Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The Suffering and the Consolation of the Gospel
1 I am the man that have seen affliction by the rod of His wrath.
2 Me hat He led, and brought [through] darkness, and not light.
3 Only against me He repeatedly turneth His hand all the day.
4 He has wasted away my flesh and my skin; He hath broken my bones.
5 He buildeth up round about me poison and toil.
6 He maketh me sit down in dark places, like those for ever dead.
7 He hath hedged me about, so that I cannot get out; He hath made heavy my chain.
8 Moreover, when I cry and shout, He obstructeth my prayer.
9 He hath walled round my ways with hewn stone, He hath subverted my paths.
10 He is to me [like] a bear lying in wait, a lion in secret places.
11 He removeth my ways, and teareth me in pieces; He maketh me desolate.
12 He bendeth His bow, and setteth me up as the mark for the arrow.
13 He causeth the sons of His quiver to go into my reins.
14 I am become a derision to all my people, their [subject of] satire all the day.
15 He filleth me with bitterness, maketh me drink wormwood.
16 And He grindeth my teeth on gravel, He covereth me with ashes.
17 And my soul hath become despised by prosperity; I have forgotten [what] good [is].
18 And I said, My vital power is gone, and my hope from Jahveh.
19 Remember my misery and my persecution, wormwood and poison.
20 My soul remembereth [them] indeed, and sinketh down in me.
21 This I bring back to my mind, therefore have I hope.
22 [It is a sign of] the mercies of Jahveh that we are not consumed, for His compassions fail not;
23 [They are] new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness.
24 Jahveh [is] my portion, saith my soul; therefore I hope in Him.
25 Jahveh is good unto those who wait for Him, to a soul [that] seeketh Him.
26 It is good that [one] should wait, and that is silence, for the salvation of Jahveh.
27 It is good for man that he should bear a yoke in his youth.
28 Let him sit solitary and be silent, for [God] hath laid [the burden] on him.
29 Let him put his mouth in the dust; perhaps there is [still] hope.
30 Let him give [his] cheek to him that smites him, let him be filled with reproach.
31 Because the Lord will not cast off for ever:
32 For, though He causeth grief, He also pities, according to the multitude of His mercies.
33 For He doth not afflict from His heart, and grieve the children of men.
34 To the crushing all the prisoners of the earth under one's feet,
35 To the setting aside of a man's rights before the face of the Most High.
36 To the overthrowing of a man in his cause: - doth not the Lord look [to such doings as these]?
37 Who hath spoken, and it was done, [which] the Lord commanded not?
38 Doth not evil and good come out of the mouth of Jahveh?
39 Why doth a man complain [because] he liveth? [Let every] man [rather lament] because of his sins.
40 Let us search and examine our ways, and let us return to Jahveh.
41 Let us lift up our heart to [our] hands towards God in the heavens.
42 We have transgressed and rebelled, Thou hast not pardoned.
43 Thou didst cover [Thyself] with anger, and didst persecute us; Thou hast slain, Thou hast not pitied.
(Note: In the latter part of this verse, Keil has written mitten unter den Vlkern, which is also (correctly) given as the rendering of the second part of Lam 3:45. This obvious inadvertence has been rectified in the English translation. - Tr.)
44 Thou didst cover Thyself with a cloud, so that prayer could not pass through.
45 Thou didst make us [like] offscourings and refuse in the midst of the nations.
46 All our enemies have opened their mouths against us.
47 Terror and a snare are ours, destruction and ruin.
48 Mine eye runneth down [with] streams of water, because of the ruin of the daughter of my people.
49 Mine eye poureth itself forth, and ceaseth not, so that there are no stoppings,
50 Until Jahveh shall look down and behold from heaven.
51 Mine eye causeth pain to my soul, because of all the daughters of my city.
(Note: Keil has here misread the Hebrew text, and translated "my people" (עמּי) instead of "my city" (עירי). - Tr.)
52 Mine enemies closely pursued me, like a bird, without cause.
53 They were for destroying my life in the pit, and cast a stone on me.
54 Waters overflowed over my head; I said, I am cut off.
55 I called on Thy name, O Jahveh, out of the lowest dungeon.
56 Thou hast heard my voice; hide not Thine ear at my sighing, at my cry.
57 Thou art near in the day [when] I call on Thee; Thou sayest, Fear not.
58 Thou hast defended, O Lord, my soul; Thou hast redeemed my life.
59 Thou hast seen, O Jahveh, mine oppression; judge my cause.
60 Thou hast seen all their vengeance, all their projects against me.
61 Thou hast heard their reproach, O Jahveh, all their projects against me;
62 The lips of those who rise up against me, and their meditation against me all the day.
63 Behold their sitting down and their rising up: I am their satire.
64 Thou shalt return a recompense to them, O Jahveh, according to the work of their hands.
65 Thou shalf give to them blindness of heart, - Thy curse to them.
66 Thou shalt pursue [them] in anger, and destroy them from under the heavens of Jahveh.
The two preceding poems ended with sorrowful complaint. This third poem begins with the complaint of a man over grievous personal suffering. Regarding the contents of this poem, and its relation to the two which precede, Ewald makes the following excellent remarks: "In consequence of experiences most peculiarly his own, the individual may indeed at first make complaint, in such a way that, as here, still deeper despair for the third time begins (vv. 1-18); but, by the deepest meditation for himself on the eternal relation of God to men, he may also very readily come to the due acknowledgment of his own sins and the necessity for repentance, and thereby also to believing prayer. Who is this individual that complains, and thinks, and entreats in this fashion, whose I passes unobserved, but quite appropriately, into we? O man, it is the very image of thyself! Every one must now speak and think as he does. Thus it is just by this address, which commences in the most doleful tones, that sorrow for the first time, and imperceptibly, has passed into true prayer." This remark contains both the deepest truth and the key to the proper understanding of the contents of this poem, and its position in the middle of the Lamentations. Both of these points have been mistaken by expositors, who (e.g., C. B. Michaelis, Pareau, Maurer, Kalkschmidt, and Bleek in his Introduction) are of opinion that the writer here makes his personal sufferings the subject of complaint. This cannot be made out, either from Lam 3:14 or from the description given in Lam 3:53.: the reverse rather is shown by the fact that, in Lam 3:22 and Lam 3:40-47, we is used instead of I; from which it is evident that the prophet, in the remainder of the poem, is not speaking of himself, or bewailing his own personal sufferings. The confession found in Lam 3:42, "We have transgressed and rebelled, Thou hast not pardoned," etc., necessarily presupposes not only that the dealing of God towards the sinful and apostate nation, as described in Lam 3:42., stands in the closest connection with the sufferings of which the prophet complains in vv. 1-18, but also that the chastisement, by means of God's wrath, which was experienced by the man who utters his complaint in vv. 1-18, is identical with the anger which, according to Lam 3:43, discharged itself on the people; hence the suffering of the individual, which is described in vv. 1-18, is to be regarded as the reflex of but a special instance of the suffering endured by the whole community. Perhaps this was the view of Aben Ezra, when he says that, in this lamentation, it is individual Israelites who speak; and most expositors acknowledge that the prophet pours forth his lamentations and his prayers in the name of the godly.
The poem begins by setting forth the grievous soul-sufferings of the godly in their cheerless and hopeless misery (vv. 1-18); then it ascends, through meditation upon the compassion and almighty providence of God, to hope (vv. 19-39), and thus attains to the recognition of God's justice in sending the punishment, which, however, is so intensified through the malice of enemies, that the Lord cannot pass by the attempt to crush His people (Lam 3:40-54). This reliance on the justice of God impels to prayer, in which there is manifested confidence that God will send help, and take vengeance on the enemy (Lam 3:55-66).
