Lamentations 5


This chapter is, as it were, an epiphonema, or conclusion to

the four preceding, representing the nation as groaning under

their calamities, and humbly supplicating the Divine favour,



Verse 1. Remember, O Lord] In the Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic,

this is headed, "The prayer of Jeremiah." In my old MS. Bible:

Here bigynneth the orison of Jeremye the prophete.

Though this chapter consists of exactly twenty-two verses, the

number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet, yet the acrostic form

is no longer observed. Perhaps any thing so technical was not

thought proper when in agony and distress (under a sense of God's

displeasure on account of sin) they prostrated themselves before

him to ask for mercy. Be this as it may, no attempt appears to

have been made to throw these verses into the form of the

preceding chapters. It is properly a solemn prayer of all the

people, stating their past and present sufferings, and praying for

God's mercy.

Behold our reproach.] hebita. But many MSS. of

Kennicott's, and the oldest of my own, add the he, paragogic,

hebitah, "Look down earnestly with commiseration;" for

paragogic letters always increase the sense.

Verse 2. Our inheritance is turned to strangers] The greater

part of the Jews were either slain or carried away captive; and

even those who were left under Gedaliah were not free, for they

were vassals to the Chaldeans.

Verse 4. We have drunken our water for money] I suppose the

meaning of this is, that every thing was taxed by the Chaldeans,

and that they kept the management in their own hands, so that wood

and water were both sold, the people not being permitted to help

themselves. They were now so lowly reduced by servitude, that they

were obliged to pay dearly for those things which formerly were

common and of no price. A poor Hindoo in the country never buys

fire-wood, but when he comes to the city he is obliged to

purchase his fuel, and considers it as a matter of great hardship.

Verse 5. Our necks are under persecution] We feel the yoke of

our bondage; we are driven to our work like the bullock, which has

a yoke upon his neck.

Verse 6. We have given the hand to the Egyptians] We have sought

alliances both with the Egyptians and Assyrians, and made

covenants with them in order to get the necessaries of life. Or,

wherever we are now driven, we are obliged to submit to the people

of the countries in order to the preservation of our lives.

Verse 7. Our fathers have sinned, and are not] Nations, as

such, cannot be punished in the other world; therefore national

judgments are to be looked for only in this life. The punishment

which the Jewish nation had been meriting for a series of years

came now upon them, because they copied and increased the sins of

their fathers, and the cup of their iniquity was full. Thus the

children might be said to bear the sins of the fathers, that is,

in temporal punishment, for in no other way does God visit these

upon the children. See Eze 18:1, &c.

Verse 8. Servants have ruled over us] To be subject to such is

the most painful and dishonourable bondage:-

Quio domini faciant, audent cum talia fures?

Virg. Ecl. iii. 16.

"Since slaves so insolent are grown,

What may not masters do?"

Perhaps he here alludes to the Chaldean soldiers, whose will the

wretched Jews were obliged to obey.

Verse 9. We gat our bread with the peril of our lives] They

could not go into the wilderness to feed their cattle, or to get

the necessaries of life, without being harassed and plundered by

marauding parties, and by these were often exposed to the peril of

their lives. This was predicted by Moses, De 28:31.

Verse 10. Our skin was black-because of the terrible famine.]

Because of the searching winds that burnt up every green thing,

destroying vegetation, and in consequence producing a famine.

Verse 11. They ravished the women in Zion, and the maids in the

cities of Judah.] The evil mentioned here was predicted by Moses,

De 28:30, 32, and by Jeremiah, Jer 6:12.

Verse 12. Princes are hanged up by their hand] It is very

probable that this was a species of punishment. They were

suspended from hooks in the wall by their hands till they died

through torture and exhaustion. The body of Saul was fastened to

the wall of Bethshan, probably in the same way; but his head had

already been taken off. They were hung in this way that they might

be devoured by the fowls of the air. It was a custom with the

Persians after they had slain, strangled, or beheaded their

enemies, to hang their bodies upon poles, or empale them. In this

way they treated Histiaeus of Miletum, and Leonidas of Lacedaemon.

See Herodot. lib. vi. c. 30, lib. vii. c. 238.

Verse 13. They took the young men to grind] This was the work of

female slaves. See Clarke on Isa 47:2.

Verse 14. The elders have ceased from the gate] There is now no

more justice administered to the people; they are under military

law, or disposed of in every sense according to the caprice of

their masters.

Verse 16. The crown is fallen from our head] At feasts,

marriages, &c., they used to crown themselves with garlands of

flowers; all festivity of this kind was now at an end. Or it may

refer to their having lost all sovereignty, being made slaves.

Verse 18. The foxes walk upon it.] Foxes are very numerous in

Palestine, see on Jud 15:4. It was usual among the Hebrews to

consider all desolated land to be the resort of wild beasts; which

is, in fact, the case every where when the inhabitants are removed

from a country.

Verse 19. Thou, O Lord, remainest for ever] THOU sufferest no

change. Thou didst once love us, O let that love be renewed

towards us!

