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the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Lamentations 2

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

How hath the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger, and cast down from heaven 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! ['Aleph (')]

How - ['eekaah, "How"] the title of the collection repeated here, and Elegy 4: 1. Hath the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud - i:e., with the darkness of ignominy. Cast down from heaven unto the earth - (Matthew 11:23, "Thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shall be brought down to hell") i:e., dashed down from the highest prosperity to the lowest misery.

The beauty of Israel - the beautiful temple (Psalms 29:2, "The beauty of holiness" - i:e., the glorious sanctuary; Psalms 74:7; Psalms 96:9, margin; Isaiah 60:7, "The house of my glory;" Ps. 64:11 , "Our holy and our beautiful house, where our fathers praised thee").

His footstool - the ark (cf. 1 Chronicles 28:2 with Psalms 99:5; Psalms 132:7, "Worship at his footstool"). They once had gloried more in the ark than in the God whose symbol it was; they now feel it was but His "footstool," yet that it had been a great glory to them that God deigned to use it as such.

[Beth (b)]

Verse 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 polluted the kingdom - by delivering it into the hands of the profane foe. (Compare Psalms 89:39, "Thou hast profaned his crown.")

[Gimel (g)]

Verse 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. He hath cut off ... all the horn of Israel. Horns are now worn in the East as an ornament on the forehead, and an emblem of power and majesty. The Druse women wear a silver horn as the distinguishing badge of wifehood. There is no proof that they were so originally. But as the horn is the chief instrument of attack in horned animals, it is used in Scripture as the emblem of power, dominion, glory, and fierceness (1 Samuel 2:10; Psalms 132:17; Jeremiah 48:25, note).

He hath drawn back ... right hand from before the enemy - (Psalms 74:11, "Why withdrawest thou thy hand, even thy right hand?") God has withdrawn the help which He before gave them. Not, as Henderson, 'He has turned back his (Israel's) right hand' (Psalms 89:43).

[Daleth (d)]

Verse 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. He hath bent his bow like an enemy - (Isaiah 63:10, "Therefore He was turned to be their enemy, and He fought against them").

He stood with his right hand. He took His stand so as to use His right hand as an adversary. Henderson makes the image to be that of an archer steadying his right hand to take aim. Not only did He withdraw His help, but also took arms against Israel.

Slew all that were pleasant to the eye - (Ezekiel 24:25, "I take from them their strength, the joy of their glory, the desire of their eyes, and that whereupon they set their minds") all that were conspicuous for youth, beauty, and rank.

In the tabernacle of the daughter of Zion - not the temple, but the dwellings of Jerusalem. [He (h)]

Verse 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. The Lord was as an enemy - (Jeremiah 30:14, "I have wounded thee with the wound of an enemy"). Mourning and lamentation. There is a play of similar sounds in the original [ ta'ªniyaah (H8386) wa'ªniyaah (H592 ], 'sorrow and sadness,' to heighten the effect (Job 30:3, Hebrew; Ezekiel 35:3, margin, 'desolation and desolation').

[Waw (w)]

Verse 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. His tabernacle - rather, 'He hath violently taken away His hedge (the hedge of the place sacred to Him, Psalms 80:12; Psalms 89:40; Isaiah 5:5), as that of a garden' (Maurer). Calvin supports the English version, 'He hath violently taken away His tabernacle (i:e., temple) as (one would take away the temporary cottage or booth) of a garden.' Isaiah 1:8 accords with this (Job 27:18).

He hath destroyed his places of ... assembly - the temple and synagogues (Psalms 74:7-8). The solemn feasts ... to be forgotten - (Lamentations 1:4).

[Zayin (z)]

Verse 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.

They have made a noise in the house of the Lord, as in the day of a solemn feast. The foe's shout of triumph in the captured temple bore a resemblance (but O how sad a contrast as to the occasion of it!) to the joyous thanksgivings which we used to offer in the same place at our "solemn feasts" (cf. Lamentations 2:22). [Cheth (ch)].

Verse 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.

He hath stretched out a line. The Easterns used a measuring line not merely in building but in destroying edifices (2 Kings 21:13; Isaiah 34:11). Implying here the unsparing rigidness with which he would exact punishment. [Teth (T)]

Verse 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.

Her gates are sunk into the ground. Her gates cannot oppose the entrance of the foe into the city, because they are sunk under a mass of rubbish and earth.

He hath ... broken her bars - (Jeremiah 51:30). Her king and her princes are among the Gentiles - (Deuteronomy 28:36, "The Lord shall bring thee and thy king ... unto a nation which neither thou nor thy fathers have known").

