Chapter 3

La 3:1-66

Jeremiah proposes his own experience under afflictions, as an example as to how the Jews should behave under theirs, so as to have hope of a restoration; hence the change from singular to plural (La 3:22, 40-47). The stanzas consist of three lines, each of which begins with the same Hebrew letter.

Notes for Verses 1-3

Aleph.

Verses 1-3. seen affliction -- his own in the dungeon of Malchiah (Jer 38:6); that of his countrymen also in the siege. Both were types of that of Christ.

Notes for Verse 2

Verse 2. darkness -- calamity.

light -- prosperity.

Notes for Verse 3

Verse 3. turneth . . . hand -- to inflict again and again new strokes. "His hand," which once used to protect me. "Turned . . . turneth" implies repeated inflictions.

Notes for Verses 4-6

Beth.

Verses 4-6. (Job 16:8).

Notes for Verse 5

Verse 5. builded -- mounds, as against a besieged city, so as to allow none to escape (so La 3:7, 9).

Notes for Verse 6

Verse 6. set me -- HENDERSON refers this to the custom of placing the dead in a sitting posture.

dark places -- sepulchers. As those "dead long since"; so Jeremiah and his people are consigned to oblivion (Ps 88:5, 6 Ps 143:3 Eze 37:13).

Notes for Verses 7-9

Gimel.

Verses 7-9. hedged -- (Job 3:23 Ho 2:6).

chain -- literally, "chain of brass."

Notes for Verse 8

Verse 8. shutteth out -- image from a door shutting out any entrance (Job 30:20). So the antitype. Christ (Ps 22:2).

Notes for Verse 9

Verse 9. hewn stone -- which coheres so closely as not to admit of being broken through.

paths crooked -- thwarted our plans and efforts so that none went right.

Notes for Verses 10-13

Daleth.

Verses 10-13. (Job 10:16 Ho 13:7, 8).

Notes for Verse 11

Verse 11. turned aside -- made me wander out of the right way, so as to become a prey to wild beasts.

pulled in pieces -- (Ho 6:1), as a "bear" or a "lion" (La 3:10).

Notes for Verse 12

Verse 12. (Job 7:20).

Notes for Verses 13-15

He.

Verses 13-15. arrows -- literally, "sons" of His quiver (compare Job 6:4).

Notes for Verse 14

Verse 14. (Jer 20:7).

their song -- (Ps 69:12). Jeremiah herein was a type of Messiah. "All my people" (John 1:11).

Notes for Verse 15

Verse 15. wormwood -- (Jer 9:15). There it is regarded as food, namely, the leaves: here as drink, namely, the juice.

Notes for Verses 16-18

Vau.

Verses 16-18. gravel -- referring to the grit that often mixes with bread baked in ashes, as is the custom of baking in the East (Pr 20:17). We fare as hardly as those who eat such bread. The same allusion is in "Covered me with ashes," namely, as bread.

Notes for Verse 17

Verse 17. Not only present, but all hope of future prosperity is removed; so much so, that I am as one who never was prosperous ("I forgat prosperity").

Notes for Verse 18

Verse 18. from the Lord -- that is, my hope derived from Him (Ps 31:22).

Notes for Verses 19-21

Zain.

Verses 19-21. This gives the reason why he gave way to the temptation to despair. The Margin, "Remember" does not suit the sense so well.

wormwood . . . gall -- (Jer 9:15).

Notes for Verse 20

Verse 20. As often as my soul calls them to remembrance, it is humbled or bowed down in me.

Notes for Verse 21

Verse 21. This -- namely, what follows; the view of the divine character (La 3:22, 23). CALVIN makes "this" refer to Jeremiah's infirmity. His very weakness (La 3:19, 20) gives him hope of God interposing His strength for him (compare Ps 25:11, 17 Ps 42:5, 8 2Co 12:9, 10).

Notes for Verses 22-24

Cheth.

Verses 22-24. (Mal 3:6).

