The Agora
Bible Commentary

1 2 3 4 5

Lamentations 3

Lam 3:1

Lam 3: Lessons: God chastens the ones He loves (Heb 12:6). The Lord is patient, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2Pe 3:9).

I AM THE MAN: Jeremiah speaks as if he were the nation, God's firstborn (Exo 4:22), who is afflicted with the purpose of calling back the wicked (Eze 33:11). Also, as a type of Christ, the man of affliction (Isa 53:4), who learned obedience by what he suffered (Heb 5:8; Phi 2:5-8).

WHO HAS SEEN: "To see" = to experience (Jer 5:12; Psa 16:10; Ecc 8:16).

AFFLICTION BY THE ROD OF HIS WRATH: The rod = correction (sw Job 37:13). God used Babylon as His rod to punish Israel, as He had used Assyria (Isa 10:5,15). (NT) In a sense, Christ -- the man of grief (Isa 53:4) -- suffered because of his fleshly nature... but not because of sin (see 2Sa 7:14: "IF/when he commit iniquity... I will chasten/punish him with rod").

"The man who has seen affliction" has gained knowledge of some of the deepest facts of life. He can scarcely help being wiser -- and more sympathetic and thoughtful of others -- than he was before the pain came. And if he thankfully receives the affliction as sent from God, and meant for his good, then he will become by the Divine discipline more righteous than he would ever have been otherwise. The fruitful branch, when it is pruned, becomes even more fruitful.

Lam 3:2

DARKNESS: Darkness of night (Lam 1:2), of the grave, and of the eclipse of the Jewish "star" in the "heavens" (Lam 2:1). See also Lam 3:51-55; cp Amo 5:18.

Lam 3:3

The Heb idiom expresses repeated action. See Isa 1:25.

Lam 3:4

GROW OLD: Lit "to waste away", or "to wear out by rubbing"; used of old clothes.

HAS BROKEN MY BONES: Hezekiah compares God with a lion, 'who breaks my bones" (Isa 38:13). (Bones of an old person are more easily broken.)

Lam 3:5

BITTERNESS: "Gall": bitter sorrow (Jer 8:14). Cp Jesus in Psa 69:21 and Mat 27:34. Sw in Lam 3:19.

Lam 3:6

Quotation from Psa 143:3.

DARKNESS: Dark, cave-like sepulchres (cp Psa 88:6). Signifies (1) The grave, as in a political death (Eze 37:2); (2) a dungeon (Lam 3:53; Jer 37:16); and/or (3) Christ's death and burial (Mat 27:66; Luk 23:44).

LIKE THOSE LONG DEAD: And presumably forgotten. Men die (Rom 5:12), and nations also "die" (Isa 14:9-11), since God rules in them (Dan 4:17,25).

Lam 3:7

HE HAS WALLED ME IN: In past, God had fenced Israel with a fiery wall of protection (Exo 14:19,20; Zec 2:5), and He will do so again in the future (Zec 9:8; Isa 4:5; 60:18). But here, the "hedge" has become a hedge of thorns (as in Hos 2:6,7) and a prison (cp Job 19:8). (NT) Cp Christ's crown of thorns (Mat 27:29; Mar 15:17; Joh 19:2,5).

Every life is surrounded by divine limitations. God hedges us all about, in one way or another. For one there may be physical limitations -- of health or disability or advancing age. Another might feel most severely the limitation of poverty; and another yet, the lack of education. If we accept our Father's will, then we will accept and graciously live with the "hedges" He has imposed upon us. But if we fret and grumble and batter against these "fences" and "chains", then -- for one thing -- we are rebelling against God. And -- for another thing -- we are proportionally neglecting our unique opportunities to do the good which God has placed within our power. As one brother expressed it, we must do what we can, with what we have, where we are. We are not responsible for what we cannot do, nor for what we do not have, nor for where we cannot go.

Lam 3:8

Cp Lam 3:44. Also, cp Christ "forsaken" by Father: Psa 22:1,2; Mat 27:46/Mar 15:34.

