Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2003 James Melough
1:1. “How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! how is
she become as a widow! she that was great among the nations, and princess
among the provinces, how is she become tributary!”
The solitary, desolate city was Jerusalem, reduced to rubble, her citizens
languishing in captivity in Babylon because of their wickedness, of which they
refused to repent.
As its capital, Jerusalem represents the nation Israel, who is described as
the wife of Jehovah, “For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his
name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth
shall he be called,” Isa 54:5. But what a difference sin had made. She had
become as a widow, not because her “Husband” had died, but because her sin had
made it necessary for Him to act toward her as though He were dead. Because
of the severed relationship between her and God she had become destitute.
Instead of enjoying the milk and honey of Canaan, she had become bondslave to
the Babylonians, and except for the small believing remnant that returned from
that bondage at the end of the seventy year captivity, the separation of that
generation of Israel became eternal, for apart from the returned small
believing remnant, that generation died in unbelief, that is, in separation
We are, however, missing the lesson here if we fail to see that in rebel
Israel’s literal state, God is showing us in symbol the spiritual state of all
who have not been born again through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior
and Lord. Until that new birth takes place we are spiritual widows,
destitute, separated from God, that separation eventually taking us first into
hell, and ultimately into the eternal torment of the lake of fire.
A further lesson to be learnt from Israel’s desolate solitary state is that
the torment of the unconverted will be unmitigated by the fact of its being
also suffered by others. The old adage, “Sorrow shared is sorrow halved” will
have no application to the eternal agony that will be the portion of the
unbeliever. Each will be so occupied with his own indescribable misery that
he will find no comfort in knowing that others are also suffering the same
In the days of David and Solomon, Israel was “great among the nations,”
reigning like a queen over them, but her sin had compelled God to topple her
from that pinnacle of earthly glory, and reduce her to the status of a slave.
And so will it be with many of those who have occupied high positions during
their brief day on earth. That fleeting hour of earthly power and prominence
will be exchanged for an eternity of hopeless degradation and torment.
1:2. “She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks:
among all her lovers (allies) she hath none to comfort her: all her friends
have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies.”
In captivity in Babylon, Israel wept bitterly; but sadly she wept, not for her
many sins, but for departed pleasure, prominence and glory, and in this she
continues to be the portrait of those who suddenly find themselves in the
darkness and torment of hell
Israel’s weeping “in the night” is the reminder that one of the
characteristics of the eternal state of the unsaved will be utter darkness, as
it is written, “... to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever,”
Jude 13; and “her tears ... on her cheeks,” is the further reminder that the
eternal portion of the unsaved will be that of “weeping, and wailing, and
gnashing of teeth,” Mt 8:12.
“...lovers” is better translated “allies.” In the day of her calamity, Israel
had neither allies nor comforters; and so will it be with all who die without
Christ, for without Him, a man has nothing: his case is hopeless.
Those Israel had counted as friends when she lived in rebellion against God,
proved in the day of testing to be treacherous enemies; and in this God would
teach the lesson that those who seem to be friends in the sinful pleasures and
distractions that keep men from Christ, will prove to have been the most
deadly foes, their supposed friendship costing the deceived fool his priceless
1:3. “Judah is gone into captivity because of affliction, and because
of great servitude: she dwelleth among the heathen, she findeth no rest: all
her persecutors overtook her between the straits.”
“... because of affliction ... and ... great servitude,” explains why Judah
had gone into captivity: it was God’s recompense of her evil, as Taylor
translates it, “Because of all the wrong she did to others, making them her
slaves.” God is uniquely facile in adapting the punishment to the crime.
Her dwelling “among the heathen (nations)” refers to her having been carried
captive into Babylon, a captivity that is itself figurative of the torment
that will be the eternal portion of all who die in unbelief; and her finding
“no rest,” declares also that there will be no respite to that suffering.
There is no suffering on earth that is not relieved, even briefly, by sleep;
but in that dreadful abode of the damned there is no such relief, for in that
continuous night there is no sleep, no rest: only an unalleviated endurance of
“... between the straits” is also translated in the midst of her distress:
in places where there is no way out. This was the literal experience of
rebel Judah, but her experience continues to be figurative of that which
awaits the unrepentant, first in hell, and eternally in the lake of fire.
1:4. “The ways of Zion do mourn, because none come to the solemn
feasts: all her gates are desolate: her priests sigh, her virgins are
afflicted, and she is in bitterness.”
