Chapter 5 (Verse by Verse)
Various Greek texts entitle this elegy "A Prayer". Other
manuscripts add "of Jeremiah".
"Remember": Compare 1:20; 2:20; 3:19. The Lord will
remember the sufferings of the Jews. He will also remember the sufferings of the
saints -- as He did those of Christ (cp Psa 89:50, 51).
As James says, "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous
man availeth much" (James 5:16). The prayer of Hezekiah is a prime example (Isa
37:14-20). We are commanded to pray, in the same way, for the peace of Jerusalem
"Behold our reproach": Our shame, disgrace (RSV, NIV),
and infamy. From a root word meaning "autumn" or "ripeness" -- perhaps
signifying here the fulness of iniquity, as the wicked finally reap what
has been sown (v 7, notes; Gal 6:7). Jeremiah, true to his feeling for the "hope
of Israel", places himself among those who have sinned grievously. In a true
spirit of brotherliness, he accepts partial responsibility for the sins of his
"Our inheritance is turned to strangers": The
inheritance is the promised land (Gen 13:15; Lev 26:5, 6), a land of milk and
honey (Exo 3:8; Lev 20:24), given only temporarily and conditionally to the
nation of Israel -- if they followed God (Jer 3:19).
But the same inheritance is promised eternally to us: still,
"our inheritance" may be also "turned to strangers" if we are rejected at the
judgment seat (Mat 25:41).
"We are orphans and fatherless": God had been the
Father to the Jews (Psa 68:5; 103:13; Jer 31:9, 10), but no longer.
The Jews, as a result of the captivity, are now so degraded
that they must buy from usurping strangers what was once their own
"We have drunken our water for money": Judah is forced
to buy her water, because she had rejected the true and living "water" (Isa 8:6;
55:1; John 4:10; 7:37); that is, she had rejected God, the fountain of living
waters (Jer 2:13, 18; 17:3).
"For money": Contrast Isa 55:1: "Without money". This
is the invitation of the gospel (Rev 21:6; 22:1, 17), which the Jews had
"Our necks are under persecution": The Jews, a
stiff-necked people (2Ch 30:8; Isa 48:4), were down trodden (Psa 66:12;
Isa 51:23). Compare 1:14; 3:34; 4:19.
"We have given the hand":
"To the Egyptians": After Josiah's death (circa 608
BC), Egypt deposed his son Jehoahaz, and crowned Jehoiakin (2Ch 36:3,
- In submission, as in Jer 50:15.
- Or in begging: "We have extended the
hand." What a come-down from the days when "Thou shah lend to others, but thou
shalt not borrow" (Deut 15:6)!
- Or in agreement: "We have made a pact
with..." (Hillers). Compare Ezek 17:18 and thoughts in Jer 2:18, 36 and Hosea
7:11; 12:1. Perhaps all three ideas may find a place in a comprehensive view of
this verse, and of Israel's many-sided relationship with her
"To the Assyrians": Or to Babylon, which occupied their
former lands (cp Jer 2:18). Also, a type of the "Assyrian" from the north in the
last days, who will have consolidated all the old empires: Russia!
"Our fathers have sinned, and are not": The nation has
at last recognized the reason for God's heavy hand upon them, the same hand
which fell upon their fathers. Compare the words of Zechariah, spoken 70 years
"Your fathers, where are they?... and they returned and said, Like as the
LORD of Hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways, and according to our
doings, so hath he dealt with us" (Zec 1:5,
"We have borne their iniquities": The Jews, similarly,
had in Christ's time filled up the measure of their fathers' iniquity (Mat
23:32). Although it is a Scriptural principle that every man bears personal
responsibility for his own deeds (Ezek 18:20), it is still true that
national sins are often unpunished for a time, and judgment is stored up
until a later date, when it all falls at one time (2Ki 24:21; Exo 20:5; Jer
32:18; Gen 15:13-16). Such was the case with the kingdom of Judah.
"Servants ('slaves') have ruled over us": This
always happened when Israel forgot their one true Ruler -- Yahweh. They did not
heed Joshua's command to drive out the Canaanites (Josh 16:10), who remained in
the land throughout the period of the judges, and mightily oppressed
One of the four things which the earth cannot "bear" is "a
servant (slave) when he reigneth" (Pro 30:21, 22) -- a sad fact evidenced again
in Israel's history when those ruthless Roman "slaves", the Edomite
(Idumean) Herods, reigned!
This verse may also be a reference to the governors who
evidently were soon to begin ruling in the land (Neh 5:15).
"We gat our bread with the peril of our lives
because of the sword of the wilderness": Contrast this
with the fortunes of the Jews who spent 40 years in the wilderness, where they
gathered bread each day; they found it as the dew upon the ground! They had "no
The famine of bread in Jeremiah's time was only the type of
the far worse famine -- the famine of God's word (Amos 8:11, 12). There were
still prophets to speak to Israel, but most refused to hear -- and thus brought
the hardships of a "famine" upon themselves.
"Our skin was black": Affliction, persecution,
wandering (Song 1:5, 6; Psa 119:83; Lam 4:8), famine (Rev 6:5, 6).
"Like an oven": Egypt was symbolized by an iron furnace
(Deut 4:20). A similar thought is intended here: the fiery persecution of the
Jews. Likewise, the Psalmist, in 119:83, pictures himself as a bottle, or a
wineskin, blackened by the smoke.
"They ravished the women in Zion,
and the maids in the cities of Judah": This was
predicted in Deut 28:30, 32 and Jer 6:12. Israel's latter-day enemies will also
do this (cp Zec 14:2); but God sees and remembers (v 1), and such deeds will be
punished (as in Isa 13:16; Psa 137:7-9).
"Princes": The nation of Israel (which signifies
"a prince with El").
"Princes are hanged up by their hand": Probably
impaling after death. Thus, falling under a curse (Deut 21:23; Gal
"The faces of elders were not honoured": See
"They took the young men to grind": A low menial task,
usually assigned to female slaves (Exo 11:5; Isa 47:2) or other women (Mat
24:41). The Philistines could think of no greater degradation with which to
torment their blinded former nemesis-Samson (Judges 16:21).
"The elders have ceased from the gate": Counsel (as
Ruth 4:1), as well as social and commercial activity (as Job 29:7; Pro 31:23),
"The city of confusion is broken down" (Isa 24:7-11).
cp Jer 7:34 and Psa 30:11.
"Our dance is turned into mourning": Now was the "time
to weep" (Eccl 3:4), as Nehemiah was to mourn when he later saw the city lying
waste (Neh 2:2, 3).
But "joy cometh in the morning" (Psa 30:5), and "they that sow
in tears shall reap in joy" (Psa 126:5, 6).
''The crown": In two senses the "crown" had
The crown is a symbol of royalty, which had been overthrown
(Jer 13:18; Ezek 21:26; Psa 89:39; Hos 3:4).
The crown also symbolizes obedience to the Truth (Rev 2:10;
3:11), and dedication and priesthood (Exo 28:36-38).
See 1:22 and 2:11.
"Because of the mountain of Zion": The center of all
true Jewish hopes (Isa 2:2-4; 24:23; Psa 133:3).
"The foxes walk upon it": Compare Psa 63:10. "Jackals"
(RSV, NIV), unclean scavengers, representing the unclean nations who "walk upon"
the hope of Israel.
"Thou, O LORD, remainest for ever;
Thy throne from generation to generation": This is the
one means by which the Jews' sorrowful condition may be changed: God's kingdom
was once on earth (1Ch 28:5; 2Ch 13:8), and it will be re-established (2Sa
7:12-16; Acts 1:6; 14:16) as His throne (Jer 3:17).
"For ever": Literally, "for the age" (see, for example,
Dr. Thomas' exposition in Eureka, vol. 1, pp. 127-130). The age is
evidently this age: the time of the Gentiles, the prophetic period now
drawing to a close.
A quotation from Jer 31:18.
"Turn Thou us unto Thee, O LORD, and we shall be
turned": True humility at last! A recognition that, as the punishments came
from God, so forgiveness must come from Him as well, and repentance and
renewal of purpose, by His grace and strength, will follow. It is vain to
lament the past if our grief does not help us to make the future better, by
seeking help from the one unfailing Source.
"Renew our days as of old":
"And He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver,
that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness. Then shall the
offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days
of old, and as in former years" (Mal 3:3,
In the Hebrew manuscripts, verse 21 is usually repeated after
verse 22 -- so as to close the book on a more hopeful note (the same type of
repetition is found in printed editions of some Hebrew Bibles at the end of
Isaiah, Ecclesiastes, and But a fuller understanding of verse 22 makes such an
editorial addition superfluous.
"But Thou hast utterly rejected us;
Thou art very wroth against us": This verse has been
poorly translated. It implies an utter, complete rejection of the Jews for all
eternity -- which is perhaps what orthodox translators would like -- but which
is certainly not in harmony with the rest of Scripture (see, for one example,
Some translators simply render this verse as a question. Note
the RSV, the margin of the AV, and Keil. Rotherham translates it:
"For though Thou hast not utterly rejected us,
And Goodspeed renders it in this way:
Thou art wroth with us
"If Thou wert to reject us completely,
God would not be going too far for just deserts, but too far
according to His previous utterances. Such a proposal would be out of harmony
with all the promises of God. Moses said that God would raise unto Israel a
leader like unto him, whom they would hear.
Thou wouldst be going too far in Thine anger against
They rejected this leader when he came the first time, but
their hearts will be turned from stone to flesh when he returns in power and
glory; when their pride and self-confidence has been abased before the
latter-day enemy, and when God fights for them as in the day of battle. Then
shall they open the gates of their hearts unto him:
"Lift up your heads, O ye gates;
Then, shall they say:
even lift them up, ye everlasting doors;
and the King of glory shall come in...
The LORD of Hosts,
He is the King of Glory" (Psa
"BLESSED IS HE THAT COMETH IN THE NAME OF THE
O! Mourn ye for Zion, her beauty is faded,
Her joy is departed, her glory is fled:
The light and the hope or her prospects is shaded:
She wanders in darkness, her comforts are dead.
Oh! pray ye for Zion: though sad and forsaken,
Though scorned and derided, despised and forlorn;
The truth of Yahweh, our God, is unshaken,
Her night shall but usher a glorious morn.
Oh! Labor for Zion, though now, in her blindness,
She knows not her Saviour, Messiah, and Lord;
Yet, guided by mercy, the life-tones of kindness
Shall win her full ear to the voice of His word.
Oh watch ye for Zion; the day-spring is breaking,
Her night has been gloomy, but shortly will end:
Her long-promised Shepherd, His lost sheep is seeking,
The heart of the rebellious nation will bend.
Oh! hope ye for Zion; salvation is near,
And brighter than morn's rosy glow shall be seen;
The great Sun of Righteousness soon shall appear;
The beam of His glory shall gladden the scene.
Rejoice ye for Zion! Yahweh has spoken;
Jerusalem 's outcasts shall yet be restored;
The bonds of the fetter-bound slave shall be broken,
And Judah set free at the word of the