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the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Lamentations 3

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-20



Not only does this chapter reveal the personal grief of Jeremiah; he personifies the whole nation in its suffering and grief. Yet, in another sense, he may symbolize the "Suffering Servant" who ultimately comes to assume the weight, guilt, and penalty of the nation’s (and all human) sin - cleansing, redeeming and restoring them to a life of blessedness under His tender care.


1. There seems no room for doubt that Jeremiah here identifies himself with the sin and suffering of his beloved people, against whom the Lord has repeatedly turned His hand in judgment, (vs. 1-3; Psalms 38:1-2; Isaiah 5:25) - afflicting them with the rod of His wrath, (Psalms 88:7; Psalms 88:15-16; comp. Jeremiah 15:17-18); so withdrawing the light of His course that they walk it darkness, (comp. Isaiah 59-9; Jeremiah 4:23-26).

2. The sufferer sees himself surrounded by bitterness and distress (comp. Job 19:8: Psalms 69:21; Jeremiah 23:15; Deuteronomy 29:18); his body is aged beyond its years (comp. Psalms 31:9-10; Psalms 38:2-8; Psalms 102:3-5), and his bones are crushed, (Psalms 51:8; Isaiah 38:13); he is likened unto the sepulchres of the dead, (vs. 4-6; comp. Psalms 88:4-6; Psalms 143:3; Ezekiel 37:11-14).

3. Imprisoned (comp. Job 3:23; Job 19:8), and bound with a heavy chain there seems no escape; when he cries for help, his prayer is shut out (comp. Job 30:20; Psalms 22:1-2), and wherever he turns he finds himself walking a circular path - shut in by walls of hewn stone, (vs. 7­9; comp. Hosea 2:6-7).

4. In verses 10-13 the prophet employs two daring figures to describe the judgment of God upon him.

a. First, God is likened unto crafty wild beasts (comp. Hosea 13:7-8; Amos 5:18-19); for fear of them he has been driven away from the path of safety, torn to pieces (Hosea 5:14; Hosea 6:1; Job 16:9-10), and made utterly desolate, (vs. 10-11;Jeremiah 15:3).

b. Then He Is likened unto a Hunter who bends His bow (Lamentations 2:4; Psalms 7:12-13; Job 6:4; Job 7:20) and, with precision, speeds His arrows ("the children of His quiver") into the very "reins" ("kidneys", see Proverbs 23:16; Job 19:27; Psalms 73:21) of His own servant, -(vs. 12-13; comp Job 16:12-17).

5. Made a laughingstock of His people, and the theme of their derisive song (comp. Psalms 22:6-7; Psalms 123:3-4; Jeremiah 20:7-8; Job 12:4), Jeremiah complains that he has been given bitter wormwood to drink, (vs. 19; Jeremiah 9:15; comp. Ruth 1:20); though he has not practiced deceit (Proverbs 20:17), his teeth are so broken from gravel that he pictures himself cringing in the ashes of mourning and deep sorrow, (vs. 14-16; comp. Psalms 3:7; Psalms 58:6; Proverbs 20:17; Jeremiah 6:26).

6. A stranger to joy, peace and prosperity, (vs. 17; comp. Isa

59:11; Jeremiah 12:12); his strength utterly vanished; that which he expected from the Lord has proved to be but an illusive dream! (vs. 18; comp. Job 17:15-16; Ezekiel 37:11).

7. Nevertheless, he calls upon the Lord to REMEMBER the affliction, bitterness and anguish that have befallen His servant, (vs. 5, 15; Jeremiah 9:15; Hebrews 10:32-33); so oppressive is the burden that he himself cannot cast it off, (Job 21:6); thus is his soul "bowed down" within him, (vs.19-20; Psalms 42:5-6; Psalms 42:11; Psalms 44:25).

Verses 21-39


1. Jeremiah mentions three characteristics of Jehovah whereby there is renewed within him a LIVING HOPE, (vs. 21-23; comp. Psalms 130:7; Psalms 86:15-16; 1 Peter 1:3; 1 Peter 3:15; 1 John 3:3).

a. His Mercy ("hesed", covenant fidelity) which has prevented the people from being utterly consumed, (Psalms 78:38-39; Jeremiah 3:12; Jeremiah 30:11; Jeremiah 31:20).

b. His never-failing Compassions, that are new every morning, (Malachi 3:6; Zephaniah 3:5; Exodus 3:7; Deuteronomy 30:3; 2 Chronicles 36:15; Psalms 78:38; Jeremiah 12:15).

c. His Great Faithfulness, (Deuteronomy 7:9; 1 Kings 8:56; Psalms 36:5; Psalms 89:1; Psalms 105:8; 1 Corinthians 1:9).

