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Bible Commentaries
Lamentations 4

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-12

LAMENTATIONS - CHAPTER 4

JERUSALEM UNDER SIEGE

Divine Anger at Unchecked Iniquity,

That the writer of this chapter was an eyewitness to the siege and utter devastation of Jerusalem there can be no doubt. With a heavy heart he contrasts what MIGHT HAVE BEEN with the crushing humiliation and shame that had befallen his beloved city and people under the wrath of Jehovah. Nor is it necessary for him to wonder concerning the cause of such a tragedy! Materialism reigned as king! Furthermore, Jeremiah recognized: moral corruption, a presumptuous abuse of high privilege, a gross misuse of power, and the persistent misleading of a people who loved to have it so! How could a righteous God help but spew such a sickening people out of His mouth!

Vs. 1-12: A CONTRAST BETWEEN THE PAST AND PRESENT

1. Gold, fine gold and sacred stones (the temple treasures) are here used, metaphorically, of Jerusalem’s most precious possessions - her people, the children of Zion! (vs. 1-2).

a. Relegating other nations to the level of base metals, Judah has envisioned her people as pure gold and precious stones; but there has been a reversal of her proud self-evaluation, due to the reversal of her national condition.

b. In a two-fold figure, wherein the temple is pillaged and the defenders of Jerusalem slaughtered in her streets, the gold appears to have lost its brightness; the sacred stones are scattered and crushed in the streets as if they were common clay!

2. Under pressure of the siege, the mothers of Judah are pictured as being less considerate (Isaiah 49:15) of their young than contemptible beasts of prey ("jackals", comp. Isaiah 34:13), and as the ostriches of the wilderness - which were noted for cruel indifference toward their young, (vs. 3-4; Job 39:13-17).

a. The wild creatures give suck to their young.

b. But the tongue of the suckling in Jerusalem cleaves to the roof of his mouth because of thirst (comp. Jeremiah 14:3); though the children beg for bread, no provision is made for them (vs. 4; Lamentations 2:12).

3. Those who once lived luxuriously, are now desolate in the streets - so exhausted that they lie, for rest, on heaps of refuse! (vs. 5; Jeremiah 6:2; Amos 6:3-7; 1 Samuel 2:8; comp. Psalms 113:6-9).

a. Such is a calamity that could have been avoided had they but heeded the voice of their faithful prophets who consistently called them to repentance.

b. God’s plan had been for them to lead other nations in the way of truth and uprightness (Psalms 81:11-16); because of their stubborn rebellion, however, they were led into captivity by heathen nations who acted as instruments of divine judgment upon their sin.

4. Because the willful, malicious, and deliberate sin of Jerusalem is adjudged greater than that of Sodom, so is her punishment more severe, (vs. 6).

a. Sodom’s punishment came in a moment -inflicted DIRECTLY by the Lord Himself (Genesis 19:23-25), and so suddenly that there was no time for panic!

b. But, the judgment upon Jerusalem has been characterized by prolonged agony- brought on INDIRECTLY, through human instruments.

c. A more severe judgment awaits those who refuse so commit themselves, in faith, to Him who came as the "express image of the Father’s person" and manifesting the radiant effulgence of His glory among men, (Matthew 11:21-24; Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 10:26-31).

5. Judah’s men of rank had once been admirable specimens of perfect masculine beauty; in eloquent hyperbole, Jeremiah describes their present state as being "darker than blackness"! reduced, by famine, to such humiliation as to be indistinguishable from the peasants, (vs. 7-9).

a. Their skin is so withered, and clinging to their bones, that they resemble "sticks"! (vs. 8).

b. Her desolation has been as extensive as the scope of divine blessing would have been had she walked before the Lord in the obedience of faith.

c. When men WILL NOT come to God for LIFE (John 5:40), they are inevitably overtaken by DEATH!

6. Kings and nations are utterly appalled by the thought that ANY adversary of Judah should actually succeed in entering the gates of Jerusalem - which all, along with Judah, seemed to think was an utter impossibility because it was regarded as the "City of God"! (vs. 12; comp. Deuteronomy 29:24-29; 1 Kings 9:8-9; Jeremiah 21:13-14):

Verses 13-20

Vs. 13-20: SPIRITUAL MIS-GUIDANCE AND ITS SAD END

1. The faithless prophets and priests of Judah, whose responsibility it was to uphold the covenant-ideals within the nation, are largely to be blamed for the tragic end to which both Judah and Jerusalem have come, (vs. 13; Jeremiah 6:13; Jeremiah 8:10-12; Jeremiah 23:11; Jeremiah 23:14).

a. They are charged with sin and iniquity, (Lamentations 2:14; Jeremiah 5:30-31; Ezekiel 22:26-28; Micah 3:11-12).

b. They are responsible for shedding the blood of the righteous (the true prophets) in the midst of Jerusalem, (Jeremiah 2:30; Jeremiah 26:8­9; 20-23).

