Lamentations iv.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. Colour. Hebrew, “gold.” Septuagint, “silver;” (Haydock) denoting the patriarchs, (Theodoret) chiefs, (Vatable) or ornaments of the temple. (Calmet) — It had formerly glittered with gold; now there was nothing but smoke and ruins. (Worthington)

Ver. 2. Best. Hebrew, “gold of Phaz,” in Colchis, Genesis ii. 11. (Calmet) — In Solomon’s reign, they powdered their hair with gold dust. (Josephus, Antiquities viii. 7.) — Vessels. Isaias xxx. 14.

Ver. 3. Sea-monsters. Literally, Lamia. Hebrew Tannim. (Haydock) — The lamia has a face like a woman, and a body like beasts; and is cruel, yet feeds its young. (Worthington) — The fabulous lamia is supposed to destroy all children, (Diod. Sic. xx.; Ovid, Fast. vi.) and cannot be meant. But the sea dog, though most cruel will not neglect its young ones. (Calmet) — Ostrich. Hebrew henim, (Haydock) “swans,” Isaias xiii. 21., and Job xxix. 14. The ostrich is said to break some of its eggs. (Elian iv. 37.) — Swans do the like, and devour their young; for which reason they are hated by the Indians. (Elian xiv. 3.) — Septuagint, “their young (drajohs) have suckled the daughters of my people, so that they can find no remedy, like,” &c. (Haydock) — Though the ostrich has wings it never flies, but dwells in desert places. Such is the condition of the Israelites. (Theodoret) — The ostrich forsakes its eggs. (Worthington) — All are solicitous for themselves.

Ver. 5. Scarlet. Literally, “yellow;” croceis. (Haydock) — Hebrew means purple. Those who have been educated in the most delicate manner, are forced to feed on the most disgusting things, 4 Kings vi. 25., and xviii. 27., and Deuteronomy xxviii. 54.

Ver. 6. In her. Sodom was destroyed by God. Her temporal misery was short. (Haydock) — Jerusalem was exposed to greater afflictions (Calmet) here, (Haydock) and her ingratitude and abominations were greater, Ezechiel xvi. 46.

Ver. 7. Old ivory. Whiteness shews its age. (Pliny, [Natural History?] iii. 8.) — As it grows old it turns yellow, and loses much of its value. But the ancients had the art of dyeing it scarlet. (Virgil, Æneid xii.; Homer, Iliad iv.; Ovid ii. Am. v.) (Calmet) — Hebrew poninim may signify (Haydock) “pearls,” the shells of which are stained with a delicate red; though the epithet ruddy may mean “shining,” in which sense purpureus is used. (Horace, iv. Od. 1.) — The complexion of the Nazarites was fair, with a mixture of red, Canticle of Canticles v. 10. They were probably clothed in white, and were highly respected, 1 Machabees iii. 49., Amos ii. 11., and Numbers vi. 18. (Calmet)

Ver. 8. Coals. Hebrew, “blackness.” Septuagint, “soot.” (Haydock) — The people were naturally brown. Fasting and distress cause them to turn black, chap. v. 10., and Joel ii. 6. (Calmet) — They were so changed, that old acquaintances knew not one another. (Worthington)

Ver. 9. For. Literally, “by the barrenness of the earth.” (Haydock) — Such a death was, no doubt, more painful than to perish quickly by the sword. (Calmet)

Ver. 10. Pitiful. So their nature dictates. (Worthington) — But hunger made them the reverse. Some think they slew their children, to prevent them being exposed to more cruel torments, (Calmet) as the people of Colchis do their sick. (Chardin.) — Sodden: boiled or roasted; coxerunt, ver. 5., and Deuteronomy xxviii. 55. At the last siege of Jerusalem, this barbarity was manifested. (Calmet) (Josephus, Jewish Wars vii. 8.; Gr. 21.) See chap ii. 20. — Daughter. So cities are styled. (Worthington)

Ver. 12. Believed. God had so often protected this city against Sennacherib, Holofernes, &c. (Haydock) — It had been also so strongly fortified, 2 Kings v. 6. (Calmet)

Ver. 13. Priests. They too generally favoured (Haydock) the false prophets, chap. ii. 26., &c. They were judges, and condemned the innocent: or exposed (Calmet) the citizens to destruction, by not warning them to amend, (Haydock) and to submit to the Chaldeans. (Calmet) — Impostors are called prophets, as they have the same outward appearance. (Worthington)

Ver. 14. They. Septuagint, “Her guards have tottered in,” &c. — When. Protestants, “so that men could not touch their garments,” as they were defiled. (Haydock) — These hypocrites were afraid of touching blood, as they observed external ceremonies, while they disregarded the spirit of religion.

