The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Lamentations 1

Lam 1:1

See Lesson, Acrostics.

Historical background: 2Ki 25:8-12.

Heb title: "Eeyek" (first word of book). The "how" (an exclamation) in Lam 1:1; 2:1; 4:1; etc. Expressing wonder, confusion, grief.

Lam 1: Man's helpfulness in his forsaken condition: "None to help..."

Vv 1-11: The lament of the city, Jerusalem. The trials of the whole nation are centered in the capital city, the site of God's temple, the place He esp chose (Deu 12:10,11; 2Ch 6:6).

DESERTED LIES THE CITY: As prophesied in Lev 26:14-16,31-35.

ONCE SO FULL OF PEOPLE: As described in Isa 22:2,12,13.

LIKE A WIDOW: Cp Isa 3:26. The Romans, years later, struck the coin "Judea Capta", to commemorate the later destruction of Jerusalem. The city is pictured as a desolate woman, sitting under a palm tree, overshadowed by a proud and upright Roman soldier. Jerusalem had lost her husband, her protector, and her lord (Jer 2:2). All of the pains associated with widowhood: an absence of her "husband's" favor and protection, sorrow and grief, a pitiful feeling of helplessness (Isa 54:6; Hos 3:3,4). Why did this happen? Because of her sins: Isa 50:1; 59:2.

WHO ONCE WAS GREAT AMONG THE NATIONS: As in Solomon's day, when praised by Hiram of Tyre (1Ki 5:7), and the queen of Sheba (1Ki 10).

QUEEN AMONG THE PROVINCES: Tributary states as in days of David, Solomon, and Hezekiah: 1Ki 4:21; 1Ch 9:26; 32:23).

HAS NOW BECOME A SLAVE: Just as God brought the splendor of Egypt and Babylon to the dust, so was He able to humble Judah. Cp Lam 5:8,13,16.

Lam 1:2

NIGHT: The eclipse of the Jewish light in the heavens, but esp a time when God's Word and His presence are removed (cp Jer 13:16). Night is the appropriate time for weeping (Psa 30:5), and the time when watchmen upon the walls pray for the peace of the city (Isa 62:6,7), and the time when the Bridegroom comes (Mat 25:6)!

CHEEKS: Sym of submission (Mat 5:39).

AMONG ALL HER LOVERS: Solomon's love of strange women (1Ki 11) led to idolatry. Later Judah trusted in Egypt (Jer 2:36; Isa 30:7; 36:6), Babylon (Isa 39:3,4), and Edom and Moab. Who are our "lovers", our "friends"? Bank accounts? Homes? Retirement plans? Insurance policies? Or God? (Luk 12:15,31,33,34). So we must guard against alliances with the world (2Co 6:14-18).

THEY HAVE BECOME HER ENEMIES: All her alliances/flirtations were to no avail. When Babylon attacked, none of Judah's "friends" came to her aid. Edom (Lam 4:21,22; Oba 1:11,12; Psa 137:7) and Ammon (Eze 25:3,6; Jer 40:14), who should have helped Judah, rejected even their ties of blood and turned against her.

Lam 1:3

SHE DWELLS AMONG THE NATIONS: Judah constantly desired to return to association with the nations around her. Finally, as punishment, God sent her into the nations, a scattered, subservient people (Lev 26:36-39).

NO RESTING PLACE: Deu 28:65,66.

Lam 1:4

THE ROADS TO ZION MOURN: Roads empty, since no one was attending her feasts (Lam 2:6). Ct with promise of Isa 35:8,10; Zec 8:22,23. All the land was to mourn (Isa 24:4,5), as predicted by Jeremiah (Jer 9:11; 33:10-12).

APPOINTED FEASTS: Three annual feasts: Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. But these ceased with the captivity (Lam 2:6).

ALL HER GATEWAYS ARE DESOLATE: Cp Jer 14:2. In east the gates of a city were the main places of commerce (Lam 5:14; Rth 4:1; Job 29:7; Pro 31:23) -- esp active during great feasts.

HER PRIESTS GROAN: The supposed spiritual leaders (Lam 4:13-16), groaning because of famine (Lam 1:11,12,18-20).

HER MAIDENS GRIEVE: Cp Lam 5:11,13. Or, "have been dragged away" (RSV, LXX). The virgins are mentioned as playing upon instruments at certain times of joyful celebration (Exo 15:20; Jer 31:13; Psa 68:25).

Lam 1:5

As predicted by Moses in Deu 28:43,44.

CHILDREN... INTO... EXILE: Carried away by Nebuchadnezzar (Jer 52:28-30), but they will "come again" or return in Last Days (Jer 31:16).

Lam 1:6

ALL THE SPLENDOR HAS DEPARTED: The priestly garments of Aaron and his sons were given them "for glory and for beauty" (Exo 28:2) -- a beauty of righteousness and holiness. But this type of beauty had departed from the promiscuous daughter of Zion; no longer "the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit" (1Pe 3:4). The inner beauty had departed; therefore God would remove the outer beauty also: the temple, the throne, the priesthood, and religious services. And the greatest beauty, the presence of God Himself (Isa 12:6; Psa 48:3), would also be removed (Eze 9:5; 10:4; 11:22,23). Yet it will return again (Zec 14:4; Eze 43:2,5)!

