Page images
[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

THE "HE Lamentations of Jeremiah are very properly distributed into

five Chapters, each of them containing a distinct Elegy, consisting of twenty two periods, according to the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet; although it is in the four first Chapters only that the several periods begin, acrostic-wise, with the different letters following each other in alphabetical order. By this contrivance the metre is more precisely marked and ascertained, particularly in the third Chapter, where each period contains three verses, which have all the same initial letter. The two first Chapters, in like manner consist of Triplets, excepting only the seventh period of the first, and the nineteenth of the second, which have each a supernumerary line. The fourth Chapter resembles the three former in metre, but the periods are only Couplets. In the fifth Chapter the periods are Couplets, but of a considerably shorter measure.

It has been surmised by some men of eminence in literature, both among the ancients and moderns, * that these were the funeral lamenta: tions composed by Jeremiah on the death of the good king Josiah, which are mentioned 2 Chron.XXXV: 25. and there said to have been perpetuated by an ordinance in Israel. But whatever is become of those lamentations, these cannot possibly be the same ; for their whole tenor from beginning to end plainly shews them not to have been composed till after the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, and the depopulation of the country by the transmigration of all its inhabitants; whicli events are described not at all in the style of prophetic prediction, but alluded to and bewailed as what had been already fully accomplished and brought to pass. And that this was the most ancient opinion held concerning them, appears from the introductory title prefixed to the Greek version of the LXX. and from thence probably transmitted to the Latin Vulgate ; but which, not being found in any of the Hebrew Copies, I have inserted at the head of the first Chapter between crotchets, as being somewhat doubtful of its original authority. The in

* Josephus, Jerome, Archbishop Usher, &c

ternal evidence is however sufficient to ascertain both the date and the occasion of these compositions ; nor can we admire too much the full and graceful flow of that pathetic eloquence, in which the author pours forth the effusions of a patriotic heart, and piously weeps over the ruins of his venerable country. " Never," says an unquestionable judge of these matters, * " was there a more rich and elegant variety of beauti“ ful images and adjunceś arranged together within so small a compass,

not more happily chosen and applied." But it was before observed, that the prophet's peculiar talent lay in working up and expressing the passions of grief and pily; and unhappily for him, as a man and a citizen, he met with a subject but too well calculated to give his genius its full display.


JEREMIAH begins this his first Elegy with mourning over the sad reverse of fortune which his country had experienced ; at the same time sorrowfully confessing that all her miseries were of her own seeking, the result of national wickedness and rebellion against God. In the midst of the discourse he on a sudden withdraws himself from view, and leaves Jerusalem to continue the complaint; who humbly solicits from the divine compassion that comfort and redress, which she found it in vain to look for from

any other quarter. : 1. She that was sovereign over provinces] See what is said of Da. vid's conquests and sovereignty over the neighbouring states, 2 Sam. viii. 1-14. x. 6–19. of the extent of his son Solomon's dominions, i King iv. 21, 24. of the power of Jadah in the reign of Jehoshaphat, 2 Chron. xvii. 10, 11, and also in that of Uzziah, 2 Chron. xxvi. 6, 7, 8.

2. She weepeth sore -] Or, as it is expressed in our old English version," she weepeth continually.” In the Hebrew, according to the idiom of that language, it is, " Weeping she weepeth;” nsan 132. Forty eight, perhaps fifty three, MSS. and seven Editions for 33 read

2. . But no alteration seems necessary, for 2 is an usual form of the infinitive of verbs quiescent in 1. See Isa. xxx. 19.

Ibid.- her lovers] Those that courted her alliance in the time of her prosperity. Several of the neighbouring princes sent their ambassadors to Zedekiah, Jer. xxvü. 3, &c. to engage him, as appears from the context, to join them in a confederacy against the power of the king of Babylon. But they not only universally failed and deserted Judah in the time of need, but most of them tumed against her, and took a malignant pleasure in aggravating her misfortunes. See Jer. xlviii. 27. Ps.cxxxvii

. 7. Ezek. XXV. 3, 6, 8. 12, 15. xxvi. 2. xxviii. 24. xxix. 64 7. Obad. 10-14.

