The Agora
Bible Commentary

1 2 3 4 5

Lamentations 4

Lam 4:1

THE GOLD HAS LOST ITS LUSTER: Gold = tried faith (1Pe 1:7; Job 23:10; Rev 3:18). The gold of Solomon's temple was abundant, but removed by Nebuchadnezzar (1Ki 6:22; 2Ki 25:9,10).

THE FINE GOLD BECOME DULL: Solomon possessed 300 gold shields (1Ki 10:17; cp Eph 6:16). These were removed by Shishak during the reign of Rehoboam (1Ki 14:;26,27). Rehoboam replaced the gold shields with shields of brass, or copper (trust in man; not faith in God).

THE SACRED GEMS ARE SCATTERED AT THE HEAD OF EVERY STREET: Prob "stones", like fine building stones. Thus, the "stones of the sanctuary". Cp the "living stones" built up around Jesus, the "chief cornerstone" (Isa 28:16; Psa 118:22; Act 4:11). Or, poss, the gems of the breastplate (Exo 28:17-21). (This is fig language; the lit gold and precious stones would never be discarded or ignored by the greedy Babylonians. What WAS scattered about in the streets were the young children dying of hunger: Lam 4:2; 2:19!)

Lam 4:2

POTS OF CLAY: Thus fit only to be broken (Jer 19:11; Isa 30:14). Man is an earthen vessel, made by God (Jer 18:6; Rom 9:21). He must be filled with the "treasure" of God's knowledge (2Co 4:6,7), and he must be malleable in the hands of the Potter (Jer 18:1-10), or else he will be destroyed as vessels of wood and earth (2Ti 2:20).

Lam 4:3

As in Isa 1:3; Jer 8:7, the people of Israel are compared, and that unfavorably, to animals.

JACKALS: "Tannin"; also translated "sea monsters" (AV), "she-wolves" (Keil), and "wild dogs" (Roth). This is a direct condemnation of the generations before, and their decision not to pass on the oracles of God to their children. They are to blame for the current curse. Even the great sea creatures do better than that, God says. What a damning statement, and yet still they do not hear. Do we?

HEARTLESS: The Jews were compelled, by God's mercy (Exo 34:6,7), to show mercy to others (Mat 22:37-39), but they failed, becoming covetous and proud (as 2Ti 3:2-4), "without natural affection" (Rom 1:31).

LIKE OSTRICHES IN THE DESERT: Cannibals, eating their young (cp Job 39:13-18). See Lam 2:20; 4:10 for the depth of cruelty of Israel. Even contemptible beasts of prey suckle their young, but the mothers of Israel under the pressures of the siege and famine behaved like the ostriches, notoriously indifferent toward their offspring (see Deu 58:53-57).
This is a direct condemnation of the generations before, and their decision not to pass on the oracles of God to their children. They are to blame for the current curse. Even the mammals of the sea do better than that, God says. What a damning statement, and yet still they do not hear. Do we?

Lam 4:4

See Lam 1:11; 2:11,12.

Lam 4:5

How fragile and unstable is "high society", then and now! How sad that so much time and thought and wealth is given over to the cultivation of "good taste" -- dress, furnishings, art, and food -- while the "weightier matters" of truth, justice and mercy are ignored! But some day the tables will be turned!

DELICACIES: See Isa 3:16-26; Amo 6:3-7.

PURPLE: Or "scarlet" (AV), the garments of the wealthy (2Sa 1:24), connected with sin in Isa 1:18.

ASH HEAPS: Or "garbage" (Hillers), or "dunghills" (AV), ie searching for food.

Lam 4:6

SODOM: Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed swiftly (Gen 19:24), but the final pangs of Jerusalem were intense and drawn-out (Lam 4:8-10). Their deeds were the same (Isa 1:9,10; Eze 16:46-50), but the responsibility of the Jews was far greater (Amo 3:2; Mat 11:23,24). The lesson is for us too (Heb 2:3; Luk 12:47): we are just as responsible to God -- perhaps more so -- than were these Jews.

OVERTHROWN IN A MOMENT: Sodom was directly destroyed by God. But Jerusalem was left to human hands -- a much worse fate (cp 2Sa 24:14; Mat 10:15; 11:24).

Lam 4:7

Ref to FORMER state of Israel, in holiness and dedication. Ct with v 8.

PRINCES: Lit "Nazarites" (AV), the "separated ones" (Num 6). Cp Amo 2:11,12; Jer 35 (Rechabites). The entire nation had once been this way: reverent and healthy (cp David in 1Sa 16; 17; Daniel in Dan 1:8-15; Christ in Song 5:10).

Lam 4:8

BLACKER THAN SOOT: Sym distress and depression (Job 30:25-31), mourning and famine (Rev 6:5,6).

THEY ARE NOT RECOGNIZED: So much have their countenances changed (cp Isa 53:2).

Lam 4:9

Hunger and starvation, being prolonged, were worse than immediate death.

Lam 4:10

The privations of the siege bring out the worst in men and women (cp Lam 2:20; Jer 19:9; Lev 26:29; Deu 28:56,57; 2Ki 6:26-29). The darkness of this scene accentuates the brightness of Zechariah's "kingdom" promise, that the streets of this very city Jerusalem will one day be full of boys and girls at play (Zec 8:5).

Lam 4:11

Jerusalem was besieged approx 18 months (2Ki 25:1-3). A lit fire is mentioned in 2Ch 36:19, but fire is also a common symbol of any destruction (Jer 21:14; Deu 32:22).