2. Thus, Jeremiah vows to HOPE in the Lord (Psalms 33:18-22; Psalms 147:11) Who is His PORTION (Psalms 16:5; Psalms 73:26; Psalms 119:57; Psalms 142:5); he knows that the Lord is God to those who SEEK (vs. 24-25; Isaiah 26:9; Psalms 63:1; Matthew 6:33) and WAIT for Him, (Psalms 27:14; Psalms 37:34; Psalms 40:1-3; Psalms 62:5; Psalms 130:5; Isaiah 25:9).

3. Since "salvation Is of the Lord" (Jonah 2:9), it is good that one quietly wait before Him in the expectancy of faith, (vs. 26; Psalms 52:9; 1 Peter 1:13; comp. Isaiah 30:15); such waiting is as important under the New Covenant (Romans 8:23-25; Galatians 5:5) as it was under the Old, (Psalms 37:9; Hosea 12:6; Micah 7:7; Zephaniah 3:8).

4. Since it is a good thing to bear the yoke of divine discipline in one’s youth willingly, (vs. 27; Ecclesiastes 12:1; Hebrews 12:6), Jeremiah suggests a threefold response to that yoke.

a. Submit to the will of God in silence: - not calling attention to one’s self, for either sympathy or for applause, (vs. 28; comp. Lamentations 2:10).

b. The placing of one’s mouth in the dust was the oriental way of expressing full submission, (vs. 29; Job 16:15; Job 42:6), and acknowledging the righteous and loving purpose of the Most High, (Ezra 9:5-6; comp. 1 Corinthians 14:24-25).

c. In the offering of one’s cheek to the smiter -patiently bearing the injustices of one’s fellow-men - the godly one follows the example of His Lord, (vs. 30; Matthew 5:39; comp. Isaiah 50:5-7; Isaiah 53:5; Matthew 26:67-68; Matthew 27:30; John 19:3; 1 Peter 2:21-24).

5. In verses 31-33 one hears, from the very heart of God, a word of hope and healing.

a. The Lord will NEVER ABANDON the soul that trusts in Him, (vs. 31; 1 Samuel 12:22; Psalms 94:14; comp. Romans 11:2).

b. Though His discipline be grievous, it will be made endurable by a consciousness of His loving compassion and tender mercies, (vs. 32; comp. Exodus 34:6; Psalms 78:38; Psalms 106:43-45; Hosea 11:8-9).

c. ft is not in the heart of the Lord to afflict or grieve the children of men, (vs. 33; Jeremiah 13:20; Ezekiel 33:11; comp. Hebrews 12:5-10).

6. In verses 34-36 the supreme greatness of God’s nature is illustrated by His attitude toward human dignity; there are some things He cannot approve!

a. He will NOT condone the abuse of prisoners, (vs. 34; Psalms 69:33); the release of captives (from the bondage of sin) was to be one of the most important tasks of the Servant of Jehovah, (Psalms 146:7; Isaiah 42:7; Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18).

b. He will not condone the perversion of justice in the courts of law, (vs. 35; Psalms 9:4; Psalms 12:5; Psalms 140:12).

c. He will condemn the practice of favoritism and injustice in the courts of law, (vs. 36; Jeremiah 22:3).

7. Because God is absolutely sovereign (Psalms 33:9-11; Proverbs 19:21), nothing comes upon His people without His consent; no one should complain about the hand of divine discipline that is upon him, (vs.37-39; Jeremiah 30:15; Job 2:10).

a. At the word of the Lord, goodness (well-being) is the lot of the righteous, (Romans 8:28; 1 Peter 2:21-25); but evil comes upon the rebellious as the divinely-appointed fruit of their rebellion, (Isaiah 45:7 Jeremiah 32:42).

b. It is appropriate that the man who has rebelled against the Lord should lament over the rebellion of his stubborn heart! (Micah 7:9; 1 Peter 2:19).

Verses 40-42


1. Here is a call for Judah to look honestly at her rebellion against the Lord, and to turn back to Him in repentance, (vs. 40; Psalms 119:59; Psalms 139:23-24; Romans 2:4).

2. It is not enough to lift up one’s hands in supplication to God; the heart must also be lifted up in awe and worship! (vs. 41; Psalms 25:1-3; Psalms 28:1-3; Psalms 86:4-5; Psalms 141:2; Psalms 143:8).

3. There must be an humble recognition that pardon has not been granted because of deliberate rebellion and unrepented transgressions, (vs. 42; Nehemiah 9:26-27; Jeremiah 14:20-21; Daniel 9:4-14; 1 John 1:9).

Verses 43-54


1. Because of unrepented sin, the judgment of the Lord has fallen upon His people, (vs. 43-45; Romans 1:18). Jeremiah pictures the Lord as:

a. So wrapping himself in righteous anger that He shows no pity toward the suffering transgressors whom He pursues unto death, (vs. 43, 66; comp. Lamentations 2:1; Lamentations 2:21).

b. So covering Himself with a cloud that the prayers of Judah cannot pass through, (vs. 8, 44; Psalms 97:2; Zechariah 7:12-13); the REAL barrier is SIN! (vs. 44).

c. Causing His unrepentant people to be regarded as an "offscouring" (Lamentations 4:15; comp. 1 Corinthians 4:13) and "refuse" (comp. Philippians 3:8) in the midst of the nations, (vs. 45).

