Lamentation for the misery of Jerusalem.
Verses 1-9 A sad representation is here made of the state of God's church, of Jacob and Israel; but the notice seems mostly to refer to the hand of the Lord in their calamities. Yet God is not an enemy to his people, when he is angry with them and corrects them. And gates and bars stand in no stead when God withdraws his protection. It is just with God to cast down those by judgments, who debase themselves by sin; and to deprive those of the benefit and comfort of sabbaths and ordinances, who have not duly valued nor observed them. What should they do with Bibles, who make no improvement of them? Those who misuse God's prophets, justly lose them. It becomes necessary, though painful, to turn the thoughts of the afflicted to the hand of God lifted up against them, and to their sins as the source of their miseries.
Verses 10-22 Causes for lamentation are described. Multitudes perished by famine. Even little children were slain by their mother's hands, and eaten, according to the threatening, ( Deuteronomy 28:53 ) . Multitudes fell by the sword. Their false prophets deceived them. And their neighbours laughed at them. It is a great sin to jest at others' miseries, and adds much affliction to the afflicted. Their enemies triumphed over them. The enemies of the church are apt to take its shocks for its ruins; but they will find themselves deceived. Calls to lamentation are given; and comforts for the cure of these lamentations are sought. Prayer is a salve for every sore, even the sorest; a remedy for every malady, even the most grievous. Our business in prayer is to refer our case to the Lord, and leave it with him. His will be done. Let us fear God, and walk humbly before him, and take heed lest we fall.
CHAPTER (ELEGY) 2
Lamentations 2:1-22 .
1. How--The title of the collection repeated here, and in Lamentations 4:1 .
covered . . . with a cloud--that is, with the darkness of ignominy.
cast down from heaven unto . . . earth--( Matthew 11:23 ); dashed down from the highest prosperity to the lowest misery.
beauty of Israel--the beautiful temple ( Psalms 29:2 , 74:7 , 96:9 , Margin; Isaiah 60:7 , 64:11 ).
his footstool--the ark (compare 1 Chronicles 28:2 , with Psalms 99:5 , 132:7 ). They once had gloried more in the ark than in the God whose symbol it was; they now feel it was but His "footstool," yet that it had been a great glory to them that God deigned to use it as such.
2. polluted--by delivering it into the hands of the profane foe. Compare Psalms 89:39 , "profaned . . . crown."
3. horn--worn in the East as an ornament on the forehead, and an emblem of power and majesty ( 1 Samuel 2:10 , Psalms 132:17 ;
drawn back . . . fight hand--( Psalms 74:11 ). God has withdrawn the help which He before gave them. Not as HENDERSON, "He has turned back his (Israel's) right hand" ( Psalms 89:43 ).
4. ( Isaiah 63:10 ).
stood with . . . right hand--He took His stand so as to use His right hand as an adversary. HENDERSON makes the image to be that of an archer steadying his right hand to take aim. Not only did He withdraw His help, but also took arms against Israel.
all . . . pleasant to . . . eye--( Ezekiel 24:25 ). All that were conspicuous for youth, beauty, and rank.
in . . . tabernacle--the dwellings of Jerusalem.
5. an enemy--( Jeremiah 30:14 ).
mourning and lamentation--There is a play of similar sounds in the original, "sorrow and sadness," to heighten the effect ( Job 30:3 , Hebrew; Ezekiel 35:3 , Margin).
6. tabernacle--rather, "He hath violently taken away His hedge (the hedge of the place sacred to Him, Psalms 80:12 , 89:40 , Isaiah 5:5 ), as that of a garden" [MAURER]. CALVIN supports English Version, "His tabernacle (that is, temple) as (one would take away the temporary cottage or booth) of a garden." Isaiah 1:8 accords with this ( Job 27:18 ).
places of . . . assembly--the temple and synagogues ( Psalms 74:7 Psalms 74:8 ).
solemn feasts--( Lamentations 1:4 ).
7. they . . . made a noise in . . . house of . . . Lord, as in . . . feast--The foe's shout of triumph in the captured temple bore a resemblance (but oh, how sad a contrast as to the occasion of it!) to the joyous thanksgivings we used to offer in the same place at our "solemn feasts" (compare Lamentations 2:22 ).
8. stretched . . . a line--The Easterns used a measuring-line not merely in building, but in destroying edifices ( 2 Kings 21:13 , Isaiah 34:11 ); implying here the unsparing rigidness with which He would exact punishment.
9. Her gates cannot oppose the entrance of the foe into the city, for they are sunk under a mass of rubbish and earth.
broken . . . bars--( Jeremiah 51:30 ).
her king . . . among . . . Gentiles--( Deuteronomy 28:36 ).
law . . . no more--( 2 Chronicles 15:3 ). The civil and religious laws were one under the theocracy. "All the legal ordinances (prophetical as well as priestly) of the theocracy, are no more" ( Psalms 74:9 , Ezekiel 7:26 ).