Lamentation over grievous sufferings. The author of these sufferings is not, indeed, expressly named in the whole section, but it is unmistakeably signified that God is meant; moreover, at the end of Lam 3:18 the name יהוה is mentioned. The view thus given of the sufferings shows, not merely that he who utters the complaint perceives in these sufferings a chastisement by God, but also that this chastisement has become for him a soul-struggle, in which he may not take the name of God into his mouth; and only after he has given vent in lamentations to the deep sorrow of his soul, does his spirit get peace to mention the name of the Lord, and make complaint to Him of his need. Nothing certain can be inferred from the lamentations themselves regarding the person who makes complaint. It does not follow from Lam 3:1-3 that he was burdened with sorrows more than every one else; nor from Lam 3:14 that he was a personage well known to all the people, so that one could recognise the prophet in him. As little are they sufferings which Jeremiah has endured alone, and for his own sake, but sufferings such as many godly people of his time have undergone and struggled through. Against the Jeremianic authorship of the poem, therefore, no argument can be drawn from the fact that the personality of him who utters the complaint is concealed.
In the complaint, "I am the man that saw (i.e., lived to see) misery," the misery is not specified; and we cannot, with Rosenmller, refer עני (without the article) to the misery announced by the prophet long before. "The rod of His wrath," as in Pro 22:8, is the rod of God's anger; cf. Job 21:9; Job 9:34; Isa 10:5, etc. The suffix in עברתו is not to be referred, with Aben Ezra, to the enemy.
"Me hath He (God) led and brought through darkness (חשׁך, local accus.), and not light," is a combination like that in Job 12:25 and Amo 5:18. The path of Jeremiah's life certainly lay through darkness, but was not wholly devoid of light, because God had promised him His protection for the discharge of his official functions. The complaint applies to all the godly, to whom, at the fall of Jerusalem, no light appeared to cheer the darkness of life's pathway.
"Only upon (against) me does He repeatedly turn His hand." ישׁוּב is subordinated to the idea of יהפך in an adverbial sense; cf. Gesenius, 142, 3, b. "His hand" is the smiting hand of God. אך, "only upon me," expresses the feeling which makes him on whom grievous sufferings have fallen to regard himself as one smitten in a special manner by God. "The whole day," i.e., continually; cf. Lam 1:13. - From Lam 3:4 onwards this divine chastisement is more minutely set forth under various figures, and first of all as a wasting away of the vital force. בּלּה means to wear out by rubbing, cause to fall away, from בּלה, to be worn out, which is applied to clothes, and then transferred to bodies, Job 13:28; Psa 49:15. "Flesh and skin" are the exterior and soft constituents of the body, while the bones are the firmer parts. Skin, flesh, and bones together, make up the substance of the human body. Pro 5:11 forms the foundation of the first clause. "He hath broken my bones" is a reminiscence from the lamentation of Hezekiah in Isa 38:13; cf. Psa 51:10; Job 30:17. The meaning is thus excellently given by Pareau: indicantur animi, fortius irae divinae malorumque sensu conquassati, angores. - The figure in Lam 3:5, "He builds round about and encircles me," is derived from the enclosing of a city by besieging it. עלי is to be repeated after wayaqeep. The besieging forces, which encompass him so that he cannot go out and in, are ראשׁ וּתלאה. That the former of these two words cannot mean κεφαλήν μου (lxx), is abundantly evident. ראשׁ or רושׁ is a plant with a very bitter taste, hence a poisonous plant; see on Jer 8:14. As in that passage מי ראשׁ, so here the simple ראשׁ is an emblem of bitter suffering. The combination with תּלאה, "toil," is remarkable, as a case in which a figurative is joined with a literal expression; this, however, does not justify the change of תּלאה into לענה (Castell, Schleussner, etc.). The combination is to be explained on the ground that ראשׁ had become so common a symbol of bitter suffering, that the figure was quite lost sight of behind the thing signified.
Lam 3:6 is a verbatim reminiscence from Psa 143:3. מחשׁכּים is the darkness of the grave and of Sheol; cf. Psa 88:7. מתי עולם does not mean "the dead of antiquity" (Rosenmller, Maurer, Ewald, Thenius, etc.), but, as in Psa 143:3, those eternally dead, who lie in the long night of death, from which there is no return into this life. In opposition to the explanation dudum mortui, Gerlach fittingly remarks, that "it makes no difference whether they have been dead long ago or only recently, inasmuch as those dead and buried a short time ago lie in darkness equally with those who have long been dead;" while it avails nothing to point to Psa 88:5-7, as Ngelsbach does, since the special subject there treated of is not those who have long been dead.
God has hedged him round like a prisoner, cut off all communication from without, so that he cannot escape, and He has loaded him with heavy chains. This figure is based on Job 19:8 and Hos 2:8. גּדר בּעדי, "He hath made an hedge round me," does not suggest prison walls, but merely seclusion within a confined space, where he is deprived of free exit. "I cannot go out," as in Psa 88:9. The seclusion is increased by fetters which are placed on the prisoner. נחשׁת, "brass," for fetters, as in German and English, "irons," for iron chains.
This distress presses upon him all the more heavily, because, in addition to this, the Lord does not listen to his prayer and cries, but has rather closed His ear; cf. Jer 7:16; Psa 18:42, etc. שׂתם for סתם (only written here with שׂ), to stop the prayer; i.e., not to prevent the prayer from issuing out of the breast, to restrain supplication, but to prevent the prayer from reaching His ear; cf. Lam 3:44 and Pro 1:28.
In Lam 3:9, the idea of prevention from freedom of action is further carried out on a new side. "He hath walled in my paths with hewn stones." גּזית = גזית אבּני, 1 Kings 5:31, are hewn stones of considerable size, employed for making a very strong wall. The meaning is: He has raised up insurmountable obstacles in the pathway of my life. "My paths hath He turned," i.e., rendered such that I cannot walk in them. עוּה is to turn, in the sense of destroying, as in Isa 24:1, not contortas fecit (Michaelis, Rosenmller, Kalkschmidt), nor per viam tortuosam ire cogor (Raschi); for the prophet does not mean to say (as Ngelsbach imagines), "that he has been compelled to walk in wrong and tortuous ways," but he means that God has rendered it impossible for him to proceed further in his path; cf. Job 30:13. But we are not in this to think of the levelling of a raised road, as Thenius does; for נתיבה does not mean a road formed by the deposition of rubbish, like a mound, but a footpath, formed by constant treading (Gerlach).
Not merely, however, has God cut off every way of escape for him who here utters the complaint, but He pursues him in every possible way, that He may utterly destroy him. On the figure of a bear lying in wait, cf. Hos 13:8; Amo 5:19. It is more usual to find enemies compared to lions in ambush; cf. Ps. 10:19; Psa 17:12. The last-named passage seems to have been present to the writer's mind. The prophets frequently compare enemies to lions, e.g., Jer 5:6; Jer 4:7; Jer 49:19; Jer 50:44. - In Lam 3:11 the figure of the lion is discontinued; for cowreer דּרכי cannot be said of a beast. The verb here is not to be derived from סרר, to be refractory, but is the Pilel of סוּר, to go aside, deviate, make to draw back. To "make ways turn aside" may signify to make a person lose the right road, but not to drag back from the road (Thenius); it rather means to mislead, or even facere ut deficiant viae, to take away the road, so that one cannot escape. פּשּׁח is ἅπ. λεγ. in Hebrew; in Aramean it means to cut or tear in pieces: cf. [the Targum on] Sa1 15:33, "Samuel פּשּׁח Agag," hewed him in pieces; and on Psa 7:3, where the word is used for the Heb. פּרק, to tear in pieces (of a lion); here it signifies to tear away (limbs from the body, boughs from trees). This meaning is required by the context; for the following expression, שׂמני שׁומם, does not lead us to think of tearing in pieces, lacerating, but discerpere, plucking or pulling to pieces. For שׁומם, see on Lam 1:13, Lam 1:16.
