Lamentations 2 – Purpose Proposed, Purpose Fulfilled
A. God as the enemy of Jerusalem.
1. (1-5) The Lord as Jerusalem’s enemy.
How the Lord has covered the daughter of Zion
With a cloud in His anger!
He cast down from heaven to the earth
The beauty of Israel,
And did not remember His footstool
In the day of His anger.
The Lord has swallowed up and has not pitied
All the dwelling places of Jacob.
He has thrown down in His wrath
The strongholds of the daughter of Judah;
He has brought them down to the ground;
He has profaned the kingdom and its princes.
He has cut off in fierce anger
Every horn of Israel;
He has drawn back His right hand
From before the enemy.
He has blazed against Jacob like a flaming fire
Devouring all around.
Standing like an enemy, He has bent His bow;
With His right hand, like an adversary,
He has slain all who were pleasing to His eye;
On the tent of the daughter of Zion,
He has poured out His fury like fire.
The Lord was like an enemy.
He has swallowed up Israel,
He has swallowed up all her palaces;
He has destroyed her strongholds,
And has increased mourning and lamentation
In the daughter of Judah.
a. How the Lord has covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in His anger: In previous generations, Jerusalem knew the cloud of God’s glory (1 Kings 8:10-12). Ezekiel saw the cloud of glory depart the city under judgment (Ezekiel 10). Now Jeremiah laments the presence of a cloud – not a cloud of glory, but a cloud of anger.
i. “The women in the eastern countries wear veils, and often very costly ones. Here, Zion is represented as being veiled by the hand of God’s judgment. And what is the veil? A dark cloud, by which she is entirely obscured.” (Clarke)
ii. “Neither Jehovah nor the daughter of Zion is conceived of as departed, or destroyed. She is covered in a cloud, and so cut off from the vision of Jehovah, that is, she cannot see Him. Clouds hide God from men; they never hide men from God.” (Morgan)
iii. Did not remember His footstool: “The earth is called the Lord’s footstool, Isaiah 66:1 Matthew 5:35 Acts 7:49, but here plainly the temple is understood, called God’s footstool, 1 Chronicles 28:2; and the whole temple seems rather to be understood than the ark.” (Poole)
b. He has thrown down in His wrath the strongholds of the daughter of Judah: This begins a long series of He has statements. The emphasis is again on the idea that all this destruction comes from God, even if it was through the instrument of the Babylonian army.
i. Daughter of Zion and daughter of Judah are privileged titles, yet that privledge carries with it great responsibility. For many generations God’s people thought only in terms of the priviledge and not of the responsibility. “The nation had imagined that it occupied a privileged position because it stood in covenant relationship with God, and was seemingly unaware that such a status involved important obligations in the moral and spiritual realm.” (Harrison)
ii. “In New Testament times, Capernaum was promised a share in the fate of Chorazin and Bethsaida (Matthew 11:21ff.) because she, too, had resisted the challenge of God’s redemptive works.” (Harrison)
c. Standing like an enemy, He has bent His bow: Jeremiah saw that God treated Jerusalem as an enemy and like an adversary. His skill and strength (with His right hand) was against them, not for him.
i. “In a strange twist on the Old Testament motif of the divine warrior, God was not fighting for his people, but against them.” (Ryken)
ii. “That is, God (whom by their sins they had provoked and made their enemy) behaved himself as an enemy, bending his bow, and stretching out his right hand, and slew their young men and maidens, who were pleasant to look upon; and had brought judgments upon them like fire, which devours without any discrimination.” (Poole)
2. (6-7) The Lord destroys His own tabernacle.
He has done violence to His tabernacle,
As if it were a garden;
He has destroyed His place of assembly;
The LORD has caused
The appointed feasts and Sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion.
In His burning indignation He has spurned the king and the priest.
The Lord has spurned His altar,
He has abandoned His sanctuary;
He has given up the walls of her palaces
Into the hand of the enemy.
They have made a noise in the house of the LORD
As on the day of a set feast.
a. He has done violence to His tabernacle: Here the temple was referred to as a tabernacle, just as sometimes the tabernacle was referred to as a temple. They were simply various ways of describing the house of God, His place of assembly.
b. The LORD has caused the appointed feasts and Sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion: When the temple and the city were destroyed, so were all the observances and institutions connected with them.
·Feasts and Sabbaths were no longer observed.
·His altar was rejected.
·His sanctuary was abandoned.
·Her palaces were given into the hand of the enemy.
c. They have made a noise in the house of the LORD: The sound of shouting and noise and commotion was common on the day of a set feast. Now they heard the sound from enemies who set the city in subjection.
B. A city reacts to the judgment of God.
1. (8-9a) The defenses of the city react.
The LORD has purposed to destroy
The wall of the daughter of Zion.
