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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Lamentations 3



Verse 1

Jeremiah claimed to have seen much affliction because Yahweh had struck Jerusalem in His anger (cf. Job 9:34; Job 21:9; Psalm 89:32; Isaiah 10:5).

"The two preceding poems ended with sorrowful complaint. This third poem begins with the complaint of a man over grievous personal suffering." [Note: Keil, 2:402-3.]

Verses 1-18

A. Jeremiah"s sorrows3:1-18

Verse 2-3

The Lord had driven the prophet to walk in the darkness of His judgment, rather than in the light of His blessing and presence (cf. Lamentations 3:6). The Lord had disciplined him repeatedly for a long time, in that while He was judging Jerusalem, Jeremiah was suffering along with the people.

Verse 4

Jeremiah"s suffering included sickness and pain, as when someone does not get enough food to eat or breaks a bone (cf. Psalm 42:10; Proverbs 5:11). Fever pains sometimes resemble the pain of a broken bone (cf. Lamentations 1:13-14; Job 30:17; Psalm 32:3-4; Psalm 51:8; Isaiah 38:13). He may have experienced these physical ailments, or he may have simply described his inner pain in terms of physical afflictions.

Verse 5-6

Bitter experiences and hardship had assailed the prophet as Yahweh had judged His people (cf. Jeremiah 8:14). Jeremiah"s existence had turned into a living death for him (cf. Psalm 143:3).

Verse 7

The Lord had imprisoned His prophet in his affliction; he could not escape from it (cf. Job 19:8; Psalm 88:8; Jeremiah 38:6; Hosea 2:6).

Verse 8-9

The Lord would not ease his suffering in answer to prayer (cf. Psalm 18:42; Jeremiah 7:16). It was as though the Lord had opposed Jeremiah"s progress toward restoration and made it very difficult.

Verse 10-11

Jeremiah felt like the Lord was lying in wait to devour him, like a wild animal (cf. Psalm 10:9; Psalm 17:12). The Lord had desolated Jeremiah by opposing his ways and making him feel torn apart.

Verse 12-13

Jeremiah felt as though he was a target that the Lord was shooting at and that Yahweh had wounded him severely (cf. Job 16:13).

Verse 14-15

The prophet"s contemporaries mocked and ridiculed him constantly. He had become full of bitter experiences, like poison, which the Lord had given him to drink (cf. Job 9:18).

"Wormwood is the name given to certain plants used for imparting a bitter flavor to some drinks; the name has no connection with either worm or wood." [Note: Ellison, p718.]

Verse 16

Jeremiah felt like his teeth were broken and that God had given him stones to eat instead of bread.

". . . the teeth have become broken and ground down because God has given His people stones to eat as punishment for venerating the images of Baal." [Note: Harrison, Jeremiah and . . ., p224.]

Verse 17-18

Jeremiah had forgotten what peace and happiness were like. He had also lost his strength and his hope.

Verse 19

Jeremiah prayed that the Lord would remember his affliction and bitterness (cf. Job 13:15).

Verses 19-40

B. Jeremiah"s hope3:19-40

Verse 20-21

He himself remembered something that gave him hope.

Verse 22

The prophet remembered that the Lord"s loyal love (Heb. hesed) never ceases and that He is ceaselessly compassionate.

Verse 23

There are new evidences of Yahweh"s lovingkindness and compassion every day that testify to His great faithfulness (cf. Psalm 36:5; Psalm 36:7). His daily provision of manna for the Israelites in the wilderness was one example of this.

"The word translated "compassions" draws attention to God"s emotional response to the needs of His people [cf. Genesis 43:30; 1 Kings 3:26]. The terms rendered "love" [or "lovingkindness"] and "faithfulness" are closely related in meaning [cf. Psalm 89:24; Psalm 92:2; Psalm 98:3; Hosea 2:19-20]. They refer to God"s devotion to His covenant people and to the promises He made to them." [Note: Chisholm, p362.]

This verse was, of course, the basis for the classic Christian hymn "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" by Thomas O. Chisholm (b1866). It has also inspired modern composers (e.g, "The steadfast love of the Lord never faileth; His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning, new every morning; Great is Thy faithfulness, oh Lord, great is Thy faithfulness ...").

Verse 24

Jeremiah reminded himself that Yahweh was his portion. Consequently he had hope (cf. Numbers 18:20). By calling the Lord his portion, the prophet was comparing Yahweh to an allotment of land that provides the necessities of life (cf. Psalm 16:5-6; Psalm 73:26; Psalm 119:57; Psalm 142:5).

"To have God for our portion is the one only foundation of hope." [Note: Jamieson, et al, p664.]

Verse 25-26

Those who wait for the Lord and seek Him eventually experience His goodness. Waiting for the Lord"s deliverance silently is a good practice (cf. Psalm 37:9; Hosea 12:6; Zephaniah 3:8; Romans 8:25; Galatians 5:5).

Verse 27

Likewise shouldering the heavy burden of God"s revealed will in one"s youth is a good thing.

"Early discipline begets mature dependability." [Note: Price, p699.]

Verse 28

Such a person should bear his burden without complaining since God has placed it on him (cf. Psalm 39:2; Psalm 94:17).

Verse 29

He should also humble himself since there is hope that God will help him.

"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." [Note: Keil, 2:416.]

Verse 30

The afflicted do well to yield to the antagonism of others and to allow others to heap reproach on them, rather than retaliating (cf. Matthew 26:67; Luke 22:64; John 18:22; John 19:3).

"Many take patiently afflictions from God, but when man wrongs them, they take it impatiently. The godly bear resignedly the latter, like the former, as sent by God ( Psalm 17:13)." [Note: Jamieson, et al, p664.]

