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Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Lamentations Chapter 2


lam 2:0

Lamentation over the Judgment of Destruction That Has Come on Zion and the Desolation of Judah

1 Alas! how the Lord envelopes the daughter of Zion in His wrath!

He hath cast down the glory of Israel from heaven to earth;

Nor hath He remembered His footstool in the day of His wrath.

2 The Lord hath swallowed up all the habitations of Jacob, He hath not spared:

He hath broken down, in His anger, the strongholds of the daughter of Judah;

He hath smitten [them] down to the earth.

He hath profaned the kingdom and its princes.

3 He hath cut off, in the burning of wrath, every horn of Israel;

He hath drawn back His right hand from before the enemy,

And hath burned among Jacob like a flaming fire, [which] devours round about.

4 He hath bent His bow like an enemy, standing [with] His right hand like an adversary,

And He slew all the desires of the eye;

On the tent of the daughter of Zion hath He poured out His fury like fire.

5 The Lord hath become like an enemy; He hath swallowed up Israel.

He hath swallowed up all her palaces, He hath destroyed his strongholds,

And hath increased on the daughter of Judah groaning and moaning.

6 And He hath violently treated His own enclosure, like a garden; He hat destroyed His own place of meeting:

Jahveh hath caused to be forgotten in Zion the festival and the Sabbath,

And in the fierceness of His wrath He hath rejected king and priest.

7 The Lord hath spruned His own altar, He hath abhorred His own sanctuary;

He hath delivered into the hand of the enemy the walls of her palaces;

They have made a noise in the house of Jahvey, as [on] the day of a festival.

8 Jahveh hath purposed to destroy the walls of the daughter of Zion:

He hath stretched out a line, He hath not drawn back His hand from demolishing;

And He hath made the rampart and the [city] wall to mourn; they sorrow together.

9 Her gates have sunk into the earth; He hath destroyed and broken her bars:

Her king and her princces are among the nations; there is no law.

Her prophets also find no vision from Jahveh.

10 The elders of the daughter of Zion sit upon the ground, they silent;

They have cast up dust upon their head, they have clothed themselves with sackcloth garments:

The virgins of Jerusalem have brought down their head to the earth.

11 Mine eyes waste away with tears, My bowels glow,

My liver is poured out on the earth, because of the destruction of the daughter of my people;

Because the young child and the suckling pine away in the streets of the city.

12 They said to their mothers, Where is corn and wine?

When they were fainting like one wounded in the streets of the city,

When their soul was poured out into the bosom of their mothers.

13 What slall I testify against thee? what shall I compare to thee, O daughter of Jerusalem?

What shall I liken to thee, that I may comfort thee, O virgin daughter of Zion?

For thy destruction is great, like the sea; who can heal thee?

14 Thy prophets have seen for thee vanity and absurdity,

And have not revealed thine iniquity, to turn thy captivity;

But they have seen for thee burdens of vanity, and expulsion.

15 All that pass by the way clap [their] hands against thee;

They hiss and shake their head against the daughter of Jerusalem [saying, "Is] this the city that they call "The perfection of beauty, a joy of the whole earth?'"

16 All thine enemies have opened their mouth against thee:

They hiss and gnash the teeth; they say, "We have swallowed [her];

Assuredly this is the day that we have expected; we have found [it], we have seen [it]."

17 Jahveh hath done what He hath purposed:

He hath executed His word which He commanded from the days of yore: He hath broken down, and hath not spared:

And He hath made the enemy rejoice over thee; He hath raised up the horn of thine adversaries.

18 Their heart crieth out unto the Lord.

O wall of the daughter of Zion, let tears run down like a stream by day and by night:

Give thyself no rest; let not the apple of thine eye cease.

19 Arise, wail in the night; at the beginning of the watches,

Pour out thy heart like water before the face of the Lord:

Lift up thine hands to Him for the soul of thy young children,

That faint for hunger at the head of every street.

20 See, O Jahveh, and consider to whom Thou hast acted thus!

Shall women eat their [body's] fruit, the children of their care?

Or shall priest and prophet be slain in the sanctuary of the Lord?

21 The boy and the old man lie without, on the ground;

My virgins and my young men have fallen by the sword:

Thou hast slain in the day of Thy wrath, Thou hast slaughtered, Thou hast not spared.

22 Thou summonest, as on a feast-day, my terrors round about;

And in the day of wrath of Jahveh there was no fugitive or survivor

Whom I would have nursed and brought up; mine enemy destroyed them.

This second poem contains a new and more bitter lamentation regarding the fall of Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judah; and it is distinguished from the first, partly by the bitterness of the complaint, but chiefly by the fact that while, in the first, the oppressed, helpless, and comfortless condition of Jerusalem is the main feature, - here, on the other hand, it is the judgment which the Lord, in His wrath, has decreed against Jerusalem and Judah, that forms the leading thought in the complaint, as is shown by the prominence repeatedly given to the wrath, rage, burning wrath, etc. (Lam 2:1.). The description of this judgment occupies the first part of the poem (Lam 2:1-10); then follows, in the second part (Lam 2:11-19), the lamentation over the impotency of human consolation, and over the scoffing of enemies at the misfortunes of Jerusalem (Lam 2:11-16). It was the Lord who sent this judgment; and it is He alone who can give comfort and help in this distress. To Him must the daughter of Zion betake herself with her complaint (Lam 2:17-19); and this she actually does in the concluding portion (Lam 2:20-22).

