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the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
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Bible Commentaries
Lamentations 2

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 3416. B.C. 588.

In this chapter the prophet proceeds in giving a melancholy detail of the dire effects of the divine anger, in the subversion of both the civil and religious constitution of the Jews, and in that extreme wretchedness and distress, to which individuals of every denomination were thereby reduced, Lamentations 2:1-9 . He represents the elders, the virgins, and other inhabitants of Jerusalem, as lamenting over the unparalleled miseries of their country, and charges her prophets with having betrayed her into ruin by their false and flattering suggestions, Lamentations 2:10-14 . He describes the astonishment of passengers on viewing the desolated condition of Jerusalem, Lamentations 2:15-17 . They call out to her to implore God’s compassion for the removal of those heavy judgments, which, in the height of his displeasure, he had brought upon her, Lamentations 2:18 , Lamentations 2:19 . Her manifold miseries are referred to the compassion and consideration of God, Lamentations 2:20-22 .

Verse 1

Lamentations 2:1. How hath the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud Changed her condition for the worse, and turned the light of her prosperity into the darkness of adversity. And cast down, &c., the beauty of Israel The temple and all its glory. And remembered not his footstool in the day of his anger Hath not spared even the ark itself, the footstool of the shekinah, or divine glory, which was wont to appear, sitting, as it were, enthroned upon the mercy-seat, between the cherubim: see the margin.

Verses 2-4

Lamentations 2:2-4. The Lord hath swallowed up the habitations, &c. Without showing any pity or concern for them. He hath thrown down the strong holds, &c. Hath suffered the enemies to batter down their fortifications to the ground. He hath polluted the kingdom, &c. “He hath shown no regard for the kingdom which himself had settled upon the family of David, but involved the royal family in one common destruction with the rest of the people. The expression is much the same with that of Psalms 89:39, Thou hast profaned his crown by casting it to the ground.” Lowth. He hath cut off, &c., all the horn of Israel Namely, their strength and glory, and especially their kingly dignity. He hath drawn back his right hand, &c. He hath withdrawn his wonted assistance, and given us up into the hands of our enemies. Or, as Blaney rather thinks, the right hand of Israel may be here intended, namely, his exertions of strength represented as rendered ineffectual by God, or turned away from obstructing the progress of the enemy; “just as God says, Jeremiah 21:4, that he would turn aside the weapons of war that were in the hands of the Jews, so as to prevent their hindering the Chaldean army from entering the city.” He burned against Jacob round about God hath consumed them, not on this or that part merely, but everywhere, as a fire which seizes a house, or a heap of combustible matter, on all sides at once. He hath bent his bow like an enemy, &c. God, whom by their sins they had provoked, and made their enemy, behaved himself as such toward them, bending his bow, as it were, and stretching out his right hand to destroy them. And slew all that were pleasant to the eye The chief in worth and dignity; those who were in the flower of their age, the joy and delight of their parents. He poured out his fury like fire Which devours all before it, without any discrimination.

Verses 6-7

Lamentations 2:6-7. He hath violently taken away his tabernacle as of a garden The Vulgate reads, dissipavit, quasi hortum, tentorium suum; he hath dissolved, broke in pieces, scattered, or laid waste, his tent as a garden. Thus also Houbigant: that is, he hath destroyed the temple, the place of his residence, and of our religious assemblies, as if it had been no better than a tent or cottage set up in a garden, or vineyard, just while the fruit was gathering, and then to be taken down again. This interpretation of the original text, which is, יחמס כגן שׂכו , supposes שׂכו to be written for סכו words exactly alike in sound, though not always in sense, and frequently put the one for the other. But, as the former, from שׂוךְ , to hedge, originally signifies his hedge, many think the most proper rendering of the Hebrew, and the true sense of the passage is, as in the margin, He hath taken away his hedge as of a garden; that is, he hath withdrawn his protection, and left us exposed to the mercy of our enemies. He hath destroyed his places of the assembly This translation, as also that of the Vulgate, understands this as a repetition of the former clause; but, as sixty MSS. and one edition, instead of מעדו , read מועדו at large, Blaney takes the congregation of Jehovah to be intended, rather than the place of their assembly, and renders the words, He hath destroyed his congregation, namely, the people of Israel, the vineyard, which he had heretofore kept under his special protection. The Lord hath caused the solemn feasts, &c., to be forgotten Or rather, as שׁכח is more properly rendered, hath forgotten the solemn feasts, &c., that is, “holds those services no longer in esteem, but slights and disregards them:” compare Isaiah 1:14-15. And hath despised the king and the priest Hath shown no regard for either of those honourable offices, but hath suffered the kingdom to be destroyed, and the temple to be laid waste. He hath abhorred his sanctuary It had been defiled with sin, that only thing which he hates, and for the sake of that he hath abhorred it, though he had formerly delighted in, and called it his rest for ever, Psalms 132:14. They have made a noise in the house of the Lord, &c. “Instead of the joyful sound of praises and thanksgivings to God, such as used to be solemnly performed in the temple at the public festivals, there was nothing to be heard there but the noise of soldiers, and the rudeness of infidels, profaning that sacred place, and insulting the true God, who was worshipped there: compare Psalms 74:4.” Lowth.

