Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Lamentations 1:3 - 1:3

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Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Lamentations 1:3 - 1:3

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With Lam 1:3 begins the specific account of the misery over which Jerusalem sorrows so deeply. Judah has gone into exile, but she does not find any rest there among the nations. "Judah" is the population not merely of Jerusalem, but of the whole kingdom, whose deportation is bewailed by Jerusalem as the mother of the whole country. Although יְהוּדָה designates the people, and not the country, it is construed as a feminine, because the inhabitants are regarded as the daughter of the land; cf. Ewald, §174, b [and Gesenius, §107, 4, a]. 'מֵעֹנִי וגו has been explained, since J. D. Michaelis, by most modern expositors (Rosenmüller, Maurer, Ewald, Thenius, Nägelsbach), and previously by Calvin, as referring to the cause of the emigration, "from (because of) misery and much servitude;" and in harmony with this view, גָּֽלְתָה יְהוּדָה has been understood, not of the deportation of Judah into exile, but of the voluntary emigration of the fugitives who sought to escape from the power of the Chaldeans by fleeing into foreign countries, partly before and partly after the destruction of Jerusalem. But this interpretation neither agrees with the meaning of the words nor the context. Those fugitives cannot be designated "Judah," because, however numerous one may think they were, they formed but a fraction of the inhabitants of Judah: the flower of the nation had been carried off to Babylon into exile, for which the usual word is גָּלָה. The context also requires us to refer the words to involuntary emigration into exile. For, in comparison with this, the emigration of fugitives to different countries was so unimportant a matter that the writer could not possibly have been silent regarding the deportation of the people, and placed this secondary consideration in the foreground as the cause of the sorrow. מֵעֹנִי is not to be taken in a causal sense, for מִן simply denotes the coming out of a certain condition, "out of misery," into which Judah had fallen through the occupation of the country, first by Pharaoh-Necho, then by the Chaldeans; and רֹב עֲבֹדָה does not mean "much service," but "much labour." For עֲבֹדָה does not mean "service" (=עַבְדוּת), but "labour, work, business," e.g., עֲבֹדַת הַמֶּלֶךְ, "the service of the king," i.e., the service to be rendered to the king in the shape of work (1Ch 26:30), and the labour connected with public worship (1Ch 9:13; 1Ch 28:14, etc.); here, in connection with עֹנִי, it means severe labour and toil which the people had to render, partly for the king, that he might get ready the tribute imposed on the country, and partly to defend the country and the capital against those who sought to conquer them. Although Judah had wandered out from a condition of misery and toil into exile, yet even there she found no rest among the nations, just as Moses had already predicted to the faithless nation, Deu 28:65. All her pursuers find her בֵּין הַמְּצָרִים, inter angustias (Vulgate). This word denotes "straits," narrow places where escape is impossible (Psa 116:3; Psa 118:5), or circumstances in life from which no escape can be found.