The law is no more - (2 Chronicles 15:3, "Now, for a long season, Israel hath been ... without a teaching priest and without law"). The civil and religious laws were one under the theocracy. 'All the legal ordinances (prophetic as well as priestly) of the theocracy, are no more' (Psalms 74:9; in fulfillment of Ezekiel 7:26).

[Yodh (y)]

Verse 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.

The elders ... sit upon the ground - (Job 2:12-13). The "elders," by their example, would draw the others to violent grief.

The virgins - who usually are so anxious to set off their personal appearance to advantage, "hang down their heads to the ground").

[Kaph (k)]

Verse 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.

My liver is poured upon the earth - i:e., as the liver was thought to be the seat of the passions, all my feelings are poured out and prostrated "for the destruction of the daughter of my people." The "liver" is here put for the bile (see Job 16:13, "He poureth out my gall upon the ground;" Psalms 22:14) in a bladder on the surface of the liver, copiously discharged when the passions are agitated.

The children and the sucklings swoon - through faintness from the effects of hunger. [Lamedh (l).]

Verse 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. When they swooned as the wounded - famine being as deadly as the sword (Jeremiah 52:6).

When their soul was poured out into their mothers' bosom - instinctively turning to their mothers' bosom, but finding no milk there, they breathe out their life as it were 'into her bosom.'

[Mem (m)]

Verse 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?

What thing shall I take to witness for thee? What can I bring forward as a witness, or instance, to prove that others have sustained as grievous ills as thou? I cannot console thee, as mourners are often consoled, by showing that thy lot is only what others, too, suffer. The "sea" affords the only suitable emblem of thy woes, by its boundless extent and depth (Lamentations 1:12; Daniel 9:12).

[Nun (n)]

Verse 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.

Thy prophets have seen vain and foolish things for thee. "Thy prophets," not God's (Jeremiah 23:26, "They are prophets of the deceit of their own heart").

Vain ... for thee - to gratify thy appetite, not for truth, but for deception. They have not discovered thine iniquity - in opposition to God's command to the true prophets (Isaiah 58:1). Literally, They have not taken off the vail which was on thine iniquity, so as to set it before thee.

Have seen for thee false burdens. Their prophecies were soothing and flattering; but the result of them, inasmuch as being "false," was heavy, burden-like calamities to the people, worse than even what the prophecies of Jeremiah, which they in derision called "burdens," threatened. Hence, he terms their pretended prophecies "false burdens," which proved to the Jews 'causes for their banishment' (Calvin).

[Samech (c)]

Verse 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? Clap their hands - in derision (Job 27:23; 24:37 ).

Wag ... head - (2 Kings 19:21; Psalms 44:14, "Thou makest us a shaking of the head among the people"). Is this the city that men call The perfection of beauty, The joy of the whole earth? - (Psalms 48:2, "Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion;" 50:2, "Zion, the perfection of beauty"). The Jews' enemies quote their very words in score.

[Pe (p)]

Verses 16-17

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. For the transposition of Hebrew letters (Pe and `Ayin) in the order of verses, see Introduction.

All thine enemies have opened their mouth against thee - as ravening, roaring wild beasts (Job 16:9-10; Psalms 22:13). Herein Jerusalem was a type of Messiah.

They ... gnash the teeth - in vindictive malice. We have seen it - (Psalms 35:21, "Yea, they opened their mouth wide against me, and said, Aha, aha! our eye hath seen at").

[`Ayin (')]

Verse 17. The Lord hath done that which he had devised. Let not the foe exult, as if it was their doing. It was "the Lord" who thus fulfilled the threats uttered by His prophets for the guilt of Judea (Leviticus 26:16-25; Deuteronomy 28:36-48; Deuteronomy 28:53; Jeremiah 19:8-9).

[Tsaddiy (ts)]

Verse 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.

Their heart cried unto the Lord, O wall of the daughter of Zion - (Lamentations 2:8). The wall is personified. "Their heart" - i:e., the Jews while their heart is lifted up to the Lord in prayer, their speech is addressed to the "wall" (the part being put for the whole city).

Let tears run down ... - (Jeremiah 14:17). The wall is called on to weep for its own ruin and that of the city. Compare the similar personification Lamentations 1:4.

The apple of thine eye - the pupil of the eye (Psalms 17:8). [Qoph (q)]

Verse 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.

Cry out in the night - (Psalms 119:147, "I prevented the dawning of the morning, and cried"). In the beginning of the watches - i:e., the first of the three equal divisions (four hours each) into which the ancient Jews divided the night, namely, from sunset to ten o'clock. The second was called "the middle watch" (Judges 7:19), from ten until two o'clock. The third "the morning watch," from two to sunrise (Exodus 14:24; 1 Samuel 11:11). Afterward, under the Romans, they had four watches (Matthew 14:25; Luke 12:38).

