Jeremiah proposes his own experience under afflictions, as an example as to how the Jews should behave under theirs, so as to have hope of a restoration; hence the change from singular to plural (La 3:22,40-47). The stanzas consist of three lines, each of which begins with the same Hebrew letter.
Aleph.1-3. seen affliction--his own in the dungeon of Malchiah (Jer 38:6); that of his countrymen also in the siege. Both were types of that of Christ. 2. darkness--calamity. light--prosperity. 3. turneth . . . hand--to inflict again and again new strokes. "His hand," which once used to protect me. "Turned . . . turneth" implies repeated inflictions.
4-6. (Job 16:8). 5. builded--mounds, as against a besieged city, so as to allow none to escape (so La 3:7,9). 6. set me--HENDERSON refers this to the custom of placing the dead in a sitting posture. dark places--sepulchers. As those "dead long since"; so Jeremiah and his people are consigned to oblivion (Ps 88:5,6 143:3 Eze 37:13). Gimel.7-9. hedged--(Job 3:23 Ho 2:6). chain--literally, "chain of brass." 8. shutteth out--image from a door shutting out any entrance (Job 30:20). So the antitype. Christ (Ps 22:2).
9. hewn stone--which coheres so closely as not to admit of being broken through. paths crooked--thwarted our plans and efforts so that none went right.
Daleth.10-13. (Job 10:16 Ho 13:7,8). 11. turned aside--made me wander out of the right way, so as to become a prey to wild beasts. pulled in pieces--(Ho 6:1), as a "bear" or a "lion" (La 3:10). 12. (Job 7:20). He.13-15. arrows--literally, "sons" of His quiver (compare Job 6:4). 14. (Jer 20:7). their song--(Ps 69:12). Jeremiah herein was a type of Messiah. "All my people" (Joh 1:11). 15. wormwood--(Jer 9:15). There it is regarded as food, namely, the leaves: here as drink, namely, the juice. Vau.16-18. gravel--referring to the grit that often mixes with bread baked in ashes, as is the custom of baking in the East (Pr 20:17). We fare as hardly as those who eat such bread. The same allusion is in "Covered me with ashes," namely, as bread. 17. Not only present, but all hope of future prosperity is removed; so much so, that I am as one who never was prosperous ("I forgat prosperity"). 18. from the Lord--that is, my hope derived from Him (Ps 31:22). Zain.19-21. This gives the reason why he gave way to the temptation to despair. The Margin, "Remember" does not suit the sense so well. wormwood . . . gall--(Jer 9:15). 20. As often as my soul calls them to remembrance, it is humbled or bowed down in me. 21. This--namely, what follows; the view of the divine character (La 3:22,23). CALVIN makes "this" refer to Jeremiah's infirmity. His very weakness (La 3:19,20) gives him hope of God interposing His strength for him (compare Ps 25:11,17 42:5,8 2Co 12:9,10). Cheth.22-24. (Mal 3:6). 23. (Isa 33:2). 24. (Nu 18:20 Ps 16:5 73:26 119:57 Jer 10:16). To have God for our portion is the one only foundation of hope. Teth.25-27. The repetition of "good" at the beginning of each of the three verses heightens the effect. wait--(Isa 30:18). 26. quietly wait--literally, "be in silence." Compare La 3:28 and Ps 39:2,9, that is, to be patiently quiet under afflictions, resting in the will of God (Ps 37:7). So Aaron (Le 10:2,3); and Job (Job 40:4,5). 27. yoke--of the Lord's disciplinary teaching (Ps 90:12 119:71). CALVIN interprets it, The Lord's doctrine (Mt 11:29,30), which is to be received in a docile spirit. The earlier the better; for the old are full of prejudices (Pr 8:17 Ec 12:1). Jeremiah himself received the yoke, both of doctrine and chastisement in his youth (Jer 1:6,7). Jod.28-30. The fruit of true docility and patience. He does not fight against the yoke (Jer 31:18 Ac 9:5), but accommodates himself to it. alone--The heathen applauded magnanimity, but they looked to display and the praise of men. The child of God, in the absence of any witness, "alone," silently submits to the will of God. borne it upon him--that is, because he is used to bearing it on him. Rather, "because He (the Lord, La 3:26) hath laid it on him" [VATABLUS]. 29. (Job 42:6). The mouth in the dust is the attitude of suppliant and humble submission to God's dealings as righteous and loving in design (compare Ezr 9:6 1Co 14:25). if so be there may be hope--This does not express doubt as to whether GOD be willing to receive the penitent, but the penitent's doubt as to himself; he whispers to himself this consolation, "Perhaps there may be hope for me." 30. Messiah, the Antitype, fulfilled this; His practice agreeing with His precept (Isa 50:6 Mt 5:39). Many take patiently afflictions from God, but when man wrongs them, they take it impatiently. The godly bear resignedly the latter, like the former, as sent by God (Ps 17:13). Caph.31-33. True repentance is never without hope (Ps 94:14). 