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Lamentations 3:29

29. He putteth his mouth in the dust; if so be there may be hope.

29. Ponet in pulvere os suum, si forte sit spes.

 

He continues the same subject; for he describes to us men so subdued to obedience that they are ready to bear whatever God may lay on them. He then says that the sitting and the silence of which he spoke, so far prevailed, that the children of God, though in extreme evils, did not yet cease to persevere in their obedience. For it sometimes happens that those who have made some progress in the fear of God, give proof of their obedience and patience in some small trial; but when they are greatly tried, then breaks forth the impatience which they had previously checked. Then the Prophet teaches us here, that the children of God do not sufficiently prove their patience, when they bear with a calm mind a moderate correction, except they proceed to a higher degree of perseverance, so as to remain quiet and resigned even when the state of things appears hopeless.

By saying that the faithful put their mouth in the dust, he means that they lie down humbly before God and confess themselves to be as dead. The import of what is said is this: In time of extreme affliction the wise will put his mouth in the dust, while seeing things in such confusion that all his thoughts vanish away on account of the atrocity of evils; and thus he intimates that the wise would have nothing to say. To put the mouth, then, in the dust is to become mute, as though he had said, that the faithful shut their mouth, when they do not murmur against God nor abandon themselves to complaints, when they do not expostulate that injury is done them, nor allege what the unbelieving usually do when God deals severely with them. In short, to put the mouth in the dust, means to bring no complaints, and so to check ourselves that no clamorous words proceed from our mouth. Thus another phrase is used to set forth the silence mentioned before.

And that the Prophet here speaks of extreme trials, may be easily gathered from the next clause, If so be that there is hope; not that the faithful doubt whether God would give them hope, for they have no doubt but that God, who shines in darkness itself by his word, would at length by, the effect prove that he is not unfaithful. But the particle אולי auli, as it is well known, expresses what is difficult; for when anything appears to be incredible, the Hebrews say, If it may be. But here, as I have said, it does not intimate a doubt; for when the mind of a godly man fluctuates or doubts, how is it that he puts his mouth in the dust? but the Prophet shews that those who are taught to obey God, persevere even in extreme trials, so that while nothing but despair appears, they yet lie down humbly before God, and patiently wait until some hope shines forth. And here hope is to be taken for the ground or occasion of hope. 187187     To lay the mouth in the dust, is a token of entire submission. Agreeably with this, the following words may be considered as spoken by the individual, —
   He will lay in the dust his mouth (and say) —
“It may be there is hope.”

   It is better to render the verbs here as they are, in the future tense, as all the versions do; for he describes what is usually the character of the godly under severe trials. — Ed.
It afterwards follows, —


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