"He hath bent His bow," as in Lam 2:4. The second member, "He hath made me the mark for His arrows," is taken almost verbatim from Job 16:12. The arrows are the ills and sorrows appointed by God; cf. Deu 32:23; Psa 38:3; Job 6:4.
"Abused in this way, he is the object of scoffing and mockery" (Gerlach). In the first clause, the complaint of Jeremiah in Jer 20:7 is reproduced. Rosenmller, Ewald, and Thenius are inclined to take עמּי as an abbreviated form of the plur. עמּים, presuming that the subject of the complaint is the people of Israel. But in none of the three passages in which Ewald (Gram. 177, a), following the Masoretes, is ready to recognise such a plural-ending, does there seem any need or real foundation for the assumption. Besides this passage, the others are Sa2 22:44 and Psa 144:2. In these last two cases עמּי gives a suitable enough meaning as a singular (see the expositions of these passages); and in this verse, as Gerlach has already remarked, against Rosenmller, neither the conjoined כּל nor the plural suffix of נגינתם requires us to take עמּי as a plural, the former objection being removed on a comparison of Gen 41:10, and the latter when we consider the possibility of a constructio ad sensum in the case of the collective עם. But the assumption that here the people are speaking, or that the poet (prophet) is complaining of the sufferings of the people in their name, is opposed by the fact that הגּבר stands at the beginning of this lamentation, Lam 3:1. If, however, the prophet complained in the name of each individual among God's people, he could not set up כּל־עמּי in opposition to them, because by that very expression the scoffing is limited to the great body of the people. The Chaldee, accordingly, is substantially correct in its paraphrase, omnibus protervis populi mei (following Dan 11:14). But that the mass of the people were not subdued by suffering, and that there was a great number of those who would not recognise the chastening hand of God in the fall of the kingdom, and who scoffed at the warnings of the prophets, is evinced, not merely by the history of the period immediately after the destruction of Jerusalem (Jer. 41ff.), and by the conduct of Ishmael and his followers (Jer 41:2.), and of the insolent men who marched to Egypt in spite of Jeremiah's warning (Jer 43:2), but also by the spirit that prevailed among the exiles, and against which Ezekiel had to contend; cf. e.g., Eze 12:22. נגינתם is a reminiscence from Job 30:9; cf. Psa 69:13.
"He fills me with bitternesses" is a reminiscence from Job 9:18, only ממרורים being exchanged for מרורים. Of these two forms, the first occurs only in Job, l.c.; the latter denotes, in Exo 12:8 and Num 9:11, "bitter herbs," but here "bitternesses." The reality (viz., bitter sorrow) is what Jeremiah threatens the people with in Jer 9:14; Jer 23:15. The figure employed in Lam 3:16 is still stronger. "He made my teeth be ground down on gravel." חצץ means a gravel stone, gravel, Pro 20:17. גּרס (which occurs only in Psa 119:20 as well as here, and is allied to גּרשׂ, from which comes גּרשׂ, something crushed, Lev 2:14, Lev 2:16) signifies to be ground down, and in Hiphil to grind down, not to cause to grind; hence בּחצץ cannot be taken as a second object, "He made my teeth grind gravel" (Ewald); but the words simply mean, "He ground my teeth on the gravel," i.e., He made them grind away on the gravel. As regards the application of the words, we cannot follow the older expositors in thinking of bread mixed with stones, but must view the giving of stones for bread as referring to cruel treatment. The lxx have rendered הכפּישׁני by ἐψώμισέν με σποδόν, the Vulgate by cibavit me cinere. This translation has not been lexically established, but is a mere conjecture from Psa 102:10. The ἁπ λεγ. ̔́̔̀נבך̓̀צ is allied with ,כּבשׁsubigere, and means in Rabbinic, deprimere; cf. Buxtorf, Lex. Rabb. s.v. Similarly, the Chaldee had previously explained the words to mean humiliavit ( )כּנעme in cinere; and Raschi, כפה inclinavit s. subegit me. Luther follows these in his rendering, "He rolls me in the ashes," which is a figure signifying the deepest disgrace and humiliation, or a hyperbolical expression for sprinkling with ashes (Eze 27:30), as a token of descent into the depths of sorrow.
In Lam 3:17 and Lam 3:18 the speaker, in his lamentation, gives expression to that disposition of his heart which has been produced by the misery that has befallen him to so fearful an extent. He has quite given up hopes of attaining safety and prosperity, and his hope in the Lord is gone. In Lam 3:17 it is a question whether תּזנח is second or third pers. of the imperf. Following the lxx, who give the rendering ἀπώσατο ἐξ εἰρήνης ψυχήν μου, Rosenmller, Gesenius, De Wette, and Ngelsbach consider זנח transitive, as in Deu 2:7, and take תּזנח as of the second pers.: "Thou didst reject my soul (me) from peace." But to this view of the words there is the decided objection, that neither before nor after is there any direct address to Jahveh, and that the verbs which immediately follow stand in the first person, and succeed the first clause appropriately enough, provided we take נפשׁי as the subject to תּזנח (third pers.). זנח has both a transitive and an intransitive meaning in Kal; cf. Hos 8:3 (trans.) and Hos 8:5 (intrans.). Ngelsbach has no ground for casting doubt on the intrans. meaning in Hos 8:5. Moreover, the objection that the passage now before us is a quotation from Psa 88:15 (Ngelsbach) does not prove that תּזנח נפשׁי is to be taken in the same sense here as in that passage: "O Jahveh, Thou despisest my soul." By adding משּׁלום, Jeremiah has made an independent reproduction of that passage in the Psalms, if he had it before his mind. This addition does not permit of our attaching a transitive sense to תּזנח, for the verb means to despise, not to reject; hence we cannot render the words, "Thou didst reject my soul from peace." The meaning of the clause is not "my soul loathes prosperity," as it is rendered by Thenius, who further gives the sense as follows: "I had such a thorough disgust for life, that I had no longer the least desire for prosperity." As Gerlach has already remarked, this explanation neither harmonizes with the meaning of שׁלום, not with the expression of doubt in the following verse, which implies a very lively "sense of the prosperous;" moreover, it has no good lexical basis. The fundamental meaning of זנח is to stink, be rancid, from which comes the metaphorical one of instilling disgust, - not, feeling disgust (Hos 8:5), - and further, that of despising. The meaning "to instil disgust" does not suit this passage, but only that of being despised. "My soul is despised of prosperity," i.e., so that it shares not in prosperity; with this accords the intransitive use of the Hiphil הזניח with מן, Ch2 11:14. The Vulgate, which does not catch the idea of זנח so exactly, renders the passage by expulsa est a pace anima mea. To this there are appropriately joined the words, "I have forgotten good" (good fortune), because I constantly experience nothing but misfortune; and not less appropriate is the expression of doubt, "I say (i.e., I think) my strength and my hope from Jahveh is gone (vanished)," i.e., my strength is worn out through suffering, and I have nothing more to hope for from Jahveh. Starting from the fundamental idea of stability, permanence, נצח, according to the traditional explanation, means vigor, strength; then, by a metaphor, vis vitalis, Isa 63:3, Isa 63:6, - not trust (Rosenmller, Thenius, Ngelsbach, etc.), in support of which we are pointed to Sa1 15:29, but without sufficient reason; see Delitzsch on Isaiah, l.c. The complaint here attains its deepest and worst. The complainant in his thoughts has gone far from God, and is on the very verge of despair. But here also begins the turning-point. When for the first time he utters the name of God in the expression "my hope from Jahveh," he shows that Jahveh is to him also still the ground of hope and trust. Hence also he not merely complains, "my strength is gone," etc., but introduces this thought with the words ואמר, "I said," sc. in my heart, i.e., I thought, "my strength is gone, and my hope from Jahveh lost," i.e., vanished. The mention of the name Jahveh, i.e., the Covenant-God, keeps him from sinking into despair, and urges him not to let go his trust on the Lord, so that he can now (in what follows) complain to the Lord of his state of distress, and beseech His help.
