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Lamentations 5:9

9. We gat our bread with the peril of our lives because of the sword of the wilderness.

9. In anima nostra (alii vertunt, in periculo vitae nostrae, vel, cum periculo) adduximus ad panem nostrum ob siccitatem deserti (alii vertunt, a facie gladii, in deserto.)


The word חרב, chereb, means drought as well as sword. As the Prophet is speaking of famine and the desert,, I have no doubt but that dryness or drought is sword the word means here; and I wonder that the word sword had occurred to any; they could not have regarded the context.

He then says that the people sought bread with the soul, that is, at the hazard of their own life. If danger be preferred, I do not object. But as he simply says, with the soul, he seems to express this, that for food they hazarded their own life. Food, indeed, is the support of life, for why is bread sought but for sustaining life? But the hungry so rush headlong to procure food, that they expose themselves to thousand dangers, and they also weary themselves with many labors; and this is to seek bread with their soul, that is, when men not only anxiously labor to procure food, but pour forth as it were their own blood, as when one undertakes a long journey to get some support, lie is almost lifeless when he reaches the distant hospital. As, then, the Jews nowhere found food, the Prophet says that they sought bread with their life, that is, at the hazard of life. This is the view I prefer.

He then adds, For the dryness of the wilderness. What has the sword to do with wilderness? We see that this is wholly unsuitable; there was then no reason why interpreters should pervert this word. But what he calls the dryness of the wilderness was the want by which the people were distressed, as though they were in the wilderness. This is said by way of comparison, — that on account of the dryness of the desert, that is, on account of sterility, they were under the necessity of exposing their life to death, only that they might anywhere find bread. 230230     The versions and the Targ. render the word, “sword;” and so do Gataker, Blayney, and Henderson. And by “the sword of the desert” are to be understood freebooters who carried swords and made incursions from desert places.
   At the risk of our life we got our bread,
On account of the sword of the desert

    — Ed.

It may also be, that the Prophet meant, that they were fugitives, and thus went in hunger through woods and forest, when they dared not to go forth into the open country lest the enemy should meet them. But what I have said is most suitable, that is, that they were so famished as though they were in a vast desert, and far away from every hospital, so that bread could nowhere be found. We now, then, perceive the meaning of the Prophet. He adds, —

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