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Lamentations 4:9

9. They that be slain with the sword are better than they that be slain with hunger: for these pine away, stricken through for want of the fruits of the field.

9. Meliores fuerunt occisi gladio quam occisi fame; fluxerunt transrossi a fructibus agri.


The beginning of the verse is without any difficulty; for the Prophet says that it happened better to those who immediately perished by the sword than to others who had to struggle with famine, according to what he had lately said, that the punishment of Sodom was more tolerable, because it was suddenly executed. Sudden death is the easiest And the Prophet, when complaining that the ungodly prospered, so that the faithful sometimes envied them, says that they die as it were in a moment, and are taken away from the world; but he says that the faithful are held, as it were, captive by the snares of death, and protract life in perpetual languor. For this reason the Prophet now says that the punishment of death would have been light to the Jews. And yet we know that. a violent death is regarded by us with horror. For he who dies on his bed is said to yield to his fate, as he seems to pay what he owes to nature; but, he who is slain by the sword is violently snatched away, and, as it were, contrary to nature. Violent death, then, is always horrible. But the comparison used by the Prophet amplifies the atrocity of their punishment, because it would have been more desirable to have been killed at once than to remain alive to struggle with famine.

And he expresses himself more clearly by saying that they pined away, having been pierced through by the fruits of the earth There is here some obscurity, but by the fruits of the earth, we are no doubt to understand all kinds of food. Some consider that “defect,” or failure, is to be understood. But the Prophet speaks much more emphatically, even that all the productions of the earth took vengeance on this wicked people, by refusing the usual supply. The earth is the servant of God’s bounty and kindness; for it is the same as though he with his hand extended food to us, when the earth opens its bowels; so also the productions of the earth are evidences of God’s paternal love towards us. Now, when the fruits of the earth withdraw themselves from us, they are as it were the weapons to execute God’s vengeance. So, then, the Prophet means that the Jews had been pierced through by the fruits of the earth, and thus had pined away; as though he had said, that they had not been pierced by the sword, but had been wounded by famine, for the productions of the earth became, as it were, swords, while yet they sustain, as we have said, the life of men. 215215     Houbigant and Blayney have given the following version of this clause, which has been approved by Horsley,
   For those (the former) departed, having been cut off
Before the fruits of the field.

   That is, they bad been cut off before the fruits of the field failed, which occasioned the famine. This rendering is more satisfactory than our version or that of Calvin. Ed.

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