3. Judah is into exile because of affliction and because of great servitude] Our Translators, who have rendered, “ Judah is gone captivity, &c.” secir to have adopted the notion of the Chaldec Para.

* Lowth de Sacra Poesi Hebræorum, Prælect. xxii.



phrast, who represents the Jews to have been carried into captivity in tetaliation of their having oppressed the widow and the fatherless among them, and prolonged illegally the bondage of their brethren who had been sold them for slaves. But a does not necessarily signify, to go into captivity, but often to remove, or go into exile, whether voluntarily, or by compulsion. And I am inclined to think that it was a voluntary migration of the Jews that is here intended, many of whom, previous to the captivity, had left their country, and retired into Egypt, and other parts, to avoid the oppressions and servitude which they had reason to appréhend from the Chaldeans, who had invaded, of were about to invade, their country. Thus the preposition na may either be construed from, or out of the way of oppression and multiplied slavery; or because of, for fear of those evils; or like præ in Latin, in preference to, that is, they voluntarily exiled themselves rather than stay to be oppressed and compelled to serve. Either of these senses is competent; and the interpretation according to them will be found to suit perfectly with the subsequent members of the period.

Ibid. All her pursuers have overtaken her in the straits] By " the straits” are meant such narrow passages, where there is no room to turn, either to the right hand, or to the left ; and the sense l conceive to be wholly metaphorical. Judah, it is said, had quitted her own country, in order to avoid the oppressions and servitude she had reason to expect at home. But in her foreign residence she found herself equally exposed to trouble and uneasiness So that like a person who was over. taken by an enemy in such a place as is before described, it was not possible for her to escape, but she was obliged to stand the brunt of all the evils she had in vain endeavoured to fly from.

5.---the head] That is, her superiors. See Deut. xxviii. 13, 44.

6.---from the daughter---) For nain the Masota reads nars, and so do ten MSS, and the Book called by the Jews RABBOTH. See Kennicott. Diss. Gen. §. 42.

Ibid.---that finde no pasture] All the ancient versions seem to have tead 'Xin; but the Ellipsis of the relative nwx is of frequent use, and

. 7o---in the days of her affliction and of her abasement] Houbigant supposes that we ought to read oppia for p«; but I am inclined to think that it is not the 2, but then, which has been sunk before 18, by means of the preceding word having been terminated with the same letter. A mistake of which we find numberless instances originating from the same cause. ssa signifies during the days, or since they began, as Dep opra does presently after, in, or during former days. 19990 comes from 479, lo descend from a higher to a lower condition, see ch. iii. 19. Nor can any thing be more natural, than for persons who have fallen into adversity to recollect the advantages they had formerly possessed, and to feel an aggravation of their sufferings in proportion to the greatness of the contrast,

Ibid....which were] One ancient MS. and the Chald. represent of after 177. But it is not necessary, and seems to overload the metre.

.מצאו will justify

[ocr errors]

,משבוה ,taking the liberty which he does of substituting another word

.משבתיה ,Tead in the plural

Ibid. The adversaries saw---] Instead of 098 77789

propose to read 049377 INT. Some persons have been willing to discard this line, as well as the fourth in Ch. ii, 19. but for no better reason, than because all the other periods in the two Chapters consist of three lines only. But I think this not a sufficient ground, in opposition to the authority of all the Hebrew copies and ancient versions.

Ibid.---her discontinuance] nawa---Houbigant justly observes that 972 wn is no where used for sabbath, and that there is no apparent reason why the Chaldeans should particularly deride the Jewish sabbaths,, nor any thing said before that leads to such meaning. But without

, , the use of the verb naw will justify giving to 77nawn a sense welí suited to the exigence of the passage, namely, “ her discontinuance," that is, the ceasing, or causing to cease, of her, or of her former prosperity. Sixty five MSS. and four Editions, together with the Vulgate,

, . 8.--- bath she been as one set apart for unclean] For 777095, which occurs no where else, nineteen MSS. and the first Edition of the Hagiographa read 70, as at ver. 17. and in various other places.

