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Chap. I. I—22. The Miseries of Jerusalem.
(X) T Tow doth the city sit solitary, that was full of 1 Jrl people!
How is she become as a widow! she that was great among the nations,
Chap. 1.1—22. The Miseries Of Jerusalem.
The general subject running through this first chapter may be thus subdivided. Verses I—II lament the sufferings which Jerusalem is now undergoing, while twice in the course of this portion (verses 9, 11) the city itself breaks out into a wail of distress, and thus leads up to the second division of the chapter, verses 12—22, where the city itself is the speaker. In that second part also, their suffering is from time to time (ver. 14, etc.) spoken of as the consequence of sin, and thus we arrive at chap. ii., where that is the leading thought. See Introduction, chap. III. § 2.
We may compare these opening verses with Is. xlvii. 1. In both places we are reminded of the figure on the medal struck by Titus, to commemorate his capture of Jerusalem (a.d. 71), a woman weeping beneath a palm-tree with the inscription below, Judaea capta. The same picture is here presented to us, and we see thus personified the inhabitants shortly after the siege, while the miseries which accompanied and succeeded it were still fresh.
1. How] The Heb. (Aichah), which occurs also at the commencement of chaps. ii. and iv., as well as in ver. 2 of the latter, has supplied the Jewish name for this book, the custom of naming the books of the Bible by the first word being a common one with them.
sit solitary] as emptied by the departure of the captives, and deserted by her friends, and by God Himself.
how is she become] We must amend the Heb. (Masoretic) punctuation of the verse, by which it is divided into two main portions, the former of them ending with widow. The division should be threefold, the second and third parts running thus, She is become as a widow, she that was great among the nations; a princess among the provinces, she is become tributary. A threelold division of this kind prevails almost throughout.
And princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary I
a (2) She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks:
Among all her lovers she hath none to comfort her:
3 (J) Judah is gone into captivity because of affliction,
and because of great servitude:
4 (1) The ways of Zion do mourn, because none come to
the solemn feasts:
a widow] From Is. xlvii. 8. Some have thought the reference here to be to the loss of her king, or of great men and friends in general. When however we compare the use of the figure of widowhood in Is. liv. 4, 5, as well as such passages as Jer, ii. 2, it appears that the Lord is the husband who has been lost.
provinces] This name is once used. of the peoples dependent on the king of Syria (1 Kings xx. 17), and afterwards frequently of those subject to the Persian empire (Esth. i. r, etc.), and is used of Judah itself in Ezra ii. 1; Neh. vii. 6. Htere it seems to be used of the neighbouring nations, Moab, Edom, etc., which were now falling under the Babylonian yoke, but had formerly been subject to the (undivided) kingdom of Israel.
tributary] a vassal. The original word implies bond-service, and it was only in later times that it was used of tribute, e.g. Esth. x. 1.
2. in the night] The time of natural silence and darkness is made a part of the picture in order to heighten the effect.
her lovers...her friends] the neighbouring states, with whom in the sunshine of prosperity she was on friendly terms. Such were Egypt, etc. For Edom, as having turned against her at this time, see latter part of note on Concerning Edom, Jer. xlix. 7, and for a similar charge against the Ammonites, Ezek. xxv. 3, 6.
3. is gone into captivity because of affliction] The better rendering is, is gone into exile because of affliction, i. e. the long sufferings of the Jews at the hands of Egypt and Chaldaea had induced many of them to go voluntarily to dwell in other lands. That there were many such persons, we gather from Jer. xl. 11. Others however would explain the passage of the Babylonish captivity, and render (taken) out of affliction, etc.
between the straits] The figure is taken from hunting. The Jews have been like animals, driven into a narrow space, that they may be the more easily attacked.
4. The ways of Zion do mourn] The approaches to Jerusalem are
All her gates are desolate: her priests sigh:
(H) Her adversaries are the chief, her enemies prosper; 5
transgressions: Her children are gone into captivity before the enemy.
(I) And from the daughter of Zion all her beauty is t> departed:
Her princes are become like harts that find no pasture,
and of her miseries All her pleasant things that she had in the days of old, When her people' fell into the hand of the enemy, and
none did help her;
meant. They are desolate, without the usual throng of those coming up to the feasts at the Holy City, which, since its religious aspect is here referred to, is spoken of as ' Zion'.