Verses 8-9

Lamentations 2:8-9. The Lord hath purposed to destroy the wall of Zion The word wall is here to be taken in a metaphorical sense, for the strength and security of the city. He hath stretched out a line, &c. Called emphatically, Isaiah 34:11, קו תהו , the line of confusion or devastation, being designed to mark out the extent of what was to be pulled down. For the instruments designed for building are in some places applied to destroying, because men sometimes mark out those buildings they intend to demolish. Thus, 2 Kings 21:13, God says, I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab: see likewise Amos 7:7-8. Therefore he made the rampart, &c., to lament Made their walls and ramparts feeble, ready to shake like a man under some languishing distemper, who had no strength left. Her gates are sunk into the ground, &c. The gates of Jerusalem are destroyed and covered over with rubbish, and the bolts of the gates are broken. Her king and her princes are among the Gentiles Zedekiah and the nobles of Judah, who were not slain, are in a state of miserable captivity. The law is no more It is no longer read and expounded; the priests and the Levites, whose office it is to instruct the people, being dispersed among the heathen; and that part of the law which respects the public worship of God, being rendered impracticable by the temple’s being destroyed. Her prophets also find no vision from the Lord The prophets are either dead, or in a state of captivity, and these latter are not favoured with divine revelations as they were wont to be, and so cannot resolve the doubts of those who come to them for advice.

Verses 10-13

Lamentations 2:10-13. The elders, &c., sit upon the ground, and keep silence

These and the other expressions of this and the two following verses betoken the deepest mourning and sorrow. Mine eyes do fail with tears My sight is become dim with weeping. My bowels are troubled As they were when he foresaw these calamities coming, Jeremiah 4:19-20. My liver is poured upon the earth My vitals seem to be dissolved, and have lost all their strength. “That the mental passions.” says Blaney, “have a considerable influence upon the habit of the body in various instances, is a fact not to be questioned. And experience daily shows, that a violent uneasiness of mind tends greatly to promote a redundance and overflowing of vitiated bile. The liver is the proper seat of the bile, where its secretions are carried on. Hence the prophet’s meaning in this place seems to be, that he felt as if his whole liver was dissolved and carried off in bile, on account of the copious discharge brought on by continual vexation and fretting. Job expresses the same thing, Job 16:13, where he says, He poureth out my gall upon the ground.” Because the children and sucklings swoon in the streets For want of sustenance. As the wounded As those who are not presently despatched, but die a lingering death. What thing shall I take to witness for thee? What instance can I bring of any calamity like thine, that such an example may be some mitigation of thy complaints. For thy breach is great, like the sea, &c. The breach made in thee is like the breaking in of the sea that overflows a whole country, where no stop can be put to the inundation.

Verse 14

Lamentations 2:14. Thy prophets have seen vain and foolish things The prophets, to whom thou didst choose to hearken, and whom thou didst believe, rather than those whom God sent to reveal his will, came and told thee idle tales, the fancies of their own minds, deluding thee with hopes of not being carried into captivity, or of a speedy return therefrom. They have not discovered thine iniquity, &c. They have not given thy people a just sense of their iniquities, in order that, by being humbled and brought to true repentance, they might avert God’s judgments, but they have rather flattered them in their sins, and thereby have hastened on their ruin: see the margin. But have seen for thee false burdens They have amused thee with false and fallacious prophecies, and that even after, as well as before, they were carried into captivity; (see Jeremiah 29:8, &c.;) and causes of banishment Hebrew, מדוחים , of casting out, of expulsion, as the word properly signifies: that is, their pretended revelations, promising peace, and giving hopes of impunity to thy people continuing in sin, were so far from profiting thee, that they were in a great measure the causes of thy captivity. Why prophecies are termed משׂאות , burdens, see notes on Isaiah 13:1, and Jeremiah 23:33.

Verse 15

Lamentations 2:15. All that pass by clap their hands at thee; they hiss, &c. These were gestures of derision, whereby the enemies of the Jews expressed a satisfaction in their calamities; saying, Is this the city that men call The Perfection of beauty Or, perfect in beauty, as Blaney renders כל לת יפי ; The Joy of the whole earth Such was the light in which the Jews had viewed Jerusalem, and such was the language in which they had been wont to speak of it. And it was at least a pardonable partiality in them, which led them to pass these encomiums upon it, and to suppose that all strangers would be equally delighted with its beauty as they themselves were. It was the metropolis of their nation, and the city their God had chosen to put his name there. There was his magnificent temple, and there the symbols of his divine presence, and the administration of the ordinances of his worship. Thither the whole nation resorted, according to his appointment, to celebrate their solemn feasts: and there those feasts were observed with all the magnificence of religious joy. It is no wonder, therefore, that they esteemed it the perfection of beauty, and a place in which the whole earth ought to delight.

