'' 'How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! how is she a widow that was great among the nations! and princess among the provinces, how is it she became tributary!' So bursts forth the elaborate dirge of which the oldest Jewish tradition tells us that 'after the captivity of Israel and the desolation of Jerusalem, Jeremiah sat down and wept, and lamented his lamentation over Jerusalem.' In the face of a rocky hill, on the western side of the city, the local belief has placed 'the grotto of Jeremiah.' There in that fixed attitude of grief, which Michael Angelo has immortalised, the prophet may well be supposed to have mourned the fall of his country.'' [Stanley's Jewish Church.]
The desolation of the city by the Chaldean army is described by Jeremiah in his Book of Lamentations with all the vividness of an eye-witness.
Six hundred years have passed, and now from the opposite, or eastern, side of the city a procession of rejoicing children with a lowly King winds up the slopes of the Mount of Olives. A sudden bend in the road brings the city of Jerusalem full upon the view. The sight of that proud city in the morning sunlight, with the marble pinnacles and gilded roofs of the Temple, brought such a mighty rush of compassion to the soul of our Saviour, that He wept aloud. ''If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things that belong unto thy peace!'' -- and there sorrow interrupted the sentence, and, when He found voice to continue, He could only add, ''but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee. . . and they shall not leave one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.'' [Luke 19:41-44] [See Farrar's Life of Christ, vol. ii. p. 199.]
The weeping prophet was a type of the weeping Saviour. The one had foretold the destruction of the city by the Chaldeans, the other by the Romans.
Judgment for Sin.
Thoughout the Book of Lamentations, Jeremiah points out plainly that the judgment that has come upon the city is on account of her sin. The Key-note of the book is Destruction. It contains five Laments corresponding with the five chapters. Each Lament is arranged in acrostic form, every verse beginning with one of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, except that in the fifth Lament, though it contains the right number of stanzas, the acrostic form disappears. Moreover, in the third or middle Lament-- the climax of the poem-- each initial letter is repeated three times.
Lament I. In the first part of this Lament, the prophet speaks, and describes the city as a woman bereft of her husband and children. In the second [part], Zion speaks and bewails her misery. She acknowledges that her punishment is from the Lord, and confesses ''The Lord is righteous; I have rebelled.''
Lament II. is spoken by the prophet. A remarkable description of the ruin of Jerusalem.
Lament III. The prophet speaks, but makes the miseries of the people his own. Out of the midst of the misery, he stays himself upon the Lord's faithfulness and His unfailing compassion, and asserts unhesitatingly that ''He doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men'' (3:33).
Lament IV. The prophet again describes the fearful judgments which have befallen Jerusalem.
Lament V. The Jewish people speak and make confession, and appeal to God for forgiveness and deliverance.
In chapter 1, we have the description of desolation. No rest; no pasture; no Comforter (v. 3,6,9). Such is the desolation of every soul that is without Christ.
In the verse ''For the sins of her prophets, and the iniquities of her priests, that have shed the blood of the just in the midst of her'' [Lam 4:13], we are reminded, first, of our Lord's own words: ''O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee'' [Mat 23:37]; and secondly, of Peter's words of accusation to the people of Jerusalem: ''Ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and killed the Prince of Life'' [Acts 3:14,15].
[Even so, to those who repent and turn to Him, the Lord mercifully extends His salvation and the promise of future restoration. Lam 3:22-26; Acts 3:17-26]