Lamentations 2:1 ¶ How hath the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with a 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 prophet is clear in stating that the LORD is angry with His people. Mt. Zion/Jerusalem is no longer beautiful in His eyes, not even His temple. “His footstool” is a reference to the ark in particular and would include the temple in general.
1 Chronicles 28:2 “Then David the king stood up upon his feet, and said, Hear me, my brethren, and my people: As for me, I had in mine heart to build an house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and for the footstool of our God, and had made ready for the building….”
Clarke: “The women in the eastern countries wear veils, and often very costly ones. Here, Zion is represented as being veiled by the hand of God's judgment. And what is the veil? A dark cloud, by which she is entirely obscured.”
Lamentations 2:2 The Lord hath swallowed up all the habitations of Jacob, and hath not pitied: he hath thrown down in his wrath the strong holds of the daughter of Judah; he hath brought them down to the ground: he hath polluted the kingdom and the princes thereof.
Though the Babylonians were responsible for taking the people of Israel captive and destroying the city of Jerusalem and its rulers, the writer clarifies that it is the LORD that has brought it about.
That takes us back to the amazing link between God’s sovereignty and man’s choice. The LORD in His foreknowledge, His omniscience, has positioned people in history to accomplish His purposes without violating their God-given ability to choose. That is something I can say but not truly comprehend.
Lamentations 2:3 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.
Lamentations 2:4 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.
Jeremiah seems to be saying that the people didn’t realize that their strength came from the LORD. In His anger, He had removed the right hand of His strength from supporting them. His anger is pictured as a burning fire. The LORD is pictured in the stance of an enemy with his bow pointed directly at His people and the nation. In the anger of His judgment, even those that served at the temple were included in the destruction.
Lamentations 2:5 The Lord was as an enemy: he hath swallowed up Israel, he hath swallowed up all her palaces: he hath destroyed his strong holds, and hath increased in the daughter of Judah mourning and lamentation.
Lamentations 2:6 And he hath violently taken away his tabernacle, as if it were of a garden: he hath destroyed his places of the assembly: the LORD 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.
Lamentations 2:7 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 the LORD, as in the day of a solemn feast.
The LORD’s destruction of Israel is a source of great mourning and sorrow. It is the LORD that destroyed His temple, in the process eliminating the possibility of observing all the feasts and sabbaths that were meant to honor Him. It seems He held the king and the priest directly accountable for allowing the nation to get to such a point of spiritual depravity. It was because of their rejection of Him and their idolatrous practices that the enemy were allowed to raise the voice of victory in the temple, similar to the sound of the rejoicing usually heard on a feast day. In fact, the LORD scorned both king and priest.
God had established the office of king and priest as His representatives before the people; they were to be the spiritual leaders of the people. Those holding these offices no longer respected Him; in fact, they were largely responsible for leading the people in their sin. Pastors today should remember that they are supposed to be God’s representatives to the people. So many in the “church” are following in the footsteps of the spiritual leaders of Judah (in context). Many in the ministry today are seeking the favor of people rather than the favor of God. This, in effect, affirms the people in their sin and rejection of God’s will as revealed in His word. I am sure He looks down on them with scorn as well. Coming judgment is certain.
Lamentations 2:8 The LORD 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.
Lamentations 2:9 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 the LORD.
These verses emphasize that the complete destruction of Jerusalem was according to the purpose and plan of the LORD. It is He who sent her king and princes into captivity among the Gentiles. They obviously had no respect for God’s law; it was as if it didn’t even exist. It also signaled an end to the ministry of the prophets for a time. I think Jeremiah and Ezekiel were the last of the prophets to declare God’s will to the nation, and their ministry basically ended with the final destruction of Jerusalem. Daniel’s prophetic ministry was really more focused on the coming of the Messiah and God’s plan to establish His kingdom; it was not directed to the people of that time.
Gill re “he hath stretched out a line” - “a line of destruction, to mark out how far the destruction should go, and bow much should be laid in ruins; all being as exactly done, according to the purpose and counsel of God, as if it was done by line and rule.”
Gill: "The book of the law was burnt in the temple, and the tables of it carried away with the ark, or destroyed; and though, no doubt, there were copies of the law preserved, yet it was not read nor expounded; nor was worship performed according to the direction of it….”
