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Lamentations 3:34-36

34. To crush under his feet all the prisoners of the earth,

34. Ad conterendum sub pedibus suis omnes vinetos terrae,

35. To turn aside the right of a man before the face of the most High,

35. Ad pervertendum (ad declinandum) judisium viri coram conspectu excelsi,

36. To subvert a man in his cause, the Lord approveth not.

36. Ad pervertendumm hominem in lite sua, Dominus non videt (vel, non vidit)

 

Many interpreters think that these three verses are connected with the previous doctrine, and show the connection thus, — that God does not see, that is, does not know what it is to pervert the good cause of a man, and to oppress the innocent; and, doubtless, God is said not to know what iniquity is, because he abhors all evil; for what is the nature of God but the perfection of justice? It may then be truly said, that. God knows not what it is to turn man aside in judgment. Others take not to see, as meaning, not to approve.

If we subscribe to the opinion of those who say that injustice is contrary to the nature of God, there is here an exhortation to patience; as though the Prophet had said that afflictions ought to be borne with resignation, because the Jews had fully deserved them. For the liberty taken to complain arises from this, that men imagine that they are without fault; but he who is convicted dares not thus to rise up against God; for the chief thing in humility is the acknowledgment of sin. This, then, is one meaning. But they who give this explanation, that God does not approve of those who pervert judgment, think that there is here a ground of consolation, because God would at length succor the miserable who were unjustly oppressed. And doubtless it avails not a little to encourage patience when we are persuaded that God will be an avenger, so that he will at length help us, after having for a time suffered us to be severely treated.

But these expositions seem to me to be too remote; we may give a correcter explanation by supposing a concession to be made, as though the Prophet had said, “It is indeed true that the wicked take much license, for they imagine that God is blind to all evil deeds.” For this madness is often ascribed to the ungodly, that they think that they can sin with impunity, because God, as they suppose, cares not for the affairs of men. They then imagine that God is asleep, and in a manner dead, and hence they break out into all kinds of wickedness. And for this reason it was that David so vehemently rebuked them:

“He who has formed the ear, will he not hear? He who has created the heaven, will he not see?” (Psalm 94:9.)

This explanation also I cannot approve of, it being forced and not obvious.

I therefore think that the reference is to the impious words of those who complain that God is not moved by any compassion. For this thought almost lays hold on us wheel pressed down by adversities, — that God has forgotten us, that he is either asleep or lies down inactive. In short, there is nothing more difficult to be assured of than this truth, that God governs the world by his counsel, and that nothing happens without a design. This is indeed what almost all confess; but when a trial comes, this doctrine vanishes, and every one is carried away by some perverted and erroneous thoughts, even that all things roll round fortuitously through blind fate, that men are not the objects of God’s care. Nor is there a doubt but that in Jeremiah’s time words of this kind were flying about; and it appears evident from the context that those Jews were reproved who thought that their miseries were disregarded by God, and hence they clamored; for men are necessarily carried away into a furious state of mind, when they do not believe that they have to do with God. The Prophet, then, refers to such impious words, or if they dared not to express in language what they thought, he refers to what was believed almost by all, — that the wicked perverted the judgment of man, that they turned aside a man in his cause, that they tore under their feet all the bound of the earth; 190190     The order is here reverted. It is a common thing in Scripture to state first the chief thing, the chief good or evil. Here the greatest evil is mentioned first, the tearing under foot of such as were already bound, or imprisoned; then the sparing of the guilty; and thirdly, the withholding of justice to the righteous. To turn aside or divert judgment, is not to punish the guilty; and to wrong a person in his cause, is to deny his right. By “the bound,” or “prisoners of the earth,” or land, Blayney understands persons imprisoned for debt, who were obliged to work as slaves until they satisfied their creditors. See Matthew 18:30-34. Cruelty to such is referred to in Isaiah 58:3. — Ed. that is, that all those things were done by the connivance of God. The plain meaning, then, is, that judgment is perverted before the face of the Most High, — that the bound of the earth such as are helpless, are despised, trodden under foot by the wicked, — that a man in his cause is unjustly dealt with, and that all this is done because God does not see 191191     The Targ. and the versions differ as to the import of this clause. The verb to see, has been taken to mean three things, — to know, to approve, and to regard or to notice. The Vulgate takes the first, our version the second, and Calvin the third. The context seems to favor the last meaning especially the following verses.
   There is a difficulty as to the antecedent to the pronoun “his, before “feet.” It seems to refer to “man” in the last verse; for the words are, “the sons (or children) of man,” not of “men.” The verb ראה, when followed by ל, means to look on, at, or simply to see. Psalm 64:5. Then the literal rendering of the passage would be as follows, —

   On the tearing under his feet
Of all the bound of the land,
On the diverting of a man’s judgment,
In the presence of the most High,
On the wronging of a person in his cause
The Lord doth not look.

   Or if the “on” be dropped, the last line may be,

   The Lord doth not see.

   This is manifestly the saying of unbelieving men, or of those weak in faith, as proved by the next verse, when rightly rendered. — Ed.
We now, then, perceive what the Prophet means.

But whence came such madness? even because the Jews, as I have said, would not humble themselves under the mighty hand of God; for hypocrisy had so blinded them, that they proudly clamored against God, thinking that they were chastised with unjust severity,. As then, they thus flattered themselves in their sins, this expostulation arose which the Prophet mentions, that man’s judgment was perverted, that the innocent failed in a good cause, that the miserable were trodden under foot; and whence all this? because God did not see, or did not regard these things. Now follows the reproof of this delirious impiety, —


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