Consideration of God's compassion and His omnipotence as displayed at critical junctures in the affairs of men. C. B. Michaelis has correctly perceived, and thus set forth, the transition from the complaint, bordering on despair, to hope, as given in Lam 3:19 : luctatur hic contra desperationis adfectum, quo tentatus fuerat, Lam 3:18, mix inde per fidem emersurus. In like manner it is said in the Berleburger Bibel, "In Lam 3:19 he struggles with despair, to which he had been tempted, and in the following verse soars up once more into the region of faith." By the resumption of עני from Lam 3:1, and of לענה and ראשׁ from Lam 3:15 and Lam 3:5, the contents of the whole preceding lamentation are given in a summary, and by זכר are presented to God in prayer. "Mine affliction" is intensified by the addition of "my persecution" (see on Lam 1:7), and the contents of the lamentation thereby more plainly pointed out. This connection of the verse has been misunderstood in many ways. An old interpretation of the words, still maintained by Bttcher and Thenius, makes זכר an infinitive; according to this view, Lam 3:19 would require to be conjoined with the preceding, and the inf. without ל would stand for the ground, recordando, "while I think of," - which is grammatically impossible.
(Note: Seb. Mnster long since said: Secundum quosdam est זכר infinit., ut sit sensus: periit spes mea, recordante me afflictionis meae. Calvin also gives the preference to this view, with the remark: Videtur enim hic propheta exprimere, quomodo fere a spe exciderit, ut nihil reperiret amplius fortitudinis in Deo, quia scilicet oppressus erat malis; in support of which he affirms that it is valde absurdum, eos qui experti sunt aliquando Dei misericordiam, sic omnem spem abjicere, ut non statuant amplius sibi esse refugium ad Deum.)
The same remark applies to the assumption that זכר is an infinitive which is resumed in Lam 3:20 : "it thinks of my misery...yes, my soul thinks thereon" (Bttcher, Thenius). Gerlach very properly remarks concerning this view that such a construction is unexampled, and, as regards the change in the form of the infinitive (constr. and abs.), would be unintelligible. The objection of Thenius, however, that the imperative meaning usually attached to זכר is against the whole context, and quite inappropriate here, is connected with the erroneous assumption that Lam 3:19 and Lam 3:20 form a continuation of what precedes, and that the idea of the speaker's being completely overwhelmed by the thought of all that he had suffered and still suffers, forms the proper conclusion of the first part, after which, from Lam 3:21 onwards, there follows relief. Gerlach has rightly opposed to these arguments the following considerations: (1) That, after the outburst of despair in Lam 3:18, "my strength is gone, and my hope from Jahveh," the words "my soul is bowed down in me" form far too feeble a conclusion; (2) That it is undoubtedly more correct to make the relief begin with a prayer breathed out through sighs (Lam 3:19), than with such a reflection as is expressed in Lam 3:21. Ewald also is right in taking זכר as an imperative, but is mistaken in the notion that the speaker addresses any one who is ready to hear him; this view is shown to be erroneous by the simple fact that, in what precedes and succeeds, the thoughts of the speaker are directed to God only.
The view taken of this verse will depend on the answer to the question whether תּזכר is second or third pers. fem. Following in the wake of Luther ("Thou wilt assuredly think thereon"), C. B. Michaelis, Pareau, Rosenmller, and Kalkschmidt take it as second pers.: "Think, yea, think wilt Thou, that my soul is bowed down in me," or "that my soul is at rest within me" (Ngelsbach). But it is impossible to maintain either of these views in the face of the language employed. To take the ו before תּשׁיח in the meaning of quod is characterized by Ngelsbach as an arbitrary procedure, unwarranted either by Gen 30:27 or Eze 13:11; but neither can the meaning of resting, being at east, which is attributed to שׁוּח or שׁיח by that writer, be established. The verb means to sink down, Pro 2:18, and metaphorically, to be bowed down, Psa 44:26. The latter meaning is required in the present passage, from the simple fact that the sentence undeniably refers to Psa 42:6.
(Note: Luther's translation, "for my soul tells me," is founded on the circumstance that the lxx have mistaken שׁיח for שׂיח: καταδολεσχήσει ἐπ ̓ ἐμὲ ἡ ψυχή μου.)
ותּשׁיח expresses the consequence of זכר תּזכר, which therefore can only be the third pers., and "my soul" the subject of both clauses; for there is no logical consecution of the meaning given by such a rendering as, "If Thou wilt remember, my soul shall be bowed within me." The expression, "If my soul duly meditates thereon (on the deep suffering), it becomes depressed within me," forms the foundation of the request that God would think of his distress, his misery; and Lam 3:21, "I will lay this to heart," connects itself with the leading thought set forth in Lam 3:19, the reason for which is given in Lam 3:20, viz., that my soul is only bowed down within me over the thought of my distress, and must complain of it to God, that He may think of it and alleviate it: This will I lay to heart and set my hope upon. על־כּן is a strong inferential expression: "therefore," because God alone can help, will I hope. This self-encouragement begins with Lam 3:22, inasmuch as the prophet strengthens his hope by a consideration of the infinite compassion of the Lord. (It is) חסדי, "the mercies of God," i.e., proofs of His mercy (cf. Psa 89:2; Psa 107:43; Isa 63:7), "that we are not utterly consumed," as Luther and similarly our English translators have excellently rendered תּמנוּ. This form stands for תּמּונוּ, as in Jer 44:18; Num 17:1-13 :28, not for תּמּוּ, third pers., as Pareau, Thenius, Vaihinger, and Ewald, referring to his Grammar, 84, b, would take it. The proofs of the grace of God have their foundation in His compassion, from which they flow. In Lam 3:23 we take חסדי as the subject of חדשׁים; it is the proofs of the grace of God that are new every morning, not "His compassions," although the idea remains the same. לבּקרים, every morning, as in Isa 33:2; Psa 73:14. Ubi sol et dies oritur, simul et radii hujus inexhaustae bonitatis erumpunt (Tarnovius in Rosenmller). The consciousness of this constant renewal of the divine favour impels to the prayerful exclamation, "great is Thy faithfulness;" cf. Psa 36:6.
"My portion is Jahveh:" this is a reminiscence from Psa 16:5; Psa 73:26; Psa 142:6; cf. Psa 119:57, where the expression found here is repeated almost verbatim. The expression is based on Num 18:20, where the Lord says to Aaron, "I am thy portion and thine inheritance;" i.e., Jahveh will be to the tribe of Levi what the other tribes receive in their territorial possessions in Canaan; Levi shall have his possession and enjoyment in Jahveh. The last clause, "therefore will I hope," etc., is a repetition of what is in Lam 3:21, as if by way of refrain.