Lamentations 2:1-22

Description of the judgment. - Lam 2:1. The lamentation opens with signs for the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. The first member of the verse contains the general idea that the Lord (אדני, the Lord κατ ̓ ἐξοχὴν, very suitably used instead of יהוה) has, in His wrath, enveloped Jerusalem with clouds. This thought is particularized in the two members that follow, and is referred to the overthrow of Jerusalem and the temple. יעיב, from עוּב (which is ἅπ. λεγ. as a verb, and is probably a denominative from עב, a cloud), signifies to cover or surround with clouds. בּאפּו does not mean "with His wrath" (Ewald, Thenius), but "in His wrath," as is shown by Lam 2:3, Lam 2:6, Lam 2:21, Lam 2:22. "The daughter of Zion" here means the city of Jerusalem, which in the second member is called "the glory (or ornament) of Israel," by which we are to understand neither res Judaeorum florentissimae in general (Rosenmller), nor the temple in special, as the "splendid house," Isa 64:10 (Michaelis, Vaihinger). Jerusalem is called the glory or ornament of Israel, in the same way as Babylon in Isa 64:10 is called "the glory of the splendour of the Chaldeans" (Thenius, Gerlach). In the figurative expression, "He cast down from heaven to earth," we are not to think there is any reference to a thunderbolt which knocks down an object, such as a lofty tower that reaches to heaven (Thenius); "from heaven" implies that what is to be thrown down was in heaven, as has been already remarked by Raschi in his explanation, postquam sustulisset eos (Judaeos) usque ad coelum, eosdem dejecit in terram, where we have merely to substitute "Jerusalem," for eos, which is too vague. Gerlach has rightly remarked that the expression "cast down from heaven" is to be accounted for by the fact that, in the first member of the verse, Jerusalem is compared to a star, in the same way as Babylon is expressly called a tar in Isa 14:12; nay, what is more, Jerusalem is here compared to a star that has fallen from heaven; the reference to that passage thus becomes unmistakeable. Moreover, the casting down from heaven means something more than deprivation of the glory that had come on the city in consequence of God's dwelling in the midst of it (Gerlach); it signifies, besides, the destruction of the city, viz., that it would be laid in ashes. In all this, the Lord has not been thinking of, i.e., paid any regard to, His footstool, i.e., the ark of the covenant (Ch1 28:2; Psa 99:5), - not the temple (Ewald), although we cannot think of the ark without at the same thinking of the temple as the house in which it was kept. The ark, and not the temple, is named, because the temple became a habitation of the Lord, and a place where He revealed Himself, only through the ark of the covenant, with which the Lord had graciously connected His presence among His people. It is further implied, in the fact that God does not think of His footstool, that the ark itself was destroyed along with the temple and the city.

Lamentations 2:2

lam 2:2

The Lord has destroyed not merely Jerusalem, but the whole kingdom. בּלּע, "to swallow up," involves the idea of utter annihilation, the fury of destruction, just in the same way as it viz. the fury is peculiar to עברה, the overflowing of anger. "He hath not spared" forms an adverbial limitation of the previous statement, "unsparingly." The Qeri ולא, instead of לא, is an unnecessary and unpoetic emendation. כּל־נאות, all the pastures of Jacob. According to its etymology, נוה means a place where shepherds or nomads rest, or stay, or live; here, it is not to be understood specially of the dwellings as contrasted with, or distinguished from the pasture-grounds, but denotes, in contrast with the fortresses (מבצרים), the open, unfortified places of the country in which men and cattle enjoy food and rest. "The strongholds of the daughter of Judah" are not merely the fortifications of Jerusalem, but the fortresses generally of the country and kingdom of Judah; cf. Jer 5:17; Jer 34:7. הגּיע לארץ, "to cast down to the ground" (used of the pulling down of walls, cf. Isa 25:12), is an epexegesis of חרס, as in Exo 13:14, and is not to be joined (in opposition to the accents) with what succeeds, and taken figuratively. For neither does חלּל need any strengthening, nor does הגּיע לארץ suitably apply to the kingdom and its princes. The desecration of the kingdom consisted in its being dishonoured by the disgraceful conduct of its rulers; cf. Psa 89:40.