2. The Lord’s protecting hand withdrawn, the enemies of Judah have opened wide their mouths against her (Lamentations 2:16 a; comp. Job 30:9-10; Psalms 22:6-8) so that "fear and the pit" (comp. Isaiah 24:16-18, Jeremiah 48:43 -­44), devastation and destruction, are come upon her, (vs. 46-47).

3. Jeremiah pictures himself as weeping, uncontrollably, and without ceasing, until He is conscious of the Lord’s regarding, from heaven, the sad plight of His people, (vs. 48-51; Lamentations 1:16; Lamentations 2:11; Jeremiah 9:1; Jeremiah 18­19; 14:17-18; Psalms 77:2; Psalms 80:14; Isaiah 63:15); yet, he knows how impossible this is UNTIL JUDAH REPENTS!

4. Beginning with verse 52, Jeremiah personifies, in himself, the sufferings of the whole nation, (vs. 52-54).

a. Without a cause, the enemies of Judah have chased him as a bird, (vs. 52).

b. Casting him, alive, into a pit, they have closed him in with stones, (vs. 53) - something that was very vivid in his memory, (Jeremiah 38:6-8).

c. Changing the figure again, he declares that the waters have so overflowed him, by a sweeping tide of destruction, that he has lost all hope of life! (vs. 54; comp. Jonah 2:3; Psalms 69:1-2).

Verses 55-66


1. From the remotest depths of misery Judah calls on the name of the Jehovah, the God who, in her wantonness she has forsaken, (vs. 55); because she is now deeply grieved by a consciousness of her sin, her plea for mercy and forgiveness is heard, (vs. 56; comp. Psalms 40:1-3; Psalms 116:1-5).

2. Having cast herself upon God’s tender mercies, the sinner (Judah) finds that God is very "present help In trouble"; as both Advocate and Redeemer (1 John 2:1; Isaiah 54:8), He speaks words of comfort and assurance, (vs. 57; Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 41:14).

3. Judah’s "kinsman-redeemer" ("Goel", Leviticus 25:25; Leviticus 25:47-54; Ruth 4:1-2). who ransomed her fathers from bondage in Egypt, is once more envisioned as redeeming the life of the nation, (vs. 58; Psalms 34:22; Psalms 71:22-23).

a. The redemption of the believing sinner has been purchased by the blood of Christ - the kinsman Who took our very humanity upon Himself that He might freely bear the weight of our sin! (1 Peter 1:18; Titus 3:5).

b. While the provision He made is for ALL MEN (John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:15; 1 Timothy 2:5-7; 1 Timothy 4:10), it is only as INDIVIDUAL souls renounce their sin and trust in Jesus Christ as their personal Sin-bearer and Saviour that His sacrifice actually AVAILS to our deliverance and cleansing, (Acts 20:21; Luke 13:3; Acts 16:30-31; John 5:24; John 3:17-18; John 3:36).

4. Though conscious that she suffers because of her own sin, Judah still feels that she has suffered some thing UNJUSTLY, (vs. 59).

a. Knowing what the blessedness of her covenant relationship to Jehovah has once been, Judah is very sensitive to any injury received from her enemies, and His; thus, she calls for vindication, (comp. Jeremiah 18:19-20; Psalms 35:24-26; Psalms 137:9).

b. Though she has long fallen short of her covenant ­obligations, God has not changed! and He has promised to punish her oppressors! (Isaiah 10:12; Jeremiah 50:6-10).

c. Submitting her case to the judge of all the earth, she can expect a ruling that is equitable and just! (comp. Psalms 43:1-2; Jeremiah 11:20).

5. The Lord is reminded of what He has seen and heard - relative to Judah’s treatment at the hands of her enemies, (vs. 60-62; comp. Exodus 2:24).

a. He has observed the vengeance that they devised against her, (vs. 60; comp. Psalms 10:4).

b. And He has heard the reproaches that they have hurled against her, (Psalms 74:18; Psalms 89:50; Zephaniah 2:8-11); with mischievous delight they have made her the theme of their taunt-songs! (vs. 61-62, 63b).

1) Mocking songs were anciently used to express contempt for an enemy:

2) Israel had sung them concerning her enemies, (Numbers 21:27-30).

3) And the prophets employed them, (Isaiah 47:1-15; Habakkuk 2:6-19).

6. Thus, Jeremiah and Judah express confidence that the Lord will eventually bring vengeance upon their adversaries - recompensing them according to their deeds (Psalms 28:4-5; Jeremiah 51:6; Jeremiah 51:24; Jeremiah 51:56), and destroying them from under His heaven! (vs. 64-66; comp. Exodus 14:28; Psalms 11:4-7; Matthew 5:34-35).

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Lamentations 3". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/lamentations-3.html. 1985.
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