This hope cannot be frustrated, Lam 3:25. The fundamental idea of the section contained in Lam 3:25-33 is thus stated by Ngelsbach: "The Lord is well disposed towards the children of men under all circumstances; for even when He smites them, He seeks their highest interest: they ought so to conduct themselves in adversity, that it is possible for Him to carry out His designs." On Lam 3:25, cf. Psa 34:9; Psa 86:5; and on the general meaning, also Psa 25:3; Psa 69:7. If the Lord is kind to those who hope in Him, then it is good for man to wait patiently for His help in suffering. Such is the mode in which Lam 3:26 is attached to Lam 3:25. טוב, Lam 3:26 and Lam 3:27, followed by ל dat., means to be good for one, i.e., beneficial. Some expositors (Gesenius, Rosenmller, Maurer, Ngelsbach) take יחיל as a noun-form, substantive or adjective; דּוּמם is then also taken in the same way, and ו - ו as correlative: "it is good both to wait and be silent." But although there are analogous cases to support the view that יחיל is a noun-form, the constant employment of דּוּמם as an adverb quite prevents us from taking it as an adjective. Moreover, "to be silent for the help of the Lord," would be a strange expression, and we would rather expect "to be silent and wait for;" and finally, waiting and silence are so closely allied, that the disjunctive ו - ו et - et appears remarkable. We prefer, then, with Ewald (Gram. ֗235, a) and others, to take יחיל as a verbal form, and that, too, in spite of the i in the jussive form of the Hiphil for יחל, from חוּל, in the meaning of יחל, to wait, tarry. "It is good that he (man) should wait, and in silence too (i.e., without complaining), for the help of the Lord." On the thought presented here, cf. Psa 38:7 and Isa 30:15. Hence it is also good for man to bear a yoke in youth (Lam 3:27), that he may exercise himself in calm waiting on the help of the Lord. In the present context the yoke is that of sufferings, and the time of youth is mentioned as the time of freshness and vigour, which render the bearing of burdens more easy. He who has learned in youth to bear sufferings, will not sink into despair should they come on him in old age. Instead of בּנעוּריו, Theodotion has ἐκ νεότητος αὐτοῦ, which is also the reading of the Aldine edition of the lxx; and some codices have מנּעוּריו. But this reading is evidently a correction, prompted by the thought that Jeremiah, who composed the Lamentations in his old age, had much suffering to endure from the time of his call to the prophetic office, in the earlier portion of his old age; nor is it much better than the inference of J. D. Michaelis, that Jeremiah composed this poem when a youth, on the occasion of King Josiah's death. - In Lam 3:28-30, the effect of experience by suffering is set forth, yet not in such a way that the verses are to be taken as still dependent on כּי in Lam 3:27 (Luther, Pareau, De Wette, Maurer, and Thenius): "that he should sit alone and be silent," etc. Such a combination is opposed to the independent character of each separate alphabetic strophe. Rather, the result of early experience in suffering and patience is developed in a cohortative form. The connection of thought is simply as follows: Since it is good for man that he should learn to endure suffering, let him sit still and bear it patiently, when God puts such a burden on him. Let him sit solitary, as becomes those in sorrow (see on Lam 1:1), and be silent, without murmuring (cf. Lam 3:26), when He lays a burden on him. There is no object to נטל expressly mentioned, but it is easily understood from the notion of the verb (if He lays anything on him), or from על in Lam 3:27 (if He lays a yoke on him). We are forbidden to consider the verbs as indicatives ("he sits alone and is silent;" Gerlach, Ngelsbach) by the apocopated form יתּן in Lam 3:29, Lam 3:30, which shows that ישׁב and ידּם are also cohortatives.
"Let him put his mouth in the dust," i.e., humbly bow beneath the mighty hand of God. The expression is derived from the Oriental custom of throwing oneself in the most reverential manner on the ground, and involves the idea of humble silence, because the mouth, placed in the dust, cannot speak. The clause, "perhaps there is hope," indicates the frame of mind to be observed in the submission. While the man is to show such resignation, he is not to give up the hope that God will deliver him from trouble; cf. Job 11:18; Jer 31:17.
Let him also learn patiently to bear abuse and reviling from men. Let him present his cheek to him who smites him, as was done by Job (Job 16:10) and the servant of Jahveh (Isa 50:6); cf. Mat 5:39. On Lam 3:30, cf. Psa 88:4; Psa 123:3, etc. There is a certain gradation in the three verses that it quite unmistakeable. The sitting alone and in silence is comparatively the easiest; it is harder to place the mouth in the dust, and yet cling to hope; it is most difficult of all to give the cheek to the smiter, and to satiate oneself with dishonour (Ngelsbach). In Lam 3:31-33 follow the grounds of comfort. The first is in Lam 3:31 : the sorrow will come to an end; the Lord does not cast off for ever; cf. Jer 3:5, Jer 3:12. The second is in Lam 3:32 : when He has caused sorrow, He shows pity once more, according to the fulness of His grace. Compassion outweighs sorrow. On this subject, cf. Psa 30:6; Job 5:18; Isa 54:8. The third ground of comfort is in Lam 3:33 : God does not send affliction willingly, as if it brought Him joy (cf. Jer 32:41), but merely because chastisement is necessary to sinful man for the increase of his spiritual prosperity; cf. Act 14:22; Co2 4:17. ויּגּה is for וייגּה: cf. Ewald, 232, f; Gesenius, 69, 3, Rem. 6.
That he may bring home to the hearts of God's people the exhortation to bear suffering with patience and resignation, and that he may lead them to see that the weight of sorrow under which they are sighing has been sent from the Lord as a chastisement for their sins, the prophet carries out the thought, in Lam 3:34-39, that every wrong committed upon earth is under the divine control (Lam 3:34-36), and generally that nothing happens without God's permission; hence man ought not to mourn over the suffering that befalls him, but rather over his sins (Lam 3:37-39).
These verses form one connected sentence: while the subject and predicate for the three infinitival clauses do not follow till the words אדני לא ראה, the infinitives with their objects depend on ראה. If there were any foundation for the assertion of Bttcher in his Aehrenlese, that ראה never occurs in construction with ל, we could take the infinitives with ל as the objects of ראה, in the sense, "As to the crushing of all the prisoners," etc. But the assertion is devoid of truth, and disproved by Sa1 16:7, האדם יראה לעינים ויהוה יראה. In the three infinitival clauses three modes of unjust dealing are set forth. The treading down to the earth of all prisoners under his (the treader's) feet, refers to cruel treatment of the Jews by the Chaldeans at the taking of Jerusalem and Judah, and generally to deeds of violence perpetrated by victors in war. This explains כּל, which Kalkschmidt and Thenius incorrectly render "all captives of the land (country)." Those intended are prisoners generally, who in time of war are trodden down to the earth, i.e., cruelly treated. The other two crimes mentioned, vv. 35 and 36, are among the sins of which Judah and Israel have been guilty, - the former being an offence against the proper administration of justice, and the latter falling under the category of unjust practices in the intercourse of ordinary life. "To pervert the right of a man before the face of the Most High" does not mean, in general, proterve, et sine ull numinis inspectantis reverenti (C. B. Michaelis, Rosenmller); but just as הטות משׁפּט is taken from the law (Exo 23:6; Num 16:19, etc.), so also is נגד פּני עליון to be explained in accordance with the directions given in the law (Exo 22:7, Exo 22:9), that certain clauses were to be brought before האלהים, where this word means the judge or judges pronouncing sentence in the name of God; cf. Psa 82:6, where the judges, as God's representatives, are called אלהים and בּני אלהים. "Before the face of the Most High" thus means, before the tribunal which is held in the name of the Most High. "To turn aside a man in his cause" means to pervert his right in a dispute (cf. Job 8:3; Job 34:12, etc.), which may also be done in contested matters that do not come before the public tribunal. The meaning of the three verses depends on the explanation given of אדני לא ראה, which is a disputed point. ראה with ל, "to look on something," may mean to care for it, be concerned about it, but not to select, choose, or to resolve upon, approve (Michaelis, Ewald, Thenius). Nor can the prophet mean to say, "The Lord does not look upon the treading down of the prisoners, the perversion of justice." If any one be still inclined, with Rosenmller and others, to view the words as the expression of a fact, then he must consider them as an exception taken by those who murmur against God, but repelled in Lam 3:37. Moreover, he must, in some such way as the following, show the connection between Lam 3:33 and Lam 3:34, by carrying out the idea presented in the exhortation to hope for compassion: "But will any one say that the Lord knows nothing of this - does not trouble Himself about such sufferings?" Whereupon, in Lam 3:37, the answer follows: "On the contrary, nothing happens without the will of God" (Gerlach). But there is no point of attachment that can possibly be found in the words of the text for showing such a connection; we must therefore reject this view as being artificial, and forced upon the text. The difficulty is solved in a simple manner, by taking the words אדני לא as a question, just as has been already done in the Chaldee paraphrase: fierine potest ut in conspectu Jovae non reveletur? The absence of the interrogative particle forms no objection to this, inasmuch as a question is pretty often indicated merely by the tone. Lam 3:38 must also be taken interrogatively. Bצttcher and Thenius, indeed, think that the perfect ראה is incompatible with this; but the objection merely tells against the rendering, "Should not the Lord see it?" (De Wette, Maurer, Kalkschmidt), which of course would require יראה. But the idea rather is, "Hath not the Lord looked upon this?" The various acts of injustice mentioned in the three verses are not set forth merely as possible events, but as facts that have actually occurred.