The roads that had once been thronged with happy worshipers coming up to
Jerusalem to celebrate the appointed feasts, were sad, silent, desolate, for
the rebellious people were languishing in captivity in Babylon because of
The priests who had once been happily employed in the service of Jehovah,
mourned hopelessly as captives of the Babylonians, as did also the young women
who had once sung and danced in celebration of the appointed feasts; and in
the sorrowful state of both, God bids us see, not only the eternal fate of
every unbeliever, but also the foreshadowing of the present lamentable state
of the professing church languishing in bondage to the dead religious form
which passes today for worship, and which Babylon represents
1:5. “Her adversaries are the chief, her enemies prosper; for the Lord
hath afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions: her children are
gone into captivity before the enemy.”
As Babylon then literally lorded it over Judah, so does the evil Babylonish
religious system, now centered in Rome, rule today over apostate Christendom,
as it has for the past two thousand years, and for the same reason:
Christendom’s multiplied sins
have caused God to withhold blessing, and instead to inflict chastisement.
It is to be noted that Protestantism, in its break with Rome, has brought with
it much that pertains to the evil Romish system, which is itself only a very
slightly modified form of the old Babylonian.
Judah’s captivity in Babylon is figurative of that in which Christendom
languishes today to Romanism and apostate Protestantism.
1:6. “And from the daughter of Zion all her beauty is departed: her
princes are become like harts that find no pasture, and they are gone without
strength before the pursuer.”
The “daughter” speaks not only of a second generation, but also of weakness;
and since Zion is the mount on which the Temple was built, the weakness is
that of Judah’s spiritual life and of her worship. The generation over which
Jeremiah lamented, had fallen very far from the beauty (splendor, majesty) of
that which had been chief of the nations in the days of David and Solomon.
Her rulers had become like starving deer running weakly, trying vainly to
escape the hunters.
This sad picture is the symbolic portrait of the professing, but apostate
church today. It too is held in contempt by the world: its leaders are
starving spiritually because for the most part their profession of faith is
false, leaving them therefore without the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, so
that they cannot understand the deeper spiritual meaning of Scripture, the
consequence being that they “find no pasture:” their souls are starving, for
without the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, Scripture is reduced to mere
1:7. “Jerusalem remembered in the days of her affliction and of her
miseries all her pleasant things that she had in the days of old, when her
people fell into the hand of the enemy, and none did help her: the adversaries
saw her, and did mock at her sabbaths.”
From the misery of Babylonian bondage the Jews remembered the blessedness that
had been theirs before their disobedience caused God to deliver them into the
hand of their enemies, a bondage from which none had either the ability or
desire to deliver them. Their sin had caused them to be laughed at when they
kept their ceremonial feasts, they themselves failing to perceive the irony of
observing such ritual celebrations in the midst of Babylonian bondage.
1:8. “Jerusalem hath grievously sinned; therefore she is removed: all
that honored her despise her, because they have seen her nakedness: yea, she
sigheth, and turneth backward.”
It was her very great sin, idolatry, that had caused God to deliver her into
the hand of her enemies, who carried her away into captivity, so that the
honor in which she had formerly been held had been exchanged for contempt.
She had become like a woman stripped naked and exposed to the gaze of the
rabble, causing her to moan and hide her face in shame.
1:9. “Her filthiness is in her skirts; she remembereth not her last
end; therefore she came down wonderfully: she had no comforter. O Lord,
behold my affliction: for the enemy hath magnified himself.”
Clothing is used in Scripture as a figure or type of righteousness: the
righteousness of Christ which clothes the believer, or the “filthy rags” of
the self-righteous unbeliever. The latter was the only covering Judah had,
for like multitudes since then, she rejected the true righteousness which is
God’s recompense of faith.
“... she remembereth not her last end” is also translated, ”she did not
(seriously and earnestly) consider her final end,” - The Amplified Bible.
Christendom’s churches are filled with multitudes who are guilty of the same
folly. They mistake church membership, morality, baptism, etc., for
conversion. They have never given serious, earnest thought to the end of
life, and are satisfied that outward adherence to a religious ritual is
sufficient to assure them of heaven. It isn’t! It will bring them into that
which is portrayed in Judah’s Babylonian captivity: first, the torment of
hell, and ultimately the eternal indescribable suffering of the lake of fire.
