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Lamentations 2:1 How has the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in His anger! He has cast down from heaven to the earth the beauty of Israel, and hasn’t remembered His footstool in the day of His anger- It was Jeremiah who was angry (see on Lam. 1:22). But he seems to transfer that anger onto God, and he implies that this Divine anger was too fierce and therefore unmerited. Despite having so often himself demonstrated why God's anger was appropriate and deserved. He was focusing on just one part of the whole picture and obsessing about it. Which is typical depressive behaviour. The cloud between God and Israel was the cloud of their own sins. And Israel had used her "beauty" for prostitution and unfaithfulness to Him. Israel had refused to serve Him, preferring the service of idols and the Gentiles; and so they were hardly His footstool.

Lamentations 2:2 The Lord has swallowed up all the habitations of Jacob, and has not pitied-
Jer. 16:5 had explained why God appeared to have withdrawn His pity. The reason was that God's covenant, referred to as "kindness and mercy", was broken; they were not at peace with Him. And so they should not be pitied in their death. And yet although the covenant was broken by Israel, and God broke His side of it in response to that... He in fact still treated them as His covenant people. This is not to say that God is not serious about His statements. He is; but His love, grace and pity is displayed as the more extraordinary, in that it leads Him to break the words and threats spoken in justifiable and understandable wrath. For the same Hebrew phrase "loving kindness and tender mercies" is used again by Jeremiah in Lam. 3:22, where he reflects that these have not been withdrawn from God's people, even though Zion is now in ruins. Again we see a progressive movement in Lamentations through the stages of grief, and towards an understanding that God does love and pity His people, but they had precluded the experience of this by refusing to repent. This is why the climax of the lamentations is in the confession of sin, wholeheartedly and without any self-justification, which we have in Lam. 5:16-21.

He has thrown down in His wrath the strongholds of the daughter of Judah; He has brought them down to the ground- Yet it was Jeremiah who had specifically "thrown down" Jerusalem and her fortifications through his prophetic word; see on Jer. 1:10, where the same word is used. His lament is therefore at best an indication that like us, he failed to realize the huge potential in God's word that he was preaching, and the eternal consequences which arise from someone hearing it.

He has profaned the kingdom and its princes- But they had profaned themselves; and the princes were those who had conspired to kill Jeremiah (Jer. 37:15; 38:4,25,27) as they did other prophets (Jer. 26:21). It is to Jeremiah's spiritual credit that he did not rejoice at all in the fall of his enemies but rather shared God's broken heart for the lost and the evil.

Lamentations 2:3 He has cut off in fierce anger all the horn of Israel; He has drawn back His right hand from before the enemy-
Jeremiah was willfully ignorant of the obvious truth of Ps. 75:10: "I will cut off all the horns of the wicked, but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up".

He has burned up Jacob like a flaming fire, which devours all around- "Burned up" is used of how Babylon "consumed" Jerusalem with fire (Neh. 2:3,13 etc.). The people and their land were to be "consumed" by the fire which was contained in the words Jeremiah spoke (Jer. 5:14,17). But all who devoured / consumed them would be "held guilty" (Jer. 2:3; 10:25; 30:16). And yet in depression, Jeremiah lamented that the fire had consumed (Lam. 2:3; 4:11), when it was His owns words which had been that devouring fire. His lament was therefore tantamount to a statement of regret that he had been used as the vehicle for this devouring fire.

Lamentations 2:4 He has bent His bow like an enemy, He has stood with His right hand as an adversary, has killed all that were pleasant to the eye: in the tent of the daughter of Zion He has poured out His wrath like fire-
see on Lam. 3:13. Jeremiah appears now to be more angry with God than with the Babylonians, who had literally bent their bows and destroyed the temple. Jeremiah himself had been full of God's wrath and had poured it out upon the people in his prophetic words (Jer. 6:11). And now he apparently laments that, as if he was almost negating his own prophetic calling. It's as if he had then been on God's side, but was now too much on the side of his sinful people. What had once been deep within him he now as it were distances himself from.

