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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
This poem Lamentations 2 also divides itself like Lamentations 1 into two nearly equal portions; in Lamentations 2:1-10, the prophet describes the punishment which has fallen upon Zion; Lamentations 2:11-22 are a lamentation and a prayer.
1How 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!
How ... - Or, "How" doth "אדני 'ădonāy cover." He hath east down etc. By God's footstool seems to be meant the ark. See Psalm 99:5 note.
2The 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.
Habitations - The dwellings of the shepherds in the pastures Jeremiah 49:19. These are described as swallowed up by an earthquake, while the storm itself throws down the fortified cities of Judah.
Polluted - i. e. profaned it, made common or unclean what before was holy.
3He 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.
Since the horn is the symbol of power, the cutting off of every horn means the depriving Israel of all power of resistance. The drawing back of God's right hand signifies the withdrawal of that special Providence which used to protect the chosen people.
And he burned ... - Or, "and" he kindled a fire in Jacob: as the active enemy of "Jacob," Himself applying the torch.
4He 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.
He stood with his right hand ... - i. e. that right hand so often stretched out to help now grasped a weapon ready for Judah's destruction.
Were pleasant - Or, was "pleasant." Put full stop after "eye." Begin the third distich thus:
In the tabernacle - (or, tent) of the daughter of Zion.
5The 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.
Literally, אדני 'ădonāy has become "as an enemy."
6And 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.
tabernacle - Or, covert Jeremiah 25:38, i. e. such a tent of boughs as was put up at the Feast of Tabernacles. The words mean, "the Lord hath (as) violently destroyed His booth. as a man might tear down a shed in "a garden."" Compare Isaiah 1:8.
His places of the assembly - Or, "His great festivals" (Lamentations 1:15 note). It is the Word rendered "solemn feasts" in the next clause, and rightly joined there with "sabbaths," the weekly, as the other were the annual festivals. It is no longer אדני 'ădonāy, but the Lord (Yahweh) who lets them pass into oblivion. He had once instituted them for His own honor, now He lets them lie forgotten.
Hath despised ... - Or, "hath rejected" king and priest. With the destruction of the city the royal authority fell: with the ruined temple and the cessation of the festivals the functions of the priest ceased.
7The 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.
sanctuary - The holy of holies; "the walls of her palaces" are those of the sacred buildings.
8The 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.
A line - Compare Isaiah 34:11. The destruction is systematic and thorough.
9Her 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.
Her gates are sunk into the ground - So completely destroyed, that one might suppose they had been swallowed up in an abyss.
Her king - The prophet's lamentation, occupied before chiefly with the buildings of the city and temple, now turns to the people, beginning with their temporal rulers.
The law is no more - The Jewish Law, the Torah, came to an end when it no longer had a local habitation. Its enactments were essentially those not of a universal religion, but of a national religion, and the restoration of the nation with a material temple was indispensable to its continued existence. It was only when elevated to be a universal religion, by being made spiritual, that it could do without ark, temple, and a separate people.
Her prophets also find ... - With the Torah, the special gift of prophecy also ceased, since both were unique to the theocracy; but it was not until the establishment of Christianity that they were finally merged in higher developments of grace.
10The 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.
11Mine 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.
Troubled - See the margin reference note.
Liver - As the heart was regarded by the Jews as the seat of the intellect, so the liver (or bowels) was supposed to be the seat of the emotions. The pouring out of the liver upon the ground meant that feelings had entirely given way under the acuteness of sorrow, and he could no longer restrain them.
12They 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.
They say - Or, "They keep saying:" it was an oft-repeated cry, even while expiring upon their mother's bosom.
13What 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?
Equal - i. e. "compare." Zion's breach, i. e. her destruction, is measureless, like the ocean.
14Thy 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.
Thy prophets have seen vain and foolish things for thee - The Septuagint and Vulgate give the true meaning, "stupidity" (see Jeremiah 23:13 note).
To turn away thy captivity - The right sense is, "They have not disclosed to thee thy sins, that so thou mightest repent, and I might have turned away thy captivity."
Burdens - Applied contemptuously to predictions which proved "false" or "empty," i. e. failed of accomplishment. On the deduction to be drawn from this, see Jeremiah 28:9.
Causes of banishment - The result of the teaching of the false prophets would be that God would "drive out" the Jews from their land.
Some render the words "false ... banishment" by "oracles of falsehood and seduction."
15All 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?
Compare the scene round the cross of the Redeemer Matthew 27:39.
16All 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.
Seen it - Omit "it." The intensity of the enemy's exultation is shown by the heaping up of unconnected words. We have found what we sought, have seen what we looked for.
17The 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.
That which he had devised - Or, what he purposed. Zion's ruin was the fulfillment of God's determination, of which they had been forwarned from the days of old (see the margin reference).
Fulfilled - Or, finished.
18Their 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.
Their heart - That of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The prophet bids the wall, as the representative of the people who had dwelt secure under its protection, shed floods of tears on their behalf. Broken up by the enemy, it could be their guardian no longer, but by its ruins it might still cry unto the Lord in their behalf.
A river - Or, a brook or torrent.
Rest - Properly, the torpor and numbness which follows upon excessive grief.
Apple of thine eye - See Psalm 17:8 note.
19Arise, 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.
In - (or at) the beginning of the watches "At the beginning of each night-watch" means all the night through. The Hebrews divided the night into three watches.
20Behold, 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?
The sense is: "See, Yahweh, and look! whom hast Thou treated thus? Shall women eat their fruit - children whom they must still carry?" the swaddled child being one still needing to be nursed and borne in their arms.
21The 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.
Omit "them" and "and," which weaken the intensity of the passage.
22Thou 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.
Thou hast called as in a solemn day - i. e. "Thou" callest "like a feast day," i. e. like the proclaiming of a festival.
My terrors round about - The prophet's watch-word (Jeremiah 6:25 note). God now proclaims what Jeremiah had so often called out before, "Magor-missabib." On every side were conquering Chaldaeans.