“... she came down wonderfully” is also translated she has fallen most
horribly: she has come down from throne to slavery, singularly and
astonishingly: her fall was beyond belief. In Judah’s terrible end God
bids men see in symbol the far more terrible fate awaiting those who die in
The final sentence, “O Lord, behold my affliction: for the enemy hath
magnified himself,” is generally taken to be the impulsive earnest exclamation
of Jeremiah as the representative of captive Judah.
1:10. “The adversary hath spread out his hand upon all her pleasant
things: for she hath seen that the heathen entered into her sanctuary, whom
thou didst command that they should not enter into thy congregation.”
The first part of this verse might be paraphrased, “The enemy, the Babylonian,
has plundered Judah of everything of value,” and only spiritually blind eyes
will fail to see in this the declaration of the truth that the Romish travesty
lording it over today’s Christendom, has similarly robbed men of the rich
inheritance that God has made available to faith through the vicarious death
and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Judah, about to be led away captive, had seen the Babylonians and their allies
ransacking the Temple, intruding fearlessly into the Holy of holies itself, in
defiance of God’s command that only the High priest was to go there, and that
only on the day of atonement with the blood of the sacrifice.
The type is fulfilled today by the intrusion of unconverted so-called priests
and ministers into spheres that God has reserved exclusively for obedient
1:11. “All her people sigh, they seek bread; they have given their
pleasant things for meat (food) to relieve the soul: see, O Lord, and
consider; for I am become vile.”
This describes conditions in the final days of the siege of Jerusalem when the
city lay helpless in the grip of famine, the starving people being willing to
exchange their most valuable possessions for bread, the cry of despair
appearing to be that of the prophet acting as representative of all the
Similar conditions will prevail towards the end of the now imminent Great
1:12. “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see if
there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the
Lord hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger.”
While this is the literal lament of famine-stricken Judah in the final days of
the siege of Jerusalem, very many see in it, correctly I believe, the
expression of the Lord’s anguish as He hung on the cross.
1:13. “From above hath he sent fire into my bones, and it prevaileth
against them: he hath spread a net for my feet, he hath turned me back: he
hath made me desolate and faint all the day.”
This continues to be the expression of Judah’s lament, but as with the
preceding verse, it is clear that its ultimate application is to the Lord when
He died to expiate sin.
1:14. “The yoke of my transgressions is bound by his hand: they are
wreathed, and come up upon my neck: he hath made my strength to fall, the Lord
hath delivered me into their hands, from whom I am not able to rise up.”
God, as it were, had taken Judah’s many sins and plaited them together into a
ponderous yoke, which He then fastened upon her neck, thus joining her
inseparably to the punishment due to her rebellion, making her weak and
helpless against those whom He had made the instruments of her chastisement.
1:15. “The Lord hath trodden underfoot all my mighty men in the midst
of me: he hath called an assembly against me to crush my young men: the Lord
hath trodden the virgin, the daughter of Judah, as in a winepress.”
The lament continues with the wail that God, using the Babylonians as His
instrument, had crushed the might of Judah’s army under His feet, and had
trampled “the virgin, the daughter of Judah,” i.e., Jerusalem, as one would
trample grapes in a winepress, reducing the once glorious city to rubble.
It isn’t difficult to see in this the foreshadowing of the later slaughter of
the people, and destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70, that
extirpation being itself a paradigm of the more terrible future cataclysm that
will occur in the now imminent Great Tribulation.
1:16. “For these things I weep; mine eye, mine eye runneth down with
water, because the comforter that should relieve my soul is far from me: my
children are desolate, because the enemy prevailed.”
The tragedy of Judah’s weeping is that it came too late, and for the wrong
reason. She should have wept repentantly while there was still time to
forsake her sin and return to God; and she should have wept, not for forfeited
blessings, but for the sin that had resulted in that deprivation. The
ultimate tragedy is for a nation or individual to delay repentance until
becoming as described in Pr 29:1, “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his
neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.”
The God Who would have comforted her, had she turned back to Him in His time,
had now become her Tormentor, leaving her without possibility of deliverance;
and her children, who might have enjoyed His blessing, had become instead the
objects of His wrath.
How bitter will be the weeping of those who ultimately find themselves in hell
rather than in heaven, their sorrow compounded by the realization that their
failure to instruct their children, has doomed those children to the same
dreadful eternal doom!
1:17. “Zion spreadeth forth her hands, and there is none to comfort
her: the Lord hath commanded concerning Jacob, that his adversaries should be
round about him: Jerusalem is as a menstrous woman among them.”
