CHAPTER (ELEGY) 4
The Sad Capture of Jerusalem, the Hope of
Restoration, and the Retribution Awaiting Idumea for Joining Babylon
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
2. comparable to … gold—(Job 28:16,
earthen pitchers—(Isa 30:14;
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.
4. thirst—The mothers have no milk to
give through the famine.
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).
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
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.
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; 17:42). Type of Messiah (So 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.
8. blacker than … coal—or, "than
blackness" itself (Joe 2:6; Na 2:10).
like a stick—as withered as a dry
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
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.
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.
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.
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).
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
not touch … garments—as being
defiled with blood (Nu 19:16).
15. They … them—"They," that is,
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
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).
16. Ain and Pe are here
transposed (La 4:16, 17), as in La 2:16, 17; 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
4:16 is the continuation,
favor the former view.
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.
watched for a nation that could not save
us—Egypt (2Ki 24:7; Isa 30:7; Jer
18. They—the Chaldeans.
cannot go—without danger.
19. The last times just before the taking of
the city. There was no place of escape; the foe intercepted those
wishing to escape from the famine-stricken city, "on the mountains and
in the wilderness."
swifter … than …
eagles—the Chaldean cavalry (Jer 4:13).
pursued—literally, "to be hot"; then,
"to pursue hotly" (Ge 31:36).
Thus they pursued and overtook Zedekiah (Jer 52:8, 9).
20. breath … anointed of …
Lord—our king, with whose life ours was bound up. The
original reference seems to have been to Josiah (2Ch 35:25), killed in battle with Pharaoh-necho;
but the language is here applied to Zedekiah, who, though worthless,
was still lineal representative of David, and type of Messiah, the
"Anointed." Viewed personally the language is too favorable to
apply to him.
live among the heathen—Under him we
hoped to live securely, even in spite of the surrounding heathen
21. Rejoice—at our calamities (Ps 137:7). This is a prophecy that
Edom should exult over the fall of Jerusalem. At the same time it is
implied, Edom's joy shall be short-lived. Ironically she is
told, Rejoice while thou mayest (Ec 11:9).
cup—for this image of the confounding
effects of God's wrath, see Jer 13:12; 25:15, 16, 21; as to Edom, Jer 49:7-22.
22. (Isa 40:2). Thou hast been punished enough: the
end of thy punishment is at hand.
no more carry thee … into
captivity—that is, by the Chaldeans. The Romans carried them
away subsequently. The full accomplishment of this prophecy must
therefore refer to the Jews' final restoration.
discover—By the severity of His
punishments on thee, God shall let men see how great was thy sin (Jer 49:10). God "covers" sin when He
forgives it (Ps 32:1, 5). He "discovers," or "reveals," it, when
He punishes it (Job 20:27).
49:10 shows that
Margin is wrong, "carry captive" (this rendering is as in Na 2:7; compare "discovered,"