Lamentations 2:3

lam 2:3

In Lam 2:3 and Lam 2:4, the writer describes the hostile conduct of the Lord towards Israel, by which the kingdom of Judah was destroyed. Thenius utterly mistakes the poetic character of the description given, and evidently finds in it the several events that occurred up to the taking of the city, all mentioned in their natural order; according to this, the perfects would require to be translated as preterites. But this view can be made out only by giving an arbitrary meaning to the several figures used; e.g., it is alleged that "every horn" means the frontier fortresses, that the expression "before the enemy" refers to the time when the latter turned his face against Jerusalem, and so on. The three members of Lam 2:3 contain a climax: deprivation of the power to resist; the withdrawal of aid; the necessary consequence of which was the burning like a flame of fire. "To cut down the horn" means to take away offensive and defensive power; see on Jer 48:25. "Every horn" is not the same as "all horns," but means all that was a horn of Israel (Gerlach). This included not merely the fortresses of Judah, but every means of defence and offence belonging to the kingdom, including men fit for war, who are neither to be excluded nor (with Le Clerc) to be all that is understood by "every horn." In the expression ימינו...השׁיב, the suffix, as in קשׁתּו, Lam 2:4, refers to Jahveh, because the suffix joined to יד always points back to the subject of the verb השׁיב; cf. Psa 74:11. God drew back His hand before the enemy, i.e., He withdrew from the people His assistance in the struggle against the enemy. Such is the meaning given long ago by the Chaldee: nec auxiliatus est populo suo coram hoste. ויּבער בּיעקב does not mean "He consumed Jacob;" but He burned (i.e., made a conflagration) in Jacob; for, in every passage in which בּער is construed with בּ, it does not mean to "burn something," but to burn in or among, or to kindle a fire (cf. Job 1:16, where the burning up is only expressed by ותּאכלם, Num 11:3; Psa 106:18), or to set something on fire, Isa 42:25. The burning represents devastation; hence the comparison of יבער with "like fire of flame (= flaming, brightly blazing fire, cf. Isa 4:5; Psa 105:32) that devours round about." The subject of יבער is Jahveh, not ira Jovae (Rosenmller), or להבה (Neumann), or the enemy (Gerlach). The transition from the perfect with ו consec. does not cause any change of the subject; this is shown by Lam 2:4 and Lam 2:5, where also the second clause is connected with the first by means of ו consec. But the statement of Gerlach - that if Jahveh and not the enemy be the subject, then the consecutive sentence (the burning among Jacob as the result of the withdrawal of Jahveh's hand before the enemy) would be inexplicable - gives no evidence of its truth. The kindling or making of the fire in Jacob is, of course, represented as a result of what is previously stated, yet not as the consequence merely of the withdrawal of his hand, but also of the cutting off of every horn. In both of these ways, God has kindled in Jacob a fire which grows into a destructive conflagration. - In Lam 2:4 the idea is still further developed: God not merely delivered up His people to the enemy, leaving them defenceless and helpless, but also came forward Himself to fight against them as an enemy. He bent His bow like a warrior, showing Himself, in reference to His claims, as an adversary or oppressor. The specification "His right hand" is added, not so much for the purpose of defining more exactly the activity of the right hand (using it to shoot the arrows or wield the sword; cf. Deu 32:41., Psa 7:13.), as rather with the view of expressing more precisely the hostile attitude of God, since the right hand of God is at other times represented as the instrument of help. The expression "and He slew," which follows, does not require us to think of a sword in the right hand of God, since we can also kill with arrows. God slew as an enemy; He destroyed everything that was precious in men's sight, i.e., to merely omnes homines aetate, specie, dignitate conspicuos (C. B. Michaelis, Rosenmller, Thenius); for, in Psa 78:47, חרג is also used with reference to the effect of hail on the vine; and the arrows shot from the bow are merely named by synecdoche, and by way of specification, as instruments of war for destruction. Still less can מחמדּי־עין signify omnia ea templi ornamenta, quibus merito gloriabatur populus (Kalkschmidt), since it is not till Lam 2:6. that the temple is spoken of. "The word is to be taken in its widest generality, which is indicated by 'all;' accordingly, it comprehends everything that can be looked upon as dear," including children (cf. Eze 24:25) and the sanctuary, though all these do not exhaust the meaning of the word (Gerlach). Upon the tent of the daughter of Zion He poured out His fury in fire. The daughter of Zion means the inhabitants of Jerusalem: her tent is not the temple (Kalkschmidt, Ewald), which is never called the tent of the daughter of Zion, but only that of Jahveh (Kg1 2:28, etc.); but her house, i.e., the city as a collection of dwellings. The figure of the outpouring of wrath is often used, not only in Jer 6:11; Jer 10:25; Jer 42:18, etc., but also in Hos 5:10; Zep 3:8; Psa 69:25; Psa 76:6, etc.

Lamentations 2:5

lam 2:5

The Lord has become like an enemy. כּאויב is not separated from היה by the accents (Pesik and Mahpak before, and Kadma after); so that there appears to be nothing to justify the remark of Gerlach, that, "as if the prophet were hesitating whether he should state explicitly that the Lord had become an enemy, he breaks off the sentence he had begun, 'The Lord hath become...,' and continues, 'He hath destroyed like a mighty one.' " As to בּלּע, cf. Lam 2:2. "Israel" is the name of Judah viewed as the covenant people. The swallowing or destruction of Israel is explained in the clauses which follow as a destruction of the palaces and fortresses. The mention of the palaces points to the destruction of Jerusalem, while the "fortresses" similarly indicate the destruction of the strong cities in the country. The interchange of the suffixes ־יה and ־יו is accounted for on the ground that, when the writer was thinking of the citadels, the city hovered before his mind; and when he regarded the fortresses, the people of Israel similarly presented themselves. The same interchange is found in Hos 8:14; the assumption of a textual error, therefore, together with the conjectures based on that assumption, is shown to be untenable. On the expression, "He hath destroyed his strongholds," cf. Jer 47:1-7 :18; on תּאניּה ואניּה, Isa 29:2 : in this latter case, two word-forms derived from the same stem are combined for the sake of emphasis. "Daughter of Judah," as in Lam 2:2, cf. Lam 1:15.

Lamentations 2:6

lam 2:6

In Lam 2:6 and Lam 2:7, mention is made of the destruction of the temple and the cessation of public worship. "He treated violently (cruelly)," i.e., laid waste, "like a garden, His enclosure." שׂך (from שׂוּך = שׂכך, to intertwine, hedge round) signifies a hedge or enclosure. The context unmistakeably shows that by this we are to understand the temple, or the holy place of the temple; hence שׂך is not the hedging, but what is hedged in. But the comparison כּגּן has perplexed expositors, and given occasion for all kinds of artificial and untenable explanations. We must not, of course, seek for the point of the comparison in the ease with which a garden or garden-fence may be destroyed, for this does not accord with the employment of the verb חמס; but the garden is viewed as a pleasure-ground, which its owner, if it does not suit its purpose, destroys or gives up again, without much hesitation. The emphasis lies on the suffix in שׂכּו, "His own enclosure," God's enclosure = the sacred enclosure (Gerlach), the sanctuary protected by Himself, protected by laws intended to keep the sanctity of the temple from profanation. The second clause states the same thing, and merely brings into prominence another aspect of the sanctity of the temple by the employment of the word מועדו. This noun, as here used, does not mean the "time," but the "place of meeting;" this is not, however, the place where the people assemble, but the place of meeting of the Lord with His people, where He shows Himself present, and grants His favour to the congregation appearing before Him. Thus, like אהל מועד, the word signifies the place where God reveals His gracious presence to His people; cf. Exo 25:22, and the explanation of נועדתּי given in that passage. In the first member of the verse, the temple is viewed as a place sacred to God; in the second, as the place where He specially manifests His gracious presence in Israel. With the destruction of the temple, Jahveh (the covenant God) caused feast and Sabbath, i.e., all public festivals and divine service, to be forgotten. The destruction of the sacred spots set apart for the worship of the Lord was attended with the cessation of the sacred festivals. Thereby it became evident that the Lord, in His fierce anger, had rejected king and priest. The singulars, festival, Sabbath, king, and priest, are used in unrestricted generality. King and priest are regarded as the divinely chosen media of the covenant graces. The abolition of public worship practically involved that of the priesthood, for the service of the priests was connected with the temple. Expositors are much divided in their views regarding the object for which the king is here mentioned in connection with the priest. There is no special need for refuting the opinion of Thenius, that king and priest are named as the two main factors in the worship of God, because the seat of the king was upon Zion as well as that of the priesthood; for the seat of the priests was as little on Mount Zion as the king's palace was on the temple mount. Moreover, the words do not treat of the destruction of the royal palace and the dwellings of the priests, but declare that royalty and the priesthood will be rejected. The mention of the king in connection with the priests implies a close connection also of royalty with the temple. Ngelsbach, accordingly, is of opinion that the kings also belong to the number of those summoned to celebrate the feasts, and were not merely Jehovah's substitutes before the people, but also "representatives of the people before God;" for he adopts the remark of Oehler (in Herzog's Real Enc. viii. S. 12), that "the Israelitish kingdom (especially in David and Solomon) bears a certain sacerdotal character, inasmuch as the king, at the head of the people and in their name, pays homage to God, and brings back again to the people the blessing of God (Sa2 6:17.; Kg1 3:4; Kg1 8:14., 55ff., 62ff., Kg1 9:25; Ch1 29:10.; Ch2 1:6, compared with Eze 46:1.)." This sacerdotal character of royalty, however, was but the outcome of the sacerdotal character of the people of Israel. In view of this, the king, because of his position as the head of the people in civil matters (for he was praecipuum ecclesiae membrum), fully brought out the relation of the people to the Lord, without, however, discharging any peculiarly sacerdotal function. The complaint in the present verse, - that, with the destruction of the temple, and the abolition of the service connected with it, Jahveh had rejected king and priest, - implies that royalty in Israel stood in as intimate connection with the temple as the priesthood did. This connection, however, is not to be sought for so much in the fact that it was the incumbent duty of the theocratic king, in the name and at the head of the people, to pay homage to God, and to see that the public worship of Jahve was upheld; we must rather seek for it in the intimate relation instituted by God between the maintenance of the Davidic monarchy and the building of the house of God. This connection is exhibited in the promise made by God to David, when the latter had resolved to build a house for the Lord to dwell in: He (Jahveh) shall build a house to him (David), viz., raise up his seed after him, and establish his kingdom for ever; and this seed of David shall build a house to His name (Sa2 7:12.). This promise, in virtue of which Solomon built the temple as a dwelling for the name of Jahveh, connected the building of the temple so closely with the kingdom of David, that this continued existence of the temple might be taken as a pledge of the continuance of David's house; while the destruction of the temple, together with the abolition of the public ministrations, might, on the other hand, serve as a sign of the rejection of the Davidic monarchy. Viewing the matter in this light, Jeremiah laments that, with the destruction of the temple and the abolition of the public festivals, Jahveh has rejected king and priest, i.e., the royal family of David as well as the Levitical priesthood.

In Lam 2:7, special mention is further made of the rejection of the altar, and of the sanctuary as the centre of divine worship. The verbs זנח and נאר are used in Psa 89:39-40, in connection with the rejection of the Davidic monarchy. "The sanctuary," mentioned in connection with "the altar," does not mean the temple in general, but its inner sanctuary, - the holy place and the most holy place, as the places of worship corresponding to the altar of the fore-court. The temple-building is designated by "the walls of her palaces." For, that by ארמנותיה we are to understand, not the palaces of the city of David, the royal palaces, but the towering pile of the temple, is unmistakeably evident from the fact that, both before and after, it is the temple that is spoken of, - not its fortifications, the castles specially built for its defence (Thenius); because ארמון does not mean a fortified building, but (as derived from ארם, to be high) merely a lofty pile. Such were the buildings of the temple in consequence of their lofty situation on Moriah. In the house of Jahveh, the enemy raises a loud cry (נתן קול, cf. Jer 22:20), as on a feast-day. The cry is therefore not a war-cry (Pareau, Rosenmller), but one of jubilee and triumph, as if they had come into the temple to a festival: in Psa 74:4, the word used is שׁאג, to roar as a lion.