Notes for Verse 23

Verse 23. (Isa 33:2).

Notes for Verse 24

Verse 24. (Nu 18:20 Ps 16:5 Ps 73:26 Ps 119:57 Jer 10:16). To have God for our portion is the one only foundation of hope.

Notes for Verses 25-27

Teth.

Verses 25-27. The repetition of "good" at the beginning of each of the three verses heightens the effect.

wait -- (Isa 30:18).

Notes for Verse 26

Verse 26. quietly wait -- literally, "be in silence." Compare La 3:28 and Ps 39:2, 9, that is, to be patiently quiet under afflictions, resting in the will of God (Ps 37:7). So Aaron (Lev. 10:2, 3); and Job (Job 40:4, 5).

Notes for Verse 27

Verse 27. yoke -- of the Lord's disciplinary teaching (Ps 90:12 Ps 119:71). CALVIN interprets it, The Lord's doctrine (Mt 11:29, 30), which is to be received in a docile spirit. The earlier the better; for the old are full of prejudices (Pr 8:17 Ec 12:1). Jeremiah himself received the yoke, both of doctrine and chastisement in his youth (Jer 1:6, 7).

Notes for Verses 28-30

Jod.

Verses 28-30. The fruit of true docility and patience. He does not fight against the yoke (Jer 31:18 Ac 9:5), but accommodates himself to it.

alone -- The heathen applauded magnanimity, but they looked to display and the praise of men. The child of God, in the absence of any witness, "alone," silently submits to the will of God.

borne it upon him -- that is, because he is used to bearing it on him. Rather, "because He (the Lord, La 3:26) hath laid it on him" [VATABLUS].

Notes for Verse 29

Verse 29. (Job 42:6). The mouth in the dust is the attitude of suppliant and humble submission to God's dealings as righteous and loving in design (compare Ezr 9:6 1Co 14:25).

if so be there may be hope -- This does not express doubt as to whether GOD be willing to receive the penitent, but the penitent's doubt as to himself; he whispers to himself this consolation, "Perhaps there may be hope for me."

Notes for Verse 30

Verse 30. Messiah, the Antitype, fulfilled this; His practice agreeing with His precept (Isa 50:6 Mt 5:39). Many take patiently afflictions from God, but when man wrongs them, they take it impatiently. The godly bear resignedly the latter, like the former, as sent by God (Ps 17:13).

Notes for Verses 31-33

Caph.

Verses 31-33. True repentance is never without hope (Ps 94:14).

Notes for Verse 32

Verse 32. The punishments of the godly are but for a time.

Notes for Verse 33

Verse 33. He does not afflict any willingly (literally, "from His heart," that is, as if He had any pleasure in it, Eze 33:11), much less the godly (Heb 12:10).

Notes for Verses 34-36

Lamed.

Verses 34-36. This triplet has an infinitive in the beginning of each verse, the governing finite verb being in the end of La 3:36, "the Lord approveth not," which is to be repeated in each verse. Jeremiah here anticipates and answers the objections which the Jews might start, that it was by His connivance they were "crushed under the feet" of those who "turned aside the right of a man." God approves (literally, "seeth," Hab 1:13; so "behold," "look on," that is, look on with approval) not of such unrighteous acts; and so the Jews may look for deliverance and the punishment of their foes.

Notes for Verse 35

Verse 35. before . . . face of . . . most High -- Any "turning aside" of justice in court is done before the face of God, who Is present, and "regardeth," though unseen (Ec 5:8).

Notes for Verse 36

Verse 36. subvert -- to wrong.

Notes for Verses 37-39

Mem.

Verses 37-39. Who is it that can (as God, Ps 33:9) effect by a word anything, without the will of God?

Notes for Verse 38

Verse 38. evil . . . good -- Calamity and prosperity alike proceed from God (Job 2:10 Isa 45:7 Am 3:6).

