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Bible: What Does Lamentations 1-2 Teach Us About God's Holy Judgment Upon Sin?

Updated on September 23, 2016

Jeremiah, the Weeping Prophet


The Structure of Lamentations

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The Word of the LORD



Employing an alphabetical acrostic form (that is, the verses of each strophe begin with successive consonants of the Hebrew alphabet), the writer (probably Jeremiah) sorrowfully depicts Jerusalem as a widow during the crisis of the Babylonian captivity.

He reflects on the city's descent from greatness to the pit, utilizing three figures of speech: personification, simile, and metaphor.

[Note: to lonely (empty, desolate) from full, to poverty from prosperity, to low estate from high position (v. 1)].

Can anything be more pitiful than a widow weeping bitterly, having no consolers and only adversaries (v. 2)?

In a matter-of-fact manner, the writer states Judah's present predicament of being mistreated among the Gentiles (v. 3).

An avalanche of suffering and emotional disturbance, both personified and literal, assaults the reader’s sensibilities (v. 4):

(1) untraveled roads "mourn";

(2) gates stand desolate;

(3) priests serve with sighs;

(4) virgins languish in affliction;

(5) bitterness exudes from the city.

Jeremiah attributes Judah's servitude under now prosperous enemies to the kingdom’s wickedness; its captivity has come to pass because the LORD wished to chasten the people (v. 5).

Princes, attempting to evade capture, do not succeed, and the enemy has stolen the city’s magnificent treasures (v. 6).

Amid her constant suffering, the "city" tries to jog her memory of what once brought her blessing in the "good old days" (v. 7a).

When Jerusalem prospered, no adversary could touch her; but now in her distress, her enemies mock (v. 7b).

Her sins, openly manifest, cause one-time admirers to turn against her, resulting in her shameful isolation (v. 8).

Refusing to deal with the inevitable consequences of sin makes her fall even more devastating.

She becomes emotionally crippled, and her enemy increases his boldness to confiscate her treasures (vv. 9-10).

[The term "pleasant things" probably refers to objects used in worship].

Her people must barter for food at a substantial loss, and then endure ridicule from those who "trade" with her (v. 11).

This ill-treatment elicits bitter complaint; she cannot believe the callousness of passersby, expecting compassion from them, but finding none.

Her lament reveals the belief that she is experiencing ultimate suffering and that her pain results from Yahweh's anger (v. 12).

As representative sufferer, Jeremiah elaborates upon this latter theme, likening the LORD's wrath to fire in his bones and a net to trip his feet (v. 13).

To him, Yahweh acts as a taskmaster who has made a "yoke" (composed of Judah's transgressions), which He has placed on his neck, and forced him to bear in his service to a powerful enemy (v. 14).

The writer unhesitatingly points to the LORD as both the direct and indirect cause of His people's crushing defeat (v. 15).

[Note that Judah's strength is gone and his future is threatened].

Jeremiah is emotionally wasted because his people, despite their fervent petition, have no comforter (vv. 16-17a).

A divine decree has declared Jacob/Jerusalem untouchable among his neighbors (v. 17b).

The prophet recognizes God's justice in allowing Israel's captivity; disobedience to Yahweh's commandment has brought him chastening (v. 18).

While Judah waits for help from his “lovers”, the people die of starvation (v. 19).

Once more, the writer fingers rebellion as the leading cause of the emotional agony; he sees death wherever he looks (v. 20).

He fervently pleads with God to punish his enemies with a comparable judgment, because they are pleased with His action against Judah (vv. 21-22).



Lamentations 2

Verses one through nine contain many action verbs describing the LORD's wrath against Jerusalem.

In addition, the writer expresses great wonder at the destruction wrought in the city (How . . .) [v. 1]!

[Note the frequent use of the terms "daughter of Zion”/Jerusalem/Judah (vv. 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 10, 13, 15, 18).

May all these terms simply refer to the city of Jerusalem, or are there distinctions among them?]

Jeremiah (the author) structures his work according to a specific pattern: a divine action, a descriptive term regarding Jerusalem, and an adverbial or adjectival prepositional phrase that provides additional information about Yahweh's action.

This section shows an example of Hebrew poetic parallelism.

The following chart displays this structure:

Action Verb
Verse one--has covered
the daughter of Zion
has cast down
the beauty of Israel
with a cloud in His anger (What?)
did not remember
His footstool (cf. Ps. 110:1)
has swallowed up
all the habitations of Jacob
from heaven to the earth (Where?)
has not pitied
has thrown down
the strongholds of the daughter
in the day of His anger (When?)
Verse two--has brought down
to the ground
has profaned
the kingdom and its princes
Verse three--has cast off
every horn of Israel
in fierce anger
has drawn back
His right hand
from before the enemy
has blazed
against Jacob
like a flaming fire
Verse four--has bent
His bow
with His right hand
has slain
all who were pleasing
to His eye
has poured out
of the daughter of Zion
like fire

Verse five begins slightly different than the other four: subject—copulative—prep phrase. Then

Action Verb
Prepositional or Adverb Phrase; Figure of Speech-Simile
Verse 5: has swallowed; has destroyed; has increased
Israel; all her palaces; her strongholds; mourning and lamentation
in the daughter of Judah
Verse 6: has done; has destroyed; has caused to be forgotten; has spurned
violence to His tabernacle; His place of assembly; the appointed feasts ...; the king and the priest
as if it were a garden;_________; in Zion; in His burning indignation
verse 7—has spurned; has abandoned; has given up; have made
His altar; His sanctuary; the walls of her palaces; a noise in the house of the LORD
into the hands of the enemy; as on the days of a set feast
verse 8—has purposed to destroy; has stretched out; has not withdrawn His hand; has caused to lament
the wall of the daughter of Zion; the rampart and the wall
Verse 9: has destroyed; has broken; find no vision
her bars; her princes and her kings; her prophets
among the nations; from the LORD

Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon


Cause of Jerusalem's Destruction

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The LORD allows the enemy to desecrate the sacred places, and then singles out the wall and the rampart for destruction.

[What does “the sinking of the gates” suggest?]

Verse nine also tells about the total spiritual collapse of the nation because of the absence of leadership.

Obviously the pattern is not totally consistent in verses one through nine, but it does suggest generally that the LORD's holy reaction against His people's sins brings destruction not only upon the city, but also upon their lives.

In the midst of chastening, the people manifest both grief and submission; two groups only—the elders and the virgins—act out these signs (v. 10).

As he writes about what he has seen of the destruction and suffering of his people, especially of the young, Jeremiah's emotions overflow (v. 11).

He records the words of the children who faint from malnutrition (v. 12).

One can sense his pain and feeling of helplessness as a spiritually sensitive man who wants to restore his people, but cannot do so (v. 13).

He blames false prophets who have deceived and failed to rebuke the people as the cause of the nation's present woe (v. 14).

As a result, outsiders mock Zion and exult over her downfall (vv. 15-16).

While Zion's enemies credit themselves for overthrowing the city, Jeremiah discloses that Jerusalem fell according to the word of the LORD, that He has caused Israel's adversaries to conquer her (v. 17).

Apparently, the people exhort one another to petition Yahweh for mercy with unceasing tears (vv. 18-19).

The final three verses contain the prophet's complaint—bold and unyielding in its strength.

As he brings his petition before God, he does not conceal the horrors of what has happened to his people.

He does not hesitate to lay direct responsibility for the whole massacre at the LORD's feet.

[Could it be said that Jeremiah did not approve of how God allowed the situation to get out of hand?]

© 2014 glynch1


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