Lamentations 1Verse 64. Thus shall Babylon sink, &c.] This is the emblem of its overthrow and irretrievable ruin. See Re 18:21, where we find that this is an emblem of the total ruin of mystical Babylon. Herodotus relates a similar action of the Phocoeans, who, having resolved to leave their country, and never return to it again, μυδρονσιδηρεονκατεπονωσανκαιωμοσανμηπρινεςφωκαιην ηξεινπρινητονμυδροντουτοναναφηναι "threw a mass of iron into the sea, and swore that they would never return to Phocaea till that iron mass should rise and swim on the top." The story is this: The Phocaeans, being besieged by Harpagus, general of the Persians, demanded one day's truce to deliberate on the propositions he had made to them relative to their surrendering their city; and begged that in the mean while he would take off his army from the walls. Harpagus having consented, they carried their wives, children, and their most valuable effects, aboard their ships; then, throwing a mass of iron into the sea, bound themselves by an oath never to return till that iron should rise to the top and swim. See Herodotus, lib. i. c. 165. Horace refers to this in his epode Ad Populum Romanum, Epode xvi. ver. 25:- Sed juremus in haec: simul imis saxa renarint Vadis levata, ne redire sit nefas. "As the Phocaeans oft for freedom bled, At length with imprecated curses fled." FRANCIS. Thus far are the words of Jeremiah.] It appears that the following chapter is not the work of this prophet: it is not his style. The author of it writes Jehoiachin; Jeremiah writes him always Jeconiah, or Coniah. It is merely historical, and is very similar to 2Ki 24:18-25:30. The author, whoever he was, relates the capture of Jerusalem, the fate of Zedekiah, the pillage and burning of the city and the temple. He mentions also certain persons of distinction who were slain by the Chaldeans. He mentions the number of the captives that were carried to Babylon at three different times; and concludes with the deliverance of King Jehoiachin from prison in Babylon, in which he had been for thirty-seven years. It is very likely that the whole chapter has been compiled from some chronicle of that time, or it was designed as a preface to the Book of the Lamentations; and would stand with great propriety before it, as it contains the facts on which that inimitable poem is built. Were it allowable, I would remove it to that place. THE LAMENTATIONS OF JEREMIAH Chronological notes relative to the Book of the Lamentations -Year from the Creation, according to Archbishop Usher, 3416. -Year of the Jewish era of the world, 3173. -Year from the Deluge, 1760. -First year of the forty-eighth Olympiad. -Year from the building of Rome, according to the Varronian account, 166. -Year before the birth of Christ, 584. -Year before the vulgar era of Christ's nativity, 588. -Year of the Julian Period, 4126. -Year of the era of Nabonassar, 160. -Cycle of the Sun, 10. -Cycle of the Moon, 3. -Second year after the fourth Sabbatic year after the seventeenth Jewish jubilee, according to Helvicus. -Twenty-ninth year of Tarquinius Priscus, the fifth king of the Romans: this was the seventy-ninth year before the commencement of the consular government. -Thirty-eighth year of Cyaxares or Cyaraxes, the fourth king of Media. -Eighteenth year of Agasicles, king of Lacedaemon, of the family of the Proclidae. -Twentieth year of Leon, king of Lacedaemon, of the family of the Eurysthenidae. -Thirty-second year of Alyattes II., king of Lydia. This was the father of the celebrated Croesus. -Fifteenth year of AEropas, the seventh king of Macedon. -Nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. -Eleventh year of Zedekiah, the last king of Judah. CHAPTER I The prophet begins with lamenting the dismal reverse of fortune that befell his country, confessing at the same time that her calamities were the just consequence of her sins, 1-6. Jerusalem herself is then personified and brought forward to continue the sad complaint, and to solicit the mercy of God, 7-22. In all copies of the Septuagint, whether of the Roman or Alexandrian editions, the following words are found as a part of the text: καιεγενετομετατοαιχμαλωτισθηναιτονισραηλκαι ιερουσαλημερημωθηναιεκαθισενιερεμιαςκλαιωνκαιεθρηνησεντον θρηνοντουτονεπιιερουσαλημκαιειπεν-"And it came to pass after Israel had been carried away captive, and Jerusalem was become desolate, that Jeremiah sat weeping: and he lamented with this lamentation over Jerusalem; and he said." The Vulgate has the same, with some variations:-"Et factum est, postquam in captivitatem redactus est Israel, et Jerusalem deserta est, sedit Jeremias propheta fiens, et planxit lamentations hac in Jerusalem, et amaro animo suspirans et ejulans, digit." The translation of this, as given in the first translation of the Bible into English, may be found at the end of Jeremiah, taken from an ancient MS. in my own possession. I subjoin another