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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Lamentations 3

 

 

Verse 1

PERSONAL LAMENTATION FOR GRIEVOUS SUFFERINGS, Lamentations 3:1-18.

1. I am the man — Jeremiah speaks out of his personal experience, and thus individualizes the common misery. What he writes was literally and exactly true of himself; but it was also a type and a specimen of what was true in the case of many others. But he writes not so much as the representative of the people in general as of those devout and faithful ones who continued to be held together by the bond of a common faith as well as by the pressure of a common misery.


Verse 2

2. Darkness — Calamity.

Light — Prosperity.


Verse 3

3. Surely against me — This verse is idiomatic and intense. Surely against me hath he turned his hand again and again all the day long. His hand is the smiting of God.” (Keil.)


Verse 4

4. Flesh and… skin… made old — The verb means to wear out by rubbing. Flesh, skin, and bones make up the whole body; the softer and the firmer parts.


Verse 5

5. Hath builded against me — As besiegers enclose a city.

Gall and travail — A most extraordinary combination surely, but not unlike Jeremiah. “Gall” is the name of a bitter plant which has come to be synonymous with keen suffering, and so it seems to be used here co-ordinate with “travail.”


Verse 6

6. Dark places — Literally, in darkness; that is, in sheol.

Dead of old — Literally, dead of eternity; namely, those who shall never return to life.


Verse 7

7. Chain — Literally, brass. The figure is that of a prisoner shut up in an enclosure and loaded with heavy fetters.


Verse 9

9. Hewn stones would be of considerable size, and employed to make a strong wall. The term enclosed is the same as “hedged” in Lamentations 3:7.

Made my paths crooked — Rather, he hath turned aside my paths, so that I cannot go forward.


Verse 10

10. As a bear… in wait — This is one of several allusions in the poetical and prophetical books, harmonizing with certain passages in the historical books, such as 1 Samuel 17:34; 1 Samuel 17:36-37; 2 Samuel 17:8, which imply that in Old Testament times the bear was a common animal in this land.

The figure of “a bear lying in wait” occurs only here. Nagelsbach renders:

A lurking bear was he to me, a lion in ambush.


Verse 11

11. Pulled… in pieces — The figure of a beast of prey still continues. He turns him from the path and tears him “in pieces.”


Verse 12

12. Bent his bow — From the wild beast which is hunted, the figure now changes to the hunter, who is armed with bow and arrow. So the intensity of the whole passage is promoted. Not only the beast of prey, but also the hunter, is against him.


Verse 13

13. Arrows of his quiver — Better, as the margin, sons “of his quiver.” These are, of course, the ills and misfortunes sent upon him by God.


Verse 14

14. My people — “There is no reason, but the contrary, for changing (with Ewald) ‘my people’ into peoples.” — R. PAYNE SMITH, in the Speaker’s Commentary. So also Keil, Nagelsbach, Gerlach, and others.

That even these fearful judgments, so clearly foretold and fully identified as from God, did not subdue and turn the people from their obstinacy and rebellion, and bring them to see the prophet in his true character, is sufficiently evident from Jeremiah 41:1, etc., Jeremiah 43:2, and numerous other passages. In the case of such as Jeremiah the bitterness of personal hate and persecution was added to the common burden of sorrow and disappointment.


Verse 16

16. Broken my teeth with gravel stones — Either mixed with bread, or rather, as Keil prefers, stones given instead of bread.

He hath covered me with ashes — Literally, hath pressed me down in ashes. The Septuagint Version renders it, he hath given me ashes to eat.


Verse 17

17. Hast removed my soul far off from peace — Other renderings of this verse have been proposed, but this is to be preferred, and is really beautiful. It is substantially a quotation from Psalms 88:14, and its very quietness and simplicity are pathetic. The tide of the common ruin had borne the complainer far away from the peace and prosperity which Israel had once known.


Verse 19

PIOUS ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY AND MERCY, Lamentations 3:19-39.

19. Remembering — Better, remember, as in the margin. The verb is an infinitive, as in the fourth commandment. Affliction, misery, wormwood, and gall are reminiscences of chapter 1.


Verse 21

21. This… therefore — Referring to the affliction and humble prayer of the prophet. His weakness and sore need lead him to hope for God’s interposing strength.


Verse 22

22. We are not consumed — “We,” here, takes the place of I without any marked transition, suggesting, as above intimated, that the prophet in what goes before identifies himself with the people.


Verse 23

23. New every morning — That is, Jehovah’s mercies are “new,” or repeated.


Verse 24

24. The Lord is my portion — An almost verbatim quotation from

Psalms 119:57, which is also substantially identical with several other passages.


Verses 25-27

25-27. Good — This teth ( שׂ ) verse has each of its clauses commencing with “good.” The present verse division serves somewhat to conceal the structure — Good is Jehovah; Good that man hope and wait; and, Good that he bear the yoke in his youth.


Verse 26

26. Hope and quietly wait, etc. — More literally, It is good both to wait and be silent=silently wait. Keil renders it: It is good that he should wait, and in silence too, for the help of God. The point is, that he should not only wait, but abstain from murmurings and repinings. This also prepares for the thought of the following verse, for he who has patiently submitted to sufferings in his youth will not readily sink in despair in old age, but will be likely to exercise himself in a calm waiting on God.