Lamentations 2:5 The Lord has become as an enemy, He has swallowed up Israel; He has swallowed up all her palaces, He has destroyed his strongholds; He has multiplied in the daughter of Judah mourning and lamentation-
The image of swallowing up portrays God as a beast, angry and judgmental upon His own people. It was the beast of Babylon who "swallowed up" Israel (Jer. 51:34 s.w.). The palaces, the great houses of the wealthy in Jerusalem, had been built on the back of abused labour, as Jeremiah had pointed out; and those houses were destroyed because offerings to idols had been made upon their roofs (Jer. 19:13).

Lamentations 2:6 He has violently taken away His tent, as if it were just in a garden; He has destroyed His place of assembly: Yahweh has caused solemn assembly and Sabbath to be forgotten in Zion-
This again is a very positive take on the gatherings held in the temple. Ezekiel was shown in vision how the priests and elders were solemnly worshipping idols within the temple. And so God said that He "hated" their "solemn assemblies" (s.w. Is. 1:14). Yet in depression, Jeremiah laments that these "solemn assemblies" were no more (Lam. 1:4; 2:6).

And has despised in the indignation of His anger the king and the priest- "Despise" is usually translated "provoke". Jeremiah was really hurt and provoked by the opposition of his family (Jer. 23:17); and in that again he manifested Yahweh, who was likewise provoked by Israel (s.w. Dt. 31:20; 32:19). So Jeremiah seems to have forgotten all that and appears to object to God being provoked by His people; even though he had earlier lived out the same feelings of being provoked by the same group. Again we have the impression that now he is out of step with Yahweh, and yet even in this, he is manifesting the unreasonable pity of Yahweh for His condemned people.

Lamentations 2:7 The Lord has cast off His altar, He has abhorred His sanctuary; He has given up into the hand of the enemy the walls of her palaces: they have made a noise in the house of Yahweh, as in the day of a solemn assembly-
As explained on :6, the feasts and holy place had been abused by Judah. They had made it no longer a "sanctuary", a holy place, but rather a profane place. Jeremiah himself had made that point in his prophecies (e.g. Jer. 7:11-14). But he chose, in his depression, to hold on to the old narrative, as we all do- in this case, that the temple site was holy space, and God had been wrong to allow the Gentiles to enter and profane it. But Isaiah as well as Jeremiah had often demonstrated that the holy place was within human hearts, and not any more to be understood in physical terms. Because the holy space had been made unholy by Israel. Jeremiah had taught in Jer. 7:12 and often that they were wrong to consider the temple a sacred space which somehow automatically preserved them from any prosecution for their sins. They had been reminded that God doesn't operate sacred spaces like that. God's earlier sacred space in Shiloh had been destroyed because of the wickedness of the people, and the Jerusalem temple was not going to be any different.

We note here and in :8 Jeremiah's particular concern for the walls of the temple being destroyed, the wall of Zion (:8). But Ez. 23:14 says that they had used those walls to portray images of their idols. Jeremiah surely knew this. He was intent upon seeing just one aspect of a picture, repeating to himself a narrative which was seriously incomplete to the point of being wrong; and that was what his people were also doing.

Lamentations 2:8 Yahweh has purposed to destroy the wall of the daughter of Zion-
The evil purposed need not have come about- if they repented. The "purpose" of God is therefore open ended and sensitive to human repentance. Jer. 18:8; 26:3; 36:3 use the same word to say that God will "repent of the evil that I purposed to do to them"- if they repented. They did not. And despite knowing all this, Jeremiah seems to lament the execution of the evil purposed.

He has stretched out the line, He has not withdrawn His hand from destroying- "Not oppressed [the poor]" in Ez. 18:17 is literally 'to turn back the hand from'. God did not turn His hand back from destroying Jerusalem (Lam. 2:8 s.w.) because the people of Judah and those already in exile had not responded to Ezekiel's call to 'turn back their hand' from oppressing the poor. Their attitude to their poor brethren was to become God's attitude to them. And that is taught by the Lord Jesus in His parables as being the principle by which we too shall be judged.