Lift up thy hands toward him for the life of thy young children - that God, if He will not spare thee, may at least preserve "thy young children."

Faint for hunger in the top of every street - (Isaiah 51:20, "Thy sons have fainted, they lie at the head of all the streets;" Nahum 3:10).

[Resh (r)]

Verse 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? Shall the women eat their fruit - as was threatened (Leviticus 26:29; Deuteronomy 28:53; Deuteronomy 28:56-57; Jeremiah 19:9). And children of a span long? - or else, 'children whom they carry in their arms' (Maurer).

[Sin/Shin (s/sh)]

Verse 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 young and the old lie on the ground in the streets - (2 Chronicles 36:17, "The Chaldees ... slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age").

Verse 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. Thou hast called as in a solemn day my terrors - thou hast summoned my enemies against me from all quarters, just as multitudes used to be convened to Jerusalem on the solemn feast days. The objects for which the enemies and the festal multitude respectively met formed a sad contrast. Compare Lamentations 1:15, "called an assembly against me."


(1) In proportion as Zion had been lifted up to heaven in spiritual privileges, she was cast down low unto the earth when she abused them (Lamentations 2:1). It is altogether just that God should degrade from honour those who debase themselves by sin. Once, in their day of grace, the Jews had by idolatries treated with contempt the ark of the covenant which, as being the footstool of Yahweh, was their great glory and "the beauty of Israel:" in righteous retribution God now, "in the day of His anger," would not remember for them His former footstool, but violently took away His tabernacle and places of solemn assembly (Lamentations 2:6-7). As they had polluted His Sabbaths, so He "caused" the Sabbaths and other holy days now "to be forgotten in Zion." And, instead of the joyous thanksgivings which in better times used to peal forth through the house of the Lord, there was heard the pagan enemy's exulting shout of triumph (Lamentations 2:7). How many there are who shall only know the preciousness of Sabbath ordinances when they shall have forever lost them. Let us so value and lay them out to good account now while we have them, as the lost shall wish they had done, when their regrets shall be unavailing, and the day of opportunities forever past.

(2) How awful a change it was, when He who had been the especial friend of Israel, and her defender from her enemies, bent His bow against her as an enemy (Lamentations 2:4-5). He who had once dwelt between the cherubim in His temple at Jerusalem, now abhorred His sanctuary and cast off His altar (Lamentations 2:7). Though God has for all men the love of compassion, yet He reserves the love of complacency and friendship for those alone who walk in agreement with Him. Ye are my friends, saith the Lord, if ye do whatsoever I command you (John 15:14). His pity gives place to righteous anger against those who harden themselves against His love. Let us, therefore, seek to experience the blessedness of His friendship who is "a friend" that "loveth at all times, and a brother born for adversity," - nay more, our "friend" that "sticketh closer than a brother" (Proverbs 17:17; Proverbs 18:24). And let us beware of presuming on His favour by carelessness about sin, lest from a Friend He should become as an enemy.

(3) The prophet, though he had been so slandered and maltreated by his countrymen in their prosperity, now in their adversity proves himself to be the true man of God, by his tearful lamentations for those who had wronged him (Lamentations 2:11), and the true patriot, by his prayers to Yahweh in behalf of his ungrateful country (Lamentations 2:20). How brightly does his conduct contrast with that of the false prophets, who had soothed them with promises of peace at the time when the true prophet could only announce to them from God messages of wrath because of their sins: whereas now, when the false burdens of the lying prophets had eventuated in the banishment of the people, the faithful prophet ministers his sympathy and counsel to his afflicted fellow-countrymen.

(4) While the victorious enemy exulted in the overthrow of Judea, as if it were their doing (Lamentations 2:15-16), Jeremiah declares the true cause of it to lie in the Lord's counsels of old, as announced by His prophets in the foreseen event of His people's sin (Lamentations 2:17). Since then, the evil was from the Lord, to the Lord he directs his afflicted countrymen to "lift up their hands" in behalf of themselves and their little ones (Lamentations 2:19).

(5) But as precept has little weight without example, he himself leads the way in prayer, "Behold, O Lord, and consider" (Lamentations 2:20). Prayer affords a remedy for every malady, however desperate. The very greatness of our extremity is a powerful plea to use before our gracious God; because man's extremity is God's opportunity. Let us detail minutely to Him all the particulars of our grief (Lamentations 2:20-22), and though He may not visibly grant relief at once, yet He lays it up in store for His praying people, and in His own good time will bring it forth, to their unspeakable comfort.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Lamentations 2". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/lamentations-2.html. 1871-8.
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