But you have utterly rejected us; you are very wroth against us.
5:17-22 The people of God express deep concern for the ruins of the temple, more than for any other of their calamities. But whatever changes there are on earth, God is still the same, and remains for ever wise and holy, just and good; with Him there is no variableness nor shadow of turning. They earnestly pray to God for mercy and grace; Turn us to thee, O Lord. God never leaves any till they first leave him; if he turns them to him in a way of duty, no doubt he will quickly return to them in a way of mercy. If God by his grace renew our hearts, he will by his favour renew our days. Troubles may cause our hearts to be faint, and our eyes to be dim, but the way to the mercy-seat of our reconciled God is open. Let us, in all our trials, put our whole trust and confidence in his mercy; let us confess our sins, and pour out our hearts before him. Let us watch against repinings and despondency; for we surely know, that it shall be well in the end with all that trust in, fear, love, and serve the Lord. Are not the Lord's judgments in the earth the same as in Jeremiah's days? Let Zion then be remembered by us in our prayers, and her welfare be sought above every earthly joy. Spare, Lord, spare thy people, and give not thine heritage to reproach, for the heathen to rule over them.
Literally, "Unless thou hast utterly rejected us," unless "thou art very wroth against us." This is stated as a virtual impossibility. God's anger can be but temporary Psalm 30:5
, and therefore the very supposition is an indirect expression of hope.
This verse speaks of the possibility of an utter rejection through God's wrath. Therefore, to remove so painful a thought, and to make the book more suited for public reading, Lamentations 5:21 is repeated in many manuscripts intended for use in the synagogue. The same rule is observed in the synagogue with the two last verses of Ecclesiastes, Isaiah, and Malachi.
But...: or, For wilt thou utterly reject us?
But thou hast utterly rejected us,.... That looks as if they had no hope, and were in despair of having their petitions granted; since God had entirely rejected them from being his people, and would never more have mercy on them; but the words may be rendered, "though thou hast in rejecting rejected us" (e); or else, "unless thou hast utterly rejected us" (f); or rather by an interrogation, "for wilt thou utterly reject", or "despise us?" (g) surely thou wilt not; such is thy grace and goodness:
thou art very wroth against us; thou hast been, and still continuest to be: or, "wilt thou be exceeding wroth against us?" (h) or continue thy wrath to extremity, and for ever? thou wait not; it is not consistent with, thy mercy and grace, truth and faithfulness; and so it is an argument of faith in prayer, and not an expression of despondency; though the Jews, because they would not have the book end in what is sorrowful and distressing, repeat the foregoing verse; and the like method they take at the end of Ecclesiastes, and the prophecies of Isaiah and Malachi, as Jarchi observes.
(e) "quamvis detestatione detestatus es nos", Targ. (f) "Nisi forte repudiando repudiasti nos", Calvin. (g) "Nam an omnino sperneres nos?" Junius & Tremellius. (h) "effervesceres contra nos admodum?" Junius & Tremellius. But thou hast utterly rejected us; thou art very wroth against us.
Under the pressure of such circumstances, all public meetings and amusements have ceased. "The elders cease from the fate." The gate was the place of assembly for the people, not merely for deliberating upon public affairs (Ruth 4:15
; Joshua 20:4
), but also "for social entertainment (since there were no refreshment-rooms, coffeehouses, and public baths, such as are now to be found in the East), or even for quiet enjoyment in looking at the motley multitude of passers-by; Genesis 19:1
; 1 Samuel 4:18
; 1 Samuel 9:18
; Job 29:7
" (Winer's Bibl. R.W.B. s.v. Thor). That the gate is here to be regarded as a place of entertainment and amusement, is shown by the parallel member, "young men cease from their instrumental music;" cf. Lamentations 1:4
. On Lamentations 5:15
, cf. Jeremiah 7:34
; Jeremiah 16:9
, and Jeremiah 31:13
; Psalm 30:12
. Lastly, in Lamentations 5:16
, the writer sums up the whole of the misery in the complaint, "The crown of our head is fallen! woe unto us, for we have sinned," i.e., we suffer the punishment for our sins. "The fallen crown can only be a figurative expression for the honourable position of the people in its entirety, but which is now lost." Such is the view which Ewald rightly takes; on the other hand, the interpretation of Thenius, that "the 'crown of our head' is nothing else than Zion, together with its palaces, placed on Jerusalem, as it were on the head [of the country], and adorning it," deserves mention simply as a curious specimen of exegetical fancy. Ngelsbach has gone too far in restricting the figurative expression to the crown of Jerusalem, which consists in her being mistress among the nations, a princess among the regions of the earth (Lamentations 1:1
), the perfection of beauty, and the joy of the whole earth (Lamentations 2:15
); for "our crown" is not equivalent to Jerusalem, or a crown on the head of Jerusalem.
22. Rather, "Unless haply Thou hast utterly rejected us, and art beyond measure wroth against us," that is, Unless Thou art implacable, which is impossible, hear our prayer [Calvin]. Or, as Margin, "For wouldest Thou utterly reject us?" &c.—No; that cannot be. The Jews, in this book, and in Isaiah and Malachi, to avoid the ill-omen of a mournful closing sentence, repeat the verse immediately preceding the last [Calvin].
But thou hast utterly rejected us - It appears as if thou hadst sealed our final reprobation, because thou showest against us exceeding great wrath. But convert us, O Lord, onto thee, and we shall be converted. We are now greatly humbled, feel our sin, and see our folly: once more restore us, and we shall never again forsake thee! He heard the prayer; and at the end of seventy years they were restored to their own land.
This last verse is well rendered in the first printed edition of our Bible, 1535: - Renue our daies as in olde tyme, for thou hast now banished us longe ynough, and bene sore displeased at us.
My old MS. Bible is not less nervous: Newe thou our dais as fro the begynnyng: bot castand aweie thou put us out: thou wrathedist ugein us hugely.
Dr. Blayney translates, "For surely thou hast cast us off altogether:" and adds, "כי ki ought certainly to be rendered as causal; God's having rejected his people, and expressed great indignation against them, being the cause and ground of the preceding application, in which they pray to be restored to his favor, and the enjoyment of their ancient privileges."
Pareau thinks no good sense can be made of this place unless we translate interrogatively, as in Jeremiah 14:19 : -
"Hast thou utterly rejected Judah?
Hath thy soul loathed Sion?"
On this ground he translates here,
An enim prorsus nos rejecisses?
Nobis iratus esses usque adeo?
"Hast thou indeed utterly cast us off?
Wilt thou be angry with us for ever?"
Wilt thou extend thy wrath against us so as to show us no more mercy? This agrees well with the state and feelings of the complainants.