Lamentations 2:20
Behold, O LORD, and consider to whom thou hast done this. Shall the women eat their fruit, and children of a span long? shall the priest and the prophet be slain in the sanctuary of the Lord?
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(20) To whom thou hast done thisi.e., not to a heathen nation, but to the people whom Jehovah Himself had chosen.

Shall the women eat their fruit.—Atrocities of this nature had been predicted in Leviticus 26:26; Deuteronomy 28:57; Jeremiah 19:9. They were, indeed, the natural incidents of a besieged city reduced to starvation, as in the case of Samaria (2Kings 6:28), and the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans (Jos., B. J. v. 12), and had been witnessed, as the words show, in that by the Chaldæans. (Comp., as to the famine, Ezekiel 4:16-17; Ezekiel 5:16.)

Shall the priest . . .—Stress is laid on this as being the next element of horror. The very Holy of Holies was profaned with the blood of the priests and prophets of Jehovah.

Lamentations 2:20-22. Behold, O Lord, to whom thou hast done this — To thy people, for whom thou hast formerly expressed so much tenderness and affection. Jerusalem seems to be here introduced speaking. Shall the women eat their fruit — We find by comparing this verse with chap. Lamentations 4:10, that God brought upon them that terrible judgment which he had denounced against them, if they continued to provoke him, namely, that they should eat the flesh of their own sons and daughters. See the margin. And children of a span long — Hebrew, שׂפחים, rendered in the margin, swaddled with their hands, and by the LXX., νηπια θηλαζοντα μαστους, infants sucking the breasts. Shall the priest and the prophet be slain in the sanctuary of the Lord? — Shall thy ministers be slain, and that in thy sanctuary? We learn from this, 1st, That the Chaldeans spared no character, no, not the most distinguished; even the priest and the prophet, who, of all men, one would think, might have expected protection from heaven, and veneration on earth, yet they were slain; not abroad in the field of battle, where they would have been out of their place, as Hophni and Phinehas were, but in the sanctuary of the Lord, the place of their business, and which they hoped would have been a refuge to them. 2d, They spared no age, no, not those who, by reason of their tender or decrepit age, were exempted from taking up the sword; for the young and the old lay on the ground slain in the streets. 3d, They spared no sex, the virgins and the young men fell by the sword. In the most barbarous military executions that we read of, the virgins were spared and made part of the spoil, but here they were put to the sword as well as the young men. We learn, 4th, That this was the Lord’s doing; he suffered the sword of the Chaldeans to devour thus without distinction; he slew them in the day of his anger — Namely, his anger for their many and aggravated sins. Thou hast called, as in a solemn day — A day of awful retribution; my terrors round about — As my people were wont to be called together from all parts on solemn days, when they were to meet at Jerusalem for thy service; so now, by thy providence, my terrible enemies are by thee called together to slay thy people in that holy city in which they were wont to worship thee. So that none escaped nor remained — That is, few or none. Those that I have swaddled, and brought up, hath mine enemy consumed — As if they had been brought forth for the murderer, like lambs for the butcher, Hosea 9:13. Zion, that was a mother to them all, laments to see those that were brought up in her courts, and under the tuition of her oracles, thus made a prey of and destroyed.

2:10-22 Causes for lamentation are described. Multitudes perished by famine. Even little children were slain by their mother's hands, and eaten, according to the threatening, De 28:53. Multitudes fell by the sword. Their false prophets deceived them. And their neighbours laughed at them. It is a great sin to jest at others' miseries, and adds much affliction to the afflicted. Their enemies triumphed over them. The enemies of the church are apt to take its shocks for its ruins; but they will find themselves deceived. Calls to lamentation are given; and comforts for the cure of these lamentations are sought. Prayer is a salve for every sore, even the sorest; a remedy for every malady, even the most grievous. Our business in prayer is to refer our case to the Lord, and leave it with him. His will be done. Let us fear God, and walk humbly before him, and take heed lest we fall.The sense is: "See, Yahweh, and look! whom hast Thou treated thus? Shall women eat their fruit - children whom they must still carry?" the swaddled child being one still needing to be nursed and borne in their arms. 20. women eat … fruit—as threatened (Le 26:29; De 28:53, 56, 57; Jer 19:9).

children … span long—or else, "children whom they carry in their arms" [Maurer].


Consider to whom thou hast done this; that is, not to heathen, who never owned thee, nor were called by thy name, but to thine own people, called thy portion and thine heritage; let thy former relation to us, and our former acknowledgments of thee, prevail with thee. Wilt thou suffer, or should such a thing be, as for women to satisfy their hunger with the fruit of their own bodies, and that when they are very young? And shall thy ministers be slain, and that in thy sanctuary? Any human blood polluted it; shall not the blood of those that were the ministers of God be judged a pollution and profanation of it?

Behold, O Lord, and consider to whom thou hast done this,.... On whom thou hast brought these calamities of famine and sword; not upon thine enemies, but upon thine own people, that are called by thy name, and upon theirs, their young ones, who had not sinned as their fathers had: here the church does not charge God with any injustice, or complain of hard usage; only humbly entreats he would look upon her, in her misery, with an eye of pity and compassion; and consider her sorrowful condition; and remember the relation she stood in to him; and so submits her case, and leaves it with him. These words seem to be suggested to the church by the prophet, as what might be proper for her to use, when praying for the life of her young children; and might be introduced by supplying the word "saying" before "behold, O Lord", &c.

shall the women eat their fruit; their children, the fruit of their womb, as the Targum; their newborn babes, that hung at their breasts, and were carried in their arms; it seems they did, as was threatened they should, Leviticus 26:29; and so they did at the siege of Samaria, and at the siege of Jerusalem, both by the Chaldeans and the Romans:

and children of a span long? or of a hand's breadth; the breadth of the palms of the hand, denoting very little ones: or "children handled", or "swaddled with the hands" (c); of their parents, who are used to stroke the limbs of their babes, to bring them to; and keep them in right form and shape, and swaddle them with swaddling bands in a proper manner; see Lamentations 2:22; and so the Targum,

"desirable children, who are wrapped in fine linen.''

Jarchi (d) interprets it of Doeg Ben Joseph, whom his mother slew, and ate:

shall the priest and the prophet be slain in the sanctuary of the Lord? as very probably some were, who fled thither for safety when the city was broken up; but were not spared by the merciless Chaldeans, who had no regard to their office and character; nor is it any wonder they should not, when the Jews themselves slew Zechariah, a priest and prophet, between the porch and the altar; of whom the Targum here makes mention; and to whom Jarchi applies these words.

(c) "parvulos qui educantur", Pagninus; "parvulos educationum", Montanus; "educationis", Calvin; "infantes palmationum, sive tractationis palmarum", Michaelis; "pueros palmis tractatos", Cocceius. (d) E Talmud Bab. Yoma, fol. 38. 2.

Behold, O LORD, and consider to whom thou hast done this. Shall the women eat their fruit, and children of a span long? shall the priest and the prophet be slain in the sanctuary of the Lord?
20. Here begins the prayer made in response to the prophet’s exhortation. The questions are rhetorical and mean (although the verbs are in the future), Wilt thou look with unconcern at the things which have been done? For the state of things (foretold Jeremiah 19:9; Deuteronomy 28:53) cp. 2 Kings 6:25-30.

behold, to whom thou hast done thus] viz. Thy chosen ones of old.

that are dandled in the hands] The thought of maternal tenderness in the forms in which it would ordinarily be displayed towards children of that age heightens the effect of the picture.

Verse 20. - To whom thou hast done this; viz. to Israel, the chosen people. And children; rather, (even) children. The children are the "fruit" referred to. Comp. the warnings in Leviticus 26:26; Deuteronomy 28:56; and especially Jeremiah 19:9; also the historical incident in 2 Kings 6:28, 29. Of a span long; rather, borne in the hands. The word is derived from the verb renders to swaddle" in ver. 22 (see note). Lamentations 2:20In Lamentations 2:20 follows the prayer which the city has been commanded to make. The prayer sets before the mind of the Lord the terrible misery under which Jerusalem suffers. The question, "To whom hast Thou acted thus?" does not mean, "What innocent and godly ones are being sacrificed?" (Thenius), but "to what nation?" - not a heathen one, but the people of thy choice, to whom all Thy blessed promises have been given (Ngelsbach). This is clear from the reasons given in the question, in which the murder of the priests and prophets in the sanctuary of the Lord is brought forward. But first there is mentioned a case of inhuman conduct, prompted by necessity, viz., that women, in the extreme destitution of hunger, have been constrained to eat the fruit of their body, their beloved children. אם...אם does not, in this case, introduce a disjunctive question, but merely an indirect question in two parts. In view of such inhuman cruelties and such desecration of His sanctuary, God cannot remain inactive. The meaning of the question is not: estne hoc unquam fando auditum, quod apud nos factum est, or, quod matres fame eo adactae fuerint, ut suos faetus comederent (C. B. Michaelis, Rosenmller). For in this case, not the imperfect, but the perfect, would be used. It is merely asked whether something could happen in a certain way, while it is implied that it has actually occurred already. פּרים has the masc. instead of the fem. suffix, as pretty frequently happens. The fruit of their bodies is meant, as the lxx have rightly rendered; but there is no reason for making this the ground of alterations in the text. The expression "their fruit," indefinite in itself, is immediately rendered definite by עללי טפּחים. The last word is a verbal noun from טפּח (Lamentations 2:22), which again is a denominative from טפח, and means to bear on the hands, to care for tenderly. Both words occur only in this passage. The Israelites, moreover, had been threatened with this inhuman outrage as the most extreme form of divine chastisement, Leviticus 26:26; Deuteronomy 28:56; cf. Jeremiah 19:9. While this abomination is opposed to the moral order of the world instituted by God, the other case (the murder of the priests and prophets in the sanctuary) is a violation of the covenant-order which the Lord had given His people. Neither of these arrangements can God consent to abolish. Therein is implicitly contained the request that He would put an end to the misery into which His people have fallen. This request, however, is not expressly stated; there is merely complaint made to God regarding the terrible misery. From the massacre in the temple, the lamentation passes to the bloodshed on the streets of the city, in which neither age nor sex was spared; cf. Jeremiah 6:11. חוּצות is a local accus., "through the streets," along the streets.
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