Lamentations 4:14

14. They have wandered as blind men in the streets, they have polluted themselves with blood, so that men could not touch their garments.

14. Errarunt caeci (subaudienda est nota similitudinis, sicut) in plateis, polluti sunt in sanguine, quia non potuerunt quin contingerent vestes ipsorum (ita lego, nec sine ratione, quia alioe versiones nullo modo conveniunt, ut nun videbimus.)


They who simply read, that the blind had wandered, deduce this meaning, that the blind were polluted in the streets, even because there was filth everywhere. They, indeed, come near to the meaning of the Prophet, but they do not clearly explain what he intended. I regard it therefore beyond dispute, that the people are here compared to the blind, but it does not yet appear for what purpose. But my opinion is this, that the whole city was so full of defilement's, that they could not avoid uncleanness; for a blind man would touch a carcass, he would touch an unclean beast, he would touch a man infected with some disease; how so? because he could not see to distinguish between a dead and a living man, between the clean and unclean. Our Prophet now compares the people to the blind, and why? because wherever they went, uncleanness met them, so that their eyes were in a manner dazzled by thick darkness. For when pestilence does not spread everywhere, we can avoid an unclean place; but when there is no corner where there is not a dead corpse or some sickness, we must pass on anyhow, having no choice to make, -- and why? because uncleanness surrounds us everywhere. So, then, the Prophet says that the citizens of Jerusalem were everywhere polluted, as though they were blind.

Now follows the reason, which has not been understood by interpreters, They were polluted, he says, with blood, because they could not but touch their garments. They all give this version, "They could not touch their garments :" and as there is much obscurity and almost absurdity in this rendering, they say that the meaning is that they were to avoid to touch their garments, because the law forbade them to touch the unclean. But the Prophet meant another thing. The words are literally thus, "They could not, they will touch their garments, that is, they will inevitably touch their garments. But the particle which I have mentioned is to be understood, and the passage will read thus, They could not but touch their garments; and we know that the language will bear this. And as this is consistent with the :subject which the Prophet handles, every one, judging rightly, will readily receive what I have stated. The meaning then is, that they wandered as the blind, and were polluted in all the streets of the city, because they could not escape uncleanness, which met them everywhere; that is, because the city, as I have said, was full of so many pollutions, that they could not turn either here or there and avoid uncleanness. 1

As to the words, polluted with blood, they refer to the ceremonial law. There were indeed various kinds of pollutions, but this was the chief. He accommodates his expressions to his own age, and follows what was prescribed by the law. He, however, alludes to the sins designated by blood. We, in short, see that the whole of Jerusalem was so polluted with defilements, that no one could go forth without falling on some uncleanness. A confirmation follows, which also interpreters have not understood, --

1 This clause has been variously explained. The whole passage from Lamentations 4:12-16 inclusive, ought to be considered. The taking of Jerusalem is said to have been incredible, even to heathens. Then the Prophet, in Lamentations 4:13, tells the cause -- " the sins of the prophets and the iniquities of the priests;" and in Lamentations 4:14, 15, and 16, he describes their shame and their punishment at the siege, when the people found out by experience that they had be deceived by them, --


13. For the sins of her prophets,
For the iniquities of her priests,
Who had shed in the midst of her
The blood of the righteous, --

14. They wandered frantic in the streets,
They were (or, had been) polluted with blood:
Inasmuch as they could not
But touch their garments,

15. "Depart ye, uncleanness," they cried to them,
depart, touch not:"
When they fled, yea, became fugitives,
They said among the heathens,
"They shall no more dwell

16. The face of Jehovah, their portion,
Shall no more look on them;
The face of their priests they regard not,
To their elders they shew no favor."

The last five lines contain what the heathens said, when they observed that the prophets and the priests were pronounced unclean by the people, and were ordered to depart. They had shed blood, and were thus polluted, or in their frenzy they touched the slain and became thus polluted. Their retribution was just, and rendered to them by their own people, whom they had led astray: for instead of attending to the true prophets, they killed them, and flattered the people with falsehoods, and encouraged them in their idolatry and vices; and thus brought on the ruin of a city deemed impregnable. -- Ed.


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