Lamentations 3

CHAPTER III

The prophet, by enumerating his own severe trials, 1-20,

and showing his trust in God, 21,

encourages his people to the like resignation and trust in the

Divine and never-failing mercy, 22-27.

He vindicates the goodness of God in all his dispensations, and

the unreasonableness of murmuring under them, 28-39.

He recommends self-examination and repentance; and then, from

their experience of former deliverances from God, encourages

them to look for pardon for their sins, and retribution to

their enemies, 40-66.

NOTES ON CHAP. III

Verse 1. I am the man that hath seen affliction] Either the

prophet speaks here of himself, or he is personating his miserable

countrymen. This and other passages in this poem have been applied

to Jesus Christ's passion; but, in my opinion, without any

foundation.

Verse 2. He hath-brought me into darkness] In the sacred

writings, darkness is often taken for calamity; light, for

prosperity.

Verse 5. He hath builded against me] Perhaps there is a

reference here to the mounds and ramparts raised by the Chaldeans

in order to take the city.

Verse 7. He hath hedged me about] This also may refer to the

lines drawn round the city during the siege. But these and similar

expressions in the following verses may be merely metaphorical, to

point out their straitened, oppressed, and distressed state.

Verse 9. He hath inclosed my ways with hewn stone] He has put

insuperable obstacles in my way; and confounded all my projects of

deliverance and all my expectations of prosperity.

Verse 12. He hath bent his bow, and set me as a mark for the

arrow.] One might conjecture that the following thought in the

Toozek i Teemour was borrowed from this:-

"One addressed the caliph Aaly, and said, 'If the heavens were a

bow, and the earth the cord thereof; if calamities were

arrows, man the butt for those arrows; and the holy blessed God

the unerring marksman; where could the sons of Adam flee for

succour?' The caliph replied, 'The children of Adam must flee unto

the Lord.'" This was the state of poor Jerusalem. It seemed as a

butt for all God's arrows; and each arrow of calamity

entered into the soul, for God was the unerring marksman.

Verse 13. The arrows of his quiver] beney ashpatho,

"The sons of his quiver." The issue or effect; the subject,

adjunct, or accident, or produce of a thing, is frequently

denominated its son or child. So arrows that issue from a

quiver are here termed the sons of the quiver.

Verse 15. He hath filled me with bitterness] bimrorim,

with bitternesses, bitter upon bitter.

He hath made me drunken with wormwood.] I have drunk the cup of

misery till I am intoxicated with it. Almost in all countries, and

in all languages, bitterness is a metaphor to express trouble and

affliction. The reason is, there is nothing more disagreeable to

the taste than the one; and nothing more distressing to the mind

than the other. An Arabic poet. Amralkeis, one of the writers of

the Moallakat, terms a man grievously afflicted [Arabic] a pounder

of wormwood.

Verse 16. He hath also broken my teeth with gravel stones] What

a figure to express disgust, pain, and the consequent incapacity

of taking food for the support of life; a man, instead of bread,

being obliged to eat small pebbles till all his teeth are broken

to pieces by endeavouring to grind them. One can scarcely read

this description without feeling the toothache. The next figure is

not less expressive.

He hath covered me with ashes.] hichphishani

beepher, "he hath plunged me into the dust." To be thrown into a

mass or bed of perfect dust, where the eyes are blinded by it, the

ears stopped, and the mouth and lungs filled at the very first

attempt to respire after having been thrown into it-what a

horrible idea of suffocation and drowning! One can scarcely read

this without feeling a suppression of breath, or a stricture upon

the lungs! Did ever man paint sorrow like this man?

Verse 17. Thou hast removed my soul] Prosperity is at such an

utter distance from me, that it is impossible I should ever reach

it; and as to happiness, I have forgotten whether I have ever

tasted of it.

Verse 18. And my hope] That first, that last support of the

miserable-it is gone! it is perished! The sovereign God alone can

revive it.