Verses 28-30

28-30. He sitteth — The verbs commencing these verses are apocopated futures, and should be rendered with a passive sense, as: Let him sit alone and keep silence; Let him put his mouth in the dust; Let him give his cheek, etc. The second clause of Lamentations 3:28 should read: For He (God) hath laid on him the burden. “There is a certain gradation in the three verses that is quite unmistakable. 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 one’s self with dishonour.” — Keil.


Verses 31-33

31-33. As the three members of the division commencing with the 25th verse all begin with the adjective “good,” so the following three verses contain exhortations based on these; and in these three verses we also have the considerations or grounds of comfort by which these exhortations are enforced. These are:

1) Sorrow will come to an end, Lamentations 3:31.

2) God’s compassion outweighs sorrow, Lamentations 3:32.

3) His love shines through all. “He doth not willingly afflict,” Lamentations 3:33.


Verses 34-36

34-36. To crush… to turn aside… to subvert, etc. — The infinitive form of the three verses, all of which depend on the clause with which the last verse terminates, is well fitted to bring out vividly and incisively the practices which are here condemned. The mention of these implies the writer’s acquaintance with them as facts of human experience. Probably in the fearful time of Jerusalem’s downfall Jeremiah had personally witnessed the trampling under foot of prisoners of war; as in the corrupt and evil times in which his lot was cast he had repeatedly seen justice perverted, as specified in Lamentations 3:35-36.


Verse 37-38

37, 38. Who is he, etc. — From the mercy of God, the writer proceeds to his absolute sovereignty — a sovereignty so perfect as that no man saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not, and from it proceedeth not evil and good.


Verse 39

39. Living man — “Living” is emphatic. There is some difficulty as to the last clause of this verse, which has led to different translations. The word rendered punishment of his sins, has for its first and ordinary meaning sin; then the punishment for sin. The better rendering, then, seems to be, Why doth a living man complain? Let him sorrow for his sin.


Verse 40

CONFESSION OF SIN, AND LAMENTATIONS OVER THE EVIL WHICH HAS COME, Lamentations 3:40-66.

40. Let us search… our ways — As Roseumuller long ago wrote, “when our sufferings arise from our sins we should search out and correct our faults.” The closing thought of the previous triplet prepares for this, which consists of exhortation to reformation and amendment.

Turn… to the Lord — The preposition here is not, as we would expect, el, ( אל ) but ol, ( על,) in which lurks an emphasis which our Version does not express.

Turn as far as Jehovah; not half way, but the whole, through conversion.


Verse 41

41. Lift up our heart… hands — As if the lifting up of the hands — outward, ceremonial prayer — were a matter of course. The real thing which is contingent, and which requires our watchful attention, is the lifting up of the “heart” also. The modifying clause, God in the heavens, is not merely for fulness, but also emphasis. The throne of his almightiness is “in the heavens,” and out of the resources of his infinite power help may come.


Verse 42

42. Thou hast not pardoned — As in the preceding triplet, so here, we may have a transition to the section immediately following. The prophet reminds God that the people have been punished and not “pardoned,” which is an appeal for him to stay his hand and fulfil his oft-repeated promise that he would again remember them for good.


Verse 43

43. Thou hast covered — That is, thyself. The verb means, not overwhelming, but clothing. The thought is the same in form with that of the following verse. As one puts on a coat of mail that he may enter the fight, so God puts on the covering of his wrath, out of which the lightnings leap forth unto destruction.


Verse 44

44. That our prayer should not pass through — The cloud conceals God in the more benignant and paternal aspects of his character, and, what is more alarming and discouraging, renders him impervious to prayer.


Verse 51

51. Mine eye affecteth, etc. — Literally, Mine eye does evil to my soul; that is, causeth pain to.

Because of all the daughters of my city — Ewald and others understand by this the country towns round about Jerusalem, but it is a sufficient reply to this to say, that this interpretation is wholly without warrant of usage. The margin has for “because,” more than; but this, though admissible as a translation, is not to be preferred. The obvious meaning is the true one. The condition of the virgin daughters of an oriental city which had fallen into the power of the enemy was in these brutal times peculiarly deplorable.


Verse 52

52. Without cause — The order of the words in this verse should be, to express the precise sense of the original, “without cause mine enemies chased me.”


Verse 53

53. Cast a stone, etc. — They covered the pit in which the prophet was confined with a stone, to make escape hopeless.


Verse 54

54. Waters flowed — Figurative language, but such as would be very naturally suggested from the circumstance of using underground cisterns for dungeons. Jeremiah’s troubles overwhelmed him, and his case was as hopeless as though “waters” had literally “flowed over” his head. This verse is, in thought, similar to that used by Jonah in chap. Lamentations 2:5.


Verse 55

55. Low dungeon, etc. — Here is evidently a reminiscence of the 88th psalm, in the sixth verse of which the same original words are rendered lowest pit. The meaning is not sheol, but the deep places.


Verse 56

56. Hide not, etc. — Literally, hide not thine ear to my relief, to my cry: that is, turn not away from my cry.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Lamentations 3:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/lamentations-3.html. 1874-1909.

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