|<< Jer 52|
Lamentations 1:1-3:36 Listen
An introduction to Lamentations; it's poetry!
Virtually all conservative Bible scholars agree, Jeremiah is the author of Lamentations, writing it after watching the city of Jerusalem fall to the Babylonians in 586 B.C. These 5 chapters reflect his thoughts on the fall. It is interesting to note that Lamentations is poetry. There is a distinct rhythm to the verses; but wait - there's more. In chapters 1, 2 and 4, each of the 22 verses begins with a word in Hebrew which begins with the next successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet...just like Psalms 119 (see notes); that's called an acrostic style. The verses in chapters 1 and 2 have 3 lines each while the verses in chapter 4 have 2 lines each. Chapter 3 has 66 verses instead of 22. The same letter of the Hebrew alphabet is used in groups of 3 verses until all 22 letters are used in order. Chapter 5 is written free style. Like I said, it's poetry.
You may want to read the account of the demise of Jerusalem in Jeremiah's own words before reading Lamentations. (click here)
It's sad to see what happened (Lamentations 1)
1 How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! how is she become as a widow! she that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary!
2 She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks: among all her lovers she hath none to comfort her: all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies.
3 Judah is gone into captivity because of affliction, and because of great servitude: she dwelleth among the heathen, she findeth no rest: all her persecutors overtook her between the straits.
4 The ways of Zion do mourn, because none come to the solemn feasts: all her gates are desolate: her priests sigh, her virgins are afflicted, and she is in bitterness.
5 Her adversaries are the chief, her enemies prosper; for the LORD hath afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions: her children are gone into captivity before the enemy.
6 And from the daughter of Zion all her beauty is departed: her princes are become like harts that find no pasture, and they are gone without strength before the pursuer.
7 Jerusalem remembered in the days of her affliction and of her miseries all her pleasant things that she had in the days of old, when her people fell into the hand of the enemy, and none did help her: the adversaries saw her, and did mock at her sabbaths.
8 Jerusalem hath grievously sinned; therefore she is removed: all that honoured her despise her, because they have seen her nakedness: yea, she sigheth, and turneth backward.
9 Her filthiness is in her skirts; she remembereth not her last end; therefore she came down wonderfully: she had no comforter. O LORD, behold my affliction: for the enemy hath magnified himself.
10 The adversary hath spread out his hand upon all her pleasant things: for she hath seen that the heathen entered into her sanctuary, whom thou didst command that they should not enter into thy congregation.
11 All her people sigh, they seek bread; they have given their pleasant things for meat to relieve the soul: see, O LORD, and consider; for I am become vile.
12 Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the LORD hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger.
13 From above hath he sent fire into my bones, and it prevaileth against them: he hath spread a net for my feet, he hath turned me back: he hath made me desolate and faint all the day.
14 The yoke of my transgressions is bound by his hand: they are wreathed, and come up upon my neck: he hath made my strength to fall, the Lord hath delivered me into their hands, from whom I am not able to rise up.
15 The Lord hath trodden under foot all my mighty men in the midst of me: he hath called an assembly against me to crush my young men: the Lord hath trodden the virgin, the daughter of Judah, as in a winepress.
16 For these things I weep; mine eye, mine eye runneth down with water, because the comforter that should relieve my soul is far from me: my children are desolate, because the enemy prevailed.
17 Zion spreadeth forth her hands, and there is none to comfort her: the LORD hath commanded concerning Jacob, that his adversaries should be round about him: Jerusalem is as a menstruous woman among them.
18 The LORD is righteous; for I have rebelled against his commandment: hear, I pray you, all people, and behold my sorrow: my virgins and my young men are gone into captivity.
19 I called for my lovers, but they deceived me: my priests and mine elders gave up the ghost in the city, while they sought their meat to relieve their souls.
20 Behold, O LORD; for I am in distress: my bowels are troubled; mine heart is turned within me; for I have grievously rebelled: abroad the sword bereaveth, at home there is as death.
21 They have heard that I sigh: there is none to comfort me: all mine enemies have heard of my trouble; they are glad that thou hast done it: thou wilt bring the day that thou hast called, and they shall be like unto me.
22 Let all their wickedness come before thee; and do unto them, as thou hast done unto me for all my transgressions: for my sighs are many, and my heart is faint.
Very early into one's reading of Lamentations, there's simply no question regarding the name of this book. It's one big, long lament by Jeremiah. In these two chapters, sometimes he speaks of Jerusalem in the third person; sometimes he personifies Jerusalem and refers to the city in the first person. How many ways can it be expressed? Well...poetry tends to many times make the same point over and over again; this poem does just that.
Here's Lamentations in a nutshell:
We see in verse 3, "Judah is gone into captivity because of affliction, and because of great servitude: she dwelleth among the heathen, she findeth no rest: all her persecutors overtook her between the straits." In this chapter, Jeremiah expresses that while it is a horrific sight, Jerusalem had it coming for their persistent disobedience before God. God has orchestrated the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians. Verse 8 says, "Jerusalem hath grievously sinned; therefore she is removed: all that honoured her despise her, because they have seen her nakedness: yea, she sigheth, and turneth backward."
So...what exactly was Jerusalem's sin for which she was judged by God? We saw Jeremiah's warning leading up to the fall of Jerusalem - IDOLATRY! They just could not resist a lifestyle of going after the pagan gods of their neighbors. Hmmmm...despise their neighbors, but love their gods - weird, huh? Isaiah and Jeremiah often referred to this idolatrous practice as spiritual harlotry, and there's your reference to just that in verse 9 which begins with, "Her filthiness is in her skirts..." Jerusalem sold herself into idolatry the same way a harlot sells herself into prostitution.
How bad was it in Jerusalem as Jeremiah laments over it? Notice verse 11, "All her people sigh, they seek bread; they have given their pleasant things for meat to relieve the soul: see, O LORD, and consider; for I am become vile." All of Jerusalem's inhabitants were forced to barter off their riches just for food in the time leading up to their collapse. After all, they had been surrounded by the Babylonian army - no one in or out of the city. Food became very scarce.
Jeremiah had continually warned Jerusalem before the fall to repent, but they wouldn't listen. Now Jeremiah observes in verse 15, "The Lord hath trodden under foot all my mighty men in the midst of me: he hath called an assembly against me to crush my young men: the Lord hath trodden the virgin, the daughter of Judah, as in a winepress." Those same leaders in Jerusalem that scoffed at Jeremiah's prophecies of warnings are now "trodden under foot" by the Babylonians. Though the Babylonians were the conquerors, Jeremiah credits "the Lord" with the fall. Jerusalem was helpless before the mighty Babylonian army...described colorfully in verse 17, "Jerusalem is as a menstruous woman among them." To the Jews, that was the epitome of helplessness.
In verses 21-22, Jeremiah calls upon God to punish the enemies of Jerusalem - those wicked Babylonians whom God had used as his instruments of judgment. And they did end up getting their just rewards, but not until about 50 years or so later.
God's judgment on Jerusalem was thorough (Lamentations 2)
1 How hath the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger, and cast down from heaven unto the earth the beauty of Israel, and remembered not his footstool in the day of his anger!
2 The Lord hath swallowed up all the habitations of Jacob, and hath not pitied: he hath thrown down in his wrath the strong holds of the daughter of Judah; he hath brought them down to the ground: he hath polluted the kingdom and the princes thereof.
3 He hath cut off in his fierce anger all the horn of Israel: he hath drawn back his right hand from before the enemy, and he burned against Jacob like a flaming fire, which devoureth round about.
4 He hath bent his bow like an enemy: he stood with his right hand as an adversary, and slew all that were pleasant to the eye in the tabernacle of the daughter of Zion: he poured out his fury like fire.
5 The Lord was as an enemy: he hath swallowed up Israel, he hath swallowed up all her palaces: he hath destroyed his strong holds, and hath increased in the daughter of Judah mourning and lamentation.
6 And he hath violently taken away his tabernacle, as if it were of a garden: he hath destroyed his places of the assembly: the LORD hath caused the solemn feasts and sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion, and hath despised in the indignation of his anger the king and the priest.
7 The Lord hath cast off his altar, he hath abhorred his sanctuary, he hath given up into the hand of the enemy the walls of her palaces; they have made a noise in the house of the LORD, as in the day of a solemn feast.
8 The LORD hath purposed to destroy the wall of the daughter of Zion: he hath stretched out a line, he hath not withdrawn his hand from destroying: therefore he made the rampart and the wall to lament; they languished together.
9 Her gates are sunk into the ground; he hath destroyed and broken her bars: her king and her princes are among the Gentiles: the law is no more; her prophets also find no vision from the LORD.
10 The elders of the daughter of Zion sit upon the ground, and keep silence: they have cast up dust upon their heads; they have girded themselves with sackcloth: the virgins of Jerusalem hang down their heads to the ground.
11 Mine eyes do fail with tears, my bowels are troubled, my liver is poured upon the earth, for the destruction of the daughter of my people; because the children and the sucklings swoon in the streets of the city.
12 They say to their mothers, Where is corn and wine? when they swooned as the wounded in the streets of the city, when their soul was poured out into their mothers’ bosom.
13 What thing shall I take to witness for thee? what thing shall I liken to thee, O daughter of Jerusalem? what shall I equal to thee, that I may comfort thee, O virgin daughter of Zion? for thy breach is great like the sea: who can heal thee?
14 Thy prophets have seen vain and foolish things for thee: and they have not discovered thine iniquity, to turn away thy captivity; but have seen for thee false burdens and causes of banishment.
15 All that pass by clap their hands at thee; they hiss and wag their head at the daughter of Jerusalem, saying, Is this the city that men call The perfection of beauty, The joy of the whole earth?
16 All thine enemies have opened their mouth against thee: they hiss and gnash the teeth: they say, We have swallowed her up: certainly this is the day that we looked for; we have found, we have seen it.
17 The LORD hath done that which he had devised; he hath fulfilled his word that he had commanded in the days of old: he hath thrown down, and hath not pitied: and he hath caused thine enemy to rejoice over thee, he hath set up the horn of thine adversaries.
18 Their heart cried unto the Lord, O wall of the daughter of Zion, let tears run down like a river day and night: give thyself no rest; let not the apple of thine eye cease.
19 Arise, cry out in the night: in the beginning of the watches pour out thine heart like water before the face of the Lord: lift up thy hands toward him for the life of thy young children, that faint for hunger in the top of every street.
20 Behold, O LORD, and consider to whom thou hast done this. Shall the women eat their fruit, and children of a span long? shall the priest and the prophet be slain in the sanctuary of the Lord?
21 The young and the old lie on the ground in the streets: my virgins and my young men are fallen by the sword; thou hast slain them in the day of thine anger; thou hast killed, and not pitied.
22 Thou hast called as in a solemn day my terrors round about, so that in the day of the LORD’S anger none escaped nor remained: those that I have swaddled and brought up hath mine enemy consumed.
Verse 5 says, "The Lord was as an enemy: he hath swallowed up Israel, he hath swallowed up all her palaces: he hath destroyed his strong holds, and hath increased in the daughter of Judah mourning and lamentation." Again, while Jerusalem fell at the hand of the Babylonians, Jeremiah is clear that it was all the Lord's doing. Notice verse 17, "The LORD hath done that which he had devised; he hath fulfilled his word that he had commanded in the days of old: he hath thrown down, and hath not pitied: and he hath caused thine enemy to rejoice over thee, he hath set up the horn of thine adversaries."
In this chapter, Jeremiah emphasizes the thoroughness of the devastation of Jerusalem. It wasn't just conquered; it was ransacked in the process, accompanied by horrendous suffering. The once-proud Jerusalem was now viewed as a disgrace, as seen in verse 15, "All that pass by clap their hands at thee; they hiss and wag their head at the daughter of Jerusalem, saying, Is this the city that men call The perfection of beauty, The joy of the whole earth?" Even though Jerusalem had fallen away from the proper worship of their God, Jehovah, prior to their fall, they still had a sense of pride in believing the Messianic promise (see notes on Davidic Covenant) that one day Jerusalem would rule the world. No longer did the prospects seem likely that Jerusalem would be "the joy of the whole earth."
You will notice that God gets the credit, not the Babylonians, for the fall of Jerusalem. Babylon was simply the tool God used to chastise Israel for their centuries of disobedience.
Jeremiah's personal grief (Lamentations 3:1-36)
1 I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath.
2 He hath led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into light.
3 Surely against me is he turned; he turneth his hand against me all the day.
4 My flesh and my skin hath he made old; he hath broken my bones.
5 He hath builded against me, and compassed me with gall and travail.
6 He hath set me in dark places, as they that be dead of old.
7 He hath hedged me about, that I cannot get out: he hath made my chain heavy.
8 Also when I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayer.
9 He hath inclosed my ways with hewn stone, he hath made my paths crooked.
10 He was unto me as a bear lying in wait, and as a lion in secret places.
11 He hath turned aside my ways, and pulled me in pieces: he hath made me desolate.
12 He hath bent his bow, and set me as a mark for the arrow.
13 He hath caused the arrows of his quiver to enter into my reins.
14 I was a derision to all my people; and their song all the day.
15 He hath filled me with bitterness, he hath made me drunken with wormwood.
16 He hath also broken my teeth with gravel stones, he hath covered me with ashes.
17 And thou hast removed my soul far off from peace: I forgat prosperity.
18 And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the LORD:
19 Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall.
20 My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me.
21 This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.
22 It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
24 The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.
25 The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.
26 It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.
27 It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.
28 He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him.
29 He putteth his mouth in the dust; if so be there may be hope.
30 He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth him: he is filled full with reproach.
31 For the Lord will not cast off for ever:
32 But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies.
33 For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.
34 To crush under his feet all the prisoners of the earth,
35 To turn aside the right of a man before the face of the most High,
36 To subvert a man in his cause, the Lord approveth not.
This chapter has 66 verses. Every three verses begins with a word beginning with the next successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. In other words, it's poetry. Jeremiah talks about his personal suffering on behalf of fallen Jerusalem with lots of metaphors. It reads like one of David's Psalms.
You do see from his personal comments that he was not well liked in his hometown. What's up with that!? At the time of the writing of Lamentations, everything Jeremiah had prophesied regarding the fall of Jerusalem had happened. Doesn't a prophet get a little bit of credit for being right? The answer is a resounding "NO!" Right down to the end, the Jewish leadership treated Jeremiah like the enemy - no vindication from them. However, in the midst of all this doom-and-gloom poetry, Jeremiah includes a couple of verses that reflect his dependence on God in verses 22-23, "It is of the LORDS mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness." He continues on with this lesson: Even though things may be bad around you, the Lord will help you through the tough times.