He has made the rampart and wall to lament; they languish together- The Biblical record contains a large number of references to the frequent tears of God’s people, both in bleeding hearts for other people, and in recognition of their own sin. And as we have seen, these things are related. Consider:

-   “My eye pours out tears to God” [i.e. in repentance?] (Job 16:20)

-   Isaiah drenches Moab with tears (Is. 16:9)

-   Jeremiah is a fountain of tears for his people (Jer. 9:1; Lam. 2:8)

-   David’s eyes shed streams of tears for his sins (Ps. 119:136; 6:6; 42:3)

-   Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Mt. 23:37)

-   Blessed are those who weep (Lk. 6:21)

-   Mary washed the Lord’s feet with her tears (Lk. 7:36-50)

-   Paul wept for the Ephesians daily (Acts 20:19,31).

We have to ask whether there are any tears, indeed any true emotion, in our walk with our Lord. Those who go through life with dry eyes are surely to be pitied. Surely, in the light of the above testimony, we are merely hiding behind a smokescreen if we excuse ourselves by thinking that we’re not the emotional type.  Nobody can truly go through life humming to themselves “I am a rock, I am an island…and an island never cries”. The very emotional center of our lives must be touched. The tragedy of our sin, the urgency of the world’s salvation, the amazing potential provided and secured in the cross of Christ…surely we cannot be passive to these things. We live in a world where emotion and passion are decreasing. Being politically correct, looking right to others… these things are becoming of paramount importance in all levels of society. The passionless, postmodernist life can’t be for us, who have been moved and touched at our very core by the work and call and love of Christ to us. For us there must still be what Walter Brueggemann called “the gift of amazement”, that ability to feel and say “Wow!” to God’s grace and plan of salvation for us.


Lamentations 2:9 Her gates are sunk into the ground; He has destroyed and broken her bars: her king and her princes are among the nations where the law is not; yes, her prophets find no vision from Yahweh-
It was little use lamenting that Israel were now amongst those who didn't live by Yahweh's law; for they had despised that law, and broken it completely- bearing in mind that it was the marriage contract between God and themselves. The silence of Yahweh through the prophets is unsurprising. And yet God had spoken at length through Jeremiah as a prophet. But here he seems to mentally associate himself completely with the people in their unGodly self lamentation.

Lamentations 2:10 The elders of the daughter of Zion sit on the ground, they keep silence; they have cast up dust on their heads; they have clothed themselves with sackcloth: the virgins of Jerusalem hang down their heads to the ground-
see on Job 2:12. The elders here are of Zion rather than of Jerusalem, so perhaps the priesthood is in view. Jeremiah had frequently denounced them, and they had plotted his death. But now his heart bleeds for them- perhaps because as a priest he was related to them. Their grief for the loss of their temple was real enough. But they treated it as a mere talisman; Jeremiah had almost mocked their attachment to it earlier, in Jer. 7:4 Don’t trust in lying words by saying, Yahweh’s temple, Yahweh’s temple, Yahweh’s temple, are these". But now he feels so heartbroken for those who thought and felt like that. His identification at this time is completely with the people and not with the Divine, prophetic perspective. And yet it was this identification with them which led him to spurn the good life in Babylon and instead choose to live and die with the impenitent people in Egypt. We too are caught between our natural identification with humanity, and our knowledge of their sin and rejection of God's ways.

Lamentations 2:11 My eyes do fail with tears, my heart is troubled; my liver is poured on the earth, because of the destruction of the daughter of my people, because the young children and the infants swoon in the streets of the city-
This and :12 appear to refer to the sufferings of the people during the famine in the siege, which Jeremiah himself had prophesied several times. His ministry had begun with the assurance that his words would have the power of destruction; and he had been psychologically strengthened for that ministry. But now the reality of what he preached swamped him to the point of apparent regret he had had anything to do with this destruction. The obvious, glaring point is that the people had willfully ignored all his appeals for repentance, had despised God's patience and grace- and so this had come because of that.

Lamentations 2:12 They ask their mothers for grain and wine, whilst they swoon as the wounded in the streets of the city, with their soul poured out into their mothers’ bosom-
We must remember that Jer. 7:11 and several times in Ezekiel have convicted the people of offering their children as sacrifices to idols in Yahweh's temple. The tragic picture painted here of suffering children and distressed parents must be balanced by that fact; a society who allowed that to happen and trusted in those idols was now receiving an appropriate judgment. But Jeremiah struggles with this. He focuses on the narrative formed by his own gut reactions, rather than the prophetic word he had himself uttered.