For the thought of inanimate objects as sympathizing with human affairs, we may compare the well-known passage (Scott's Lay of the Last Minstrel, canto v.), beginning
Call it not vain—they do not err,
Who say, that, when the Poet dies,
And celebrates his obsequies.
all her gates are desolate] Compare Jer. xiv. 2, with note. her virgins are afflicted] They are mentioned as taking part in religious ceremonies. See Exod. xv. 20; Jud. xxi. 19, 21; Ps. lxviii.
6. are the chief] In the Heb. the phrase is the same as that used in Deut. xxviii. 44 ("he shall be the head"), where this is foretold as the result of Israel's obstinacy.
prosper] literally, are at peace. See Jer. xii. 1, where the Eng. Vers. has "are...happy".
before the enemy] driven like a flock of cattle.
6. beauty] glory.
her princes are become like harts] The prophet is thinking of the flight and capture of Zedekiah and his princes, Jer. xxxix. 4, 5.
7. remembered] has remembered.
miseries] The original word is a rare one, and means compulsory wanderings, persecutions.
enemy] adversary. The word is the same as that which is so rendered immediately afterwards.
The adversaries saw her, and did mock at her sabbaths. (Pi) Jerusalem hath grievously sinned; therefore she is removed:
All that honoured her despise her, because they have
seen her nakedness: Yea, she sigheth, and turneth backward. (13) Her filthiness is in her skirts; she remembereth
not her last end; Therefore she came down wonderfully: she had no
O Lord, behold my affliction: for the enemy hath magnified himself.
(i) The adversary hath spread out his hand upon all
her pleasant things: For she hath seen that the heathen entered into her
Whom thou didst command that they should not enter
into thy congregation. (3) All her people sigh, they seek bread; They have given their pleasant things for meat to relieve
sabbaths] either, (i) the regularly recurring day of rest, which was, we know, a subject in regard to which other nations displayed as much ignorance as wonder, e.g. "Where kings the sabbath barefoot celebrate", Juvenal, Sat. vi. Gifford's Translation, l. 233; or, (ii) compulsory rest (sabbatism; compare the Greek in Heb. iv. 9), which the land now had. See Lev. xxvi. 34, 35.
8. is removed] is become an abomination. This and the next verse in figurative language describe the Jewish people, as having brought upon itself through sin and consequent national humiliation the contempt of all its neighbours, while it is painfully conscious of its own ignominy (compare iv. 21.).
9. she came down wonderfully] Compare Is. xlvii. 1. O Lord, behold] See introductory note to chapter.
10. pleasant] literally, desirable, precious.
the heathen entered into her sanctuary] Those who were forbidden, at any rate as nations, ever to enter into a religious covenant with Israel (e.g. Ammonites and Moabites, Deut. xxiii. 3, 4), now, as part of the invading host, entered the very Holy of Holies for plunder. No worse humiliation could befall a Jew than this.
11. The people have already given up their most valuable possessions, that they had hitherto hoarded, for bread. There is therefore nothing now between them and starvation.
meat] food. Compare note on. meat offerings, Jer. xvii. 26.
, See, O Lord, and consider; for I am become vile. (7) Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see
If there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me,
Wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger.
(D) From above hath he sent fire into my bones, and it
prevaileth against them: He hath spread a net for my feet, he hath turned me
He hath made me desolate and faint all the day. Q) The yoke of my transgressions is bound by his hand:
They are wreathed, and come up upon my neck: he hath
made my strength to fall, The Lord hath delivered me into their hands, from whom
I am not able to rise up.
to relieve the soul] literally, to bring back the Hfe. Compare verses 16, 19.
see, O Lord] Compare introductory note to chapter.
12. The beginning of the second section of the chapter. See introductory note.
Is it nothing to you] This is almost certainly right, although the words have also been translated as not interrogative, either, Look not on yourselves, or, by a slightly different reading of the Heb., / adjure all you, etc. This latter seems that which was originally followed by the Septuagint, whose reading now however is obscure.
13. From above] i.e. from heaven. it prevaileth against] iVsubdueth.
he hath spread a net for my feet] For the figure compare Jer. l. 24.
turned me back] The metaphor from hunting is continued (see ver. 3). The people are driven into a corner, and then the way is blocked, and they are headed back.
14. is bound] The Heb. verb occurs here only, and hence the sense is not quite certain. The Eng. however is probably correct. The manifold sins of the people are likened to a complication of cords, attaching a yoke on the neck of a beast of burden, and keeping it secure in its place. Compare note on "bonds and yokes" of Jer. xxvii. 2.
wreathed] twisted together. to fall] literally, to stumble.