LAMENTATIONS CHAPTER 1.
Lamentation over the Destruction of the City, the Nation, and the Temple.
DESCRIPTION OF THE SHAMEFUL LOT WHICH HAS COME UPON JERUSALEM. — V. 1. How doth the city sit solitary that was full of people! It is a strong expression of horrified astonishment over the fact that the formerly populous city is now lonely and deserted, sitting alone in deep mourning. How is she become as a widow! She no longer enjoys the fellowship of Jehovah, her Husband, and she has lost her children, who have been killed in battle and carried away into exile. She that was great among the nations and princess among the provinces, her rule being accepted more or less continuously in the surrounding provinces from the Brook of Egypt to the Euphrates, how is she become tributary! herself condemned to servitude and to the payment of tribute-money. V. 2. She weepeth sore in the night, the slumber being driven away from her eyelids by the greatness of her sorrow, and her tears are on her cheeks, since they flow without stopping and have no chance to dry; among all her lovers, who formerly professed affection for her, she hath none to comfort her; all her friends, upon whom she depended for assistance, have dealt treacherously with her, deserting her in the midst of the dangers which came upon her; they are become her enemies, their former profession of loyalty changing to open hostility. V. 3. Judah is gone into captivity, led away into exile, because of affliction, the misery upon the country on account of the occupation of the land by the Chaldeans, and because of great servitude, the servile work which was included in the tributary service exacted by the conquerors; she dwelleth among the heathen, sojourning among them, as it were, in the hope of finding some measure of security; she findeth no rest, being disappointed also in this respect; all her persecutors overtook her between the straits, so that there was no outlet for her, no chance to escape. V. 4. The ways of Zion do mourn, all the roads leading to the capital lying desolate, because there are no pilgrims found there, because none come to the solemn feasts, the great festivals of the Jewish year; all her gates are desolate, for there is no longer the happy traffic of former years; her priests sigh, under the heavy oppression which they suffer and because the Temple and its worship are no longer in existence, her virgins are afflicted, since their joyful singing no longer enlivened the great festivals, and she is in bitterness, she feels her misfortunes with poignant grief. V. 5. Her adversaries are the chief, that is, the head, the rulers of Judah, her enemies prosper, their good fortune intensifying the darkness of her own calamity; for the Lord hath afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions, the punishment which she was suffering being fully deserved; her children are gone into captivity before the enemy, literally, "her infants in absence of strength before the pursuer." V. 6. And from the daughter of Zion all her beauty is departed, the presence of Jehovah and His glory in her midst; her princes are become like harts that find no pasture, so that they have no strength to flee and escape from the enemy, and they are gone without strength before the pursuer. Cp. 2 Kings 25, 3. 4. V. 7. Jerusalem remembered in the days of her affliction and of her miseries all her pleasant things that she had in the days of old, the members of the Jewish Church recalling with eager remembrance the glorious evidences of God's blessing which had been theirs, when her people fell into the hand of the enemy, and none did help her, the days of her calamity contrasting very strikingly with her former state of blessedness; the adversaries saw her and did mock at her Sabbaths. As the Jewish day of rest was a favorite object of mockery on the part of the enemies, so they now thought it a huge joke that a general and lasting Sabbath had come upon their country. V. 8. Jerusalem hath grievously sinned, chiefly by joining in the idolatry of Israel and the heathen nations, therefore she is removed, as one separated from the congregation on account of legal impurity; all that honored her despise her because they have seen her nakedness, her sins and vices having now become known; yea, she sigheth, since now at last she has, in a measure, come to the realization of her transgressions, and turneth backward, withdrawing from men, so that her shame may no longer be witnessed. V. 9. Her filthiness is in her skirts, as of a woman Levitically unclean; she remembereth not her last end, she did not consider the result of her persistent iniquity, therefore she came down wonderfully, the greatness of her fall being such as to cause men to marvel; she had no comforter, no one to take her part with so much as a word of consolation. It is for this reason that her sighing is heard: O Lord, behold my affliction; for the enemy hath magnified himself, increasing his insolence and violence. The prophet now continues his description of Jerusalem's misery. V. 10. The adversary hath spread out his hand upon all her pleasant things, blasphemously robbing even the precious vessels and appointments of the Temple; for she hath seen that the heathen entered into her Sanctuary, whom thou didst command that they should not enter into thy congregation, the heathen as such being excluded from the Temple, except where they were proselytes of righteousness. They had been excluded from the Sanctuary, but here they entered with blasphemous intent, ruthlessly trampling down and robbing just as they chose. V. 11. All her people sigh, with the calamity of the severe famine as a further cause for groaning, they seek bread; they have given their pleasant things for meat to relieve the soul, no valuables being too precious, in this emergency, where the question is to save lives. Their groaning arises in a fervent appeal: See, O Lord, and consider, for I am become vile, an object of wretchedness. The first step of true repentance is a full and unequivocal acknowledgment of one's own sinfulness and a corresponding free confession of it to the Lord.
THE LAMENT OF THE CITY AND THE ANSWER OF THE LORD. — V. 12, Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Will none of those who are witnesses of her misery and shame take the proper notice of her calamity? Behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow which is done unto me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the day of His fierce anger. The greatness of Jerusalem's misery was so unusual that men seeing it were bound to conclude that there was a special hand and work of God in it. The picture is that of an outcast by the wayside begging the passers-by for at least some show of sympathy. And it may be said that Jerusalem, in this instance, prefigures Christ, whom the language is prophetically made to suit. V. 13. From above hath He sent fire into my bones, which are here thought of as organs of the body that are first to feel a racking pain, and it prevaileth against them, so that the very vital powers are affected; He hath spread a net for my feet, to entangle her in His judgments; He hath turned me back, making it impossible to become free from the meshes of the net; He hath made me desolate and faint all the day. The city is thus pictured as a person whose happiness is destroyed and whose health is broken. V. 14. The yoke of my transgressions is bound by His hand, sin being not only a taskmaster, but a yoke pressing the sinner down, with God Himself, as it were, holding the reins firmly twisted round His hand, so that escape is impossible; they are wreathed, the many cords of sin being woven together increasing the load, and come up upon my neck, binding the sinners to their willful transgressions; He hath made my strength to fall, so that it is entirely broken; the Lord hath delivered me into their hands from whom I am not able to rise up, whom she did not have the strength to resist. V. 15. The Lord hath trodden under foot all my mighty men in the midst of me, slaying them while they were engaged in the defense of the city; He hath called an assembly against me to crush my young men, the very expression setting forth the strange contrast and the severity of the punishment; the Lord hath trodden the virgin, the daughter of Judah, as in a wine-press. Cp. Joel 4, 13; Is, 63, 2. 3. V. 16. For these things I weep, giving free rein to her tears, mine eye, mine eye, runneth down with water, because the comforter that should relieve my soul is far from me, the friends to whom she might have looked for words and deeds which would restore her soul having forsaken her; my children are desolate because the enemy prevailed, the enemy being still in power, with the result that the inhabitants of Jerusalem were destroyed, that they perished most miserably. V. 17. Zion spreadeth forth her hands, in a gesture imploring help, and there is none to comfort her; the Lord hath commanded concerning Jacob that his adversaries should be round about him, his very neighbors being his enemies and seeking his destruction. Jerusalem is as a menstruous woman among them, shut out from intercourse with people and from attendance at the Temple-worship. These facts impress Jerusalem as being important and true; she must admit their justice. V. 18. The Lord is righteous, just in His treatment of the rebellious city; for I have rebelled against His commandment. Hear, I pray you, all people, and behold my sorrow, since she feels the need of sympathy; my virgins and my young men are gone into captivity, this fact showing the very climax of her afflictions. V. 19. I called for my lovers, the nations which had professed an interest of true affection, but they deceived me; my priests and mine elders gave up the ghost in the city, both the spiritual and the temporal rulers expiring in the neighborhood of the Sanctuary of Jehovah, while they sought their meat to relieve their souls, the very nobles of the people being obliged to seek food of any kind whatsoever, if it only would suffice to preserve their lives. V. 20. Behold, O Lord, for I am in distress, she implored Him to observe how badly she fared. My bowels are troubled, being violently excited with excessive grief; mine heart is turned within me, for I have grievously rebelled, the punishment being altogether deserved, in the full measure in which it struck her. Abroad the sword bereaveth, as the battle demanded its victims; at home there is as death, namely, by famine and pestilence. V. 21. They have heard that I sigh, the former friends and allies being fully aware of her groaning; there is none to comfort me, for they all ignore her trouble. All mine enemies have heard of my trouble; they are glad that Thou hast done it, rejoicing over the Lord's punishment upon Zion. Thou wilt bring the day that Thou hast called, the day of wrath with whose coming the Lord had threatened for many years, and they shall be like unto me, for the Lord would visit her enemies as He had punished her. V. 22. Let all their wickedness come before Thee, for a just punishment, and do unto them as Thou hast done unto me for all my transgressions, according to the same righteous judgment; for my sighs are many, and my heart is faint. This is not a vindictive prayer, but a plea for justice, which repentant believers of all times may well send up to the throne of God. The very punishment of God upon rebellious children is intended to change into a blessed experience of good.