Lamentations 1:8

8. Jerusalem hath grievously sinned; therefore she is removed; all that honored her despise her, because they have seen her nakedness; yea, she sigheth, and turneth backward.

8. Peccatum peccavit Jerusalem (hoc est, scelerate egit;) proterea in migrationem (vel, commotionem) facta est (hoc est, Reddita fuit instabilis;) omnes qui honore eam persequebantur, spreverunt eam, quia viderunt turpitudinem (vel, foeditatem) ejus; etiam ipsa gemens, et conversa est retrorsum.


Here the Prophet expresses more clearly and strongly what he had briefly referred to, even that all the evil which the Jews suffered proceeded from God's vengeance, and that they were worthy of such a punishment, because they had not lightly offended, but had heaped up for themselves a dreadful judgment, since they had in all manner of ways abandoned themselves to impiety. This is the substance of what is said. We hence learn that the Prophet did not compose this song to lament the calamity of his own country as heathens were wont to do. An example of a heathen lamentation we have in Virgil: --

"Come is the great day and the unavoidable time
Of Dardania: we Trojans have been; Ilium has been,
And the great glory of the Teuerians: cruel Jupiter has to Argos
Transferred all things: the Danai rule in the burnt city."

He also repeats the same sentiment in other words: --

"O country! O Ilium, the house of the gods! and the famous for war,
The camp of the Dardanidans! cruel Jupiter has to Argos
Transferred all things."

He thus mourns the destruction of Troy; but he complains of the cruelty of God, and calls Him cruel Jupiter, because he was himself enraged, and yet the speaker was Pantheus the priest of Apollo. We hence see how the unbelieving, when they lament their own calamities, vomit forth blasphemies against. God, for they are exasperated by sorrow. Very different is the complaint of the Prophet from that of the ungodly; for when he deplores the miseries of his people, he at the same time adds that God is a righteous avenger. He does not then accuse God of cruelty or of too much rigor, but reminds the people to humble themselves before God and to confess that they justly deserved all their evils.

The unbelieving do indeed sometimes mingle some words, by which they seem to give glory to God; but they are evanescent, for they soon return to their perverseness. They are sometimes moderate, "If thou art turned by any entreaties." In that case they expostulate with God:, as though he were deaf to the prayers of his servants. At length they break out into open blasphemies, --

"After it seemed good to the gods to subvert the affairs of Asia
And the undeserved nation of Priam."
3 --

They regarded the nation which had been cut off unworthy of such a punishment; they called it an undeserved nation. Now, then, we perceive what is the difference between the unbelieving and the children of God. For it is common to all to mourn in adversities; but the end of the mourning of the unbelieving is perverseness, which at length breaks out into rage, when they feel their evils, and they do not in the meantime humble themselves before God. But the faithful do not harden themselves in their mourning, but reflect on themselves and examine their own life, and of their own accord prostrate themselves before God, and willingly submit to the sentence of condemnation, and confess that God is just.

We hence now see how the calamity of the Church ought to be lamented by us, even that we are to return to this principle, that God is a just avenger, and does not punish common offenses only, but the greatest sins, and that when he reduces us to extremities, lie does so on account of the greatness of our sins, as also Daniel confessed. For it was not in few words that he declared that the people were worthy of exile and of the punishment which they suffered; but he accumulated words,

We have sinned, we have acted impiously, we have done wickedly, we have been transgressors." (Daniel 9:5.)

Nor was the Prophet satisfied without this enumeration, for he saw how great the impiety of the people had been, and how mad had been their obstinacy, not for a few years, but for that long time, during which they had been warned by the prophets, and yet they repented not, but always became worse and worse. Such, then, is the mode of speaking adopted here.

He says that she was made a commotion, that is, that she was removed from her country. There seems to be implied a contrast between the rest which had been promised to the Jews, and a wandering and vagrant exile; for, as we have seen, the Jews had not only been banished, but they had nowhere a quiet dwelling; it was even a commotion. This may at the same time be referred to the curse of the law, because they were to be for a commotion -- for even the unbelieving shook their heads at them. But the word, hdyn, nide, ought properly to be applied to their exile, when the Jews became unfixed and vagrant. 4 It is added, that she was despised and treated reproachfully by all who before esteemed and honored her. This also did not a little increase the grievousness of her calamity; she had been repudiated by her friends, by whom she had before been valued and honored. The reason is mentioned, because they saw her nakedness. But the word properly means turpitude or ignominy. It is at length added, that she even groaned and turned backward; that is, that she was so oppressed with grief, that there was no hope of a remedy; for to turn backward means the same as to be deprived of all hope of restoration. 5 It now follows, --


"Venit summa dies et ineluctabile tempus
Dardaniae: fuimus Troes; fuit Ilium et ingens
Gloria Teucrorum: ferus omnia Jupiter Argos
Transtulit: incensa Danai dominantur in urbe."
Virg. AEn. 2.


"O patria! O divum domus Ilium! Et inclyta bello
Moenia Dardanidum! Ferus omnia Jupiter Argos
Transtulit." --
AEn 2.


"Postquam res Asiae, Priamique everterre gentem
Immeritam visum Superis." --
Virg. AEn. 3.

4 "Fluctuation," by the Sept.; "instable," by the Vulg.: "vagrant," or wandering, by the Targ.; and "horror", by the Syr. The verb means to remove; and the reference here is evidently to banishment, and not to uncleanness, as some take it, because the noun is sometimes so taken, persons being removed from society on account of uncleanness. -- Ed.

5 "To turn back" or backward, is a phrase which some regard as expressive of shame, as those who feel shame recede from the public view and hide themselves. -- Ed.


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