He has stretched out a line;
He has not withdrawn His hand from destroying;
Therefore He has caused the rampart and wall to lament;
They languished together.
Her gates have sunk into the ground;
He has destroyed and broken her bars.
a. The LORD has purposed to destroy the wall of the daughter of Zion: Jerusalem’s wall was its security. Once the wall was destroyed, the city was prey for anyone and everyone. God purposed to destroy, and the purpose was declared fulfilled in Lamentations 2:17.
b. He has stretched out a line: The idea is that God did His work with careful measuring and precision. There was nothing accidental or haphazard about it.
i. A line: “Of destruction, or a levelling line. See 2 Kings 21:13, Isaiah 34:11. Jerusalem was built by line, and so it was destroyed by him who doeth all things in number, weight, and measure.” (Trapp)
ii. “Just as a builder measured levels carefully in the process of construction, so God had been equally precise in the work of demolition to ensure that one stone did not stand upon another.” (Harrison)
c. Her gates have sunk into the ground: The walls were destroyed, the gates were sunk, and the bars protecting the city were broken.
2. (9b-10) The people of the city react.
Her king and her princes are among the nations;
The Law is no more,
And her prophets find no vision from the LORD.
The elders of the daughter of Zion
Sit on the ground and keep silence;
They throw dust on their heads
And gird themselves with sackcloth.
The virgins of Jerusalem
Bow their heads to the ground.
a. Her king and her princes are among the nations: The royalty and nobles have been taken to Babylon. Government institutions had disappeared and were of no help.
b. The Law is no more, and her prophets find no vision from the LORD: The spiritual institutions had also failed, and could give no help. There were no faithful priests to teach the Law, and the prophets were silent.
i. “Jeremiah was alone, and haply thought, when he saw all ruined, that he should prophesy no more. Ezekiel and Daniel were far remote. This was no small affliction that is here complained of.” (Trapp)
c. The elders of the daughter of Zion sit on the ground and keep silence: The leaders of the community were stunned into silence and of no help. All they could do was mourn (throw dust on their heads).
d. The virgins of Jerusalem bow their heads to the ground: The younger generation was of no help. All they could do was bow their heads to the ground in despair.
i. “The mention of the ‘elders’ and ‘young women’ is probably intended to include the whole surviving population.” (Ellison)
3. (11-12) The prophet reacts.
My eyes fail with tears,
My heart is troubled;
My bile is poured on the ground
Because of the destruction of the daughter of my people,
Because the children and the infants
Faint in the streets of the city.
They say to their mothers,
“Where is grain and wine?”
As they swoon like the wounded
In the streets of the city,
As their life is poured out
In their mothers’ bosom.
a. My eyes fail with tears: All this made Jeremiah undone. His eyes wept, his heart broke, his bile poured out in nausea. He saw the city’s destruction – especially the effect on the children and the infants and reacted this way.
i. “This whole verse is but expressive of the prophet’s great affliction for the miseries come upon the Jews: he wept himself almost blind, his passion had disturbed his bodily humours, that his bowels were troubled; his gall lying under his liver, upon this disturbance was vomited up: they are all no more than expressions of very great affliction and sorrow.” (Poole)
ii. My bile is poured on the ground: More literally, bile is liver. In particular the liver (MT kabed, ‘heavy’), which is actually the weightiest organ of the human body, was held in antiquity to be one of the locales of psychic life, being associated with profound emotional reactions, generally of a depressive nature.” (Harrison)
b. They swoon like the wounded: Jeremiah saw children fall to the ground as if they had been shot through with an arrow. They collapsed as their life is poured out in their mothers’ bosom.
i. The children and the infants faint in the streets: “This pathetic and tragic scene stands in stark contrast to the ideal of happy, carefree children playing in the streets of Jerusalem, a situation which is promised when the nation is restored (Zechariah 8:5).” (Harrison)
C. Longing to comfort a forsaken city.
1. (13-14) False prophets cannot comfort Jerusalem.
How shall I console you?
To what shall I liken you,
O daughter of Jerusalem?
What shall I compare with you, that I may comfort you,
O virgin daughter of Zion?
For your ruin is spread wide as the sea;
Who can heal you?
Your prophets have seen for you
False and deceptive visions;
They have not uncovered your iniquity,
To bring back your captives,
But have envisioned for you false prophecies and delusions.
a. How shall I console you? Jeremiah has often spoke of Jerusalem being without comfort. Now he finds himself unable to comfort the devastated city. Jerusalem’s ruin is spread wide as the sea and could not be helped.
i. “Divine retribution has burst in on Zion in the same manner as the sea forces its way through a gap in the protective wall.” (Harrison)
b. Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions: There were many false prophets in the last days of Judah, according to both Jeremiah and Ezekiel. They promised that God would rescue Jerusalem and Judah from the Babylonians and that He would quickly bring back your captives. They were all false prophecies and delusions.
2. (15-16) Friends and foes cannot comfort Jerusalem.
“The normal order of the Hebrew consonants ayin and pe in the acrostic structure of the poem is reversed in verse 16, as in the two subsequent dirges, for unknown reasons.” (Harrison)
All who pass by clap their hands at you;
They hiss and shake their heads
At the daughter of Jerusalem:
“Is this the city that is called
‘The perfection of beauty,
The joy of the whole earth’?”
All your enemies have opened their mouth against you;
They hiss and gnash their teeth.
They say, “We have swallowed her up!
Surely this is the day we have waited for;
We have found it, we have seen it!”
a. All who pass by clap their hands at you: This was not applause; it was a mournful reaction, fitting to those who hiss and shake their heads. All who saw it were astonished at the city that was once marked by beauty and joy.
b. We have swallowed her up: This was the triumphant cry of Jerusalem’s enemies. They waited long for the day of her conquest and were now happy to have seen it.
i. “Jerusalem was the envy of the surrounding nations: they longed for its destruction, and rejoiced when it took place.” (Clarke)
D. God’s purpose in the day of the Lord’s anger.
1. (17) The judgment of Jerusalem as what God purposed.
The LORD has done what He purposed;
He has fulfilled His word
Which He commanded in days of old.
He has thrown down and has not pitied,
And He has caused an enemy to rejoice over you;
He has exalted the horn of your adversaries.
a. The LORD has done what He purposed: Jeremiah announced God’s purpose in Lamentations 2:8 (The LORD has purposed to destroy the wall of the daughter of Zion). In the judgment upon Jerusalem and Judah, Yahweh fulfilled what He purposed and has fulfilled His word.
b. He has caused an enemy to rejoice over you: If Jerusalem had remained faithful to Yahweh, no enemy could have conquered them. Yet because of their persistent sin and rebellion, God had exalted the horn of their adversaries.
2. (18-19) The prayer of Jerusalem’s enemies.
Their heart cried out to the Lord,
“O wall of the daughter of Zion,
Let tears run down like a river day and night;
Give yourself no relief;
Give your eyes no rest.
“Arise, cry out in the night,
At the beginning of the watches;
Pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord.
Lift your hands toward Him
For the life of your young children,
Who faint from hunger at the head of every street.”
a. O wall of the daughter of Zion, let tears run down like a river day and night: This was the taunting prayer of the enemies rejoicing over Jerusalem (as in the previous lines). They wanted Jerusalem to weep forever.
b. Lift your hands toward Him for the life of your young children: The enemies of Jerusalem were happy by the sight of the people of the city crying out in prayer, pleading for their young children perishing from hunger.
i. Your young children, who faint from hunger: “The dying children seem to have crawled from their homes towards the main city streets in a desperate, though vain, service for food. A personified Zion turns away in shock from this horrible scene with a desperate plea to God.” (Harrison)
3. (20-22) The agony of the perishing city.
“See, O LORD, and consider!
To whom have You done this?
Should the women eat their offspring,
The children they have cuddled?
Should the priest and prophet be slain
In the sanctuary of the Lord?
“Young and old lie
On the ground in the streets;
My virgins and my young men
Have fallen by the sword;
You have slain them in the day of Your anger,
You have slaughtered and not pitied.
“You have invited as to a feast day
The terrors that surround me.
In the day of the LORD’s anger
There was no refugee or survivor.
Those whom I have borne and brought up
My enemies have destroyed.”
a. To whom have You done this? Jerusalem’s agonized cry to God asked Him to consider the city and people He had loved. He asked God to consider the depths of their agony, including cannibalism (the women eat their offspring) and the death of the priest and prophet.
i. The women eat their offspring: “That they did so in the siege of Jerusalem by the Chaldees, it appeareth by this question. In the famine of Samaria, under Joram, they did likewise; [2 Kings 6:28-29] as also at the last destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans; and at the siege of Sancerra, in France, A.D. 1572.” (Trapp)
b. You have slain them in the day of Your anger: Jerusalem personified knew it was all the deserved judgment of God. It was Yahweh who invited a collection of terrors to surround Jerusalem. All those sustained by Jerusalem (those whom I have borne and brought up) have been destroyed by her enemies.
i. My virgins and my young men have fallen by the sword: “The slaughter of the young men and women was particularly serious because it precluded the appearing of another generation.” (Harrison)
ii. You have invited as to a feast day: “Perhaps the figure is the collecting of the people in Jerusalem on one of the solemn annual festivals. God has called terrors together to feast on Jerusalem, similar to the convocation of the people from all parts of the land to one of those annual festivals.” (Clarke)