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Lamentations 5:1. Remember, O Lord— In the Vulgate, Arabic, and Syriac, this chapter is intitled, "The prayer of Jeremiah." It is rather to be understood as the earnest supplication of the whole body of the Jews in their captivity. See the introductory note to this book.
Lamentations 5:4. Our wood is sold unto us— Our wood came at a price upon our necks; Lamentations 5:5. We are under persecution, &c. Houbigant. That numbers of the Israelites had no wood growing on their own lands for their burning, must be imagined from the openness of their country. See Judges 5:6. It is certain, the eastern villagers have now sometimes little or none on their premises. Dr. Russel says, that inconsiderable as the stream which runs by Aleppo and the gardens about it may appear, they however contain almost the only trees which are to be met with for twenty or thirty miles round; for that the villages are all destitute of trees, and most of them only supplied with what rain water the inhabitants can save in cisterns. D'Arvieux gives us to understand, that several of the present villages of the holy land are in the same situation; for, after observing that the Arabs burn cow-dung in their encampments, he adds, that all the villagers who live in places where there is a scarcity of wood, take great care to provide themselves with sufficient quantities of this kind of fuel. See 1 Samuel 2:8. The holy land, from the accounts we have of it, appears to have been as little wooded anciently as at present; nevertheless the Israelites seem to have burned wood very commonly, and without buying it too, from what the prophet says in the present verse. Had they been wont to buy their fuel, they would not have then complained of it as such a hardship. The true account of it seems to be this. The woods of the land of Israel being from very ancient times common, the people of the villages, which, like those about Aleppo, had no trees growing in them, supplied themselves with fuel out of these wooded places, of which there were many anciently, and several that still remain. This liberty of taking wood in common, the Jews suppose to have been one of the constitutions of Joshua, of which they give us ten; the first giving liberty to an Israelite to feed his flock in the woods of any tribe; the second, that he should be free to take wood in the fields any where. But though this was the ancient custom in Judaea, it was not so in the country into which they were carried captives; or if this text of Jeremiah respects those who continued in their own country for a while under Gedaliah, as the ninth verse insinuates, it signifies that their conquerors possessed themselves of these woods, and would allow no fuel to be cut down without leave, and that leave was not to be obtained without money. It is certain that presently after the return from the captivity timber was not to be cut without leave: Nehemiah 2:8. See Observations, p. 218.
Lamentations 5:6. We have given the hand— We have submitted.
Lamentations 5:7. Our fathers have sinned— That is, "Though our fathers have been guilty of great sins, they have died without signal punishment and calamities; which are come upon us their children, who thus bear the punishment of theirs, as well as of our own iniquities." See Daniel 8:11; Daniel 8:27. This seems to be the plain meaning of the present verse; and if so, it certainly gives no countenance to the interpretation in the note on chap. Lamentations 3:27. See Ezekiel 2:3.
Lamentations 5:9. With the peril of our lives, &c.— I can no otherwise understand this, than that on account of their weak and defenceless state the people were continually exposed, while they followed their necessary business, to the incursions of the Arabian freebooters, who might not be improperly styled, "the sword of the wilderness." See Harmer's Observ. ch. 2: Obs. 5 and 6.
Lamentations 5:12. By their hand— That is to say, by the hands of the Chaldeans.
Lamentations 5:16. The crown is fallen from our head— At their fears, at their marriages, and other seasons of festivity, they used to crown themselves with flowers. The prophet 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 eminently distinguished from the rest of the world."
Lamentations 5:18. Because of the mountain of Zion— Houbigant connects this with the preceding verse; For these things our eyes are dim; for mount Zion, because it is desolate, and the foxes walk upon it. See Judges 15:4.
Lamentations 5:21-22. Renew our days, &c.— Renew our days as of old; Lamentations 5:22. After thou hast rejected us and hast been very wroth against us. Houbigant.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The prophet, in the name of his afflicted people, presents their miserable case before the God of all mercy, intreating him to regard, consider, and remove the reproach under which they groan. And no tear, no sigh of the truly sincere passes unnoticed.
