Doleful consideration and description of the dishonour that has befallen Jerusalem. In these verses the prophet, in the name of the godly, pours out his heart before the Lord. The dreadful turn that things have taken is briefly declared in Lam 1:1 in two clauses, which set forth the fall of Jerusalem from its former glory into the depths of disgrace and misery, in such a way that the verse contains the subject unfolded in the description that follows. We have deviated from the Masoretic pointing, and arranged the verse into three members, as in the succeeding verses, which nearly throughout form tristichs, and have been divided into two halves by means of the Athnach; but we agree with the remark of Gerlach, "that, according to the sense, הָֽיְתָה לָמַס and not הָֽיְתָה כְּאַלְמָנָה is the proper antithesis to רַבָּתִי בַגֹּויִם." אֵיכָה is here, as in Lam 2:1; Lam 4:1-2, an expression of complaint mingled with astonishment; so in Jer 48:17; Isa 1:21. "She sits solitary" (cf. Jer 15:17) is intensified by "she has become like a widow." Her sitting alone is a token of deep sorrow (cf. Neh 1:4), and, as applied to a city, is a figure of desolation; cf. Isa 27:10. Here, however, the former reference is the main one; for Jerusalem is personified as a woman, and, with regard to its numerous population, is viewed as the mother of a great multitude of children. רַבָּתִי is a form of the construct state, lengthened by Yod compaginis, found thrice in this verse, and also in Isa 1:21, elegiac composition; such forms are used, in general, only in poetry that preserves and affects the antique style, and reproduces its peculiar ring.
(Note: On the different views regarding the origin and meaning of this Yod compaginis, cf. Fr. W. M. Philippi, Wesen u. Ursprung des Status constr. im Hebr. S. 96ff. This writer (S. 152ff.) takes it to be the remnant of a primitive Semitic noun-inflexion, which has been preserved only in a number of composite proper names of ancient origin e.g., מַלְכִּיחֶדֶק, etc.]; in the words אָב, אָח, and חָם, in which it has become fused with the third radical into a long vowel; and elsewhere only between two words standing in the construct relation see Ges. §90; Ewald, §211.)
According to the twofold meaning of רַב (Much and Great), רַבָּתִי in the first clause designates the multiplicity, multitude of the population; in the second, the greatness or dignity of the position that Jerusalem assumed among the nations, corresponding to the שָׂרָתִי בַמְּדִינֹות, "a princess among the provinces." מְדִינָה, from דִּין (properly, the circuit of judgment or jurisdiction), is the technical expression for the provinces of the empires in Asia (cf. Est 1:1, Est 1:22, etc.), and hence, after the exile, was sued of Judah, Ezr 2:1; Neh 7:6, and in 1Ki 20:17 of the districts in the kingdom of Israel. Here, however, הַמְּדִינֹות are not the circuits or districts of Judah (Thenius), but the provinces of the heathen nations rendered subject to the kingdom of Israel under David and Solomon (corresponding to הַגֹּויִים), as in Ecc 2:8. Jerusalem was formerly a princess among the provinces, during the flourishing period of the Jewish kingdom under David and Solomon. The writer keeps this time before his mind, in order to depict the contrast between the past and present. The city that once ruled over nations and provinces has now become but dependent on others. מַס (the derivation of which is disputed) does not mean soccage or tribute, but the one who gives soccage service, a soccager; see on Exo 1:11 and 1Ki 4:6. The words, "The princess has become a soccager," signify nothing more than, "She who once ruled over peoples and countries has now fallen into abject servitude," and are not (with Thenius) to be held as "referring to the fact that the remnant that has been left behind, or those also of the former inhabitants of the city who have returned home, have been set to harder labour by the conquerors." When we find the same writer inferring from this, that these words presuppose a state of matters in which the country round Jerusalem has been for some time previously under the oppression of Chaldean officers, and moreover holding the opinion that the words "how she sits..." could only have been written by one who had for a considerable period been looking on Jerusalem in its desolate condition, we can only wonder at such an utter want of power to understand poetic language.