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Jeremiah lamenteth the misery of Jerusalem: he complaineth thereof to God.
Before Christ 588.
THE prophet gives 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. He represents the misery of his country as without a parallel, and charges her prophets with having betrayed her into ruin by their false and flattering suggestions. He describes the astonishment of passengers on viewing the desolated condition of Jerusalem. 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 2:1. The beauty of Israel— "The temple and all its glory: and hath not spared the ark itself, the footstool of the Schechinah, which sat between the Cherubim, as on a throne." See Matthew 11:23.
Lamentations 2:2. And hath not pitied— He hath not spared. Houbigant.
Lamentations 2:3. He hath drawn back his right hand— "He hath withdrawn his wonted assistance, and given up his people into the hands of their enemies." See Psalms 74:11.
Lamentations 2:6. He hath—taken away his tabernacle— He hath laid waste his tabernacle as a garden. Houbigant. See Isaiah 1:8; Isaiah 5:5.
Lamentations 2:7. They have made a noise, &c.— "The Chaldeans have sent forth the sounds of joy on account of their victory, in the temple of the Lord, as the Jews were accustomed to do in their solemn festivals." Instead of a joyful sound of praises and thanksgivings to God, nothing was heard but the noise of soldiers, and the rude vociferations of infidels profaning the holy place and insulting the God who was worshipped there. See Psa 74:4 and Calmet.
Lamentations 2:11. My liver, &c.— Bishop Lowth explains it, "My vitals seem to be dissolved, and have lost all their strength." See Job 16:13.Psalms 22:14; Psalms 22:14. The LXX. read My glory is cast down upon the ground. That the mental passions have a considerable influence upon the habit of the body in various instances, is a fact not to be questioned. And experience daily shews, that a violent uneasiness of mind tends greatly to promote a redundancy 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, when he says, Job 16:13. "He poureth out my gall upon the ground."
Lamentations 2:13. What thing shall I take to witness for thee— With what likeness shall I compare thee? "What instance can I bring of any calamity like thine? that such an example may be some mitigation of thy misery." See Lowth, and Houbigant.
Lamentations 2:14. False burdens— Burdens of vanity—false prophesies. See Isaiah 13:1.
Lamentations 2:17. That he had commanded, &c.— "He hath fulfilled the threatening which he had denounced against those who were disobedient to the law of Moses, as well as what he had denounced long before by his prophets."
Lamentations 2:18. Their heart cried— Their heart crieth, O Lord, to the virgin, the daughter of Sion. Houbigant. See his note.
Lamentations 2:20. Consider to whom thou hast done this— Whether thou hast done the like to any one. Houbigant.
Lamentations 2:22. Thou hast called, &c.— "Terrors come upon me from every side by thy appointment, just as multitudes used to flock to Jerusalem at the time of the solemn feasts." Houbigant renders it rather more clearly, Thou hast called terrors on all sides; as to a solemn feast-day.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The hand of God visible in their sufferings; and the sense of his displeasure, so justly and highly provoked, peculiarly sharpened these lamentations.
The Lord hath utterly ruined their civil and ecclesiastical polity, and destroyed their country. A lowering cloud big with wrath hangs over the daughter of Zion, and terrible darkness covers her: all the beauty of Israel is tarnished, and from the higher pitch of excellence she falls into the abyss of wretchedness. Even that temple where God once chose to put his name, and that ark of the covenant over which his presence visibly rested, are no more regarded by him, but given up to destruction. The habitations of Jacob, the land of Judaea, the Lord hath swallowed up, as a lion his prey, and hath not pitied. Their strong-holds are thrown down in his wrath; for if he be angry, yea, but a little, who may abide it? They had polluted themselves by sin; therefore, he hath polluted the kingdom and the princes thereof, giving them up into the hands of the heathen. All their strength is broken, their right hand disabled; or God's right hand, which had been their protection and defence, is withdrawn, and they become a prey to their enemies; for when God abandons a people, their ruin is sure. Like a devouring fire his anger burns, and Jacob is devoured. As their enemy he stands, his arrows on the string pointed with death, his sword drawn and sharpened with fury; every pleasant object bleeds beneath the stroke, the princes, priests, and every endeared relation: and even in the tabernacle of the daughter of Zion his vengeance lighteth down, and it is utterly consumed. Before such an enemy what defence avails? her palaces, her fortresses, totter as in an earthquake, and disappear; while mournful lamentations rend the skies, and fill the devoted land of Judah. That temple, vast and magnificent, built for Jehovah's honour, is torn up from its foundations, as easily and utterly as a tent in a garden is removed: the places of assembly, the courts of the temple, or synagogues, are destroyed; God abhorred their hypocritical services, and therefore dispersed their congregations. Their solemn fears and sabbaths are forgotten in Zion, none being left to celebrate them, no place for worship remaining. Even the sacred characters of king and priest God hath despised in the indignation of his anger; because they have defiled their dignity by their iniquities, he hath destroyed both the kingdom and the priesthood: the more sacred the character, the greater the profanation when such offend. The Lord hath cast off his altar; while they continued in their sins, the sacrifices and incense that they offered were an abomination unto him. He hath abhorred the sanctuary, and therefore devoted the walls to ruin; and in those sacred courts and temple, where Zion's songs were heard, there the Chaldeans shout, and riot, and blaspheme. Fixed is the purpose, deep the design; the line of destruction is marked out, and God's almighty hand never withdrawn till the desolations are completed, the wall and rampart levelled to the ground. Sunk are her gates, as if the earth had opened beneath them; her bars broken; her king and her princes captives among the Gentiles: the law is no more; the sacred tables broken, the ordinances no longer observed; and none left to expound or hear these oracles of God. They who neglect their Bibles deserve to have them taken from them; and since they abhorred and persecuted their prophets when they had them, God punishes them in withdrawing his prophetic spirit from among them, and leaves them in darkness.
