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Lamentations 2:19

19. Arise, cry out in the night: in the beginning of the watches pour out thine heart like water before the face of the Lord: lift up thy hands toward him for the life of thy young children, that faint for hunger in the top of every street.

19. Surge, Clama nocte principio excubiarum (custodiarum ad verbum, sed significat vigilias nocturnas;) effunde tanquam aquas cor tuum coram facie Domini; attolle ad ipsum manus tuas propter Animam parvulorum tuorum, qui deficiunt fame in capite omnium compitorum.

 

The Prophet now explains himself more clearly, and confirms what I have lately said, that he mentioned not the calamities of the people except for this end, that those who were almost stupid might begin to raise up their eyes to God, and also to examine their life, and willingly to condemn themselves, that thus they might escape from the wrath of God.

The Prophet then bids them to rise and to cry. Doubtless they had been by force constrained by their enemies to undertake a long journey: why then does he bid them to rise, who had become fugitives from their own country, and had been driven away like sheep? He regards, as I have said, the slothfulness of their minds, because they were still lying torpid in their sins. It was then necessary to rouse them from this insensibility; and this is what the Prophet had in view by saying, Rise 170170     The simpler meaning, as stated by Gataker, is, “Rise” from thy bed; for she is exhorted to cry in the night. — Ed. And then he bids them to cry at the beginning of the watches, even when sleep begins to creep on, and the time is quieter; for when men go to bed, then sleep comes on, and that is the main rest. But the Prophet bids here the Jews to cry, and in their uneasiness to utter their complaints at the very time when others take their rest. et he did not wish them heedlessly to pour forth into the air their wailings, but bade them to present their prayers to God. Then as to the circumstances of that time, he repeats what we have already seen, that so great was their mass of evils, that it allowed the people no relaxation; in short, he intimates that it was a continual sorrow.

But, as I have said, he would have the Jews not simply to cry, but after having exhorted them to pour out their hearts like waters, he adds, before the face of Jehovah. For the unbelieving make themselves almost hoarse by crying, but they are only like brute beasts; or if they call on God’s name, they do this, as it has been said, through a rash and indiscriminate impulse. Hence the Prophet here makes a difference between the elect of God and the reprobate, when he bids them to pour forth their hearts and their cries before God, so as to seek alleviation from him, which could not have been done, were they not convinced that he was the author of all their calamities; and hence, also, arises repentance, for there is a mutual relation between God’s judgment and men’s sins. Whosoever, then, acknowledges God as a judge, is at the same time compelled to examine himself and to inquire as to his own sins. We now understand the meaning of the Prophet’s words.

For the same purpose he adds, Raise up to him thy hands. This practice of itself is, indeed, not sufficient; but the Scripture often points out the real thing by external signs. Then the elevation of the hands, in this place and others, means the same thing as prayer; and it has been usual in all ages to raise up the hands to heaven, and the expression often occurs in the Psalms, (Psalm 28:2; Psalm 134:2;) and when Paul bids prayers to be made everywhere, he says,

“I would have men to raise up pure hands without contention.”
(1 Timothy 2:8.)

God has no doubt suggested this practice to men, that they may first go beyond the whole world when they seek him; and, secondly, that they may thus stimulate themselves to entertain confidence, and also to divest themselves of all earthly desires; for except this practice were to raise up our minds, (as we are by nature inclined to superstition,) every one would seek God either at his feet or by his side. Then God has planted in men this feeling, even to raise upwards their hands, in order that they may go, as I have said, beyond the whole world, and that having thus divested themselves of all vain superstition, they may ascend above the heavens. This custom, I allow, is indeed common among the unbelieving; and thus all excuse has been taken away from them. Though, then, the unbelieving have been imbued with gross and delirious fantasies, so as to connect God with statues and pictures, yet this habit of raising up the hands to heaven ought to have been sufficient to confute all their erroneous notions. But it would not be enough to seek God beyond this world, so that no superstition should possess our minds, except our minds were also freed from all worldly desires. For we are held entangled in our lusts, and then we seek what pleases the flesh, and thus, for the most part, men strive, to subject God to themselves. Then the elevation of the hands does also shew that we are to deny ourselves, and to go forth, as it were, out of ourselves whenever we call on God. These are briefly the things which may be said of the use of this ceremony or practice.

But we must remember what I have referred to, that the Prophet designates the thing itself by an outward sign, when he bids them to raise up the hands to God. He afterwards shews the necessity of this, because of the soul of thy little ones, who faint in famine; 171171     Rather, “who fainted through famine;” for he refers to what had taken place. — Ed. but the ב, beth, is redundant here, — who, then, through famine faint or fail, and that openly. For it might have happened that those who had no food pined away at home, and thus fainted because no one gave them aid, because their want was not known. But when infants in public places breathed out their souls through famine, hence was evident that extreme state of despair, which the Prophet intended here to set forth by mentioning at the head of all the streets. It follows, —


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