Book of Lamentations (Major Prophets – Part 1)

In the Hebrew Bible, Lamentations is called Ekah (Hebrew for “how”), after the first word in the book, which has been referred to as either a groan or a cry of  grief – therefore, a lament. The word begins the first two sentences in chapter one. It also begins chapter 2, and is used twice in the first sentence of chapter 4. The statements that these sentences make accentuate the fallen state of Jerusalem and its people, as well as the anger the Lord has for them at the time (Lamentations 2:1). The book is sometimes also referred to by use of the Hebrew word “kinnoth,” which is “lamentations,” which ultimately comes from the verb “konen” for “lament.”

"Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Je...

“Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem” by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most scholars attribute the writing of the book to Jeremiah and (notwithstanding some pretty feeble arguments by a few) there really is no reason to dispute that. The book served to solidify for the prophet the title of “the weeping prophet.” There are some that suggest that the prophet was writing about events that had not yet occurred, but that really does not seem likely, as the descriptions of the dire circumstances, despair, and suffering of the people are very personal and passionate, and highly suggestive of an eyewitness account, especially in chapter 4.

The chapters of the book are usually referred to as 5 poems – an assessment that seems very accurate when one reads them. The Book of Lamentations is an expression of immense grief in a very poetic literary style. However, each lament moves rapidly from one tragic point to another, demonstrating the utter despair and turmoil in Jeremiah’s soul. The poems in Lamentations express profound loss, recalling bygone days of glory, while lamenting in the enumeration of what is now gone forever, trying to find some measure of consolation in his sorrows, as well as some hope for the future. At the center of it all, of course, is the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar.

The entire book (with the exception of the last chapter) has an acrostic pattern that is unique. Chapters 1, 2 and 4 each have 22 verses – one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. And each verse begins with a different letter. Chapter 3 has 66 verses, and each letter is represented by three verses in succession, repeating the alphabet three times. Each verse of chapters 1 and 2 consist of three dual clauses (except for 1:7 and 2:19, which have four). Each verse of chapter 4 consists of two dual clauses. But there are two aspects of the book’s composition that are even more puzzling. The first is that in chapters 2, 3, and 4 the 17th letter (“pey” or “phey”) occurs before the 16th (“ayin”). Secondly, although the 5th chapter is not an acrostic, it contains exactly 22 verses.

English: Woodcut for "Die Bibel in Bilder...

English: Woodcut for “Die Bibel in Bildern”, 1860. Lamentations of Jeremiah Deutsch: Holzschnitt aus “Die Bibel in Bildern”, 1860. Français : Gravure en bois pour «Die Bibel in Bildern», 1860. Русский: Гравюра из цикла «Библия в картинах», 1860 год. Плач Иеремии (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first chapter begins the observations of the prophet concerning the despair of hunger and the deaths from the “war,” as well as the desecration and plundering of the sanctuary.  It describes the fall of Judah from God’s favor because of its unfaithfulness, just as an adulteress. It concludes with the plea that God will punish Babylon in the end.

The second poem describes the suffering of the people with more vivid passion, but makes it clear throughout the chapter that it was God who brought this fate upon the people, and that the reason He did it was because of their sins. In the third poem, the prophet spells out the fact that what has happened is for the best, where the believers  – especially those yet to be born – are concerned, and that even this tragedy shows that God keeps His promises.  The hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness” by Thomas Chisholm has its roots in Lamentations 3:19-24. It also expresses Jeremiah’s certain knowledge that God will redeem His people, and that His enemies will be punished.

