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Bible Commentaries

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Lamentations 3

This elegy Lamentations 3:0 is both the most elaborate in form and the most sublime in its ideas of the five poems which compose the Book of Lamentations. It presents the image of the deepest suffering, passing on to the confession of sin, the acknowledgment of God’s justice, and the prayer of faith for forgiveness. It is the ideal representation of that godly sorrow which worketh repentance unto salvation not to be repented of 2 Corinthians 12:10.

Verse 1

That hath seen affliction - i. e. hath experienced, suffered it.

Verse 3

Is he turned; he turneth - Or, “surely against me” hath he turned “his hand” again and again “all the day long.”

Verse 4

Made old - Or, wasted: his strength slowly wasted as he pined away in sorrow.

He hath broken my bones - This clause completes the representation of the sufferer’s physical agonies. Here the idea is that of acute pain.

Verse 5

He hath builded ... - The metaphor is taken from the operations in a siege.

Gall and travail - Or “travail;” i. e. bitterness and weariness (through toil).

Verse 6

Or, “He hath” made me to dwell “in darkness,” i. e. in Sheol or Hades, “as those” forever “dead.”

Verse 7

The prophet feels as if enclosed within walls, and fettered.

Verse 8

Shout - i. e. call for help.

Shutteth out - Or, “shutteth in.” God has so closed up the avenues to the place in which he is immured, that his voice can find no egress.

Verse 9

Inclosed - Or, hedged Lamentations 3:7.

Hath, made crooked - Or, “hath” turned aside. A solid wall being built across the main road, Jeremiah turns aside into by-ways, but finds them turned aside, so that they lead him back after long wandering to the place from where he started.

Verses 10-18

The prophet reaches the verge of despair. But by struggling against it he reaches at length firm ground.

Verse 19

Remembering - Or, as in the margin. It is a prayer to Yahweh.

My misery - Or, “my” homelessness (Lamentations 1:7 note).

Verse 21

This I recall - Rather, “This will I bring back to my heart, therefore will I hope.” Knowing that God hears the prayer of the contrite, he begins again to hope.

Verse 22

Verses 22-42 are the center of the present poem, as it also holds the central place in the whole series of the Lamentations. In them the riches of God’s grace and mercy are set forth in the brightest colors, but no sooner are they ended than the prophet resumes the language of woe.

That we - He is speaking as the representative of all sufferers.

Verse 24

The Lord is my portion - “My portion is Yahweh,” see Numbers 18:20; Psalms 16:5 ff.

Therefore will I hope in him - A more full expression of the confidence present in the prophet’s mind in Lamentations 3:21, but based now upon God’s faithfulness in showing mercy.

Verses 25-27

The yoke - Or, a “yoke.” By bearing a yoke in his youth, i. e. being called upon to suffer in early age, a man learns betimes the lesson of silent endurance, and so finds it more easy to be calm and patient in later years.

Verses 28-30


Let him sit alone and keep silence;

For He (God) hath laid the yoke upon him.

Let him place his mouth in the dust;

Perchance there is hope.

Let him offer his cheek to him that smiteth him;

Let him be filled to the full with reproach.

It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth, but only if he bear it rightly. To attain this result, let him learn resignation, remembering who has laid the yoke upon him. This reverential silence is described Lamentations 3:29, as putting the mouth in the dust, and so lying prostrate before the Deity; while Lamentations 3:30 the harder task is imposed of bearing contumely with meekness (margin reference), and not shrinking from the last dregs of the cup of reproach. Many who submit readily to God are indignant when the suffering comes through men.

Verses 31-33

Reasons for the resignation urged in the previous triplet.

Verses 34-36

Neither does God approve of wanton cruelty inflicted by one man on another. Three examples are given: the treatment of prisoners of war; the procuring an unjust sentence before a legal tribunal acting in the name of God (see Exodus 21:6); and the perversion of justice generally.

Verses 37-39

So long as God spares a man’s life, why does he complain? The chastisement is really for his good; only let him use it aright, and he will be thankful for it in the end.

A man for the punishment of his sins - Translate: Let “each man sigh for,” i. e. because of, “his sins.” Instead of complaining because God sends him sorrow, let him rather mourn over the sins which have made punishment necessary. The sense of the King James Version is, Why does a man ... complain “for his sins?” i. e. for the necessary results of them in chastisement.

Verses 40-42

Literally, “Let us lift up our heart unto our hands unto God in heaven;” as if the heart first lifted up the hands, and then with them mounted up in prayer to God. In real prayer the outward expression is caused by the emotion stirring within.

Verse 43

In verses 43-66, far from pardoning, God is still actively punishing His people.

Rather, “Thou hast covered” Thyself “with wrath and pursued (Lamentations 1:3 note) us.” The covering (here and in Lamentations 3:44) is that of clothing and enwrapping.

Verse 45

Omit “as.”

Verse 47

Desolation - Or, devastation.

Verses 48-51

Or, “Mine eye” causeth pain to my soul, i. e. maketh my soul ache, because of the sad fate of the maidens (Lamentations 1:4, Lamentations 1:18, ...).

Verse 52

Or, “They who without cause are mine enemies have hunted me sore like a bird.” Probably the prophet is speaking of his personal sorrows.

Verse 53

They have cut off my life in the dungeon - Or, “They destroyed my life in the pit,” i. e. tried to destroy it by casting me into the cistern, and covering the month with a stone. See the margin reference.

Verse 54

Waters flowed over mine head - A figurative expression for great mental trouble.

Verses 55-66

Persecute ... - Or, pursue them in anger and destroy them, etc.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Lamentations 3". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.