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A Description of Jehovah's Judgment
v. 1. How hath the Lord covered the daughter of Zion, His own city, formerly the seat of His Church, with a cloud in His anger, with the chilly darkness of ignominy and shame, and cast down from heaven unto the earth the beauty of Israel, the glory of the capital itself, chosen by God, as it had been, for the seat of His glory and power in the midst of His people had been established there, and remembered not His footstool in the day of His anger! so that the very Ark of the Covenant, 1 Chronicles 28:2, where Jehovah was enthroned between the wings of the cherubim, was removed and destroyed.
v. 2. The Lord hath swallowed up all the habitations of Jacob, the entire country being included in the ruin, and hath not pitied, carrying out His judgment with merciless severity; He hath thrown down in His wrath the strongholds of the daughter of Judah, the fortified places sharing the fate of the hamlets in the open country; He hath brought them down to the ground, in a total destruction; He hath polluted the kingdom and the princes thereof, by delivering the country together with its rulers into the hands of the heathen conquerors.
v. 3. He hath cut off in His fierce anger all the horn of Israel, symbol of strength and majesty, breaking it in the heat of His indignation; He hath drawn back His right hand from before the enemy, withdrawing His assistance from His people and thus delivering them into the power of the invaders, and He burned against Jacob like a flaming fire which devoureth round about, the Lord thus being directly active in its destruction.
v. 4. He hath bent His bow like an enemy, attacking them with a deadly weapon; He stood with His right hand as an adversary, wielding a ruthless sword, and slew all that were pleasant to the eye, all that charmed and delighted the eye, both in children and in goods, in the tabernacle of the daughter of Zion, in the entire city of Jerusalem; He poured out His fury like fire, in the capture and destruction of the city.
v. 5. The Lord was as an enemy; He hath swallowed up Israel, or, "The Lord became as a hero He hath destroyed"; He hath swallowed up all her palaces, the fine dwellings of the rich and mighty; He hath destroyed His strongholds, all the fortified places throughout the country, and hath increased in the daughter of Judah mourning and lamentation, or "sorrow and sadness, mourning and misery," as we might translate in following the play of similar sounds in the original.
v. 6. And He hath violently taken away His Tabernacle as if it were of a garden, the Temple being subjected to ruin like a garden which the owner converts into some other kind of plot if it no longer suits his purposes; He hath destroyed His places of the assembly, where He met with His people in the communion of the covenant, in the Sanctuary protected by His holy Law. The Lord hath caused the solemn feasts and Sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion, this being the natural result of the city's destruction, and hath despised, in the indignation of His anger, the king and the priest; for He no longer desired these mediators of His covenant, and the service of the priests was no longer required when the Temple-worship ceased.
v. 7. The Lord hath cast off His altar, rejecting it with disdain, chiefly on account of the hypocritical worship connected with it; He hath abhorred His Sanctuary, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, the center of the Jewish cultus; He hath given up into the hand of the enemy the walls of her palaces, the proud buildings of the Temple, which reared their columns high above the surrounding city and country. They have made a noise in the house of the Lord, the enemies breaking forth into loud shouts of rejoicing over their victory, as in the day of a solemn feast, in a noisy celebration.
v. 8. The Lord hath purposed to destroy the wall of the daughter of Zion, the destruction of Jerusalem setting into execution the judgment of God, 2 Kings 25:10; He hath stretched out a line, in taking measures to level the city in unsparing rigidity of punishment; He hath not withdrawn His hand from destroying, from bringing total ruin upon the city; therefore He made the rampart and the wall to lament, they languished together, overcome by the shame which was done to them.
v. 9. Her gates are sunk into the ground, buried under a mass of rubbish and earth, which the destruction of the city has scattered over them; He hath destroyed and broken her bars, with which the gates were bolted against the attack of the enemies. Her king and her princes are among the Gentiles, in shameful captivity; the Law is no more, its ordinances and provisions no longer being in force; her prophets also find no vision from the Lord, the Lord withholding His ordinary revelations and communications, as at the time of the Judges, 1 Samuel 3:1.
v. 10. The elders of the daughter of Zion, the leaders of the Jewish Church, sit upon the ground and keep silence, they have no counsel to give, chiefly because they are dumb with grief; they have cast up dust upon their heads, they have girded themselves with sackcloth, in token of the greatness of their mourning; the virgins of Jerusalem, ordinarily care-free and happy, hang down their heads to the ground, in an excess of grief. Such is the effect when the Lord carries out His sentence of judgment upon nations and upon individuals who oppose His will.