Notes for Verse 39

Verse 39. living -- and so having a time yet given him by God for repentance. If sin were punished as it deserves, life itself would be forfeited by the sinner. "Complaining" (murmuring) ill becomes him who enjoys such a favor as life (Pr 19:3).

for the punishment of his sins -- Instead of blaming God for his sufferings, he ought to recognize in them God's righteousness and the just rewards of his own sin.

Notes for Verses 40-42

Nun.

Verses 40-42. us -- Jeremiah and his fellow countrymen in their calamity.

search -- as opposed to the torpor wherewith men rest only on their outward sufferings, without attending to the cause of them (Ps 139:23, 24).

Notes for Verse 41

Verse 41. heart with . . . hands -- the antidote to hypocrisy (Ps 86:4 1Ti 2:8).

Notes for Verse 42

Verse 42. not pardoned -- The Babylonian captivity had not yet ended.

Notes for Verses 43-45

Samech.

Verses 43-45. covered -- namely, thyself (so La 3:44), so as not to see and pity our calamities, for even the most cruel in seeing a sad spectacle are moved to pity. Compare as to God "hiding His face," Ps 10:11 Ps 22:25.

Notes for Verse 44

Verse 44. (La 3:8). The "cloud" is our sins, and God's wrath because of them (Isa 44:22 Isa 59:2).

Notes for Verse 45

Verse 45. So the apostles were treated; but, instead of murmuring, they rejoiced at it (1Co 4:13).

Notes for Verses 46-48

Pe.

Verses 46-48. Pe is put before Ain (La 3:43, 46), as in La 2:16, 17 La 4:16, 17. (La 2:16.)

Notes for Verse 47

Verse 47. Like animals fleeing in fear, we fall into the snare laid for us.

Notes for Verse 48

Verse 48. (Jer 4:19).

Notes for Verses 49-51

Ain.

Verses 49-51. without . . . intermission -- or else, "because there is no intermission" [PISCATOR], namely, Of my miseries.

Notes for Verse 50

Verse 50. Till -- His prayer is not without hope, wherein it differs from the blind grief of unbelievers.

look down, &c. -- (Isa 63:15).

Notes for Verse 51

Verse 51. eye affecteth mine heart -- that is, causeth me grief with continual tears; or, "affecteth my life" (literally, "soul," Margin), that is, my health [GROTIUS].

daughters of . . . city -- the towns around, dependencies of Jerusalem, taken by the foe.

Notes for Verses 52-54

Tzaddi.

Verses 52-54. a bird -- which is destitute of counsel and strength. The allusion seems to be to Pr 1:17 [CALVIN].

without cause -- (Ps 69:4 Ps 109:3, 4). Type of Messiah (John 15:25).

Notes for Verse 53

Verse 53. in . . . dungeon -- (Jer 37:16).

stone -- usually put at the mouth of a dungeon to secure the prisoners (Jos 10:18 Da 6:17 Mt 27:60).

Notes for Verse 54

Verse 54. Waters -- not literally, for there was "no water" (Jer 38:6) in the place of Jeremiah's confinement, but emblematical of overwhelming calamities (Ps 69:2 Ps 124:4, 5).

cut off -- (Isa 38:10, 11). I am abandoned by God. He speaks according to carnal sense.

Notes for Verses 55-57

Koph.

Verses 55-57. I called out of dungeon -- Thus the spirit resists the flesh, and faith spurns the temptation [CALVIN], (Ps 130:1 Jon 2:2).

Notes for Verse 56

Verse 56. Thou hast heard -- namely formerly (so in La 3:57, 58).

breathing . . . cry -- two kinds of prayer; the sigh of a prayer silently breathed forth, and the loud, earnest cry (compare "prayer," "secret speech," Isa 26:16, Margin; with "cry aloud," Ps 55:17).

Notes for Verse 57

Verse 57. Thou drewest near -- with Thy help (Jas 4:8).

Notes for Verses 58-60

Resh.

