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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Lamentations 2

 

 

Verse 1

THE JUDGMENT, Lamentations 2:1-10.

1. Covered — The original is a denomination from the noun for cloud, so that the literal rendering is, How doeth the Lord becloud with a cloud the daughter of Zion! God’s anger settles down on Jerusalem like a dark thundercloud. By daughter of Zion (and beauty of Israel) Jerusalem is meant, containing, as it did, the “holy and beautiful house,” the temple, and the ark, which was his footstool.

Cast down — Not, as some have suggested, by the launching of a thunderbolt, but rather as a star is cast down from heaven.


Verse 2

2. The Lord… hath not pitied — Such a clause as this illustrates one characteristic feature of the Hebrew language, which, having few adjectives and adverbs, resorts to various expedients to supply the deficiency. Here a sentence is used for an adverb, the whole being equivalent to some such word as unsparingly or unpityingly.

Habitations of Jacob — The word rendered “habitations,” means the places where the shepherds stay, and so includes not only dwellings but especially pasture grounds. These are swallowed up, or destroyed, showing that the ruin spreads from Jerusalem into the whole country round about.

Polluted — Reduced it from its high and distinguishing glory to be a common and unclean thing.


Verse 3

3. Cut off… the horn — Symbolizing all offensive and defensive power. Among a people so simple and so near to nature “the horn” would be a most natural and expressive symbol of dominion and power. In drawing back his right hand from before the enemy he withdrew his providence and help, while the following clause implies that he had become the “archenemy of Jacob.”


Verse 4

4. His right hand as an adversary — That same “hand” which had been to them an instrument of help, and which is mentioned in the previous verse as withdrawn from their protection. In the tabernacle, etc. — This phrase belongs to the sentence following. The colon after “Zion” should be moved back to stand after “eye.” Fearful, indeed, is the contrast when, instead of the down-shining of the Lord’s favour and glory, he pours out upon the tabernacle of Zion his fury like fire.


Verse 5

5. Her palaces… his strongholds — The change of gender here is explained by Keil by the fact that when the “palaces,” or, more correctly, citadels, are mentioned, the city is in the mind of the writer, but when the “strongholds” are mentioned he was thinking of the whole country, Judah.


Verse 6

6. He hath… taken away his tabernacle — Slight inaccuracies in our Version in this verse, and in many others in this book, almost completely conceal the poetic diction of the original. The word rendered “tabernacle” is not the same which appears in Lamentations 2:4, but means rather a temporary enclosure or shelter, as a hedge or booth. It should also be noticed that the original for places of the assembly and solemn feasts is one and the same word. The translation then should be something as follows: —

And he hath violently treated, as a garden, his booth,

he hath destroyed his festival:

Jehovah hath caused to be forgotten in Zion festival and sabbath;

And in the fierceness of his wrath he hath rejected king and priest.

The phrase as… a garden is obscure, but probably contains some intimation of temporariness and facility.


Verse 7

7. Altar… sanctuary… walls of her palaces — These are parts of the house of the Lord. The noise which the enemy makes therein is the shout of triumph and exultation.


Verse 8

8. Wall of the daughter of Zion — Walls of Jerusalem. The line which had been stretched out for the purpose of erection is now used for the purpose of destruction, and thus is suggested the precision and thoroughness of the work.


Verse 9

9. Law is no more… no vision from the Lord — Thus the first, as it is also the last, grand distinguishing glory of Israel disappears. The “law” and prophecy, or “vision,” were the grand, all-comprehending distinctions of the Jewish people — the germs out of which all the forms of their life grew.


Verse 11-12

THE LAMENTATION, Lamentations 2:11-16.

11, 12. Liver is poured… earth — This language occurs nowhere else in the Old Testament, and the exact force of it is doubtful. “My soul is poured out” occurs in two passages, but this is easier. It would seem that “the liver” is taken as representing the large viscera, usually classed together under the general name of bowels, and regarded as the seat of the emotions. If so, the expression means that he could no longer restrain his feelings; that his grief must have vent in expression.

Swoon — Rather faint; or, with Keil, pine away. No feature of the common calamity — the utter desolation of the people — is more graphic or more painful than the falling down of the children in the street from hunger, and their pitiful and oft repeated cry, Where is corn and wine? until they finally expire in the arms of their miserable mothers.


Verse 13

13. What thing, etc. — All words fail. No comparison is adequate. No comfort meets the case. Your misery is great like the sea, illimitable, over-passing all measure.


Verse 14

14. Thy prophets — This is in continuation of the preceding verse. The false prophets had indeed cried “Peace, peace,” but there was no peace.

False burdens — The term burden is often technical in the sense of prophecies of a minatory character, but this is not the easiest sense in this place. True, as Keil suggests, it may mean threatening of evil against the enemies of Israel, but this would be no burden to the Jews. It is better to regard this word here as used in a more general sense, “oracles of deceit.”

Causes of banishment — Literally, expulsions. The original is a single word.


Verse 15

15. Clap their hands — An expression of delight at the calamity of the people. They wag their head as did the Jews in derision of the crucified Christ.


Verse 17

THE CALL TO PRAYER, Lamentations 2:17-19.

17. Devised — Better, purposed. This calamity was no fortuitous event, neither was it a mere devise of Jehovah, but simply the moving forward of the chariot-wheels of the divine administration. The Jewish nation had persisted in placing themselves and their interests in the way of these, and so, of course, the inevitable result must be ruin.


Verse 18

18. Their heart — Namely, the people, who are literally driven to pray for mercy. The apparent lack of logical coherence as to the order is due to the emotional character of the whole poem. O wall… let tears run down, etc. — Similar is the language of Isaiah 14:31, “Howl, O gate.” Of course there is in both places a kind of double metonomy — the wall or gate for the city, and the city for the inhabitants. Let the weeping be uninterrupted day and night — perpetual. Let not the apple of thine eye cease, means, let not the fount of thy tears be dried up.


Verse 19

19. Cry out in the night — Better, wail. Not a cry for relief, but a wail of distress, is meant.


Verse 20

THE PRAYER, Lamentations 2:20-22.

20. Behold, O Lord, etc. — The prayer of the prophet. The fearful picture has been seen, the cries of distress and agony have been heard, and the prophet weaves out of them an argument of prayer.

To whom thou hast done this — An appeal to that covenant upon which their very existence was based.

Their fruit — That is, the fruit of their body.

Children of a span long — Children of their tender care; the word being from a verb, שׂפח, which means to care for tenderly.


Verse 21

21. Young and… old — More literally, boy and old man.


Verse 22

22. My terrors round about — These are the sword, famine, and plagues which had apparently combined for the destruction of the people.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Lamentations 2:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/lamentations-2.html. 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, July 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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