Lamentations 2:8

lam 2:8

The lament over the destruction of the kingdom concludes, in Lam 2:8, Lam 2:9, by mentioning that the walls of Jerusalem are destroyed; with this the Chaldeans ended the work of demolition. The expression חשׁב יהוה represents this as the execution of a divine decree, - a turn which forms an appropriate introduction to the close of the work of destruction. "Raschi makes the following remark concerning this: a longo inde tempore, in animum induxerat, hanc urbem vastare secundum illud quod Jer 32:31 dixit. This intention He has now carried out. The words, "He stretched out the measuring-line," are more exactly determined by what follows, "He withdrew not His hand from destroying;" this shows the extent to which the destruction was carried out. The measuring-line was drawn out for the purpose of determining the situation and direction of buildings (Job 38:5; Zac 1:15); but Jahveh applies it also for the purpose of pulling down buildings (Kg2 21:13; Isa 34:11; Amo 7:7), in order to indicate that He carried out the destruction with the same precision as that of the builder in finishing his work. The rampart and the wall sorrow over this. חל (from חוּל) is the rampart, i.e., the low wall with the ditch, surrounding the fortress outside the city wall; cf. Sa2 20:15; Isa 26:1. The gates of the daughter of Zion (i.e., of Jerusalem) are sunk into the earth, i.e., have been completely buried under rubbish by the demolition, as if they had sunk into the ground. The subject to אבּד ושׁבּר is Jahveh. The bars of the daughter of Zion are those with which the city gates were closed, for the protection of the inhabitants. With the destruction of Jerusalem the kingdom of God is destroyed. King and princes are among the heathen, - carried away into exile. It must, indeed, be allowed that אין תּורה is connected by the accents with what precedes; and Gerlach defends the construction, "they are among the heathen without law,", - not only agreeing with Kalkschmidt in taking אין תּורה as a designation of the גּוים as ethnici, - -ad gentes, quibus divina nulla erat revelatio, - but also with Luther, who translates: "her king and her princes are among the heathen, because they cannot administer the law," or generally, have it not. But, on the other hand, the accents merely indicate the stichometrical arrangement, not the relation of the words according to their sense; and the remark, "that Lam 2:9 sets forth the fate of the persons who stood to the city in the relation of helpers and counsellors or comforters (her king, her prophets), of whose help (counsel, or comfort) the city was deprived, as well as of the external means of defending her" (first member), proves nothing at all, for the simple reason that the priests also belonged to the number of the helpers, counsellors, and comforters of the city; hence, if this were the meaning, and the two halves of the verse were meant to stand in this relation, then the priests would certainly have been mentioned also. The second half of the verse is not connected with the first in the manner supposed by Gerlach; but, from the whole preceding description of the way in which the divine wrath has been manifested against Jerusalem, it draws this conclusion: "Judah has lost its king and its princes, who have been carried away among the heathen: it has also lost the law and prophecy." "Law" and "vision" are mentioned as both media of divine revelation. the law is the summary of the rule of life given by God to His people: this exists no more for Judah, because, with the destruction of Jerusalem and of the temple, the divinely appointed constitution of Israel was abolished and destroyed. Prophecy was the constant witness to the presence of God among His people; by this means the Lord sought to conduct Israel to the object of their election and calling, and to fit them for becoming a holy nation and a kingdom of priests. The perf. מצאוּ is not a preterite, but the expression of an accomplished fact. The prophets of the daughter of Zion no longer obtain any vision or revelation from Jahveh: the revelation of God by prophets has ceased for Zion. The words imply that there are still prophets, and merely affirm that they do not receive any revelation from God. This is not opposed to the fact that Jeremiah, some months after the destruction of Jerusalem, again received a revelation; cf. Jer 42:4 with Lam 2:7. The meaning of the complaint is simply that Jahveh no longer owns His people, no longer gives them a token of His gracious presence, just as it is said in Psa 74:9, "There is no more any prophet." But it is not thereby declared that prophecy has altogether and for ever been silenced, but merely that, when Jerusalem was destroyed, Israel received no prophetic communication, - that God the Lord did not then send them a message to comfort and sustain them. The revelation which Jeremiah (Jer 42:7) received regarding the determination of the people who sought to flee to Egypt, has no connection with this at all, for it does not contain a word as to the future destiny of Jerusalem. Hence it cannot be inferred, with Thenius, from the words now before us, that the present poem was composed before that revelation given in Jer 42:7.; nor yet, with Ngelsbach, that the writer had here before his mind the condition of the great mass of the people who had been carried away into exile. Neither, indeed, were the people in exile without prophetic communications; for, even so early as six years before the overthrow of Jerusalem, God had raised up to the exiles a prophet in the person of Ezekiel.

Lamentations 2:10

lam 2:10

The whole of the people have sunk into deep sorrow over this misfortune. The elders, as the counsellors of the city, sit on the ground in silence, from deep sorrow; cf. Job 2:8, Job 2:13, and regarding the tokens of sorrow, Job 2:12; Jer 4:8; Jer 6:26, etc. the virgins of Jerusalem have renounced their gaiety and bowed their head, sorrowing, to the ground; cf. Lam 1:4.

