Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
CHAPTER (ELEGY) 3
Jeremiah proposes his own experience under afflictions, as an example as
to how the Jews should behave under theirs, so as to have hope of a
restoration; hence the change from singular to plural
(La 3:22, 40-47).
The stanzas consist of three lines, each of which begins with the same
1-3. seen affliction--his own in the dungeon of Malchiah
that of his countrymen also in the siege. Both were types of that of
3. turneth . . . hand--to inflict again and again new strokes. "His
hand," which once used to protect me. "Turned . . . turneth" implies
5. builded--mounds, as against a besieged city, so as to allow none
to escape (so
La 3:7, 9).
6. set me--HENDERSON refers this to the custom of placing the dead in
a sitting posture.
dark places--sepulchers. As those "dead long since"; so Jeremiah and
his people are consigned to oblivion
(Ps 88:5, 6; 143:3;
chain--literally, "chain of brass."
8. shutteth out--image from a door shutting out any entrance
So the antitype. Christ
9. hewn stone--which coheres so closely as not to admit of being broken
paths crooked--thwarted our plans and efforts so that none went right.
Ho 13:7, 8).
11. turned aside--made me wander out of the right way, so as to
become a prey to wild beasts.
pulled in pieces--
as a "bear" or a "lion"
13-15. arrows--literally, "sons" of His quiver (compare
Jeremiah herein was a type of Messiah. "All my people"
There it is regarded as food, namely, the leaves: here as
drink, namely, the juice.
16-18. gravel--referring to the grit that often mixes with bread
baked in ashes, as is the custom of baking in the East
We fare as hardly as those who eat such bread. The same allusion is in
"Covered me with ashes," namely, as bread.
17. Not only present, but all hope of future prosperity is removed;
so much so, that I am as one who never was prosperous ("I forgat
18. from the Lord--that is, my hope derived from Him
19-21. This gives the reason why he gave way to the temptation to
despair. The Margin, "Remember" does not suit the sense so well.
wormwood . . . gall--
20. As often as my soul calls them to remembrance, it is
humbled or bowed down in me.
21. This--namely, what follows; the view of the divine character
(La 3:22, 23).
CALVIN makes "this" refer to Jeremiah's infirmity.
His very weakness
(La 3:19, 20)
gives him hope of God interposing His strength for him (compare
Ps 25:11, 17; 42:5, 8;
2Co 12:9, 10).
Ps 16:5; 73:26; 119:57;
To have God for our portion is the one only foundation of hope.
25-27. The repetition of "good" at the beginning of each of the three
verses heightens the effect.
26. quietly wait--literally, "be in silence." Compare
and Ps 39:2, 9,
that is, to be patiently quiet under afflictions,
resting in the will of God
(Le 10:2, 3);
(Job 40:4, 5).
27. yoke--of the Lord's disciplinary teaching
(Ps 90:12; 119:71).
CALVIN interprets it, The Lord's doctrine
(Mt 11:29, 30),
which is to be received in a docile spirit. The earlier the better; for
the old are full of prejudices
Jeremiah himself received the yoke, both of doctrine and chastisement in
(Jer 1:6, 7).
28-30. The fruit of true docility and patience. He does not fight
against the yoke
but accommodates himself to it.
alone--The heathen applauded magnanimity, but they looked to display
and the praise of men. The child of God, in the absence of any witness,
"alone," silently submits to the will of God.
borne it upon him--that is, because he is used to bearing it on him.
Rather, "because He (the Lord,
hath laid it on him" [VATABLUS].
The mouth in the dust is the attitude of suppliant and humble
submission to God's dealings as righteous and loving in design (compare
if so be there may be hope--This does not express doubt as to whether
GOD be willing to receive the penitent, but the penitent's doubt as
to himself; he whispers to himself this consolation, "Perhaps there may
be hope for me."
30. Messiah, the Antitype, fulfilled this; His practice agreeing with
Many take patiently afflictions from God, but when man wrongs them,
they take it impatiently. The godly bear resignedly the latter, like
the former, as sent by God
31-33. True repentance is never without hope
32. The punishments of the godly are but for a time.
33. He does not afflict any willingly (literally, "from His heart,"
that is, as if He had any pleasure in it,
much less the godly
34-36. This triplet has an infinitive in the beginning of each
verse, the governing finite verb being in the end of
"the Lord approveth not," which is to be repeated in each verse.
Jeremiah here anticipates and answers the objections which the Jews
might start, that it was by His connivance they were "crushed under the
feet" of those who "turned aside the right of a man." God approves
so "behold," "look on," that is, look on with approval) not of
such unrighteous acts; and so the Jews may look for deliverance and the
punishment of their foes.
35. before . . . face of . . . most
High--Any "turning aside" of justice in court is done before the
face of God, who is present, and "regardeth," though unseen
36. subvert--to wrong.
37-39. Who is it that can (as God,
effect by a word anything, without the will of God?
38. evil . . . good--Calamity and prosperity alike proceed from
39. living--and so having a time yet given him by God for repentance.
If sin were punished as it deserves, life itself would be forfeited
by the sinner. "Complaining" (murmuring) ill becomes him who enjoys such
a favor as life
for the punishment of his sins--Instead of blaming God for his
sufferings, he ought to recognize in them God's righteousness and the
just rewards of his own sin.
40-42. us--Jeremiah and his fellow countrymen in their calamity.
search--as opposed to the torpor wherewith men rest only on their
outward sufferings, without attending to the cause of them
(Ps 139:23, 24).
41. heart with . . . hands--the antidote to hypocrisy
42. not pardoned--The Babylonian captivity had not yet ended.
43-45. covered--namely, thyself (so
so as not to see and pity our calamities, for even the most cruel in
seeing a sad spectacle are moved to pity. Compare as to God "hiding His
Ps 10:11; 22:25.
The "cloud" is our sins, and God's wrath because of them
(Isa 44:22; 59:2).
45. So the apostles were treated; but, instead of murmuring, they
rejoiced at it
46-48. Pe is put before Ain
(La 3:43, 46),
La 2:16, 17; 4:16, 17.
47. Like animals fleeing in fear, we fall into the snare laid for us.
49-51. without . . . intermission--or else, "because there is no
intermission" [PISCATOR], namely, of my miseries.
50. Till--His prayer is not without hope, wherein it differs from the
blind grief of unbelievers.
look down, &c.--
51. eye affecteth mine heart--that is, causeth me grief with continual
tears; or, "affecteth my life" (literally, "soul," Margin), that
is, my health [GROTIUS].
daughters of . . . city--the towns around, dependencies of Jerusalem,
taken by the foe.
52-54. a bird--which is destitute of counsel and strength. The
allusion seems to be to
(Ps 69:4; 109:3, 4).
Type of Messiah
53. in . . . dungeon--
stone--usually put at the mouth of a dungeon to secure the prisoners
54. Waters--not literally, for there was "no water"
in the place of Jeremiah's confinement, but emblematical of overwhelming
(Ps 69:2; 124:4, 5).
(Isa 38:10, 11).
I am abandoned by God. He speaks according to carnal sense.
55-57. I called out of dungeon--Thus the spirit resists the flesh, and
faith spurns the temptation [CALVIN],
56. Thou hast heard--namely formerly (so in
La 3:57, 58).
breathing . . . cry--two kinds of prayer; the sigh of
a prayer silently breathed forth, and the loud, earnest cry
(compare "prayer," "secret speech,"
Margin; with "cry aloud,"
57. Thou drewest near--with Thy help
58-60. Jeremiah cites God's gracious answers to his prayers as an
encouragement to his fellow countrymen, to trust in Him.
59. God's past deliverances and His knowledge of Judah's wrongs are
made the grounds of prayer for relief.
Their vengeance--means their malice. Jeremiah gives his conduct,
when plotted against by his foes, as an example how the Jews should
bring their wrongs at the hands of the Chaldeans before God.
61-63. their reproach--their reproachful language against me.
63. sitting down . . . rising up--whether they sit or
rise, that is, whether they be actively engaged or sedentary, and at
rest "all the day"
I am the subject of their derisive songs
65. sorrow--rather, blindness or hardness; literally, "a
veil" covering their heart, so that they may rush on to their own ruin
2Co 3:14, 15).
66. from under . . . heavens of . . . Lord--destroy them so that
it may be seen everywhere under heaven that thou sittest above as
Judge of the world.