Verse 21. Renew our days as of old.] Restore us to our former

state. Let us regain our country, our temple, and all the Divine

offices of our religion; but, more especially, thy favour.

Verse 22. But thou hast utterly rejected us] It appears as if

thou hadst sealed our final reprobation, because thou showest

against us exceeding great wrath. But convert us, O Lord, unto

thee, and we shall be converted. We are now greatly humbled, feel

our sin, and see our folly: once more restore us, and we shall

never again forsake thee! He heard the prayer; and at the end of

seventy years they were restored to their own land.

This last verse is well rendered in the first printed edition of

our Bible, 1535:-Renue our daies as in olde tyme, for thou hast

now banished us longe ynough, and bene sore displeased at us.

My old MS. Bible is not less nervous: Newe thou our dais as fro

the begynnyng: bot castand aweie thou put us out: thou wrathedist

ugein us hugely.

Dr. Blayney translates, "For surely thou hast cast us off

altogether:" and adds, " ki ought certainly to be rendered as

causal; God's having rejected his people, and expressed great

indignation against them, being the cause and ground of the

preceding application, in which they pray to be restored to his

favour, and the enjoyment of their ancient privileges."

Pareau thinks no good sense can be made of this place unless we

translate interrogatively, as in Jer 14:19:-

"Hast thou utterly rejected Judah?

Hath thy soul loathed Sion?"

On this ground he translates here,

An enim prorsus nos rejecisses?

Nobis iratus esses usque adeo?

"Hast thou indeed utterly cast us off?

Wilt thou be angry with us for ever?"

Wilt thou extend thy wrath against us so as to show us no more

mercy? This agrees well with the state and feelings of the



Number of verses in this Book, 154.

Middle verse, La 3:34.

In one of my oldest MSS., the twenty-first verse is repeated at

the conclusion of the twenty-second verse. In another, yet older,

there is only the first word of it, hashibenu, Convert us!

Having given in the preceding preface and notes what I judge

necessary to explain the principal difficulties in this very fine

and affecting poem, very fitly termed THE LAMENTATIONS, as it

justly stands at the head of every composition of the kind, I

shall add but a few words, and these shall be by way of

recapitulation chiefly.

The Hebrews were accustomed to make lamentations or mourning

songs upon the death of great men, princes, and heroes, who had

distinguished themselves in arms; and upon any occasion of public

miseries and calamities. Calmet thinks they had collections of

these sorts of Lamentations: and refers in proof to 2Ch 35:25:

"And Jeremiah lamented for Josiah; and all the singing men and the

singing women spake of Josiah in their lamentations, to this day;

and made them an ordinance in Israel: and, behold, they are

written in the Lamentations."

From this verse it is evident, that Jeremiah had composed a

funeral elegy on Josiah: but, from the complexion of this Book, it

is most evident that it was not composed on the death of Josiah,

but upon the desolations of Jerusalem, &c., as has already been

noted. His lamentation for Josiah is therefore lost. It appears

also, that on particular occasions, perhaps anniversaries, these

lamentations were sung by men and women singers, who performed

their several parts; for these were all alternate or responsive

songs. And it is very likely, that this book was sung in the same

way; the men commencing with aleph, the women responding

with beth and so on. Several of this sort of songs are still

extant. We have those which David composed on the death of his son

Absalom, and on the death of his friend Jonathan. And we have

those made by Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, on the desolation of

Egypt, Tyre, Sidon, and Babylon. See

Isa 14:4, 5; 15:1-9; 16:1-14; Jer 7:29; 9:10; 48:32;

Eze 19:1; 28:11; 32:2; Jer 9:17. Besides these, we have

fragments of others in different places; and references to some,

which are now finally lost.

In the two first chapters of this book, the prophet describes,

principally, the calamities of the siege of Jerusalem.

In the third, he deplores the persecutions which he himself had

suffered; though he may in this be personifying the city and

state; many of his own sufferings being illustrative of the

calamities that fell generally upon the city and people at large.

The fourth chapter is employed chiefly on the ruin and

desolation of the city and temple; and upon the misfortunes of

Zedekiah, of whom he speaks in a most respectful, tender, and

affecting manner:-

"The anointed of Jehovah, the breadth of our

nostrils, was taken in their toils,

Under whose shadow we said, We shall live

among the nations."

At the end he speaks of the cruelty of the Edomites, who had

insulted Jerusalem in her miseries, and contributed to its

demolition. These he threatens with the wrath of God.

The fifth chapter is a kind of form of prayer for the Jews, in

their dispersions and captivity. In the conclusion of it, he

speaks of their fallen royalty; attributes all their calamities to

their rebellion and wickedness; and acknowledges that there can be

no end to their misery, but in their restoration to the Divine


This last chapter was probably written some considerable time

after the rest: for it supposes the temple to be so deserted,

that the foxes walked undisturbed among its ruins, and that the

people were already in captivity.

The poem is a monument of the people's iniquity and rebellion;

of the displeasure and judgment of GOD against them; and of the

piety, eloquence, and incomparable ability of the poet.

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