taken from the first PRINTED edition of the English Bible, that by Coverdale, 1535. "And it came to passe, (after Israel was brought into captyvitie, and Jerusalem destroyed;) that Jeremy the prophet sat weeping, mournynge, and makinge his mone in Jerusalem; so that with an hevy herte he sighed and sobbed, sayenge." Matthew's Bible, printed in 1549, refines upon this: "It happened after Israell was brought into captyvite, and Jerusalem destroyed, that Jeremy the prophet sate wepyng, and sorrowfully bewayled Jerusalem; and syghynge and hewlynge with an hevy and wooful hert, sayde." Becke's Bible of the same date, and Cardmarden's of 1566, have the same, with a trifling change in the orthography. On this Becke and others have the following note:-"These words are read in the LXX. interpreters: but not in the Hebrue." All these show that it was the ancient opinion that the Book of Lamentations was composed, not over the death of Josiah, but on account of the desolations of Israel and Jerusalem. The Arabic copies the Septuagint. The Syriac does not acknowledge it; and the Chaldee has these words only: "Jeremiah the great priest and prophet said." NOTES ON CHAP. I Verse 1. How doth the city sit solitary] Sitting down, with the elbow on the knee, and the head supported by the hand, without any company, unless an oppressor near,-all these were signs of mourning and distress. The coin struck by Vespasian on the capture of Jerusalem, on the obverse of which there is a palm-tree, the emblem of Judea, and under it a woman, the emblem of Jerusalem, sitting, leaning as before described, with the legend Judea capta, illustrates this expression as well as that in Isa 47:1. See Clarke on Isa 3:26, where the subject is farther explained. Become as a widow] Having lost her king. Cities are commonly described as the mothers of their inhabitants, the kings as husbands, and the princes as children. When therefore they are bereaved of these, they are represented as widows, and childless. The Hindoo widow, as well as the Jewish, is considered the most destitute and wretched of all human beings. She has her hair cut short, throws off all ornaments, eats the coarsest food, fasts often, and is all but an outcast in the family of her late husband. Is she become tributary!] Having no longer the political form of a nation; and the remnant that is left paying tribute to a foreign and heathen conqueror. Verse 2. Among all her lovers] Her allies; her friends, instead of helping her, have helped her enemies. Several who sought her friendship when she was in prosperity, in the time of David and Solomon, are now among her enemies. Verse 3. Between the straits.] She has been brought into such difficulties, that it was impossible for her to escape. Has this any reference to the circumstances in which Zedekiah and the princes of Judah endeavoured to escape from Jerusalem, by the way of the gates between the two walls? Jer 52:7. Verse 4. The ways of Zion do mourn] A fine prosopopoeia. The ways in which the people trod coming to the sacred solemnities, being now no longer frequented, are represented as shedding tears; and the gates themselves partake of the general distress. All poets of eminence among the Greeks and Romans have recourse to this image. So Moschus, in his Epitaph on Bion, ver. 1-3:- αιλιναμοιστροναχειτεναπαικαιδωριονυδωρ καιποταμοικλαιοιτετονιμεροενταβιωνα νυνφυταμοιμυρεσθεκαιαλσεανυνγοαοισθεκτλ "Ye winds, with grief your waving summits bow, Ye Dorian fountains, murmur as ye flow; From weeping urns your copious sorrows shed, And bid the rivers mourn for Bion dead. Ye shady groves, in robes of sable hue, Bewail, ye plants, in pearly drops of dew; Ye drooping flowers, diffuse a languid breath, And die with sorrow, at sweet Bion's death." FAWKES. So Virgil, AEn. vii., ver. 759:- Te nemus Anguitiae, vitrea te Fucinus unda Te liquidi flevere lacus. "For thee, wide echoing, sighed th' Anguitian woods; For thee, in murmurs, wept thy native floods." And more particularly on the death of Daphnis, Eclog. v. ver. 24:- Non ulli pastos illis egere diebus Frigida, Daphni, boves ad flumina: nulla neque amnem Libavit quadrupes, nec graminis attigit herbam. Daphni, tuum Poenos etiam ingemuisse leones Interitum, montesque feri, sylvaeque loquuntur. "The swains forgot their sheep, nor near the brink Of running waters brought their herds to drink: The thirsty cattle of themselves abstained From water, and their grassy fare disdained. The death of Daphnis woods and hills deplore; The Libyan lions hear, and hearing roar." DRYDEN. Verse 5. Her adversaries are the chief] They have now supreme dominion over the whole land. Verse 7. Did mock at her Sabbaths.] mishbatteha. Some contend that Sabbaths are not intended here. The Septuagint has κατοικεσιααυτης, "her habitation;" the Chaldee, al tubaha, "her good things;" the Syriac, [Syriac] al toboroh, "her breach." The Vulgate and Arabic agree with the