10. ( Job 2:12 Job 2:13 ). The "elders," by their example, would draw the others to violent grief.
the virgins--who usually are so anxious to set off their personal appearances to advantage.
11. liver is poured, &c.--that is, as the liver was thought to be the seat of the passions, "all my feelings are poured out and prostrated for," &c. The "liver," is here put for the bile ("gall," Job 16:13 ; "bowels," Psalms 22:14 ) in a bladder on the surface of the liver, copiously discharged when the passions are agitated.
swoon--through faintness from the effects of hunger.
12. as the wounded--famine being as deadly as the sword ( Jeremiah 52:6 ).
soul . . . poured . . . into . . . mothers bosom--Instinctively turning to their mother's bosom, but finding no milk there, they breathe out their life as it were "into her bosom."
13. What thing shall I take to witness--What can I bring forward as a witness, or instance, to prove that others have sustained as grievous ills as thou? I cannot console thee as mourners are often consoled by showing that thy lot is only what others, too, suffer. The "sea" affords the only suitable emblem of thy woes, by its boundless extent and depth ( Lamentations 1:12 , Daniel 9:12 ).
14. Thy prophets--not God's ( Jeremiah 23:26 ).
vain . . . for thee--to gratify thy appetite, not for truth, but for false things.
not discovered thine iniquity--in opposition to God's command to the true prophets ( Isaiah 58:1 ). Literally, "They have not taken off (the veil) which was on thine iniquity, so as to set it before thee."
burdens--Their prophecies were soothing and flattering; but the result of them was heavy calamities to the people, worse than even what the prophecies of Jeremiah, which they in derision called "burdens," threatened. Hence he terms their pretended prophecies "false burdens," which proved to the Jews "causes of their banishment" [CALVIN].
15. clap . . . hands--in derision ( Job 27:23 , 34:37 ).
wag . . . head--( 2 Kings 19:21 , Psalms 44:14 ).
perfection of beauty . . . joy of . . . earth--( Psalms 48:2 , 50:2 ). The Jews' enemies quote their very words in scorn.
16, 17. For the transposition of Hebrew letters (Pe and Ain, Lamentations 2:16 Lamentations 2:17 ) in the order of verses,
opened . . . mouth--as ravening, roaring wild beasts ( Job 16:9 Job 16:10 , Psalms 22:13 ). Herein Jerusalem was a type of Messiah.
gnash . . . teeth--in vindictive malice.
we have seen it--( Psalms 35:21 ).
17. Lord--Let not the foe exult as if it was their doing. It was "the Lord" who thus fulfilled the threats uttered by His prophets for the guilt of Judea ( Leviticus 26:16-25 , Deuteronomy 28:36-48 Deuteronomy 28:53 , Jeremiah 19:9 ).
18. wall--( Lamentations 2:8 ). Personified. "Their heart," that is, the Jews'; while their heart is lifted up to the Lord in prayer, their speech is addressed to the "wall" (the part being put for the whole city).
let tears, &c.--( Jeremiah 14:17 ). The wall is called on to weep for its own ruin and that of the city. Compare the similar personification ( Lamentations 1:4 ).
apple--the pupil of the eye ( Psalms 17:8 ).
19. cry . . . in . . . night--( Psalms 119:147 ).
beginning of . . . watches--that is, the first of the three equal divisions (four hours each) into which the ancient Jews divided the night; namely, from sunset to ten o'clock. The second was called "the middle watch" ( Judges 7:19 ), from ten till two o'clock. The third, "the morning watch," from two to sunrise ( Exodus 14:24 , 1 Samuel 11:11 ). Afterwards, under the Romans, they had four watches ( Matthew 14:25 , Luke 12:38 ).
for . . . thy . . . children--that God, if He will not spare thee, may at least preserve "thy young children."
top of . . . street--( Isaiah 51:20 , Nahum 3:10 ).
20. women eat . . . fruit--as threatened ( Leviticus 26:29 , Deuteronomy 28:53 Deuteronomy 28:56 Deuteronomy 28:57 , Jeremiah 19:9 ).
children . . . span long--or else, "children whom they carry in their arms" [MAURER].
21. ( 2 Chronicles 36:17 ).
22. Thou hast called as in . . . solemn day . . . terrors--Thou hast summoned my enemies against me from all quarters, just as multitudes used to be convened to Jerusalem, on the solemn feast days. The objects, for which the enemies and the festal multitude respectively met, formed a sad contrast. Compare Lamentations 1:15 : "called an assembly against me."