1. He lays their present wretched state before God in a variety of particulars, wherein their grievous reproach appeared. Deprived of the inheritance of their fathers, strangers have seized their estates, and dwell in the houses which they had built. In a natural, political, and spiritual sense, they were become orphans and widows; the men slain with the sword, their king removed, and God himself had forsaken them. In their captivity they were not only destitute of the comforts of life, but the very necessaries were hardly to be procured by them; even their water and their wood were to be purchased at an exorbitant rate. Groaning under heavy loads, scarcely would their heathen masters allow them sleep, and probably forbade them the observance of their sabbaths, wearing them out with incessant toil. For a morsel of bread, to relieve their hunger, they yielded their necks to bondage in Egypt and Assyria; and the meanest among the nations whither they were dispersed, tyrannized over them. To a state of such ignominy and wretched servitude were they reduced; and not a friend to interpose to mitigate their burdens, or deliver them from their bondage: or their heathen masters suffered their very servants to insult them without check or rebuke. During the siege, when, driven by hunger, any ventured to go without the walls in quest of provision, the sword of the wilderness, or of the plain, the Chaldeans, who guarded every avenue, exposed them to confront peril of their lives: scorched up with famine, their shrivelled skins looked black, as if burnt with fire. Sacrificed to brutal lust, their wives and virgins fell a prey to lawless ravishers. Their princes were hanged by their cruel conquerors, and perhaps, when dead, their bodies hanged up by their hand and exposed. The elders in age or office were insulted, and no respect paid to dignity or hoary locks. The young men are set to grind or carry the grist, as if they were beasts of burden; and the very children sink under their loads of wood, unable to sustain them. The courts of justice are no more; the judges slain, or captives: the voice of music silenced; their joy is fled, and all their gaiety exchanged for mourning. The crown is fallen, their king a prisoner, their kingdom enslaved. Note; This world is a scene of awful changes: we must look to a better for never-fading crowns and uninterrupted joy.
2. Their sins have provoked these judgments: they own and lament it. Our fathers have sinned, and are not, and we have borne their iniquities, having added their own provocations to the past, till they had filled up the measure of their sins; woe unto us, our case is deplorable and pitiable, that we have sinned; and, having nothing to plead in indication of themselves, they cast their souls upon the free grace and mercy of God, acknowledging the justice of all that they suffered; for this our heart is faint, both for their miseries and their sins; for these things our eyes are dim with weeping, because of the mountain of Zion, which is desolate, the city and temple in ruins; the foxes walk upon it, without interruption as in the desert. Note;
(1.) Among the bitterest griefs that affect the hearts of the pious, are the desolations of Zion, the afflictions of God's church and people. (2.) Sin is the root of all our sorrows, and more to be lamented than all the sufferings which it occasions.
2nd, The people of God, for whom the prophet speaks,
1. Express their dependance upon God. Thou, O Lord, remainest for ever, the same unchangeable Jehovah, faithful to all his promises; and therefore his believing people may comfort themselves in him, to whatever troubles they are exposed: thy throne from generation to generation; his dominion is eternal; and he who rules over all will over-rule every event for the good of them that love him. While Zion's God reigns, his saints need never despair.
2. They expostulate with God on their unhappy case. Wherefore dost thou forget us for ever, and forsake us so long time? It had been long, and they were ready to fear that it would be for ever; yea, every moment of his displeasure seemed an age to them; and their unbelief was ready often to suggest, but thou hast utterly rejected us, and there is no more hope; thou art very wroth against us, to consume us. Or the words may be read, For hast thou utterly rejected us? wilt thou be very wroth against us? Humble expostulations are allowable: we may reason with God concerning his judgments, though we may not quarrel with him on account of them.
3. They pray. Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned. Conscious of their sad departures from him, and their utter inability to help themselves, they look to him who alone can work the mighty change. Renew our days as of old: bring us to our former state of happiness, and enable us to imitate the examples of our pious ancestors. This verse is repeated at last, after the following one, by the Jewish rabbins, who would not have the book conclude with the last melancholy words. Note; However dark the scene may close upon God's suffering saints on earth, let them patiently and perseveringly commend their souls to him, and then they shall quickly wake up in glory, honour, and immortality.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Lamentations 5". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27