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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Lamentations 5

 

 

Verses 1-22


Zion's earnest Petition for Deliverance

This final poem is not so much an elegy as a prayer or meditation. The tone is more calm and spiritual than the others, with no trace of vindictiveness. The poet, speaking for the people, 'will have God know everything.' Though divided into 22 vv., it is not an acrostic. Rhyme takes the place of the alphabetical structure, the poem having not less than 45 words ending in the sound u: cp. Psalms 124. Like Lamentations 4, each v. is composed of two members which are balanced with the greatest care, both as to form and thought. In the Vulgate this chapter is given a separate title, 'Oratio Jeremias prophetse.'

1-18. A pathetic review of Zion's condition.

1. Remember, O Lord] Like the initial sentences of the other poems, the opening words strike the key of what follows. The poet is about to pray, so he secures first of all God's attention.

2. Our inheritance] Canaan (Leviticus 20:24).

3. Our mothers are as widows] i.e. without protection and support. 5 Our necks are under persecution] RV 'our pursuers are upon our necks.'

6. To the Assyrians] Babylonians of course are meant (Jeremiah 2:18; 2 Kings 23:29).

7. And we have borne their iniquities] not in contradiction to Jeremiah 31:29; Ezekiel 18:2, nor that they were not themselves great sinners, for Ezekiel 18:16 shows that they acknowledged they were, but that the nation's guilt extended back into the past. Ideal Zion, like Christ, was to 'be made perfect through sufferings' (Hebrews 2:10).

8. Servants have ruled over us] Babylonian satraps were often simply house-hold favourites, promoted by the king to posts of honour, such as the headship of the wretched remnant of Judah (Jeremiah 39:3).

9. We gat] RV 'We got,' lit. 'we bring in.' Because of the sword of the wilderness] alluding to the raids of the Bedouins, who may have fallen upon the remnant in their attempts to snatch a little food.

10. Black] RM 'hot.' Terrible famine] RV 'burning heat of famine.'

12. Hanged up by their hand] The Assyrian custom was to impale bodies after death in order to expose them to the most utter contempt possible (Deuteronomy 21:23; 1 Samuel 31:10-12).

13. They took the young men to grind] RV 'The young men bare the mill,' work usually done by women and slaves (Isaiah 47:2).

14. From the gate] corresponding to our public square or park (Jeremiah 14:2).

16. The crown is fallen from our head] a figurative expression conveying the thought that Zion has lost her dignity of statehood.

Woe unto us, that we have sinned] a distinct confession on the part of the people, and the effect desired has been obtained.

17. For this.. for these things] loss of nationality and present distress respectively.

19-22. A final appeal to Jehovah to remove Zion's reproach.

The book closes with a majestic apostrophe to Jehovah.

19. Remainest] RV 'sittest,' as king. Jehovah had not abdicated, though Zedekiah had (Psalms 45:6; Psalms 102:12).

20. Wherefore.. so long time] a hint may be contained in these last words as to the time of composition, at least of Lamentations 5.

21. Turn thou us unto thee] The poet realises that they cannot turn themselves. The doctrine clearly is that repentance is of grace. It is useless simply to resolve to turn (Jeremiah 31:18).

22. But] RV 'unless,' which is better; for that Jehovah has utterly rejected Zion is to the poet unthinkable. The tone of the v., however, is so melancholy that in some MSS Lamentations 5:21 is repeated; so that, in reading the roll in the synagogue, the book might end more hopefully. The Jews delighted in cheerful conclusions. Similar repetitions occur at the close of Ecclesiastes, Isaiah, and Malachi.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Lamentations 5:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/lamentations-5.html. 1909.

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