Verses 58-60. Jeremiah cites God's gracious answers to his prayers as an encouragement to his fellow countrymen, to trust in Him.

pleaded -- (Ps 35:1 Mic 7:9).

Notes for Verse 59

Verse 59. God's past deliverances and His knowledge of Judah's wrongs are made the grounds of prayer for relief.

Notes for Verse 60

Verse 60. imaginations -- devices (Jer 11:19).

Their vengeance -- means their malice. Jeremiah gives his conduct, when plotted against by his foes, as an example how the Jews should bring their wrongs at the hands of the Chaldeans before God.

Notes for Verses 61-63

Schin.

Verses 61-63. their reproach -- their reproachful language against me.

Notes for Verse 62

Verse 62. lips -- speeches.

Notes for Verse 63

Verse 63. sitting down . . . rising up -- whether they sit or rise, that is, whether they be actively engaged or sedentary, and at rest "all the day" (La 3:62), I am the subject of their derisive songs (La 3:14).

Notes for Verses 64-66

Tau.

Verses 64-66. (Jer 11:20 2Ti 4:14).

Notes for Verse 65

Verse 65. sorrow -- rather, blindness or hardness; literally, "a veil" covering their heart, so that they may rush on to their own ruin (Isa 6:10 2Co 3:14, 15).

Notes for Verse 66

Verse 66. from under . . . heavens of . . . Lord -- destroy them so that it may be seen everywhere under heaven that thou sittest above as Judge of the world.

Chapter 4

Chapter 4

La 4:1-22. THE SAD CAPTURE OF JERUSALEM, THE HOPE OF RESTORATION, AND THE RETRIBUTION AWAITING IDUMEA FOR JOINING BABYLON AGAINST JUDEA

Notes for Verse 1

Aleph.Verse 1. gold -- the splendid adornment of the temple [CALVIN] (La 1:10 1Ki 6:22 Jer 52:19); or, the principal men of Judea [GROTIUS] (La 4:2).

stones of . . . sanctuary -- the gems on the breastplate of the high priest; or, metaphorically, the priests and Levites.

Notes for Verse 2

Beth.

Verse 2. comparable to . . . gold -- (Job 28:16, 19).

earthen pitchers -- (Isa 30:14 Jer 19:11).

Notes for Verse 3

Gimel.

Verse 3. sea monsters . . . breast -- Whales and other cetaceous monsters are mammalian. Even they suckle their young; but the Jewish women in the siege, so desperate was their misery, ate theirs (La 4:10 La 2:20). Others translate, "jackals."

ostriches -- see on Job 39:14; Job 39:16, on their forsaking their young.

Notes for Verse 4

Daleth.

Verse 4. thirst -- The mothers have no milk to give through the famine.

Notes for Verse 5

He.

Verse 5. delicately -- on dainties.

are desolate -- or, "perish."

in scarlet embrace dunghills -- Instead of the scarlet couches on which the grandees were nursed, they must lie on dunghills.

embrace -- They who once shrank sensitively from any soil, gladly cling close to heaps of filth as their only resting-place. Compare "embrace the rock" (Job 24:8).

Notes for Verse 6

Vau.

Verse 6. greater than . . . Sodom -- (Mt 11:23). No prophets had been sent to Sodom, as there had been to Judea; therefore the punishment of the latter was heavier than that of the former.

overthrown . . . in a moment -- whereas the Jews had to endure the protracted and manifold hardships of a siege.

no hands stayed on her -- No hostile force, as the Chaldeans in the case of Jerusalem, continually pressed on her before her overthrow. Jeremiah thus shows the greater severity of Jerusalem's punishment than that of Sodom.

Notes for Verse 7

Zain.

Verse 7. Nazarites -- literally, "separated ones" (Nu 6:2). They were held once in the highest estimation, but now they are degraded. God's blessing formerly caused their body not to be the less fair and ruddy for their abstinence from strong drink. Compare the similar case of Daniel, &c. (Da 1:8-15). Also David (1Sa 16:12 1Sa 17:42). Type of Messiah (Song 5:10).

rubies -- GESENIUS translates, "corals," from a Hebrew root, "to divide into branches," from the branching form of corals.

polishing -- They were like exquisitely cut and polished sapphires. The "sapphires" may represent the blue veins of a healthy person.