Chapter 4 contains the graphic eyewitness account of the prophet concerning the desperate plight of the people. Young children were dying from lack of  food or water (Lamentations 4:4). The noblemen and even the wealthy were starving in the streets (Lamentations 4:7-8). The most disturbing account is that of mothers who boiled and ate their own children to keep from starving to death (Lamentations 4:10). Verse 9 makes a good summary statement: “Happier were the victims of the sword…”

The fifth and final poem continues this account with the description of the slavery that had become their lot, the rape of the women (Lamentations 5:11), and the public display of the executed nobles (Lamentations 5:13). But it also contains the prophet’s prayer that God will restore the people and take away their shame and disgrace. He also prays for their repentance, and for God to restore them. Verse 21 sums it up: “Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old…”

/Bob’s boy
___________________
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

Job 3 – Whatever I dread befalls me

Job finally breaks the silence of the last week as it would seem he can no longer bear it.    We have no way of knowing what has been going through his mind in the last week, but surely he has been tempted to turn his anger toward God.  Still, he does not sin and curse God, as God  in His wisdom already knew he would not.  True enough that he did greatly lament his own birth, but even the great prophet Jeremiah did so (Jeremiah 20:14-18) in his sorrow over his persecution.

Still, it is all too easy for us to be tempted to judge Job and others, for who among us has not himself suffered?  And is our suffering not just as severe for us at times?  When we have been hurt, do we cry out and long for death?  If we do not, does that make our grief and pain less significant?

We all do suffer – some more than others – at times, and if we are truthful, as great as our pain may be; and as bad as it may get for many of us, it is doubtful that we go through the degree of anguish and pain that Job has already experienced in the first two chapters of this book.

Job's happy days.

Job’s happy days.

But who is anyone else to judge this, and what yardstick will they use to do so?  That of what we read of Job – or (more likely) their own?  We will get to know Job’s friends much better in the coming days, but if you cut through all of the criticism that we and others direct at those friends (and truly they will show their own flaws as well), we should not lose sight of the fact that they came and stayed with Job when he was at his lowest, spoke not a word until he spoke, and only now will speak as they believe they may be able to help him understand why these terrible things have happened to him – as well how he might “fix it.”

Our desire to think of ourselves as compassionate, and “being there” for our friends as Job’s three friends are there is admirable, but we must not presume to “know how they feel.”  No matter how seemingly large or small the trial or pain, no two people handle grief, depression, or pain in the same way.  All Job knows, is that when all that he has lost began to go wrong, it just kept coming!  And his worst fears and dreads became realized again and again (verse 25-26):

“For the thing that I fear comes upon me,
and what I dread befalls me.
I am not at ease, nor am I quiet;
I have no rest, but trouble comes.”

Re: Job 2:10 “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”  He epitomized Jesus’ words; and with of all their faults, Job’s friends did show compassion, for as much as he still obeyed Matthew 22:37 (cited from Deuteronomy 6:5), they demonstrated their love for him as in Matthew 22:39: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Ezra 1 – The Proclamation of Cyrus

Cyrus Cylinder. Terracotta, Babylonian, ca. 53...

Cyrus Cylinder. Terracotta, Babylonian, ca. 539-530 BC. From Babylon, southern Iraq. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ezra begins in 539 BC with the proclamation of Cyrus.  This was prophesied hundreds of years before he was even born – in Isaiah 44:28-45:1.  Verse 1 says that “the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia,” affirming that the proclamation was the Lord’s doing.  The reference to the words of Jeremiah is about Jeremiah 25:11-14 and 32:36-38, wherein the prophet predicts the exile to Babylon as well as their return.  The leaders of the tribes of Benjamin and Judah, along with the priests and Levites, gather money and material for the temple – as Cyrus decreed it to be rebuilt.  Cyrus also brings the treasures that were taken from the temple in 586 b.c. for them to take back to Jerusalem (verses 7-11).

Side note: The Cyrus Cylinder was discovered in 1879 by Hormuzd Rassam.  Cyrus conquered the Babylonians and captured Nabonidus, the last Babylonian king.  He details the restoration of exiles and the return of temple “gods” to their sanctuaries.  There is a great story about this cylinder in this article from BibleArchaeology.org.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Jeremiah 31 – The New Covenant

Jeremiah begins this famous chapter with words of encouragement, speaking of a time when the people are returned from captivity.  In verses 15-16, Rachel is weeping for her children; and God says that they will come back.  Rachel was Jacob’s second, and most loved, wife and Joseph’s mother (Genesis 30:22-24).  Ephraim and Manasseh were Joseph’s sons.  The message is summed up in verse 17 “There is hope for your future, declares the Lord.”