DEER THAT FIND NO PASTURE: Cp Psa 42:1: a hart panting after water in a dry and thirsty land. Hart also sym timidity and weakness, as of the "strong" princes of Judah (2Ki 25:5; Jer 39:5; 47:3).

Lam 1:7

Cp Lam 2:15-17.

DESTRUCTION: Heb "mishabat": her sabbaths. At this time, there were no sabbath services -- that which set the Jews apart from surrounding peoples. This would bring scorn upon Israel. God forced Israel to "observe" her "sabbaths" for 70 years (Jer 25:8,11).

Lam 1:8

UNCLEAN: Lit, "removed" (as KJV). or separated from others because of her uncleanness (ie Lam 1:9,17; Lev 12:2; 15:19). Or, by KJV mg, "She is become a wandering", poss ref to dispersion (Jer 34:17).

DESPISE... NAKEDNESS: Exposure of one's body was, in OT, a terrible disgrace: prostitutes were stripped naked (Eze 16:35-39; 23:29); metaphorically, so were nations (Isa 47:2,3; Lam 4:21; Nah 3:5). Israel's glorious garments (ie Exo 28:2) were removed, leaving her "poor... and naked" (Rev 3:17).

Lam 1:9

HER FILTHINESS CLUNG TO HER SKIRTS: Legal impurity (Lam 1:8; Jer 13:27), the defilement of her spiritual adulteries. But also the blood of her victims (Jer 2:34; cp Mat 23:34,35; Rev 17:6; 18:24).

SHE DID NOT CONSIDER HER FUTURE: She did not remember what God had threatened to be her end (Deu 32:29; Isa 65:2; cp Isa 47:7; Rev 18:7).

HER FALL WAS ASTOUNDING: Heb "yarad" = humiliation in Eze 30:6; Isa 47:1. Happened just as God threatened (Jer 13:17,18).

Lam 1:10

TREASURES: The vessels of the temple, called "vessels of desire" (mg) in 2Ch 36:10,19. As predicted by Jeremiah in Jer 15:13; 20:5.

FORBIDDEN TO ENTER: Cp Deu 23:3,4. But Israel had ignored these warnings (ie 2Ki 21:7).

Lam 1:11

Famines of a besieged city: Jeer 37:21; 38:9; 52:6; 14:1-6.

I AM DESPISED: Now personal: the city speaks! The beginning of Israel's recognition of her own guilt, to be seen more fully in Lam 1:18 and Lam 2.

Lam 1:12

Cp Lam 2:15. God's judgments are sure and complete upon those who remain in their transgressions. The fallen daughter of Jerusalem speaks a pitiful but challenging message to the mockers who pass by. Demonstrating the utter indifference of the Gentiles to the plight of the Jews. Cp the same sort of indifference toward the crucified Christ: Psa 89:41; Mar 15:29,30.

Really a condemnation of the Gentiles, because of their complete lack of understanding of the "hope of Israel" (Act 28:20). "Has God cast away His people?" (Rom 11:1). Blindness in part to Israel (Rom 11:25-27).

ALL YOU WHO PASS BY: See Christ in Mar 15:28-30 (cp Isa 53:12).

Heedlessly the world passes by, on roads bound for nowhere. They pause only to jeer or to shrug. Almost never are any arrested and convicted by the spectacle of one whose sorrow exceeds the sorrow of all others. Has God indeed afflicted him? Is he suffering the wrath of God? "And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors (citing Isa 53:12). And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the Temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself, and come down from the cross" (Mark 15:28-30).

Is it nothing to us, to see such a man? Does the thought of his sufferings arrest us in our headlong flights through this "vanity fair"? Do we examine ourselves? Do we repent? Do we rededicate ourselves? Or do we instead take the bread and the wine with a practical air, a ritual completed, a minor appointment kept and then forgotten until next week? Is it nothing to us?

Lam 1:13

A NET: Figure of speech also found in Eze 12:13; Hos 7:12; Jer 50:24. Israel was caught in a trap of its own making: Pro 1:16-18; 5:22.

TURNED ME BACK: As in confusion (cp Psa 35:4; 70:2,3; Isa 42:17), giving over to a reprobate mind (Rom 1:28), sending strong delusion (2Th 2:11).

DESOLATE: Lam 1:1; Isa 3:26. Utter, hopeless misery. Sw used of Tamar after her humiliation by Amnon (2Sa 13:20).

Lam 1:14

MY SINS HAVE BEEN BOUND INTO A YOKE: Israel's burden of sin, pressed down heavily upon its shoulders. "Yoke" of slavery (Lev 26:13). Babylon's iron yoke (Deu 28:48; Jer 28:14).

THOSE I CANNOT WITHSTAND: Psa 49:6,7; 2Co 12:9,10.

Lam 1:15

God fought against Jerusalem (Lam 2:5,7). Judah's "heroes" were captured in the midst of the city (2Ki 24:14-16), or else they fled in fear (2Ki 25:4).

