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

2:1.  “How hath the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger, and cast down from heaven unto the earth the beauty of Israel, and remembered not his footstool in the day of his anger!”


“... the daughter of Zion” is Jerusalem, the city upon which God had set His name, and spread His glory, and in which He had been pleased to dwell between the cherubims in the midst of His redeemed people Israel.  But because of her idolatry that same city now lay mantled with a cloud of anger and darkness, the contrast between her former exalted position and her present degradation being portrayed under the figure of her having been cast down from heaven to earth, her glory and joy being exchanged for shame and weeping.


2:2.  “The Lord hath swallowed up all the habitations of Jacob, and hath not pitied: he hath thrown down in his wrath the strong holds of the daughter of Judah; he hath brought them down to the ground: he hath polluted the kingdom and the princes thereof.”


Without mercy, the Lord had destroyed every house in the land, by delivering the inhabitants into the hand of the Babylonian invader; and it is significant that the people are described as Jacob rather than Israel, for Jacob is the name that is synonymous with the activity of the flesh, whereas Israel speaks of what is spiritual.


It is also significant that the strongholds which had protected Judah (the name that is associated with praise and worship), had also been destroyed because of the wickedness of Judah’s “daughter,” i.e., the idolatrous later generation of the once obedient and glorious “mother.”


“... he hath brought them down to the ground” is understood by some to refer, not to the destruction of the buildings, but to the spreading of the slain inhabitants on the ground; the pollution of the kingdom and princes referring to the overthrow and degradation of the king and princes.


2:3.  “He hath cut off in his fierce anger all the horn of Israel: he hath drawn back his right hand from before the enemy, and he burned against Jacob like a flaming fire, which devoureth round about.”


A horn is one of the biblical symbols of a king, and of strength and power, of which the king is almost invariably the representative.  Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, had been carried captive to Babylon where he died.  And God’s having “drawn back his right hand from before the enemy,” is a poetic way of saying that He had ceased to protect idolatrous Judah from the power of the enemy (Babylon), whom He was now using as a raging fire to destroy her.


2:4.  “He hath bent his bow like an enemy: he stood with his right hand as an adversary, and slew all that were pleasant to the eye in the tabernacle of the daughter of Zion: he poured out his fury like fire.”


This continues the poetic description of God as the enemy of Judah, standing with drawn bow to slay her and her children, “tabernacle” being used as a metaphor for the homes of the people, while “daughter of Zion” refers to that generation as a descendant of the once blessed nation that had walked in trusting obedience, with God dwelling in her midst.  Their idolatry, however, had made them the objects of His wrath as a consuming fire, rather than of His protection and blessing.


2:5.  “The Lord was as an enemy: he hath swallowed up Israel, he hath swallowed up all her palaces: he hath destroyed his strong holds, and hath increased in the daughter of Judah mourning and lamentation.”


Her idolatry had caused God to exchange His role of Protector for that of Destroyer, so that His wrath consumed her, destroying all her great houses, and delivering into the hand of the enemy what had been her strong holds, not because of their thick walls, but because of His presence guaranteed by their obedience.  Once that obedience ceased so did His protection, their fortifications becoming then as unsubstantial as straw.


The use of the name Judah is particularly significant here, for it means he shall be praised, but her rebellion had caused praise to be exchanged for “mourning and lamentation.”


2:6.  “And he hath violently taken away his tabernacle, as if it were of a garden: he hath destroyed his place of the assembly: the Lord hath caused the solemn feasts and sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion, and hath despised in the indignation of his anger the king and the priest.”


God’s having violently taken away his tabernacle refers to His having used Nebuchadnezzar as His instrument to destroy the very Temple He Himself had caused to be built as His dwelling place in the midst of His redeemed people.  Their idolatry, while maintaining the mere outward form of the Temple worship, however, had reduced that ritual to a travesty which infuriated God, so that He brought all of it to a violent end by having the Babylonians destroy both Temple and city, and carry the people off into captivity.


The magnificent Temple, built at His Own direction, to be His dwelling place in the mist of His people, He caused to be destroyed as if it had been nothing more than a hut or shed in a garden.  The king whom He had appointed as His regent, He cast aside, as He did also the priest whom He had ordained to be the intermediary between Him and the people.


2:7.  “The Lord hath cast off his altar, he hath abhorred his sanctuary, he hath given up into the hand of the enemy the walls of her palaces; they have made a noise in the house of the Lord, as in the day of a solemn feast.”


The Lord, disgusted with the hypocritical travesty which the people called worship, had discarded His own altar that He had appointed to be the meeting place between Him and His people.  And the palace of the king, together with the grand houses of the nobles, He had likewise delivered into the hand of the Babylonian invaders, who caroused there and in the Temple, as had the people themselves on what He had appointed to be solemn feast days.


Few will have difficulty seeing in this the foreshadowing of the godless revelry which accompanies the celebration of such “Christian” ordinances as Easter and Christmas.


Some understand the “noise in the house of the Lord” to be the lament of the people because of the terrible destruction of Temple and city.


2:8.  “The Lord hath purposed to destroy the wall of the daughter of Zion: he hath stretched out a line, he hath not withdrawn his hand from destroying: therefore he made the rampart (bulwark) and the wall to lament; they languished together.”


His patience finally exhausted by the continued wickedness of the people, God had decreed the destruction of Jerusalem, and of the unrepentant nation also.


The stretching out of a line was usually for the purpose of marking off an area either for construction, or as in the present instance, for destruction; and having stretched out His hand for that purpose Jehovah would not withdraw it until Jerusalem’s devastation was complete: bulwark and wall would be reduced to rubble by the invader, and they were.


2:9.  “Her gates are sunk into the ground; he hath destroyed and broken her bars: her king and her princes are among the Gentiles: the law is no more; her prophets also find no vision from the Lord.”


The gates in which she had placed so much confidence had been thrown down and trampled into the ground as the destroyer invaded the city, all her defenses having proved worthless against the foe.  Her king and princes had been carried away captive by the Babylonians; the law which had been given to govern her life, no longer had any validity; nor did her prophets receive any communication from God.  Her relationship with Jehovah had come to a catastrophic and tragic end, as will that of everyone who comes to the end of earthly life without having trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.


2:10.  “The elders of the daughter of Zion sit upon the ground, and keep silence: they have cast up dust upon their heads; they have girded themselves with sackcloth: the virgins of Jerusalem hang down their heads to the ground.”


Those responsible for the government of the city sat on the ground silent, their authority gone, the dust on their heads, and the sackcloth on their loins declaring all too clearly their fallen state; the lowered heads of the young women who had formerly sung and danced, confirming the universal extent of the misery.


2:11.  “Mine eyes do fail with tears, my bowels are troubled, my liver is poured upon the earth, for the destruction of the daughter of my people; because the children and the sucklings swoon in the streets of the city.”


The prophet, acting as spokesman for the whole city, expresses the utter wretchedness of the people.  His misery was so great that even his intestines writhed in anguish as he beheld the starving people, young and old alike, collapsing in the streets, and dying of hunger and disease during the final days of the siege by the Babylonians.  And unquestionably this was but the dress rehearsal for the similar drama that was enacted during the siege of Jerusalem by Titus in AD 70, that investment being itself the preview of what will occur in even more terrible measure in the now imminent Great Tribulation.


2:12.  “They say to their mothers, Where is corn and wine?  when they swooned as the wounded in the streets of the city, when their soul was poured out into their mothers’ bosom.”


Starving children, collapsing in the streets, cried piteously for food, while countless others died of hunger in the arms of their helpless starving mothers.


2:13.  “What thing shall I take to witness for thee? what thing shall I liken to thee, O daughter of Jerusalem? what shall I equal to thee, that I may comfort thee, O virgin daughter of Zion? for thy breach is great like the sea, who can heal thee?”


This first question is also translated, “What (example of suffering in the past) is sufficient for me to remind you for your comfort?” - The Amplified Bible.  The judgment that God had inflicted upon guilty Judah was without parallel; and for good reason: no nation had ever been guilty of such brazen defiance of God!


“... breach” is also translated fracture: ruin: affliction: bruise: hurt: destruction: vexation, and is used here to describe both the extent of the nation’s crime, and its corresponding punishment.  It was as wide as the sea, and impossible to heal.  That wicked generation of Judah must perish.


2:14.  “Thy prophets have seen vain and foolish things for thee: and they have not discovered thine iniquity, to turn away thy captivity; but have seen for thee false burdens and causes of banishment.”


Judah’s false prophets had failed to expose her very great sin, and impending captivity, which might have been avoided had they declared the truth that could have resulted in repentance and restoration. 


“... burden” is a term used frequently to describe a revelation from God, but what the false prophets declared were lies, which Judah believed, and which resulted in her banishment to captivity in Babylon.


Today’s false teachers and preachers are the counterparts of the OT false prophets, and their lies believed will just as surely bring destruction upon those who heed them: that destruction being consignment to the eternal torment of the dreadful lake of fire.


2:15.  “All that pass by clap their hands at thee; they hiss and wag their head at the daughter of Jerusalem, saying, Is this the city that men call The perfection of beauty, The joy of the whole earth?”