Lam 4:12

Wonderment, as in Deu 29:24-28; Psa 48:4-6; Rev 18:9,10. The gates of Jerusalem had been saved by Hezekiah's faith (Isa 36; 37), but that faith had lasted only as long as that righteous king had lived. The elaborate fortifications built by Uzziah, Hezekiah, and Manasseh to protect Jerusalem were useless before the Babylonians.

Lam 4:13

The "prophets" and priests, supposedly the spiritual leaders of Israel, bore the greatest burden of guilt (Hos 4:6-10; Isa 9:14-16); they caused the people to err because of their idolatry and injustice.

WHO SHED WITHIN HER THE BLOOD OF THE RIGHTEOUS: As they almost did to Jeremiah (Jer 26:7,23), and as they did in fact to the other prophets (2Ch 24:21; 2Ki 21:16; Mat 23:31,37) and to Christ (Luk 23:22,23).

Lam 4:14

BLIND: Blind leaders of the blind (Mat 15:14; 23:16), in such a pitiful condition that they did not even realize their "blindness" (cp Rev 3:17).

DEFILED WITH BLOOD: No effort to cleanse their ways. Ministers of God's sanctuary, which they thoughtlessly polluted (Zep 3:4), worshiping other "gods" (Jer 19:4-6), and polluting at last all the land by their idolatry (Num 35:33). Thus, the only remedy was for God to require THEIR bloods, or deaths.

Lam 4:15

AWAY!... DON'T TOUCH US: Allusion to leprous defilement of Lev 13:45.

THEY CAN STAY HERE NO LONGER: The type of Jew represented by the wicked priests and prophets became despised by his people and refused even by the Gentiles among whom he fled. So again with Jewry's present religious leaders (Zec 13:3-6).

Lam 4:16

Even the most barbarous of the Gentiles, ie the Babylonian invaders, could see the hypocrisy of the Jewish priests and elders (cp Lam 5:12).

Lam 4:17

OUR...: Jeremiah speaks for the commoners, the poor of Israel, those without a shepherd.

LOOKING...: Lit "in our watching we have watched" (AV). Roth has "in our Watchtower have we watched"; recalling actual events during the siege.

A NATION THAT COULD NOT SAVE US: Egypt (Isa 36:6; Jer 37:7,8), neither willing nor able to help Israel when the crunch came -- as, in the end, all Gentile nations will be unwilling or unable to help her.

Lam 4:18

MEN STALK US: Cp Lam 1:13; 3:52. We are reminded here that this life is nothing. If we give this life to God, we can look forward to eternity by His grace. If we reach the stage, as we may, that our very lives are threatened by those who detest us for what we believe, then we should take courage in God and know that our sacrifice would be for good, and take comfort in the fact that so many have trodden this path before us, as demonstrated here.

Lam 4:19

SWIFTER THAN EAGLES: Sym of Babylon in Jer 4:13 and of Rome in Deu 28:49.

THEY CHASED US OVER THE MOUNTAINS: As they did Zedekiah (Jer 39:4,5; 52:8,9).

Lam 4:20

THE LORD'S ANOINTED: (1) Josiah, the last righteous king of Judah (2Ch 35:25); (2) Zedekiah, Judah's last king, carried away captive (2Ki 25:4-7); (3) Prophetically, Christ the only true hope of Israel (Luk 24:21), who was slain (Luk 19:14), leading to the dispersion of 70 AD.

TRAPS: Or "pits": (1) the pit of nations (from 588 BC to present time); (2) death, which Christ suffered (Luk 24:25,26) to deliver others from the "pit" (Psa 107:20).

...UNDER HIS SHADOW...: (1) The Jews' false hopes in the kingship of Zedekiah; (2) the true hope found in Christ, fulfilled in vv 21,22, when Israel is cleansed (Zec 13:1).

Lam 4:21

The "cup" is passed to Edom: cp Lam 1:15,21,22n.

Vv 21,22: The "daughter of Edom" had allied herself with Babylon against Judah (Oba 1:11; Joe 3:19; Psa 137:7).

UZ: Sig "wisdom, advice, counsel" -- the land of righteous Job (Job 1:1), its people were famed for their learning. Typ of all Gentile enemies of Israel, who boast in the "wisdom of this world" (Jer 9:23) but are blind to the "hope of Israel".

CUP: Judgments, as in Psa 11:6; 75:8; Jer 49:12; Rev 14:10; 16:19 -- "rendered double" (Rev 18:6). Earlier expressed by Jeremiah (Jer 25:15).

DRUNK AND STRIPPED NAKED: Drunkenness and self-exposure occur together in Gen 9:21,22; Hab 2:15,16. In spiritual sense, Israel had become "drunken" in arrogance and worldliness, and she thereby uncovered the "nakedness" of her sin.. Now she sees the same fate awaiting her neighbor Edom.

Lam 4:22

YOUR PUNISHMENT WILL END: Cp Isa 40:2w. The Jews have received recompense enough for their sins, and they will now be healed in Christ's kingdom (Zec 1:13-16; 13:1; Rom 11:23).

HE WILL NOT PROLONG YOUR EXILE: The Israelites, gathered back to the Holy Land (Mic 2:12; Zep 3:19), become the first dominion (Mic 4:6-8), sanctified to God (Eze 37:26-28). See also Jer 30:11; 31:10,31-34; 33:15,16; Zec 8:4,5.

EXPOSE YOUR WICKEDNESS: "He hath stripped the veil from off thy sins" (Roth).

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