Verse 31-32

The Lord"s rejection of His own is only temporary (cf. Jeremiah 3:5; Jeremiah 3:12). Compassion and loyal love will replace grief eventually (cf. Job 5:18; Psalm 30:5; Isaiah 54:8).

Verse 33

The Lord does not take pleasure in afflicting people or in bringing them grief.

Verses 34-36

The Lord disapproves of injustice in its many forms and of the brutal oppression of prisoners (cf. Psalm 69:33; Psalm 146:7; Isaiah 42:7; Luke 4:18).

Verse 37-38

The plans of those who anticipate a particular future only come to fruition if the sovereign Lord ordains them. The Most High is the ultimate source of all good and bad things.

Verse 39-40

Jeremiah wondered how anyone could complain against God, since all mortals are sinners and therefore deserve divine punishment. He counseled self-examination and returning to the Lord.

"Jeremiah wrote seven principles about the nature of Israel"s affliction: (1) Affliction should be endured with hope in God"s salvation, that Isaiah , ultimate restoration ( Lamentations 3:25-30). (2) Affliction is only temporary and is tempered by God"s compassion and love ( Lamentations 3:31-32). (3) God does not delight in affliction ( Lamentations 3:33). (4) If affliction comes because of injustice, God sees it and does not approve of it ( Lamentations 3:34-36). (5) Affliction is always in relationship to God"s sovereignty ( Lamentations 3:37-38; cf. Job 2:10). (6) Affliction ultimately came because of Judah"s sins ( Lamentations 3:39). (7) Affliction should accomplish the greater good of turning God"s people back to Him ( Lamentations 3:40)." [Note: Dyer, " Lamentations ," p1218.]

Verse 41

Jeremiah lifted up his heart, as well as his hands, to God in heaven; his praying was heartfelt, not just formal.

Verses 41-47

1. A recollection of past sins3:41-47

Verses 41-66

C. Jeremiah"s prayer3:41-66

The following section of the lament falls into two parts, marked by Jeremiah"s use of the plural ( Lamentations 3:41-47) and singular personal pronouns ( Lamentations 3:48-66). In the first part, he called on the Judahites to confess their sins to God. In the second part, he recalled God"s past deliverance in answer to prayer, which motivated him to ask God to judge his enemies. In both sections, the prophet modeled proper behavior for his people.

Verse 42

He and his people had transgressed the covenant and had rebelled against the Lord, and He had not pardoned their sin but allowed them to experience judgment.

Verse 43

The Lord had become angry over the sins of His people and had pursued them in judgment, slaying them without stinting.

Verse 44

The Lord had blocked Himself off from His people, as a cloud blocks the heavens, so their prayers would not affect Him.

Verse 45-46

The Lord had made the Judahites as scum (Heb. sehi), namely, rejected as unfit for use. This Hebrew word occurs only here in the Old Testament. This is how the other nations regarded them. Judah"s enemies had also spoken against her (cf. Lamentations 2:16).

Verse 47

The results of God"s judgment for the Judahites had been panic. They had stumbled into pits that ensnared them. Devastation and destruction had become their allotment.

Verses 48-51

Jeremiah wept profusely and unremittingly because of the destruction that the Judahites had experienced (cf. Jeremiah 9:1; Jeremiah 14:17). He would do this until the Lord acknowledged the plight of His people by sending them some relief. What Jeremiah saw of the devastation of Jerusalem pained him greatly. Here "the daughters of my city" may refer to the dependent villages surrounding Jerusalem that the foe also took. [Note: Jamieson, et al, p665.]

Verses 48-66

2. A recollection of past deliverance3:48-66

Verse 52

The prophet"s enemies had pursued him mercilessly, as hunters track a bird.

Verse 53-54

They silenced him by placing him in a pit and covering its mouth with a large stone (cf. Jeremiah 38:1-6). He thought he would drown because of the water that engulfed him.

Verse 55-56

Jeremiah prayed to the Lord out of his desperate condition (cf. Psalm 88:7; Psalm 88:14; Psalm 130:1; Jonah 2:1-3). He believed the Lord had heard his prayer, and he begged that the Lord would pay attention to his petition and grant him deliverance.

Verse 57-58

In the past, the Lord had heeded Jeremiah"s prayers and had given him hope. The Lord had come to his rescue and had redeemed (delivered) him from destruction (cf. Leviticus 25:25-28; Leviticus 25:47-54; Ruth 4:1-12).

"No greater testimony can a sinner offer to God than to say, in thanksgiving, "Thou hast redeemed my life" ( Lamentations 3:58)." [Note: Jensen, p135.]

Verses 59-61

Jeremiah knew that Yahweh had seen his affliction. He asked that He would judge him, knowing that the Lord would be fair.

"Perhaps because of their status as the Chosen People the Jews were always sensitive to abuse and injury inflicted from outside, whatever the source. Consequently they found it impossible to overlook these hostile Acts , with the result that the imprecations which they hurled at their enemies, while typical of such Near Eastern utterances, seem to possess an unexpected and unusual degree of vindictiveness (cf. Psalm 137:9)." [Note: Harrison, Jeremiah and . . ., p231.]

Verse 62-63

The prophet"s enemies plotted against him constantly, but he called on God to witness all that his enemies were doing and how they had mocked him.

Verse 64-65

Jeremiah believed that the Lord would pay his enemies back as they deserved (cf. Psalm 28:4; 2 Corinthians 3:17). He would harden their hearts and so bring judgment on them.

Verse 66

The Lord would pursue them anywhere they might go and destroy them in His anger. The Lord did this to Jeremiah"s enemies when the city fell to the Babylonians (cf. Jeremiah 39:4-7; Jeremiah 52:7-11; Jeremiah 52:24-27).


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Lamentations 3:4". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

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