Verses 21-39 then describe the new covenant that God will make with His people, and the new relationship that they will have with Him (verses 33-34).   Rather than the forgiveness by the sacrifice of animals through a priest, everyone will be able to know the Lord and have true forgiveness – The Lord “will remember their sin no more.”  The Hebrew writer quotes these verses in Hebrews 8, as he speaks of Jesus being the High Priest of a new covenant.  They are repeated in Hebrews 10.   Also in Hebrews 10:12-14, we are told of the gift that Christ gave us by making a single offering, for all time, of Himself in order to cleanse our sins.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

2 Kings 25 – Fall and Captivity of Judah

The events of this chapter are recounted in Jeremiah 52, as God’s judgment on Judah comes to pass.  Nebuchadnezzar and his army besieged Jerusalem for two years.  There was severe famine, and no food was left.  So Zedekiah and his men of war managed to escape through the exit in the wall that is probably referred to as the “Fountain gate” in Nehemiah 3:15.  But the Chaldeans overtook him in the plain s of Jericho.  They slaughtered his sons in front of him, put out his eyes, put him in chains, and took him to Babylon.

Two panels of Babylon gate relief by Nebuchadn...

Two panels of Babylon gate relief by Nebuchadnezzar II (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then, a servant of the king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan (the captain of the bodyguard) came to Jerusalem.  He burned the house of the Lord, the Kings house, and all the great houses down (verse 9).  Verse 10: “And all the army of the Chaldeans, who were with the captain of the guard, broke down the walls around Jerusalem.” The rest of the people were carried into exile, leaving the poorest as vinedressers and plowmen.  They took the majestic pillars of bronze that Solomon had made; and many were slaughtered.  Nebuchadnezzar made Gedeliah his vassal governor over those left behind in Judah, but he was murdered.  A more complete account of Gedeliah and the circumstances connected with his murder can be found in Jeremiah 40-41.

We close out the Books of Kings with verses 27-30.  After 37 years, Nebuchadnezzar’s son (Evil-merodach) freed Jehoiachin.  He dined at the king’s table and was given a regular allowance.   Thereby, there was hope for the Davidic line and the promises of God to David in 2 Samuel 7:15-16.

Side note: Excavations of Babylon have yielded thousands of inscribed tablets with a wealth of information for scholars. Among many other things, they list the kings of other nations who were captured and living at the palace of the Babylonian king.  Four of those tablets list “Jehoiachin, king of Judah” and his family as receiving rations from the king.  An excellent article with photos, originally posted in the Summer 2007 issue of “Bible and Spade” can be found at this link.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

2 Kings 22 – Josiah Repairs the Temple

English: King Josiah by Julius Schnoor von Car...

English: King Josiah by Julius Schnoor von Carolsfeld (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Josiah began his reign as king at the age of 8, after his father Amon died.  He was a great king, and “walked in all the way of David his father.”  As he had the temple repaired, the “Book of the law” was found (that term is used in the Pentateuch to mean the Book of Deuteronomy).  Having been raised in a time when the king himself and the people of the land were at the depths of apostasy, Josiah may have not heard the commandments of the Lord; and the reference to them finding it could well mean that Manasseh had hidden it.  When it was read to him, he tore his clothes in grief.

Although Jeremiah and Zephaniah both prophesied during the time of Josiah’s reign (Jeremiah 1:1-2, Zephaniah:1), Josiah sent his people to a fairly unknown (to us, at least) prophetess named Huldah.  She confirmed the prophecy of disaster for Jerusalem that we read in 2 Kings 21:11-12.  But verses 18-20, the Lord declares that He will spare Josiah from seeing that disaster.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.