Lamentations 2:13 What shall I testify to you? What shall I liken to you, daughter of Jerusalem? What shall I compare to you, that I may comfort you, virgin daughter of Zion? For your breach is great like the sea: who can heal you?-
The broken earthen bottle which was smashed couldn't be made whole again- apparently (Jer. 19:11). But the miracle of grace was that like the useless burnt vine branch of Ez. 15 and the marred linen girdle buried by the Euphrates, the smashed bottle, like Ezekiel's dry bones vision, could be made whole again. The stripes upon the suffering servant could 'heal' Israel (s.w. "made whole", Is. 53:5). Jeremiah had preached as much, that being made whole again was possible (Jer. 3:22; 30:17; 33:6 s.w.). The rhetorical question of Lam. 2:13 "Zion... who can heal you / make you whole again?" (s.w.) had its answer in Yahweh. But we could read this as Jeremiah in depression appearing to have lost faith in the healing promised in Jer. 30:13, for here he laments amongst the ruins of Jerusalem that Zion is without a healer.

Jeremiah earnestly wishes to comfort them, and is frustrated that he cannot- despite surely being aware of Isaiah's prophecy that Yahweh would comfort Zion at the restoration (s.w. Is. 51:3,12 "I, even I, am He that comforts you"; Is. 66:13 "so will I comfort you"; Is. 40:1; 49:13; 52:9). "Comfort" is the same word as "repent"; and God had said that He would repent (s.w.) if Judah repented (Jer. 18:8; 26:3). The real problem was that Judah had not repented, and Jeremiah refused to factor that into his feelings; see on Lam. 1:9.

Lamentations 2:14 Your prophets have seen for you false and foolish visions; they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity, but have seen for you false oracles and causes of banishment-
There were many false prophets at the time of Jeremiah and Ezekiel; when in fact the true word of prophecy could have 'turned away' the captivity, if the exiles and the people left in Judah had responded to it (Lam. 2:14). Indeed it could have been that Zedekiah returned as "the prince" of the restored kingdom; see on Ez. 12:12. Ezekiel prophesied to the exiles in Babylon of what was going to happen to the Jews still in the land, exactly so that the exiles' repentance might avert those in the land suffering further. An ameliorated program of judgment and events would have been possible if they had repented.

This is one of many cases of self-justification in Lamentations (Lam. 1:2,19; Lam. 2:14; 4:13; 5:7), which contradicts the prophetic position, whereby blame is placed upon Judah, whereas now Jeremiah laments the situation as if Judah is being hard done by, with the masses suffering because of their false prophets- when Jeremiah himself has earlier said that the masses were as guilty as the false prophets, who only taught what the people wanted to hear.

The whole exile and return need never have happened- the prophecies of this need not have come true in the way they did, for even before the Babylonian invasion, Judah had been offered the prospect of eternally remaining in their land, if they repented (Jer. 7:7). And after it happened, Jeremiah commented: “Your prophets… did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity” (Lam. 2:14 NIV). It could have been ‘warded off’ by the peoples’ repentance. Note how Jeremiah, himself a prophet at the time, so wishes to take the blame upon himself for not  pleading more powerfully with the people. Perhaps we will have similar feelings when the time of tribulation breaks forth in the very last days.  

Lamentations 2:15 All that pass by clap their hands at you. They hiss and wag their head at the daughter of Jerusalem saying, Is this the city that men called The perfection of beauty, The joy of the whole land?-
Jeremiah had foretold this (Jer. 19:8; 22:8), but now he seems stunned to see it happen. And yet he was so certain of the fulfillments of the prophecies that he often speaks in the past tense of those things which were yet future. The hissing and mocking was because Jerusalem had been praised in David's psalms (e.g. Ps. 48:2; 50:2) as the joy of the whole earth and perfect in beauty. Those Psalms of David were well known; for David after the Bathsheba incident had vowed to preach the good news of Yahweh's grace to the entire world. He had done so through his Psalms. His music ministry had been successful; the nations knew the songs about Zion being the joy of the whole earth and the perfection of beauty. And so they mocked it as it lay in ruins.

