Lecture First.


Lamentations 1:1

1. How doth the city sit solitary that was full of people! How is she become as a widow! She that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary!

1. Quomodo sedet solitaria civitas, quae abundavit populo! facta est tanquam vidua, quae magna fuit in gentibus! Quae dominataest in provinciis, redacta est ad tributum!


The Prophet could not sufficiently express the greatness of the calamity, except by expressing his astonishment. He then assumes the person of one who on seeing something new and unexpected is filled with amazement. It was indeed a thing incredible; for as it was a place chosen for God to dwell in, and as the city Jerusalem was not only the royal throne of God, but also as it were his earthly sanctuary, the city might have been thought exempted from all danger. Since it had been said,

"Here is my rest for ever, here will I dwell,"
(Psalm 132:14,)

God seemed to have raised that city above the clouds, and to have rendered it free from all earthly changes. We indeed know that there is nothing fixed and certain in the world, and that the greatest empires have been reduced to nothing; but, the state of Jerusalem did not depend on human protection, nor on the extent of its dominion, nor on the abundance of men, nor on any other defenses whatever, but it was founded by a celestial decree, by the promise of God, which is not subject to any mutations. When, therefore, the city fell, uprooted from its foundations, so that nothing remained, when the Temple was disgracefully plundered and then burnt by enemies, and further, when the king was driven into exile, his children slain in his presence, and also the princes, and when the people were scattered here and there, exposed to every contumely and reproach, was it not, a horrible and monstrous thing?

It was not, then, without reason that the Prophet exclaimed, How! for no one could have ever thought that such a thing would have happened; and then, after the event, no one with a calm mind could have looked on such a spectacle, for innumerable temptations must have come to their minds; and this thought especially must have upset the faith of all -- "What does God mean? How is it that, he has promised that this city would be perpetual? and now there is no appearance of a city, and no hope of restoration in future." As, then, this so sad a spectacle might not only disturb pious minds, but also upset them and sink them in the depths of despair, the Prophet exclaims, How! and then says, How sits the city solitary, which had much people! Here, by a comparison, he amplifies the indignity of the fact; for, on the one hand, he refers to the flourishing state of Jerusalem before the calamity, and, on the other hand, he shews how the place had in a manner been turned into darkness. For this change, as I have said, was as though the sun had fallen from heaven; for the sun has no firmer standing in heaven than Jerusalem had on earth, since its preservation was connected with the eternal truth of God. He then says that this city had many people, but that now it was sitting solitary. The verb to sit, is taken in Hebrew in a good and in a bad sense. Kings are said to sit on their thrones; but to sit means sometimes to lie prostrate, as we have before seen in many places. Then he says that Jerusalem was lying solitary, because it was desolate and forsaken, though it had before a vast number of people.

He adds, How is she become, etc.; for the word how, hka, aike, ought to be repeated, and applied to both clauses. How, then, is she become as a widow, who was great among the nations! 1 He says that Jerusalem had not only been full of citizens, but had also extended its power through many nations; for it is well known that many contiguous nations were tributary to it under David and Solomon. And to the same purpose is what follows, She who ruled among provinces is become tributary! that is, is become subject to a tribute. This phrase is taken from Deuteronomy 28, for the prophets were wont freely to borrow expressions from Moses, that chief teacher and prophet, as we shall presently see again.

We now then see the meaning of the Prophet. He wonders at the destruction of the city Jerusalem, and regarded it as a prodigy, which not only disturbed the minds of men, but in a manner confounded them. And by this mode of speaking he shews something of human infirmity; for they must be void of all feeling who are not seized with amazement at such a mournful sight. The Prophet then spoke not only according to his own feelings, but also according to those of all others; and he deplored that calamity as it were in the person of all. But he will hereafter apply a remedy to this astonishment For when we thus exaggerate evils, we at the same time sharpen our grief; and thus it happens that we at length become overwhelmed with despair; and despair kindles rage, so that men clamor against God. But the Prophet so mourned, and was in such a way amazed, that he did not yet indulge his grief nor cherish his amazement; but as we shall see, he restrained himself, lest the excess of his feelings should carry him beyond due bounds. It then follows, --

1 The word is not repeated in the early Versions, nor by Blayney and Henderson. The word hkya, means properly, "Whence thus?" and it may be rendered, "How is this?" and the passage would be more emphatic, --

1. How is this? alone sits the city, that was full of people!
Like a widow is she that was great among nations!
A princess among provinces is under tribute!

2. Weeping she weeps in the night, and her tear on her cheek!
None to her a comforter of all her lovers!
All her friends have deceived her, they are become her enemies!

These were the various things which created astonishment in the Prophet. -- Ed.


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