Lamentations 1

Verse 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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