We have transgressed, and have rebelled,.... Here begins the prayer, the sense of which is directed to, though the words are not dictated; and it begins with confession of sin, as prayer should, especially when in such circumstances as the people of the Jews now were; and with confession of it, as a transgression of the law of God; and as rebellion against him, as every sin is, a breach of his law, a contempt of his authority, and a trampling under foot his legislative power, and an act of hostility against him; and so downright rebellion; every sin being an overt act of that kind; and which is aggravated by the favours before acknowledged to have been received:
thou hast not pardoned; as they apprehended; they had not the discovery and application of pardoning grace and mercy; otherwise pardon of sin with God is past, and includes all sin present and future, as well as past; but temporal afflictions being upon them, they concluded their sins were not pardoned; pardon of sin in Scripture often signifying the removal of such afflictions. We have transgressed and have rebelled: thou hast not pardoned.
These verses form one connected sentence: while the subject and predicate for the three infinitival clauses do not follow till the words אדני לא ראה, the infinitives with their objects depend on ראה. If there were any foundation for the assertion of Bttcher in his Aehrenlese, that ראה never occurs in construction with ל, we could take the infinitives with ל as the objects of ראה, in the sense, "As to the crushing of all the prisoners," etc. But the assertion is devoid of truth, and disproved by 1 Samuel 16:7
, האדם יראה לעינים ויהוה יראה. In the three infinitival clauses three modes of unjust dealing are set forth. The treading down to the earth of all prisoners under his (the treader's) feet, refers to cruel treatment of the Jews by the Chaldeans at the taking of Jerusalem and Judah, and generally to deeds of violence perpetrated by victors in war. This explains כּל, which Kalkschmidt and Thenius incorrectly render "all captives of the land (country)." Those intended are prisoners generally, who in time of war are trodden down to the earth, i.e., cruelly treated. The other two crimes mentioned, vv. 35 and 36, are among the sins of which Judah and Israel have been guilty, - the former being an offence against the proper administration of justice, and the latter falling under the category of unjust practices in the intercourse of ordinary life. "To pervert the right of a man before the face of the Most High" does not mean, in general, proterve, et sine ull numinis inspectantis reverenti (C. B. Michaelis, Rosenmller); but just as הטות משׁפּט is taken from the law (Exodus 23:6
; Numbers 16:19
, etc.), so also is נגד פּני עליון to be explained in accordance with the directions given in the law (Exodus 22:7
, Exodus 22:9
), that certain clauses were to be brought before האלהים, where this word means the judge or judges pronouncing sentence in the name of God; cf. Psalm 82:6
, where the judges, as God's representatives, are called אלהים and בּני אלהים. "Before the face of the Most High" thus means, before the tribunal which is held in the name of the Most High. "To turn aside a man in his cause" means to pervert his right in a dispute (cf. Job 8:3
; Job 34:12
, etc.), which may also be done in contested matters that do not come before the public tribunal. The meaning of the three verses depends on the explanation given of אדני לא ראה, which is a disputed point. ראה with ל, "to look on something," may mean to care for it, be concerned about it, but not to select, choose, or to resolve upon, approve (Michaelis, Ewald, Thenius). Nor can the prophet mean to say, "The Lord does not look upon the treading down of the prisoners, the perversion of justice." If any one be still inclined, with Rosenmller and others, to view the words as the expression of a fact, then he must consider them as an exception taken by those who murmur against God, but repelled in Lamentations 3:37
. Moreover, he must, in some such way as the following, show the connection between Lamentations 3:33
and Lamentations 3:34
, by carrying out the idea presented in the exhortation to hope for compassion: "But will any one say that the Lord knows nothing of this - does not trouble Himself about such sufferings?" Whereupon, in Lamentations 3:37
, the answer follows: "On the contrary, nothing happens without the will of God" (Gerlach). But there is no point of attachment that can possibly be found in the words of the text for showing such a connection; we must therefore reject this view as being artificial, and forced upon the text. The difficulty is solved in a simple manner, by taking the words אדני לא as a question, just as has been already done in the Chaldee paraphrase: fierine potest ut in conspectu Jovae non reveletur? The absence of the interrogative particle forms no objection to this, inasmuch as a question is pretty often indicated merely by the tone. Lamentations 3:38
must also be taken interrogatively. Bצttcher and Thenius, indeed, think that the perfect ראה is incompatible with this; but the objection merely tells against the rendering, "Should not the Lord see it?" (De Wette, Maurer, Kalkschmidt), which of course would require יראה. But the idea rather is, "Hath not the Lord looked upon this?" The various acts of injustice mentioned in the three verses are not set forth merely as possible events, but as facts that have actually occurred.