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Lamentations 5:1 Remember, Yahweh, what has come on us: look, and see our reproach- The invitation to "look" must be understood in the context of how Jeremiah has complained that God placed a cloud between Himself and His people, through which no prayer could pass (Lam. 3:44). And in Lam. 4:16 he has just stated that God was not looking at His condemned people. He said that in depression, just spot staring at the reality of suffering they were then experiencing. If it felt like God had permanently cast them off, then that was how he felt it was. But now he accepts that although God apparently will not look at them, yet He can be appealed to. But still he is asking God to simply take pity upon the tragedy of suffering people; he still must factor in the critical aspects of repentance and forgiveness.

Lamentations 5:2 Our inheritance is turned to strangers, our houses to aliens-
To lose an inheritance was a major tragedy in the thought of those times. The loss of inheritance was not a tragedy unfelt by God. God was losing His inheritance in that He was allowing it to be consumed (Jer. 12:9), 'polluting it' (Is. 47:6). No man would ever spoil his own inheritance like this; but God did, such was His belief in the need to punish His people for their sins. And yet the metaphor of lost / spoilt inheritance reflects how painful this was for God, felt as a personal loss. The whole idea elicits sympathy for God in this tragic loss.

Lamentations 5:3 We are orphans and fatherless; our mothers are as widows-
Again we note Jeremiah's intense identification with those who had suffered. For he speaks of "we" and "our", rather than of "they" and "theirs". Surely Jeremiah means to remind God of His special care for these categories in His law.

Lamentations 5:4 We have drunken our water for money; our wood is sold to us-
Perhaps the Bedouin tribes took over Jerusalem after it fell, and sold water and firewood to the Jews. See on :9.

Lamentations 5:5 Our pursuers are on our necks: we are weary, and have no rest-
Again his depression leads to exaggeration; there is no evidence that the Jews were moved around the Babylonian empire, making them find no rest. He himself had urged them to build houses in Babylon and settle down there. Being restless was a result of breaking the covenant (s.w. Dt. 28:65) which Jeremiah had repeatedly accused them of doing. They were suffering far less than their iniquities deserved. They refused to repent and in that sense they had no rest to their souls. If they had accepted the yoke of Babylon, then they could have rested in their own land (s.w. Jer. 27:11). Jeremiah had advocated accepting this yoke; and yet again he seems somewhat out of step with God as he complains about it.

Lamentations 5:6 We have given the hand to the Egyptians, to the Assyrians, to be satisfied with bread-
Jeremiah appears to be writing here at the time of the siege or even after it, when Egypt was already no longer a viable help, having been crushed at the battle of Carchemish. And yet even then it would appear from Ez. 29:16 that they still vainly looked to Egypt for help, and the survivors of the siege fled there despite being warned not to. The attraction of trusting human strength rather than Yahweh was so great. Instead of watching or looking to Egypt they should have looked to and waited upon Yahweh.

To give the hand was a metaphor for making a covenant agreement. Ez. 17:18 roundly condemns it as unfaithfulness to God. Yet Jeremiah appears to justify the way Judah had done this by saying that they did it "for bread" (Lam. 5:6), as if the famine sent by God to bring about their repentance was so severe that the alliances were not just for political and military protection, but for basic food. This was how low the one time beautiful prostitute of Ez. 16 had fallen; just "for bread" she made the agreements which meant that she had to have the idols of these people in the Jerusalem temple. Clearly these 'givings of the hand' were wrong, and yet Jeremiah laments as if they were somehow justifiable. But Ez. 17 clearly condemns them as immoral acts. For God as Judah's husband would surely provide her with bread. The lack of it was to bring her back to Him, but instead she responded by madly making more spiritually adulterous covenants. We too can respond to God's chastening hand either by total repentance and casting ourselves upon Him, or by madly seeking to get around His chastisement by yet further sin and unfaithfulness.

But perhaps here we have the beginnings of a sense of repentance; for now finally Jeremiah begins to look back at their spiritually adulterous covenants with the nations, and recognizes that their exile is due to that. See on :16.