Verse 20. By soul-is humbled in me.] It is evident that in the

preceding verses there is a bitterness of complaint against the

bitterness of adversity, that is not becoming to man when under

the chastising hand of God; and, while indulging this feeling, all

hope fled. Here we find a different feeling; he humbles himself

under the mighty hand of God, and then his hope revives, La 3:21.

Verse 22. It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed]

Being thus humbled, and seeing himself and his sinfulness in a

proper point of view, he finds that God, instead of dealing with

him in judgment, has dealt with him in mercy; and that though the

affliction was excessive, yet it was less than his iniquity

deserved. If, indeed, any sinner be kept out of hell, it is

because God's compassion faileth not.

Verse 23. They are new every morning] Day and night proclaim the

mercy and compassion of God. Who could exist throughout the day,

if there were not a continual superintending Providence? Who could

be preserved in the night, if the Watchman of Israel ever

slumbered or slept?

Verse 24. The Lord is my portion] See Clarke on Ps 119:57.

Verse 26. It is good that a man should both hope] Hope is

essentially necessary to faith; he that hopes not, cannot believe;

if there be no expectation, there can be no confidence. When a man

hopes for salvation, he should not only wait for it, but use every

means that may lead to it; for hope cannot live, if there be no

exercise. If hope become impatient, faith will be impossible:

for who can believe for his salvation when his mind is agitated?

He must therefore quietly wait. He must expect, and yet be dumb,

as the words imply; ever feeling his utter unworthiness; and,

without murmuring, struggle into life.

Verse 27. That he bear the yoke in his youth.] Early habits,

when good, are invaluable. Early discipline is equally so. He who

has not got under wholesome restraint in youth will never make a

useful man, a good man, nor a happy man.

Verse 28. He sitteth alone] He has learned that necessary lesson

of independence, that shows him how he is to serve himself; to

give no trouble to others; and keep his troubles, as far as

possible, in his own bosom.

Verse 29. He putteth his mouth in the dust] Lives in a state of

deep humility.

If so be there may be hope.] Because there is room for hope.

Verse 30. He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth] He has that

love that is not provoked. He is not quarrelsome, nor apt to

resent injuries; he suffers long and is kind. Or, it may be

rendered, "let him give his cheek."

He is filled full with reproach.] Though all this take place,

yet let his "trust be in God, who will not cast off for ever." God

will take his part, and bring him safely through all hardships.

Verse 31. The Lord] Adonai; but one of my ancient MSS.

has Jehovah. The above verse is quoted in reference to our

Lord's passion, by Mt 26:62.

Verse 33. For he doth not afflict willingly] It is no pleasure

to God to afflict men. He takes no delight in our pain and misery:

yet, like a tender and intelligent parent, he uses the rod; not to

gratify himself, but to profit and save us.

Verse 34. To crush under his feet] He can neither gain credit

nor pleasure in trampling upon those who are already bound, and in

suffering; such he knows to be the state of man here below. From

which it most assuredly follows, that God never afflicts us but

for our good, nor chastises but that we may be partakers of his

holiness.

All the prisoners of the earth] By the prisoners of the earth,

or land, Dr. Blayney understands those insolvent debtors who were

put in prison, and there obliged to work out the debt. Yet this is

mercy in comparison with those who put them in prison, and keep

them there, when they know that it is impossible, from the state

of the laws, to lessen the debt by their confinement.

In La 3:34-36, certain acts of tyranny, malice, and injustice

are specified, which men often indulge themselves in the practice

of towards one another, but which the Divine goodness is far from

countenancing or approving by any similar conduct.-Blayney.

Verse 35. To turn aside the right of a man] To make a man lose

his right, because one of the higher orders opposes him. Dr.

Blayney thinks that elyon, instead of being referred to

God, should be considered as pointing out one of the chief of

the people. I do not see that we gain any thing by this. The evil

fact is, turning aside the right of a man; and the aggravation of

it is, doing it before the face of the Most High; that is, in a

court of justice, where God is ever considered to be present.

Verse 36. To subvert a man in his cause] To prevent his having

justice done him in a lawsuit, &c., by undue interference, as by

suborning false witnesses, or exerting any kind of influence in

opposition to truth and right.-Blayney.

