Lamentations Chapter 5  PDF  MSWord

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Go to Bible: Lamentations 5
Lam 5:1(top)
Lam 5:2(top)
Lam 5:3(top)
Lam 5:4(top)
Lam 5:5(top)
Lam 5:6

“given the hand.” An idiom for making a treaty or agreement that places you in a subservient position to the other party. The Jews who had been deported into other lands had to make an agreement with the people there to serve them in order to get food and water.

Lam 5:7

“fathers.” Not just the people’s immediate fathers. Here, in typical Semitic idiom, “fathers” means ancestors. The Jews had been sinning for centuries, and the Babylonian captivity was a consequence for that.

“iniquities.” The Hebrew text reads “iniquities,” but in this context, “iniquities” are being put by metonymy for “punishment.” The children were bearing the punishment that their ancestors should have received themselves because they were the ones who sinned. This often happens in historical and/or spiritual settings. An ancestor does something bad that later affects the children.

Lam 5:8

“hand.” In typical Semitic idiom, “hand” is put by metonymy for “power” or “authority.” It was common for people of power to use trusted slaves to rule over others. Even Roman senators complained bitterly that the slaves of the emperor were given positions of power and ordered them around.

Lam 5:9

“sword.” In this case the “sword” refers in large part to the sword of robbers who lurk in the wilderness and desert regions, but it also has the wider meaning of other dangers, such as getting lost in the desert and dying.

“wilderness.” This is hard to translate into English because we don’t have an equivalent word. It refers to an place that cannot be, or easily be cultivated, and thus wilderness, desert, remote place, uninhabited place, etc. Sometimes these areas were very small, perhaps just a few acres, just very rocky or barren, but sometimes they would be the great deserts. The places to which the Jews were deported had uninhabited places that were dangerous.

Lam 5:10(top)
Lam 5:11(top)
Lam 5:12

“Officials were hung up by their hands.” The commentators and versions disagree about what this phrase means. The Hebrew “by their hand” (the Hebrew is singular but can often be put for what we would understand as plural, “hands”) can be literal, that the officials were hung up by their hands as torture and to disgrace them (cp. CJB; HCSB; ESV; NIV), or it can be the simple idiom “by them,” meaning the official were hung by their oppressors, the Babylonians (cp. NAB; Rotherham).

The context favors that the officials were indeed hung up by their hands as torture. The women were raped (Lam. 5:11), the elders were disgraced (Lam. 5:12), the young men were shamed by having to do women’s work (Lam. 5:13). It is not out of context that the officials, who would have given the orders to fight the Babylonians instead of just surrendering, would be tortured.

“the faces of elders were not honored.” This is the figure of speech tapeinosis; stating something in a lesser way to magnify it. The elders were not just “not honored,” they were dishonored and treated with great disrespect.

Lam 5:13

“worked the hand-mills.” Many translators do not understand the huge cultural disgrace it was for a young man, especially of higher rank, to have to grind grain with a hand-mill, which was always the work of women or slaves. The Philistines did the same thing to Samson (Judg. 16:21). This was not difficult physical labor, this was to disgrace them and break their spirit. [For more on the hand-mills, see commentary on Deut. 24:6].

Lam 5:14

“elders are gone from the gate.” In the biblical culture of the Old Testament it was the custom that the elders of a city would sit at the city gate (Gen. 19:1, 9; Deut. 21:19; 22:15; 25:7; Josh. 20:4; Ruth 4:11; 1 Sam. 4:18; Esther 2:19, 21; 3:2; Lam. 5:14; Dan. 2:49). [For more on the elders at the gate, see commentary on Ruth 4:11; and for Wisdom being at the city gate, see commentary on Prov. 1:21].

Lam 5:15(top)
Lam 5:16(top)
Lam 5:17(top)
Lam 5:18

“jackals.” The Hebrew word for “fox” and “jackal” is the same, so the versions are divided, some saying foxes and some saying jackals. The context and known behavior of the animals is the determining factor in the translation. Foxes are solitary, not really dangerous to people, and tend to avoid human contact. In contrast, jackals are pack animals, dangerous to humans, and become very bold in their packs. Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians and by the time Jeremiah was writing it had become abandoned so completely that jackals roamed there, making the holiest sight on earth, the singular place where God decided to put His house, the Temple, unsafe for humans.

Lam 5:19(top)
Lam 5:20(top)
Lam 5:21(top)
Lam 5:22(top)

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