Jeremiah 4:31

31. For I have heard a voice as of a woman in travail, and the anguish as of her that bringeth forth her first child, the voice of the daughter of Zion, that bewaileth herself, that spreadeth her hands, saying, Woe is me now! for my soul is wearied because of murderers.

31. Certa vocem parturientis audivi, afflictionem (vel, anxietatem) quasi puerperae (vel, parientis primogenitum; nam proprie hoc significat nomen) vocem filiae Sion; lugebit (vel, conqueretur, vel, ingemiscet,) scindet (vel, extender, ut alii vertunt, vel, confliget) manus suas: Vae nunc mihi, quia defecit anima mea propter interfectos (alii active, propter interfectores.)


By these words Jeremiah confirms what the latter part of the preceding verse contains: nor was it for the sake of elucidating his subject that he enlarged on it; but when he saw his own nation so hard and almost like stones, he employed many words and set forth in various ways what he might have expressed in one sentence: and what he taught would have been often coldly received, had he not added exhortations and threatenings. It was on this account that he now expresses in other words what he had previously said, I have heard, he says, the voice as of one in labor. This hearing, no doubt, is to be taken consistently with the representation which had been made to him; for Jeremiah could not hear in a way different from others; but he speaks according to the discovery made to him of the approaching judgment of God, which was then unheeded by the people; and he had this discovery, that he might by such a representation as this make it known to them. He then says, that he had heard, as though he had witnessed already all that was to come. He then exaggerates the evil; for he puts distress, hru, tsere, instead of "voice," lwq, kul; and then he mentions, as an instance of greater pain, a woman bringing forth her first -- born, instead of a woman in labor. Then Jeremiah means, that final ruin was nigh that people who could not then be restored from their sinful courses; but he intimates, as also the Spirit speaks in other places, that their destruction would be sudden; while they would be saying, Peace and security, sudden destruction would come upon them. (1 Thessalonians 5:3.) And so the Prophet now declares, that the Jews in vain hardened themselves against God, as though their ruin was not approaching, for their sorrow would come suddenly. As a woman may be cheerful at meat or at her leisure, and may be suddenly seized with the pain of labor, so also the Prophet shews, that the Jews had no reason to think that they could escape God's vengeance by a false confidence, for their destruction would come upon them unexpectedly.

He sets forth at the same time, as already said, the greatness or the extremity of their grief by this similitude, The voice of the daughter of Sion, who complains, etc.; for the relative may be here added. Some take the verb to be in the second person, "Thou wilt lament and extend, "or rend, "thy hands;" but this is not suitable, because the third person is immediately used, "thy hands." Then what he says is, that the voice of the daughter of Sion would be an evidence of her extreme grief, for she would lament; and he adds, at the same time, the smiting of the hands. This verb is variously rendered; but as srp, peresh, means properly to rend or to divide, I think the Prophet expresses the posture of a woman in grief; for she usually smites her hands together and as it were divides them by putting the fingers between one another. Some render the word "expand, "for the hands are divided when raised up. As to what is meant, there is nothing ambiguous in the Prophet's words; for his object is to shew, that God's vengeance would be so dreadful, that the Jews would lament, not in an ordinary measure, but like women, when in the extreme pain of labor.

He then concludes by saying, Woe to me, for failed has my soul on account of murderers. Here the Prophet intimates, that all the rest were blind in the midst of light, yet God's judgment, which the ungodly and wicked laughed at, or at least disregarded, was seen clearly by him. His soul, he says, fainted for the slain; and yet no one had hitherto been slain: but by this mode of speaking, he shews, that he had as it were before his eyes what was hid from others, and hence their hearts were not affected.1 Now follows --

1 This latter part is differently taken by most. It is considered to be the confession of the daughter of Sion. The whole verse is remarkably striking,-

For the voice as of one in travail have I heard, The distress as of one giving birth to a first-born, The voice of the daughter of Sion; Who pants for breath, who spreads her hands,- "Wo now to me, For melted has my soul because of murderers."

It is a common thing in Hebrew to omit the relative "who, "before a verb in a future tense, especially when it means the present time. The scene is described as present. The passage might be expressed in Welsh without the relative. "Who pants for breath," is rendered by Horsley, "that draweth her breath short;" and he adds, "The passage is a most affecting picture of the last struggles of a woman expiring in labor."-Ed.