Chapter 2 - The Source of the Affliction
"Yahweh hath done this"
The second poem follows a similar pattern to that of the
first: the first 10 verses recapitulate the suffering of Jerusalem, and the last
12 form a dramatic soliloquy by the "Daughter of Zion." A superficial reading of
these verses will not make this quite so obvious as it is in the first chapter,
but it is a very convincing reading to treat it as such.
In Lam 1, the central theme was the helplessness of Israel --
"None to comfort her". But in v 18 of that chapter, there was recognition of
God's hand in her desolation -- which continues as the main theme of this
chapter. In the first chapter, the thought "None to comfort her" occurs seven
times; in the second, the "Lord" ("Yahweh" -- Companion Bible, Appendix 32) is
mentioned by name seven times as the One Who "hath done this" (vv 1, 2, 5, 7, 8,
17, 20). Once, in v 16, Jerusalem's enemies boast proudly, "We have swallowed
her up." But they, as all others outside the understanding of God, have
misinterpreted the forces and the reasons behind the history of the Jews. God
has thought only to punish the nation temporarily, as a necessary part of His
overall plan. Then He must cleanse them and establish them, for they are His
peculiar people, and He cannot utterly cast them away, because of His promises
to their fathers. The promises to the fathers were made immutable by oath, as
Paul reminds us. Nevertheless, their punishments (and their recognition of it as
coming from God) are essential.
In this chapter, Jeremiah speaks too as the voice of the
righteous remnant -- who lament the fate of Zion (vv 13, 14), but who never
cease to arise and call upon God to remember His people (vv 18-20).
Verses 1-9: Just Judgments of Yahweh
Israel had been forewarned that they were to be made desolate
if they did not turn from their wicked imaginations -- but they chose to stay
with their "evil devices". Yahweh, the Master Potter, has sole power over the
clay. If the vessel is marred, it must be either destroyed or reshaped. This is
God's decision with respect to people and nations. The King of Babylon
accomplished the destruction of Jerusalem, but he was only a tool in the hands
of God (Dan 4:25; Isa 45:1). These things must be a lesson for us; Paul thinks
so for he picks this idea up and uses it in his letter to the Romans (9:21-24;
ch 11). God will reshape us if we can be remolded; He will break us, and
blot us out if we continue in sin -- "For if he spared not the natural branches,
take heed lest he also spare not thee."
In this section is described, in turn, the destruction of
every outward form of true worship in Israel. The picture becomes
distinctly clear, that nothing is so abominable in God's sight as an attempt to
worship Him by people who, in all their lives, are living at enmity with
Verses 10-14: Tears of Affliction
Verse 10 is a transitional verse; it paints a picture of the
elders of Zion sitting on the ground in a state of despair, contemplating the
inevitability of evil, rather than seeking counsel.
The ravages of war are terrible. Ezekiel told how Jerusalem
was to be taken and suffer by fire, the sword and finally exile. The children of
Judah were shown by sign that they were to face famine and pestilence. This
would surely bring tears of sorrow to those who witnessed these things --
particularly those who had heard the warnings of the prophets.
Jeremiah had reason to weep also, for the fact has begun to
dawn on him, that his generation of Jews, whom he loved, were never to fulfill
the glorious and exalted calling to which God had called them. Their high
aspirations, like their once magnificent temple, now lie in the ashes.
Verses 15-17: Jerusalem's Enemies Rejoice
The scorn, anger and exultation of Jerusalem's enemies call
forth from the daughter of Zion a plea for compassion (this is almost a refrain
of 1:12). One of the more grotesque characteristics of human nature is the
compulsion to "kick a man when he's down." As if the physical torment were not
enough, ridicule now adds mental anguish.
As in the first poem, so here also there is hope expressed
amidst desolation and despair -- and along with it, a growing insight into God's
dealing with His children: "The Lord hath done that which He had
devised" (v 17).
Verses 18-22: Jerusalem's Prayer
Israel's ignorant enemies scorn her -- but there is left in
her a true remnant who pray for deliverance and the fulfilment of the "hope of
Israel". This is not only a picture of Jeremiah's day, but of our day as well.
We may take the words of Psa 120:6 as our own -- as we cry to God--
"My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth
Although the daughter of Zion was abused by her enemies, the
true author of her misery was God Himself! Here was the element of hope -- that
it was preferable to fall into the hands of the living God rather than into
those of men (2Sa 24:14). If suffering must indeed come as a chastisement for
past sins, then there was hope with God that the punishment might be mitigated
by repentance. And so, in an amazing paradox, the Destroyer might become also
"He who hides his sins shall not prosper,
but he who confesses and forsakes them, shall have mercy"