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A.M. 3416. B.C. 588.
In the Syriac, Vulgate, and Arabic versions, this chapter is entitled, The prayer of Jeremiah. But no such title appears in the Hebrew copies, or in the LXX. It is rather a memorial, representing, in the name of the whole body of Jewish exiles, the many and grievous hardships they groaned under, and humbly entreating God to commiserate their wretchedness, and to restore them once more to his favour, and to their ancient prosperity. More particularly, it contains,
(1,) A remonstrance of the present calamitous state of God’s people in their captivity, Lamentations 5:1-16 .
(2,) A protestation of their concern for God’s sanctuary, as that which lay nearer their hearts than any secular interest of their own, Lamentations 5:17 , Lamentations 5:18 .
(3,) An humble supplication to God, and expostulation with him, for the return of his mercy, Lamentations 5:19-22 . The chapter may be considered as an epilogue, or conclusion, well adapted to the contents of the preceding chapters.
Lamentations 5:1-6. Consider, and behold our reproach Which we suffer from the heathen nations. Our inheritance is turned to strangers Namely, to the Babylonians and others, to whom our lands are given. We are orphans and fatherless All the chief men being carried away to Babylon, lest they should make any fresh attempts to shake off the Babylonish yoke, all that were left in Judea were poor people, destitute of almost every thing. We have drunk our water for money, &c. When our country was in our own possession, we had free use of water and wood, both which we are now forced to buy. Our necks are under persecution We are become slaves to our enemies, who make us labour incessantly. We have given the hand to the Egyptians, &c. We have been obliged to stretch out our hands to the Egyptians and Assyrians for bread to support us. Whether the expression here used implies their begging it of them, or buying it with money, is not quite plain.
Lamentations 5:7-10. Our fathers have sinned, and are not Death hath secured our fathers from these evils, though they had sinned; but the punishment they escaped, we suffer in the most grievous degree: see note on Jeremiah 31:29. The expression, is not, or, are not, is often used of those who are departed out of this world, Genesis 42:13. Servants have ruled over us Servants to the great men among the Chaldeans, and other strangers, are become our masters, Nehemiah 5:15. We gat our bread with the peril of our lives, &c. It was at the hazard of our lives that we brought in the grain out of the fields, on account of the robbers who infested the country. Blaney thinks that the prophet refers here to the incursions of the Arabian free-booters, who, he supposes, might not be improperly styled, the sword of the wilderness, to whose depredations the people, on account of their weak and helpless state, were continually exposed, while they followed their necessary business. Our skin was black like an oven Famine and other hardships changed the very colour of our countenances.
Lamentations 5:12-16. Princes are hanged up by their hand By the hand of their enemies. They took the young men to grind To grind at the mill was the common employment of slaves, Exodus 11:5. The children fell under the wood They made children turn the handle of the mill till they fell down through weariness: so some explain it with relation to the former part of the verse. But the expression may be understood of making them carry such heavy burdens of wood that they fainted under the load. The elders have ceased from the gate The elders no more sit in the gates of the cities, to administer justice to every one, and keep things in order. The young men from their music Those songs of mirth and joy which used to be heard in our nation are heard no longer. The joy of our heart is ceased Since the enemy came in upon us like a flood, we have been strangers to all comfort. Our dance is turned into mourning Instead of leaping for joy, as formerly, we sink and lie down in sorrow. This may refer especially to the joy of their solemn feasts: this was now turned into mourning, which was doubled on their festival days, in remembrance of their former delights and comforts. The crown is fallen from our head At their feasts, at their marriages, and other seasons of festivity, they used to crown themselves with flowers. The prophet most probably alludes to this custom, as we may gather from the preceding verses. The general meaning is, “All our glory is at an end, together with the advantages of being thy people, and enjoying thy presence, by which we were distinguished from the rest of the world.” Lowth.
Lamentations 5:17-18. For this our heart is faint And sinks under the load of its own heaviness. Our eyes are dim See on Lamentations 2:11. Our spirits fail us, and we are almost blind with weeping. Because of the mountain of Zion The holy mountain, and the temple built upon it. Nothing lies with so heavy a load upon the spirits of good people, as that which threatens the ruin of religion, or weakens the interest thereof: and it is a mark of our possessing saving grace, if we can appeal to God that we are more concerned for his cause than for any temporal interests of our own. The Jews had polluted the mountain of Zion with their sins, and therefore God justly made it desolate; which he did to such a degree that the foxes walked upon it, as freely and commonly as they did in the woods. It is lamentable indeed when the mountain of Zion is made a portion for foxes, Psalms 63:10.
Lamentations 5:19-22. Thou, O Lord, remainest for ever Though, for our sins, thou hast suffered these calamities to befall us, and our throne, through thy righteous providence, is thrown down; yet thou art still the same God that thou ever wast: thy power is not diminished, nor thy goodness abated. Thou still governest the world, and orderest all the events of it, and shalt rule it, and superintend its affairs, for ever and ever. Thou art, therefore, always able to help us, and art thou not as willing as able? Is it possible thou shouldest be unmindful of the promises which thou hast made to thy people? Our hope, therefore, is still in thee, unto whom we look for mercy and deliverance. Wherefore dost thou forget us, &c. Wherefore dost thou act toward us, in the dispensations of thy providence, as if thou hadst forgotten us, and forsaken us, and that for a long time? Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord Turn us unto thyself from our sins and idols, by a sincere repentance and thorough conversion; and we shall be turned Effectually and lastingly turned to thee, so as to turn from thee no more. Renew our days as of old Restore us to that happiness and prosperity which we formerly enjoyed. But thou hast utterly rejected us Hebrew, כיאם מאס מאסתנו , which, it seems, should rather be rendered, For surely thou hast cast us off, &c., the prophet, in this verse, assigning the reason of the preceding application. For God’s having rejected his people, and expressed great indignation against them, was the cause and ground of their pleading with him, and praying thus earnestly to be restored to his favour and the enjoyment of their ancient privileges. The Jewish rabbins, because they would not have the book to conclude with the melancholy words of this verse, repeat after them the prayer of the preceding verse, namely, Turn thou us unto thee, &c., a prayer which we cannot too frequently, or too fervently, address to God, for ourselves and others. And surely the fervent zeal with which the prophet beseeches the Lord to have compassion on his people, should excite us, at all times, to pray earnestly to him, especially for the protection, safety, and prosperity of his church, and the supply of all its wants, whether it be exposed to persecutions and sufferings on the one hand, or the assaults of infidelity, impiety, and vice on the other. We may learn also, from this humble and earnest prayer of the prophet for the restoration of the Jewish nation, that, when God corrects us, and afflicts us, even with the greatest severity, we must not despond or restrain prayer before him, but have recourse to him by true repentance and faith, and implore his pardoning mercy and renewing grace, as the only way to obtain the light of his countenance, and a restoration to our former state of peace, tranquillity, and comfort.
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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Lamentations 5". Benson's Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25