Lamentations 2

It has been noticed that the solitude of Jerusalem is the prominent
feeling expressed in the opening of these elegies. Here we shall find
its overthrow spread out in the strongest terms and with great detail.
Image is crowded on image to express the completeness of the
destruction to which Jehovah had devoted His own chosen people, city,
and temple; the more terrible, as He must be in His own nature and
purpose unchangeable. None felt the truth of His love to Israel more
than the prophet; for this very reason, none could so deeply feel the
inevitable blows of His hand, obliged as He was to be an enemy to those
He most loved. "How hath the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with the
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.
The Lord hath swallowed up all the habitations of Jacob, and hath not
pitied: he hath thrown down in his wrath the strongholds of the
daughter of Judah; he hath brought them down to the ground: he hath
polluted the kingdom and the princes thereof. 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. 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. The Lord was as an enemy: he hath
swallowed up Israel, he hath swallowed up all her palaces: he hath
destroyed his strongholds, and hath increased in the daughter of Judah
mourning and lamentation." (Ver. 1-5.)

But even this was not the worst. Their civil degradation and ruin
were dreadful; for their outward place and blessings came from God in a
sense peculiar to Israel. But what was this to His degrading His own
earthly dwelling in their midst! "And he hath violently taken away his
tabernacle, as if it were of a garden: he hath destroyed his places of
the assembly. Jehovah 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. 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 Jehovah,
as in the day of a solemn feast." (Ver. 6, 7.) It was of no use to
think of the Chaldeans. God it was who brought Zion and the temple, and
their feasts and fasts and sacrifices, with king and priest, to nought.

Hence in verse 8 it is said with yet greater emphasis, "Jehovah 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.
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 Jehovah. 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." (Ver.
8-10.) The prophet then introduces his own grief. "Mine eyes do fill
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. 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. 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?" He justly feels that
no object can adequately match the series of miseries of Zion. The sea
alone could furnish by its greatness a notion of the magnitude of their

Another element now enters to aggravate the description - the part
which false prophets played before the final crisis came. "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." (Ver. 14.)

Then He depicts the cruel satisfaction of their envious neighbours
over their sufferings and ruin. "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? 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." (Ver. 15, 16,) But the prophet insists that it was Jehovah
who had done the work of destruction because of His people's iniquity,
let the Gentiles boast as they might of their power over Jerusalem.
"Jehovah 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." (Ver. 17.) Sorrowful,
most sorrowful, that His hand had done it all; yet a comfort to faith,
for it is the hand that can and will build up again for His name's
sake. Nor was it a hasty chastening; from earliest days Jehovah had
threatened and predicted by Moses what Jeremiah details in his
Lamentations. Compare Lev. 26, Deut. 28, 31, 32. To Him therefore the
prophet would have the heart to cry really, as it had in vain through
mere vexation. "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. 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. Behold, O Jehovah, 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? 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. Thou hast called as in a
solemn day my terrors round about, so that in the day of Jehovah's
anger none escaped nor remained: those that I have swaddled and brought
up hath mine enemy consumed." (Ver. 18-22.) He arrays the most
frightful excesses the Jews had suffered before God that He may deal
with the enemies who had been thus guilty.

As to the apparent alphabetic dislocation in verses 16, 17, I do not
doubt that it is intentional. In Lam. 1 all is regular as to this. In
Lam. 3, Lam. 4 a transposition occurs similar to what we find here. It
cannot therefore be either accidental on the one hand, or due to a
different order in the alphabet on the other, as has been thought. Some
of the Hebrew MSS. place the verses as they should stand in the regular
order, and the Septuagint pursues a middle course by inverting the
alphabetic marks but retaining the verses to which they should belong
in their Masoretic place. But there is no sufficient reason to doubt
that the Hebrew gives the passage as the Spirit inspired it, spite of
the strangeness of the order, which must therefore have been meant to
heighten the picture of sorrow. In sense they must stand as they are. a
change according to the ordinary place of the initials p and [ would
out the thread of just connection.