The Lord’s Bible mind would have found some sort of encouragement from those who mocked Him. For the Lord was so clearly bearing the judgment of Israel’s sins: “All who pass along the way clap their hands at you: they hiss and wag their heads at the daughter of Jerusalem" (Lam. 2:15). And note too Jer. 48:27 (LXX 31:27): “Is Israel a laughing stock? Was she caught between thieves that you wag your head?". This is exactly the Lord’s position, between thieves, and mocked- but by Israel. These prophecies imply it was the Gentiles who would mock Israel; thus by treating the Lord as they did, they declared themselves to be no longer God’s people but Gentiles.

Lamentations 2:16 All your enemies have opened their mouth wide against you; 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!-
But Jeremiah earlier had portrayed these enemies as the "lovers" of Judah, to whom they had desperately prostituted themselves. They had sought their help against Babylon, making exclusive covenants with each of them, promising to worship their gods in the Jerusalem temple. And then the lovers realized that they were not the exclusive love of Judah, and therefore in anger turned against her and joined the Babylonians in destroying the temple which symbolized her adultery and unfaithfulness, both to God and man. But here again, Jeremiah is seeing things only from the perspective of what is immediately before his eyes; all he saw was these people as angry, exalting enemies. He shut his mind to the reasons why and the background. He is really a case study of man in depression.

Lamentations 2:17 Yahweh has done that which He purposed; He has fulfilled His word that He commanded in the days of old; He has thrown down, and has not pitied: He has caused the enemy to rejoice over you-
The purpose of God to do these things had been expressed by Jeremiah himself. But he somehow distances himself from that, saying that this was stated "in the days of old". He imagines that it was the curses of Moses which were coming true. And that was long ago; and likewise he must have seen his own words of judgment as uttered as it were in another life, in olden days. He had forgotten his own prophetic mission.

He has exalted the horn of your adversaries- "Exalted" is the Hebrew word which forms part of the name "Jeremiah", 'Yah will exalt'. Jeremiah in depression is as it were mocking his own name, which he had assumed meant that Yahweh would finally exalt Israel, when now it seemed He was exalting her enemies. For "thrown down", see on :2.

Lamentations 2:18 Their heart cried to the Lord: wall of the daughter of Zion, let tears run down like a river day and night; give yourself no respite; don’t let the apple of your eye cease-
Here we see a movement towards a more spiritual pole after the self absorption of the previous verses. But he doesn't yet make explicit that the crying to the Lord should be in repentance, not simply for relief from present suffering.  Jeremiah wanted his grief to be reflective of the grieving prayer of the remnant to their God: “Cry aloud to the Lord! O wall of daughter Zion! Let tears stream down like a torrent day and night! Give yourself no rest, your eyes no respite!” (Lam. 2:18 RSV). His grief really was and is to be the pattern for others. Doubtless it influenced the Lord Himself, who wept over Zion (Lk. 19:41), inevitably holding Jeremiah in His mind.

Clearly there is an allusion to Jer. 14:17 "You shall say this word to them, Let my eyes run down with tears night and day, and let them not cease". This could be read as an invitation to repent in tears, in the desperate hope God may yet change His intended judgment; hence LXX "Let your eyes shed tears day and night, and let them not cease: for the daughter of my people has been sorely bruised, and her plague is very grievous". But there is an ambiguity in the text, whereby apparently God is the one who is mourning night and day. Perhaps this is purposeful; they were to mourn as He did, seeing the coming judgments from His perspective, rather than from the human perspective of considering them as just a tragic misfortune. Jeremiah himself entered into this, for he wept night and day for Zion. But here in Lam. 2:18, Jeremiah appears to ask the remaining Jews in Jerusalem to pray night and day; and yet there too, the grammar is ambiguous. For he may be saying there that they had already done this. The truth was they had not, Jeremiah had done so, but contrary to what he hoped, God was not prepared to accept his tears of repentance and mourning as theirs (see on Jer. 14:11).

Isaiah had prophesied that God would not rest until Zion be restored. Watchmen would be set upon Zion’s walls who would give Him no rest until the walls be rebuilt (Is. 62:1,6,7). At this time, Zion was felt by God to be the “apple of his eye” (Zech. 2:8). This prophesy started to be fulfilled straight after the Babylonian invasion when Jeremiah urged the desolated people to pray: “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” (Lam. 2:18). The prayerful remnant gave themselves no rest; and thus was fulfilled the prophecy that God would have no rest. Sincere prayer according to God’s will meant that there was a strange mutuality between the Father and those who prayed to Him. Both He and they considered Zion to be the apple of their eye; and thus the prayers were ultimately answered and Zion was restored.

Lamentations 2:19 Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the watches; pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord: lift up your hands toward Him for the life of your young children, that faint for hunger at the head of every street-
Uplifted hands spoke of intense prayer. It is fitting that the Lord died with hands and arms lifted up above his head, rather than spread out in a crucifix form, seeing that uplifted hands is a symbol of God's promises being confirmed (Ez. 20:5,6,15; 36:7; 47:14), as well as intense prayer (Lam. 2:19; 1 Tim. 2:8; 2 Chron. 6:12,13; Ps. 28:2), which Christ was engaged in on the cross (Heb. 5:7).

And yet the intense prayer was for the lives of their children, rather than in repentance. As the Lamentations progress, the desire to pray to God becomes more focused upon repentance, and comes to a climax at the very end in Lam. 5:16-21. Jeremiah had a lot to say about children in his prophecies, especially about the way the people offered their infants to the idols, and the way in which Zedekiah's refusal to repent would lead to the suffering of innocent children. Although Jeremiah is getting 'warmer' by appealing for prayer to God, he is still not asking for the repentance toward God which was so essential. But as the Lamentations progress, that will come.

Lamentations 2:20 Look, Yahweh, and see to whom You have done thus! Shall the women eat their fruit, the children that are dandled in the hands? Shall the priest and the prophet be killed in the sanctuary of the Lord?-
This seems a placing of false guilt on God. The Jeremiah prophecies have repeatedly stated that judgment was really but an extension of the things they themselves did. They had offered their children to Gentile idols, and so their children would be slain by the Gentiles. The women were driven to eating their children in the famine, but they had earlier sacrificed their children to Baal. The prophets in view were the false prophets, who were responsible for teaching Judah to sin; and who had tried to murder Jeremiah. Jeremiah flips back into seeing things solely from the point of view of human tragedy, without factoring in all the background which he himself had been preaching for some years.

Lamentations 2:21 The youth and the old man lie on the ground in the streets; my virgins and my young men are fallen by the sword: You have killed them in the day of Your anger; You have slaughtered, and not pitied-
This had been the specific fate predicted by Jeremiah for their choosing to listen to false prophets rather than to him (Jer. 14:16). But now the people were cast out in the streets of Jerusalem, Jeremiah, the true prophet, laments as if this judgment is somehow unreasonable. I feel that whilst the human tragedy was enough to make anybody cry "Too much!", Jeremiah is here out of step with the God who had inspired him to make just this prophecy in places like Jer. 14:16.

Lamentations 2:22 You have called, as in the day of a solemn assembly, my terrors on every side; there was none that escaped or remained in the day of Yahweh’s anger: those that I have dandled and brought up has my enemy consumed
- Perhaps Jeremiah lost his own children, hence his bitterness. But he could still be understood here as being totally identified with his own people, feeling their suffering as if it were his very own. Although in a sense he goes too far in this, his sense of identity with his sinful people is in another sense commendable. Seeing he had suffered so much from them and very nearly died at their hands, his love and identity toward them is a reflection of a truly spiritual heart. The terrors on every side were God's judgments on the people for how they had treated Jeremiah. Jer. 20:10 "Terror everywhere (GNB) / on every side" is one meaning of "Magormissabib "in Jer. 20:3. The terror to come upon Judah was partly because of their defamation of Jeremiah, who had spoken God's word to them. And yet now it comes, Jeremiah feels that there are terrors around him on every side, so deep was his sense of identity with his people. See on :21.