Lamentations 2:10 ¶ 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.
Lamentations 2:11 Mine eyes do fail 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.
Lamentations 2:12 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.
These verses picture the utter despair of the aged men and women of Israel. Clothing oneself in sackcloth was a sign of mourning. The young women are particularly sad; they have no prospects for the future. The prophet admits that he has wept til he has no more tears for the destruction of his people and the desperate situation facing the few that are left—especially the children. They are starving and dying. The picture is one of misery from the oldest to the youngest.
Lamentations 2:13 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?
Lamentations 2:14 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.
The prophet is at a loss to find comforting words for the people of Jerusalem in light of their great suffering. He blames the false prophets for not warning them of their sin and its consequences, instead telling them what they wanted to hear. These false prophets were much like the seeker-sensitive preachers are today; they avoid preaching against sin that might make their audience uncomfortable. They facilitate people staying comfortable in their sin, seeing no need for repentance.
Again, this is a predominant feature in the “church” today. Paul warned Timothy against those who would not accept the teaching of God’s word and would turn to those who affirmed them in their sin.
2 Timothy 4:3–4 “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
EBC Abridged: “It took the shock of the Babylonian exile to break the power and influence of the popular prophets and to discredit them finally.”
Lamentations 2:15 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?
Lamentations 2:16 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.
Lamentations 2:17 The LORD 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.
Jerusalem has become a target of mocking and scorn by those that pass by her. They mock the words of the psalmist.
Psalm 50:2 “Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined.”
Psalm 48:2 “Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.”
All her enemies are rejoicing at the destruction of Jerusalem, a day that they have been looking forward to seeing. The writer notes that the LORD had warned the people from the time of Moses that this is what would happen if they rejected Him.
Deuteronomy 28:15, 36–37, 63 “But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee….The LORD shall bring thee, and thy king which thou shalt set over thee, unto a nation which neither thou nor thy fathers have known; and there shalt thou serve other gods, wood and stone. And thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword, among all nations whither the LORD shall lead thee….And it shall come to pass, that as the LORD rejoiced over you to do you good, and to multiply you; so the LORD will rejoice over you to destroy you, and to bring you to nought; and ye shall be plucked from off the land whither thou goest to possess it.”
Lamentations 2:18 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.
Lamentations 2:19 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.
Jeremiah is urging the people of Jerusalem to turn back to the LORD and humble themselves before Him in tears, pleading continually with Him to intercede for them on behalf their children who are dying of hunger.
Lamentations 2:20 Behold, O LORD, 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?
Lamentations 2:21 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.
Lamentations 2:22 Thou hast called as in a solemn day my terrors round about, so that in the day of the LORD’S anger none escaped nor remained: those that I have swaddled and brought up hath mine enemy consumed.
The prophet is horrified as he observes what is happening in the city. He calls out for the LORD to consider what is happening—like He doesn’t know. Women are so hungry that they are eating their dead children. This too was part of Moses’ message of warning.
Deuteronomy 28:54–57 “So that the man that is tender among you, and very delicate, his eye shall be evil toward his brother, and toward the wife of his bosom, and toward the remnant of his children which he shall leave: So that he will not give to any of them of the flesh of his children whom he shall eat: because he hath nothing left him in the siege, and in the straitness, wherewith thine enemies shall distress thee in all thy gates. The tender and delicate woman among you, which would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground for delicateness and tenderness, her eye shall be evil toward the husband of her bosom, and toward her son, and toward her daughter, And toward her young one that cometh out from between her feet, and toward her children which she shall bear: for she shall eat them for want of all things secretly in the siege and straitness, wherewith thine enemy shall distress thee in thy gates.”
Priests and prophets are being killed in the temple. The streets of the city are full of the dead, both young and old. He acknowledges that God is the one destroying His people without compassion. The writer describes the whole situation as one in which the LORD has invited all of Judah’s enemies to join Him for this macabre feast day, and not one person, even the children, was shown mercy.
Though God is executing judgment, I do not believe it is without compassion. I believe it is with great sorrow that He had to judge His people. It was the last resort of a loving Father that had given warning after warning through His prophets. And the people of Judah had witnessed His judgment against the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
I personally believe the children that were killed were covered by His grace.