Lam 3:37 brings the answer to this question in a lively manner, and likewise in an interrogative form: "Who hath spoken, and it came to pass, which the Lord hath not commanded?" The thought here presented reminds us of the word of the Creator in Gen 1:3. The form of the expression is an imitation of Psa 33:9. Rosenmller gives the incorrect rendering, Quis est qui dixit: factum est (i.e., quis audeat dicere fieri quicquam), non praecipiente Deo; although the similar but more free translation of Luther, "Who dares to say that such a thing happens without the command of the Lord?" gives the sense in a general way. The meaning is as follows: Nothing takes place on the earth which the Lord has not appointed; no man can give and execute a command against the will of God. From this it further follows (Lam 3:38), that evil and good will proceed from the mouth of the Lord, i.e., be wrought by Him; on this point, cf. Isa 45:7; Amo 3:6. לא תצא gives no adequate meaning unless it be taken interrogatively, and as indicating what is usual - wont to be. And then there is established from this, in Lam 3:39, the application of the general principle to the particular case in question, viz., the grievous suffering of individuals at the downfall of the kingdom of Judah. "Why does a man sigh as long as he lives? Let every one [sigh] for his sins." Man is not to sigh over suffering and sorrow, but only over his sin. התאונן occurs only here and in Num 11:1, and signifies to sigh, with the accessory notion of murmuring, complaining. חי appended to אדם is more of a predicate than a simple attributive: man, as long as he lives, i.e., while he is in this life. The verse is viewed in a different light by Pareau, Ewald, Neumann, and Gerlach, who combine both members into one sentence, and render it thus: "Why doth a man complain, so long as he lives, - a man over the punishment of his sins?" [Similar is the rendering of our "Authorized" Version.] Neumann translates: "A man in the face of [Ger. bei] his sins." But this latter rendering is lexically inadmissible, because על esua in this connection cannot mean "in view of." The other meaning assigned is improbable, though there is nothing against it, lexically considered. For though חטא, sin, may also signify the punishment of sin, the latter meaning does not suit the present context, because in what precedes it is not said that the people suffer for their sins, but merely that their suffering has been appointed by God. If, then, in what follows, there is an exhortation to return to the Lord (Lam 3:40.), and in Lam 3:42 a confession of sins made; if, moreover, Lam 3:39 forms the transition from Lam 3:33-38 to the exhortation that succeeds (Lam 3:40.); then it is not abstinence from murmuring or sighing over the punishment of sins that forms the true connecting link of the two lines of thought, but merely the refraining from complaint over sufferings, coupled with the exhortation to sigh over their won sins. Tarnov also has viewed the verse in this way, when he deduces from it the advice to every soul labouring under a weight of sorrows: est igitur optimus ex malis emergendi modus Deum excusare et se ipsum accusare.
Confession of sins, and complaint against the cruelty of enemies, as well as over the deep misery into which all the people have sunk. Lam 3:40-42. The acknowledgment of guilt implies to prayer, to which also there is a summons in Lam 3:40, Lam 3:41. The transitional idea is not, "Instead of grumbling in a sinful spirit, let us rather examine our conduct" (Thenius); for the summons to examine one's conduct is thereby placed in contrast with Lam 3:39, and the thought, "let every one mourn over his own sins," transformed into a prohibition of sinful complaint. The real transition link is given by Rosenmller: quum mala nostra a peccatis nostris oriantur, culpas nostras et scrutemur et corrigamus. The searching of our ways, i.e., of our conduct, if it be entered on in an earnest spirit, must end in a return to the Lord, from whom we have departed. It is self-evident that עד יהוה does not stand for אל יי, but means as far as (even to) Jahveh, and indicates thorough conversion - no standing half-way. The lifting up of the heart to the hands, also, - not merely of the hands to God, - expresses earnest prayer, that comes from the heart. אל־כּפּים, to the hands (that are raised towards heaven). "To God in heaven," where His almighty throne is placed (Psa 2:4), that He may look down from thence (Lam 3:59) and send help. With Lam 3:42 begins the prayer, as is shown by the direct address to God in the second member. There is no need, however, on this account, for supplying לאמר before the first member; the command to pray is immediately followed by prayer, beginning with the confession of sins, and the recognition of God's chastisement; cf. Psa 106:6; Dan 9:5. נחנוּ is contrasted with אתּה. "Thou hast not pardoned," because Thy justice must inflict punishment.
God has not pardoned, but positively punished, the people for their misdeeds. "Thou hast covered with anger," Lam 3:43, corresponds to "Thou hast covered with a cloud," Lam 3:44; hence "Thou hast covered" is plainly used both times in the same meaning, in spite of the fact that לך is wanting in Lam 3:43. סכך means to "cover," here to "make a cover." "Thou didst make a cover with anger," i.e., Thou didst hide Thyself in wrath; there is no necessity for taking סכך as in itself reflexive. This mode of viewing it agrees also with what follows. The objection of J. D. Michaelis, qui se obtegit non persequitur alios, ut statim additur, which Bttcher and Thenius have repeated, does not hold good in every respect, but chiefly applies to material covering. And the explanation of Thenius, "Thou hast covered us with wrath, and persecuted us," is shown to be wrong by the fact that סכך signifies to cover for protection, concealment, etc., but not to cover in the sense of heaping upon, pouring upon (as Luther translates it); nor, again, can the word be taken here in a sense different from that assigned to it in Lam 3:44. "The covering of wrath, which the Lord draws around Him, conceals under it the lightnings of His wrath, which are spoken of immediately afterwards" (Ngelsbach). The anger vents itself in the persecution of the people, in killing them unsparingly. For, that these two are connected, is shown not merely in Lam 3:66, but still more plainly by the threatening in Jer 29:18 : "I will pursue them with sword, and famine, and pestilence, and give them for maltreatment to all the kingdoms of the earth." On "Thou hast slain, Thou hast not spared," cf. Lam 2:21. In Lam 3:44, לך is further appended to סכּותה: "Thou makest a cover with clouds for Thyself," round about Thee, so that no prayer can penetrate to Thee; cf. Psa 55:2. These words form the expression of the painful conclusion drawn by God's people from their experience, that God answered no cry for help that came to Him, i.e., granted no help. Israel was thereby given up, in a defenceless state, to the foe, so that they could treat them like dirt and abuse them. סחי (from סחה, Eze 26:4), found only here as a noun, signifies "sweepings;" and מאוס is a noun, "disesteem, aversion." The words of Lam 3:45, indeed, imply the dispersion of Israel among the nations, but are not to be limited to the maltreatment of the Jews in exile; moreover, they rather apply to the conduct of their foes when Judah was conquered and Jerusalem destroyed. Such treatment, especially the rejection, is further depicted in Lam 3:46. The verse is almost a verbatim repetition of Lam 2:16, and is quite in the style of Jeremiah as regards the reproduction of particular thoughts; while Thenius, from the repetition, is inclined to infer that chs. 2 and 3 had different authors: cf. Gerlach on the other side. The very next verse might have been sufficient to keep Thenius from such a precipitate conclusion, inasmuch as it contains expressions and figures that are still more clearly peculiar to Jeremiah. On פּחד ופחת, cf. Jer 48:43; השׁבר is also one of the favourite expressions of the prophet. hashee't is certainly ἅπ. λεγ., but reminds one of בּני , Num 24:17, for which in Jer 48:45 there stands בּני שׁאון. It comes from שׁאה, to make a noise, roar, fall into ruins with a loud noise, i.e., be laid waste (cf. Isa 6:11); and, as Raschi has already observed, it has the same meaning as שׁאיּה, "devastation," Isa 24:12. It is incorrect to derive the word from the Hiphil of נשׁא (J. D. Michaelis and Ewald), according to which it ought to mean "disappointment," for the ה does not form an essential portion of the word, but is the article, as והשׁבר shows. Still more erroneous are the renderings ἔπαρσις (lxx, from נשׂא) and vaticinatio (Jerome, who has confounded השּׁאת with משּׂא).
