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II. THE DIVINE PUNISHMENT OF JERUSALEM (THE SECOND LAMENT) CH. 2
One of the striking features of this lament is its emphasis on God’s initiative in bringing destruction on Jerusalem and its people. Jeremiah saw Him as the One ultimately responsible for what had happened because He was angry over their sins. Many different words describing Yahweh’s hostility against His people appear in this chapter. This lament also describes in greater detail than chapter 1 the nature of the calamity that had befallen Judah.
"This second poem contains a new and more bitter lamentation regarding the fall of Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judah; and it is distinguished from the first, partly by the bitterness of the complaint, but chiefly by the fact that while, in the first, the oppressed, helpless, and comfortless condition of Jerusalem is the main feature,-here, on the other hand, it is the judgment which the Lord, in His wrath, has decreed against Jerusalem and Judah, that forms the leading thought in the complaint, as is shown by the prominence repeatedly given to the wrath, rage, burning wrath, etc. (Lamentations 2:1 ff.)." [Note: Keil, 2:381.]
Jeremiah pictured the sovereign Lord (Heb. ’adonay) overshadowing Jerusalem, personified as a young woman, with a dark cloud because of His anger. The Lord had cast the city from the heights of glory to the depths of ignominy (cf. Isaiah 14:12). It had been as a footstool for His feet, but He had not given it preferential treatment in His anger. The footstool may be a reference to the ark of the covenant (cf. 1 Chronicles 28:2; Psalms 99:5) or the temple, but it probably refers to Jerusalem.
A. God’s anger 2:1-10
"There are about forty descriptions of divine judgment, which fell upon every aspect of the Jews’ life: home, religion, society, physical, mental and spiritual. Some of the blackest phrases of the book appear here . . ." [Note: Irving L. Jensen, Jeremiah and Lamentations, p. 132.]
He had devoured the cities of the Judahites without sparing them, and had overpowered their strongholds. He humbled the kingdom of Judah and its princes.
In His fierce anger He also broke the strength of Israel, and had not restrained her enemy. He had judged Jacob severely, as when someone burns something up (cf. Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:29).
He had also attacked His people, and had slain them-even though they were His favored nation. The fire of His anger had burned her habitations. He destroyed everything that they valued.
Yahweh had become like an enemy to His people, consuming and destroying them, and causing mourning and moaning among them.
He tore down His temple like a temporary booth-the kind that farmers erected in their fields for a short time and then demolished. He caused the ending of feasts and Sabbath observances in Zion, and showed no regard for the kings and priests of Judah.
He rejected the altar of burnt offerings and the temple, having delivered the temple precincts to the Babylonians. Israel’s enemy, rather than the Judahites, now made noise in the temple.
The Lord also destroyed Jerusalem’s walls and broke down her defenses.
The city gates with their bars were no longer effective in keeping Jerusalem safe, and the king (Jehoiakim) and his advisers had gone into exile. The Mosaic Law now failed to govern the Israelites since they could no longer observe its cultic ordinances. Yahweh had also stopped giving His prophets revelations of His will.
". . . when Jerusalem was destroyed, Israel received no prophetic communication, . . . God the Lord did not then send them a message to comfort and sustain them." [Note: Keil, 2:391.]
The most respected leaders of the Israelites had suffered humiliation, and now sat on the ground with dust on their heads, signs of mourning. Girding with sackcloth and bowing to the ground also expressed grief over what the Lord had done. Thus the Lord broke down the leaders of the nation as well as its walls.
Jeremiah had exhausted his capacity for weeping and sorrowing over the destruction of his people; he felt drained emotionally. He observed small children and infants fainting in the streets for lack of food and drink. They were dying in their mothers’ arms for lack of nourishment. Jerusalem was a place of starvation.
B. Jeremiah’s grief 2:11-19
This section contains five pictures of Jerusalem’s condition. [Note: Dyer, "Lamentations," pp. 1215-16.]
Jeremiah struggled to find adequate words to comfort his people because their ruin had been so devastating. Jerusalem was a place of no comfort.
The false prophets had misled the people (cf. Jeremiah 2:5; Jeremiah 10:15; Jeremiah 14:13; Jeremiah 16:19). They had not told them the truth that would have led them to return to God and spared them from captivity. Jerusalem was a place of perverted leadership.
Passersby expressed their amazement at Jerusalem’s great destruction. They could hardly believe that it had been such a beautiful and happy place. Judah’s enemies rejoiced to see the evidence of her fall. They took pride in seeing her destruction. Jerusalem’s destruction was the fulfillment of the destruction that Yahweh, long ago, had told His people might come (cf. Leviticus 26:14-46; Deuteronomy 28:15-68). He was ultimately responsible for it. He had shown no mercy in judging, but instead had strengthened Judah’s enemy against her and had caused him to rejoice at the city’s overthrow. Jerusalem was a place of mocking enemies.
Judah’s enemies called on the city to mourn perpetually because of the destruction that God had brought on her. The Jerusalemites should cry out to God and ask Him to spare their children who were dying of starvation. Jerusalem was a place of ceaseless wailing.
Jeremiah responded to this call to prayer by asking the Lord to consider who was suffering so greatly that women were cannibalizing their own newborn children to stay alive in the famine (cf. Leviticus 26:27-29; Deuteronomy 28:53-57; 2 Kings 6:24-31). Would He allow such a fate for healthy children? Would He permit the slaying of Judahite priests and prophets in the very temple of the Lord?
C. Jerusalem’s plea 2:20-22
This last pericope is another prayer to the Lord (cf. Lamentations 1:20-22).
People of all ages and both sexes, even the youths who were the hope of Judah’s future, lay dead in the streets because the Lord had slaughtered them without sparing.
There had been as much carnage in the city as there was on feast days when the priests slew large quantities of sacrificial animals. No one had escaped Yahweh’s anger, not even the children whom the city had produced, when the Babylonian enemy annihilated them.
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Lamentations 2". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany