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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Lamentations 3

 

 

Verses 1-66

Lamentations 3. The Third Lament.—Here it is the singer that comes chiefly to the front; whereas in Lamentations 3:1 it had been Zion, and in Lamentations 3:2 it was Yahweh. EV hardly puts Lamentations 3:1 forcibly enough: it should read, "It is I, even I the strong man, who know now, alas, what abasement means." The chant is artistically more clever than Lamentations 3:1 and Lamentations 3:2, but its heart is not so great. In form it has a cunning device all its own; for the first stanza has three initial Alephs, the second has three Beths, and so on throughout the twenty-two stanzas. This is a skilful bit of scholastic development; scribal indeed, but not great. Editors have usually regarded each line as a separate verse, so that there result sixty-six verses in all. Similarities between Psalms 143 and our poem have led Löhr to think that the two are based on a common original (cf. Lamentations 3:6 with Psalms 143:3). Certainly our poem seems closely related to late Jewish Pss., and it is impossible that a Jeremiah did or ever could invent such a fantasia on three A's, three B's, three C's, and so on. Nevertheless the Lament has several good features.

Lamentations 3:1-16, a quarter of the whole, is a personal wail. Yahweh has beaten this strong man, has misled him, torn him, hemmed him in, and, as it were, actually buried him alive. Yahweh has torn the man's inmost soul, like a bear, like a lion that has crouched and leaped upon him. Worst of all, the sufferer has become a laughing-stock in his own city: this is bitterest wormwood. Evidently the people were not all so excited and troubled as was our poet: possibly his feelings arose largely amid the fancies of his private study, where he could have time to dream and calculate over his Alephs and Beths. In Lamentations 3:16 he has an apt figure of one who is mocked, "He has made my teeth grind on sand." Then his extremity of vexation drives him to God. He feels he has been away from his best counsellor. He begins to pray (Lamentations 3:19-21), sure that Yahweh will remember him. As he thus remembers Yahweh, his meditation is at times so beautiful that many a sentence of it became a household word in the Christianity that soon was born, e.g. "Yahweh's loving-kindness cannot cease." A Greek commentator in the LXX has added a fine remark here, "We are not ended, because His care is not ended." The singer grows jubilant and rises to the threshold of all apocalyptic expectations, saying, "It is good to wait." So he takes in the wide future as well as his present view of things and conditions and sufferings. All are only light afflictions. He is probably a priest, and therefore remembers Deuteronomy 18:2, quoting it as he sings, "Yahweh is my portion. The eternally abiding God is enough." Three times we read, "It is good": Yahweh is good, and a man must have twice goodness, first in hoping, and then in waiting. Like Paul long afterwards (cf. Romans 8:33 ff.) he seems to love the wonderful Servant-Song of Isaiah 50:4-9, for he probably alludes to it in Lamentations 3:30. In Lamentations 3:31-41 he pens a confession of faith worthy of any of the great confessors in all the ages. Every line here is precious and familiar: we need not quote any as the best.

Lamentations 3:42-66. After confession comes supplication; and here first (in Lamentations 3:42-53) the sorrows are rehearsed, but in submissive tones this time. He acknowledges that Yahweh has come near to him, has actually spoken to him, has repeated for him the great eternal watchword of Isaiah 41, "Fear thou not." Truly he does touch the hem of the Father's garment; or, as the Scotch saint would say, "he gets far ben."

But now, after three stanzas of such exquisite beauty, what is it that he prays for eagerly? "Pursue thou my enemies in anger: destroy them from under heaven!" Alas that a curse should be the climax of communion for such a soul! How did they need to hear the death-cry of Jesus, that was soon to sound among them, "Father forgive them." The Lament proves thus to be the utterance and the picture of a priest who, at moments, seemed to be the very Rutherford of Anwoth of his time; but who, nevertheless, needed sorely that there should be breathed upon him the Gospel of Forgiveness and Love for enemies. The Lament is surely another scene in the background of Christianity.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Lamentations 3:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/lamentations-3.html. 1919.

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