Over this terrible calamity, rivers of tears must be shed, until the Lord looks down from heaven on it, Lam 3:48-51. The prophet once more utters this complaint in the first person, because he who has risked his life in his endeavour to keep the people in the service of God must feel the deepest sympathy for them in their misfortunes. "Rivers of water" is stronger than "water," Lam 1:16, and "tears like a stream," Lam 2:18; but the mode of expression is in the main like that in those passages, and used again in Psa 119:136, but in a different connection. The second member of the verse is the same as in Lam 2:11.
נגּר means to be poured out, empty self; cf. Sa2 14:14; Mic 1:4. "And is not silent" = and rests not, i.e., incessantly; cf. Jer 14:17. מאין הפגות does not mean, eo quod non sint intermissiones miseriarum vel fletus (C. B. Michaelis and Rosenmller, following the Chaldee), but "so that there is no intermission or drying up." As to הפגות, which means the same as פּוּגה, see on Lam 2:18. "Until the Lord look down from heaven and examine," in order to put an end to the distress, or to take compassion on His people. On ישׁקיף, cf. Psa 14:2; Psa 102:20.
Lam 3:51, taken literally, runs thus: "Mine eye does evil to my soul" (עולל with ל signifies to inflict an injury on one, cause suffering, as in Lam 1:2, Lam 1:22; Lam 2:20), i.e., it causes pain to the soul, as the Chaldee has already paraphrased it. The expression does not merely signify "causes me grief" (Thenius, Gerlach); but the eye, weakened through incessant weeping, causes pain to the soul, inasmuch as the pain in the eye increases the pain in the soul, i.e., heightens the pain of the soul through the superaddition of physical pain (Ngelsbach). Ewald has quite missed the meaning of the verse in his translation, "Tears assail my soul," and in his explanatory remark that עוללה is used in a bad sense, like the Latin afficit; for, if עולל had this meaning, עיני could not stand for tears, because it is not the tears, but only the eyes weakened by weeping, that affect the soul with pain. Ewald is also wrong in seeking, with Grotius, to understand "the daughters of my city" as signifying the country towns, and to explain the phrase by referring to Lam 2:22. For, apart from the consideration that the appeal to Lam 2:22 rests on a false conception of that passage, the meaning attributed to the present verse is shown to be untenable by the very fact that the expression "daughters of my city" is never used for the daughter-towns of Jerusalem; and such a designation, however possible it might be in itself, would yet be quite incomprehensible in this present connection, where there is no other subject of lamentation, either before or after, than Jerusalem in its ruined condition, and the remnant of its inhabitants (Gerlach). "The daughters of my city" are the daughters of Jerusalem, the female portion of the inhabitants of the city before and after its destruction. Nor will what is added, "because of the daughters of my city," seem strange, if we consider that, even in Lam 1:4, Lam 1:18 and Lam 2:20-21, the fate and the wretched condition of the virgins of the city are mentioned as peculiarly deplorable, and that, in fact, the defenceless virgins were most to be pitied when the city fell; cf. Lam 5:11. But the objection of Bttcher and Thenius, that מכּל בּנות forms a harsh construction, whether we view it grammatically or in the light of the circumstances, inasmuch as מן, after "mine eye pains me," is unsuitable, whether taken in a causal or a comparative meaning: - this objection, certainly, has some truth in its favour, and tells against any attempt to take the words as indicating a comparison. but there is nothing against the causal meaning, if "mine eyes causes pain to my soul" merely signifies "my eye pains me," because the pain of the eye is the result of the profuse weeping. If those words, however, possess the meaning we have given above (the pain in the eyes increases the smart in the soul), then there is nothing strange at all in the thought, "The evil condition of the daughters of my city is so deplorable, that mine eyes fail through weeping, and the sorrow of my soul is thereby intensified." Gerlach has already refuted, though more fully than was necessary, the conjecture of Bttcher, that בּנות should be changed into בּכּות (from all the weeping of my city).
His pain and sorrow over the sad condition of the people recall to his memory the persecutions and sufferings which the godly have endured. The figure, "They who without cause are mine enemies have hunted me like a bird," is an imitation of Psa 11:1. איבי חנּם reminds one of שׂנאי , Psa 35:19 and Psa 69:5. But the prophet prefers איבי to שׂנאי, lest any one should restrict the words to persecutions which arose out of personal hatred.
צמתוּ is here used transitively in Kal, as the Piel is elsewhere, Psa 119:139, and the Pilpel, Psa 88:17. צמתוּ בבּור, "they were destroying (cutting off) my life down into the pit," is a pregnant construction, and must be understood de conatu: "they sought to destroy my life when they hurled me down into the pit, and cast stones on me," i.e., not "they covered the pit with a stone" (Pareau, De Wette, Neumann). The verb ידה construed with בּ does not take this meaning, for ידה merely signifies to cast, e.g., lots (Jos 4:3, etc.), arrows (Jer 50:14), or to throw down = destroy, annihilate, Zac 2:4; and בּי does not mean "in the pit in which I was," but "upon (or against) me." The sing. אבן is to be understood in accordance with the expression רגם אבן, to cast stones = stone (Kg1 12:18; Lev 20:2, Lev 20:27). As to ויּדּוּ for ויידּוּ, see on ויּגּה in Lam 3:33. "Waters flowed over my head" is a figurative expression, denoting such misery and distress as endanger life; cf. Psa 59:2-3, Psa 59:15., Psa 124:4., Psa 42:8. 'I said (thought), I am cut off (from God's eyes or hand)," Psa 31:23; Psa 88:6, is a reminiscence from these Psalms, and does not essentially differ from "cut off out of the land of the living," Isa 43:8. For, that we must thereby think of death, or sinking down into Sheol, is shown by מבּור תּחתּיּות, Lam 3:55. The complaint in these verses (52-54) is regarded by some expositors as a description of the personal sufferings of Jeremiah; and the casting into the pit is referred to the incident mentioned in Jer 38:6. Such is the view, for instance, taken by Vaihinger and Ngelsbach, who point for proof to these considerations especially: (1) That the Chaldeans certainly could not, without good cause (Lam 3:53), be understood as the "enemies;" (2) that Jeremiah could not represent the people, speaking as if they were righteous and innocent; and (3) that the writer already speaks of his deliverance from their power, and contents himself with merely calling down on them the vengeance of God (Lam 3:55-66). But not one of these reasons is decisive. For, in the first place, the contents of Lam 3:52 do not harmonize with the known hostility which Jeremiah had to endure from his personal enemies. That is to say, there is nothing mentioned or known of his enemies having stoned him, or having covered him over with a stone, after they had cast him into the miry pit (Jer 38:6.), The figurative character of the whole account thus shows itself in the very fact that the separate portions of it are taken from reminiscences of passages in the Psalms, whose figurative character is universally acknowledged. Moreover, in the expression איבי חנּם, even when we understand thereby the Chaldeans, it is not at all implied that he who complains of these enemies considers himself righteous and innocent, but simply that he has not given them any good ground for their hostile conduct towards him. And the assertion, that the writer is already speaking of his deliverance from their power, rests on the erroneous notion that, in Lam 3:55-66, he is treating of past events; whereas, the interchange of the perfects with imperatives of itself shows that the deliverance of which he there speaks is not an accomplished or bygone fact, but rather the object of that assured faith which contemplates the non-existent as existent. Lastly, the contrast between personal suffering ad the suffering of the people, on which the whole reasoning rests, is quite beside the mark. Moreover, if we take the lamentations to be merely symbolical, then the sufferings and persecutions of which the prophet here complains are not those of the people generally, but of the godly Israelites, on whom they were inflicted when the kingdom was destroyed, not merely by the Chaldeans, but also by their godless fellow-countrymen. Hence we cannot, of course, say that Jeremiah here speaks from personal experience; however, he complains not merely of the persecutions that befall him personally, but also of the sufferings that had come on him and all godly ones. The same remark applies to the conclusion of this lamentation, - the prayer, Lam 3:55-66, in which he entreats the Lord for deliverance, and in the spirit of faith views this deliverance as already accomplished.
