivity;" not meaning that under all circumstances Judah would have immunity from exile; - for that would depend upon her future conduct: but that her present guilt being expiated, she would have nothing to fear on its account.
He will discover thy sins - See the margin. As Edom rejoices when the Church is chastised, so is the day of the Church's triumph that also on which the wicked meet with retribution.