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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Lamentations 2

 

 

Verses 1-22

Lamentations 2. The Second Lament.—This differs from the first in its contents, and in its literary form. The metrical matters are the same, i.e. there are twenty-two verses, wherein the first word of the verse, or stanza, begins with the Heb. A, B, C, etc., and each stanza has three lines, of five accents each. We saw that in Lamentations 1 the singer's wail for Zion filled half the song, and her own cries the second half; but this second Lament is all taken up with God. In Lamentations 2:1-12 the woes are bemoaned as being of His doing and His alone, and Lamentations 2:13-17 forms a short résumé of this; then, next, Lamentations 2:18 f. urges the city to cry to Him for help; and in the close, Lamentations 2:20-22, she does so.

In more detail, Lamentations 2:1-17 is the wail of a stricken heart, because Yahweh has flung down all Zion's beauty, has demolished her fortress, has profaned her throne. True, this might mean Zedekiah's ruin in 586 B.C., but the pathetic touch of personal experience of the ruin, which marks the passage, cannot well suit that earlier dating, since scholars are fairly well agreed that the poems were not written until after 600 B.C. More probably the Lament comes from men who actually saw the ruin of Aristobulus II by the invasion of Pompey.

And now, awful thought! it is Yahweh Himself who has lifted the bars of the city's gates to let those invaders in. He Himself is the real enemy! He has ruined the Temple, which was His own Place of Trysting with men! His hand has led the roaring troops tramping into His sanctuary. And meanwhile all the old rulers have fled afar to alien lands, where they can receive no Torah, no ever-new teaching from the Priestly ministrants, who are the only authoritative receivers and issuers thereof. This is a notable evidence that, if the writer lived in 60 B.C., Torah was not regarded at that date as a thing all given through Moses in the far-off past. This agrees exactly with the central faith of P, expressed beautifully in Exodus 25:22, that Yahweh would always give new revelations to His people from His Shekinah on the Ark. But now, cries our singer bitterly, all our prophets are silent; our priests, elders, virgins all sit silent, amid the moaning of babes for food.

In Lamentations 2:1 f., Lamentations 2:5, Lamentations 2:7, Lamentations 2:18 f. notice that the name "Yahweh" is avoided, and "Adonai" is substituted. The Jews, just before Jesus came, were shy of pronouncing the Divine Name: by A.D. 400 they had ceased altogether uttering it aloud whenever it occurred in their synagogal reading of the Pentateuch; and they had learned to say instead of it simply and reverently "my Lord" (Adonai), as they do to this day. So in the passage before us, it is probable that we see the rise of this custom. The practice arose apparently through the loss of confidence in Yahweh's care for them: they were superstitiously afraid lest they should invoke His presence and His anger. G. B. Gray notes on the passage Lamentations 2:1-12 that the singer's love for his particular metre and for a certain parallelism makes him at times forget his connexion of thought. So manifest is the scholastic formalism which we have attributed to the scribal age.

Lamentations 2:2. Delete "daughter," substitute "king" for "kingdom," and with some transposition we get the writer's ideas better expressed thus:

"Lordly One has swallowed up, and has not spared Judah's vales;

Has torn, and flung to earth her fortress;

Angry even to over-boiling wrath, He has destroyed her king and princes."

Lamentations 2:3. horn is used in the sense of "power," as is usual.

Lamentations 2:4 a has a word too many for the metre: which word shall be omitted? Gray omits "like a foe," because the author did not care much for sectional parallelism. The second line must run on to "Zion," while the end of the third line has been lost.

Lamentations 2:5. has several marks of late Judaism, such as "Lordly One," and Mo'edh. Alliteration was much liked by Hebrews and Jews, and a good illustration of it occurs in Lamentations 2:5, where Cheyne translates "moaning and bemoaning": but Streane gives "groaning and moaning."

Lamentations 2:6. Omitting a Heb. letter we get clear and good sense thus: "He has done violence to His arboured garden." Here, too, beside "His Trysted place" some late annotating reader has set "Sabbath," as an equally sacred thing: this is a mark of the growth of formalism.

Lamentations 2:7. The noisy invasion of the Temple seems meant as that of Pompey, rather than that of Antiochus: had the latter been intended, there would have been a word about his desecration of the altar (see Josephus, Ant. xii. 5, xiv. 4).

Lamentations 2:9 f. is pitifully sad; the eyes have run tears till they are dry; honour is poured out on the ground.

Lamentations 2:13. The song becomes a passionate wail, like the sleepless weariness of a wrecked soul. What could be like this tragic undoing of Jerusalem? Her wound gapes, big as the sea: who could possibly heal it? How well does all this make us realise the heart of Jesus when He rose and cried, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden."

Lamentations 2:14-17 rehearses again the sorrows, especially laying blame on false preachers: these had lied, mocking at warnings of danger and banishments and punishments. So now God's vengeance lies herein, that all lands mock at Zion, and say, "Ha! Is this city the perfect beauty? Is this the place of joy for all the earth? Ha, ha!" Omit in Lamentations 2:15 the commentator's remark, "Of which they will say." Evidently some preachers had been proclaiming the apocalyptic theory that Israel was to be the chief people in all the earth: another note of date, for this was a favourite faith of the generations just before the birth of Jesus. A wonderful faith it was, foolish indeed in many ways, yet grand in its fault. Moreover, Jesus fulfilled it.

Lamentations 2:16. Now appears a remarkable thing: an inversion of the usual order of the Heb. alphabetical letters Ayin and Pe. Usually the order would be "Pe, Ayin," but here Pe begins Lamentations 2:16, and Ayin begins Lamentations 2:17. The same strange feature is found also in chs. 3 and 4. It occurs nowhere else in Heb. literature, except in the alphabetical Psalms 9, 10, at least as this is restored by Duhm. That Psalm seems to have peculiar doctrinal evidences of having been written by a scribe of the first century B.C. Did that scribe compose these three Laments?

Lamentations 2:17 pictures the hatred of the people by their enemies, and the patronising mockery of Yahweh by these: "He has at last done what He threatened, has He? We knew all along that either He or someone else would have to crush this Zion." All the more bitter, following this taunt, is the aching moan of the song, "O Maiden-city, cry, cry; cease not to cry to the Lordly One. By day, by night, pray; Oh weep and pray."

Lamentations 2:19. A fourth line has been needlessly added, as a marginal note no doubt, by some reader.

Lamentations 2:20-22. Zion's prayer: here sore need makes the approach to God more pressing, even more familiar than before. Zion does not now say, "O Lordly One," but "O Yahweh." It is Yahweh's own daughter that is beseeching the Father's heart only to look and see that it is she whom He has so hurt. Her cry becomes a ghastly thing: mothers are eating their babes; priests are murdered in the Temple; old and young, virgins and lads, lie dead in the streets.

Lamentations 2:22 is most pathetic of all, "Wilt Thou not summon a Trysting meeting, as the old faith expected, to consider all this? And yet, from the hamlets all about no man can come now, for there all are dead!" So ends this saddest of all the Laments, full of pitiful scenes, black and awful with woe. The pleading before Yahweh makes one's own eyes wet. "Oh, is it really Thou! Canst Thou not stay Thy hand?" rises the cry. All this misery is unlike the condition in which Nebuchadrezzar left Jerusalem. Then the poor people were put into some comfort. Jeremiah was well pleased to stay in Jerusalem; and he bade the exiles pray for the Babylonians. The Servant-Singer preached Yahweh's love to them. And more remarkable still is Ezekiel's constant insistence that Babylon is Yahweh's hand. It is Babylon that shall set all nations to rights, and shall be rewarded greatly for her coming punishment of Egypt. Surely these Laments come from a very different condition of things. On the other hand, all is just like the conditions just before Jesus came; when so many were broken-hearted, and were waiting for some Consolation of Israel. This second Lament is surely a prelude to the Gospel of the Saviour.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Lamentations 2:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/lamentations-2.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, November 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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