Lamentations 2:11

lam 2:11

The impotence of human comfort, and the mockery of enemies. Lam 2:11. The misery that has befallen the people is so fearful, that sorrow over it wears out one's life. "Mine eyes pine away because of tears," is the complaint of the prophet, not merely for himself personally, but in the name of all the godly ones. "Mine eyes pine" is the expression used in Psa 69:4. On חמרמרוּ מעי, cf. Lam 1:20. The expression, "my liver is poured out on the earth," occurs nowhere else, and is variously explained. That the liver is fons sanguinis, and thus the seat of the animal life (Rosenmller, Thenius), cannot be made out from Pro 7:23. This passage rather forms a proof that among the Hebrews, according to a view widely prevalent in ancient times, the liver was considered the seat of sensual desire and lust (cf. Delitzsch's Bib. Psychology, Clark's translation, p. 316). But this view is insufficient as an explanation of the passage now before us. Besides, there are no proofs to show that "liver" is used for "heart," or even for "gall," although Job 16:13 is unwarrantably adduced in support of this position. A closely related expression, certainly, is found in Job 30:16; Psa 42:5, where the soul is said to be poured out; but the liver is different from נפשׁ, the principle of the corporeal life. If the liver was called כּבד because, according to Galen, de usu partium, vi. 17 (in Gesen. Thes. p. 655), omnium viscerum et densissimum et gravissimum est, then it may be regarded, instead of מעים, as the chief bodily organ through which not merely lust, but also pain, is felt; and the pouring out of the liver on the earth may thus mean that the inner man is dissolved in pain and sorrow, - perishes, as it were, through pain. For it is evident from the context, and universally admitted, that it is the effect of pain in consuming the bodily organs that is here meant to be expressed. שׁבר בּת עמּי is a genuine Jeremianic expression (cf. Jer 6:14; Jer 8:11, Jer 8:21, etc.), which again occurs in Lam 2:13, Lam 3:47-48, and Lam 4:10. In what follows, some harrowing details are given regarding the destruction of the daughter of Zion. בּעטף for בּהעטף, while (or because) children and sucklings were pining away on the streets of the city. This figure of heartrending misery is further carried out in Lam 2:12, for the purpose of vividly setting forth the terrible distress. Gerlach is wrong in thinking that the writer brings forward such sad scenes as would be likely to present themselves in the period immediately after the destruction of the city. For, the fact that, in Lam 2:10, the eye of the mourner is directed to the present, is far from being a proof that Lam 2:11 and Lam 2:12 also treat of the present; and the imperfect יאמרוּ, Lam 2:12, is not parallel in time with ישׁבוּ, Lam 2:12, but designates the repetition of the action in past time. "The children say to their mothers, Where is corn and wine?" i.e., Give us bread and wine, or, Where can we eat and drink? Corn and must (as in Jer 31:12, etc.) are mentioned as the usual means of nourishment of the Israelites. דּגן, "corn," is used poetically for bread (cf. Psa 78:24), - not pounded or roasted grain, which was used without further preparation (Thenius), and which is called קלי, Lev 23:14; Sa1 17:17; Sa2 17:28. The sucklings poured out their soul, i.e., breathed out their life, into the bosom of their mothers, i.e., hugging their mothers, although these could not give them nourishment; cf. Lam 4:4.

Lamentations 2:13

lam 2:13

Against such terrible misery, human power can give neither comfort nor help. "What shall I testify to you?" the Kethib אעודך is a mistake in transcription for אעידך (Qeri), because עוּד is not commonly used in the Kal. העיד, to bear witness, is mostly construed with בּ, against or for any one, but also with acc., Kg1 21:10, Kg1 21:13, in malam, and Job 29:11, in bonam partem. Here it is used in the latter sense: "give testimony to thee" for the purpose of instruction and comfort, - not of a calamity that has happened elsewhere, as Calvin and Thenius explain, though against the construction of the verb with the accus.; still less "to make one swear" (Gesenius, Ewald). That the prophetic witness is meant here in the sense of encouragement by instruction, warning, and comfort, is evident from the mention of the testimony of the false prophets in Lam 2:14. "What shall I compare to thee?" i.e., what kind of misfortune shall I mention as similar to yours? This is required by the principle derived from experience: solamen miseris socios habuisse malorum. ואנחמך, "that I may comfort thee." The reason assigned, viz., "for thy destruction is great, like the sea" (i.e., immense), follows the answer, understood though not expressed, "I can compare nothing to thee." The answer to the last question, "Who can heal thee?" (רפא with ל) is, "no man;" cf. Jer 30:12. Reasons are assigned for this in Lam 2:14-16.

Lamentations 2:14

lam 2:14

From her prophets, Jerusalem can expect neither comfort nor healing. For they have brought this calamity upon her through their careless and foolish prophesyings. Those meant are the false prophets, whose conduct Jeremiah frequently denounced; cf. Jer 2:8; Jer 5:12; Jer 6:13., Jer 8:10; Jer 14:14., Jer 23:17, Jer 23:32; Jer 27:10, Jer 27:15. They prophesied vanity, - peace when there was no peace, - and תפל, "absurdity," = תּפלה, Jer 23:13. They did not expose the sin and guilt of the people with the view of their amendment and improvement, and thereby removing the misery into which they had fallen by their sin; nor did they endeavour to restore the people to their right relation towards the Lord, upon which their welfare depended, or to avert their being driven into exile. On השׁיב שׁבוּת, cf. Jer 32:44. The meaning of this expression, as there unfolded, applies also to the passage now before us; and the translation, captivitatem avertere (Michaelis, Ngelsbach), or to "ward off thy captivity" (Luther, Thenius), is neither capable of vindication nor required by the context. Instead of healing the injuries of the people by discovering their sins, they have seen (prophesied) for them משׂאות, "burdens," i.e., utterances of threatening import (not effata; see on Jer 23:33), which contained שׁוא, "emptiness," and מדּוּחים, "rejection." The combination of "emptiness" with "burdens" does not prevent the latter word from being applied to threatening oracles; for the threats of the false prophets did not refer to Judah, but were directed against the enemies of Israel. For instance, that they might promise the people speedy deliverance from exile, they placed the downfall of the Chaldean power in immediate prospect; cf. Jer 28:2-4, Jer 28:11. מדּוּחים, is ἅπ. λεγ. as a noun, and is also dependent on "burdens" (cf. Ewald, 289, c): it signifies ejection from the land, not "persecution" (Rosenmller, Gesenius, Ewald, etc.), for Jeremiah uses נדח (in Niph. and Hiph.) always in the sense of rejection, expulsion from the country; and the word has here an unmistakeable reference to Jer 27:10, Jer 27:15 : "They prophesy lies to you, that they may eject you from your country."

Lamentations 2:15

lam 2:15

Strangers and enemies have, for the misfortune of Jerusalem, only expressions of scorn and delight over her loss. "Those who pass by the way" are strangers who travel past Jerusalem. To clap the hands together is not here a gesture betokening anger and disinclination (Num 24:10), but of delight over the injury of others, as in Job 27:23. שׂרק, to hiss, is an expression of scorn; see on Jer 19:8. The same is true as regards the shaking of the head; cf. Psa 22:8; Psa 109:25, etc.: the expression for this, in Jer 18:16, is הניד בּראשׁ. The exclamation, "Is this the city which they call 'perfect in beauty'?" is an expression of scornful astonishment. כּלילת יפי is substantially the same as מכלל יפי, Psa 50:2, where the expression is applied to Zion; in Eze 27:3 the same is said of Tyre. That Jeremiah had Psa 50:2 in his mind is shown by the apposition, "a joy of the whole earth," which is taken from Psa 48:3.

