Commentary on Jeremiah and Lamentations - Volume 4 - Enhanced Version (Calvins Commentaries Book 20)

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The Expositors Bible Jeremiah-Ezekiel Commentary

There are passages in the Lamentations that seem Jeremiah-like, echoes and suggestions of his prophecies, though we cannot always connect them with any particular utterance of that Prophet. Sometimes, again, the one distinctly and promptly suggests and recalls the others. For example. In Lam. The same clarion voice that rung out the cry as if from the ramparts of Babylon in Jer. He who arrested himself on the very verge of a criminal despair, when he wrote Lam. And the author of Lam. Last of all, and most conclusive as a rebutting argument to Dr.

But now we come into direct collision with Dr. It would be a stronger argument to say that Jeremiah did not write Lamentations, because it introduces a great many thoughts and ideas not contained in his prophecies, than it is to urge the appearance of new words, or of old words in new combinations, not found in his prophecies.

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For it is notorious that men of letters have greater command of language than of thoughts, greater versatility in expressing the same thought in different words, than of infusing original ideas into old words. But Dr. Only ten verses in the whole book have escaped his acute criticism, the results of which are all displayed to full advantage.

While the patient labor evinced by this minute catalogue is to be commended, the reader will feel that Dr. Had he done so, his pages would have presented to the eye at least, a less startling array of facts and instances,—but he himself might have discovered, in the process of generalization, that those facts and instances are more apparent to the eye than they are to the understanding. In reviewing this catalogue we ought, first of all, to remember that great differences in style and language, between two such books as the prophecies of Jeremiah and the Lamentations, even if the productions of one author, were to be expected; and then, secondly, we should inquire, whether the differences that do exist are such as are compatible, according to the rules of a just criticism, with their being the productions of one author.

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With regard to the first point, we should observe, that the prophecies, for the most part, have somewhat of the character of unpremeditated, extemporaneous effusions, designed to produce an immediate effect on the hearts and consciences of the king, the princes, priests, prophets and people. Therefore they were expressed in the common colloquial words, idioms and phrases of daily life.


These prophetical deliverances often assumed the forms and diction of poetry. But it was the poetry of the orator, rather than of the writer. Eloquence always is poetical. This is especially true of oriental eloquence. But its poetry is the expression of impassioned thoughts in language imaginative and ornate, spontaneously and unconsciously falling into harmonious cadences, that with us who speak the English language grow into rhythmical periods, but with the Hebrews passed into parallelisms and regularly constructed sentences, divided by cesuras and accents into parts corresponding more or less accurately in length.

Such is the poetry we find in the prophecies of Jeremiah; touching our hearts by their pathos, as in the weeping Rachel, refusing to be comforted, or in the plaintive cry, Is there no balm in Gilead, no physician there?

Commentaries - Old Testament | Biblical Studies

Chaos comes again over the earth. Darkness covers the heavens. The everlasting mountains tremble. Man disappears from below and the birds fly from the darkened air. Cities become ruins, and the fruitful places wildernesses, before the advancing anger of the Lord. Even unpoetic translators have felt compelled to give it the external garb of poetry, by marking its periods with lines, though some, like our own lamented Dr. The fourth chapter, for instance, from which the description of the coming judgment is taken, was a fervent address to the people, designed to stir them up to repentance.

It was a sermon, an exhortation, a prophetic message from God to His Church. Its poetical features were incidental to its impassioned style. The same remarks will apply to all the poetical portions of the Book; and much of the Book is undeniably simply prose, historical or ethical. Throughout he seeks, not poetical, but oratorical effect. He speaks, not as the poet, but as the preacher.

Unlike the Prophecies, the Lamentations are in the strictest sense a poem. This poem was composed in circumstances very different from those in which the Prophecies were produced, and for a very different purpose. The prophet-preacher and orator had fulfilled his unsuccessful mission and retired in a measure from public view. He was in exile with that portion of his countrymen who had fled to Egypt. Here he, who had passed the whole of the former part of his life amidst the excitements and agitations of events more critical and important than any that had occurred in the history of the Jews since they entered on possession of the promised land, now in his old age experienced comparative quiet and leisure.

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There were, it is true, sorrow and suffering enough around him. The venerable and broken-hearted man had time now for careful composition. Everything in this poem shows premeditation and pains-taking in the execution, such as we might expect of the prophet in the circumstances in which he was placed. He imposed upon himself the most artificial rules then practised by the writers of poetry, either by his own preference, or to adapt his poem to the prevailing tastes of the Hebrew people. The initial letters of the verses were to be alphabetically arranged, and in the middle chapter or song the alphabet was to be thrice repeated by giving the same initial letter to every clause of each verse; each verse of the first three chapters was to consist of three periods, or members, the fourth chapter of two, and the fifth of one, agreeing externally with what Dr.

These were the rules or laws of composition adopted. Yet these artificial restraints were to be so managed that they should not interrupt the continuity of thought, prevent harmony of expression, or destroy the unity that should characterize the five songs as the component parts of one perfect poem. To fulfil all these requirements, a careful choice of words and phrases was imperative.

Deliberation was necessary at every step. And the Poet must go beyond the resources of his accustomed dialect and habit of speaking and writing, and cull from the whole Hebrew language the words, idioms and expressions that best suited his purpose. The result inevitably was the occurrence in this poem of a phraseology that is nowhere else found, either in the prophecies of the same author, or in any other single Book of the Holy Bible. How could it be otherwise? We think, therefore, that it ought to be assumed and granted, as a foregone conclusion, that the Lamentations, even if written by Jeremiah, should contain words, phrases, and turns of thought expressed by a novel use of words, nowhere produced in his book of prophecies.

Granting this, we are next to ask, whether the verbal differences between the prophecies of Jeremiah and the Lamentations are of such a character as to compel us to the decision that they could not be the productions of the same author? For a full answer to this question, we must refer to the remarks made upon these verbal differences, as they occur, in the following commentary.

But a sufficient answer is contained in the statement, that all these differences may be explained, consistently with the presumption that Jeremiah is the author of this book, by a due consideration of the following rules, or laws of construction. The choice of these poems for this purpose is induced by the fact that Mrs. Time has not allowed a full examination of these poems. The plays of our English poet are so voluminous that they might be expected to exhaust even his vocabulary, while the prophecies of Jeremiah could not possibly call into use all the words and expressions at the command of a writer or speaker of even ordinary fluency.

Yet in the very first stanza of Venus and Adonis, consisting of six lines, there are four instances of words or expressions that do not occur in the plays of the dramatist, purple-colored face, weeping morn, hied, sick-thoughted , and two that occur only once in his plays, rose-cheeked and bold-faced. In the first stanza of Tarquin and Lucrece, consisting of seven lines, there are three instances of words not found in the plays, trustless, lust-breathing , and lightless. With such facts as these before us, we ought to be prepared for great novelties in the style and language of the Lamentations.

And yet we will find that what Dr. New combinations of words familiar to the writer and occurring with more or less frequency in his Prophecies. These seldom involve real differences in language and style, and it is unfair to cite them as such. For the writer who used the expression in Jer. Any writer might connect so common a preposition with a familiar noun. If Jeremiah did it only once, so Isaiah in all his writings uses this expression once, and only once Many of the specifications given by Dr.

Hence the word occurs only here. Is it fair to put this down as an indication of style? In fact, however, we claim the evidence of this very word in behalf of the traditional theory. When for the first time he would speak of the cheek, what word should he use, but the only one used by the inspired Scriptures with which he was familiar? See Deut. The word occurs in thirteen other places, where it seems to mean the jaw.