18. Their heart cried unto the Lord, O wall of the daughter of Zion, let tears run down like a river day and night: give thyself no rest; let not the apple of thine eye cease.
18. Clamavit cor corum ad Dominum; Mure filiae Sion, deducas tanquam fluvium lachrymas (vel, tanquam fluvius) die et nocte; ne des requiem Tibi, ne silcat (hoc est, ne quiescat) pupilla oculi tui.
He means not that their heart really cried to God, for there was no cry in their heart; but by this expression he sets forth the vehemence of their grief, as though he had said, that the heart of the people was oppressed with so much sorrow, that their feelings burst forth into crying; for crying arises from extreme grief, and when any one cries or weeps, he has no control over himself. Silence is a token of patience; but when grief overcomes one, he, as though forgetting himself, necessarily bursts out into crying. This is the reason why he says that their heart cried to Jehovah.
But we must observe, that the piety of the people is not here commended, as though they complained of their evils to God in sincerity and with an honest heart: on the contrary, the Prophet means that it was a common cry, often uttered even by the reprobate; for nature in a manner teaches this, that we ought to flee to God when oppressed by evils; and even those who have no fear of God exclaim in their extreme miseries, "God be merciful to us." And, as I have said, such a cry does not flow from a right feeling or from the true fear of God, but from the strong and turbid impulse of nature: and thus God has from the beginning rendered all mortals inexcusable. So, then, now the Prophet says, that the Jews cried to God, or that their heart cried; not that they looked to God as they ought to have done, or that they deposited with him their sorrows and cast them into his bosom, as the Prophet encourages us to do; but because they found no remedy in the world -- for as long as men find any comfort or help in the world, with that they are satisfied. Whence, then, was this crying to God? even because the world offered them nothing in which they could acquiesce; for it is indigenous, as it were, in our nature (that is, corrupt nature) to look around here and there, when any evil oppresses us. Now, when we find, as I have said, anything as a help, even an empty specter, to that we cleave, and never raise up our eyes to God. But when necessity forces us, then we begin to cry to God. Then the Prophet means that the people had been reduced to the greatest straits, when he says that their heart cried to God.
He afterwards turns to the wall of Jerusalem, and ascribes understanding to an inanimate thing. O wall of Jerusalem, he says, draw down tears as though thou wert a river; or, as a river; for both meanings may be admitted. But by stating a part for the whole, he includes under the word wall, the whole city, as it is well known. And yet there is still a personification, for neither houses, nor walls, nor gates, nor streets, could shed tears; but Jeremiah could not, except by this hyperbolical language, sufficiently express the extent of their cry. This was the reason why he addressed the very wall of the city, and bade it to shed tears like a river.1
There seems to be some allusion to the ruins; for the walls of the city had been broken down as though they were melted. And then the Prophet seems to allude to the previous hardness of the people, for their hearts had been extremely stupified. As, then, they never had been flexible, whether addressed by doctrine, or exhortations, or threatenings, he now by implication brings forward in contrast with them the walls of the city, as though he had said, "Hitherto no one of God's servants could draw even one tear from your eyes, so great was your hardness; but now the very walls weep, for they dissolve, as though they would send forth rivers of waters. Therefore the very stones turn to tears, because ye have hitherto been hardened against God and all prophetic instruction."
He afterwards adds, Spare not thyself, give not thyself rest day or night, and let not the daughter of thine eye, or the pupil of thine eye, cease, literally, be silent; but to be silent is metaphorically taken in the sense of ceasing or resting. He intimates that there would be, nay, that there was now, an occasion of continual lamentation; and hence he exhorted them to weep day and night; as though he had said, that sorrow would continue without intermission, as there would be no relaxation as to their evils. But we must bear in mind what we have before said, that the Prophet did not speak thus to embitter the sorrow of the people. We indeed know that the minds of men are very tender and delicate while under evils, and then that they rush headlong into impatience; but as they were not as yet led to true repentance, he sets before them the punishment which God had inflicted, that they might thereby be turned to consider their own sins. It follows, --
Cried has their heart to the Lord,
"O the wall of the daughter of Sion !" --
Bring down like a torrent the tear, day and night;
Give no rest to thyself.
Let not cease the daughter of thine eye.
Their exclamation was, "O the wall," etc. Then follow the words of Jeremiah to the end of the chapter; but the daughter of Sion, not the wall, is exhorted to weep and repent. "The daughter of the eye," may be the tear, as suggested by Blayney and approved by Horsley; and it would be more suitable here. -- Ed.