Lamentations 2:16

lam 2:16

The enemy in triumph express their joy over the fall of Jerusalem. The opening of the mouth (as in Psa 35:21; Job 16:10), taken in connection with what follows, is also a gesture peculiar to scornful speech. The gnashing of the teeth (Psa 35:16; Psa 37:12; Job 16:9) is here an expression of rage that has burst out. The object of "we have swallowed" is to be derived from the context ("against thee"), viz., the city of Jerusalem. Surely this" is a strong asseveration - "this is the very day." The asyndetic collection of the three verbs accords with the impassioned character of the enemy's speech. "To see" is here equivalent to living to see.

Lamentations 2:17

lam 2:17

In this calamity, which Jahveh has ordained, it is only He who can bring comfort and help; [and this He will do], if earnest and incessant complaint be made to Him regarding the misery. In order to turn the thoughts of the people in this direction, the prophet lays emphasis on the fact that God has now executed this destruction which He has threatened long before, and has prepared for the triumph of the enemy. "Jahveh hath done what He hath purposed," has now performed the word which He has commanded all along from the days of yore. Zechariah (Zac 1:6) also lays this truth before the heart of his contemporaries. בּצּע, to cut off, is used metaphorically in the sense of finishing, completing, as in Isa 10:12; Zac 4:9. To fulfil a word that has been ordered, signifies to execute it. צוּה does not mean to announce, but to command, order; the word has been chosen, not merely with reference to the fact that the threatened rejection of Israel was announced in the law, but also with regard to the circumstance that the threat of punishment for sins is an evidence of the moral government of the world, and the holiness of the Lord and Ruler of the world demands the punishment of every act of rebellion against the government and decrees of God. "The days of old" are the times of Moses; for Jeremiah has before his mind the threatenings of the law, Lev 26:23., Deu 28:15. "Without sparing," as Jeremiah (Jer 4:28) has announced to the people. In the following clause, "He hath made thine enemy rejoice over thee," thoughts are reproduced from Psa 89:43. To "exalt the horn" means to grant power and victory; cf. Sa1 21:1; Psa 75:5.

Lam 2:18

When it is seen that the Lord has appointed the terrible calamity, the people are driven to pray for mercy. Hence Lam 2:18 follows, yet not at once with the summons to prayer, but with the assertion of the fact that this actually takes place: "their heart cries out unto the Lord;" and it is not till after this that there follows the summons to entreat Him incessantly with tears. The perfect צעק represents the crying as already begun, and reaching on to the present (cf. Ewald, 135, b), for which we use the present in German [and in English]. That the suffix in "their heart" does not point to the enemies mentioned at the close of Lam 2:17, but to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, is indubitably evident from what is substantially stated in the clause, viz., that crying to the Lord merely indicates the crying to God for help in distress. There is no sufficient reason for Ewald's change of צעק ל into צעקי לבּך, "outcries of thine heart," i.e., let the cry of thine heart sound forth; still less ground is there for the conjecture of Thenius, that לבּם should be changed into חנּם, because this is opposed to the following summons to implore help: other more unnatural changes in the text it were needless to mention. The following clauses, "O wall of the daughter of Zion," etc., do not state how her heart has cried and still cries to the Lord, but bid her constantly go on imploring. Several expositors have taken objection to the direct address, "O wall of the daughter of Zion," and have sought to remove the difficulty by making conjectures. Hence, e.g., Thenius still holds that there is good ground for the objection, saying that there is a wide difference between the poetic expression, "the wall mourns" (Lam 2:8), and the summons, "O wall, let tears run down." This difference cannot be denied, yet such personification is not without analogy. A similar summons is found in Isa 14:31 : "Howl, O gate" (porta). It is self-evident that it is not the wall simply as such that is considered, but everything besides connected with it, so that the wall is named instead of the city with its inhabitants, just as in Isa 14:31 gate and city are synonymous. Hence, also, all the faculties of those residing within the wall (eyes, heart, hands) may be ascribed to it, inasmuch as the idea of the wall easily and naturally glides over into that of the daughter of Zion. The expression, "Let tears run down like a stream," is a hyperbole used to indicate the exceeding greatness of the grief. "By day and night" is intensified by the clauses which follow: "give not," i.e., grant not. פּוּגת לך , "torpidity (stagnation) to thyself." The noun פּוּגה is ἅπ. λεγ., like הפוּגה, Lam 3:49; the verb פּוּג, however, occurs in Gen 25:26 and Psa 77:3, where it is used of the torpidity of the vital spirits, stagnation of the heart. The expression in the text is a poetic one for פּוּגתך: "do not permit thy numbness," i.e., let not thy flood of tears dry up; cf. Ewald, 289, b. בּת עין is the eyeball, not the tears (Pareau); cf. Psa 17:8. תּדּם comes from דּמם, to be still, as in Jer 47:6. On the thought here presented, cf. Jer 14:17.

