Read Lamentations: At
first sight this book appears miserable, a catalogue of woes of
the city of Jerusalem in ruins. However, the more you read it
carefully, the more flesh is added to the skeleton of history.
It might be helpful to consider you were a TV crew reporting on
a disaster somewhere in the world.
author who is thought to be Jeremiah brings to our attention
so many aspects of this catastrophe, the most important of which
has to be the firm declaration that what has happened has been
the judgment of God on a sinful nation. [see below for details].
in the form of poetry, the writer sometimes has personified Jerusalem
speaking out her anguish, and sometimes his own anguish. This
anguish takes the form of
1 no elements of faith and hope, just anguish
2 - no elements of faith and hope, just anguish
there is hope because of God's love and compassion
the Lord blesses those who wait on Him
His discipline does not last for ever
the Lord does not willingly bring such disciplinary judgments
the Lord has heard his pleas
their punishment in exile will be of limited duration
the Lord reigns [over Israel, implied] for ever.
Historical Context: Jeremiah
has been prophesying in Jerusalem through the reigns of three
of the final kings of Judah [Jer 1:2,3] five in fact although
two of them only ruled a matter of a few months. He had been warning
each king and the people to repent and turn back to the Lord otherwise
the Lord would bring a judgment of destruction upon them.
first attacked Jerusalem in 598BC
and took Jehoiakim to Babylon along
with Daniel and a number of other nobles [2 Chron 36:5,6]
then Jehoiachin, [2 Chron 36:10] was
taken in 597BC, along with Ezekiel
and some ten thousand other Jews, [2
and then Zedekiah,
with the fall of Jerusalem after
a year's siege.
had prophesied about the sin of Israel again and again:
forefathers had forsaken the Lord, they were worse
the land full of vile images
even their children know the Asherah pole idols
ignoring the Sabbath day
God has been rejected for idols
oppression and injustice again
the covenant broken and idols worshipped
oppression, injustice and violence
leaders don't care for the people
godlessness in the Temple
Jerusalem has become like Sodom and Gomorrah
they refuse the Lord's words and continue to worship idols
record (2 Chron 36:17-20) of the fall of Jerusalem says of God,
up against them the king of the Babylonians, who killed their
young men with the sword in the sanctuary, and did not spare young
men or young women, the elderly or the infirm. God gave them all
into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. He carried to Babylon all the
articles from the temple of God, both large and small, and the
treasures of the Lord 's temple and the treasures of the king
and his officials. They set fire to God's temple and broke down
the wall of Jerusalem; they burned all the palaces and destroyed
everything of value there. He carried into exile to Babylon
the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants
to him and his successors until the kingdom of Persia came to
book of Jeremiah has a more comprehensive record [Jer 52:4-27]:
in the ninth year of Zedekiah's reign, on the tenth day of the
tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem
with his whole army.
They encamped outside
the city and built siege works all around it.
The city was kept under siege until the eleventh year of King
By the ninth day of
the fourth month the famine in the city had
become so severe that there was no food for the people to eat.
Then the city
wall was broken through, and the whole army fled. They
left the city at night through the gate between the two walls
near the king's garden, though the Babylonians were surrounding
the city. They fled towards the Arabah, but the Babylonian
army pursued King Zedekiah and overtook him
in the plains of Jericho. All his soldiers were separated from
him and scattered, and he was captured.
He was taken to the
king of Babylon at Riblah in the land of Hamath, where he pronounced
sentence on him. There at Riblah the king of Babylon killed the
sons of Zedekiah before his eyes; he also killed all the officials
of Judah. Then he put out Zedekiah's eyes, bound him with bronze
shackles and took him to Babylon, where he put him in prison till
the day of his death.
On the tenth day of
the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king
of Babylon, Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard, who served
the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem.
He set fire
to the temple of the Lord, the royal palace
and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every
important building he burned down.
The whole Babylonian
army, under the commander of the imperial guard, broke down all
the walls around Jerusalem.
Nebuzaradan the commander
of the guard carried into exile some of the poorest people and
those who remained in the city, along with the rest of the craftsmen
and those who had deserted to the king of Babylon. But Nebuzaradan
left behind the rest of the poorest people of the land to work
the vineyards and fields.
The Babylonians broke
up the bronze pillars, the movable stands and the bronze Sea that
were at the temple of the Lord and they carried all the bronze
to Babylon. They also took away the pots, shovels, wick trimmers,
sprinkling bowls, dishes and all the bronze articles used in the
temple service. The commander of the imperial guard took away
the basins, censers, sprinkling bowls, pots, lampstands, dishes
and bowls used for drink offerings all that were made of
pure gold or silver.
The commander of the
guard took as prisoners Seraiah the chief priest, Zephaniah the
priest next in rank and the three doorkeepers. Of those still
in the city, he took the officer in charge of the fighting men,
and seven royal advisers. He also took the secretary who was chief
officer in charge of conscripting the people of the land, sixty
of whom were found in the city. Nebuzaradan the commander took
them all and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah. There
at Riblah, in the land of Hamath, the king had them executed.
this was a terrible time and it was subsequent to this that Lamentations
was written. It should be noted that most of the descriptions
in the five chapters of Lamentations cannot be dated and so Jeremiah
may have been referring to different times during these days,
i.e. during the siege and after it. The chapters give no
indication of chronological order.
awfulness of the descriptions in Lamentations enables us to catch
something more of the reality of what happened. We should also
remind ourselves that Jeremiah prophesied the return of Israel
to the land which was fulfilled in the reign of Cyrus.
Anguish for what has happened
Judgement of the Lord
Anguish & Hope
The Past Compared with the Present
Prayer over the Disgrace of Israel & Jerusalem