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Lamentations 4:7-8

7. Her Nazarites were purer than snow, they were whiter than milk, they were more ruddy in body than rubies, their polishing was of sapphire:

7. Candidiores Nazaraei ejus nive, (vel, puriores,) candidiores laete, rubicundi fuerunt corpore suo (neque enim hoc potest accipi de ossibus) supra lapillos preciosos, sapphirus excisio ipsorum:

8. Their visage is blacker than a coal; they are not known in the streets: their skin cleaveth to their bones; it is withered, it is become like a stick.

8. Obtenebrata est prae caligine forma ipsorum, non agniti in plateis; adhaesit cutis eorum ossi ipsorum, (hoc est, ossibus;) exaruit, fuit tanquam lignum.

 

Here the Prophet speaks of Nazarites, by whom we know the worship of God was honored; for they, who were not content with the common observance of the Law, consecrated themselves to God, that by their example they might stimulate others. It was then a singular zeal in a few to consecrate themselves, so as to become Nazarites, or separated. What this custom was may be known from the sixth chapter of Numbers. For God, who has always repudiated all fictitious forms of worship, prescribed to the Nazarites what he approved in every particular. Hence Moses carefully men-honed all those things which were to be observed by the Nazarites.

As to the present passage, it is enough to say, that the Nazarites were peculiarly devoted to God’s service during the time of their separation, for it was only a temporary service.

Then the Prophet brings them forward, that it might hence be evident how sad was the change, which he never could have made the Jews to believe. He says that the Nazarites were purer than snow, and whiter that milk, and also ruddier than precious stones, so that they might be corn-pared to sapphire; for, by saying sapphire was their cutting, he means that they were like sapphires well polished. Now we know that the Nazarites abstained from wine and strong drink: hence abstinence might have lessened somewhat of their ruddiness. For he who is accustomed to drink wine, if he abstains for a time, is apt to grow pale; lie will then lose almost all his color, at least he will not be so ruddy; nor will there appear in his face and in his members so much rigor as when he took his ordinary support. Jeremiah, in short, teaches us flint the blessing of God was conspicuous in the Nazarites, for he wonderfully supported them while they were for a time abstinence.

Now, on the contrary, he says that the Nazarites were become withered, that their skin clave to their bones, that, in short, they were so deformed that they could not be known, not only in obscure corners, but even in the open street, hi the middle of the market-place. We hence learn that as the favor of God had before appeared as to the Nazarites, so now also his vengeance might be certainly known, because they had fallen off from their vigor, and were reduced to a degrading deformity. 214214     As to these two verses there is much disagreement in the early versions and the Targ.; that of the Sept. comes nearest to the original. They may be thus rendered, —
    

   7. Clearer were her Nazarites than snow,
They were whiter than milk;
Ruddier were they in body than rubies,
Sapphire was their polish (or smoothness:)

   8. Darker than the dusk became their appearance,
They were not known in the streets:
Cleave did their skin to their bones,
Dried up, it became like a stick.

   “Rubies,” rendered “pearls,” by Bochart; “load stones,” or magnets, by Parkhurst; “red corals,” by Gesenius. They were no doubt precious stones of reddish appearance. The “sapphire” is mentioned for its smoothness, as it appears from the contrast at the end of the eighth verse, where it is said that their skin had become like a dried “stick,” whose rind is shriveled. “Dusk” is rendered “soot” by the Sept., and “coals” by the Vulg. and the Syr. שחור is the dusk, or the dawn: but the river Nile is also thus called on account of its muddy and dusky waters. See Jeremiah 2:18. This being the case, may it not be so taken here.; The character of the passage favors this, “snow,” “milk,” etc. Then the line would be, —

   Darker than Sihor (or, the Nile) became their appearance.

    — Ed

The Prophet at the same time shews that worship according to the law had in a manner deteriorated on account of the vices of the people; and this is the design of the whole, as I reminded you at the beginning. For there is no doubt but that he wished to rouse the Jews, that they might at length raise up their eyes to God; for they had long grown torpid in their vices, and had been even inflated with diabolical pride; hence was their inveterate obstinacy. As long as the Temple stood, they thought that they satisfied God by the sacrifices they offered. When the Prophet now tells them that the stones of the Temple were thrown down, it hence follows that the Temple was profaned’ whence this profanation? from the wickedness of the people. The Chaldeans, indeed, thought that they brought a great reproach on God when they demolished the Temple; but, as long pollution had preceded, our Prophet now represents to the Jews their sins as in a mirror or a living form; for they had polluted the Temple before the Chaldeans. So also he shews that the worship according to the law was no longer pleasing to God, for they had mocked him with empty specters; for it was only a vain display when there was no integrity within. The Prophet then shews to them what, he could before by no means have persuaded them to believe, that God was in no way pleased with the external worship of the Jews, while they were audaciously violating the whole law. It afterwards follows, —


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