Lam 2:19

רנן (prop. to raise a whining cry, but commonly "to shout for joy") here means to weep aloud, lament. לראשׁ אשׁמרות, at the beginning of the night-watches (cf. Jdg 7:19); not "in the first night-watch" (Kalkschmidt, following Bochart and Ngelsbach), but at the beginning of each night-watch, i.e., throughout the night; cf. Psa 63:7. "Pour out thine heart like water before the face of the Lord," i.e., utter the sorrow of thine heart in tears to the Lord. The uplifting of the hands is a gesture indicative of prayer and entreaty (cf. Psa 28:2; Psa 63:5, etc.), not "of the deepest distress" (Thenius). על־נפשׁ does not mean pro vita parvulorum tuorum, that God may at least preserve them (Rosenmller, Gerlach), but "on account of the soul of thy children," which is more distinctly stated, in the following relative sentence, to mean that they have breathed out their soul through hunger. On this matter, cf. Lam 2:11 and the exposition of that verse. Ewald has placed the last member of the verse within parentheses, as an interpolation, on the ground that a fourth member offends against the law observed in these verses; on the other hand, Thenius is of opinion that the words do not form a member of the verse by themselves, but are a mere prolongation of the third, "because the conclusion of the prophet's address, begun in Lam 2:19, was certainly intended to be a complete finish." But the deviation from the rule is not thereby accounted for. Inasmuch as the words are essential to the expression of the thought, we must simply acknowledge the irregularity, and not arbitrarily cast suspicion on the genuineness of the words.

Lamentations 2:20

lam 2:20

In Lam 2:20 follows the prayer which the city has been commanded to make. The prayer sets before the mind of the Lord the terrible misery under which Jerusalem suffers. The question, "To whom hast Thou acted thus?" does not mean, "What innocent and godly ones are being sacrificed?" (Thenius), but "to what nation?" - not a heathen one, but the people of thy choice, to whom all Thy blessed promises have been given (Ngelsbach). This is clear from the reasons given in the question, in which the murder of the priests and prophets in the sanctuary of the Lord is brought forward. But first there is mentioned a case of inhuman conduct, prompted by necessity, viz., that women, in the extreme destitution of hunger, have been constrained to eat the fruit of their body, their beloved children. אם...אם does not, in this case, introduce a disjunctive question, but merely an indirect question in two parts. In view of such inhuman cruelties and such desecration of His sanctuary, God cannot remain inactive. The meaning of the question is not: estne hoc unquam fando auditum, quod apud nos factum est, or, quod matres fame eo adactae fuerint, ut suos faetus comederent (C. B. Michaelis, Rosenmller). For in this case, not the imperfect, but the perfect, would be used. It is merely asked whether something could happen in a certain way, while it is implied that it has actually occurred already. פּרים has the masc. instead of the fem. suffix, as pretty frequently happens. The fruit of their bodies is meant, as the lxx have rightly rendered; but there is no reason for making this the ground of alterations in the text. The expression "their fruit," indefinite in itself, is immediately rendered definite by עללי טפּחים. The last word is a verbal noun from טפּח (Lam 2:22), which again is a denominative from טפח, and means to bear on the hands, to care for tenderly. Both words occur only in this passage. The Israelites, moreover, had been threatened with this inhuman outrage as the most extreme form of divine chastisement, Lev 26:26; Deu 28:56; cf. Jer 19:9. While this abomination is opposed to the moral order of the world instituted by God, the other case (the murder of the priests and prophets in the sanctuary) is a violation of the covenant-order which the Lord had given His people. Neither of these arrangements can God consent to abolish. Therein is implicitly contained the request that He would put an end to the misery into which His people have fallen. This request, however, is not expressly stated; there is merely complaint made to God regarding the terrible misery. From the massacre in the temple, the lamentation passes to the bloodshed on the streets of the city, in which neither age nor sex was spared; cf. Jer 6:11. חוּצות is a local accus., "through the streets," along the streets.

Lamentations 2:22

lam 2:22

The imperf. תּקרא has perhaps bee chosen merely for the sake of the alphabetic arrangement, because the description is still continued, and the idea of custom (wont) or repetition is not very suitable in the present instance. "Thou summonest, as for a feast-day (viz., for the enemy, cf. Lam 1:15), all my terrors round about." מגוּרי מסּביב is to be explained in conformity with the formula מגור מסּביב, so frequent in Jeremiah (Jer 6:25; Jer 20:4, Jer 20:10, etc.): מגוּרי is therefore to be derived from מגור, but not to be confined in its reference to the enemy (as in the Vulgate, qui terrent); it is rather to be understood as applying to all the terrible powers that had come upon Judah, - sword, famine, plagues (cf. Lam 1:20). On the ground that מגוּרים elsewhere means wandering, pilgrimage, and that, moreover, the sing. מגור in Psa 55:16 signifies a dwelling, Ewald translates the expression in the text, "my hamlets round about," understanding by that the inhabitants of the defenceless country towns and villages, which stand to the capital that gave them its protection in the relation of settlers in its neighbourhood (lxx πάροικοι). According to this view, the verse alludes to an important event which took place in those days of the siege, when all the inhabitants of the country towns fled to the capital, thinking that a great festival was going to be held there, as on former occasions; but this became at last for them the great festival of death, when the city was taken. But the translation of the lxx is of no authority, since they have given a false rendering of מגור מסּביב also; and the whole explanation is so artificial and unnatural, that it needs no further refutation. Raschi, indeed, had previously explained מגוּרי to mean שכיני, vicinos meos, but added improbos, ut sese congregarent adversus me ad perdendum. Notwithstanding this, מגוּרים, "wandering" and "place of sojourn," cannot denote the country towns as distinguished from the capital; nor can the flight of the inhabitants of the low-lying regions into the capital be fitly called a summoning together of them by the Lord. The combination פּליט ושׂריד is used as in Jer 42:17; Jer 44:14. For טפּח, see on Lam 2:20. With the complaint that no one could escape the judgment, - that the enemy dared to murder even the children whom she Jerusalem had carefully nourished and brought up, - the poem concludes, like the first, with deep sorrow, regarding which all attempts at comfort are quite unavailing (Gerlach).

Next: Lamentations Chapter 3