Lam 3:9

BLOCKS OF STONE: "Hewn stones", which fit together tightly and make a stronger barrier than ordinary stones.

(NT) Christ laid in a sepulchre of hewn stone (Mar 15:46).

PATHS CROOKED: Note Isa 63:17.

Lam 3:10

A BEAR LYING IN WAIT: One of 4 "world empires", and a ruler over the Jews, was the Medo-Persian empire, "a bear" (Dan 7:5).

LION: Sym Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon (Dan 7:4).

Lam 3:11

WITHOUT HOPE: "Desolate" in AV. Astonished, stupefied, terrified. Note Isa 3:26; Mat 23:38.

Lam 3:12

Arrows are often fig for disease (Job 34:6; Psa 91:5) or other sorrows sent by God (Deu 32:23).

Lam 3:13

Then, after the warnings (v 12), came the actual judgments (cp Job 6:4; 7:20; 16:12,13; Psa 38:2).

(NT) Cp Christ's death: Psa 22:16: pierced hands and feet.

Lam 3:14

Cp Lam 2:15; Psa 22:6,7; Mat 27:39-44.

LAUGHINGSTOCK: Christ's experiences (Psa 69:12). "His own received him not" (Joh 1:11); "no prophet accepted in own country" (Luk 4:24).

SONG ALL DAY LONG: Lam 3:63; Jer 20:7.

Lam 3:15

BITTER HERBS: Sorrow and grief (Exo 12:8).

GALL: "Wormwood" (AV). To fulfill Jeremiah's prophecy (Jer 9:15). Wormwood is noted for its intense bitterness (Deu 29:18; Pro 5:4; Jer 9:15; Amos 5:7). It is a type of bitterness, affliction, remorse, suffering. In Amos 6:12 this Heb word is translated "hemlock" . See also Rev 8:10,11.

Lam 3:16

GRAVEL: Gravel and grit from the fire, in the bread baked in ashes -- impl extreme poverty and hardship (cp Pro 20:17). (Jesus contrasts bread and stones in Mat 7:9.)

TRAMPLED... IN THE DUST: Or "covered me with ashes" (AV). Sig mourning at loss of strength and glory (cp Jer 6:26; Job 2:8). Or "made me cower in ashes" (RSV).

Lam 3:17

Every good, every form of prosperity had been snatched away. Wherever he looked, he found nothing but chaos and privation and suffering. Cp Psa 120:6,7.

Lam 3:18

A hasty statement, as seen from Lam 3:21-25.

Lam 3:19

Vv 19-21: The desired effect: a remnant will be saved! The terrible judgments on the nation of Israel have the desired effect of purging out the rebels (Eze 20:38; Zec 13:9), and purifying the righteous. See Psa 137:1,4-6. Perhaps our salvation, as a community, will only come through the afflictions of the last days. Trials, financial setbacks, and even persecution might accomplish for us what peace and prosperity have not -- ie humble repentance and rededication and trust in God alone.

Lam 3:20

The greatest sorrow in affliction is the remembrance of better times.

Lam 3:21

YET THIS I CALL TO MIND AND THEREFORE I HAVE HOPE: The first gleam of real hope. The righteous remnant now realize that these judgments are the hand of God -- that if they seek Him, the apparent judgments will be only chastenings. Examination and evaluation are the tools of the man of reason. No matter the circumstances in which he finds himself, he will seek the cause and the desired effect. God works in all things for His elect, those who love Him (Rom 8:28); it is a privilege to be chastened (Heb 12)!

"Wisdom can readily transform memory into an angel of comfort. That same recollection which in its left hand brings so many gloomy omens, may be trained to bear in its right a wealth of hopeful signs. She need not wear a crown of iron, she may encircle her brow with a fillet of gold, all spangled with stars. Thus it was in Jeremiah's experience: in the previous v [Lam 3:20] memory had brought him to deep humiliation of soul: 'My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me'; and now this same memory restored him to life and comfort. 'This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.' Like a two-edged sword, his memory first killed his pride with one edge, and then slew his despair with the other. As a general principle, if we would exercise our memories more wisely, we might, in our very darkest distress, strike a match which would instantaneously kindle the lamp of comfort. There is no need for God to create a new thing upon the earth in order to restore believers to joy; if they would prayerfully rake the ashes of the past, they would find light for the present; and if they would turn to the book of truth and the throne of grace, their candle would soon shine as aforetime. Be it ours to remember the lovingkindness of the Lord, and to rehearse His deeds of grace. Let us open the volume of recollection which is so richly illuminated with memorials of mercy, and we shall soon be happy" (CHS).

Lam 3:22

Vv 22-30: The Lord's mercies, service, separation: The attitude of life for Jeremiah and the righteous, in view of God's hand upon them. Also prophetic of the life of Christ, and of all true believers since: a reliance upon the Lord's mercies, a patient faith and hope and a bearing of God's yoke.

THE LORD'S GREAT LOVE: In the OT, invariably connected with God's promises, or covenants (Psa 89:28).

WE ARE NOT CONSUMED: Lesson of Rom 9:21,22: God is the Maker of His vessels, and has absolute power over each one, to destroy or to save. With special ref to Israel, God has preserved them due to His covenant with Abraham (Gen 12:3). He will never make a full end of them, for His Name's sake (Eze 36:22).

Lam 3:23

God watches over His servants always. Man must sleep, but God is always awake -- never withdrawing His life-giving and life-sustaining Spirit for the benefit of all flesh. The angel of His presence (Isa 63:9).

EVERY MORNING: Manna given (Exo 16:21). Fire on the altar (Lev 6:12). Incense offered (Exo 30:7). Praise offered (1Ch 23:30). Service offered (1Ch 9:27). Sacrifice presented (2Ch 2:4; 13:11). God visits (Job 7:18). God is their arm (Isa 33:2). His compassions new (here). The Philistines present themselves (1Sa 17:16). God silences the wicked (Psa 101:8). Judgment (Zep 3:5). Administer justice (Jer 21:12).

Lam 3:24

THE LORD IS MY PORTION: Or "inheritance". The exact meaning of the name of Jeremiah's father Hilkiah. Cp Psa 16:5,10,11. Related to a resurrection to eternal life: cp Deu 4:20; 9:29; 32:9; Eph 1:11.

"It is not 'The Lord is partly my portion,' nor 'The Lord is in my portion'; but He Himself makes up the sum total of my soul's inheritance. Within the circumference of that circle lies all that we possess or desire. The Lord is my portion. Not His grace merely, nor His love, nor His covenant, but Jehovah Himself. He has chosen us for His portion, and we have chosen Him for ours.

"The Lord is our all-sufficient portion. God fills Himself; and if God is all-sufficient in Himself, He must be all-sufficient for us. It is not easy to satisfy man's desires. When he dreams that he is satisfied, anon he wakes to the perception that there is somewhat yet beyond, and straightway the horse-leech in his heart cries, 'Give, give.' [Pro 30:25] But all that we can wish for is to be found in our divine portion, so that we ask, 'Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee.' [Psa 73:25] Well may we 'delight ourselves in the Lord' who makes us to drink of the river of His pleasures. [Psa 36:8] Our faith stretches her wings and mounts like an eagle [Isa 40:31] into the heaven of divine love as to her proper dwelling-place. 'The lines have fallen to us in pleasant places; yea, we have a goodly heritage.' [Psa 16:6]" (CHS).

Jeremiah stood in the midst of a devastated city and a desolate land. All around him, his fellows had lost their "portions" -- homes, families, communities, possessions of every sort. All "portions" that are only material will be reduced to the same vanity at the last, and the man who trusts in them has only wasted his time and guaranteed his ultimate disappointment. But the life which has God for a "portion" has a sure hope and satisfaction at the last, and contentment even now.

Lam 3:25

To wait for God: Isa 25:9; 30:18; 1Th 1:9,10.

WHO SEEKS HIM: Cp Isa 55:6,7.

Lam 3:26

QUIETLY: With no murmurs or complaints: ie Job 1:21,22; Mat 26:63; 27:12; Isa 53:7.