Verses 16-17

Lamentations 2:16-17. All thine enemies have opened their mouths against thee As if they were ready to devour thee: see the margin. Or they have opened them in scoffs, reproaches, and insults. They hiss and gnash their teeth In scorn and derision. They say, We have swallowed her up Namely, Jerusalem. They triumph in their success against her, and in the rich prey they have got in making themselves masters of her. Certainly, this is the day we have looked for Which we have expected and longed to see. Thus the enemies of the church are apt to take its disasters for its ruin, and to triumph in them accordingly; but they will find themselves deceived, for the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. The Lord hath done that which he had devised Our destroyers could have had no power against us, unless it had been given them from above: they were but the sword in God’s hand. And he hath not surprised us by these providences: he gave us notice before hand what he would do if we were disobedient, and he hath done no more than what he threatened long since. He hath fulfilled his word which he had commanded Hath verified and made good his declarations uttered in days of old Namely, by Moses, Leviticus 26:16-31; Deuteronomy 28:15-49. He hath set up the horn of thine adversaries Hath advanced their power and glory.

Verses 18-19

Lamentations 2:18-19. Their heart cried unto the Lord “The same,” says Blaney, “are the speakers here who are said to have made the foregoing remarks concerning the distressed condition of Jerusalem, namely, the passengers, (Lamentations 2:15,) whose hearts, being deeply affected with what they saw, urged them to break forth into the following passionate exclamation, addressed to the daughter of Zion.” O wall of the daughter of Zion The Vulgate reads the verse, Clamavit cor eorum ad Dominum, super muros filiæ Sion, Deduc quasi torrentem lacrymas per diem et noctem; non des requiem tibi, neque taceat pupilla occuli tui: “Their heart hath cried unto the Lord concerning the walls of the daughter of Zion, Cause thy tears to descend, like a torrent, night and day; give thyself no rest, nor let the apple of thine eye be silent.” As the wall and rampart are said to lament, (Lamentations 2:8,) because their ruins were objects of lamentation; so here the ruined wall, including the ruined city and its inhabitants, is called upon, by a beautiful prosopopœia, to mourn and weep over the desolations of that place which God had chosen for his peculiar residence, and to entreat him to take compassion on its miseries. The original expression, rendered the apple of thine eye, is literally the daughter of thine eye; by which Blaney thinks is meant, not the pupil, but the tear, which, he says, may, with great propriety and elegance, be termed the daughter of the eye from which it issues. Arise, cry out in the night Do not cease thy prayers and supplications even in the night season. In the beginning of the watches The Jews divided the night, first into three, and in after ages into four watches: see Judges 7:19; Matthew 14:25. Pour out thy heart like water before the Lord Offer up thy earnest prayers with tears to the throne of grace; and send up thy very soul, and thy most devout affections along with them: see Psalms 62:8; 1 Samuel 7:6. Lift up thy hands for the life of thy young children That they at least may be spared; (see Lamentations 2:11;) that faint in the top of every street See the margin. The expression seems to mean the same as in every street.

Verses 20-22

Lamentations 2:20-22. Behold, O Lord, to whom thou hast done this To thy people, for whom thou hast formerly expressed so much tenderness and affection. Jerusalem seems to be here introduced speaking. Shall the women eat their fruit We find by comparing this verse with chap. Lamentations 4:10, that God brought upon them that terrible judgment which he had denounced against them, if they continued to provoke him, namely, that they should eat the flesh of their own sons and daughters. See the margin. And children of a span long Hebrew, שׂפחים , rendered in the margin, swaddled with their hands, and by the LXX., νηπια θηλαζοντα μαστους , infants sucking the breasts. Shall the priest and the prophet be slain in the sanctuary of the Lord? Shall thy ministers be slain, and that in thy sanctuary? We learn from this, 1st, That the Chaldeans spared no character, no, not the most distinguished; even the priest and the prophet, who, of all men, one would think, might have expected protection from heaven, and veneration on earth, yet they were slain; not abroad in the field of battle, where they would have been out of their place, as Hophni and Phinehas were, but in the sanctuary of the Lord, the place of their business, and which they hoped would have been a refuge to them. 2d, They spared no age, no, not those who, by reason of their tender or decrepit age, were exempted from taking up the sword; for the young and the old lay on the ground slain in the streets. 3d, They spared no sex, the virgins and the young men fell by the sword. In the most barbarous military executions that we read of, the virgins were spared and made part of the spoil, but here they were put to the sword as well as the young men. We learn, 4th, That this was the Lord’s doing; he suffered the sword of the Chaldeans to devour thus without distinction; he slew them in the day of his anger Namely, his anger for their many and aggravated sins. Thou hast called, as in a solemn day A day of awful retribution; my terrors round about As my people were wont to be called together from all parts on solemn days, when they were to meet at Jerusalem for thy service; so now, by thy providence, my terrible enemies are by thee called together to slay thy people in that holy city in which they were wont to worship thee. So that none escaped nor remained That is, few or none. Those that I have swaddled, and brought up, hath mine enemy consumed As if they had been brought forth for the murderer, like lambs for the butcher, Hosea 9:13. Zion, that was a mother to them all, laments to see those that were brought up in her courts, and under the tuition of her oracles, thus made a prey of and destroyed.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Lamentations 2". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/lamentations-2.html. 1857.
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