Notes for Verse 8

Cheth.

Verse 8. blacker than . . . coal -- or, "than blackness" itself (Joe 2:6 Na 2:10).

like a stick -- as withered as a dry stick.

Notes for Verse 9

Teth.

Verse 9. The speedy death by the sword is better than the lingering death by famine.

pine away -- literally, "flow out"; referring to the flow of blood. This expression, and "stricken through," are drawn from death by "the sword."

want of . . . fruits -- The words in italics have to be supplied in the original (Ge 18:28 Ps 109:24).

Notes for Verse 10

Jod.

Verse 10. (La 2:20 De 28:56, 57).

pitiful -- naturally at other times compassionate (Isa 49:15). JOSEPHUS describes the unnatural act as it took place in the siege under Titus.

sodden -- boiled.

Notes for Verse 11

Caph.

Verse 11. fire . . . devoured . . . foundations -- (De 32:22 Jer 21:14). A most rare event. Fire usually consumes only the surface; but this reached even to the foundation, cutting off all hope of restoration.

Notes for Verse 12

Lamed.

Verse 12. Jerusalem was so fortified that all thought it impregnable. It therefore could only have been the hand of God, not the force of man, which overthrew it.

Notes for Verse 13

Mem.

Verse 13. prophets -- the false prophets (Jer 23:11, 21). Supply the sense thus: "For the sins . . . these calamities have befallen her."

shed the blood of the just -- (Mt 23:31, 37). This received its full fulfilment in the slaying of Messiah and the Jews' consequent dispersion (Jas 5:6).

Notes for Verse 14

Nun.

Verse 14. blind -- with mental aberration.

polluted . . . with blood -- both with blood of one another mutually shed (for example, Jer 2:34), and with their blood shed by the enemy [GLASSIUS].

not touch . . . garments -- as being defiled with blood (Nu 19:16).

Notes for Verse 15

Samech.

Verse 15. They . . . them -- "They," that is, "men" (La 4:14). Even the very Gentiles, regarded as unclean by the Jews, who were ordered most religiously to avoid all defilements, cried unto the latter, "depart," as being unclean: so universal was the defilement of the city by blood.

wandered -- As the false prophets and their followers had "wandered" blind with infatuated and idolatrous crime in the city (La 4:14), so they must now "wander" among the heathen in blind consternation with calamity.

they said -- that is, the Gentiles said: it was said among the heathen, "The Jews shall no more sojourn in their own land" [GROTIUS]; or, wheresoever they go in their wandering exile, "they shall not stay long" [LUDOVICUS DE DIEU], (De 28:65).

Notes for Verse 16

Pe.

Verse 16. Ain and Pe are here transposed (La 4:16, 17), as in La 2:16, 17 La 3:46-51.

anger -- literally, "face"; it is the countenance which, by its expression, manifests anger (Ps 34:16). GESENIUS translates, "the person of Jehovah"; Jehovah present; Jehovah Himself (Ex 33:14 2Sa 17:11).

divided -- dispersed the Jews.

they respected not . . . priests -- This is the language of the Gentiles. "The Jews have no hope of a return: for they respected not even good priests" (2Ch 24:19-22) [GROTIUS]. MAURER explains it, "They (the victorious foe) regard not the (Jewish) priests when imploring their pity" (La 5:12). The evident antithesis to "As for us" (La 4:17) and the language of "the heathen" at the close of La 4:15, of which La 4:16 is the continuation, favor the former view.

Notes for Verse 17

Ain.

Verse 17. As for us -- This translation forms the best antithesis to the language of the heathen (La 4:15, 16). CALVIN translates, "While as yet we stood as a state, our eyes failed," &c.