Lamentations 5:6-18 :
We have given our hands to the Egyptians,
and to the Assyrians, to be satisfied with bread.
Our fathers sinned, and are no more.
We have borne their iniquities.
Servants rule over us.
There is no one to deliver us out of their hand.
We get our bread at the peril of our lives,
because of the sword in the wilderness.
Our skin is black like an oven,
because of the burning heat of famine.
They ravished the women in Zion,
the virgins in the cities of Judah.
Princes were hanged up by their hands.
The faces of elders were not honored.
The young men carry millstones.
The children stumbled under loads of wood.
The elders have ceased from the gate,
and the young men from their music.
The joy of our heart has ceased.
Our dance is turned into mourning.
The crown has fallen from our head.
Woe to us, for we have sinned!
For this our heart is faint.
For these things our eyes are dim:
for the mountain of Zion, which is desolate.
The foxes walk on it.
Once again, this lamentation continues to describe the horrible oppression that the Israelis were under during their captivity, but it also has a concerning statement to consider. Did you notice that it says: “Our fathers sinned, and are no more. We have borne their iniquities.” Later on in the passage it says: “Woe to us, for we have sinned!” This brings up a couple of issues. In English, it’s pretty easy to interpret the first quote as meaning that the children were being punished for the parent’s sin. The problem with this is that God says very clearly that He doesn’t do that. I want us to look at that promise again.
Deuteronomy 24:16 :
The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers. Every man shall be put to death for his own sin.
God doesn’t punish children for their parents or vice versa. So what is this talking about? I think that the ISV uses more understandable English in that it says: “we continue to bear the consequences of their sin.” It’s not that God is punishing the children of those who sinned. It’s just that He’s allowing them to feel the consequences of sin for a season. One of the powerful things about that is that it can help you to not want to sin in the future and that’s exactly what happened later in Israel’s history as they got back together in the land.
The fact is, these children of sinners also realized that they had their own sin to deal with. They may have been feeling the affects of their parent’s sin, but their own sin was also an issue as they expressed here as well. One of the remarkable things that we saw back when we were studying this time in Israel’s history, is that when the people were given the opportunity to go back to their own land, many of them refused. Some of them actually went back to doing the same things that their parents had done to deserve punishment. Do you remember how distressing that was to Ezra? This book of Lamentations shows us the futility of our condition as humans, but the fact that we can cry out to God for help, shows us that there is hope for us as well.