SALVATION OF THE LORD: Same as name of Joshua/Jesus (cp Gen 49:18).

Lam 3:27

YOKE: To be accepted humbly by the faithful (Jer 37:8-12). The yoke borne by Christ: a life of perfect obedience (Psa 40:7,8; Heb 10:7-9). The yoke offered by Christ -- meekness and lowliness (Mat 11:29).

YOUTH: The time for establishing life-long ambitions and habits. That which is learned in youth is most easily remembered later (Ecc 12:1). Jeremiah was called as a "child" (Jer 1:6,7). "Put away childish things" (1Co 13:11). All good advice in view of the shortness and uncertainty of life (Psa 90:10,12).

Lam 3:28

SIT ALONE: Cp Jer 15:17. Separation from evil, the ways of the world: Deu 22:10; 2Co 6:14,17; Heb 7:26; Jam 4:4; 1Pe 2:11,12; 1Jo 2:15-17; 3:1; 4:5; 5:19; Gal 6:14; Joh 17:6-9.

THE LORD HAS LAID IT ON HIM: It would be useless and impractical to remain separate from the world if God had not commanded it. Cp Christ in Isa 53:6.

Lam 3:29

LET HIM BURY HIS FACE IN THE DUST: Fig subjection and humility (2Ch 33:12; Mic 7:17; Psa 72:9). Here is a man so subdued in obedience, that he will bear whatever God may lay upon him without complaint, because he truly has hope.

Lam 3:30

LET HIM OFFER HIS CHEEK: Cp Jesus in Mat 5:39; 26:67; 1Pe 2:19-24. Also see Isa 50;6; Job 16:10.


Lam 3:31

Vv 31-33: The central theme of the Book: Chastening is necessary and helpful: Heb 12:11. True of the nation of Israel (Rom 11:1-6,25-27; Jer 31:37; Hos 14:4). This verse forms the basis for Paul's comment in Rom 11:1. Even at a time when the people of Israel were in Babylon for their sins God had not forgotten them. So even though they had crucified their Messiah (Acts 2:23) the salvation that is available through the gospel is still available to them. Such is the love of the Father.

Lam 3:32

Cp Lam 3:22n.

Lam 3:33

God's reason for the Atonement: There is an eternal purpose. God causes grief so that He, the Righteous One, might then righteously have compassion on sinners.

Affliction and chastening are necessary, but it gives God no pleasure. Neither does the death of the wicked (Eze 18:32; 33:11), for He is not willing that any should perish (2Pe 3:9). But it is necessary to vindicate God's holy Name. The goodness and severity of God (Exo 34:6,7): He will be, at last, gracious to those who love Him, but He must of necessity be vengeful upon those who reject Him.

Lam 3:34

TO CRUSH UNDERFOOT: Typical oppression by Assyrian and Babylonian conquerors. Eastern monarchs crushing slaves beneath their feet are common sights on wall murals and decorations in capital cities and palaces.

Lam 3:35

Perversion of justice in a court of law, as was perpetrated upon Jesus.

Lam 3:36

Also... going further, even the private wrongs, devious and secretive acts, gossip and slander. Even of these... the Lord does not approve (Psa 15).

WOULD NOT THE LORD SEE SUCH THINGS?: Cannot look upon evil (Isa 59:15; Hab 1:13). Or, as AV, "the LORD approveth not".

Lam 3:37

"I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please" (Isa 46:10). Acknowledging that our actions may be determined by the Lord's will: this is seen in the life of David (2Sa 15:25,26), and stated by Solomon (Pro 19:21). Cp Luke 22:42; Acts 18:21; Rom 1:10; 15:32; 1Co 4:19; 16:7; Heb 6:3.

Lam 3:38

God is the author of "evil" (calamity): Isa 45:7; Amo 3:6. Sometimes we may "receive evil" (in the sense of misfortune) for a time (Job 2:10; Jam 5:10), but not above what we are able to bear.

