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LAMENTATIONS CHAPTER 2
Jeremiah lamenteth the misery of Jerusalem, and its causes, and their enemies’ derision, Lamentations 2:1-17. In exhortation to true sorrow and repentance; a fervent prayer, Lamentations 2:18-22.
How hath the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger? It hath been formerly observed that great states and kingdoms are often in Scripture expressed under the notion of daughters, Psalms 137:8; Isaiah 10:30; Isaiah 47:1,Isaiah 47:5; Jeremiah 46:1;Jeremiah 1:0 Lamentations 4:21,Lamentations 4:22; the meaning is, How hath God obscured all the beauty and glory of the church and state of the Jews!
And cast down from heaven unto the earth the beauty of Israel; that is, thrown them down from the highest pitch of glory and honour, to the meanest degree of baseness and servitude.
And remembered not his footstool in the day of his anger: the earth is called the Lord’s footstool, Isaiah 66:1; Matthew 5:35; Acts 7:49, but here plainly the temple is understood, called God’s footstool, 1 Chronicles 28:2; and the whole temple seems rather to be understood than the ark, for we read of no indignity offered to the ark by the Chaldeans, more than to any other part of the temple; God had suffered the Chaldeans to burn the whole temple, and it may justly be doubted whether those other texts that mention a worshipping at God’s footstool, Psalms 99:5; Psalms 132:7, be not to be understood of worshipping in the temple, for it was not the privilege of all the Jews to come so near the ark as to worship before that. The reason of the complaint is God’s permission of the Chaldeans to burn the temple. See Jeremiah 52:13.
The Lord hath swallowed up all the habitations of Jacob, and hath not pitied; as he hath had no respect to his own house, so he hath had much less respect to the common habitations of the Jews.
He hath thrown down in his wrath the strong holds of the daughter of Judah; their military fortifications have been of no use to them, he hath made them to touch the ground, i.e. suffered the enemies to batter them to the earth.
He hath polluted the kingdom and the princes thereof; that is, either delivered them into the hands of pagans, whom to touch they judged a legal pollution, or else dealt with them as with a polluted thing, east them off, or brake them in pieces. All this is made the effect of God’s wrath, and his work; for as a man is said to do that which he encourageth others to do, and assists them in doing; so God is said to have done this, because he did not only suffer the Chaldeans to do it, but used them as a rod in his hand, inclining them to do it, and assisting them in the execution of his wrath.
He hath cut off in his fierce anger all the horn of Israel; that is, the beauty and strength of Israel, so horn signifieth by a usual metaphor in Scripture, Psalms 74:4; Jeremiah 48:25, &c., the horn being much the beauty of the beast, as also that member by which the beast puts forth its strength in assaulting its adversary.
He hath drawn back his right hand from before the enemy; either God hath drawn back his assistance which he was wont to give the Jews against their enemies; or Israel, through God’s leaving of them, hath drawn back his right hand; but it seems rather to be understood of God’s weakening the Israelites’ right hands, so as they were not able to hold them up (as before) against their enemies.
He burned against Jacob like a flaming fire, which devoureth round about; God had consumed them, not in this or that part, but round about, as a fire seizing a house or heap of combustible matter at once, on all sides.
That is, God (whom by their sins they had provoked and made their enemy) behaved himself as an enemy, bending his bow, and stretching out his right hand, and slew their young men and maidens, who were pleasant to look upon; and had brought judgments upon them like fire, which devours without any discrimination.
See Lamentations 2:2. Several pathetical expressions signifying the same things, properly imitating the dialect of mourners, whose passion suffers them not to speak according to art, but frequently they say the same things over and over.
The word translated
tabernacle (say some) signifies a hedge or fence, and they would have it here so translated, and so the phrase should denote God’s withdrawing his protection from the Jews; but it is no where so translated. It is another word used Psalms 80:12; Psalms 89:40. The most judicious interpreters think that the word here signifieth the temple, and the rather because of what followeth. By the
places of the assembly may be understood the synagogues. By
the king and the priest are meant persons of greatest rank and eminency, though it is thought here is a special reference to Zedekiah the king of Judah, and Seraiah who was the high priest, the former of which was miserably handled, the latter slain.
sanctuary seemeth not to be meant strictly here the places or buildings so called, which are said to be the Lord’s, because he directed the making of them, and they were dedicated to his service, and used for no other use; but the stated worship and communion of the church of the Jews; as altar is taken, 1 Corinthians 10:18. God, by his suffering the place to be destroyed where alone they might sacrifice, seemed to have abhorred his own institutions, as it is said, The prayers of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord. He saith the Lord also had destroyed the most stately of their civil edifices; and the enemies, with their triumphs and blasphemies, had made as great noise, to the reproach and dishonour of God, as before those that sang holy songs, or played on instruments, were wont to make in the temple to the honour and glory of God.
wall in this verse seemeth to be taken in a metaphorical sense, for the strength and security of the Jews (the strength and security of a place lying much in ifs walls).
He hath stretched out a line: artificers use with lines not only to mark out places for building, but also for destruction, to direct them what to cut off; such a line is here meant.
He hath not withdrawn his hand from destroying; God had gone on in destroying them: and had made their walls and ramparts feeble, and to shake like a man under some languishing distemper, that had no strength left.
Her gates are sunk into the ground; that is, the gates of Jerusalem are destroyed and covered over with rubbish.
He hath destroyed and broken her bars; the bolts of the gates are broken.
Her king and her princes are among the Gentiles; Zedekiah and the nobles of Judah that were not slain were in miserable captivity.
