Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
This poem Lam. 1 divides itself into two equal parts; Lam 1:1-11 describe the misery which has befallen the Jews; in Lam 1:12-22, Jerusalem laments over her sufferings.
In these two verses is the same sad image as appears in the well-known medal of Titus, struck to celebrate his triumph over Jerusalem. A woman sits weeping beneath a palm-tree, and below is the legend "Judaea capta."
Translate Lam 1:1 :
How sitteth solitary the city that was full of people:
She is become as a widow that was great among the nations:
A princess among provinces she is become a vassal.
Tributary - In the sense of personal labor Jos 16:10.
Lovers ... friends - i. e. the states in alliance with Judaea, and all human helpers.
Because of ... - i. e. the people, not of Jerusalem only, but of the whole land, "is gone into exile to escape from the affliction and laborious servitude," to which they are subject in their own land.
Persecutors ... between the straits - Rather, "pursuers ... in the midst of her straits." The Jews flee like deer to escape from the invading Chaldaeans, but are driven by them into places from where there is no escape.
Zion, as the holy city, is the symbol of the religious life of the people, just as Judah in the previous verse represents their national life. The "virgins" took a prominent part in all religious festivals Jer 31:13; Exo 15:20.
Are the chief ... prosper - Or, "are become the head"... are at rest. Judaea is so entirely crushed that her enemies did not need to take precautions against resistance on her part.
Children - i. e. "young children," who are driven before the enemy (literally the adversary), not as a flock of lambs which follow the shepherd, but for sale as slaves.
Her princes ... - Jeremiah had before his mind the sad flight of Zedekiah and his men of war, and their capture within a few miles of Jerusalem Jer 39:4-5.
Jerusalem remembers in the days of her affliction,
And of her homelessness,
All her pleasant things which have been from the days of old:
Now that her people fall by the hand of the adversary,
And she hath no helper;
Her adversaries have seen her,
They have mocked at her sabbath-keepings.
The word rendered "homelessless" means wanderings, and describes the state of the Jews, cast forth from their homes and about to be dragged into exile.
Sabbaths - Or, sabbath-keepings, and the cessation from labor every seventh day struck foreigners as something strange, and provoked their ridicule.
Grievously sinned - literally, "Jerusalem hath sinned a sin," giving the idea of a persistent continuance in wickedness.
Removed - Or, become an abomination. Sin has made Jerusalem an object of horror, and therefore she is cast away.
Yea, she sigheth ... - Jerusalem groans over the infamy of her deeds thus brought to open shame, and turns her back upon the spectators in order to hide herself.
Her filthiness is in her skirts - Her personal defilement is no longer concealed beneath the raiment Jer 13:22.
She came down wonderfully - Jerusalem once enthroned as a princess must sit on the ground as a slave.
Her pleasant things - Chiefly, the sacred vessels of the temple Ch2 36:10.
Sanctuary ... congregation - Even a Jew might not enter the innermost sanctuary, which was for the priests only; but now the tramp of pagan soldiery has been heard within its sacred precincts.
Sigh ... seek - Are sighing ... are seeking. The words are present participles, describing the condition of the people. After a siege lasting a year and a half the whole country, far and near, would be exhausted.
To relieve the soul - See the margin, i. e. to bring back life to them. They bring out their jewels and precious articles to obtain with them at least a meal.
The lamentation of the city, personified as a woman in grief over her fate.
It prevaileth - Or, hath subdued.
He hath turned me back - Judaea, like a hunted animal, endeavors to escape, but finds every outlet blocked by nets, and recoils from them with terror and a sense of utter hopelessness.
Bound by his hand - As the plowman binds the yoke upon the neck of oxen, so God compels Judah to bear the punishment of her sins.
They are wreathed, and ... - Or, they are knotted together, "they come up" etc. Judah's sins are like the cords by which the pieces of the yoke are fastened together Jer 27:2; they are knotted and twined like a bunch upon the neck, and bind the yoke around it so securely that it is impossible for her to shake it off.
He hath made ... - Or, it hath made "my strength" to stumble. The yoke of punishment thus imposed and securely fastened, bows down her strength by its weight, and makes her totter beneath it.
The Lord - The third distich of the verse begins here, and with it a new turn of the lamentation. The title Adonai (properly, my Lord) is in the Lamentations used by itself in fourteen places, while the name Yahweh is less prominent; as if in their punishment the people felt the lordship of the Deity more, and His covenant-love to them less.
The Lord hath trodden under foot - Or, אדני 'ădonāy has made contemptible (i. e. put into the balance, made to go up as the lighter weight, and so made despicable) "my war-horses" (put metaphorically for heroes).
In the midst of me - They had not fallen gloriously in the battlefield, but remained ignominiously in the city.
Assembly - Or, "a solemn feast;" the word especially used of the great festivals Lev 23:2. אדני 'ădonāy has proclaimed a festival, not for me, but against me.
The Lord hath trodden ... - Or, "אדני 'ădonāy hath trodden the winepress for the virgin daughter of Judah." See Jer 51:14 note. By slaying Judah's young men in battle, God is trampling for her the winepress of His indignation.
Spreadeth forth her hands - In prayer Exo 9:29, Exo 9:33, but Zion entreats in vain. There is no one to comfort her - not God, for He is chastising her, nor man, for all the neighboring nations have become her enemies. See Lam 1:2.
That his adversaries ... - Rather, that those round about him should be his adversaries; all the neighboring states should regard him with aversion.
Jerusalem is ... - i. e. is become an abomination. The words are virtually the same as in Lam 1:8.
People - peoples, pagan nations.
I called for ... - Rather, to "my lovers."
While they sought their meat - literally, "for they sought food for themselves to revive their souls." Complete the sense by adding, "and found none."
Troubled - Or, inflamed with sorrow.
Turned within me - Agitated violently.
At home there is as death - i. e. "in the house" there are pale pining forms, wasting with hunger, and presenting the appearance of death.
They have heard ... - Or, "They heard that I sigh," that I have "no comforter."
Thou wilt bring the day ... - literally, thou hast brought "the day thou hast proclaimed, and they shall be like unto me." The day of Judah's punishment was the proof that the nations now triumphing over Jerusalem's fall would certainly be visited.