For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 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 from God.


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 anguish.


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 soul.


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 torment.


“... 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 their idolatry.


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 incomprehensible literature.


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 unbelief.


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 believers.


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 people.


Similar conditions will prevail towards the end of the now imminent Great Tribulation.


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 of fire.


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.

[Lamentations 2]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough