Lamentations



by Ken Cayce



Ken Cayce All rights reserved.


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Lamentations Explained





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Book of Lamentations Explained

Title: "Lamentations" was derived from a translation of the title as found in the Latin Vulgate translation of the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint (LXX), and conveys the idea of "loud cries." The Hebrew exclamation Ekah ("How," which expresses "dismay"), used in 1:1, 2:1, 4:1, gives the book its Hebrew title. However, the rabbis began early to call the book "loud cries" or "lamentations" (compare Jer. 7:29). No other entire Old Testament book contains only laments, as does this distressful dirge, marking the funeral of the once beautiful city of Jerusalem (compare 2:15). This book keeps alive the memory of that for all and teaches all believers how to deal with suffering.


The Hebrew title of the book, Ekah, "How," comes from the first word of the text. It was often used to introduce laments, as here (compare Isaiah 1:21), and stands also at the head of chapters 2 and 4. The Greek title "Tears/Wailings," is the same in the Latin Vulgate which adds a subtitle "That is, The Lamentations of the Prophet Jeremiah." For this explanation comes the title in the English versions.


Authorship: The author of Lamentations is not named within the book, but there are internal and historical indications that it was Jeremiah. The LXX introduces Lam. 1:1, "And it came to pass, after Israel had been carried away captive", Jeremiah sat weeping (compare 3:48-49, etc.). God had told Jeremiah to have Judah lament (Jer. 7:29). And Jeremiah also wrote laments for Josiah (2 Chron. 35:25).


Jeremiah wrote Lamentations as an eyewitness (Compare 1:13-15; 2:6, 9; 4:1-12), possibly with Baruch's secretarial help (compare Jer. 36:4; 45:1), during or soon after Jerusalem's fall in 586 B.C. It was mid-July when the city fell and mid-August when the temple was burned. Likely, Jeremiah saw the destruction of walls, towers, homes, palace, and temple; he wrote while the event remained painfully fresh in his memory, but before his forced departure to Egypt (in ca. 583 B.C.; compare Jer. 43:1-7). The language used in Lamentations closely parallels that used by Jeremiah in his much larger prophetic book (compare 1:2 with Jer. 30:14; 1:15 with Jer. 8:21; 1:6 and 2:11 with Jer. 9:1, 18; 2:22 with Jer. 6:25; 4:21 with Jer. 49:12).


Both Jewish and Christian traditions hold that Jeremiah is the author of Lamentations. Internal evidence supports this conclusion:


(1) The author was an eyewitness to Jerusalem's destruction (1:13-15; 2:6-13; 4:10).


(2) The language, vocabulary, and sentiment of the prophecy of Jeremiah and lamentations are often very close (compare 1:16a; 2:11 with Jeremiah 9:1, 18; 13:17; Lam. 2:20; 4:10 with Jer. 19:9; Lam. 2:22 with Jer. 6:25; 20:10; Lam. 3:15 with Jer. 9:15; 23;15; Lam. 3:64-66 with Jer. 11:20).


(3) In both books Jerusalem's downfall is ascribed to Judah's sin (compare 1:5-18; 3:42; 4:6, 22; 5:7, 16 with Jer. 14;7; 16:10-12), and to its corrupt leadership (compare 2:14; 4:13-15 with Jer. 2:7-8; 5:31; 23;11-40).


In the light of the external and internal evidence, then, no other person qualifies so well to be the author as the traditional candidate, Jeremiah.


Historical Setting: Lamentations was composed after the author personally witnessed Judah's downfall and the capture of Jerusalem, with the resultant suffering of his people. In its final form, the book cannot be dated much later that Jerusalem's fall (586 B.C.). The author thus pens his sorrow over the tragedy that befell his country and city, and over the people's sin that invoked God's severe judgment. In response to all that has happened, he urges repentance (compare 5:21) and leaves his bearers with a note of hope by personally relying on the sure mercies of God (3:22-23).


Jerusalem, indeed the entire land of Israel, was a heartbreaking sight in 586 B.C. With its glory consumed by fire and defeat, the City of David was now a city of utter devastation.


The 10 northern tribes, Israel, had been decimated by Assyrian armies in 722 B.C. And Judah's elite (including Daniel and his three Hebrew friends), had recently been deported to Babylon (in 606 B.C.). This attack on Jerusalem was simply the final blow. The temple was obliterated, the walls of the city was flattened. Mount Zion was a pile of rubble, with only wind, wild animals, and weakened survivors left.


Those who remained had two questions: Why, and what now? The "why" was clear. God's prophets had warned for years against the consequences of ongoing sin. As for "what now", the Book of Lamentations answers: repentance.


Jeremiah had told the people that the land would be allowed to rest for 70 years (Jer. 25:11), after the devastation. It would be that long before the captives would return and the city and temple could be rebuilt. If those left behind did nothing but repent for 70 years, it would be time well spent. And the five laments compiled in the Book of Lamentations would be their prayer book.


Lamentations is often called the most sorrowful book in the Bible, written by the most sorrowful author, Jeremiah, known as the weeping prophet (Jer. 7:29; 8:21; 9:1, 10, 20).


Background: The prophetic seeds of Jerusalem's destruction were sown through Joshua 800 years in advance (Joshua 23:15-16). Now, for over 40 years, Jeremiah had prophesied of coming judgment and been scorned by the people for preaching doom (ca. 645 - 605 B.C.). When that judgment came on the disbelieving people from Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army, Jeremiah still responded with great sorrow and compassion toward his suffering and obstinate people. Lamentations relates closely to the book of Jeremiah, describing the anguish over Jerusalem's receiving God's judgment for unrepentant sins. In the book that bears his name, Jeremiah had predicted the calamity (in chapters 1-29). In Lamentations, he concentrates in more detail on the bitter suffering and heartbreak that was felt over Jerusalem's devastation (compare 46:4-5). So critical was Jerusalem's destruction that the facts are recorded in 4 separate Old Testament chapters (2 Kings chapter 25; Jer. 39:1-11; chapter 52 and 2 Chron. 36:11-21).


All 154 verses have been recognized by the Jews as a part of their sacred canon. Along with Ruth, Esther, Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes, Lamentations is included among the Old Testament books of the Megilloth, or "five scrolls," which were read in the synagogue on special occasions. Lamentations is read on the 9th of Ab (July/August), to remember the date of Jerusalem's destruction by Nebuchadnezzar. Interestingly, this same date later marked the destruction of Herod's temple by the Romans (in A.D. 70).


Lamentations consists of five poems. Each of the first four is composed as an acrostic of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet (although it should be noted that chapters 2, 3 and 4 are somewhat irregular since they invert the letters pe and ayin).


Chapters 1, 2, 4 and 5 have 22 verses; chapter 3, however, devotes three verses to each letter, yielding 66 verses. This familiar poetic device indicates that the author is covering his material thoroughly ("from A to Z"), in a way easy for is audience to understand and remember. The Jewish people read Lamentations every year on the date commemorating the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.


Historical and Theological Themes: The chief focus of Lamentations is on God's judgment in response to Judah's sin. This theme can be traced throughout the book (1:5, 8, 18, 20; 3:42; 4:6, 13, 22; 5:16). A second theme which surfaces is the hope found in God's compassion (as in 3:22-24; 31-33; compare Psalm 30:3-5). Though the book deals with disgrace, it turns to God's great faithfulness (3:22-25), and closes with grace as Jeremiah moves from Lamentation to consolation (5:19-22).


God's sovereign judgment represents a third current in the book. His holiness was so offended by Judah's sin that He ultimately brought the destructive calamity. Babylon was chosen to be His human instrument for wrath (1:5, 12, 15; 2:1, 17; 3:37-38; compare Jer. 50:23). Jeremiah mentions Babylon more than 150 times (from Jer. 20:4 to 52:34), but in Lamentations he never once explicitly names Babylon or its king, Nebuchadnezzar. Only the Lord is identified as the One who dealt with Judah's sin.


Fourth, because the sweeping judgment seemed to be the end of every hope of Israel's salvation and the fulfillment of God's promises (compare 3:18), much of the book appears in the mode of prayer:


(1) 1:11, which represents a wailing confession of sin (compare verse 18);


(2) 3:8, with its anguish when God "shuts out my prayer" (compare 3:43-54; Jer. 7:16);


(3) 3:55-59, where Jeremiah cries to God for relief, or 3:60-66, where he seeks for recompense to the enemies (which Jer. chapters 50 and 51 guarantees); and


(4) 5:1-22, with its appeal to heaven for restored mercy (which Jer. chapters 30-33 assures), based on the confidence that God is faithful (3:23).


A fifth feature relates to Christ. Jeremiah's tears (3:48-49), compare with Jesus' weeping over the same city of Jerusalem (Matt. 23:37-39; Luke 19:41-44).


Though God was the judge and executioner, it was a grief to Him to bring this destruction. The statement "In all their affliction, He [God] was afflicted" (Isa. 63:9), was true in principle. God will one day wipe away all tears (Isa. 25:8; Rev. 7:17; 21:4), when sin shall be no more.


A sixth theme is an implied warning to all who read this book. If God did not hesitate to judge His beloved people (Deut. 32:10), what will He do to the nations of the world who reject His Word?





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Lamentations 1 Lamentations 4
Lamentations 2 Lamentations 5
Lamentations 3  

Lamentations 1



Lamentations Chapter 1

Lamentations is actually part of Jeremiah. It is written by Jeremiah, as well. We will find it to be like a funeral for the entire nation of Israel. It gives us a picture of the capture and destruction of Judah.


This book shows Jeremiah as the weeping prophet. He is intercessor for his people. His mourning for his homeland and his people is great. It appears, this happened after Jerusalem and Judah were carried away captive into Babylon. Jeremiah tries to repent before God for his people. This never works. They must repent for themselves.


Verses 1-22: "How doth the city sit solitary": Jerusalem was lonely, its people mourning (verse 2), forsaken by formerly friendly nations (verse 2), in captivity (verse 3), uprooted from their land, (verse 3), their temple violated (verse 10). The multitude of sins (verses 5, 8), had brought this judgment from the righteous God (verse 18).


Lamentations 1:1 "How doth the city sit solitary, [that was] full of people! [how] is she become as a widow! she [that was] great among the nations, [and] princess among the provinces, [how] is she become tributary!"


"Like a widow": (Verses 1-11), vividly portray the city like a bereft and desolate woman, as often in other Scriptures (compare Ezek. 16, 23; Micah 4:10, 13).


"Become tributary": Judah was taken captive to serve as slaves in Babylon.


Suddenly the greatness of Jerusalem is gone. Thousands are taken into captivity and many times that many have died. Jeremiah remembers the greatness and weeps for the desolation. He was there to see it all. He warned them ahead of time, but they did not listen. People from many nations had come to Jerusalem to worship in the temple. Now, there is no temple for anyone to worship in. New Jerusalem is described as a bride. Certainly, Jerusalem destroyed is like a widow.


Lamentations 1:2 "She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears [are] on her cheeks: among all her lovers she hath none to comfort [her]: all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies."


"She hath none to comfort her": This ominous theme is mentioned four other times (verses 9, 16-17, 21).


"Lovers ... friends ... are become their enemies": This refers to the heathen nations allied to Judah, and their idols whom Judah "loved" (Jer. 2:20-25). Some later joined as enemies against her (2 Kings 24:2, 7; Psalm 137:7).


The "lovers" mentioned in the verse above, are speaking of lands they had made alliances with, such as Egypt. When Babylon came, there was no one to help, mainly because it was a judgment from God. God was considered the husband of Israel. We will get into this teaching in more detail in the book of Hosea. It is as if God has divorced her here.


Lamentations 1:3 "Judah is gone into captivity because of affliction, and because of great servitude: she dwelleth among the heathen, she findeth no rest: all her persecutors overtook her between the straits."


"Captivity" (ca. 586 B.C.; as in Jer. 39-40, 52). There had been two deportations earlier (in 605 B.C. and 597 B.C.).


We remember, that many of the people fled into the other surrounding countries, when they knew Babylon was coming. This is speaking of them. It was not long after Judah was overthrown, that Babylon went to many of these countries where the Jews had fled and overtook them. It seems, the people who fled took their problems with them. They did not end when they fled to another country.


Lamentations 1:4 "The ways of Zion do mourn, because none come to the solemn feasts: all her gates are desolate: her priests sigh, her virgins are afflicted, and she [is] in bitterness."


"Zion": This represent the place where Jehovah dwells, the mount on which the temple was built.


"Solemn feasts": Passover, Pentecost (Feast of Weeks), and Booths, or Tabernacles (compare Exodus chapter 23, Lev. Chapter 23).


"Her priests sigh": These were among those left in Judah before fleeing to Egypt (Jer. chapter 43), or possibly exiles in Babylon who mourned from afar (compare verse 3).


The "ways of Zion" is probably speaking of the roads that people from other countries travelled on to worship at the temple in Jerusalem. It would be sad to see those roads empty now. There are no more priests. They are either dead or in captivity, and there is no more temple to worship in. Jerusalem had been the center of worship in this area, and now this is no more.


Lamentations 1:5 "Her adversaries are the chief, her enemies prosper; for the LORD hath afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions: her children are gone into captivity before the enemy."


"The multitude of her transgressions": This was the cause of the judgment (compare Jer. 40:3; Dan 9:7, 16).


In the past, they had been the head, and now they are the tail. Their enemy, Babylon, has become the head. The enemy prospers, because of the treasures they had taken from Jerusalem. They even took the temple treasures.


Lamentations 1:6 "And from the daughter of Zion all her beauty is departed: her princes are become like harts [that] find no pasture, and they are gone without strength before the pursuer."


The kingdom removed; the priesthood ceased; the temple and their beautiful house, burnt; and the palaces of their king and nobles demolished. And everything in church and state that was glorious were now no more.


"Her princes are become like harts that find no pasture": That are heartless and without courage, fearful and timorous, as harts are (an adult male deer), especially when destitute of food.


"And they are gone without strength before the pursuer": Having no spirit nor courage to oppose the enemy, nor strength to flee from him, they fell into his hands, and so were carried away captive (see Jer. 52:8).


The beauty of Jerusalem was in her temple. The beautiful gold, silver, and brass ornaments were unmatched anywhere. The city focused around the beauty of their worship. Zion is also the church. We know that the beauty of the church is in its relationship to God as well. Throughout the Bible, we read about the beauty of holiness. This is perhaps, what is spoken of here. "The princes like harts" means they are dissatisfied. They go and find no place of pasture.


Lamentations 1:7 "Jerusalem remembered in the days of her affliction and of her miseries all her pleasant things that she had in the days of old, when her people fell into the hand of the enemy, and none did help her: the adversaries saw her, [and] did mock at her sabbaths."


The inhabitants of Jerusalem, now that they are in affliction and misery, have time to remember their former mercies. And with how many desirable things God had once blessed them, and compare her former state before she fell into the enemies' hands. In her present state now she is in their power. Now it is an affliction to them to hear her enemies mock at her Sabbaths, which while they enjoyed, they abused.


One of the things that set Jerusalem and the Jews apart from everyone else, was her observance of Sabbaths. In the bad times of our lives, we look back at more pleasant times. They were no different. Sometimes, something has to be taken away from us before we truly appreciate it. They had taken the temple for granted, until they had it no more. Now those who had admired the Jews before and had feared her God, are making fun of her for believing in her God and keeping Sabbath.



Verses 1:8-9: The cause of "Jerusalem's" fall is her apostasy. She has played the harlot (compare Jer. 2:1 to 3:5), by practicing the abominable idolatries of the Canaanites and their neighbors.


Lamentations 1:8 "Jerusalem hath grievously sinned; therefore she is removed: all that honored her despise her, because they have seen her nakedness: yea, she sigheth, and turneth backward."


"She is removed": This could refer to either the vile, wretched estate of continued sin and its ruinous consequences through judgment, or to being "moved, removed," as the LXX and Vulgate translate it. Probably the former is correct, as before the third and fourth lines, i.e., despise, shameful, nakedness, in contrast to her former splendor (compare verse 6b).


The people had never feared the Jews. They had feared the Jew's God. When God took His protection away, they were even weaker than the nations around them. God blessed them when they were obedient to Him. When they disobeyed Him, they were not protected from their enemy. Their protection was removed because they were unfaithful to God.


Lamentations 1:9 "Her filthiness [is] in her skirts; she remembereth not her last end; therefore she came down wonderfully: she had no comforter. O LORD, behold my affliction: for the enemy hath magnified [himself]."


"Her filthiness is in her skirts": A graphic description of the flow of spiritual uncleanness reaching the bottom of her dress (Lev. 15:19-33).


Her sin was spiritual adultery. Perhaps that is what is meant here. The Spirit of God was far removed from her. She was an adulterous wife to God. The enemy found her unguarded, and took advantage of it.


Lamentations 1:10 "The adversary hath spread out his hand upon all her pleasant things: for she hath seen [that] the heathen entered into her sanctuary, whom thou didst command [that] they should not enter into thy congregation."


"Entered into her sanctuary": This was true of the Ammonites and Moabites (Deut. 23:3; Neh. 13:1-2). If the heathen were not allowed to enter for worship, much less were they tolerated to loot and destroy. On a future day, the nations will come to worship (Zech. 14:16).


The temple was a holy place. The Holy of Holies was forbidden to all, but the High Priest. The enemy came in and ravaged the entire temple including the Holy of Holies. It meant nothing to them. The heathen had been forbidden even the holy place, now they have come in and ravaged the entire temple.



Verses 11-22: The lament changes focus by shifting to the first person ("all, I"). Judah's lament is now in her own words as she speaks from the inside looking out.


"Jerusalem" went uncomforted and was now considered "menstruous"; not even the heathen nations wanted anything to do with her!


Lamentations 1:11 "All her people sigh, they seek bread; they have given their pleasant things for meat to relieve the soul: see, O LORD, and consider; for I am become vile."


"See, O Lord": The description of the devastated widow ends with a plea for God's mercy.


In a time of hunger, people will give all they have for a slice of bread. Their fine things had gone to pay for bread. These sighs are probably sadness for the past that was gone. "Vile", in this particular instance, means to shake, to quake, to be loose morally or worthless. I believe all of these things are perhaps true here. They would do most anything to live.


Lamentations 1:12 "[Is it] nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the LORD hath afflicted [me] in the day of his fierce anger."


"All ye that pass by": Here was the pathetic appeal of Jerusalem for some compassion even from strangers!


Jeremiah's "sorrow" over the sin-sick and fallen Jerusalem anticipates the Savior's own sorrow over a future sinful Jerusalem that too, will be captured and destroyed (Matt. 23:37-38, Luke 13:34-35).


Their grief is so great, and it appears no one cares about their grief. Those who pass by are any who are not citizens. They look in amazement, but not with sympathy. The terrible despair was partly for the loss of the presence of God, who had dwelled with them. His presence had been over the mercy seat in the temple. There was no question that this problem was a punishment from God. The wrath of God had been poured out upon them. To be totally separated from God, is as near as anyone wants to be to hell.



Verses 13-17: Sin's consequences are so serious that the wise will respond in repentance before God must do anything drastic.


"The Lord" is identified as the One behind Judah's desolation; Babylon's army ("an assembly against me"), was only His instrument. His judgment was like "fire into" my "bones", devastating and deep.


Lamentations 1:13 "From above hath he sent fire into my bones, and it prevaileth against them: he hath spread a net for my feet, he hath turned me back: he hath made me desolate [and] faint all the day."


"Fire into my bones": This emphasizes the penetrating depth of the judgment.


"Turned me back": God's purpose was to bring repentance.


Trouble from God on His people is for a purpose. God wanted them to repent of their idolatry, and return to worship of the One True God. When we have troubles (if we are Christians), God allows them for a learning process. We must grow in the process. It is hard to learn a lesson when things are going great. We usually learn the most important lessons in the trials of our lives. Sin can feel like fire in our bones. When we are living in sin, it seems with every step we stumble and fall. The best thing to do is repent and let God handle it all.


Lamentations 1:14 "The yoke of my transgressions is bound by his hand: they are wreathed, [and] come up upon my neck: he hath made my strength to fall, the Lord hath delivered me into [their] hands, [from whom] I am not able to rise up."


"Yoke of my transgressions ... by His hand": Once the farmer had put the yoke on the animal's neck, he would control it with the reins in his hands. So God, who has brought Jerusalem under yoke-bondage to Babylon, still controlled His people.


Sin is like a yoke that weighs the person who is sinning down. Sin is a burden. It is almost too heavy to bear. I love the Scripture that says:


1 Peter 5:7 "Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you."


Sin seems to be like a heavy weight worn on the shoulders like a yoke. Nebuchadnezzar for them, or Satan for us, would be terrible hands to fall into.


Lamentations 1:15 "The Lord hath trodden under foot all my mighty [men] in the midst of me: he hath called an assembly against me to crush my young men: the Lord hath trodden the virgin, the daughter of Judah, [as] in a winepress."


"He hath called an assembly against me": Not the usual assembly for a solemn feast; rather the army of Babylon for destruction.


For "Virgin" as a metaphor of national identity (see the note on Jeremiah 18:13).


"In a winepress": Speaks of forcing blood to burst forth like juice from crushed grapes. The "winepress" at times symbolizes thorough judgment (Isa. 63:3; Rev. 14:18-20; 19:15).


We see another Scripture about the winepress of the wrath of God.


Revelation 14:19 "And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast [it] into the great winepress of the wrath of God".


God's people are spoken of many times as His vineyard. He is the husbandman. The cutting off of the young and old, is because they are ruined. They are spoiled grapes. What God intended for good, has gone bad. Judah is no longer a virgin, they have been unfaithful to God.


Lamentations 1:16 "For these [things] I weep; mine eye, mine eye runneth down with water, because the comforter that should relieve my soul is far from me: my children are desolate, because the enemy prevailed."


For these sore afflictions, and for my sins that have caused them, and for these impressions of Divine wrath which I discern in them Lord! I that am thy prophet, and we that are Israelites indeed, weep, and that plentifully. Having neither thee present with us as formerly to be our hope or comfort, nor any friend that will deal by us as friends sometimes do, by others in swooning fits to fetch back their souls.


"My children are desolate, because the enemy prevailed": Either the other cities of Judah, (Jerusalem was the mother city,) or my people, my inhabitants, are wasted, destroyed, and made desolate, because the enemy hath prevailed.


Jeremiah is again weeping for the people of God, and for the city of God which God caused to be destroyed. God is crying too. Nothing makes a parent sadder than to have to severely punish their children for their sins.


Lamentations 1:17 "Zion spreadeth forth her hands, [and there is] none to comfort her: the LORD hath commanded concerning Jacob, [that] his adversaries [should be] round about him: Jerusalem is as a menstruous woman among them."


She extendeth her hands as a suppliant praying for relief and consolation.


"And there is none to comfort her": None who can, or are even inclined to do it.


"The Lord hath commanded": That is, it came to pass by God's command, that the surrounding nations were the adversaries of Jacob. We meet with a similar form of expression (Psalm 68:11). The Lord gave the word, great was the company of those that published it.


"Jerusalem is as a menstruous woman": She is become loathsome and filthy in the eyes of her former friends, like women separated from the congregation in the time of their legal uncleanness.


"Spreadeth forth her hands" is reaching out to God for help, but they waited too late to reach out. God has turned His back. Jerusalem is a spectacle before her neighbors, she is helpless as a woman.



Verses 18-22: "Death" was everywhere, whether one ventured into the streets ("abroad the sword bereaveth"), or mourned inside one's house. Out of Israel's anguish came something purposeful: repentance, in the form of a declaration that the people had "rebelled" and the Lord is "righteous" and therefore was justified in bringing this punishment. In this confession, Israel also pleads for God to vanquish her enemies ("bring the day").


Lamentations 1:18 "The LORD is righteous; for I have rebelled against his commandment: hear, I pray you, all people, and behold my sorrow: my virgins and my young men are gone into captivity."


"The Lord is righteous ... I have rebelled": The true sign of repentance was to justify God and condemn oneself.


Jeremiah's vicarious confession of sin recognized that Jerusalem's fall was its own fault and not that of God who always acts in strict righteousness (compare Gen. 18:25).


Jeremiah admits the judgement that God has spoken on Judah, and even on His beloved Jerusalem, is righteous judgement. Disobedience to God brings His wrath. Jeremiah cautions others to listen to their warnings, and not commit this sin. He continues to show them the punishment for disobeying God.


Lamentations 1:19 "I called for my lovers, [but] they deceived me: my priests and mine elders gave up the ghost in the city, while they sought their meat to relieve their souls."


As Jeremiah had prophesied (Jer. 2:26-28, 36-37), Jerusalem's "lovers" (her false gods and foreign entanglements), could not rescue her in time of peril.


We mentioned lovers here, are those like Egypt who had an agreement to help them, and did not. The priests and the elders suffered from the famine, and then died (gave up the ghost). They have no special privileges in war.


Lamentations 1:20 "Behold, O LORD; for I [am] in distress: my bowels are troubled; mine heart is turned within me; for I have grievously rebelled: abroad the sword bereaveth, at home [there is] as death."


Thus, she turns from one to another; sometimes she addresses strangers, people that pass by. Sometimes she calls to her lovers; and at other times to God, which is best of all. To have pity and compassion on her in her distress. And from whom it may be most expected, who is a God of grace and mercy.


"My bowels are troubled": As the sea, agitated by winds, which casts up mire and dirt; or as any waters, moved by anything whatsoever, become thick and muddy. Or like wine in fermentation; so the word in the Arabic language, signifies. Expressive of great disturbance, confusion, and uneasiness.


"Mine heart is turned within me": Has no rest nor peace.


"For I have grievously rebelled": Against God and his word; her sins were greatly aggravated, and these lay heavy on her mind and conscience, and greatly distressed her.


"Abroad the sword bereaveth": This, and what follows in the next clause, describe the state and condition of the Jews, while the city was besieged. Without it, the sword of the Chaldeans bereaved mothers of their children, and children of their parents, and left them desolate.


"At home there is as death": Within the city, and in the houses of it, the famine raged, which was as death, and worse than immediate death. It was a lingering one: or, "in the house was certain death"; for the " caph" here is not a mere note of similitude, but of certainty and reality. To abide at home was sure and certain death, nothing else could be expected. The Targum is "within the famine kills like the destroying angel that is appointed over death;" (see Heb. 2:14).


The grief that Jeremiah is feeling is almost unbearable. The devastation is so great, that Jeremiah is sick to his stomach. His heart is about to break in two. Death is everywhere.



Verses 21-22: "Bring the day": A prayer that God will likewise bring other ungodly people into judgment, especially Babylon (3:64-66; 4:21-22). Such prayers are acceptable against the enemies of God (compare Psalm 109:14-15).


Lamentations 1:21 "They have heard that I sigh: [there is] none to comfort me: all mine enemies have heard of my trouble; they are glad that thou hast done [it]: thou wilt bring the day [that] thou hast called, and they shall be like unto me."


The nations contiguous to me, Egypt and others that before pretended to be my friends and allies. Have been no strangers to my bitter afflictions, which have forced sighs from me.


"There is none to comfort me": None of them can or will relieve my distress, but abandon me as in a desperate situation.


"They are glad that thou hast done it": They have even expressed gladness at the calamities that have befallen me. And they please themselves with the thought that thou our God, of whose favor and protection we used to boast, should forsake us, and give us up as a prey to our enemies.


Thou wilt bring the day that thou hast called": The day when thou wilt execute thy judgments upon the Babylonians, and our other enemies and false friends, will certainly come at the time thou hast determined for that purpose. "We have here again the like turn of phrase as in the first line of this period". For the meaning evidently is, that the enemies of Jerusalem would in the end find little cause for their triumph, since the same Almighty Being, who had caused her evil day to come, had declared that, after a while, they should also suffer the like fate. "Thou that hast brought the day [of adversity upon me] hast pronounced, that they shall become even as I", Blaney.


In some of this, Jeremiah is grieving as if he were the city and its people. The enemy is glad of the downfall of Jerusalem. They are actually rejoicing in the calamity of others. All of the other countries had been jealous of Israel because of Israel's God. The day will come, when God will take vengeance on the enemy for this very act.


Lamentations 1:22 "Let all their wickedness come before thee; and do unto them, as thou hast done unto me for all my transgressions: for my sighs [are] many, and my heart [is] faint."


"Let all their wickedness come before thee": Let it appear that though thou hast chastened us for our sins, our enemies have still greater ones to answer and be punished for. Compare Rev. 16:19.


Babylon was an evil country. They worshipped false gods and they were not innocent of sin. The prophet here asks for God to judge Babylon for their sins. It is not that he wants them to suffer for doing God's will in destroying Jerusalem. He just wants God to judge them equally for their sin. He is grieved greatly.


Lamentations Chapter 1 Questions


1. Who is Lamentations a funeral for?


2. Who is Lamentations by?


3. This book shows Jeremiah as the ___________ prophet.


4. What time does this cover?


5. Who does Jeremiah try to repent for?


6. What is the city compared to in verse 1?


7. New Jerusalem is described as a _________.


8. Who are the "lovers" of verse 2?


9. _____ was considered the husband of Israel.


10. What is the "ways of Zion" speaking of?


11. _____________ had been the center of worship in this area.


12. They had been the head, and now they are the _______.


13. Who had become the head?


14. The beauty of Jerusalem was in her __________.


15. The beauty of the church is in its _______________ with God.


16. What was one thing that set Jerusalem and the Jews apart from everyone else?


17. They had taken the temple for granted, until when?


18. Why was Jerusalem removed?


19. What was her sin?


20. What does verse 10 tell us was ravaged?


21. In a time of hunger, people will give all that they have for a _________ of _________.


22. To be totally separated from God, is as near as anyone wants to be to _______.


23. Why does God allow troubles to come on the Christians?


24. What is sin compared to in verse 14?


25. What is Jeremiah weeping for in verse 16?


26. What does "spreadeth forth her hands" speak of?


27. What does Jeremiah admit about the judgement of God on Jerusalem?


28. What physical condition does all this bring on Jeremiah?


29. In verse 21, Jeremiah is grieving as if he were the _______.


30. What is Jeremiah asking God for in verse 22?





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Lamentations 2



Lamentations Chapter 2

The focus on this lament shifts to God. Jerusalem had once enjoyed an exalted position, for the Lord had lived within her walls; but now He had "cast" her "down".


Verses 1-4: Israel had disregarded its privilege as God's chosen possession; consequently, the Lord had removed ("drawn back"), his restraining "right hand" and allowed them to be defeated (Isa. 63:10). The "horn" symbolizes strength or power.


Lamentations 2:1 "How hath the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger, [and] cast down from heaven unto the earth the beauty of Israel, and remembered not his footstool in the day of his anger!"


"How hath the Lord": Much (in Lam. 2), depicts God's judgment in vivid portrayals. He covered the Judeans with a cloud (verse 1), withdrew His hand of protection (verse 3), bent His bow and had slain with His arrows (verse 4), and stretched out a surveyor's line to mark walls to be destroyed (verse 8). He will work a rebuilding of Jerusalem in the future kingdom (Zech. 2:1-13).


"The beauty of Israel": Likely refers to Mount Zion and the temple (Psalms 48:2; 50:2; Isa. 60:13; 64:11; Ezek. 16:14; Dan 11:45).


"And remembered not his footstool in the day of his anger": Hath not spared even the Ark itself, the footstool of the shekinah, or divine glory, which was accustomed to appear, sitting as it were, enthroned upon the mercy-seat, between the cherubim. Referring to the Ark of the Covenant as indicated by (1 Chron. 28:2; and Psalms 99:5, 132:7).


This "cloud" is speaking of a darkness that prevents their prayers from reaching up to heaven. His anger for their sins has made His ear closed to their prayers at this time. There may be a dark cloud hovering overhead, but the sun shines above that black cloud. When the cloud is gone, we can see the sunshine. The trouble is from God. His judgement has come down on the beauty of Israel. The beauty, as we discussed in the previous lesson, was centered on the temple and the worship in the temple.


Lamentations 2:2 "The Lord hath swallowed up all the habitations of Jacob, and hath not pitied: he hath thrown down in his wrath the strong holds of the daughter of Judah; he hath brought [them] down to the ground: he hath polluted the kingdom and the princes thereof."


He hath thrown down": The Lord had cast down the bastions of Judah's defense, as He told Jeremiah He would do from the outset of his ministry (Jer. 1:10).


It is the Lord who brought judgement. Babylon was the instrument He used, but God really destroyed their countryside and their cities and even their strongholds.


Lamentations 2:3 "He hath cut off in [his] fierce anger all the horn of Israel: he hath drawn back his right hand from before the enemy, and he burned against Jacob like a flaming fire, [which] devoureth round about."


The "right hand," the place of prominence and honor (compare 1 Kings 2:19), and is often used figuratively to emphasize vigorous action (compare Exodus 15:6, 12; Psalm 45:4; Hab. 2:16).


The "horn" symbolizes strength. Their strength, which came from God, is gone. He had stood between the enemy and Israel for all these years. Now the right hand of spiritual blessings has been removed. He (the Right Hand), did not fight Babylon for them. God is a consuming fire. When sin and disobedience to God is great, that fire burns. God is holy, He cannot look upon sin. He burns it up.


Lamentations 2:4 "He hath bent his bow like an enemy: he stood with his right hand as an adversary, and slew all [that were] pleasant to the eye in the tabernacle of the daughter of Zion: he poured out his fury like fire."


God sometimes appears as if he was an enemy to his people (when he is not), by his conduct and behavior. And by the dispensations of his providence they take him to be so, as Job did (Job 16:9). He bends his bow, or treads it, for the bending or stretching the bow was done by the foot; and as the Targum, "and threw his arrows at me:"


"He stood with his right hand as an adversary": With arrows in it, to put into his bow or with his sword drawn, as an adversary does. The Targum is: "He stood at the right hand of Nebuchadnezzar and helped him, when he distressed his people Israel:"


"And slew all that were pleasant to the eye": Princes and priests, husbands and wives, parents and children, young men and maids. Desirable to their friends and relations, and to the commonwealth.


"In the tabernacle of the daughter of Zion he poured out his fury like fire": That is, either in the temple, or in the city of Jerusalem, or both. Which were burnt with fire, as the effect of divine wrath and fury; and which itself is comparable to fire. Like a burning lamp of fire, as the Targum; or rather like a burning furnace or mountain (see Nahum 1:6).


God had helped Babylon destroy them. His anger was great. Even the temple was burned. Notice, "like an enemy". God is not the enemy of Israel, but is acting like one in this severe punishment of them.



Verses 5-10: In His judgment, God had become like an "enemy" (Jer. 30:14), to His people (Lev. 26:16-26, Deut. 28:20-68), bringing an end to their formal worship system. God tore down His temple ("he hath destroyed his places of the assembly"), like a farmer would tear down a temporary field hut that provided shade during harvest time. Even the "feasts", Sabbath observances, sacrifices, and the "altar" were affected by Jerusalem's fall.


"Swallowed up": indicates that the entire land suffered (Amos 4:6-13).


Lamentations 2:5 "The Lord was as an enemy: he hath swallowed up Israel, he hath swallowed up all her palaces: he hath destroyed his strong holds, and hath increased in the daughter of Judah mourning and lamentation."


Who formerly was on their side, their God and guardian, their protector and deliverer, but now against them. And a terrible thing it is to have God for an enemy, or even to be as one; this is repeated, as being exceeding distressing, and even intolerable. Mr. Broughton renders it, "the Lord is become a very enemy"; taking "caph" for a note of reality, and not of similitude.


"He hath swallowed up Israel": The ten tribes, or the Jewish nation in general. As a lion, or any other savage beast, swallows its prey, and makes nothing of it, and leaves none behind.


"He hath swallowed up all her palaces": The palaces of Zion or Jerusalem. The palaces of the king, princes, nobles, and great men; as an earthquake or inundation swallows up whole streets and cities at once (Lam. 2:2).


"He hath destroyed his strong holds": The fortified places of the land of Israel, the towers and castles.


"And hath increased in the daughter of Judah mourning and lamentation": Exceeding great lamentation, for the destruction of its cities, towns, villages, and the inhabitants of them.


"Mourning and lamentations" have to do with repentance. The Lord has done this to cause them to repent. It is such a shame, they did not listen to the warnings they were given.



Verses 6-11: Tragedy comes to everything and everyone through sin. The account mentions the temple or tabernacle where Israelites came to worship (verse 6), feast and Sabbaths (verse 6), His altar and holy places (verse 7), city walls (verse 8), the law (verse 9), and children in the family (verse 11).


Verse 6-7 (compare 1:4).


Lamentations 2:6 "And he hath violently taken away his tabernacle, as [if it were of] a garden: he hath destroyed his places of the assembly: the LORD hath caused the solemn feasts and sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion, and hath despised in the indignation of his anger the king and the priest."


The courts where the people used to assemble for worship in the temple; or the synagogues in Jerusalem, and other parts of the land.


"The Lord hath caused the solemn feasts and sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion": There being neither places to keep them in, nor people to observe them.


"And hath despised, in the indignation of his anger, the king and the priest": Whose persons and offices were sacred, and ought to be treated by men with honor and respect. But, for the sins of both, the Lord despised them himself, and made them the object of his wrath and indignation, and suffered them to be despised and ill used by others, by the Chaldeans. Zedekiah had his children slain before his eyes, and then his eyes were put out, and he was carried in chains to Babylon, and there detained as a captive all of his days. And Seraiah the chief priest, or, as the Targum here has it, the High Priest, was put to death by the king of Babylon. Though not only the persons of the king and priest are meant, but their offices also. The kingdom and priesthood ceased from being exercised for many years.


It appears the people were still going through the motion of worship in the temple, but their hearts were far from God. God allowed the temple and everything in it to be destroyed, to show His utter rejection of anything they might offer. The king and the priest were probably even guiltier than the people. The priest should have seen that the worship was holy. They had been worshipping false gods, while at the same time going through rituals to Him. God will not allow the worship of any false god. It is better not to sacrifice at all, than to do it out of obligation and not love. God destroyed the temple. His heart was broken. His people had abandoned Him.


Lamentations 2:7 "The Lord hath cast off his altar, he hath abhorred his sanctuary, he hath given up into the hand of the enemy the walls of her palaces; they have made a noise in the house of the LORD, as in the day of a solemn feast."


"Noise ... house of the Lord ... day of a solemn feast": A shout of triumph in the captured temple resembled the joyous celebrations in the same place at the solemn feasts.


The "noise in the house of the Lord" was not a cause for worship but a cause for wailing as Israel had to listen to the Babylonians celebrate their victory.


God did this because it reminded Him of His people gone astray. He had wanted to be their God, and for them to be His people. They had broken the covenant. God will not accept worship of Him that is not sincere.


Lamentations 2:8 "The LORD hath purposed to destroy the wall of the daughter of Zion: he hath stretched out a line, he hath not withdrawn his hand from destroying: therefore he made the rampart and the wall to lament; they languished together."


When God "stretched out a line", He intended to "destroy" His city. Jerusalem had been measured, marked and numbered for judgment.


This line that the LORD had stretched, is speaking of a separation of the people. Those who follow God are on one side, and those who have worldly lives and worship false gods on the other side. There is desolation in Jerusalem, because they were on the wrong side of the line. We need to carefully weigh everything that is going on here. Christians, awake! Do not straddle the line. Get over on God's side and stay there. God will examine our works and some will not pass the test (read 1 Cor. 3:12). Some of us will have our works burn up in the fire of God. All of these things that we read in Lamentations, and the rest of the Bible, are for us to learn from. We must not make the same mistakes they did here, or we will have the same problems they did.


Lamentations 2:9 "Her gates are sunk into the ground; he hath destroyed and broken her bars: her king and her princes [are] among the Gentiles: the law [is] no [more]; her prophets also find no vision from the LORD."


When the wall is gone, the gates fall. This is like the hedge of protection we Christians have around us. To anger our God as they have here, would remove our hedge of protection. We could not withstand the devil if our hedge was gone. God has stopped sending them His messages through His prophets. Judgement day came. God has suspended His law and His prophecies. They did not keep the law, so He just took it away from them.


Lamentations 2:10 "The elders of the daughter of Zion sit upon the ground, [and] keep silence: they have cast up dust upon their heads; they have girded themselves with sackcloth: the virgins of Jerusalem hang down their heads to the ground."


All of these activities express the depths of grief (compare 2 Kings 19:1; Job 2:8, 12).


"Sackcloth and throwing of dust on their heads" show extreme mourning. They had been wrong about Jeremiah's prophecy, and now they are afraid to say anything for fear it too, would be wrong. Perhaps if they did speak, no one would listen, because they had misjudged Jeremiah. The elders had been held in great respect, because of their experience. They feel they have given terrible advice, and they have.



Verses 11-14: the "liver" was regarded as the seat of emotions and emphasizes the intensity of Jeremiah's grief. Imagine the greatest devastation in a time of war or drought, and that a sense of what lay before Jeremiah, all because Jerusalem had not heeded his prophet words. He was a man whose heart was broken by the rebellious sins of this people and the tragedies of his times.


Verses 11-12: This description of Babylon's invasion depicted the reality of a hungry child dying in its mother's arms as a result.


Lamentations 2:11 "Mine eyes do fail with tears, my bowels are troubled, my liver is poured upon the earth, for the destruction of the daughter of my people; because the children and the sucklings swoon in the streets of the city."


The internal organs were considered by the Hebrews to be the centers of the emotions. "Liver" and heart (verse 18), are often used as set terms in parallel lines of Hebrew poetry, and in other literature of the ancient Near East.


This is Jeremiah weeping, but in a sense, he is speaking of Jerusalem as well. All of the prayers they can pray, will not stop the trouble, because God is not listening to them. "Swoon", in this case, would mean to pass out from weakness.


Lamentations 2:12 "They say to their mothers, Where [is] corn and wine? when they swooned as the wounded in the streets of the city, when their soul was poured out into their mothers' bosom."


Not the sucklings who could not speak, nor were used to corn and wine, but the children more grown. Both are before spoken of, but these are meant, even the young men of Israel, as the Targum. And such as had been brought up in the best manner, had been used to wine, and not water, and therefore ask for that as well as corn. Both take in all the necessaries of life; and which they ask of their mothers, who had been used to feeding them, and were most tender of them. But now not seeing and having their usual provisions, and not knowing what was the reason of it, inquire after them, being pressed with hunger.


"When they swooned as the wounded in the streets of the city": Having no food given them, though they asked for it time after time, they fainted away, and died a lingering death. As wounded persons do who are not killed at once, which is the more distressing.


"When their soul was poured out into their mothers' bosom": Meaning not the desires of their souls for food, expressed in moving and melting language as they sat in their mothers' laps, and lay in their bosoms. Which must be piercing unto them, if no more was designed; but their souls or lives themselves, which they gave up through famine, as the Targum; expiring in their mothers' arms.


The children are asking for food, but there is no food. They die from starvation in their mother's arms.


Lamentations 2:13 "What thing shall I take to witness for thee? what thing shall I liken to thee, O daughter of Jerusalem? what shall I equal to thee, that I may comfort thee, O virgin daughter of Zion? for thy breach [is] great like the sea: who can heal thee?"


The sum of this verse is, that the miserable condition of the people was both incomparable and incurable. There was no people whose miserable condition was in any degree parallel to the misery of the Jews. It is some comfort to persons in misery to consider that others are and have been, as miserable as they, but the prophet had not this topic from whence to fetch an argument of comfort to the Jews. There were none to whom he could liken them, nor was there any present cure for them. Their breach was like a sea-breach, where the waters come in with such a torrent that while the tide abates there is no making any bank of defense against them.


Jeremiah was still praying for them. Jeremiah has forgotten how cruel they had been to him, even putting him in chains. "Breach" means fracture or ruin. This break is from God, man cannot mend the break.


Lamentations 2:14 "Thy prophets have seen vain and foolish things for thee: and they have not discovered thine iniquity, to turn away thy captivity; but have seen for thee false burdens and causes of banishment."


"Foolish things for thee" (as Jer. 23:16-17 indicates), these lies spoke of peace and comfort, not judgment (compare Jer. 23:30-40), to see how such lying led to destruction.


One sign of false prophets is that they avoid confronting sin ("Have not discovered ... iniquity"). And instead prophesy only happy "causes of banishment".


The prophets in the verse above, are false prophets. The visions they said they had seen, were not of God. They were either from their imagination or from the devil. A true prophet would have told them of their iniquity and tried to get them to repent. They added to the reason for the banishment.



Verses 15-17: Jerusalem's tabernacle, as the earthly dwelling place of the glory of the Lord, was established as ("The joy of the whole earth"; Psalm 48:2). But now the city, and the people it represented, had become the object of scorn (Jer. 18:16), among her enemies. Lest Jerusalem begin to believe her enemies' boasts, however, Jeremiah reminds them that the destruction was the work of God: ("The LORD hath done [that] which he had devised").


Lamentations 2:15 "All that pass by clap [their] hands at thee; they hiss and wag their head at the daughter of Jerusalem, [saying, Is] this the city that [men] call The perfection of beauty, The joy of the whole earth?"


Travelers that passed by and saw Jerusalem in ruins, clapped their hands at it, by way of rejoicing as well pleased at the sight. This must be understood, not of the inhabitants of the land, but of strangers, who had no good will. Though they seem to be distinguished from their implacable enemies (Lam. 2:16).


"They hiss and wag their head at the daughter of Jerusalem": By way of scorn and derision; hereby expressing their contempt of her, and the pleasure and satisfaction they took in seeing her in this condition.


"Saying, is this the city that men call the perfection of beauty, the joy of the whole earth?" A complete city, a most beautiful one for its situation. For its fortifications by nature and art; for its spacious buildings, palaces, and towers. And especially for the magnificent temple in it, and the residence of the God of heaven there, and that pompous worship of him there performed. On account of all which, and the abundant blessings of goodness bestowed upon the inhabitants, they had reason to rejoice more than all the men of the world besides. As well as they contributed many ways to the good and happiness of all nations. This is what had been said by themselves (Psalm 48:2). And had even been owned by others; by the forefathers of those very persons that now insult over it. So the Targum, "is this the city which our fathers that were of old said?"


The shame of Jerusalem was great. All of the countries had always thought of them as perfect in the sight of God. The beauty of their temple was well known throughout the lands. Jews from many countries came there to worship in the temple. At one time, the Queen of Sheba came to behold with her own eyes the magnificence of Jerusalem. As great as the blessings had been from God, now was the shame.


Lamentations 2:16 "All thine enemies have opened their mouth against thee: they hiss and gnash the teeth: they say, We have swallowed [her] up: certainly this [is] the day that we looked for; we have found, we have seen [it]."


The various actions and gestures here all express derision. They occur in the "taunt" literature of the Old Testament (Jer. 19:8; 25:9; Zeph. 2:15).


It was as if they had waited, hoping the blessings of God would remove so they could devour her. For such a great nation to be swallowed up made them feel very important.


Lamentations 2:17 "The LORD hath done [that] which he had devised; he hath fulfilled his word that he had commanded in the days of old: he hath thrown down, and hath not pitied: and he hath caused [thine] enemy to rejoice over thee, he hath set up the horn of thine adversaries."


All that occurred was under the sovereign control of the "Lord" (compare Deut. 28:15, 45; Jer. 51:12; Zech. 1:6; and see the note on Jer. 46:1).


He hath fulfilled his word": The enemy that gloats (in verses 15-16), should recognize that the destruction was the work of a sovereign God. This verse is the focal point of the chapter (Jer. 51:12).


God had been patient and longsuffering toward these people He loved. He gave them prophets, like Jeremiah, to warn them over and over. They had been amply warned what would happen if they did not repent. This is a fulfillment of His Word. It is God's strength that the Babylonians won with. God set up the horn (strength), of their adversaries.



Verses 18-22: Even though the punishment was deserved this appeal reveals the great violence, desperation, and sorrow that attends immense suffering.


Lamentations 2:18 "Their heart cried unto the Lord, O wall of the daughter of Zion, let tears run down like a river day and night: give thyself no rest; let not the apple of thine eye cease."


"Wall of the daughter of Zion": The penetrated walls of Jerusalem cried out in anguish that they had been broached by the Babylonians.


The heart here, is the heart of the people of Jerusalem. God had been that wall of protection for them. Now the wall is gone. Tears like a river, just shows the abundance of tears shed. Jerusalem had been the apple of God's eye.


Lamentations 2:19 "Arise, cry out in the night: in the beginning of the watches pour out thine heart like water before the face of the Lord: lift up thy hands toward him for the life of thy young children, that faint for hunger in the top of every street."


That is, O daughter of Zion, or congregation of Israel, as the Targum; who are addressed and called upon by the prophet to arise from their beds, and shake off their sleep, and sloth, and stupidity, and cry to God in the night season. And be earnest and persistent with him for help and assistance. Aben Ezra rightly observes, that the word used signifies a lifting up of the voice both in singing and in lamentation. Here it is used in the latter sense; and denotes great passion and earnestness in crying unto God, arising from deep distress and sorrow, which prevents sleep.


"In the beginning of the watches": This would seem to be most naturally explained as referring to the first watch of the night. When most are wrapped in their first and sweetest sleep, the daughter of Zion is to "arise and cry." Others explain, "At the beginning of each of the night watches;" i.e. all the night through. Previously to the Roman times, the Jews had divided the night into three watches (compare Judges 3:19). Pour out thine heart like water; i.e. give free course to thy complaint, shedding tears meanwhile. The expression is parallel partly to phrases like "I am poured out like water" (Psalm 22:14), partly to "Pour out your heart before him".


"For the life of thy young children that faint for hunger in the top of every street": Pray for them, that they might have food and sustenance, to preserve them alive. Who, for want of it, were ready to swoon and die in the public streets. In the top of them, where they met, and where was the greatest concourse of people, and yet none able to relieve them. (Psalm 62:8). In the top of every street; rather, at every street corner (Lam. 4:1).


Their hands were lifted up towards heaven to get help from God. They have forgotten the dark cloud between them and heaven. God is not hearing their prayers. The tears are in vain. Famine is in the land.


Lamentations 2:20 "Behold, O LORD, and consider to whom thou hast done this. Shall the women eat their fruit, [and] children of a span long? shall the priest and the prophet be slain in the sanctuary of the Lord?"


"Behold, O Lord, and consider": The chapter closes by placing the issue before God.


"Women eat their fruit": Hunger became so desperate in the 18 month siege that women resorted to the unbelievable, even eating their children (4:10; Lev. 26:29; Deut. 28:53, 56-57; Jer. 19:9).


Israel's descending to cannibalism during a siege had been prophesied of old. It was a hideous picture of the outworking of self-will, idolatry, and total debasement (compare Lev. 26:29; Deut. 28:53; see note on Jeremiah 19:9).


The innocent children and babies, just a few inches long, have suffered in this punishment as well as the men. In fact, it seems they were even eating their children in some cases. That is what is intended by eating their fruit. The priest and the prophets were slain. Jeremiah was an exception to that.


Lamentations 2:21 "The young and the old lie on the ground in the streets: my virgins and my young men are fallen by the sword; thou hast slain [them] in the day of thine anger; thou hast killed, [and] not pitied."


"The day of thine anger": This describes the complete slaughter (as does 2 Chron. 36:17).


There are dead bodies everywhere, not just from the war but from the famine as well.


Lamentations 2:22 "Thou hast called as in a solemn day my terrors round about, so that in the day of the LORD'S anger none escaped nor remained: those that I have swaddled and brought up hath mine enemy consumed."


As my people were accustomed to being called together from all parts in a solemn day, when they were to meet at Jerusalem from all parts of Judea. So now by thy providence my terrible enemies, or terrible things, are by thee called together against that holy city, whither thy people were accustomed to being called to thy solemn worship. Thou hast made me as a great mother to bring up many inhabitants that were my children, and now the enemy hath consumed the far greater number of them.


At the command of God, even the Babylonian army had assembled at Jerusalem. This time the assembling was for the destruction of Jerusalem. The wrath of God was poured out through the Babylonians on God's people. They were killed and carried away captive. God had brought them up as His children, but they had rebelled.


Lamentations Chapter 2 Questions


1. What is the "cloud" of verse 1 speaking of?


2. What is the "footstool" of verse 1?


3. The Lord has swallowed up all the habitation of _________.


4. What does the "horn" symbolize?


5. The right hand of ___________ ___________ has been removed.


6. What does God do, when He looks upon sin?


7. God is not the enemy of Israel, but is ________ _______ ______.


8. "Mourning and lamentations" have to do with ___________.


9. He hath violently taken away what?


10. Why did God allow the temple to be destroyed?


11. In verse 7, the LORD hath cast off His _________.


12. What kind of worship will God not accept?


13. What is the line in verse 8?


14. How will our work be tested?


15. When the wall is gone, the gates _______.


16. What would happen to the Christian, if his hedge was gone?


17. Why did God suspend the law?


18. What does sack cloth and the throwing of ashes on the head show?


19. Why are the elders silent?


20. Describe Jeremiah's condition in verse 11.


21. What are the children asking their mothers for?


22. What happens to these children?


23. What does "breach" mean?


24. Who are the prophets in verse 14?


25. Where did their visions come from?


26. What did the people passing do, when they saw the destruction of Jerusalem?


27. How had God shown His patience to Jerusalem?


28. There were so many tears, they were like a ________.


29. Who had been the apple of God's eye?


30. Why had they lifted their hands toward heaven?


31. What terrible things were happening to the tiny babies?





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Lamentations 3



Lamentations Chapter 3

Verses 1-20: "The man that hath seen affliction": Jeremiah's distress in such tragedy comes from God, referred to as "He" throughout this section. Even the righteous experience "the rod of His wrath.


Both (in 3:1 here and in Job 34:7), "man" refers to a strong man who is beset with great affliction. Jeremiah saw no hope of harmony, safety or wholeness. Rather than peace and prosperity, the "derision" (Jer. 20:7; Ezek. 22:4), and degradation led to a state of resignation. His despair, which is like his complaint (in Jeremiah 20:14-18), is evident in the metaphors he uses to describe God's judgment, such as "flesh ... skin", shattered "bones", imprisonment, obstacles, animal attacks, and "arrows" shot into the heart (Psalms 51:8; 143:3).


Lamentations 3:1 "I [am] the man [that] hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath."


"The man" refers to all Israel, viewed here collectively as one person. Similarly, Hosea calls Israel "my son" (Hosea 11:1), and Isaiah calls Israel God's "wife" (Isa. 54:6).


In this, Jeremiah is speaking as if he were the man upon whom this calamity has come. He is possibly showing the plight of all, through the feelings of this one man. The rod of correction has turned to wrath. He feels the affliction caused from that rod of correction.


Lamentations 3:2 "He hath led me, and brought [me into] darkness, but not [into] light."


Which oftentimes signifies distress, calamity, and affliction, of one sort or another: thus, the Jews were brought into the darkness of captivity. Jeremiah to the darkness of a dungeon, to which there may be an allusion; and Christ his antitype was under the hidings of God's face. And at the same time there was darkness all around him, and all over the land. And all this is attributed to God; it being by his appointment, and by his direction and permission.


"But not into light; prosperity and joy": The affliction still continuing; though God does in his due time bring his people to the light of comfort, and of his gracious presence, as he did the above persons (Psalm 97:11).


God is the Light. This darkness is away from God.


Lamentations 3:3 "Surely against me is he turned; he turneth his hand [against me] all the day."


The course of God's providence toward me is quite altered, his hand, that is, his power, which was accustomed to being with me, and for me, against my enemies, is now turned against me. Nor is it for a moment, or for one stroke or two, but his hand is continually against me.


God has turned away, because of their terrible sin of worshipping false gods.


Lamentations 3:4 "My flesh and my skin hath he made old: he hath broken my bones."


His flesh with blows, and his skin with smiting, as the Targum. His flesh was so emaciated, and his skin so withered and wrinkled, that he looked like an old man. As our Lord, when little more than thirty years of age, what with his sorrows and troubles, looked like one about fifty.


"He hath broken my bones": That is, his strength was greatly weakened, which lay in his bones; and he could not stir to help himself, any more than a man whose bones are broken. And was in as much pain and distress as if this had been his case; otherwise it was not literally true, either of the Jews, or of Jeremiah, or of Christ.


The flesh and bones grow old as a natural thing. Perhaps this is speaking of the length of the punishment (70 years).


Lamentations 3:5 "He hath builded against me, and compassed [me] with gall and travail."


He hath not builded with me, increasing my prosperity, and protecting my houses, but he hath builded forts, and batteries, and castles, (military buildings), to batter down my walls and houses (Isa. 29:2-3).


"And compassed me with gall and travail": Or with poison, venom, and misery, as some translate it. And it seems more proper than gall and travail, which have no cognation one with another. We are not well acquainted with the ancient dialect of other countries. The sense is obvious, God had surrounded them with misery and calamities.


This just speaks of the troubles as being bitter in his mouth. Travail has to do with pain.


Lamentations 3:6 "He hath set me in dark places, as [they that be] dead of old."


In the dark house of the prison, as the Targum. In the dark dungeon where the prophet was put; or the captivity in which the Jews were, and which was like the dark grave or state of the dead. Hence, they are said to be in their graves (Ezek. 37:12). Christ was laid in the dark grave literally.


"As they that be dead of old": That have been long dead, and are forgotten, as if they had never been (see Psalm 88:5). Or, "as the dead of the world", or age; who, being dead, are gone out of the world, and no more in it. The Targum is, "as the dead who go into another world."


The dark places, here, is speaking of Hades. This is just saying, that Jerusalem is like Hades.


Lamentations 3:7 "He hath hedged me about, that I cannot get out: he hath made my chain heavy."


When in prison, or in the dungeon, or during the siege of Jerusalem. Though the phrase may only denote in general the greatness of his troubles, with which he was encompassed, and how inextricable they were. Like a hedge about a vineyard, or a wall about a city, which could not easily be gotten over.


He hath made my chain heavy": His affliction intolerable. It is a metaphor taken from malefactors that have heavy chains put upon their legs, that they may not make their escape out of prison. Or, "my brass"; that is, chains, or a chain made of brass; so the Targum, "he hath made heavy upon my feet fetters of brass."


Just as there was no way of escape during the battle, there is no way of escape from this trouble now. "Chain" speaks of captivity. The captivity was hard.


Lamentations 3:8 "Also when I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayer."


"He shutteth out my prayer" (compare verse 44). God's non-response to Jeremiah's prayers was not because Jeremiah was guilty of personal sin (Psalm 66:18); rather, it was due to Israel's perpetual sin without repentance (Jer. 19:15). God's righteousness to judge that sin must pursue its course (Jer. 7:16 and see note there; 11:14). Jeremiah knew that, yet prayed and wept (verses 48-51), and longed to see repentance.


God's wrath was so great, He shut His ears to the prayers of these people. All of the shouting and crying would be of no help. God is not listening.


Lamentations 3:9 "He hath enclosed my ways with hewn stone, he hath made my paths crooked."


Not with a hedge of thorns, or mud walls, but with a fence of stones. And these not rough, and laid loosely together, but hewn and put in order, and well cemented. The Targum is, with marble hewn stones, which are harder than common stones, and not so easily demolished. This may respect the case of the prophet in prison, and in the dungeon, and in Jerusalem, when besieged. Or in general his afflictive state, from whence he had no prospect of deliverance; or the state of the Jews in captivity, from which there was no likelihood of a release.


"He hath made my paths crooked": Or, "perverted my ways"; so that he could not find his way out, when he attempted it. He got into a way which led him wrong; everything went cross and against him, and all his measures were disconcerted, and his designs defeated. No one step he took prospered.


The straight and narrow path leads to God. This person has chosen the crooked path. He cannot blame God for what he did himself. The stone speaks of the strength of his enclosure.


Lamentations 3:10 "He [was] unto me [as] a bear lying in wait, [and as] a lion in secret places."


For its prey, which seizes on it at once, and tears it in pieces; such were the Chaldeans to the Jews by divine permission.


"And as a lion in secret places": Lurking there, in order to take every opportunity and advantage, and fall upon any creature that comes that way. The same thing is signified here as before (see Hosea 5:14).


The bear and the lion tear their prey apart, before they eat them.


Lamentations 3:11 "He hath turned aside my ways, and pulled me in pieces: he hath made me desolate."


The meaning is, "God, as a lion, lying in wait, has made me turn aside from my path, but my flight was in vain, for springing upon me from His ambush lie has torn me in pieces."


"Desolate": Or, astounded, stupefied that he cannot flee. The word is a favorite one with Jeremiah.


God will not stop someone who is determined to live in sin. The ways, in the verse above, belong to the person Jeremiah is speaking for. They are not God's ways. This way leads to total destruction.


Lamentations 3:12 "He hath bent his bow, and set me as a mark for the arrow."


Which is put for all the instruments of war. The Chaldeans were archers, and shot their arrows into the city.


"And set me as a mark for the arrow": As a target to shoot at; signifying that God dealt with him, or his people, as enemies, the object of his wrath and indignation. And if he directed his arrow against them, it must hit them; there was no escaping his vengeance (see Job 7:20).


The target is the one who has sinned over and over. Once God has targeted you, there is no getting away.


Lamentations 3:13 "He hath caused the arrows of his quiver to enter into my reins."


That is, he hath made his judgments to pierce the most inward parts of the nation; or, he hath mortally wounded me.


"To enter into my reins": That is, into the midst of his land and people, or into the city of Jerusalem. Or these affected his mind and heart as if so many arrows had stuck in him, the poison of which drank up his spirits (Job 6:4).


"Reins" have to do with the heart of man. This then, is speaking of the arrow going into the heart.


Lamentations 3:14 "I was a derision to all my people; [and] their song all the day."


To all the wicked among them, who made themselves merry with the prophet's griefs and the public judgments.


"And their song all the day": Hebrew, נגינתם, their instrument of music. The word, says Blaney, "is commonly rendered their song. But I rather think it means a subject upon which they played, as upon a musical instrument, for their diversion."


"Derision" means mockery, scorn or contempt. God certainly had been a song to His people. Now they are drowned in sorrow.


Lamentations 3:15 "He hath filled me with bitterness, he hath made me drunken with wormwood."


Or "with bitterness"; instead of food, bitter herbs. The allusion perhaps is to the bitter herbs eaten at the Passover, and signify bitter afflictions, sore calamities, of which the prophet and his people had their fill. The Targum is, "with the gall of serpents;" (see Job 20:14).


"He hath made me drunken with wormwood": With wormwood drink; but this herb being a wholesome one, though bitter, some think that henbane, or wolfsbane, is rather meant, which is of a poisonous and intoxicating nature. It is no unusual thing for persons to be represented as drunk with affliction (Isa. 51:17).


Bitterness, literally, with bitternesses; i.e. bitter troubles. A reminiscence of (Job 9:18). Wormwood means a state or source of bitterness or grief. From an unused root supposed to mean to curse (regarded as poisonous, and therefore accursed).


Lamentations 3:16 "He hath also broken my teeth with gravel stones, he hath covered me with ashes."


"Broken my teeth with gravel": This refers to the grit that often mixed with bread baked in ashes as was common in the East (compare Prov. 20:17).


It appears, this has to be connected to the scripture that says:


Matthew 7:9 "Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?"


God has given him up as a son. He has broken his teeth with gravel. "Ashes" have to do with repentance and humiliation. It appears, He has disowned him.


Lamentations 3:17 "And thou hast removed my soul far off from peace: I forgat prosperity."


From the time the city was besieged by the Chaldeans, and now the people was carried captive. Who could have no true peace, being in a foreign land, in an enemy's country, and out of their own, and far from the place of divine worship. Nor could the prophet have any peace of soul, in the consideration of these things, the city, temple, and nation, being desolate, though he himself was not in captivity.


"I forgat prosperity": Or "good"; he had been so long from the enjoyment of it, that he had lost the idea of it, and was thoughtless about it, never expecting to see it any more.


Obedience brought peace and prosperity. Disobedience brought a curse.


Lamentations 3:18 "And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the LORD:"


The prophet relates the gloomier and discouraging part of his experience, and how he found support and relief. In the time of his trial the Lord had become terrible to him. It was an affliction that was misery itself; for sin makes the cup of affliction a bitter cup. The struggle between unbelief and faith is often very severe. But the weakest believer is wrong, if he thinks that his strength and hope are perished from the Lord.


God will not give strength or hope, to those who rebel against Him.



Verses 19-27: Jeremiah's mind-set changed when, instead or remembering the "wormwood" and "gall" (symbolizing the bitterness of judgment and the horrible taste it left in the mouths of all who endured it), he remembered God's "faithfulness" (Deut. 7:9; Psalm 73:26). That the Lord's "compassions" never fail helped him move from despair to hope. This is the faith that made it possible for him to say, in the midst of all of the grief and ruin: Now "I have hope".


Lamentations 3:19 "Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall."


The miserable affliction of him and his people; the remembrance of which, and poring upon it continually, caused the despondency before expressed. Though it may be rendered imperatively, "remember my affliction, and my misery"; so the Vulgate Latin and Syriac versions. And Aben Ezra observes, that the words may be considered as a request to God, and so they seem to be. The prophet, and the people he represents, were not so far gone into despair, as to cast off prayer before God; but once more looked up to him, beseeching that he would, in his great mercy and pity, remember them in their distressed condition, and deliver out of it. For none could do it but himself.


"The wormwood and the gall": Figurative expressions of bitter and grievous afflictions (Lam. 3:5).


Lamentations 3:20 "My soul hath [them] still in remembrance, and is humbled in me."


That is, according to our version, affliction and misery, compared to wormwood and gall. But the words, "my soul", are fetched from the next clause, where they ought to stand, and this to be rendered, "in remembering thou wilt remember"; or, "thou wilt surely remember". And so expresses the confidence of the prophet, and his firm belief, his faith and hope increasing in prayer, that God would in much mercy remember his people, and their afflictions, and save them out of them.


"And is humbled in me": Both under the afflicting hand of God, and in view and hope of his mercy. Though rather it should be rendered, "and" or "for my soul meditateth within me"; says or suggests such things to me, that God will in wrath remember mercy (see Psalm 77:7). So Jarchi makes mention of a Midrash (ancient commentary), which interprets it of his soul's waiting till the time that God remembers.



Verses 21-33: The relentless sorrow over Judah's judgment drove Jeremiah to consider the grace, mercy, and compassion of God. The tone of his thinking changed dramatically.


Lamentations 3:21 "This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope."


"This I recall": The prophet referred to what followed as he reviewed God's character.


We see in this, a reflective prayer. This is looking back with repentance knowing that God will receive his prayer. This is the only hope he has.



Verses 22-23: These verses embody the central thesis of the book. When God dealt with His sinful people He exhibited His "compassions". The word translated "mercies" conveys God's love for His covenant people (see the notes on 1 Sam. 20:14-17 and Jer. 2:2). The word "faithfulness" comes from a root meaning "be permanent, secure, and reliable". From this comes the associated idea of genuine faith; hence, the verb can be translated "believe" (Gen. 15:6). The word here is often translated "faith" but literally means "firmness" or faithfulness. Thus, it is used of the faithfulness of God Himself (Psalms 36:5; 40:10; Lam. 3:23), and of the need for the believer likewise to be faithful in his life and in his service to God (2 Chron. 19:9; Psalm 119:30; Prov. 12:22). The word root stresses that real faith is more than inner belief, even more than whole-souled committal. It is a condition of the soul marked by such a stable character and an attitude of total trust that the believer's whole life is saturated with consistent, responsible service to God (compare 1 Sam. 26:23; Psalm 37:3-6). From the biblical standpoint, true faith results in faithfulness in one's life.


Lamentations 3:22 "[It is of] the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not."


"Mercies": This Hebrew word, used about 250 times in the Old Testament, refers to God's gracious love. It is a comprehensive term that encompasses love, grace, mercy, goodness, forgiveness, truth, compassion and faithfulness.


Reflecting back has reminded him of the loving care of the LORD. He realizes the only reason he is not dead, is because of the mercies of God. God never stops loving. He just wants us to love Him in return.


Lamentations 3:23 "[They are] new every morning: great [is] thy faithfulness."


These compassions of God are renewed day by day, to declare the great faithfulness of God in fulfilling his many promises made for mercy to his people.


This is still speaking of the mercies of the LORD being sufficient for each day.


Lamentations 3:24 "The LORD [is] my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him."


"Portion" pictures God as One who supplies security. Land and wealth can bring a measure of temporary economic stability, but having the Lord as one's portion provides lasting and genuine security.


Times may be terrible on the earth, but the LORD is the blessed hope of the believer. He is life eternal.



Verses 25-27: Because God is "good" to those who patiently trust Him for divine deliverance, His people can patiently bear up under His "yoke" of discipline. The God who brought cursings due to Israel's unfaithfulness (Deut. 28:15-68), would also bring about promised restoration (Deut. Chapter 30). Until then God's people would have to endure their affliction with "hope" in God's "salvation", the ultimate restoration.


Lamentations 3:25 "The LORD [is] good unto them that wait for him, to the soul [that] seeketh him."


For the enjoyment of him as their portion in this world, and in that to come. For his presence, here and hereafter; which they are sometimes now deprived of, but should wait patiently for it. Since he has his set time to arise and favor them with it; to such is he "good" communicatively, and in a special way and manner. They that wait for him shall not be ashamed, or disappointed of what they expect. They shall renew their spiritual strength, and grow stronger and stronger. They shall inherit the earth, the new heavens and the new earth. Enjoy many blessings now, and have good things laid up for them hereafter. Eye has not seen, nor ear heard (Isa. 49:23). Perhaps some regard may be had to the coming of Christ in the flesh, which the saints then expected, and were waiting for in faith and hope. To whom the Lord was good and gracious in due time, by performing the mercy promised them (Isa. 25:9).


"To the soul that seeketh him": That seeketh him aright; that seeks him by prayer and supplication; that seeks him in his house and ordinances, where he is to be found. That seeks him early, in the first place, and above all things; that seeks him earnestly, diligently, with his whole spirit, heart, and soul. That seeks his face, his favor, grace, and glory, and all in Christ, through whom all are to be enjoyed. God is good to such souls; he is a rewarder of them in a way of grace; with himself, as their shield and exceeding great reward. With his Son, and all things freely with him; with his Spirit and graces, and with eternal glory and happiness; such find what they seek for, Christ, his grace, and eternal fire. The Lord never forsakes them, nor the work of his hand in them, and they shall live spiritually and eternally (see Heb. 11:6).


Seek, and you shall find. Of course, this is speaking of seeking God. To wait for the LORD shows that we believe He is, and that He rewards those who wait for Him.


Lamentations 3:26 "[It is] good that [a man] should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD."


Jeremiah's observation resembles those of other saints who have experienced great grief of soul (Hab. 2:20; 3:17-19; Job 40:3-5; Psalms 37:7; 73:23-27; Isa. 26:3; 2 Cor. 1:7; 2 Thess. 3:5).


Jesus is the hoped for Savior, of all those who wait for Him.


Lamentations 3:27 "[It is] good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth."


"The yoke in his youth": This speaks of the duty from God, including disciplinary training that Jeremiah received in his youth (compare Jer. 1:6-7).


Youth seem to bear up to troubles better, than those who are older.



Verses 28-33: A state of submission is illustrated here ("sitteth alone and keepeth silence ... He putteth his mouth in the dust ... giveth [his] cheek"), as the repentant one looks to Yahweh in obedient trust. One of the chief reasons believers can live hopefully in times of despair or discipline is because of the Lord's "compassion. He doth not afflict willingly" those He loves. God always desires reconciliation and wholeness for His people (Psalm 94:14).


Lamentations 3:28 "He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne [it] upon him."


Our English Annotations supplying that, makes the connection clear, It is good for a man that he sit alone (Jer. 15:17). Not doing what he doth to be seen of men, but sitting alone, and when he is alone suppressing the mutinies of his spirit, and keeping his soul in subjection to God. Because God hath humbled him by his rod, humbling himself to his will.


"And keepeth silence, because he hath borne it on him": Or, "took it on him"; either because he took it upon him willingly, and therefore should bear it patiently; or because he (God), hath put it upon him, and therefore should be silent, and not murmur and repine, since he hath done it (Psalm 39:9).


This is speaking of not fighting the troubles that come. The best thing to do, is sit quietly and soon it will pass. In this particular case, the troubles came because of sin. The best thing to do, is take the punishment and wait for better times.


Lamentations 3:29 "He putteth his mouth in the dust; if so be there may be hope."


"Mouth in the dust": A term which pictures submission.


This is expressing the same thing, as the slang statement we hear today of eating dirt. This is a way of submitting to the punishment.


There is hope of forgiveness, if he submits to the punishment.


Lamentations 3:30 "He giveth [his] cheek to him that smiteth him: he is filled full with reproach."


"Giveth his cheek": The Lord Jesus did this (compare Isa. 50:6; 1 Peter 2:23).


These words recall Jesus' instructions to forbear bravely in the face of persecution (Matt. 5:39; compare 1 Peter 2:19-24; 3:17-18).


To smite the cheek was a way of showing vent up anger. Jesus said, if someone smite you on the one cheek, turn the other to him also. This is showing meekness to extreme.


Lamentations 3:31 "For the Lord will not cast off for ever:"


The truly penitent that put their trust in him, and sincerely desire and seek reconciliation with him: though he may for a time appear to estrange himself from them, yet he will certainly return to them.


Lamentations 3:32 "But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies."


As he sometimes does in his own people; by convincing them of sin, and producing in them godly sorrow which worketh repentance unto life. By correcting and chastising them for it, and by hiding his face from them; all which are grievous to them.


"Yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies": His mercies are many, both temporal and spiritual, and his compassion is answerable. Which he shows to his people by an application of pardoning grace, through the blood of Christ. By sympathizing with them under their afflictions, and delivering from them. By granting them his gracious presence, and restoring to them the joys of his salvation. All which is not according to their merits, but his mercies.


Verse 31 is a glorious promise to those who have grieved God. God will forgive, if they continue to seek forgiveness. We do know that after 70 years, God does just that.



Verses 33-47 God Had a just basis for judgment.


Lamentations 3:33 "For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men."


Or, "from his heart"; he does afflict. For all afflictions are from God, but they do not come from the mere motion of his heart, or are the effects of his sovereign will and pleasure. As the good things he bestows upon his people do, without any respect to any cause or occasion in them. But sin is the cause and occasion of these, as Jarchi well observes. It is with reluctance the Lord afflicts his people; he is, as it were, forced to it, speaking after the manner of men (see Hosea 11:8). He does not do it with delight and pleasure; he delights in mercy, but judgment is his strange act. Nor does he do it with all his heart and soul, with all his might and strength. He does not stir up all his wrath: for then the spirit would fail before him, and the souls that he has made. And especially he does not do it out of ill will, but in love, and for their good.


"Nor grieve the children of men": That is, he does not from his heart, or willingly, grieve the children of men, by, afflicting them. Which must be understood of those sons of men whom he has loved, and made his sons and heirs. Those sons of men that wisdom's delights were with from everlasting (Prov. 8:31).


God loves His children. He has no desire to punish them. He gave them every opportunity to repent and turn from their sin. It was only after years of warning that this trouble came upon them.


2 Peter 3:9 "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."


Lamentations Chapter 3 Questions


1. Whose plight is Jeremiah showing in this chapter?


2. _____ is the Light.


3. Why had God turned away?


4. Verse 5 is speaking of troubles, as being ________ in his mouth.


5. What are the dark places of verse 6?


6. The captivity was _______.


7. Why would all the shouting, crying, and praying not help?


8. The ____________ and __________ path leads to God.


9. What is verse 10 saying about the bear and lion?


10. Whose ways are spoken of in verse 11?


11. Who is the target of God's arrow?


12. "Reins" have to do with the _________ of man.


13. What does "derision" mean?


14. What is the "bitterness" of verse 15?


15. What does "wormwood" mean?


16. What do the "ashes" mean?


17. Obedience brought ________ and ______________.


18. What brings him hope?


19. Why were they not consumed?


20. The _______ is my portion.


21. What does it show, when we wait for the LORD?


22. _______ is the hoped for Savior.


23. What does "putting his mouth in the dust" mean?


24. What promise is spoken in verse 31?




Lamentations Chapter 3 Continued

Verses 34-39: Those who fall under divine discipline are tempted to wrongfully blame God and charge Him with wrongdoing. However, the Lord is just and fair in His judgment; He disapproves of all injustice and oppression.


Lamentations 3:34 "To crush under his feet all the prisoners of the earth,"


These words, with what follow (in Lam. 3:35); both depend upon the preceding and are to be connected with them, "he doth not afflict", etc. (Lam. 3:33). Though he lays his hand on men, he does not crush them under his feet, or break them in pieces, and utterly destroy them. Even such, all are bound in affliction and iron. Or, in a spiritual sense, such as are prisoners to sin, Satan, and the law, as all men by nature are.


He does not crush these to pieces, though they deserve it, at least not "all" of them. For he proclaims in the Gospel liberty to the captives, and says, by the power of his grace, to the prisoners, go forth, and encourages the prisoners of hope to turn to their strong hold. And also, though he afflicts, he does no injustice to them, does not turn aside their right, or subvert their cause (Job 8:3).


Rather these depend upon, and are to be connected with, the last clause (of Lam. 3:36); "the Lord approveth not". As he does not do these things himself, he does not approve of them in others; that they should use captives cruelly, trample upon them like mire in the streets, or as the dust of their feet. Particularly regard may be had to the Jews in Babylon, used badly by those that detained them. For though it was by the will of God they were carried captive, yet the Chaldeans exceeded due bounds in their usage of them, and added affliction to their affliction. Which the Lord approved not of, but resented (Zech. 1:15).


Lamentations 3:35 "To turn aside the right of a man before the face of the most High,"


The Targum is, of a poor man; not to do him justice in a court of judicature. To cause judgment to incline to the wrong side; to give the cause against a man, to give a wrong sentence. This is disapproved of by the Lord, and forbidden by him.


"Before the face of the most High": Either before the most high God, he being present and among the gods, the judges, when they pass sentence. And yet, to pass a wrong one in his presence, without any regard to him, or fear of him, must be provoking to him. Or, "before a superior", as some render it; before a judge that sits upon the bench; endeavoring by unjust charges, wrong pleas, and false witnesses, to deprive a man of his right (see Eccl. 5:8).


In the last lesson, we began on this series. It seems Jeremiah is speaking as if he is the person this is happening to. This is either a representative person of Jerusalem, or Jerusalem itself. These verses are of the calamity that has come upon the people of Jerusalem. The man has lost his right to pray, because of his repeated sin of worshipping false gods.


Lamentations 3:36 "To subvert a man in his cause, the Lord approveth not."


A poor man, as the Targum, which aggravates it; as by courses and methods taken in an open court, so by secret underhand ways, to get the cause from him, and injure him in his property.


"The Lord approveth not": Or, "seeth not"; which some understand as spoken by wicked men, who do the above things, and flatter themselves that God sees not, and takes no notice of them (Ezek. 9:9). And others read it interrogatively, "Doth not the Lord see?" He does; he sees all the actions of men, nothing is hidden from him; but he sees not with approval. He does not look upon such things with delight and pleasure, but with abhorrence (Hab. 1:13).


It is as if this person is saying, that this cannot possibly be God, because God is not against man. He forgets that man caused this separation.


Lamentations 3:37 "Who [is] he [that] saith, and it cometh to pass, [when] the Lord commandeth [it] not?"


That commands an event to take place, or predicts that it shall take place, and it cometh to pass accordingly.


"When the Lord commandeth not?" Or who designs a thing, and brings his designs to effect, when the Lord is against him? "Haughty tyrants may boast of their power as if they were equal to Omnipotence itself; but still it is God's prerogative to bring to pass whatever he pleases. Without any impediment, only by speaking, or declaring his purpose, that the thing should be done, as he did at the beginning of the creation (see Psalm 33:7). And as he makes men the instruments of his vengeance when he sees fit, so he can restrain their cruelty whenever he pleases."


The truth is, not even a sparrow falls except the Lord allows it. God is in control of His entire creation. We can say a thing all we want to, but unless God commands it, it will not happen.


Lamentations 3:38 "Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good?"


This contrasted God's sovereign bestowal of judgment with blessing.


Jeremiah is simply stating that ultimately all things are under God's sovereign control (compare Job 2:10; Psalm 33:9; Isa. 45:7; Amos 3:6). The verse gives no comfort to slanderous activity, which other Scriptures condemn strongly (Titus 3:2; James 3:9-10).


This is a question, not a statement. The same God that is love is also the Judge. God does love more than any man can understand, but each of us will be judged one at a time, and punished or rewarded according to that judgement.


Lamentations 3:39 "Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?"


While there is life there is hope; and instead of complaining that things are bad, we should encourage ourselves with the hope they will be better. We are sinful men, and what we complain of, is far less than our sins deserve. We should complain to God, and not of him. We are apt, in times of calamity, to reflect on other people's ways, and blame them; but our duty is to search and try our own ways, that we may turn from evil to God. Our hearts must go with our prayers. If inward impressions do not answer to outward expressions, we mock God, and deceive ourselves.


What right does a man have to complain for punishment for the sins he committed? The answer is no right at all. God is just. We all want His grace, but we do not want His justice.



Verses 40-41: "Turn again to the Lord": The solution to Judah's judgment was to repent, looking to God for relief and restoration.


Reflection and confession of sin help restore people to the path of life. For Christians to truthfully "examine" themselves and admit the ways they have "transgressed" and "rebelled" is vitally important for intimacy with the Lord.


Lamentations 3:40 "Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD."


Seeing God does not grieve us willingly, nor delight to crush us, though we be his prisoners, and seeing the hand of God is in these things upon us. And that justly, to recompense our iniquities into our bosoms, instead of mourning and fretting against God, which is not reasonable, nor will be of any profit to us. Let us examine our thoughts, words, and actions, and consider what they have been, and reform, and turn again to the Lord, by apostatizing from whom we have brought these evils upon us.


This is something that everyone living should do, and not just these Israelites. We should all examine ourselves, and see whether we be of God or not. Just to say we are of God, is not enough. We must live the salvation that we have received every day. Christianity is no good, unless it is an everyday affair. Turn to the Lord while He can be found. He will help us stay on the narrow path after we get there.


Lamentations 3:41 "Let us lift up our heart with [our] hands unto God in the heavens."


Let us apply ourselves unto God by prayer, often expressed under this notion in Scripture from that gesture ordinarily used in prayer. And let us not do it in hypocrisy, but joining our hearts with our hands, praying seriously and fervently.


When we lift up our hands in praise to God in heaven, it is an outward expression of the submission to Him in our hearts. He will judge the condition of our hearts.


Lamentations 3:42 "We have transgressed and have rebelled: thou hast not pardoned."


"Not pardoned": God judged their sin righteously.


To be pardoned, one must truly be sorry for the sins he committed. Rebellion is next to witchcraft. The way to be pardoned, is to have a total change of heart.



Verses 43-51: Jeremiah was inconsolable as he lamented the devastation before him and the sin that caused it.


"Offscouring" (3:45; translated as the verb "scrape" in Ezek. 26:4), pictures the devastated, sinful people as refuse or debris that must be removed. God had raised Jeremiah up as a prophet to announce a way of deliverance from coming judgment, but the people would not listen. Israel's experience should cause every Christian to consider: Or do I listen to God when He convicts me? Do I whine or weep when judgment comes?


Lamentations 3:43 "Thou hast covered with anger, and persecuted us: thou hast slain, thou hast not pitied."


Either thou hast covered thyself with anger, or covered thy own face with anger, so as not to look upon us to move thy pity. Or (which is more probably the sense), thou hast covered, that is, overwhelmed, us with thy wrath.


"Thou hast slain, thou hast not pitied": Thou hast pursued us to a fatal ruin, without showing us any pity.


Pity is not what we need. Forgiveness and mercy is what we need. God's judgement is carried out. We must remember that there is a time when God has lost patience with our sin. This is what had happened here. God's wrath had come up in His face, and He carried out the punishment for their sin.


Lamentations 3:44 "Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud, that [our] prayer should not pass through."


God had covered them with wrath, overwhelming them with afflictions. So as they had no way to escape; and whereas in this distress they had nothing else to do but only to apply themselves to God. He had hidden his face from them, so as they could get no comfortable sight of him. He was as one covered with a cloud, that could not be discerned through that shady body. What is meant by this cloud, whether his fixed resolution to punish them, or his fresh remembrance of their sins, or his just will to be revenged on them, seems too curiously inquired. The phrase is a metaphor, and signifies no more than that God would not hear their prayers in their distress.


All the messages, that God sent them by the prophets, were rejected. Now, He rejects their prayers. He has closed His ears to their requests.


Lamentations 3:45 "Thou hast made us [as] the offscouring and refuse in the midst of the people."


Had given them up into the hands of the Gentiles, the Chaldeans. To be treated as the dirt of the streets, as the sweepings of a house; or the dross of metal; or anything that is vile, mean, and contemptible ("Offscouring" means outcast). The apostle seems to have some reference to this passage; and his words may be an illustration of it (1 Cor. 4:13).


The lands around them, that had treated them with such great respect, have no respect for them now. They are abandoned by their God. They have no friends.


Lamentations 3:46 "All our enemies have opened their mouths against us."


Like lions and other beasts of prey, to devour us. Or in way of scorn and derision; pouring out their reproaches upon us, and scoffs at us, for our religion, and the worship of God, and on account of present miseries and distresses (see Lam. 2:16).


Their enemies are speaking badly of them because of their obvious sin against their God.


Lamentations 3:47 "Fear and a snare is come upon us, desolation and destruction."


They had so many fears now, it is hard to know where to start. They were afraid of starving or being killed. They had never known fear, because of the protection God had provided. Now, He is not fighting for them. They have nothing. All is lost.



Verses 48-51: The summary of Jeremiah's sorrow.


Lamentations 3:48 "Mine eye runneth down with rivers of water for the destruction of the daughter of my people."


Denoting the greatness of his grief and trouble at the afflictions of his people, and the vast profusion of tears on that account. Here the prophet speaks in his own person, expressing the anguish of his soul he felt, and the floods of tears he shed.


"For the destruction of the daughter of my people": For those that were slain of them, or carried captive (see Jer. 9:1).


Lamentations 3:49 "Mine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not, without any intermission,"


The prophet was deeply affected upon the prospect of this evil before it came (Jer. 9:1). And was now much more affected when he saw the judgment was come; he wept plentifully and constantly. As for their sins which had brought these judgments upon them, so for the judgments themselves, as indications of God's displeasure and wrath against them for their transgressions.


Lamentations 3:50 "Till the LORD look down, and behold from heaven."


Disperses and dissipates the cloud that was about him; shines forth and manifests himself, and looks favorably upon his people, and delivers them out of their troubles. This the prophet was in hope of, and was waiting for; but, till it came to pass, could have no rest and comfort.


The crying is at first like a river for the amount of tears shed. Then the tears begin to dry up and began to be just a trickle. He has determined to cry out until God looks from heaven, and hears the prayers.


Lamentations 3:51 "Mine eye affecteth mine heart because of all the daughters of my city."


Or, "Mine eye" causes pain to my soul, I.e., maketh my soul ache, because of the sad fate of the maidens (Lam. 1:4, 1:18).


Because of all the daughters of my city": Our margin tells us that it may be also read more than all the daughters of my city; according to which the sense is, that he was more affected with the state of Jerusalem than the most tenderhearted woman that had lived in it. But it is as well, if not better, in this place rendered causally, showing the reason of his deep affliction, i.e., all those miseries he had seen fall upon all the Jewish nation, or upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem.


The things he sees with his eye is breaking his heart.



Verses 52-63: "My enemies": Jeremiah's description of persecution sounded much like the time when his enemies at the palace had cast him into a cistern (compare verse 53; Jer. 38:4-6). God reassured him in answer to prayer (verse 57), and redeemed him (verse 58), by sending Ebed-melech to rescue him (compare Jer. 38:7-13). Jeremiah pleads for justice to be rendered on those enemies (verses 59-63).


Verses 52-66: The prophet speaks on behalf of his suffering people, with a call for justice. This is an appeal to God's righteous character. God's ultimate purpose would be accomplished, and it would include a day of reckoning for those who opposed the Lord and His people.


Jeremiah recalls that the Lord had told him not to "fear" (Isa. 41:10). The faithful can be sure of God's presence and help, although deliverance happens on His schedule instead of theirs.


Lamentations 3:52 "Mine enemies chased me sore, like a bird, without cause."


That is weak and helpless, fearful and timorous; that flees from place to place when pursued. So it was with the prophet, or rather with the people of the Jews he represents. For here and in the following verses he speaks not only of himself, but of them. Who, when they fled out of the city, were chased and pursued by the Chaldeans like a bird, till they were taken (see Jer. 52:7).


"Without cause": Which may be connected with the word "enemies". So the Targum; who were so without cause. They had done them no injury, to make them their enemies; and without reason pursued and chased them in the manner they did.


Sometimes birds are chased just for the sport. This is just saying that the cause was not the one's who was chasing. The cause was God's.


Lamentations 3:53 "They have cut off my life in the dungeon, and cast a stone upon me."


Jeremiah was both in a prison and in a dungeon, where he was deprived of the society of men, as if he had been dead. And he was in danger of losing his life; but whether any respect is had to it here is not certain. It seems rather to respect the people of the Jews in captivity, who were deprived of their rights and liberties, and of the comforts of life; and were like dead men in their graves, to whom they are compared (Ezek. 37:11). But since Jeremiah was not dead, nor did he die in the dungeon, Jarchi's sense seems best, and agrees with what follows; and is confirmed by the version of others, who render it, "they shut up my life in the dungeon".


"And cast a stone upon me": To see if he was dead, or to prevent him from rising. The allusion is to the putting of stones at the mouths of dens and dungeons, caves and graves, to keep in those there put.


This is all intertwined with Jeremiah, and the city he loved so. He speaks as if he is that city and that people, and yet as if part of this was things he suffered himself. Jeremiah was put into a cistern and left to die.


Lamentations 3:54 "Waters flowed over mine head; [then] I said, I am cut off."


As in a pit or dungeon, where there is not only mire and clay, but much water, into which persons being put, sink, and are covered therewith (see Psalm 69:1). This is to be understood metaphorically of the waters of afflictions, which overflowed and overwhelmed the people of the Jews. Jarchi interprets it of the nations of the world, as much people are often compared to waters. And here the Chaldeans may be particularly intended, whose army overflowed the land of Judea. And like a mighty torrent, carried away the people, and wealth of it, and brought them into troubles, which were like deep waters.


"Then I said, I am cut off": While the waters are only up to a man's loins, he does not apprehend himself in danger; but there is hope of his wading through, and getting out. But when they rise above his head, his hopes are gone. He reckons it all over with him, and that he is just perishing, and his life in the utmost danger. There being scarce any probability or possibility of saving him; so it was with these people.


Jeremiah had been cut off when he was held prisoner, but this is probably speaking of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was cut off from God.


Lamentations 3:55 "I called upon thy name, O LORD, out of the low dungeon."


As in times past, so in the present distress; when all hope was gone, and all help failed, still there was a God to go to, and call upon.


"Out of the low dungeon": Or "dungeon of lowness"; the lowest dungeon, the deepest distress, a man or people could be in. Yet then and there it is not too late to call upon the Lord; and there may be hope of deliverance out of such an estate by him.


Jeremiah was held in the cistern, and they had to take ropes to pull him out of. Undoubtedly, he cried to God during this time.


Lamentations 3:56 "Thou hast heard my voice: hide not thine ear at my breathing, at my cry."


Either in times past, when he cried unto him, and was delivered. And this was an encouragement to call upon him again in such extremity, who had shown himself to be a God hearing and answering prayer; hence it follows:


"Hide not thine ear at my breathing, at my cry": Turn not a deaf ear to me, who hast been accustomed to hear me heretofore; stop not thine ear at my cry now, at my prayer, which he calls his "breathing". Prayer is the breath of a soul regenerated by the Spirit, and is a sign and evidence of life, when it is spiritual. In it a soul pants after God, and communion with him, and salvation by him. Some render it, "at my gasping"; or "panting", for breath; just ready to expire, unless immediate help is given.


Or else the whole of this refers to the present time, when the Lord heard and answered, not only the first clause, but this also. Which may be rendered, not by way of petition, but affirmation, "thou didst not hide thine ear at my breathing, at my cry". And this agrees both with what goes before, and with what is expressed in (Lam. 3:57).


Lamentations 3:57 "Thou drewest near in the day [that] I called upon thee: thou saidst, Fear not."


When persons draw nigh to God in a way of duty, and particularly in this of prayer, and calling on his name; he draws nigh to them in a way of grace and mercy, and manifests himself to them, and works salvation for them. The Targum is, "thou didst cause an angel to draw near to deliver me in the day that I prayed unto thee:"


"Thou saidst, fear not": Any of thine enemies; or that thou shouldest not be delivered from them (see Isa. 41:10; see note on Jeremiah 23:23).


God heard Jeremiah, and answered him back, to fear not. Jeremiah is now crying out for the people of Jerusalem, and wants God to give him the same attention as he did when he was in the cistern.


Lamentations 3:58 "O Lord, thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul; thou hast redeemed my life."


"Thou hast redeemed my life": Jeremiah said this to encourage others to trust God.


There is no doubt at all that God spared Jeremiah's life in this war with Babylon, and even when the people had turned against him and imprisoned him. God saved Jeremiah's life.


Lamentations 3:59 "O LORD, thou hast seen my wrong: judge thou my cause."


Or, "my perverseness"; not that he or they had been guilty of; but the wrong that was done to him and them by their enemies. How perverse and ill-natured they had been to them; how badly they had used them; what injuries they had done them. None of which escaped the omniscience of God, to which the appeal is made. And upon this follows a petition.


"Judge thou my cause": The present one; as thou hast pleaded and judged many already. Do me justice, right my wrongs, and save me from mine enemies; and let it appear to all the world my cause is just, and they are in the wrong.


He is pleading for Jerusalem. His cause is in behalf of the people of Jerusalem.


Lamentations 3:60 "Thou hast seen all their vengeance [and] all their imaginations against me."


The spirit of revenge in them; their wrath and fury, and how they burn with a desire of doing mischief; as well as their revengeful actions, carriage, and behavior.


"And all their imaginations against me": Their secret contrivances of mischief, their plots and schemes they devise to do hurt unto me.


Lamentations 3:61 "Thou hast heard their reproach, O LORD, [and] all their imaginations against me;"


Their reproachful words uttered against the prophet and his people, against God himself. Their spiteful language, their taunts, and scoffs and jeers.


"And all their imaginations against me": Those he not only saw, as they appeared in their actions; but heard them, as they were expressed by their words. Yea, they were manifest to him, while they only were in silent thought forming in the mind.


This is against Jerusalem. "Me" is Jerusalem here. God sees all. He does not overlook anything. It is as if Jeremiah is pleading with God that they have suffered enough.


Lamentations 3:62 "The lips of those that rose up against me, and their device against me all the day."


This is to be connected with the preceding words; and expresses the same thing in different language. The sense is, that the Lord heard the words which dropped from the lips of his enemies. Their sarcasms, flouts, and jeers; their bitter reflections, severe invectives, and scornful language.


"And their device against me all the day": Or, "their meditation of ill against me"; or, "their speech", or discourse; which all turned upon the same topic. Schultens derives the word from the Arabic word which signifies to mock and scoff, or pursue anyone with ironical and satirical expressions; and so may intend here scornful, insulting and reproachful language.


The lips are mentioned, because it pertains to words coming from their mouths.


Lamentations 3:63 "Behold their sitting down, and their rising up; I [am] their music."


Elsewhere the phrase is a comprehensive expression for all a man's occupations (compare Psalm 139:2; Isa. 37:28).


I am their music; or "music maker"; as Samson was to the Philistines; the matter of their mirth; the subject of their song; and the object of their derision.


Jeremiah again, is pleading for God to be aware of their daily hardships. The only good they hear is from Jeremiah and he is like music in their ears.



Verses 64-66: Jeremiah's spoken curse is paralleled in many psalms in which the author is so immersed in God's will that he rightly longs for the vindication of God's righteousness as well as the punishment of the enemy.


This prayer of Jeremiah for divine vengeance would be answered in Babylon's fall (compare Isa. Chapters 46-47; Jer. chapters 50-51; Dan. Chapter 5). It would also have its ultimate answer at the Great White Throne (Rev. 20:11-15).


Lamentations 3:64 "Render unto them a recompence, O LORD, according to the work of their hands."


The Septuagint and Vulgate Latin versions render this, and the following verses, not as petitions, but as prophecies of what should be. But they seem rather to be expressed by way of request; and here, that God would deal with them according to the law of retaliation, and requite them according to what they had done. That he would do to them as they had done to the Lord's people, and others. And this is ordered to be done particularly to the Chaldeans, or Babylonians (Jer. 50:15).


Recompence means to make amends to (someone), for loss or harm suffered.


Lamentations 3:65 "Give them sorrow of heart, thy curse unto them."


Rather, blindness or hardness; literally, "a veil" covering their heart, so that they may rush on to their own ruin (Isa 6:10; 2 Cor. 3:14-15).


"Thy curse unto them": This should rather form a separate interjectional clause, "Thy curse upon them!"


This is asking for Babylon to be judged for their sins they committed against Jerusalem.


Lamentations 3:66 "Persecute and destroy them in anger from under the heavens of the LORD."


As they have persecuted the people of God, do thou persecute them. And never leave pursuing them until thou hast made a full end of them, as the effect of vindictive wrath and vengeance.


"From under the heavens of the Lord": Which are made by him, and in which he dwells. Let them not have the benefit of them, nor so much as the sight of them; but let them perish from under them (Jer. 10:11).


We are not to avenge ourselves. God will take vengeance on those who have sinned. He is the Judge. Jeremiah is speaking for Jerusalem here. They will not take vengeance, but want God to.


Lamentations Chapter 3 Continued Questions


1. Why has the man lost his right to pray?


2. Who caused the separation between God and man?


3. Who is in control of everything?


4. Wherefore doth a living man ____________?


5. What is one thing that all living should do?


6. When we lift up our hands to God in heaven, it is what?


7. To be pardoned, one must be ________ _______.


8. Pity is not what we need. We need ______________ and _________.


9. Why does there seem to be a cloud between their prayers and God?


10. Who has lost respect for these Israelites?


11. What were some of their fears?


12. Why are the tears like a river, in verse 48, and just a trickle in verse 49?


13. What is breaking his heart in verse 51?


14. Who is verse 53 speaking of?


15. Where had he called upon the name of the LORD from?


16. God answered Jeremiah's prayer by telling him to _______ ______.


17. Whose life is verse 58 speaking of?


18. Who is Jeremiah pleading for?


19. What does it seem Jeremiah is pleading about in verse 60 and 61?


20. What does lips indicate in verse 62?


21. Why does Jeremiah call himself their music?


22. What does "recompence" mean?


23. Who does Jeremiah ask God to judge?


24. Who is the only one to avenge?





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Lamentations 4



Lamentations Chapter 4

Verses 1-2: When Solomon dedicated the temple (1 Kings Chapter 8), no one could have imagined that such a beautiful and ornate place of worship would one day be laid waste. The tarnished ("dim"), "scattered" structure paralleled the humiliation that Jerusalem's leadership had endured ("precious sons of Zion"; Jer. chapter 52).


Lamentations 4:1 "How is the gold become dim! [how] is the most fine gold changed! the stones of the sanctuary are poured out in the top of every street."


"How is the gold become dim": The gold adornment of the temple, looted by the conquerors, lost its luster with a coating of dust where they scattered the remains.


Jeremiah is heartsick over the destruction of the temple. We know from our lessons in Jeremiah, that the temple was ravaged and burned. The precious metal, and everything they could take loose, they took to Babylon. This cry of Jeremiah may not be accurate in every detail, but is what has happened to the temple in his heart. The fullest statement is, "The precious temple with all of its beauty is gone"


Lamentations 4:2 "The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold, how are they esteemed as earthen pitchers, the work of the hands of the potter!"


Either the nobles and great men, or the priests, or the good men amongst the Jews, that for their intrinsic worth and value may be compared to gold, are looked upon no better than earthen vessels, the workmanship of an ordinary potter. God carrying Jeremiah down to the potter's house (Jer. 18:2; 19:1), and had taught them that they were no more in His hand. He now proved it by his providence, they were indeed made so, and as miserably and irreparably broken in pieces.


"How are they esteemed as earthen pitchers, the work of the hands of the potter!" They are indeed earthen vessels with respect to their bodies, frail, weak, and mortal. But they are the work of God's hands, even as creatures, and particularly as new creatures, and are a curious piece of his workmanship. And so valuable, and especially by Him, who is as tender and as careful of them as the apple of his eye. And yet these are greatly disesteemed by carnal men, are reckoned as the faith of the world. And the off scouring of all things; as earthen vessels, fit for no use but common or dishonorable ones, or to be broke in pieces, and rendered useless and contemptible (see Psalm 31:12).


God's people are thought of as precious sons. This is speaking of not just the priests and high priest, but of all of God's children. This was the greatest loss of all. Those who are fit for God's kingdom are spoken of as being like fine gold, tried in the fire and made pure. They have been poured out on the street here. There are dead everywhere. These children are God's creation. He is the potter, they are the clay. They had been a beautiful vessel to honor, now they are crushed by their terrible fall into spiritual adultery.



Verses 3-10: Until Jerusalem, the destruction of "Sodom" was considered the epitome of God's wrath. That Sodom was "overthrown as in a moment", compared to the duration of Jerusalem's defeat, and underlines how much greater Israel's sin was. The devastation in the land was not only the result of military conquest but a famine so great that once-robust princes and nobles were dying of starvation and mothers resorted to cannibalism (2:20). This was a living death; those slain in the siege seemed to be better off.


Lamentations 4:3 "Even the sea monsters draw out the breast, they give suck to their young ones: the daughter of my people [is become] cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness."


"Give such to their young ones": Even worthless jackals by nature nurse their young, but under the severities of conquest, Israelite women were unable to nurse their babies (compare verse 4).


"Like the ostriches": Birds which are notable for ignoring their young (compare Job 39:14-16).


This speaks vividly of the extent of the famine in the land. It is natural for a mother to feed a baby, whether it is a sea monster, or any other being. This is not a natural thing that is going on in Jerusalem. These had been God's children. We must remember that God did not cause this, their sin caused this calamity.


Lamentations 4:4 "The tongue of the sucking child cleaveth to the roof of his mouth for thirst: the young children ask bread, [and] no man breaketh [it] unto them."


Through want of the milk of the breast, which is both food and drink unto it.


"The young children ask bread": Of their parents as usual, not knowing how the case was, that there was a famine in the city. Those are such that were more grown, were weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts, and lived on other food, and were capable of asking for it.


"And no man breaketh it unto them": Distributes unto them, or gives them a piece of bread; not father, friend, or any other person. It not being in their power to do it, they having none for themselves.


Children suffer the most in a famine. Throughout history famine has been one way God has dealt with those who worship false gods. If there is no bread, there is no way to give the children bread.


Lamentations 4:5 "They that did feed delicately are desolate in the streets: they that were brought up in scarlet embrace dunghills."


That were brought up in the king's palace, or in the houses of noblemen. Or, however, born of parents rich and wealthy, and had been used to good living, and had fared sumptuously and deliciously every day. They were now wandering about in the streets in the most forlorn and distressed condition, seeking for food of any sort, but could find none to satisfy their hunger. And so, as the Vulgate Latin version renders it, perished in the ways or streets.


