Supposedly Jeremiah is mourning the destruction of Jerusalem. Maybe it’s a moving, stirring lament – if you’re into schmaltz. I’m not. But verse 12 jumped right off the page at me – guess who used it in a major musical work? yup – we’re back to good old Handel. And tell me – what this has to do with Jesus? Nothing! – but that didn’t stop Handel from cherry-picking it right out of the OT, because the words are just perfect for the crucifixion scene; who cares if they were written for something else entirely! I found it on YouTube, and I also see that the lyrics at the beginning of this tenor aria come from Psalm 69:20, which I neglected to notice back when we were reading Psalms. Needless to say, they have nothing to do with Jesus, either (nor anything to do with Lamentations, so why did Handel persist in linking unrelated verses from different parts of the bible to make up song lyrics?). Argggg!
Read the rest of the chapter if you like a sappy laments. Some of the metaphors Jeremiah uses are misogynistic and would no longer be considered socially acceptable (see v 8 and 17); modern translations like the NLT clean these up a little. Otherwise, I find nothing of note.
Jeremiah is lamenting that the lord has destroyed everything in Israel as though it were an enemy; even his own temple. He says he has ‘cried till the tears no longer come’, as children collapse from hunger (v 11-12). How come he can’t take that thought one step further, and figure out that no merciful, just, god would cause this kind of inhumanity? He whines, in v 14, “Your prophets have said so many foolish things, false to the core. They did not save you from exile” – Duh!!!! Should mothers have to eat their own children, or watch them die by the sword? (v 20-22) No! – Why can’t Jeremiah figure that out????
Listen to the anguished crying of someone feeling very sorry for himself and lashing out at god as the source of all the hurt. There’s just a lot of bad stuff in here.
1. It starts out pretty angry. “He has buried me in a dark place, like those long dead. He has walled me in, and I cannot escape. He has bound me in heavy chains. And though I cry and shout, he has shut out my prayers” (v 6-8). Abruptly changing to “Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease.” (v 21-22). WTF?
2. V 27 (“And it is good for people to submit at an early age to the yoke of his discipline…”). I guess this explains why fundies abuse their kids physically in the guise of ‘discipline’.
3. From v 30 we get the phrase ‘turn the other cheek’ (which will later be famously quoted by you-know-who in Matthew 5). Who else was raised to believe that this was a virtue? When I read it now, it just sounds suspiciously like ‘shut up and tolerate the abuse’.
4. I disagree with v 33 “For [god] does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow” but I’m too lazy to go back find verses to contradict it right now.
5. When all else fails to make sense, blame the victim – “why should we, mere humans, complain when we are punished for our sins? Instead, let us test and examine our ways.” (v 39-40). Isn’t that what all good believers do? Blame themselves? And lastly
6. Jeremiah gets paranoid and vindictive, just like David did in Psalms (v 60-66).
In spite of all that, apologists find a way to view this chapter positively. (Did you ever doubt it?) For example: “… Bad as things are, it is owing to the mercy of God that they are not worse… Happy shall we be, if we learn to receive affliction as laid upon us by the hand of God.” – from Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary. Wow! This is the glorification of suffering, and I find it reprehensible.