The law is no more; the law was no more read and opened, nor was there any more sacrifices offered according to the prescript of it, nor any solemn feasts kept according to the direction of it.
Her prophets also find no vision from the Lord; they had but very few prophets amongst them from this time to the time of the gospel, and very few of those at this time alive had any revelations from God; we read only of this prophet, Ezekiel, Daniel, and three after the captivity, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
Sitting upon the ground, keeping silence, throwing dust on their heads, girding themselves with sackcloth, hanging down the head, were all of them postures, and actions, and gestures of mourners. The meaning of this whole verse is, that the whole city of Jerusalem was in a very sad state and condition, and all persons in it in a mournful posture; not the common people only, but the gravest of their magistracy and ministry, those who were wont to sit in the chairs of magistracy and of teachers. Their young women also, which used to be most brisk and frolic, those whose condition was furthest off from sorrow, and who were least disposed to it, were now all of them drowned in floods of it.
This whole verse is but expressive of the prophet’s great affliction for the miseries come upon the Jews: he wept himself almost blind, his passion had disturbed his bodily humours, that his bowels were troubled; his gall lying under his liver, upon this disturbance was vomited up: they are all no more than expressions of very great affliction and sorrow.
For the destination of the daughter of my people; for the miseries befallen the Jews: he had mourned for their sins before, and for their plagues too which he had in prospect, Jeremiah 9:1; he now mourns for them as being come upon them: which mourning considered only as for their miseries, spake no more than the prophet’s good nature and love to his country; but considered as the indication of God’s wrath and displeasure, was also a godly sorrow.
Because the children and the sucklings swoon in the streets of the city; the children and sucklings fainted and swooned, either for want of water, or bread, or milk in their mothers’ or nurses’ breasts during the famine, occasioned by the long siege of the city. This appears in the next verse.
The little children, ignorant of the cause of the failure of their usual food, called to their mothers for it as formerly, being ready to faint and die, as men mortally wounded, for want of spirits and blood, use to faint, and died in their mothers’ arms; for so I had rather interpret the phrase poured out their souls, than (as some) understand by souls the desires of their souls, for he is speaking of sucklings as well as more grown children: the phrase is capable of both senses.
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 defence against them.
Not the Lord’s prophets in thee, but those prophets to whom you chose rather to hearken, and whom you believed rather than me and others sent by God to reveal his will unto you, came and told you idle and vain stories, that those who were carried into captivity should after two years return, &c. And by telling you such smooth and pleasant things, tickled your humours instead of discovering your sins, which were bringing these judgments upon you; whereas they ought to have dealt freely and faithfully with you, and have made you sensible of your sins, and this might have prevented your miserable captivity. But they rather spent their breath in telling you false stories to encourage you in your sinful courses, and so proved to you the causes of your banishment; or else they told you false stories, which they pretended to be the causes of the captivity of your brethren, in the mean time concealing the true causes, and suffering you to run on in the same errors, till you came to be more miserable than those that went into captivity before you.
This was according to God’s threatenings, 1 Kings 9:8; Jeremiah 18:16; Jeremiah 19:8. God had poured out all his blessings upon this people, whatsoever might adorn them, or make them happy, so as all people blessed the Jewish nation; but now the case was so altered, that all people scoffed at them, and hissed, and admired at the change which God had made.
As strangers that had no quarrels with nor prejudices against the Jews, passing by their country, and their great city Jerusalem, despised and scorned it; so their enemies with whom they had former quarrels, and who had taker up prejudices against them, they reproached and abused them, and triumphed in their ruin, and in the success of their arms against them, and blessed themselves, as having now seen the day they had looked and wished for.
God hath not surprised us by these providences, he gave us notice what he would do, and hath done no more than what he threatened long since, Leviticus 26:16, &c.; Deuteronomy 28:15, &c. It is true lie hath severely punished us, so as in his dispensation there appear no prints of pity, he hath set up our enemies, and hath made them to triumph over his people, but in all this he hath but justified his truth, and fulfilled his word.
They cried unto God seriously, though not sincerely; from their heart, though not with their whole heart; either by the wall, or upon the wall, or (which is judged most probable) by occasion of the breaches made in the wall. Upon this he turns his discourse to the wall itself, and calls to it, or to those that were upon it, or near it, incessantly to mourn.
Let not the apple of thine eye cease; in the Hebrew it is, let not the daughter of thine eye cease. We call it the apple; the Latins, the pupil, or babe, of the eye.
The prophet calls upon the Jews not to be slothful in this their very evil day, but to rise up from their beds, and either at the beginning of the four watches, or at the beginning of each watch, at all times in the night, to betake themselves to God by prayer, and that not in a cold, lazy manner, but so as to pour out their hearts with their words; and he moveth them to it, as for their own sake, so for the sake of their young children, who every where were starved to death.
Consider to whom thou hast done this; that is, not to heathen, who never owned thee, nor were called by thy name, but to thine own people, called thy portion and thine heritage; let thy former relation to us, and our former acknowledgments of thee, prevail with thee. Wilt thou suffer, or should such a thing be, as for women to satisfy their hunger with the fruit of their own bodies, and that when they are very young? And shall thy ministers be slain, and that in thy sanctuary? Any human blood polluted it; shall not the blood of those that were the ministers of God be judged a pollution and profanation of it?
None of what sex or age soever are spared: though the hands of the Chaldeans have done this, yet they have been set on and assisted by thee, and have been but the executioners of thy wrath and displeasure.
As my people were wont to be 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 wont to be 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.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Lamentations 2". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25