Lamentations 2:20

20. Behold, O Lord, and consider to whom thou hast done this. Shall the women eat their fruit, and children of a span long? Shall the priest and the prophet be slain in the sanctuary of the Lord?

20. Vide, Jehova, et aspice cui feceris sic; an comedent mulieres fructum suum (hoc est, foetus suos,) parvulos educationis? An occidetur in sanctuario Domini sacerdos et propheta?


Here, also, Jeremiah dictates words, or a form of prayer to the Jews. And this complaint availed to excite pity, that God had thus afflicted, not strangers, but the people whom he had adopted. Interpreters do, indeed, give another explanation, "See, Jehovah, To whom hast thou done this?" that is, Has any people been ever so severely afflicted? But I do not think that the comparison is made here, which they seek to make, but that the people only set before God the covenant which he had made with their fathers, as though they said, "O Lord, hadst thou thus cruelly raged against strangers, there would have been nothing so wonderful; but since we are thine heritage, and the blessed seed of Abraham, since thou hast been pleased to choose us as thy peculiar people, what can this mean, that, thou treatest us with so much severity?"

We now, then, perceive the real meaning of the Prophet, when, in the person of the people, he speaks thus, See, and look on, Jehovah, to whom thou hast done this; for thou hast had to do with thy children: not that the Jews could allege any worthiness; but the gratuitous election of God must have been abundantly sufficient to draw forth mercy. Nor do the faithful here simply ask God to see, but they add another word, Look on. By the two words they more fully express the indignity of what had happened, as though they said, that it was like a prodigy that God's people should be so severely afflicted, who had been chosen by him: see, then, to whom thou hast done this.

And this mode of praying was very common, as we find it said in the Psalms,

"Pour forth thy wrath on the nations which know not thee, and on the kingdoms which call not on thy name." (Psalm 79:6.)

And a similar passage we have before observed in our Prophet. (Jeremiah 10:25.) The sum of what is said is, that there was a just reason why God should turn to mercy, and be thus reconciled to his people, because he had not to do with aliens, but with his own family, whom he had been pleased to adopt. But the rest I shall defer until tomorrow.


Grant, Almighty God, that as thy Church at this day is oppressed with many evils, we may learn to raise up not only our eyes and our hands to thee, but also our hearts, and that we may so fix our attention on thee as to look for salvation from thee alone; and that though despair may overwhelm us on earth, yet the hope of thy goodness may ever shine on us from heaven, and that, relying on the Mediator whom thou hast given us, we may not hesitate to cry continually to thee, until we really find by experience that our prayers have not been ill vain, when thou, pitying thy Church, hast extended thy hand, and given us cause to rejoice, and hast turned our mourning into joy, through Christ our Lord. -- Amen.

Lecture Eighth

We explained yesterday the complaint of the Prophet, when he set before God his own covenant. For it might have appeared unreasonable that God should deal with so much severity with the Church which he had adopted. Hence the Prophet said, See, Jehovah, to whom thou hast done this. He now mentions some things calculated to produce horror, and thus to obtain pardon from God, Should women eat their own fruit? that is, their own foetus, the infants of nursings? This, as I have said, was a horrible thing: for we see that mothers often forget their own life in their concern for the safety of their infants. That a child, then, should be devoured by its mother, was a most abominable thing; and yet we know that it was done. It hence appears, that; the Israelites, when blinded by God, had fallen into this barbarity: for it happened in the siege of Samaria, as sacred history declares; and the Prophet now mentions the same thing as having taken place in his time, and he repeats the same in the fourth chapter. And Josephus also says, that when the city was besieged by Titus, the state of things was such, that mothers agreed to eat their own children, and that they cast lots who should first slay their child, and that they stole a leg or an arm from one another. Though it was so inhuman a thing, yet the Prophet seeks to turn God to mercy by adducing so great; an enormity. He then says, that it was by no means right, that mothers should eat their own children, the children of nursings, or nurturings. 1

He afterwards adds, Should the priest and the prophet be slain in the sanctuary of the Lord? This was another indignity, by which he sought to lead God to shew mercy. We indeed know that the priests and the prophets were deemed sacred; and in the Psalms, where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are referred to, God, in order to shew how much they were to be regarded, says,

"Touch not my Christ's, and to my prophets do no harm."
(Psalm 105:15.)

As, then, the priests and the prophets were especially under the protection of God, what is here said was an intolerable atrocity. But when the profanation of the Temple was added, it was still a greater prodigy. Jeremiah then complains, not only that the priests and the prophets were slain, but that they were slain in the sanctuary. It now follows, --

1 Educationum. Our version is nearly the Vulg. It is paraphrased by the Sept., "who suck the breasts;" and the Targ. is, "who are clad in silks." Blayney rightly says, that xpj is the open palm of the hand; and he gives this as the literal rendering of the words, "children of palms;" that is, children of sufficient age to be carried about. His version of this line is, "Little ones dandled on the hands." Horsley approves of this meaning.

The previous word, Mydp, has been a difficulty. to most, the final mem being masculine. "Fruit," in the sense of offspring, is applied to men as well as to women. We may take the final mem in Mysn, as a pronoun, "their wives;" the same are meant as in Lamentations 2:18, "their voice," i.e., the citizens of Jerusalem. Thus the construction will be quite grammatical.

Should their own wives eat their offspring,
Infants dandled on the hands!
Should they be killed in the sanctuary of the Lord,
The priest and the prophet!

It is the language of humble expostulation. -- Ed.


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