9.---her uncleanness was in her skirts---] The plain meaning of this taken out of Metaphor seems to be, that although evident marks of her pollutiot'appeared about her, and the land was defiled by her sinfulness even to its utmost borders, she had no thought of consideration of what must be the consequence of all this at the last.

10.---Concerning whom thou didst command.--) See Deut. xxiii. 3. In rining the 67 is paragogic. Eight MSS. omit it.

11.---their things of value--- ] For 771078 fifty five MSS. and six Editions read brzin, without the 1, as at ver. 7, 10.

12. O that among you---] Nily is undeniably used for 15, the particle of wishing, Isai. xlviii. 18. and if it be a mistake of the transcriber there, the like may fairly be admitted as hiġhly probable here, considering that the next word begins with x. The LXX. render, O. 7gos ofias.

0i, the article, would be scarcely intelligible in this place; but the interjection, of wailing indeed, though not of wishing, gives room for the same construction in other respects, as is expressed in the version.

13.---and hath caused it to penetrate into my bones] This is obvious. ly the right construction, and it is that which is approved by the LXX.

14. My transgressions have been closely watched, &c.] npw properTý signifiés

, to lie on the watch, so as to lay hold on every opportunity that offers ; and is followed by the preposition. See Prov. viii. 34. Jer. xxxi. 28. Dan, ix. 14. 9pws is the third pers. preter. in Niphal, and used' impersonally. So it is expressed in the LXX. senyoeniten TK aosénpeata pe--" Watch hath been set upon my transgressions ;" and to what end, is declared in the words that follow, “ that they might entangle themselves into his hand;" that is, that they might not escape without being taken notice of and punished by him. The image is

[ocr errors]

חוה read

borrowed from a fowler, who watches the motions of a bird, in order to entangle him into his net.

Ibid. --- His yoke---] 158 is the noun Soo or so with the affix; “ his yoke,” imposed by way of punishment. Ibid...-JEHOVAH---] For 1978 thirty seven MSS. and three Editions

And in the verse that follows, twenty one MSS. and one Edition in the first instance, and in the second, thirty one MSS. and three Editions, for 1978 also read riinty; the ancient versions all of them using the same word, by which they respectively translate 1710 at other times.

Ibid.---hath cast me upon my hands] This is a literal translation of 992 1990s, and suits well with the context. The heavy burden that hung upon his neck, he says, made him stumble, and being thrown upon his hands, he was unable to rise because of the weight that pressed upon him. But I question if the words of the text will justify the sense in which they are rendered by the Syr. Chald. Vulg. and by our English Translators.

15.--- hath trodden the wine-vat in the virgin daughter of Judah] This metaphor is easily to be understood of causing such an effusion of blood in Jerusalem, as to resemble the treading of the juice out of the ripe grapes in vintage time. See Isai. Ixiii. 2, 3. Rev, xiy. 20. xix: 15.

16.---mine eye---] In the Hebrew text 'yoy is repeated ; but in none of the ancient versions is it expressed more than once ; and four MSS. omit it in the second instance. It seems also to incumber the metre, Perhaps x may originally have followed 790592, and been thus the ground of the 'transcriber's mistake.

17.--- her hands---] Five MSS. read 77742, and the Roman Edition of the LXX. represents xerque auto's in the singular ; but the Alexand. and Complut. Editions read yogaes.

Ibid. JEHOVAH hath commanded concerning Jacob, &c.] That is, by God's command it came to pass, that the surrounding nations were the adversaries of Jacob. This form of expression we meet with, Psal. Ixviii. 1:1. “ The Lord gave the word, great was the company of those that published.”

19. While they sought food for themselves to support their life] The LXX. and Syr. add, “ and found none." But no such words appear in the Hebrew copies, although the thing is implied; for had they found what they sought, they would not have died.

20.--as it were death.--) Meaning the pestilence ; See Notes on Jer. XV, 2. xviii. 21. Death as it were acting in propria persona ; and not by the instrumentality of another, as when a person is slain by the sword. So our great Poet in his description of a lazar-house,

Tended the sick busiest from couch to couch ;
And over them triumphant Death his dart

Paradise Lost, B. xi. 489, &c.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »