This book in Greek, Latin, and English, has its name from the subject matter of it, which is Lamentation. So also among the Hebrew writers; but in the Hebrew it takes its name from the first word of the book, as the five books of Moses have. That it was wrote by Jeremiah none can question, because in the Hebrew it is styled, The book of Jeremiah. There is little controversy about the time, or occasion of writing it. That the occasion was the miseries of the people, by reason of the famine, sword, and captivity, is evident. Probably Jeremiah began to write upon the death of Josiah, and continued to the time of the captivity, setting down all the miseries the people suffered all along to that time. The design of the writing, as to those whom it immediately concerned, is plain and obvious, namely, to affect the people with those judgments which came upon them for their sins: as to us (upon whom the ends of the world are come) to mind us to take heed of their sins, lest we be sharers in their plagues. The book is made up of complaints of their lamentable condition; petitions to God for mercy; and prophecies both of their better estate, and the ruin of their enemies. In the four first chapters are several alphabets of letters beginning the several verses, each verse beginning with a new letter, only chap. 3, every three verses begin with a new letter. It seems the chapters were so composed, for the advantage of their memories. The whole book lets us see from what an height of dignity, to what a depth misery sin may bring a nation, how much soever interested in God; and directs us to our duty in a state of affliction.
Jeremiah laments the former excellency and present misery of Jerusalem for her sin, ver. 1 - 11. She complains of her grief, ver. 12 - 17. Confesses God's judgments to be righteous: and prays to him, ver. 18 - 22.
A widow - She that had a king, or rather a God, that was an husband to her, now was forsaken of God, and her king taken from her.
Because - Because of the servitude and oppression exercised among them: oppression by their rulers, and servitude more generally; keeping their servants beyond the year of jubilee, when they ought to be set at liberty. The straits - Those that pursued them overtook them in places where they could not escape.
She - Persons of all ages and ranks are in bitterness.
Pleasant things - Has laid violent hands on them. The things of the sanctuary were always pleasant things to those that feared God.
Bread - Even in a land that ordinarily flowed with milk and honey, they were at a loss for bread to eat. Given - And gave any thing for something to satisfy their hunger. Vile - Miserable or contemptible.
Is it nothing - The prophet speaks in the name of the Jewish church.
Fire - A judgment as consuming, and afflictive as fire.
Is bound - Put upon my neck on account of my transgressions. Wreathed - My punishments are twisted as cords; I have a complication of judgments upon me, sword, famine, pestilence, captivity.
An assembly - God had called an assembly of Chaldeans against the city, to crush the inhabitants of it. Trodden - God had trodden upon the Jews as men use to stamp grapes in a wine - press.
The comforter - God.
Jerusalem - Is become loathsome and filthy.
Deceived - They did not answer my expectation.
Death - By famine and pestilence.
They - The neighbouring nations. Like me - But thou hast foretold their destruction also, and hast by me proclaimed it: and thou shalt in that day bring them into as sad a condition as I am in now.
Jeremiah laments the misery of Jerusalem, and its causes, and their enemies derision, ver. 1 - 17. An exhortation to true sorrow and repentance, and a fervent prayer, ver. 18 - 22.
His footstool - His temple; but suffered the Chaldeans to destroy it. Cast down - That is, thrown them down from the highest glory and honour, to the meanest degree of servitude.
Polluted - Dealt with them as with a polluted thing; cast them off, brake them in pieces.
The horn - All their beauty and strength. Drawn back - God hath drawn back his assistance which he was wont to give the Jews against their enemies. Round about - God consumed them, not in this or that part, but round about, as a fire seizing an house at once on all sides.
He - That is, God, (whom by their sins they had provoked and made their enemy) behaved himself as an enemy. And slew - All their young men, and maidens who were pleasant to look upon.
His tabernacle - His temple. The places - The synagogues. The king - By the king and the priests are meant persons of greatest rank and eminency, though it is thought here is a special reference to Zedekiah the king of Judah, and Seraiah who was the high priest; the former of which was miserably handled, the latter slain.
They - The enemies with their triumphs and blasphemies, made as great a noise, as those that sang holy songs, or played on instruments, were wont to make to the glory of God.
The wall - The strength and security of the Jews. A line - Artificers used with lines not only to mark out places for building, but also for destruction, to direct them what to cut off; and such a line is here meant.
Among the Gentiles - In miserable captivity. The law - Is no more read, opened or observed. Her prophets - They had but very few prophets, from this time to the time of the gospel, and very few of those at this time alive had any revelation from God.
The virgins - The whole city is in a mournful posture.
Mine eyes - This whole verse is but expressive of the prophets great affliction for the miseries come upon the Jews. He wept himself almost blind. Bowels - His passion had disturbed his bodily humours, that his bowels were troubled. Liver - His gall lying under his liver. All these are expressions of great affliction and sorrow. Swoon - During the famine, occasioned by the long siege.
Bosom - When they died in their mother's arms.
Who - There was no people whose condition was in any degree parallel to the misery of the Jews: nor was there any cure for them, their breach was like a sea breach where the waters come in with such a torrent, that there is no making any defence against them.
The prophets - False prophets told you vain stories. Not discovered - Whereas they ought to have made you sensible of your sins, and this might have prevented your captivity. False burdens - False stories to encourage you in sin, and so cause your banishment.
O wall - That is, those that are upon it.
Whom - Not the Heathen, but to thy own people. Women - Wilt thou suffer women to satisfy their hunger with the fruit of their own bodies
My terrors - As my people were wont to be called together from all parts in a solemn day, so now my terrible enemies, or terrible things are by thee called together.
