Lamentations 5:1 ¶ Remember, O LORD, what is come upon us: consider, and behold our reproach.
Jeremiah pleads for the LORD to remember, to think about all that the people of Judah have endured, to take notice of their shame and disgrace. The prophet’s heart is entwined with the fate of his people. Though he knows they deserve the judgment they received, he still grieves that God’s people have been put to such shame and suffering.
When we are in an extended time of suffering, it is easy to think that God has forgotten us and wonder if He realizes what we are going through. The truth is that God is very aware of all that is going on in His creation, and Jeremiah knew this.
Jeremiah 23:24 “Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD.”
Lamentations 5:2 Our inheritance is turned to strangers, our houses to aliens.
Lamentations 5:3 We are orphans and fatherless, our mothers are as widows.
Lamentations 5:4 We have drunken our water for money; our wood is sold unto us.
I think Jeremiah is speaking from the perspective of the people. The inheritance being referenced is the Jewish people’s possession of the Promised Land.
Deuteronomy 4:37–38 “And because he loved thy fathers, therefore he chose their seed after them, and brought thee out in his sight with his mighty power out of Egypt; To drive out nations from before thee greater and mightier than thou art, to bring thee in, to give thee their land for an inheritance, as it is this day.”
Foreigners have moved in to inhabit their houses. Those left in Judah are like orphans with no father; many mothers have been left widows. They even have to pay for using needed water and wood from their own land (probably through taxes).
Had they but heeded the warning of Moses, not to mention the messages of God’s prophets, they should have known this would be the consequence.
Deuteronomy 31:16–17 “And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers; and this people will rise up, and go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land, whither they go to be among them, and will forsake me, and break my covenant which I have made with them. Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them….”
Ironside: “They who here complain that they have drunken their water for money, had foolishly forsaken Him who is "the Fountain of living waters" (of which all might drink freely), and had hewed out for themselves cisterns that could hold no water.”
Jeremiah 2:13 “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”
Lamentations 5:5 Our necks are under persecution: we labour, and have no rest.
Lamentations 5:6 We have given the hand to the Egyptians, and to the Assyrians, to be satisfied with bread.
Those left captive in Judah are living under persecution, under continuing servitude that required hard work just to survive. Jeremiah notes that the people had chosen to look to other nations, i.e., Egypt and Assyria, instead of to the LORD in faith for their protection and provision. God had proven Himself might in their behalf over and over again throughout their history, yet because they didn’t want to submit to His authority and wanted to be like the other nations, they rejected Him.
Lamentations 5:7 Our fathers have sinned, and are not; and we have borne their iniquities.
Lamentations 5:8 Servants have ruled over us: there is none that doth deliver us out of their hand.
Verse 7 as referencing a popular saying of that time that blamed the sins of their fathers for the judgment they are enduring. Ezekiel tells us about it; however, the LORD makes it clear that such thinking is false.
Ezekiel 18:2 “What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?”
Ezekiel 18:20 “The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.”
It seems that those who were once slaves have been given authority over those left captive.
EBC Abridged: “Instead of their own king and ministers, the people are ruled by Babylonian officials, most of relatively low standing, who are proud of the title “slaves of the king”; there is no court of appeal against their arbitrary brutality.”
Lamentations 5:9 We gat our bread with the peril of our lives because of the sword of the wilderness.
Lamentations 5:10 Our skin was black like an oven because of the terrible famine.
The people bemoan that they have to hunt for food in the wilderness, making them ever fearful of dying at the sword of their enemies. Their skin is shriveled (from Hebrew for “black”) as a result of terrible famine in the land. Again, the words of Moses come to mind.
Deuteronomy 28:20 & 24 “The LORD shall send upon thee cursing, vexation, and rebuke, in all that thou settest thine hand unto for to do, until thou be destroyed, and until thou perish quickly; because of the wickedness of thy doings, whereby thou hast forsaken me…..The LORD shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed.”
Lamentations 5:11 They ravished the women in Zion, and the maids in the cities of Judah.
Lamentations 5:12 Princes are hanged up by their hand: the faces of elders were not honoured.
Lamentations 5:13 They took the young men to grind, and the children fell under the wood.
Lamentations 5:14 The elders have ceased from the gate, the young men from their musick.
Lamentations 5:15 The joy of our heart is ceased; our dance is turned into mourning.
As Jeremiah continues to pray on behalf of the people, he makes a list of how the people have been treated. The women and girls of Judah and Jerusalem have been raped. The young men of nobility have been “hanged up by their hands”; I assume that is a special type of torture or humiliation. The old men have been dishonored. Young men and children have been forced into hard labor. (Commentators note that grinding grain was usually a slave’s or woman’s job.) They have no self-governing authority. They have no reason to make music or sing or dance. There is nothing left to give them joy; their dancing has been turned to mourning.
Lamentations 5:16 The crown is fallen from our head: woe unto us, that we have sinned!
Lamentations 5:17 ¶ For this our heart is faint; for these things our eyes are dim.
Lamentations 5:18 Because of the mountain of Zion, which is desolate, the foxes walk upon it.
The crown is representative of the king. So I think they are bemoaning the fact that they no longer have a king. If only they had realized that their true King is the LORD.
At least they finally recognize that their judgment is because of their sin. It is because of all the reasons Jeremiah has identified in his prayer that the people are faint of heart and their sight darkened. Again I am reminded of the words of Moses.
Deuteronomy 28:28–29 “The LORD shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart: And thou shalt grope at noonday, as the blind gropeth in darkness, and thou shalt not prosper in thy ways: and thou shalt be only oppressed and spoiled evermore, and no man shall save thee.”
Added to everything else, the people grieved the destruction of the temple on Mt. Zion. It had been reduced to a place fit only for the wild animals.
Lamentations 5:19 Thou, O LORD, remainest for ever; thy throne from generation to generation.
Lamentations 5:20 Wherefore dost thou forget us for ever, and forsake us so long time?
Lamentations 5:21 Turn thou us unto thee, O LORD, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old.
Lamentations 5:22 But thou hast utterly rejected us; thou art very wroth against us.
Jeremiah closes his prayer affirming the truth that the LORD’s throne endures forever. As suffering endures, God’s children are tempted to think that God has forgotten them. He continues to pray on behalf of the people and plead with the LORD to restore their relationship, to bring them back to the days of old when their covenant relationship was strong. They feel utterly rejected in light of His anger.
Guzik: “Despite feeling forgotten by God, Jeremiah represented the people before God in a proper way. He understood that their only hope was to cry out to God for the gift of repentance. Jeremiah knew they didn’t even have the power to properly repent on their own; they needed Yahweh to turn them back to Himself. If He would, then they will be restored.”