2. Having recognized their spiritual treachery, and. enraged populace has now treated these pseudo-prophets in a manner appropriate to their sin, (vs. 14-15).

a. Their spiritual leadership has been repudiated and rejected.

b. They have been cast out as lepers.

c. They wander about, as blind men, and find no welcome anywhere!

3. But, we must not fail to note that Jehovah Himself has directly intervened to deal with those who so flagrantly misrepresent and hinder His holy purpose! (vs. 16; Isaiah 9:13-16; Jeremiah 52:24-27); they had persistently opposed the true servants of Jehovah who were faithful to His covenant.

4. So long as Jerusalem still stood, her inhabitants steadfastly hoped for rescue by the armies of Egypt - their ally; but it was a delusive hope (vs. 17); Egypt was not dependable!

a. The folly of trusting in Egypt had been set before them again and again by their faithful prophets.

b. Jeremiah well knew that NOTHING could save them from destruction, by the Chaldeans, but divine Intervention; nor could that be expected because of the wickedness that considered Him obligated - in spite of their rebellious hearts!

c. Thus, have they watched, in vain, for assistance from a nation that was powerless to save!

5. Verses 18-19 vividly describe how securely the net of the Chaldeans had been drawn over Judah - though this passage seems to deal, basically, with the pursuit of her leaders, through whom rebellion was perpetuated to the bitter end!

a. Realizing that a breach had been made in the city wall, Zedekiah and his counselors attempted a night-time escape.

b. But their steps were pursued by the Babylonians with the swiftness of eagles.

c. And they were apprehended in an attempt to escape to Egypt.

6. So, Zedekiah - the anointed of Jehovah, of the house of David - whom Judah regarded as the very "breath of her life", was taken captive, (Jeremiah 52:7-11).

a. All hope of living, under his shadow, as a kingdom in exile, was forever banished! (vs. 20).

b. The throne of David was, thus, over-turned -the crown cast down; and so it remains to this day!

c. There did come One, of the lineage and house of David, whose right it was (and who possessed sufficient ability) to raise up that throne, and to reign gloriously over the ancient people of God (Luke 1:30-33); but they rejected Him, saying: "We WILL NOT have this man to reign over us"! (Luke 19:14).

d. Nor will they have further opportunity to enjoy the blessing of Davidic rule until, at the glorious return of our Lord Jesus Christ to this earth, they declare Him "blessed" Who comes in the name of the LORD! (Matthew 23:39).

Verses 21-22

Vs. 21-22: JUDGMENT AWAITS EDOM

1. Long a bitter adversary of Judah (her kinsman), Edom has not only helped to precipitate her downfall, but has exceedingly rejoiced in the day of her calamity, (Obadiah 1:10-16; comp. Jeremiah 49:7-22; Ezekiel 25:12­14; 35:15).

2. Nebuchadnezzar appears to have allotted the rural areas of Judah to Edom, in recognition of her neutrality, and of tier active help in the final days of his campaign.

3. The command here (vs. 21), to "rejoice" is spoken derisively in the prophet’s recognition that Edom’s delight in the downfall of Judah will be of brief endurance, (Psalms 83:3-6; Psalms 137:7).

4. The daughter of Zion may truly rejoice in the assurance that the punishment due her sin will be complete with her release from Babylonian captivity, (vs. 22; comp. Isaiah 40:2; Jeremiah 33:7-8).

5. But Edom must yet taste the bitter cup of humiliation; in her exhilaration at the calamity of others, the naked wickedness of her true character is revealed, and she will surely bear the full weight of her iniquity under the wrath of Jehovah, (Isaiah 34:5-7; Isaiah 63:1-6; Jeremiah 49:10; Amos 1:11-12; Malachi 1:2-4).

6. What profitable lessons may be gleaned from these brief verses!

a. Whoever inflicts suffering upon others must ultimately taste the bitter fruit of his own devices!

b. Those who ENDURE suffering, with their trust in the Lord, may find indescribable joy therein.

c. Those who have sinned may still BE REDEEMED: provided they acknowledge their sins and turn to the Lord with their whole hearts -ceasing their god-playing insistence on running their own lives.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Lamentations 4". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/lamentations-4.html. 1985.
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