Prayer for deliverance, and confident trust in its realization. Lam 3:55. "Out of the lowest pit I call, O Lord, on Thy name;" cf. Psa 88:7, Psa 88:14; Psa 130:1. The perfect קראתי is not a preterite,
(Note: The perfects are so viewed by Ngelsbach, who also thinks that the speaker, in Lam 3:55-58, thanks the Lord for deliverance from the pit, and in Lam 3:55 reminds the Lord of the prayer he has addressed to Him out of the pit. But could he possibly think that the Lord had forgotten this? What, we should like to know, would be the use of this reminder, even if 'תּעלם וגו, Lam 3:56, could be taken as the words of address to the Lord? For we can discover no thanksgiving in Lam 3:55-58. This whole mode of viewing the passage breaks down before Lam 3:59 : "Thou hast seen mine oppression; judge me!" For, if the perfects in Lam 3:55-58 are preterites, then also ראיתה, Lam 3:59, can only be a preterite; and the prophet can only be speaking of injustice that has been done him previously: hence he cannot add thereto the request, "Judge me," inasmuch as the Lord (according to Ngelsbach) has already judged him by delivering him from the pit. Moreover, it is quite arbitrary to understand the perfects in Lam 3:59 and Lam 3:62 as referring to what has been done and is still being done to the speaker by his enemies, if it be agreed that the perfects in Lam 3:55-58 refer only to past events.)
but expresses what has already happened, and still happens. This is evident from the fact that the corresponding perfect, שׁמעתּ, Lam 3:56, is continued by the optative אל־תּעלם. בּור תּחתּיּות is taken from Psa 88:7 : "pit of the lower regions of the earth,"-the תּחתּיּות ארץ, Psa 63:10; Eze 32:18, Eze 32:24, i.e., Sheol, essentially the same with מהשׁכּים, Lam 3:6, which is thereby connected with Psa 88:7, - the dark regions of the depth, whose open mouth is the grave for every one (see Delitzsch on Psalms, l.c.), hence the symbol of mortal danger.
"Thou hast heard my voice" expresses the full assurance of faith from which the request comes: "Cover not Thine ear from my sighing." רוחה, "breathing out again;" in Eze 8:11, mitigation of oppression, yet not here respiratio, relaxatio (C. B. Michaelis, Rosenmller, etc.), - since the asyndetic לשׁועתי does not accord with such an interpretation, - but a relieving of oneself by means of deeply-drawn sighs, as in Job 32:20; hence "sighing," as Luther has already rendered it, following the Vulgate: ne avertas aurem tuum a singultu meo (Thenius, Gerlach, etc.). - In Lam 3:57 and Lam 3:58, the writer still more fully expresses his confidence that the Lord will accept him. "Thou art near on the day when I call on Thee" is a sentence found in Psa 145:18, and uttered as the experience of all believers. "Thou sayest, Fear not," i.e., Thou assurest me of Thine assistance; cf. Jer 1:8, Jer 1:17, etc. "Thou dost conduct the causes (Ger. Streitsachen) of my soul" (ריבי נפשׁי), i.e., not merely "my lawsuits," but causas quae vitam et salutem meam concernunt (C. B. Michaelis). This is shown by the parallel member, "Thou redeemest my life," sc. from the destruction which threatens it; cf. Lam 3:53., Psa 103:4. With this is connected the request in Lam 3:59, "Thou dost certainly see my oppression" (עוּתה from עוּת, to bend, oppress), the oppression which I suffer; "judge my cause," i.e., help me in my cause, cf. Jer 5:28. The suppliant bases this request, Lam 3:60-62, on the recollection that God, as the Omniscient One, knows the plans and intentions of his opponents. "Thou seest all their plans for revenge." נקמה is not here the outcome of revenge, but the thought of revenge cherished in the heart; it does not, however, mean desire of revenge, or revengeful disposition, but simply the thinking and meditating on revenge, which certainly has the spirit of revenge for its basis, but is not identical with this. Their thoughts are the plans of vengeance. ,ליdat. incomm., "to my hurt;" the reading עלי of some codices is simply a correction after Lam 3:61. This revenge they express in reproaches and invectives. שׂפתי, "lips," for utterances of the lips; and קמי as in Psa 18:40, Psa 18:49 = קמים עלי, Psa 4:3, etc. שׂפתי קמי corresponds to חרפּתם, and חגיונם to מחשׁבתם, Lam 3:61; and the whole of Lam 3:62 still depends on "Thou hearest," without any need for supplying היוּ, as Rosenmller does. Thenius and Ngelsbach would combine Lam 3:62 with 63, and make the former dependent on הבּיטה; but this is unsuitable, nor do they consider that utterances or words are not seen (הבּיט), but heard (שׁמע). With this proposed combination there falls to the ground the further remark of Thenius, that "by lips, devising, sitting, rising up, are meant the conversation and consultation of the enemies one with another." Sitting and rising up have nothing in common with speaking about any subject, but merely form a circumlocution for action generally: cf. Psa 139:2; Deu 6:7; Deu 11:19; Isa 37:28. The form מנגּינה for נגינה occurs nowhere else: Ewald considers it a form that has been lengthened for the purpose of designating a mocking song - "Sing-song." This supposition has at least more to recommend it than the ingenious but worthless idea of Bttcher, that מנגּינה is contracted from מה־נגינה, "what a stringed instrument am I to them;" but it also is improbable. מנגּינה is the subject of the נגינה, as words formed with מ often express merely the subject of the idea contained in a noun or verb; cf. Ewald, 160, b, 3. After this statement of the hostile treatment which the speaker has to suffer, there follows the renewed and further extended request that God may reward the foes according to their deeds. תּשׁיב, "Thou shalt return," is a confident expression of the request that God would do this; hence the optative תּתּן follows in Lam 3:65. In Lam 3:64 is condensed the substance of what is contained in Psa 28:4. מגנּת לב, covering (veil) of the heart, - an expression analogous to the κάλυμμα ἐπὶ τὴν καρδίαν, Co2 3:15, - is not obduration, or hardening, but blinding of the heart, which casts into destruction; but it can scarcely signify "madness" (Delitzsch, Bibl. Psychology, Clark's translation), since the Arabic majannat, insania, furor, has probably received this meaning from jinn, genius, daemon; cf. Gesenius, Thes. s. v., and Rosenmller, ad h. l. "Thy curse to them!" is not to be viewed as dependent on "give," but to be explained in accordance with Ps. 3:9, "Thy blessing [be] upon Thy people!" - thus, "May Thy curse be their portion!" The curse of God is followed by destruction. "Destroy them from under Jahveh's heaven!" i.e., not merely ut non sint amplius sub caelis (C. B. Michaelis), because יהוה is not considered in this latter rendering. The heaven of Jahveh is the whole world, over which Jahveh's authority extends; the meaning therefore is, "Exterminate them wholly from the sphere of Thy dominion in the world," or, Thy kingdom.