The faithful bewail their misery, ver. 1 - 21. They nourish their hope by considering the justice, providence, and mercies of God, ver. 22 - 36. They stir up themselves to repentance, patience, prayers and confidence of deliverance for themselves, and divine vengeance on their enemies, ver. 37 - 66.
I am the man - It seems, this is spoken in the name of the people, who were before set out under the notion of a woman.
Made old - All my beauty is gone, and all my strength.
Builded - He hath built forts and batteries against my walls and houses.
Enclosed - He has defeated all my methods and counsels for security, by insuperable difficulties like walls of hewn stone. Crooked - Nay, God not only defeated their counsels, but made them fatal and pernicious to them.
Wormwood - With severe and bitter dispensations.
Ashes - Mourners were wont to throw ashes on their heads.
Wormwood - Wormwood and gall, are often made use of to signify great affliction.
This - Which follows, concerning the nature of God, and his good providences.
Faithfulness - In fulfilling thy promises to thy people.
Bear - Quietly and patiently to bear what afflictions God will please to lay upon us. And if God tame us when young, by his word or by his rod, it is an unspeakable advantage.
Borne it - That he keep his soul in subjection to God, because God hath humbled him by his rod.
In the dust - Both this and the former verses let us know the duty of persons under afflictions.
Willingly - Not from his own mere motion without a cause given him from the persons afflicted. Hence judgment is called God's strange work.
To subvert - Here are three things mentioned, which God approveth not.
Who - Nothing comes to pass in the world, but by the disposal of divine providence. This seems to be spoken in the name of the people of God, arguing themselves into a quiet submission, to their afflictions, from the consideration of the hand of God in them.
Evil - Doth not evil or trouble come out of God's mouth from his direction, and providence, as well as good
Wherefore - The Jews, check themselves in their complaints from the consideration, that nothing had befallen them, but what was the just reward of their sins.
Thou - Thou hast plagued us according to the just desert of our sins.
Mine eye - The prophet speaks this of himself.
Dungeon - Dungeon seems here to be taken for the lowest condition of misery.
Cut off - I am undone, there is no hope for me.
Heard - In former afflictions. Hide not - Shew me now the same favour.
O Lord - Thou hast been wont to take my part against my enemies.
Seen - Thou hast been a witness to all their fury.
I am - At feasts, and at their merry meetings, I am all the subject of their discourse.
Persecute - Many passages of this nature which we meet with are prophecies, some of them may be both prophecies and prayers.
Zion bewaileth her misery: confesseth her sins, ver. 1 - 6. Miseries of the chief ones: women who killed and dressed their own children, ver. 7 - 12. The sin of the false prophets and priests, their vain hope, ver. 13 - 19. Their king taken prisoner, ver. 20. Edom is threatened, and Zion comforted, ver. 21, 22.
The top - Are scattered in the head of every street.
Earthen pitchers - The nobles, the priests, and the good men, are looked upon no better than earthen vessels, the workmanship of an ordinary potter.
Cruel - The Jewish women are become cruel to their children, or forced to appear so, having through the famine no milk to give them, nor any thing to relieve them. Ostriches - Like ostriches that lay their eggs, and leave them in the sand.
Of Sodom - Their punishment was greater, because more lingering, and gradual, whereas Sodom was overthrown in a moment, and that by no human hands that abode upon her, causing her a continued torment.
Nazarites - Her Nazarites in this place signify her separated ones, who either in respect of birth, education, estate, or place of magistracy, were distinguished from the rest of the people.
Not known - So that those who before knew them, do not know them now.
Priests - The ecclesiastical men were a great cause of the first and last destruction of Jerusalem. And so they are of most other places that come to ruin, through their neglect of their duty, or encouraging others in their wicked courses.
They - The prophets and priests wandered up and down the streets polluting themselves with blood, either the blood of the children which they slew, or the just men, mentioned ver.13, the slaughter of whom they either encouraged, or at least did not discourage; so that one could not touch a prophet or priest, but he must be legally polluted, and there were so many of them, that men could not walk in the streets, but he must touch some of them.
Touch not - The Jews that made conscience of keeping the law against touching dead bodies, cried to the other Jews to leave the city as themselves did, the city being now so full of dead bodies that they could not stay in it without polluting themselves.
The anger - These words seem to be the language of their enemies triumphing over them. They - Their enemies had no regard to the most venerable persons among them.
A nation - The Egyptians.
They - The Chaldeans.
The anointed - Zedekiah, who though a bad man yet afforded some protection to the Jews. We said - We promised ourselves that though the land of Judah was encompassed with Pagan nations, yet through Zedekiah's valour and good conduct we should live comfortably.
Rejoice - The prophet speaks ironically, Rejoice; but thy joy shall be but for a little time. Drunken - Thou shalt be intoxicated with it, and make thyself naked as drunken men sometimes do.
Captivity - Not for thy past sins. Thy sins - By the punishment of them.
An humble prayer, presenting to the Lord their great misery, ver. 1 - 15. Confessing their sins, ver. 16 - 18. Imploring deliverance, ver. 19 - 22.
We - We are all of us without a king, (our common father) we are deprived of thy fatherly protection, and many young children among us are left without an earthly parent.
Sold - Whereas at other times there was abundance of wood and water throughout Judea.
We - The ten tribes were all carried captives into Assyria, and many of the kingdom of Judah fled into Egypt. Giving the hand may signify labouring for them: or, yielding up themselves to their power.
Their iniquities - The punishment of them.
The sword - The enemies lay encamped in all the plains, so that they could stir out no way but the sword of the Chaldeans was upon them.
Fell - Not being able to stand under the burdens laid upon them.
The crown - All our honour, splendor and dignity.
Thy throne - Altho' for our sins thou sufferest our throne to be cast down, yet thou art the same, thy power is not diminished, nor thy goodness abated.
Renew - Restore us to our former estate.