Lam 3:39

A LIVING MAN: Gentiles, once afar off in their sins, have been made "alive" (Eph 2:13; Rom 6:13) in Christ (Gal 2:20), and are now God's sons (1Jo 3:1-3), enduring chastening (Heb 12). Therefore, glory in tribulations (Rom 5:3-5).

"The fact is that the very best experience at present is only a state of divinely regulated evil, and that the occurrence of evil is one of the necessities involved in the development of saints from a race of unjustified sinners. All are sinners more or less, and, 'Wherefore doth a man complain for the punishment of his sins?' While all are sinners, more or less, some are forgiven sinners -- those who fear and obey God, confessing their sins and forsaking them. All things work together for the final good of this class; but amongst these 'all things' evil itself has a place. God is the judge of when and how much it is needed" (WP 77).

Lam 3:40

See Zec 1:4-6; Hag 1:5; Joe 2:12; Rth 1:21,22; Jer 18:11,12.

It is instructive to observe the progress of the thoughts and feelings of "the man that hath seen affliction". At first he can see only his misfortune. Then, choosing the wisest course, he calls upon God for deliverance. In doing so, and even before deliverance comes, there comes to him first the reawakening of faith. The sufferer is now able to see God's mercies everywhere, even in the sufferings he has felt. The contemplation of God's mercies assures him that his afflictions must be for a purpose, and that they must be temporary. Thus, they must not be complained of. So finally is the suffering servant led to reflection, self-examination, and -- if necessary -- repentance and rededication.

(NT) A righteous man is afflicted, chastened, smitten, and then crucified. What should be the result? Self-examination... turning again to God... repentance. A righteous man is crucified, and sinners repent! A righteous man dies, and sinners are born again! Gal 2:20.

Lam 3:41

No hypocrisy in prayer (Lam 3:48; Psa 86:4; 1Ti 2:8; Joe 2:12). The blood of Christ must be sprinkled upon our hearts, and our consciences must be washed and purified (Heb 10:22). External rites and practices are of no value unless accompanied by an internal change; and Christ, the righteous Judge, can discern our true thoughts and intentions (Heb 4:12,13).

"The act of prayer teaches us our unworthiness, which is a very salutary lesson for such proud beings as we are. If God gave us favours without constraining us to pray for them we should never know how poor we are, but a true prayer is an inventory of wants, a catalogue of necessities, a revelation of hidden poverty. While it is an application to divine wealth, it is a confession of human emptiness. The most healthy state of a Christian is to be always empty in self and constantly depending upon the Lord for supplies; to be always poor in self and rich in Jesus; weak as water personally, but mighty through God to do great exploits; and hence the use of prayer, because, while it adores God, it lays the creature where it should be, in the very dust. Prayer is in itself, apart from the answer which it brings, a great benefit to the Christian. As the runner gains strength for the race by daily exercise, so for the great race of life we acquire energy by the hallowed labour of prayer. Prayer plumes the wings of God's young eaglets, that they may learn to mount above the clouds. Prayer girds the loins of God's warriors, and sends them forth to combat with their sinews braced and their muscles firm. An earnest pleader cometh out of his closet, even as the sun ariseth from the chambers of the east, rejoicing like a strong man to run his race. Prayer is that uplifted hand of Moses which routs the Amalekites more than the sword of Joshua; it is the arrow shot from the chamber of the prophet foreboding defeat to the Syrians. Prayer girds human weakness with divine strength, turns human folly into heavenly wisdom, and gives to troubled mortals the peace of God" (CHS).

Lam 3:42

Not forgiven... because their transgressions and rebellions have not ceased, and because they have been bitter when suffering chastisement. But they will change their attitudes and their ways, and then God will pardon.

Lam 3:43

Cp thought, Lam 2:1; 3:44.

Lam 3:44

The "cloud" is the sins of the people, causing God to hide His face from them (Isa 59:2; Zec 7:13).

Lam 3:45

The Jews, a proverb and byword (Deu 28:37). Also, the saints, of which Paul is an example: "filth of the world" (1Co 4:13).

Lam 3:46

See Lam 2:16,17; 4:16,17.

