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.
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.
3. turneth . . . hand--to inflict again and again new strokes. "His hand," which once used to protect me. "Turned . . . turneth" implies repeated inflictions.
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).
9. hewn stone--which coheres so closely as not to admit of being broken
paths crooked--thwarted our plans and efforts so that none went right.
15. wormwood-- (Jer 9:15). There it is regarded as food, namely, the leaves: here as drink, namely, the juice.
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").
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.
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.
25-27. The repetition of "good" at the beginning of each of the three
verses heightens the effect.
wait-- (Isa 30:18).
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).
28-30. The fruit of true docility and patience. He does not fight
against the yoke
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].
The mouth in the dust is the attitude of suppliant and humble
submission to God's dealings as righteous and loving in design (compare
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."
32. The punishments of the godly are but for a time.
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.
37-39. Who is it that can (as God, Ps 33:9) effect by a word anything, without the will of God?
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
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.
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).
42. not pardoned--The Babylonian captivity had not yet ended.
47. Like animals fleeing in fear, we fall into the snare laid for us.
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.
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).
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.
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.
61-63. their reproach--their reproachful language against me.
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.