"They that were brought up in scarlet": In dyed garments, as Jarchi; clothed with scarlet colored ones, as was the manner of the richer and better sort of people, (Prov. 31:21). Or, "brought up upon scarlet"; upon scarlet carpets, on which they used to sit and eat their food, as is the custom of the eastern people to this day.


"Embrace dunghills": Are glad of them, and with the greatest eagerness rake into them, in order to find something to feed upon, though ever so base and vile; or to sit and lie down upon. Aben Ezra interprets it of their being cast here when dead, and there was none to bury them.


The Israelites had lived prosperous lives, and had plenty of all the foodstuff to eat. They had eaten delicate food, because there was an abundance of food. Now they are out in the street with no food at all. "Scarlet" was a very expensive material. This just shows that they lived above their neighbors. This was a land of plenty.


Lamentations 4:6 "For the punishment of the iniquity of the daughter of my people is greater than the punishment of the sin of Sodom, that was overthrown as in a moment, and no hands stayed on her."


"The sin of Sodom": Their sin was homosexuality. The fact that the suffering of Jerusalem was prolonged, while that of even Sodom was swift, marks it as the greater punishment (compare 1 Peter 4:17).


There are worse things than instant death. Sodom had been destroyed with fire and brimstone falling from heaven. It was totally destroyed in one day. The punishment for Jerusalem and Judah went on for years. The actual fighting in Jerusalem took about 18 months. The famine was a slower death, which took the lives of even the innocent babies. Judah was in captivity 70 years. God's anger was not soon cooled. They had grieved Him greatly with their false gods.



Verses 7-8: "Nazarites": Those who were the purest, most devout (compare Num. chapter 6), strong, healthy and noble of the people became dirty, weak and contemptible.


Lamentations 4:7 "Her Nazarites were purer than snow, they were whiter than milk, they were more ruddy in body than rubies, their polishing [was] of sapphire:"


Her Nazarites were purer than snow, such who separated themselves by a vow to the Lord. And abstained from drinking wine and strong drink, and by a moderate diet. And often washing themselves, as well as taking great care of their hair, appeared very neat and comely, like snow, without any spot or blemish. Some think such as were separated from others in dignity, very honorable persons, and the sons of nobles, are meant, since the word has the signification of a "crown", and interpret it, her princes.


"Their polishing was of sapphire": Or, their shape was "a sapphire." The allusion is no longer to color, but to form. Their shape was exact and faultless as the cutting of a precious stone.


Nazarites were those who separated themselves out and prayed. They were supposed to be closer to the will of God because of these vows they took. They would let their hair grow long, until the vow was over, and then cut it and sacrifice it in the temple. White symbolizes righteousness. To be as white as this speaks of, would mean they were holy before the LORD. The "sapphire" is a brilliant stone and the "ruby" is as well. This is probably speaking of the light of God that shone forth from them.


Lamentations 4:8 "Their visage is blacker than a coal; they are not known in the streets: their skin cleaveth to their bones; it is withered, it is become like a stick."


We look, as it were, on the two pictures: the bloom and beauty of health; or the appearance, worn, ghostly looks of starvation.


"They are not known in the streets": Not taken notice of in a distinguished manner; no respect shown the Nazarites as they walk the streets, as used to be. No, their countenances were so altered, and their apparel so sordid, as not to be known by their friends, when they met them in public.


"Their skin cleaveth to their bones": Have nothing but skin and bone, who used to be plump and fat.


"It is withered, it is become like a stick": The skin wrinkled and shriveled up, the flesh being gone; and the bone became like a stick, or a dry piece of wood, its moisture and marrow being dried up.


Visage, in this particular place, is speaking of their beauty or figure of appearance. This just means their purity and beauty in God is gone. They are black. It appears they are among the starving. They have become so thin, they look like a stick.


Lamentations 4:9 "[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."


During the siege, many were killed by the enemies' sword, many more perished by famine. The prophet saith the condition of those who perished by the sword was much better than the condition of those who perished by famine, because they had a quicker death, and were sooner dispatched and put out of their pain. Whereas they who perished by hunger died a miserable, lingering death, gradually pining away, because they wanted corn and herbs, the fruits of the field, to uphold their souls in life.


At least a death with the sword comes quickly. Those who die from lack of food suffer for months before they finally die. The worst part of this famine is the fact that the fields had been so fruitful before. The memory is almost as bad as the actual starvation.


Lamentations 4:10 "The hands of the pitiful women have sodden their own children: they were their meat in the destruction of the daughter of my people."


"Sodden ... children": Strange contrast between the compassionate nature of woman (compare Isa. 49:15), and the dread horrors of this moral as well as physical catastrophe (compare note on Lam. 2:20). Thus, was the prophecy of Moses (Deut. 28:53; 28:57), most awfully fulfilled (see the notes on Lam. 2:20).


The natural thing for a mother to do was to protect her children in the face of every danger. It is hard for me to understand them eating their own children, but this is what this verse says. This is morally wrong, as well as being so unnatural to the flesh.



Verses 11-16: The spiritual leaders were among those most responsible for the nation's sins, for as they behaved, so did the people. Their offense was so repulsive that shouts like those of lepers were appropriate: "unclean!" (Lev. 13:34-46), and a condemnation to exile was truly just.


Lamentations 4:11 "The LORD hath accomplished his fury; he hath poured out his fierce anger, and hath kindled a fire in Zion, and it hath devoured the foundations thereof."


Which rose up in his mind, and which he purposed in himself to bring upon the sinful people of the Jews.


"He hath poured out his fierce anger": The vials of his wrath in great abundance, even all he meant to pour out upon them.


"And hath kindled a fire in Zion, and it hath devoured the foundations thereof": Not in the strong hold of Zion only, but in the whole city of Jerusalem, which was set on fire by the Chaldeans, as instruments, according to the will of God. And which not only consumed the houses of it, but even the foundations of them; so that it looked as if there was no hope of its ever being rebuilt. Aben Ezra interprets this fire of the famine.


This fierce anger of the LORD is much worse than an attack by the devil. When the devil attacks, you can call out for help from God. There is no one to cry out to for help in this. God has closed the door of communication with His people. The temple, the city, and the country have been totally destroyed by God. Zion was the foundation of the religion of the world. It is gone. Perhaps making the way for the grace of God to take over.


Lamentations 4:12 "The kings of the earth, and all the inhabitants of the world, would not have believed that the adversary and the enemy should have entered into the gates of Jerusalem."


In looking to the fact that Jerusalem had been taken by Shishak (1 Kings 14:26), Joash (2 Kings 14:13), the statement seems at first hyperbolical. It has to be remembered, however, that since the happening of these two wars, the city had been strongly fortified by Uzziah, Hezekiah, and Manasseh. And the failure of Sennacherib's attempt had probably led to the impression that it was impregnable.


Jerusalem had been God's holy city. No one would ever have believed that God would have allowed the destruction of Jerusalem.


Lamentations 4:13 "For the sins of her prophets, [and] the iniquities of her priests, that have shed the blood of the just in the midst of her,"


Jeremiah's point remains constant: all that has happened to Israel is because of its sin (see the note on 1:18).


The greatest blame for all of this must be laid at the feet of the false prophets and the priests. Instead of them being above sin and bringing the people out of false worship, they were involved in it themselves. They were the leaders. When the leaders are blind, the whole country falls into the ditch with them. We must carefully choose who we will follow. Christians need to learn the Word of God for themselves, so they can try the spirits and see whether they be of God or not. There are many false prophets in our land today. Those who do not lead wholesome lives, should not be leading others.


Lamentations 4:14 "They have wandered [as] blind [men] in the streets, they have polluted themselves with blood, so that men could not touch their garments."


They strayed from the paths of righteousness, and were blind to everything that was good, but to do evil they were quick-sighted.


"They have polluted themselves with blood", so that men could not touch their garments": But they would be legally polluted; and there were so many of them, that a man could not walk in the streets but he must touch some of them.


I believe this is speaking of the prophets and the priests being spiritually blind. To know the Word of God, as they should have, and still be blind is hard to understand. The truth is that many times leaders such as these, get too involved in the technical side of ministry and do not spend enough time in God's Word. These priests and prophets had shed innocent blood. That is why they are polluted with it. They had abused the office of priest and prophet.


Lamentations 4:15 "They cried unto them, Depart ye; [it is] unclean; depart, depart, touch not: when they fled away and wandered, they said among the heathen, They shall no more sojourn [there]."


"Depart": The people chased the false leaders away.


The people are crying out of the uncleanness of these prophets and priests. They had prophesied lies. Their sins were like leprosy. The person who touched them, might be infected with their sins. This is why the cry went out. They were no more welcome in Jerusalem.


Lamentations 4:16 "The anger of the LORD hath divided them; he will no more regard them: they respected not the persons of the priests, they favored not the elders."


"The anger of the Lord": This was symbolic of divine anger. The Jews had to face up to God.


This is speaking of some being killed, some taken captive to Babylon, and some remaining behind. Showing no respect has to do with a rebellious people.



Verses 17-20: Captivity would be the new reality for God's people (Jer. 4:13). The switch to first person reveals that the experience of siege and capture had been so horrific, they could not get its images out of their minds.


Lamentations 4:17 "As for us, our eyes as yet failed for our vain help: in our watching we have watched for a nation [that] could not save [us]."


Or, "while we were yet"; a nation, a people, a body politic, in our own land. Before the city of Jerusalem was taken, we were looking for help, as was promised us. But it proved a vain help, none was given us. For which we kept looking to the last, till our eyes failed, and we could look no longer. No help appeared, nor was there any prospect or probability of it, and therefore all gave up.


"In our watching we watched for a nation that could not save us": Not the Romans, as the Targum, but the Egyptians. These promised help and relief, and therefore in their watching they watched, or vehemently watched, and wistfully looked out for it, but all in vain. For though they made an attempt to help them, they dare not proceed; but were obliged to retire, not being a match for the Chaldean army. And so could not save them, or break up the siege, and relieve them.


God had warned His people not to look for the world (Egypt), for help. Their help was in the Lord. The arm of flesh is not a help. The Right Hand of God is their very present help. They had abandoned God for the world.


Lamentations 4:18 "They hunt our steps, that we cannot go in our streets: our end is near, our days are fulfilled; for our end is come."


The Chaldeans, from their forts and batteries, as they could see. They watched the people as they came out of their houses, and walked about the streets, and shot their arrows at them. So that they were obliged to keep inside, and not stir out, which they could not do without great danger.


"Our end is near, for our days are fulfilled": For our end is come. Either the end of their lives, the days, months, and years appointed for them being fulfilled; or the end of their commonwealth. The end of their civil and church state, at least as they thought. The time appointed for their destruction was not only near at hand, but was actually come; it was all over with them.


This is explaining that there is no way to hide from this destruction. All hope is gone. They believe death is near.


Lamentations 4:19 "Our persecutors are swifter than the eagles of the heaven: they pursued us upon the mountains, they laid wait for us in the wilderness."


Better, "our pursuers"; the words referring to the Chaldean enemies rather than to persecutors in the modern sense of the word. The comparison with eagles has a parallel in (Deut. 28:49).


"They pursued us upon the mountains, they laid wait for us in the wilderness": Or "plain"; there was no safety in either. Such as fled to the mountains were pursued and overtaken there; and those who attempted to make their escape through the valleys were intercepted there. The reference is to the flight of Zedekiah, his nobles, and his army with him, who were pursued by the Chaldeans, and taken in the plains of Jericho (Jer. 52:7).


It did not help to run, as the king found out. The enemy pursued and caught them in the open field and on the mountains. (Be sure your sin will find you out). You cannot run from sin. You must repent and be cleansed from it. The one thing all of this happened for, was to get them to repent.



Verses 20-21: "Edom" was singled out because they had rejoiced over Jerusalem's demise and even profited from it (Psalm 137:7; see Obadiah). It is dangerous business to gloat over the demise of others, even if their affliction was deserved (Prov. 24:17-18). Despite its devastation, Jerusalem expected God's justice to ultimately prevail because of His faithfulness to His promises.


Lamentations 4:20 "The breath of our nostrils, the anointed of the LORD, was taken in their pits, of whom we said, Under his shadow we shall live among the heathen."


The "breath of life" (of Gen. 2:7). The phrase emphasizes the ideal character of the king as the center of the nation's life.


"Of whom we said": The words that follow point to the scheme which was rendered abortive by Zedekiah's capture. Those who followed him had hoped to find a refuge among some friendly neighboring nation, where they might at least have maintained the continuity of their national existence, and waited for better days.


Nothing ripens a people more for ruin, nor fills the measure faster, than the sins of priests and prophets. The king himself cannot escape, for Divine vengeance pursues him. Our anointed King alone is the life of our souls; we may safely live under his shadow, and rejoice in Him in the midst of our enemies, for He is the true God and eternal life.


Breath and life are interchangeable. They mean the same thing. They are speaking of God's family, when they speak of the anointed of the LORD. It could also be meaning their king, Zedekiah. They thought perhaps, the king of Babylon would let them have one of their own leaders in Babylon.



Verses 21-22: "Edom ... land of Uz": In effect God said, "Laugh all you want now. Your judgment will come" (compare 25:15-29).


Lamentations 4:21 "Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom, that dwellest in the land of Uz; the cup also shall pass through unto thee: thou shalt be drunken, and shalt make thyself naked."


The land of Idumea, and the inhabitants of it, who did indeed rejoice at the destruction of Jerusalem (Obad. 1:12). And here, in an ironic manner, are bid to go on with their mirth, if they could, like the young man in (Eccl. 11:9). As Aben Ezra observes; for it would not last long, their note would soon be changed.


"That dwellest in the land of Uz": Not the country of Job, which had its name from Uz the son of Nahor (Job 1:1). But a country in Idumea, from whence the whole was so called. And that from Uz the son of Dishan, one of the sons of Seir. Or else the sense is, that Edom or Idumea, and the inhabitants of it, dwelt upon the borders of Uz; and so agrees very well with the place of Job's residence, which was near the land of Edom.


"The cup also shall pass through unto thee": The cup of God's wrath and vengeance; which, as it had come to the Jews, and was passing from one nation to another, in its turn would come to these Edomites (see Jer. 25:15).


"Thou shall be drunken, and shall make thyself naked": Be overcome by it; as persons with wine, or any strong drink, reel to and fro, and fall. And be utterly destroyed, lie helpless and without strength: "and be made naked". As it may be rendered; stripped of their riches and wealth; or they should strip themselves of their clothes, and behave indecently, and expose those parts which ought to be covered, as drunken persons. The sense is, they should be exposed, or expose themselves, to shame and contempt.


For the "cup" as a figure of judgment (see the note on Jeremiah 25:28).


This is a sarcastic remark to Edom. They better enjoy the defeat of Judah while they can. Soon they will be attacked too and left naked.


Lamentations 4:22 "The punishment of thine iniquity is accomplished, O daughter of Zion; he will no more carry thee away into captivity: he will visit thine iniquity, O daughter of Edom; he will discover thy sins."


In part in the seventy years' captivity in Babylon, and more fully in their present captivity. For, as has been observed, there are some things in the preceding account, which had a further accomplishment in the destruction of Jerusalem, and the distress of the Jews by the Romans. The Targum is, "and after thine iniquity is fulfilled, O congregation of Zion, and thou shalt be delivered by the hands of the Messiah, and of Elias the High Priest;"


"He will no more carry thee away into captivity": He, the enemy; or the Lord, as the Targum. That is, thou shall no more be carried captive: this seems to confirm the above observation, that this chapter is a prophecy of what would be, as well as a narrative of what had been; and includes the destruction both of the first and second temple, and of the Jews both by the Chaldeans and Romans. For it is certain, that, after their deliverance from the captivity of Babylon, they have been carried away captive, and are now in captivity.


"He will visit thine iniquity, O daughter of Edom": Punish the Edomites for their sins, as is elsewhere threatened (Jer. 49:7; Amos 1:11); which was fulfilled by Nebuchadnezzar as an instrument. And may have some respect to the destruction of the Romans, when the Jews shall be converted, and return to their own land. The Targum, in the king of Spain's Bible is, "and at that time I will visit thine iniquity, O wicked Rome, which art built in Italy, and full of multitudes of the children of Edom; and the Persians shall come and oppress thee, and make thee desolate".


"He will discover thy sins": By the punishment of them; as when God pardons sins, he is said to cover them. So, when he punishes for them, he discovers them (see Jer. 49:10).


It appears from this; that the punishment of Judah and Jerusalem is over. God will no longer carry her into captivity. Edom will soon be judged of God for her iniquities, and will suffer as did their neighbor, Judah. We said before that Judgement begins at the house of God, but it does not overlook the sins of others. They will feel the judgement of God, as did God's own people.


Our world today is guilty of many of the sins mentioned here. Church, God begins with us. We must repent and turn to God today while we still can. Just as God's wrath came down on the people here, there is a day of wrath waiting in the wings now. We must open our ear of our spirit, and learn from these people's mistakes. God is love, but He is also Judge.


Lamentations Chapter 4 Questions


1. What was Jeremiah heartsick about?


2. What happened to the temple?


3. Who are the precious sons of Zion?


4. Those who are fit for God's kingdom are spoken of, as being like _______ _______.


5. They had been a beautiful vessel of ________.


6. Now, they are crushed by their terrible ______.


7. What is verse 3 speaking vividly of?


8. Who caused this calamity?


9. Who suffer the most in a famine?


10. How had the Israelites eaten before this famine started?


11. What does the "scarlet" show us?


12. The punishment of Jerusalem was greater, than the punishment of ________.


13. What was the difference?


14. How many years was Judah in captivity?


15. Who were Nazarites?


16. What do the "sapphire" and "ruby" mentioned in verse 7, mean?


17. What does "visage" mean?


18. They have become so thin, they look like a _______.


19. They that be slain with the sword are better, than they that be slain with _________.


20. What terrible thing is verse 10 telling of?


21. Why is an attack from God worse than an attack from the devil?


22. Who should bear the greatest blame?


23. The priests and prophets were called as _______ men in verse 14.


24. What had divided them?


25. Who had Judah looked to for help, instead of God?


26. Breath and _______ are interchangeable.


27. Who rejoiced in Judah's destruction?


28. What lesson can we receive from this?





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Lamentations 5



Lamentations Chapter 5

Verses 1-18: God's people have often called on Him to "remember" them in times of distress (Gen. 8:1; 19:29; Exodus 32:13). In this prayerful chapter are four lessons for overcoming sin, depression and defeat: Remembering, repentance, recognition and renewal.


Lamentations 5:1 "Remember, O LORD, what is come upon us: consider, and behold our reproach."


"Remember, O Lord": Jeremiah prayed for mercy on his people. He summed up the nation's wounds and woes (verses 1-10), recalled woes of specific groups (verses 11-14), showed why God judged (verses 15-18), and interceded for the removal of Israel (verses 19-22; compare Micah 7:18-20).


This is a cry from the people in captivity to God. This prayer continues through this chapter. God had shut His ears to their prayers in the past, but a great deal of time has passed and perhaps God will hear them now. It begins by asking God to take a look at their situation.



Verses 2-3: For the theme of the widow, the orphan, the poor and the stranger (see the note on Jeremiah 7:6).


Lamentations 5:2 "Our inheritance is turned to strangers, our houses to aliens."


The land of Canaan in general, which was given to Abraham and his seed to be their inheritance; and their field, and vineyards in particular. Which came to them by inheritance from their fathers, were now in the hands of the Chaldeans, strangers to God, and aliens from the commonwealth of Israel (as all Gentiles were; Eph. 2:12).


"Our houses to aliens": Which they had built or purchased, or their fathers had left them, were now inhabited by those of another country.


The strangers of course, are their Babylonian captors. The houses that had not been burned, now belonged to their captors.


Lamentations 5:3 "We are orphans and fatherless, our mothers [are] as widows."


In every sense. In a natural sense, their fathers having been cut off by the sword, famine, or pestilence. In a civil sense, their king being taken from them; and in a religious sense, God having forsaken them for their sins.


"Our mothers are as widows": Either really so, their husbands being dead; or were as if they had no husbands, they not being able to provide for them, protect and put off them.


They were orphaned of their physical fathers during the war, and the famine that followed. Their worst plight is that they were abandoned by their Father, which is in heaven.



Verses 4-9: These verses depict a situation where the captives were at the mercy of low-level Babylonian officials placed in authority over them. Food was scarce and the people had to wander about trying to find enough to stay alive. A dangerous venture ("with [the peril of] our lives"), when others are desperate to get what they need.


Lamentations 5:4 "We have drunken our water for money; our wood is sold unto us."


They who in their own land, which was a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths, had wells of water of their own, and water freely and in abundance. Now were obliged to pay for it, for drink, and other uses.


"Our wood is sold unto us": Or, "comes to us at a price"; and a dear one. In their own land they could have wood out of the forest, for the cutting down and bringing home; but now they were forced to give a large price for it.


In this land of captivity, they must pay for everything they get like water and wood. When they lived in Judah, God had provided these natural things for them in abundance.


Lamentations 5:5 "Our necks [are] under persecution: we labor, [and] have no rest."


A yoke of hard servitude and bondage was put upon their necks, as Jarchi interprets it; which they were forced to submit unto. Or, "upon our necks we are pursued"; or, "suffer persecution". Which Aben Ezra explains thus, in connection with (Lam. 5:4); if we carry water or wood upon our necks, the enemy pursues us; that is, to take it away from us.


"We labor, and have no rest": Night nor day, nor even on Sabbath days. Obliged to work continually till they were weary; and, when they were, were not allowed time to rest themselves, like their forefathers in Egypt.


They were like slave laborers. Their captors persecuted them. There was no 8 hour work day. They worked as long as there was light to see by.


Lamentations 5:6 "We have given the hand [to] the Egyptians, [and to] the Assyrians, to be satisfied with bread."


"Egyptians ... Assyrians": The Jews submitted to unholy alliances, thus expressing trust in men for protection and goods (compare Jer. 2:18, 36).


Prior to the invasion, Judah had make alliances with foreign nations such as Egypt and Assyria (Jer. 2:18; Ezek. 16:28; Hosea 12:1). Their choice to trust in other nations instead of God's covenant promises set the stage of their punishment.


These were natural foes of the Jews, but they would do most anything to feed their starving bodies.


Lamentations 5:7 "Our fathers have sinned, [and are] not; and we have borne their iniquities."


This is a cynical proverb from (Jer. 31:29 and Ezek. 18:2).


This prayer is from the generation, who were babies when the captivity began. They are pleading with God that they were paying for the sins of their fathers. In the Old Testament, it was thought that the children should pay for the sins of their fathers.


Exodus 20:5 "Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God [am] a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth [generation] of them that hate me;"



Verses 8-18: A list of horrors that had befallen Judah.


Lamentations 5:8 "Servants have ruled over us: [there is] none that doth deliver [us] out of their hand."


The Targum is, "the sons of Ham, who were given to be servants to the sons of Shem, they have ruled over us." Referring to the prophecy of Noah (Gen. 9:26); or such as had been tributary to the Jews, as the Edomites. So Aben Ezra; the Babylon, is meant; and not the nobles and principal inhabitants only. But even their servants, had power and authority over the Jews and they were at their beck and command. Which made their servitude the more disagreeable and intolerable.


"There is none that doth deliver us out of their hand": Out of the hand of these servants.


They had no deliverer like Moses, to take them out of this captivity. It is as if they are saying, send us a deliverer. The great Deliverer of all mankind is Jesus.


Lamentations 5:9 "We gat our bread with [the peril of] our lives because of the sword of the wilderness."


That is, those of us left in the city after its capture by the Chaldeans.


"Because of the sword of the wilderness": Because of the liability to attack by the robber Arabs of the wilderness, through which the Jews had to pass to get "bread" from Egypt (compare Lam 5:6).


The Ishmaelites attacked them many times when they went to gather their food, perhaps this is speaking of their attacks.



Verses 10-19: Israel had suffered famine, rape, torture, disgrace and slavery, and now they had no king ("the crown has fallen"; Jer. 13:18). Disparaged, they were at a loss to see how David's throne could endure according to the Lord's promise (2 Sam. 7:12, 16, 19). Although devastation dims vision, even the worst of circumstances cannot eclipse this truth: God's "throne" is everlasting (Psalm 45:6).


Lamentations 5:10 "Our skin was black like an oven because of the terrible famine."


Or "terrors and horrors of famine"; which are very dreadful and distressing: or, "the storms of famine" (see Psalm 11:6). Or, "burning winds", such as are frequent in Africa and Asia; to which the famine is compared that was in Jerusalem, at the siege of it, both by the Chaldeans and Romans. And as an oven, furnace, or chimney becomes black by the smoke of the fire burnt in it, or under it. So the skins of the Jews became black through these burning winds and storms, or burnings of famine (see Lam. 4:8). So Jarchi says the word has the signification of "burning"; for famine as it were burns up the bodies of men when most vehement.


The blackness here, could also be speaking of their bodies being burned up with fever from this terrible famine.


Lamentations 5:11 "They ravished the women in Zion, [and] the maids in the cities of Judah."


Or "humbled" them; a euphemism. The women that were married to men in Zion, as the Targum; and if this wickedness was committed in the holy mountain of Zion, it was still more abominable and afflicting, and to be complained of. And if by the servants before mentioned, as Aben Ezra interprets it, it is another aggravating circumstance of it. For this was done not in Babylon when captives there; but at the taking of the city of Jerusalem, and by the common soldiers, as is too often practiced.


"And the maids in the cities of Judah": In all parts of the country, where the Chaldean army ravaged, there they ravished the maids. The Targum is, "the women that were married to men in Zion were humbled by strangers; (the Targum in the king of Spain's Bible is, by the Romans), and virgins in the cities of Judah by the Chaldeans." Suggesting that this account has reference to both destructions of the city, and the phenomenon and consequences thereof.


Women fall prey many times to the unwanted advances of the conquerors. As in any war, the women were raped. The age of the woman did not seem to matter. The young and the mature fell to the same fate.


Lamentations 5:12 "Princes are hanged up by their hand: the faces of elders were not honored."


Meaning by the hand of the enemy. Impalement after death was a common punishment with the Assyrians and Babylonians. Thus, Sennacherib says that after capturing rebellious Ekron, he hung the bodies of the chief men on stakes all over the city.


"The faces of elders were not honored": No reverence or respect were shown to elders in age or office, or on account of either; but were treated with rudeness and contempt.


The princes were killed, and then hung up for everyone to see, like a hunter might hang up a deer. The young leaders on display like this would probably cause fear to rise up, and many would surrender because of it. These heathen people had no regard for elders, not even their own.


Lamentations 5:13 "They took the young men to grind, and the children fell under the wood."


Or, "The young men" have borne the mill, a menial and laborious task usually performed by slaves (compare Isa. 47:2).


"The children fell under the wood": Or, lads have stumbled under burdens of wood. By lads are meant youths up to the age of military service; another form of menial labor.


They used the young men, as you would a horse to pull the grist mill around. It appears, that even the small children worked bringing in the wood. These were all captives, and they had to do exactly as they were told to do.


Lamentations 5:14 "The elders have ceased from the gate, the young men from their music."


Of the Sanhedrim, or court of judicature, as the Targum. From the gate of the city, where they used to sit and try causes; but now there was nothing of this kind done.


"The young men from their music": Vocal and instrumental; the latter is more particularly specified, though both may be intended. Neither were any more heard; their harps were hung upon the willows on the banks of Euphrates, which ran through the city of Babylon (Psalm 137:1).


Lamentations 5:15 "The joy of our heart is ceased; our dance is turned into mourning."


Joy was gone, as well as the external signs of it: Such as "keeping the Sabbath", as it may be rendered. Alluding perhaps to the cordial joy expressed formerly on their Sabbaths and other festivals, now not observed. At least, not with that joy, inward and outward, as they formerly were.


"Our dance is turned into mourning": Which also was used at their solemn feasts, as well as at their common diversions (Judges 21:21). But now no more of that; but instead, mourning at the calamities they were oppressed with; and at the remembrance of mercies and privileges, civil and religious, they were deprived of.


There was no time left for the pleasant things they had enjoyed before the siege. The elders would sit by the gate and greet the passersby. Now they had to work. The young men loved the music and dancing, and making merriment. There was no merriment now. They were too sad, and too tired from heavy work to enjoy music and dancing.


Lamentations 5:16 "The crown is fallen [from] our head: woe unto us, that we have sinned!"


"The crown is fallen": Israel lost its line of kings wearing the crown. The Davidic monarchy was temporarily over and will not be resumed until Christ comes as King (Jer. 23:5-8; Ezek. 37:24-28; Rev. 19:1-21).


These people had been the chosen of God. They had been crowned with all the good things God bestowed on His family. They were God's peculiar people. They ruined all of that, when they worshipped false gods. God brought the siege against them in punishment, and their crown has fallen and broken.


Lamentations 5:17 "For this our heart is faint; for these [things] our eyes are dim."


And sinks under the load of its own heaviness.


"Our eyes are dim": (see Lam. 2:11). Our spirits fail us, and we are almost blind with weeping.


This is a statement of total despair. Jeremiah is even touched deeply by these things that have come upon his people.


Lamentations 5:18 "Because of the mountain of Zion, which is desolate, the foxes walk upon it."


Meaning either the city of Jerusalem in general, or the temple in particular, which both lay in ruins. But the latter gave the truly godly the greatest concern; that the seat of divine Majesty should be in such a condition. That the public exercises of religion should cease, and there be no more opportunities of waiting upon God, and worshipping him as before. Their civil interest, and the loss of that did not so much affect them as the interest of religion, and what that suffered.


"The foxes walk upon it": Foxes and other wild beasts, which flee from places inhabited for fear of mankind's inhabiting, and are much in desolate places. The mountain of Zion, where the temple once stood, and people met to worship God, was now a desolate, unfrequented place, so wild beasts ran up and down there.


The people are gone and wild animals roam on the mountain of Zion.



Verses 19-21: In the light of God's unchanging faithfulness and righteousness (Psalm 52:1; Mal. 3:6; James 1:17), and His inviolable standards of holiness, Jeremiah pleads with God to do that work that the hearts of His people will be "turned" back to Him in godly sorrow and full repentance (see the note on Jeremiah 3:21-25; compare Jer. 4:1; Zech. 1:3-4; James 4:8).


Lamentations 5:19 "Thou, O LORD, remainest for ever; thy throne from generation to generation."


"Thy throne from generation to generation": Here is the high point of this chapter. Jeremiah was consoled by the fact that God always sits on His sovereign throne ruling over the universe from heaven (Psalms 45:6; 93:2; 102:12; 103:19; Dan. 4:3, 34-35).


This statement by Jeremiah is recognizing for himself and for these people, that there is no other God. Their God is God. The LORD is His name. He is Eternal God. The Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.



Verses 20-22: After lamenting their apparent abandonment by God, His people pled to Him for restoration (Psalm 80:3), recognizing that God rightly brought judgment because of the nation's sin. The last words barely seem to hold onto hope, but this is a reflection of the people's iniquity rather than a question of God's faithfulness to His covenant.


Lamentations 5:20 "Wherefore dost thou forget us for ever, [and] forsake us so long time?"


Since thou art firm, constant, and unchangeable, and thy love and covenant the same. God seems to forget his people when he afflicts them, or suffers them to be oppressed, and does not arise immediately for their help. Which being deferred some time, looks like an eternity to them, or they fear it will ever be so. At least this they say to express their eager desire after his gracious presence, and to show how much they prize it.


"And forsake us so long time?" or, "to length of days". So long as the seventy years' captivity; which to be forsaken of God, or to seem to be forsaken of him, was with them a long time.


The question is why, why, why? But they know the reason why. The family of Jacob was in Egypt 400 years. This is a short time compared to that.



Verses 21-22: This plea was not made with anger. The humble closing prayer sought God, who can never reject His people forever, to be faithful in restoring them (compare Jer. 31:35-37; 33:25-26). In fact, their godly sorrow over sin was the beginning of that restoration, which would be completed by turning to God in faith and obedience.


Lamentations 5:21 "Turn thou us unto thee, O LORD, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old."


"Turn thou us unto thee": God must Himself initiate and enable any return to Him (Psalm 80:3, 7, 19; Jer. 24:7; 31:18; John 6:44-65).


"Renew our days": The intercessions (of verses 19-22), will yet be fulfilled in the New Covenant restoration of Israel (compare Jer. chapters 30-33, and see notes there).


Now, we see an urgent plea for God to look favorably upon them again. Repentance is turning away from the old life, and turning toward the new. There is something about repentance that God helps in. We have the desire to turn, but God must help us turn. This is the statement here.


Lamentations 5:22 "But thou hast utterly rejected us; thou art very wroth against us."


Literally, "Unless thou hast utterly rejected us," unless "thou art very wroth against us." This is stated as a virtual impossibility. God's anger can be but temporary (Psalm 30:5), and therefore the very supposition is an indirect expression of hope.


"Thou art very wroth against us": Thou hast been, and still continues to be: or, "wilt thou be exceeding wroth against us?" Or continue thy wrath to extremity, and for ever? Thou wait not; it is not consistent with, thy mercy and grace, truth and faithfulness. And so, it is an argument of faith in prayer, and not an expression of despondency. Though the Jews, because they would not have the book end in what is sorrowful and distressing, repeat the foregoing verse. And the like method they take at the end of Ecclesiastes, and the prophecies of Isaiah and Malachi, as Jarchi observes.


God does not need to be reminded of the fact that He had rejected them. That is what this is saying. It is as if the person speaking is trying to remind God of His covenant relationship with Israel. His anger was justified, but He will forgive and start them again. Behind every dark cloud, the sun is shining.


Lamentations Chapter 5 Questions


1. Verse 1 is a cry from the people in _____________.


2. The strangers are whom?


3. Why were they orphans?


4. What natural things were they having to pay for?


5. What were their working hours?


6. Why had they given their hand to the Assyrians and Egyptians?


7. Why were they not killed in the siege of Babylon?


8. For how many generations would the iniquities of the fathers continue?


9. Who is the great Deliverer of all mankind?


10. Why were they black?


11. What happens to the women in verse 11?


12. Explain what they did with the princes of the land?


13. They took the young men to _________.


14. What work did the children do?


15. What had turned into mourning for the young men?


16. Why did they not enjoy the pleasant things anymore?


17. What happened to their crowns?


18. Verse 17 is a statement of total ___________.


19. Give some of the names that describe God's eternity?


20. What is the question of verse 20?


21. What is the answer?


22. Verse 21 is speaking of what?





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