The term Zion speaks of Judah as a religious body: Jacob, as an earthy, rather
than a spiritual nation; and Jerusalem, as a political entity.
Judah would stretch forth her hands in prayer, but in vain. God would no
longer be petitioned. She might turn to her neighbors seeking aid, but God
had made them her enemies. And Jerusalem, once the center of government for
the nations in the days of David and Solomon, had become instead an unclean
object of contempt in their eyes.
This is the metaphoric description of those, who by rejecting God’s salvation,
make themselves the objects of His terrible anger.
1:18. “The Lord is righteous; for I have rebelled against his
commandment; hear, I pray you, all people, and behold my sorrow; my virgins
and my young men are gone into captivity.”
Judah’s confession of Jehovah’s righteousness, and of her own wicked rebellion
against Him, came too late to save her, His warning to all rebels being
declared in 2 Cor 6:2, “... I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the
day of salvation have I succored thee: behold, now is the accepted time;
behold, now is the day of salvation.” To delay repentance beyond that
“accepted time” is to perish eternally, Judah’s hopeless wail of despair being
that of all who similarly procrastinate.
Her lament for her children carried away into captivity, will be that of all
those whose rebellion against God has resulted in their children also dying
without ever having been warned of the terrible consequences of dying unsaved.
1:19. “I called for my lovers (allies), but they deceived me: my
priests and mine elders gave up the ghost in the city, while they sought their
meat to relieve their souls.”
The allies in whom Judah had trusted, proved unworthy of that trust when her
hour of need came: they were powerless to aid her, for none can contend with
the Almighty. The priests and elders to whom she had submitted blindly,
proved to be as helpless as she herself in the day of reckoning. People,
priests, and elders alike scavenged in the garbage dumps for something to eat
in the final days of the siege. And so is it still. When the time comes for
the unconverted to go out into eternity, the dreadful discovery will be made,
too late for remedy, that the leaders, religious and political, who had been
trusted and obeyed, are themselves also in need of salvation, and lacking it,
are doomed also to eternal torment, first in hell, and ultimately in the lake
1:20. “Behold, O Lord; for I am in distress: my bowels are troubled;
mine heart is turned within me; for I have grievously rebelled: abroad the
sword bereaveth, at home there is as death.”
Judah, repentant too late, could only call in vain for God to look upon her
dire distress, while her soul writhed in anguish, as the sword awaited her
outside the walls, and famine and plague
stalked stealthily, silently through the streets and houses of the city,
adding daily to the tally of the dead.
Until the Holy Spirit applies it in convicting power to his soul, the
unbeliever will read this with indifference, failing to see in it God’s
symbolic warning relative to the dreadful reality of death; but among the vast
multitude of scornful skeptics are found the few who have perceived the
reality behind the metaphoric language, and who seeing in it the preview of
the death of the unconverted, have repented, and trusted in the Lord Jesus
Christ as Savior, to the salvation of their own souls.
1:21. “They have heard that I (Jerusalem) sigh: there is none to
comfort me: all mine enemies have heard of my trouble; they are glad that thou
hast done it: thou wilt bring the day that thou hast called, and they shall be
like unto me.”
Jerusalem speaks as the representative of all Judah, and the lament continues
that there is no comforter, but rather the jubilation and mockery of the
surrounding nations. Mixed with the plaint, however, is the assurance that as
Jehovah had done to Judah, so would He also do to the Gentiles; and in this we
are reminded that Israel is the mirror in which God bids every man see his own
reflection. Her obedience secured blessing; her disobedience, chastisement;
and so is it with every man.
The foretold day here is that of the Great Tribulation when the Gentile
nations, together with Israel, will be placed in God’s crucible to be tried by
the fires of the terrible Tribulation judgments, there emerging from that
fiery trial a believing remnant of Israel and of the Gentiles who will enter
into the enjoyment of millennial blessing.
1:22. “Let all their wickedness come before thee; and do unto them, as
thou hast done unto me for all my transgressions: for my sighs are many, and
my heart is faint.”
This imprecation was appropriate to the OT age, but not to this present age of
grace. It expressed Judah’s anguish as she suffered chastisement while the
Gentile nations, guilty of the very same sins, appeared to be exempt from
judgment. Every believer, however, rests in the confident assurance that all
the seeming inequities will be righted at the Bema (the judgment seat of
Christ), appropriate eternal punishment being meted out to unbelievers a
thousand years later at the great white throne.