32. The punishments of the godly are but for a time. 33. He does not afflict any willingly (literally, "from His heart," that is, as if He had any pleasure in it, Eze 33:11), much less the godly (Heb 12:10). Lamed.34-36. This triplet has an infinitive in the beginning of each verse, the governing finite verb being in the end of La 3:36, "the Lord approveth not," which is to be repeated in each verse. Jeremiah here anticipates and answers the objections which the Jews might start, that it was by His connivance they were "crushed under the feet" of those who "turned aside the right of a man." God approves (literally, "seeth," Hab 1:13; so "behold," "look on," that is, look on with approval) not of such unrighteous acts; and so the Jews may look for deliverance and the punishment of their foes. 35. before . . . face of . . . most High--Any "turning aside" of justice in court is done before the face of God, who Is present, and "regardeth," though unseen (Ec 5:8). 36. subvert--to wrong. Mem.37-39. Who is it that can (as God, Ps 33:9) effect by a word anything, without the will of God? 38. evil . . . good--Calamity and prosperity alike proceed from God (Job 2:10 Isa 45:7 Am 3:6). 39. living--and so having a time yet given him by God for repentance. If sin were punished as it deserves, life itself would be forfeited by the sinner. "Complaining" (murmuring) ill becomes him who enjoys such a favor as life (Pr 19:3). for the punishment of his sins--Instead of blaming God for his sufferings, he ought to recognize in them God's righteousness and the just rewards of his own sin. Nun.40-42. us--Jeremiah and his fellow countrymen in their calamity. search--as opposed to the torpor wherewith men rest only on their outward sufferings, without attending to the cause of them (Ps 139:23,24). 41. heart with . . . hands--the antidote to hypocrisy (Ps 86:4 1Ti 2:8). 42. not pardoned--The Babylonian captivity had not yet ended. Samech.43-45. covered--namely, thyself (so La 3:44), so as not to see and pity our calamities, for even the most cruel in seeing a sad spectacle are moved to pity. Compare as to God "hiding His face," Ps 10:11 22:25. 44. (La 3:8). The "cloud" is our sins, and God's wrath because of them (Isa 44:22 59:2). 45. So the apostles were treated; but, instead of murmuring, they rejoiced at it (1Co 4:13). Pe.46-48.Pe is put before Ain (La 3:43,46), as in La 2:16,17 4:16,17. (La 2:16.) 47. Like animals fleeing in fear, we fall into the snare laid for us. 48. (Jer 4:19). Ain.49-51. without . . . intermission--or else, "because there is no intermission" [PISCATOR], namely, Of my miseries. 50. Till--His prayer is not without hope, wherein it differs from the blind grief of unbelievers. look down, &c.--(Isa 63:15). 51. eye affecteth mine heart--that is, causeth me grief with continual tears; or, "affecteth my life" (literally, "soul," Margin), that is, my health [GROTIUS]. daughters of . . . city--the towns around, dependencies of Jerusalem, taken by the foe. Tzaddi.52-54. a bird--which is destitute of counsel and strength. The allusion seems to be to Pr 1:17 [CALVIN]. without cause--(Ps 69:4 109:3,4). Type of Messiah (Joh 15:25). 53. in . . . dungeon--(Jer 37:16). stone--usually put at the mouth of a dungeon to secure the prisoners (Jos 10:18 Da 6:17 Mt 27:60). 54. Waters--not literally, for there was "no water" (Jer 38:6) in the place of Jeremiah's confinement, but emblematical of overwhelming calamities (Ps 69:2 124:4,5). cut off--(Isa 38:10,11). I am abandoned by God. He speaks according to carnal sense. Koph.55-57. I called out of dungeon--Thus the spirit resists the flesh, and faith spurns the temptation [CALVIN], (Ps 130:1 Jon 2:2). 56. Thou hast heard--namely formerly (so in La 3:57,58). breathing . . . cry--two kinds of prayer; the sigh of a prayer silently breathed forth, and the loud, earnest cry (compare "prayer," "secret speech," Isa 26:16, Margin; with "cry aloud," Ps 55:17). 57. Thou drewest near--with Thy help (Jas 4:8). Resh.58-60. Jeremiah cites God's gracious answers to his prayers as an encouragement to his fellow countrymen, to trust in Him. pleaded--(Ps 35:1 Mic 7:9). 59. God's past deliverances and His knowledge of Judah's wrongs are made the grounds of prayer for relief. 60. imaginations--devices (Jer 11:19). Their vengeance--means their malice. Jeremiah gives his conduct, when plotted against by his foes, as an example how the Jews should bring their wrongs at the hands of the Chaldeans before God. Schin.61-63. their reproach--their reproachful language against me. 62. lips--speeches. 63. sitting down . . . rising up--whether they sit or rise, that is, whether they be actively engaged or sedentary, and at rest "all the day" (La 3:62), I am the subject of their derisive songs (La 3:14). Tau.64-66. (Jer 11:20 2Ti 4:14). 65. sorrow--rather, blindness or hardness; literally, "a veil" covering their heart, so that they may rush on to their own ruin (Isa 6:10 2Co 3:14,15). 66. from under . . . heavens of . . . Lord--destroy them so that it may be seen everywhere under heaven that thou sittest above as Judge of the world.