AN ARMY: "An assembly (moed) against me", a solemn assembly called by God, as a feast (Lev 23:4). Israel is sacrificed upon her own altar in Jerusalem (Isa 29:1,3,7). God's judgments upon Israel and other nations as sacrificial feasts (Zep 1:7,8; Jer 46:10; Ezek 39:17,20; Isa 34:6).

TO CRUSH MY YOUNG MEN: Cp Lam 3:34; 5:13.

IN HIS WINEPRESS: Sym God's judgments (Isa 63:2,3; Rev 14:19; 19:15; Joe 3:13). A ripeness for punishment: blood squeezed out of bodies like juice out of grapes.

Lam 1:16

The terrible afflictions of Jerusalem naturally inspire grief in Jeremiah (Lam 2:11,18; 3:48).

I WEEP: Lam 3:48,49. Ct Christ's weeping, ie at tomb of Lazarus (Joh 11:35), and over city (Mat 23:37), and in Gethsemane (Heb 5:7-9).

MY CHILDREN: Lam 5:13.

DESTITUTE: Lam 1:13.

Here was a man who was never far from tears, a man who went often to the "house of mourning", and laid to heart what he learned there (Eccl 7:2). He wept at the tomb of a friend (John 11:35). And he wept over a city grown hard and callused, a city soon to echo with the cries, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" (Mat 23:37). Can we "weep" with this man? Can we find the wisdom he found in sorrow? Can we, like him, submit our characters to the perfecting process of suffering (Heb 5:7-9)? Can we, as he asked, take up our "crosses" and follow him? Let us spurn forever the false gaiety, and the foolish laughter that masks an empty heart. And let us learn more of this man of sorrow. If we do, then out of our sorrow there will come at last a blessed and lasting joy: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy" (John 16:20).

Lam 1:17

Zion prays to God (cp Exo 9:29; 1Ki 8:22,38), but her efforts are useless because of her many sins (Isa 1:15-17; Jer 4:31).

AN UNCLEAN THING: "A menstruous woman" (KJV). Legal defilement (Lam 1:8,9; Lev 15:19-27), but also a type of moral and spiritual defilement, an "unclean" state (Lam 4:15; Eze 36:17).

But Israel will be offered the opportunity to be cleansed by God (Eze 36:24-27; Zec 13:1).

Lam 1:18

THE LORD IS RIGHTEOUS: The beginning of acknowledgment of sins. God is inherently good (Rom 1:17; Mat 19:17; Rev 16:5-7; 19:2; Psa 129:4), and man is inherently evil (Jer 17:9; Eccl 8:11; 1Co 2:11; Mat 15:18,19). To be firmly established in the conviction that God is right even when things look all wrong, that if there is fault it is all on man's side, that where there is affliction it is due and just and essential -- that is the very core of faith! (NT) Christ's death declared the righteousness of God (Rom 3:25).

Jesus was not being punished for his own sins, but in his sufferings God was demonstrating that the "flesh of sin" deserves only death. In the death of His sinless Son, God was declaring Himself righteous (Rom 3:25). And He was showing us what we, as sinners, deserve! Consider the awesome character of this man. His adversaries gather round him, to laugh and mock. He is enclosed by darkness, almost as though forsaken by his Father. And yet this righteous man responds only with a profound and absolute faith. In the wide swirling ocean of dark temptation, the Saviour stands as a rock and a beacon. "Not my will but Thine be done." "Thou art holy." "The Lord is righteous."

YET I REBELLED AGAINST HIS COMMAND: Israel is more responsible to God than the other nations (Amo 3:2; Psa 147:19). Thus she will have sorer punishment (Lam 4:16).

Lam 1:19

ALLIES: "Lovers" (ahab) in KJV.

MY PRIESTS AND MY ELDERS: The ones to whom the Jews looked for spiritual leadership and direction were the most deeply mired in iniquity... binding burdens for others which they would not lift themselves (Mat 23:4). Cp Lam 1:4; 2:20; 4:7-9; 5:12.

Lam 1:20

Jerusalem's first petition to God, having recognized her rebellion.

OUTSIDE, THE SWORD BEREAVES: Those who tried to flee for protection, poss in Egypt, met certain death (Jer 9:21,22; 14:18; Eze 7:15).

INSIDE, THERE IS ONLY DEATH: Famine, pestilence for those who remained and tried to resist Nebuchadnezzar (Lam 1:11; Jer 9:21; 2Ki 25:3) -- because they were resisting God.

Lam 1:21

SO THEY MAY BECOME LIKE ME: Cp Lam 4:21,22. "I will curse him that curses you" (Gen 12:3; cp Joe 3:19; Zec 12:2,3; Jer 25:29). (NT) In AD 70, the hills surrounding Jerusalem were covered with Roman crosses, on each of which hung a Jew who had rejected his crucified Messiah!

Lam 1:22

LET ALL THEIR WICKEDNESS COME BEFORE YOU: As great Babylon will come into remembrance before God (Rev 16:19). The saints cry, "How long?" (Rev 6:10). It may tarry, but retribution is certain (Hab 2:3).

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