The Lord approved not.] Instead of Adonai, seventeen

MSS., of Kennicott's, and one ancient of my own, have

Yehovah. Approveth not, lo raah, doth not see, turns

away his face from it, abhors it.

Verse 39. Wherefore doth a living man complain] He who has his

life still lent to him has small cause of complaint. How great

soever his affliction may be, he is still alive; therefore, he may

seek and find mercy unto eternal life. Of this, death would

deprive him; therefore let not a living man complain.

Verse 40. Let us search] How are we to get the pardon of our

sins? The prophet tells us: 1. Let us examine ourselves. 2. "Let

us turn again to the Lord." 3. "Let us lift up our heart;" let us

make fervent prayer and supplication for mercy. 4. "Let us lift up

our hand;" let us solemnly promise to be his, and bind ourselves

in a covenant to be the Lord's only: so much lifting up the hand

to God implies. Or, let us put our heart on our hand, and offer it

to God; so some have translated this clause. 5. "We have

transgressed;" let our confession of sin be fervent and sincere.

6. And to us who profess Christianity it may be added, Believe on

the Lord Jesus Christ as having died for thee; and thou shalt not

perish, but have everlasting life. Verses 46, 47, 48, La 3:46-48,

beginning with phe, should, as to the order of the alphabet,

follow 49, 50, 51, La 3:49-51, which begin with

ain, which in its grammatical position precedes the former.

Verse 47. Fear and a snare] See Clarke on Jer 48:13.

Verse 48. Mine eye runneth down] I weep incessantly.

Verse 51. Mine eye affecteth mine heart] What I see I feel. I

see nothing but misery; and I feel, in consequence, nothing but

pain. There have been various translations of the original: but

they all amount to this.

The daughters of my city.] The villages about Jerusalem.

Verse 52. Mine enemies chased me] From this to the end of the

chapter the prophet speaks of his own personal sufferings, and

especially of those which he endured in the dungeon. See

Jer 38:6, &c.

Verse 56. Hide not thine ear at my breathing] He dared not even

to complain, nor to cry, nor to pray aloud: he was obliged to

whisper his prayer to God. It was only a breathing.

Verse 57. Fear not.] How powerful is this word when spoken by

the Spirit of the Lord to a disconsolate heart. To every mourner

we may say, on the authority of God, Fear not! God will plead thy

cause, and redeem thy soul.

Verse 60. Thou hast seen-all their imaginations] Every thing is

open to the eye of God. Distressed soul! though thou knowest not

what thy enemies meditate against thee; yet he who loves thee

does, and will infallibly defeat all their plots, and save thee.

Verse 65. Give them sorrow of heart] They shall have a callous

heart, covered with obstinacy, and thy execration. The former is

their state, the latter their fate. This is the consequence of

their hardening their hearts from thy fear. Blayney translates,

"Thou wilt give with a hearty concordance thy curse unto them."

That is, Thou wilt give it to them freely, and without reserve;

intimating that God felt no longer any bowels of compassion for

them. Formerly he inflicted punishments with reluctance, while

there was any hope of amendment: but, in the instance before us,

the case was so hopeless, that God acts according to the simple

principle of vindictive justice. The prophet therefore considers

them on the utmost verge of final reprobation: another plunge, and

they are lost for ever.

Verse 66. Persecute and destroy them] Thou wilt pursue them with

destruction. These are all declaratory, not imprecatory.

From under the heavens of the Lord.] This verse seems to allude

to the Chaldaic prediction, in Jer 10:11. By their conduct they

will bring on themselves the curse denounced against their

enemies.

The Septuagint and Vulgate seem to have read "From under heaven,

O Jehovah:" and the Syriac reads, "Thy heavens, O Jehovah!" None

of these makes any material change in the meaning of the words.

It has already been noticed in the introduction, that this

chapter contains a triple acrostic, three lines always beginning

with the same letter; so that the Hebrew alphabet is thrice

repeated in this chapter, twenty-two multiplied by three being

equal to sixty-six.

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