World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
A Plea for Mercy
Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us;
look, and see our disgrace!
Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers,
our homes to aliens.
We have become orphans, fatherless;
our mothers are like widows.
We must pay for the water we drink;
the wood we get must be bought.
With a yoke on our necks we are hard driven;
we are weary, we are given no rest.
We have made a pact with Egypt and Assyria,
to get enough bread.
Our ancestors sinned; they are no more,
and we bear their iniquities.
Slaves rule over us;
there is no one to deliver us from their hand.
We get our bread at the peril of our lives,
because of the sword in the wilderness.
Our skin is black as an oven
from the scorching heat of famine.
Women are raped in Zion,
virgins in the towns of Judah.
Princes are hung up by their hands;
no respect is shown to the elders.
Young men are compelled to grind,
and boys stagger under loads of wood.
The old men have left the city gate,
the young men their music.
The joy of our hearts has ceased;
our dancing has been turned to mourning.
The crown has fallen from our head;
woe to us, for we have sinned!
Because of this our hearts are sick,
because of these things our eyes have grown dim:
because of Mount Zion, which lies desolate;
jackals prowl over it.
But you, O Lord, reign forever;
your throne endures to all generations.
Why have you forgotten us completely?
Why have you forsaken us these many days?
Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored;
renew our days as of old—
unless you have utterly rejected us,
and are angry with us beyond measure.
La 5:1-22. Epiphonema, or a Closing Recapitulation of the Calamities Treated in the Previous Elegies.
2. Our inheritance—"Thine inheritance" (Ps 79:1). The land given of old to us by Thy gift.
3. fatherless—Our whole land is full of orphans [Calvin]. Or, "we are fatherless," being abandoned by Thee our "Father" (Jer 3:19), [Grotius].
4. water for money—The Jews were compelled to pay the enemy for the water of their own cisterns after the overthrow of Jerusalem; or rather, it refers to their sojourn in Babylon; they had to pay tax for access to the rivers and fountains. Thus, "our" means the water which we need, the commonest necessary of life.
our wood—In Judea each one could get wood without pay; in Babylon, "our wood," the wood we need, must be paid for.
5. Literally, "On our necks we are persecuted"; that is, Men tread on our necks (Ps 66:12; Isa 51:23; compare Jos 10:24). The extremest oppression. The foe not merely galled the Jews face, back, and sides, but their neck. A just retribution, as they had been stiff in neck against the yoke of God (2Ch 30:8, Margin; Ne 9:29; Isa 48:4).
6. given … hand to—in token of submission (see on Jer 50:15).
Assyrians—that is, the Chaldeans who occupied the empire which Assyria had held. So Jer 2:18.
to be satisfied with bread—(De 28:48).
7. (Jer 31:29).
borne their iniquities—that is, the punishment of them. The accumulated sins of our fathers from age to age, as well as our own, are visited on us. They say this as a plea why God should pity them (compare Eze 18:2, &c.).
8. Servants … ruled … us—Servants under the Chaldean governors ruled the Jews (Ne 5:15). Israel, once a "kingdom of priests" (Ex 19:6), is become like Canaan, "a servant of servants," according to the curse (Ge 9:25). The Chaldeans were designed to be "servants" of Shem, being descended from Ham (Ge 9:26). Now through the Jews' sin, their positions are reversed.
9. We gat our bread with … peril—that is, those of us left in the city after its capture by the Chaldeans.
because of … sword of … wilderness—because of the liability to attack by the robber Arabs of the wilderness, through which the Jews had to pass to get "bread" from Egypt (compare La 5:6).
10. As an oven is scorched with too much fire, so our skin with the hot blast of famine (Margin, rightly, "storms," like the hot simoom). Hunger dries up the pores so that the skin becomes like as if it were scorched by the sun (Job 30:30; Ps 119:83).
11. So in just retribution Babylon itself should fare in the end. Jerusalem shall for the last time suffer these woes before her final restoration (Zec 14:2).
12. hanged … by their hand—a piece of wanton cruelty invented by the Chaldeans. Grotius translates, "Princes were hung by the hand of the enemy"; hanging was a usual mode of execution (Ge 40:19).
elders—officials (La 4:16).
children fell under … wood—Mere children had to bear burdens of wood so heavy that they sank beneath them.
18. foxes—They frequent desolate places where they can freely and fearlessly roam.
19. (Ps 102:12). The perpetuity of God's rule over human affairs, however He may seem to let His people be oppressed for a time, is their ground of hope of restoration.
20. for ever—that is, for "so long a time."
21. (Ps 80:3; Jer 31:18). "Restore us to favor with Thee, and so we shall be restored to our old position" [Grotius]. Jeremiah is not speaking of spiritual conversion, but of that outward turning whereby God receives men into His fatherly favor, manifested in bestowing prosperity [Calvin]. Still, as Israel is a type of the Church, temporal goods typify spiritual blessings; and so the sinner may use this prayer for God to convert him.
22. Rather, "Unless haply Thou hast utterly rejected us, and art beyond measure wroth against us," that is, Unless Thou art implacable, which is impossible, hear our prayer [Calvin]. Or, as Margin, "For wouldest Thou utterly reject us?" &c.—No; that cannot be. The Jews, in this book, and in Isaiah and Malachi, to avoid the ill-omen of a mournful closing sentence, repeat the verse immediately preceding the last [Calvin].