Travelers passing by the ruins of Jerusalem would clap their hands, draw in their breath, shake their heads in amazement, and ask whether this desolate ruin could indeed be all that remained of the once glorious city in which the God of heaven had dwelt in the midst of His people Israel.  And surely this must recall what is written concerning the ultimate end of the evil spirit who is responsible for all the destruction the earth has ever known, “They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; that made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof, that opened not the house of his prisoners?” Isa 14:16-17.


2:16.  “All thine enemies have opened their mouth against thee: they hiss and gnash the teeth: they say, We have swallowed her up: certainly this is the day that we looked for; we have found, we have seen it.”


This describes conditions that attended the sack of Jerusalem by Babylon in 586 BC, and is what occurred also following her destruction by Titus in AD 70.


The Jamieson, Fausset & Brown Commentary notes instructively that what happened to Jerusalem as described here in verses 16 and 17, is the foreshadowing of what happened to the Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary.


2:17.  “The Lord hath done that which he had devised; he hath fulfilled his word that he had commanded in the days of old: he hath thrown down, and hath not pitied: and he hath caused thine enemy to rejoice over thee, he hath set up the horn of thine adversaries.”


God always keeps His word.  Israel and Judah had been warned repeatedly that their obedience would secure blessing, but that disobedience would just as surely bring chastisement; and Judah was without excuse, for she had had the example of Israel’s Assyrian captivity to warn her against repeating her evil sister’s folly, but she had ignored the warning, and as a result was languishing in captivity in Babylon.


As discussed already, a horn is the biblical symbol of a king, authority, power, etc., and Judah had been invested with that power, but had forfeited it by her idolatry, with the result that instead of ruling, she languished in captivity to an adversary, Babylon, whom God had promoted in her stead.


2:18.  “Their heart cried unto the Lord, O wall of the daughter of Zion, let tears run down like a river day and night: give thyself no rest; let not the apple of thine eye cease.”


The verse is generally understood to mean that the people, with one heart, cried out unto God, addressing Him as the wall or protection of Jerusalem, their prayer being accompanied by tears, and beseeching Him not to rest until He had delivered them “the apple of His eye” out of the hand of their enemy, Babylon.


2:19.  “Arise, cry out in the night: in the beginning of the watches pour out thine heart like water before the face of the Lord: lift up thy hands toward him for the life of the young children, that faint for hunger in the top of every street.”


This continues Jeremiah’s exhortation to the people to pray earnestly through the night at the beginning of each watch, for God to spare the lives of the young children who were dying of hunger, following the Babylonians’ sack of the city. 


Relative to the word watch, the night was divided into three periods of four hours each, the guard being changed at the end of each such period.


2:20.  “Behold, O Lord, and consider to whom thou hast done this, shall the women eat their fruit, and children of a span long?  shall the priest and the prophet be slain in the sanctuary of the Lord?”


Here the prophet beseeches the Lord to remember that those He was afflicting so dreadfully were His own people, the God-sent famine so terrible that mothers were eating their own infants; while priests and prophets were delivered up to the sword of the enemy even within the Temple precincts.


Moses had warned Israel that their resorting to cannibalism would be one of the terrible consequences of their disobedience, see Le 26:27-29; Dt 28:52-57.


2:21.  “The old and the young lie on the ground in the streets: my virgins and my young men are fallen by the sword; thou hast slain them in the day of thine anger; thou hast killed, and not pitied.”


Old and young, maiden and warrior, lay dead in the streets, slain by the Babylonians, whom God in His fierce and pitiless anger, had used as His agents of execution against His idolatrous people, reminding us of what is written in Heb 10:31, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”


The fierceness of the Babylonians’ fury was undoubtedly due to the fact that it had taken them approximately three years to capture Jerusalem.


2:22.  “Thou hast called as in a solemn day my terrors round about, so that in the day of the Lord’s anger none escaped nor remained: those that I have swaddled and brought up hath mine enemy consumed.”


God had brought together, as to a festival, Judah’s enemies, who slew indiscriminately old and young alike, so that virtually none of the people remained.  And terrible as was that destruction in 586 BC, it was followed by one even more appalling in AD 70 when the Romans under Titus were again God’s instrument for the punishment of His rebellious and unrepentant people, that destruction resulting in the Diaspora which finds the Jews still scattered amongst the Gentiles, the regathering from which, that began in 1948, being but the prelude to the still more terrible destruction that will occur in the now imminent Great Tribulation.


All of these terrible judgments, however, point to the eternal punishment awaiting the unbeliever, first in hell, and then for ever in the dreadful lake of fire.

[Lamentations 3]


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