Lamentations 5:7 Our fathers sinned, and are no more; we have borne their iniquities-
In Ez. 16:56,63 we noted that God wished to stop Israel using certain proverbs. He paid attention to their sayings, their language, their throwaway expressions. All language is significant to God, and He aimed to reform even the kind of language they spoke. Throughout Ez. 18, Ezekiel labours the point that they were not say any more that the children were suffering for the fathers' sins. This was not to be stated any more (Ez. 18:3). Not saying it any more was to be part of being in the new covenant- Jer. 31:29 had specifically stated this, contemporary with Ezekiel. Ezekiel is so labouring the point in Ez. 18, because he wants them to accept the new covenant in exile, and to live and speak according to it. And yet Jeremiah himself seems to say that God has in fact punished the children for their fathers' sins (Lam. 5:7). He was contradicting his own message in Jer. 31:29. We would therefore have in this an example of a man who in depression says things which are wrong, struggling with God, as Job did; and yet still finally accepted. Although this unjust complaint against God contributes towards the sense of unsatisfactory conclusion which we are left with in this final chapter, leaving us wondering whether Jeremiah's faith did in fact remain intact at the very end. 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.

Lamentations 5:8 Servants rule over us: there is none to deliver us out of their hand-
The servants who ruled over them on behalf of Babylon were the likes of "Tobiah the servant" (Neh. 2:10,19). It seems that they made the remaining Jews work for them as slaves and day labourers (:13). But this was exactly the abuse which they tolerated in their society even during the siege of Jerusalem; and it was exactly because they refused to release their servants and stop abusing them, that they became abused labourers and slaves (Jer. 34:17). So there was in fact a potential deliverer "out of their hand"; but that depended upon repentance, which is a theme Jeremiah is so loath to raise.

Lamentations 5:9 We get our bread at the peril of our lives, because of the sword of the wilderness-
A reference to marauding Arab Bedouin bands. See on :4.

Lamentations 5:10 Our skin is black like an oven, because of the burning heat of famine-
After the siege was over, Jerusalem was burnt and the survivors almost perished of hunger. But famine was a punishment for sin and breaking the covenant. The prophecies of judgment implied at times that none would survive. The fact some came out of the fiery oven of Jerusalem, albeit with blackened skin, was to be seen as a sign of God's grace- and yet Jeremiah laments it.

Lamentations 5:11 They ravished the women in Zion, the virgins in the cities of Judah-
"Virgins" can mean simply 'young women'. Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Hosea have all presented Judah as a prostitute and unfaithful lover. She had made covenants of unique loyalty with the nations, undertaking to worship their gods. And then they discovered that she had made such covenants with multiple nations, and her temple in Jerusalem was full of the gods of her various lovers. She is therefore presented as a suffering the judgment of a prostitute, being burnt by fire; after having her skirts pulled above her head and being gang raped beforehand for good measure (Jer. 13:22,26 etc.). This is the shocking picture of her judgment which we find in the prophets. But Jeremiah so takes the side of his people that he presents this as meaning that she as an innocent, upright woman who was raped by some heartless beast.

Lamentations 5:12 Princes were hanged up by their hand: the faces of elders were not honoured-
The judgment of the royal family and elders was  a major part of Jeremiah's message. And yet he seems to lament that they were not more respected by their conquerors. On one hand, his almost fanatical taking of Israel's side, totally identifying with their feelings, represents the passionate love and pity of God for His condemned people. And yet on the other hand, Jeremiah appears to be out of step with God's own perspective on the princes and elders as expressed in His own word through Jeremiah. Perhaps in this we see Jeremiah revealing to us the deep tension within God Himself when it came to judging His people; see on Hos. 11:8.

Lamentations 5:13 The young men were made to grind at the mill; the children stumbled under the wood-
Jer. 52:11 LXX says that the captive Zedekiah was put "in the mill", as if he was in hard labour, now blinded, exactly like Samson (Jud. 16:21), and as the young men were made to (Lam. 5:13). And the similarities continued, in that it seems Zedekiah likewise did finally repent. Perhaps the young men did likewise.

It seems that they made the remaining Jews work for them as slaves and day labourers (:8). But this was exactly the abuse which they tolerated in their society even during the siege of Jerusalem; and it was exactly because they refused to release their servants and stop abusing them, that they became abused labourers and slaves (Jer. 34:17). So there was in fact a potential deliverer "out of their hand"; but that depended upon repentance, which is a theme Jeremiah is so loath to raise.

Lamentations 5:14 The elders have ceased from the gate, the young men from their music-
But there was great corruption in "the gate"; and the music of the young men was a reflection of their rejection of God. These young men and elders were those condemned in Am. 6:1-7: "Woe to those who are at ease in Zion... Those who put far away the evil day, and cause the seat of violence to come near; who lie on beds of ivory, and stretch themselves on their couches... who strum on the strings of a harp; who invent for themselves instruments of music, like David did;  who drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the best oils; but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph. Therefore they will now go into captivity with the first who go captive; and the feasting and lounging will end". So again we see Jeremiah in depression focusing just upon the immediate experience, without wishing to recall the wider context.

Lamentations 5:15 The joy of our heart is ceased; our dance is turned into mourning-
That their joy should cease was specifically prophesied for their disobedience, in these very Hebrew words (Is. 24:8; Hos. 2:11). And yet Jeremiah laments it. But he surely saw the connection with these prophecies, and that his feelings of lamentation were in fact their fulfilment; and so this leads him to the obvious conclusion: that the real problem is Judah's sin, and they need to repent. As he lamented that the girls were no longer dancing but mourning, his thoughts were led to his own earlier words of Jer. 31:4,13- that a restored, repentant Israel would again dance, and when David repented, his mourning was turned into dancing (s.w. Ps. 30:11). And thus we come to the climax of the book, in the unreserved, unqualified repentance of the next five verses.

Lamentations 5:16 The crown is fallen from our head: woe to us! For we have sinned-
As noted on Lam. 1:1; 3:40,  Lam. 5:16-21 is the climax of the book of Lamentations. And the point is that we have here a total confession of sin, and appeal for God to turn them to Himself (:21) and restore His relationship and Kingdom with Judah as before (:21). The book of Lamentations begins with Jeremiah bitterly complaining that God is as good as dead (see on Lam. 1:1), with him looking solely at the tragedy before his eyes, and progresses to a climax of unconditional repentance in Lam. 5:16-21. But the progression is a jagged graph. There have been points at which he does recognize that the sufferings are directly due to Judah's sins, he increasingly sees that there is a future hope and the God of judgment is also a God of grace. And he vaguely implies that repentance is needed, but always quickly returns to accusing God of unreasonable behaviour; and as noted on Lam. 3:40-42, the appeals for repentance are very qualified and still accuse God of injustice. But now in these verses he does speak clearly of the need for repentance, without excuses, justification, reservation or qualification. The path of Jeremiah was intended by God and himself to be that of Israel; for he had so intensely identified with them throughout the Lamentations. 

It was because of this that "the crown" had fallen and the royal family had been ended (s.w. Jer. 13:18; Ez. 21:26). This may appear obvious to us, but in depression and focus upon the immediate tragedy, it was not so obvious to Jeremiah. But now he grasps it.

 Throughout the book of Jeremiah, and often in Ezekiel, I have made the point that so much hinged upon whether Judah repented after Jerusalem fell. If they did, then the new covenant would have been accepted by them, and the promises of the restored Kingdom would have come true. They generally did not repent, but it was Jeremiah's heartfelt desire that they did, following his own example. And so he wished them to identify with his feelings of anger with God, his struggle with God, his confusion... and thereby to be led to this conclusion of the matter in repentance and desperate appeal for restoration. But it seems Judah got caught up in the early stages of grief, never moved on from them, and failed to follow through to this confession of sin and appeal for restoration which we have in Lam. 5. The last verse of the book (Lam. 5:22) appears starkly out of context with the immediately preceding verses, with their appeal for restoration and confession of sin: "But You have utterly rejected us; You are very angry against us". I suggest this is purposeful, because this is as it were Judah's response to the book and the appeal to repent and appeal for restoration. They remained caught up in their grief and refused to repent and return to God because they considered He had removed Himself too far from them. And so the great prophetic potentials for a repentant Judah, described in such detail in the book of Jeremiah, didn't then come about; although the prophecies are reapplied and rescheduled to fulfilment in the last days.

Lamentations 5:17 For this our heart is faint; for these things our eyes are dim-
The stress is upon "for this"- their sins (:16). Jeremiah's faint heart (Lam. 1:13 s.w.) was our heart; his sudden realization of sinfulness and repentance was to be a pattern for them. It was because of their sin that dimness had come upon them, and they could not see their way; specifically because they had not given glory to Yahweh in repentance (Jer. 13:16 cp. Josh. 7:19). And therefore repentance would give glory to Yahweh, and lift the dimness upon their hearts and eyes.

Lamentations 5:18 for the mountain of Zion, which is desolate: the foxes walk on it-
Now he recognizes that the tragic desolation of Zion, with unclean animals wandering around it, was not so much due to God nor the Babylonians, as Jeremiah has previously lamented; but was essentially due to their sins (:16). The sanctuary would be "desolate" because of their sins (s.w. Lev. 26:31). And after a period of desolation there would be repentance and restoration (Lev. 26:35,43 s.w.). And so- 'let us repent right now if we want to see that restoration'. That was the glaringly obvious conclusion, and now Jeremiah grasps it. The unclean foxes wandered upon Zion because her prophets had been as foxes (s.w. Ez. 13:4).

Lamentations 5:19 You, Yahweh, remain forever; Your throne is from generation to generation-
If God's rulership would be "forever", then He must rule or be king over someone. He must therefore always have a people; and so Jeremiah reasons that God should not forsake His people "forever". See on :20. Solomon had imagined that Yahweh would "remain forever" in the temple (s.w. 1 Kings 8:13). The temple was now in ruins, and so Jeremiah was driven to the conclusion that because Yahweh Himself would "remain forever", therefore He must indwell not a sacred space, but a group of people in whom He would dwell by His Spirit. And so He asks God in :20,21 not to delay, but to revive that people spiritually so that He might dwell in them. God's eternity was therefore of itself an implication that He would revive Zion (Ps. 102:12,13). Zion, however it might be redefined, would "remain forever" as God Himself would (Ps. 125:1). Jeremiah himself had taught earlier that if Zion repented, then like her God, her people would "remain forever" (Jer. 17:25; 25:5, also Ez. 37:25). But this remaining forever was related to entering the new covenant, and that required repentance; and it required an acceptance of a Messianic seed of David, whose throne like Yahweh's would be from generation to generation (Ps. 89:4 s.w.).

Lamentations 5:20 Why do You forget us forever, and forsake us so long time?-
As explained on :19, this is more of a rhetorical question. Because Yahweh was to remain forever, and forever have a people; therefore He would not forget and forsake His people forever. The period between the fall of Jerusalem and this lamentation was hardly a "long time". Perhaps that was how Jeremiah felt, as every moment of desolation appeared to drag eternally. Jeremiah was urging God not to forsake and forget the people, but to take the initiative in spiritually reviving them (:21). Yet perhaps Jeremiah was inspired to use this term "so long time" because his words and feelings here were to be the template and prototype for Judah's final repentance, whenever that would be, perhaps a "long time" in the future.

Lamentations 5:21 Turn us to Yourself, Yahweh, and we shall be turned. Renew our days as of old-
This is the climax of the Lamentations. The appeal is not just for Judah to repent as Jeremiah, their representative, had done. Recognizing how critical is repentance in the return and restoration, it is asking God to take the initiative and give the people repentance. There is again the play on the word shub; returning / repenting would be the basis for God's returning and restoring of His people. The new covenant involved an offer of God's direct working upon the heart of His people, turning them so that they repented (see on Jer. 31:19). Repentance itself [not just forgiveness] is therefore a gift (Acts 3:26; 11:18)- to those who want it, or for those who have the likes of Jeremiah praying for them to receive it. And those who accept the new covenant today experience this same gift of the Spirit. And now Jeremiah begs for this gift of the new covenant to be given to his people, so that the restoration of the kingdom as in the "days of old" can begin. "Renew" is also translated 'rebuild', and is used of the rebuilding at the restoration (s.w. Is. 61:4).

Lamentations 5:22 But You have utterly rejected us; You are very angry against us
- This could be read as by the LXX in the past tense: "For thou hast indeed rejected us; thou hast been very wroth against us", as if it is yet another statement that God's judgments of them were just. But as explained on :16, it may be an intended juxtaposition with the preceding impassioned statement of repentance and begging for restoration; and the point would be that because they did not repent, God's rejection of them continued. Jeremiah’s prophecies of gracious restoration were known by the exiles; but many passages in Isaiah, the Psalms (e.g. Ps. 137:7-9) and Lamentations indicate that the exiles had little conviction they would be fulfilled, considering Judah as “utterly rejected” by God, and just getting on with their lives in Babylon without any real hope in God’s salvation. Considering the prosperity of their lives there, this was an all too convenient conclusion for them to draw. Once again we see that false interpretation of Scripture invariably has a moral subtext to it. And the belief that God is so angry with our sins that we have no real chance of revival... is attractive because it enables us to remain in our status quo, no matter how miserable it is. The conservatism of human nature makes this sadly so attractive to many people, as it was to Judah.