2nd, Nothing breathes but lamentation, mourning, and woe.
1. The mourners and their bitter anguish are described. The elders, who in robes of state were seated on the throne of judgment, now sit upon the ground with every expressive sign of sorrow, dust on their heads, and girded with sackcloth; the virgins of Jerusalem, so sprightly once and gay, with downcast eyes and melancholy looks bemoan their miseries; while the prophet himself, in deeper distress, wept till his eyes grew dim in their exhausted sockets; his bowels troubled with acutest pangs of grief, and all within melted as it were through very anguish, for the destruction of the daughter of his people.
2. Abundant cause appears for such bitter mourning.
[1.] The famine is very grievous. The infants swoon through hunger, and cry to their tender mothers for bread: unable to relieve their wants, the fond parents see them faint in the streets as wounded; or clasping them to their bosom they expire there; nay, more horrid still, driven by those cravings which silence even the strongest feelings of natural affection, the infant, murdered from the womb, is devoured by the famished mother. Well may we cry, in the view of such a scene, from plague, pestilence, and famine, good Lord, deliver us!
[2.] The sword of their enemy reeks with the blood of the slain: no sacredness of place or character affords protection. The priest and prophet are slain in that sanctuary whither they fled for refuge; neither young nor old are spared, and even virgins bleed in the general massacre. God's wrath had set their merciless enemies upon them: He no more pitied them, and suffered the hearts of their foes to be steeled against every feeling of humanity. Thick as the crowded worshippers assembled in the days of their solemnities, now their terrible enemies, summoned of God, beset them round: hemmed in on every side, none escaped nor remained, but were slain or made captives; so that Zion, a childless widow, saw all the pains and care which she had bestowed on her helpless children fruitless, they being nourished only as lambs for the slaughter: and all this the Lord's doing, the effects of his fierce anger. How then should we fear to provoke this jealous God!
[3.] Their prophets deluded them. Pretending to inspiration, they reported the dreams of their own foolish imaginations; assuring the people of peace, instead of rebuking them for their iniquity; flattering them in their sins, and hastening them to their ruin. Note; (1.) No curse can be more heavy than to be given up to the delusions of lying prophets. (2.) They who prophesy smooth things, instead of shewing faithfulness to men's souls in rebuking their sins, evince the falsehood of their pretended mission.
[4.] Their neighbours reproach, their enemies insult them. As if well pleased with their fall, those that pass by, hiss and wag the head, deriding their miseries; Is this the city that men call The perfection of beauty, The joy of the whole earth? Where now are those Jewish boasts?—With open mouths their enemies join the cry, blaspheming and reviling, hissing as serpents, and gnawing their teeth, in testimony of their abhorrence; they say, we have swallowed her up, delighted with the delicious repast, with the rich prey of Zion's palaces. Certainly this is the day that we looked for; we have found, we have seen it; with malicious joy they triumph, and think that they have prevailed to her everlasting destruction. But let the enemies of God's church know, that, though sunk never so low, she will revive, and their triumphing will be short.
[5.] Their misery is unparallelled, their case to human view desperate; no nation ever suffered the like calamities: to seek, as a ground of comfort, for afflictions similar to those which Zion had endured, were vain: for thy breach is great like the sea, which, when it overflows, with violence irresistible deluges the country. Who can heal thee? no human wisdom or power can repair these desolations.
[6.] God himself appears their enemy. The Lord hath done that which he had devised; his hand hath done it, his counsel planned the blow: he hath fulfilled his word that he had commanded in the days of old; for, when he gave them his holy law by Moses, he told them what would be the effects of their transgressions, Leviticus 26:17. Deu 28:20 which is now fulfilled. He hath thrown down, and hath not pitied, sparing neither city nor temple: he hath caused thine enemy to rejoice over thee, giving Jerusalem for a prey to their teeth: and for these miseries no wonder if their heart in anguish cried unto the Lord; in some the voice of mere nature, lamenting their sufferings; in others, it may be hoped, the voice of grace bewailing their sins.
3. They are exhorted, as the only means of redress, in deep humiliation to seek unto God. He hath wounded, and he alone can heal. O wall of the daughter of Zion, ye watchmen that stand thereon, and all others, let tears penitential run down like a river day and night; give thyself no rest, weep incessantly, let not the apple of thine eye cease, till thou hast found pardon and grace. Arise, cry out in the night, importunate in prayer, and pleading hard with God for mercy, in the beginning of the watches, repeatedly and ceaseless till he vouchsafes an answer of peace; pour out thine heart like water before the face of the Lord, lift up thy hands toward him, pour all thy griefs into his compassionate bosom, and urge every argument for pity, such as the groans of the infants expiring for hunger. Behold, O Lord, and consider to whom thou hast done this; to the seed of Abraham thy friend, the sons of Jacob thy chosen, the people whom thou didst separate for thine own. Note; We can take no step so effectual to remove our miseries, as spreading them in humble and fervent prayer before God. None but he can help us; and, none that ever truly sought him sought in vain.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Lamentations 2". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24