Lamentations 1

The prophet presents a graphic view of Jerusalem once abounding with
people now sitting alone, and as a widow; she that was mighty among
nations, a princess among the provinces, now become tributary. She is
seen weeping sore, and this in the night when darkness and sleep bring
respite to others, to her only a renewal of that grief, less
restrained, which covers her cheeks with tears. Now is proved the folly
as well as the sin that forsook Jehovah for others; but there is for
her no comforter out of her lovers. All her friends, the allies she
counted on, deal treacherously by her, and are but enemies. (Ver. 1, 2.)

The last hope of the nation was gone. Israel had been long a prey to
the Assyrian. But now in the captivity of Judah mourning overspreads
Zion where once were crowded feasts. And there is no exception to the
rule of affliction: her priests sigh, her virgins are afflicted,
herself as a whole in bitterness. On the other hand her adversaries are
in power and command over her. How bitter was all this to a Jew! and in
a sense most bitter where the Jew was godly. For besides the grief of
nature he might share with his countrymen, there was the added and
poignant sorrow that the normal witnesses of Jehovah on earth had
proved false, and he could not see how glory would be brought to God in
spite of and through Israel's unfaithfulness.

It is necessary to bear in mind the peculiar place of Israel and
Jerusalem: otherwise we can never appreciate such a book as this, and
many of the Psalms, as well as much of the Prophets. The patriotism of
a Jew was bound up as that of no other people or country was with the
honour of Jehovah. Providence governs everywhere: no raid of Red
Indians, no manoeuvre of the greatest military power in the West, no
movement or struggle in Asia, without His eye and hand. But He had set
up a direct government in His own land and people, modified from
Samuel's days by kingly power, which had blessing guaranteed on
obedience. But who could guarantee the obedience? Israel pledged it
indeed, but in vain. The people disobeyed, the priests disobeyed, the
kings disobeyed. We see too that in Jeremiah's days false prophets
imitated the true, and supplanted them in the heed of a court and
nation which desired a delusive sanction from God on their own
wilfulness, prophesying what pleased the people in flattery and deceit.
Hence the corruption only lent an immense impetus to those who were
already hastening down the steep of ruin. But this did not lesson the
agony of such as Jeremiah. They realized the inevitable ruin; and he,
not in moral sense only but by divine inspiration, gives expression to
his feelings here. The blessed Lord Jesus Himself is the perfect
pattern of similar grief over Jerusalem, in Him absolutely unselfish
and in every way pure, but so much the more deeply felt. Unless the
relation of that city to God be understood, one cannot enter into this;
and there is danger of either explaining it away into care for their
souls, or of perverting it into a ground for similar feelings, each for
his own country. But it is clear that a man's soul is the same in Pekin
or London, in Jerusalem or Baltimore. The Lord does show us the
immeasurable value of a soul elsewhere; but this is not the key to His
tears over Jerusalem. The impending judgment of God in this world, the
dismal consequences yet in the womb of the future, because of the
rejection of the Messiah as well as all other evil against God, made
the Saviour weep. We cannot wonder therefore that the Spirit of Christ
which was in Jeremiah, and guided him in this Book of Lamentations,
gave the prophet communion with his Master before He Himself proved its
worst against His own person.

God might raise up a fresh testimony, as we know He has done; but,
while bowing to His sovereign will, the utter ruin of the old witness
justly filled the heart of every pious God-fearing Israelite with
sorrow unceasing; and surely not the less "because Jehovah hath
afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions." Grief is not
less over God's people because they have dishonoured God and are
righteously chastised. "Her children are gone into captivity before the
enemy. And from the daughter of Zion all her beauty is departed: her
princes are as harts which find no pasture and go powerless before the

There was the bitter aggravation, ever present, of what the city of
the great King had lost, which He, when He came and was refused, told
out in His broken words of weeping over it. "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. 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. Her filthiness is in
her skirts; she remembereth not her last end; therefore she came down
wonderfully: she had no comforter. O Jehovah, behold my affliction: for
the enemy hath magnified himself, 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. All her people sigh, they seek bread;
they have given their pleasant things for meat to relieve the soul:
see, O Jehovah, and consider: for I am become vile." (Ver. 7-11.) Faith
however sees in the prostration of the guilty city under the relentless
adversary a plea for Jehovah's compassion and interposition on its

Then the prophet personifies the downtrodden Zion turning to the
passing strangers for their pity. "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 Jehovah hath afflicted me in the day
of his fierce anger. 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. 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. 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. 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." (Ver. 12-16.) Still all is
traced to Jehovah's dealing because of Jerusalem's rebellious sins; and
hence He is morally vindicated. "Zion spreadeth forth her hands, and
there is none to comfort her: Jehovah hath commanded concerning Jacob,
that his adversaries should be round about him: Jerusalem is as a
menstruous woman among them. Jehovah 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. 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." (Ver. 17-19.)

Finally, Jehovah is called to behold, because Jerusalem was thus
troubled, and this too inwardly, because of its own grievous rebellion;
and He is besought to requite the enemy who took pleasure in their
abject shame and deep suffering. "Behold, O Jehovah; 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. 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. 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." (Ver. 20-22.)