The Vanity of Human Consolation Together with a Plea for Help
v. 11. Mine eyes do fail with tears, being spent, worn out, with weeping, my bowels are troubled, his heart being most deeply affected, my liver is poured upon the earth, that is, since the liver was considered the seat of the passions, all my feelings are dissolved with pain, for the destruction of the daughter of my people, because the children and the sucklings swoon in the streets of the city, the fainting away of these innocent victims of the calamity being the very climax of its severity.
v. 12. They say to their mothers, as they are tortured with the pangs of hunger, Where is corn and wine? anything to eat, when they swooned as the wounded in the streets of the city, faint with weakness for lack of food, when their soul was poured out into their mothers' bosom, breathing out their lives while lying on their mothers' laps, the latter being compelled to look on in helpless misery.
v. 13. What thing shall I take to witness for thee? to bring some measure of comfort from the experience of others. What thing shall I liken to thee, O daughter of Jerusalem? in making some comparison which would tend to arouse her drooping spirits. What shall I equal to thee that I may comfort thee, O virgin daughter of Zion? Any attempt of this kind is bound to fail in this instance, since no real comparison can be made. For thy breach is great like the sea, immeasurably boundless in extent and depth; who can heal thee? As the conditions are, Jerusalem can expect neither comfort nor healing from her prophets.
v. 14. Thy prophets have seen vain and foolish things for thee, namely, the false prophets, to whom the people of Jerusalem listened, much against Jeremiah's advice; and they have not discovered thine iniquity, pointing out the real cause of all this misery, to turn away thy captivity, namely, by leading the people to repentance, but have seen for thee false burdens and causes of banishment, that is, the contents of their prophecies, while apparently directed against the enemies, are such as to bring ruin upon Judah.
v. 15. All that pass by clap their hands at thee, in scorn and mockery; they hiss and wag their head at the daughter of Jerusalem, saying, in expressing the derision which they felt, Is this the city that men call The perfection of beauty, The joy of the whole earth? It is a question of scornful wonderment, denying Jerusalem's right ever to have borne such designations. To this behavior of strangers is added the mocking triumph of enemies.
v. 16. All thine enemies have opened their mouth against thee, in a gesture of mockery and derision; they hiss and gnash the teeth, as an expression of satisfied rage, of vindictive malice. They say, We have swallowed her up, thus effecting a complete destruction; certainly this is the day that we looked for, which they had so eagerly awaited; we have found, we have seen it, and they feel a corresponding satisfaction and pleasure. But the destruction of Jerusalem was not a chance happening, nor was it alone the culmination of men's hateful plans.
v. 17. The Lord hath done that which He had devised, what He had resolved upon; He hath fulfilled His word that He had commanded in the days of old, for the holiness of the Lord demands the punishment of every act of rebellion against His holy Law; He hath thrown down and hath not pitied, carrying out His threat with merciless severity; and He hath caused thine enemy to rejoice over thee; He hath set up the horn of thine adversaries, so that they were given power, authority, and victory.
v. 18. Their heart, that of the Jews suffering such great afflictions, cried unto the Lord, even while they addressed the fortifications of their city, O wall of the daughter of Zion, the city with all its inhabitants, let tears run down like a river day and night, in the intensity of grief over the present conditions; give thyself no rest, no surcease from sorrow; let not the apple of thine eye cease, in desisting from shedding tears.
v. 19. Arise, cry out in the night, throughout all the watches of the night; in the beginning of the watches, with the desire and strength for weeping renewed again and again, pour out thine heart like water before the face of the Lord, the very heart dissolving in tears, as it were, in the excess of the sorrow caused by the great calamity; lift up thy hands toward Him, in a gesture of fervent supplication, for the life of thy young children that faint for hunger in the top, at the head, of every street.
v. 20. Behold, O Lord, and consider to whom Thou hast done this, so the prayer of the city's inhabitants now arises. Shall the women eat their fruit, and children of a span long? in revolting cannibalism caused by excessive hunger. Cf Leviticus 26:29; ' Deuteronomy 28:53; Jeremiah 19:9. Shall the priest and the prophet be slain in the Sanctuary of the Lord? The one was against God's moral order governing the universe, the other conflicted with His covenant and the worship connected with it.
v. 21. The young and the old lie on the ground in the streets, being slaughtered without mercy; my virgins and my young men are fallen by the sword, neither age nor sex being spared. Thou hast slain them in the day of Thine anger; Thou hast killed and not pitied.
v. 22. Thou hast called as in a solemn day, as for a festival prepared for the enemies, my terrors round about, from every direction, so that Jerusalem was surrounded by them, so that in the day of the Lord's anger none escaped nor remained, all being involved in the common ruin; those that I have swaddled and brought up, with the fondest love of a parent, hath mine enemy consumed. Fortunate is the person who, when experiencing the Lord's punishment, cried out thus in true repentance!
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Lamentations 2". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29