Ver. 15. Depart. They were not ashamed to speak thus to others, or the citizens address the priests contaminated with blood. Even the Chaldeans looked upon the Jews with abhorrence, as an abandoned people. — For they. Hebrew, “but they understood not, and wandered about. They, (Calmet) the Gentiles, said.” (Haydock)

Ver. 16. They, the Jews; or rather the prophet thus describes the Chaldeans, chap. v. 12., and Deuteronomy xxviii. 50.

Ver. 17. Save. The Egyptians attempted it in vain, chap. xxxiv. 8., and xxxvii. 10.

Ver. 18. Streets. There were enemies within as well as without. (Calmet)

Ver. 20. Christ, &c. According to the letter, is spoken of their king, who is called the Christ; that is, the anointed of the Lord. But it also relates, in the spiritual sense, to Christ our Lord, suffering for our sins. (Challoner) (Isaias liii. 5.) (St. Augustine, City of God xviii. 33.) — It literally speaks of Josias, or of Sedecias. (Worthington) — Josias was slain by the Egyptians. (St. Jerome, in Zacharias xii.) — But Sedecias seems chiefly to be meant. The people were much attached to him, though he was wicked; and they expected that he would have rescued them from the power of the Chaldeans, as his league with the neighbouring Gentiles (Calmet) seemed to insure, (Haydock) if they had proved faithful. (Calmet) — But all was useless against the Lord. (Haydock)

Ver. 21. Rejoice. Edom had manifested her joy at the misfortunes of Juda. The prophet hints at this with a cutting irony, Psalm cxxxvi. 7., and Abdias 11. — Come, as at a feast. Edom was visited five years after the Jews, chap. xlix. 7. — Naked. Septuagint, “and shalt pour it out,” (Haydock) or vomit. (Calmet) (Grotius)

Ver. 22. Accomplished, and sufficiently punished by exile, chap. l. 20., and Isaias xl. 2. — Discovered. Genesis xliv. 16., and 3 Kings xvii. 18. (Calmet) — In vain wouldst thou hide them. (Haydock)

Bible Text & Cross-references: 1 

Aleph. How is the gold become dim, the finest colour is changed, the stones of the sanctuary are scattered in the top of every street?

Beth. The noble sons of Sion, and they that were clothed with the best gold: how are they esteemed as earthen vessels, the work of the potter’s hands?

Ghimel. Even the sea-monsters have drawn out the breast, they have given suck to their young, the daughter of my people is cruel, like the ostrich of the desert.

Daleth. The tongue of the sucking child hath stuck to the roof of his mouth for thirst: the little ones have asked for bread, and there was none to break it unto them.

He. They that were fed delicately have died in the streets: they that were brought up in scarlet, have embraced the dung.

Vau. And the iniquity of the daughter of my people is made greater than the sin of Sodom, *which was overthrown in a moment, and hands took nothing in her.

Zain. Her Nazarites were whiter than snow, purer than milk, more ruddy than the old ivory, fairer than the sapphire.

Heth. Their face is now made blacker than coals, and they are not known in the streets: their skin hath stuck to their bones, it is withered, and is become like wood.

Teth. It was better with them that were slain by the sword, than with them that died with hunger: for these pined away, being consumed for want of the fruits of the earth.

10 Jod. The hands of the pitiful women have sodden their own children: they were their meat in the destruction of the daughter of my people.

11 Caph. The Lord hath accomplished his wrath, he hath poured out his fierce anger; and he hath kindled a fire in Sion, and it hath devoured the foundations thereof.

12 Lamed. The kings of the earth, and all the inhabitants of the world would not have believed, that the adversary and the enemy should enter in by the gates of Jerusalem.

13 Mem. For the sins of her prophets, and the iniquities of her priests, that have shed the blood of the just in the midst of her.

14 Nun. They have wandered as blind men in the streets, they were defiled with blood: and when they could not help walking in it, they held up their skirts.

15 Samech. Depart, you that are defiled, they cried out to them: Depart, get ye hence, touch not: for they quarrelled, and being removed, they said among the Gentiles: He will no more dwell among them.

16 Phe. The face of the Lord hath divided them, he will no more regard them: they respected not the persons of the priests, neither had they pity on the ancients.

17 Ain. While we were yet standing, our eyes failed, expecting help for us in vain, when we looked attentively towards a nation that was not able to save.

18 Sade. Our steps have slipped in the way of our streets, our end draweth near: our days are fulfilled, for our end is come.

19 Coph. Our persecutors were swifter than the eagles of the air: they pursued us upon the mountains, they lay in wait for us in the wilderness.

20 Res. The breath of our mouth, Christ the Lord, is taken in our sins: to whom we said: Under thy shadow we shall live among the Gentiles.

21 Sin. Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom, that dwellest in the land of Hus: to thee also shall the cup come, thou shalt be made drunk, and naked.

22 Thau. Thy iniquity is accomplished, O daughter of Sion, he will no more carry thee away into captivity: he visited thy iniquity, O daughter of Edom, he hath discovered thy sins.



6: Genesis xix. 4.