Hebrew. Some of my oldest MSS. have the word in the plural number, mishbatteyha, "her Sabbaths." A multitude of Kennicott's MSS. have the same reading. The Jews were despised by the heathen for keeping the Sabbath. Juvenal mocks them on that account:- _____cui septima quaeque fuit lux Ignava et partem vitae non attigit ullam. Sat. v. "To whom every seventh day was a blank, and formed not any part of their life." St. Augustine represents Seneca as doing the same:-Inutiliter id eos facere affirmans, quod septimani ferme partem aetatis suae perdent vacando, et multa in tempore urgentia non agendo laedantur. "That they lost the seventh part of their life in keeping their Sabbaths; and injured themselves by abstaining from the performance of many necessary things in such times." He did not consider that the Roman calendar and customs gave them many more idle days than God had prescribed in Sabbaths to the Jews. The Sabbath is a most wise and beneficent ordinance. Verse 9. She remembereth not her last end] Although evident marks of her pollution appeared about her, and the land was defiled by her sinfulness even to its utmost borders, she had no thought or consideration of what must be the consequence of all this at the last.-Blayney. Verse 11. They have given their pleasant things] Jerusalem is compared to a woman brought into great straits, who parts with her jewels and trinkets in order to purchase by them the necessaries of life. Verse 12. Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?] The desolations and distress brought upon this city and its inhabitants had scarcely any parallel. Excessive abuse of God's accumulated mercies calls for singular and exemplary punishment. Verse 14. The yoke of my transgressions] I am now tied and bound by the chain of my sins; and it is so wreathed, so doubled and twisted round me, that I cannot free myself. A fine representation of the miseries of a penitent soul, which feels that nothing but the pitifulness of God's mercy can loose it. Verse 15. Called an assembly] The Chaldean army, composed of various nations, which God commissioned to destroy Jerusalem. Verse 17. Zion spreadeth forth her hands] Extending the hands is the form in supplication. Jerusalem is as a menstruous woman] To whom none dared to approach, either to help or comfort, because of the law, Le 15:19-27. Verse 19. I called for my lovers] My allies; the Egyptians and others. Verse 20. Abroad the sword bereaveth] WAR is through the country; and at home death; the pestilence and famine rage in the city; calamity in every shape is fallen upon me. Virgil represents the calamities of Troy under the same image:- ______Nec soli poenas dant sanguine Teucri: Quondam etiam victis redit in praecordia virtus; Victoresque cadunt Danai. Crudelis ubique Luctus, ubique Pavor, et plurima mortis imago. AEneid. lib. ii. 366. "Not only Trojans fall; but, in their turn, The vanquished triumph, and the victors mourn. Ours take new courage from despair and night; Confused the fortune is, confused the fight. All parts resound with tumults, plaints, and fears; And grisly death in sundry shapes appears." DRYDEN. So Milton- "_____________________Despair Tended the sick, busiest from couch to couch; And over them triumphant Death his dart Shook." Par. Lost, B. xi. 489. Jeremiah, Jer 9:21, uses the same image:- Death is come up into our windows: He hath entered our palaces, To cut off the infants without, And the young men in our streets. So Silius Italicus, II. 548:- Mors graditur, vasto pandens cava guttura rletu, Casuroque inhians populo. "Death stalks along, and opens his hideous throat to gulp down the people." Verse 21. They have heard that I sigh] My affliction is public enough; but no one comes to comfort me. They are glad that thou hast done it] On the contrary, they exult in my misery; and they see that THOU hast done what they were incapable of performing. Thou wilt bring the day that thou hast called, and they shall be like unto me.] Babylon shall be visited in her turn; and thy judgments poured out upon her shall equal her state with my own. See the last six chapters of the preceding prophecy for the accomplishment of this prediction. Verse 22. Let all their wickedness come before thee] That is, Thou wilt call their crimes also into remembrance; and thou wilt do unto them by siege, sword, famine, and captivity, what thou hast done to me. Though thy judgments, because of thy long-suffering, are slow; yet, because of thy righteousness, they are sure. For my sighs are many] My desolations continue; and my heart is faint-my political and physical strength almost totally destroyed. Imprecations in the sacred writings are generally to be understood as declarative of the evils they indicate; or, that such evils will take place. No prophet of God ever wished desolation on those against whom he was directed to prophesy.
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