Lam 3:47

TERROR AND PITFALLS: Same combination in Jer 48:43; Isa 24:17. "Panic and pit" suggest the alliteration of the orig.

PITFALLS: The wicked's own snare (Lam 1:13; Pro 1:16-18).

Lam 3:48

STREAMS OF TEARS: "Rivers of water" (cp Lam 1:16; 2:18; Jer 9:1; Psa 137:1). Tears of humble, honest appeal: "Rend your hearts" (Joe 2:13). Cp Christ: weeping for Jerusalem (Mat 23:37-39); "strong crying and tears" (Heb 5:7). See also Jer 9:13; Psa 119:136.

Lam 3:50

Until God sees... the groaning of the prisoners (cp Lam 3:34; Psa 102:20). We should "give him no rest" (Isa 62:6,7; Luk 18:1-8). Also, see Isa 63:15; 64:1. Though God is exalted, yet He can have respect for those who are lowly (Psa 113:4-6).

Lam 3:51

"Mine eye affecteth my heart" (AV). Discomfort and grief.

ALL THE WOMEN OF MY CITY: Lam 1:14,18; 2:10,21.

Lam 3:52

Cp sym in Pro 1:17; Psa 11:1. Heedlessly, in sport, out of greed. But God had sent them (Jer 16:16). Cp Jeremiah and Jesus: "They hate me without a cause" (Psa 35:19; 69:4; Joh 15:25).

Lam 3:53

AT: Or "upon" -- to bury (Jer 37:16; Mat 27:66)!

Lam 3:54

WATERS CLOSED OVER MY HEAD: (1) For the Jews, dead among the nations, waters sym powers that oppressed them (Isa 8:7; 17:12; Rev 16:12). (2) Jonah (Jon 2:3). (3) Christ in grave (Mat 12:40; 16:4). (4) Waters = floods of ungodly men (Psa 18:4).

CUT OFF: As good as dead (Psa 88:5; Isa 53:8).

Lam 3:55

Cp Jon 2:2; Psa 16:10.

Lam 3:56

An implication of the resurrection to eternal life.

Lam 3:57

Vv 57-60: Last Days, when Gentile enemies enter Israel. Then God will fight for His city Jerusalem (Zec 14:3). Then Israel will mourn for Christ, whom they have slain (Zec 12:10).

DO NOT FEAR: See Isa 41:10,14; 43:1,2. Also see Rev 1:17; Dan 10:12; Mar 5:36; 2Ti 1:7. So much of our lives can be taken up with fears if we allow it... fears for our families, for our livelihoods, fears of violence, fears of disease, fears of death -- sometimes, perhaps, nameless fears that paralyze action and stifle prayer. How often we need the reminder of these simple words. If God be for us... (Rom 8:28-32). "Fear not, little flock" (Luk 12:32).

Lam 3:59

UPHOLD MY CAUSE: God is a righteous and a fair judge, for we know also that He has promised to forgive our sins and clothe us with His righteousness, if we have truly tried to serve Him with our hearts.

Lam 3:60

Cp the Assyrian (Isa 10:7), Joseph's brethren (Gen 50:21), Jesus' enemies (Act 2:23), and the great LAST DAYS invader (Eze 38:11,12).

Lam 3:63

Hatred of God's people, manifested in all their activities (Psa 139:2; Isa 37:28; Deu 6:7).

THEY MOCK ME IN THEIR SONGS: Lam 3:14; Job 30:9; Psa 69:12.

Lam 3:64

Vv 64-66: Does not indicate a vengeful, grudging attitude as proper. Rather, illustrates an understanding and respect for God's purpose as set forth in His word. Judgments are necessary; this is the only way some may be converted (Isa 26:9). "Vengeance is mine" (Rom 12:19; Deu 32:35).

V 64 is taken from Psa 28:4, and repeated by Paul against Alexander in 2Ti 4:14.

Lam 3:65

VEIL: Sig blindness (Isa 6:10; 2Co 3:15), strong delusion (2Th 2:11; Rom 1:28), or drunkenness in battle against the Lord's army (Eze 38:21).

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