This book uses very picturesque and expressive imagery using personification; peoples and nations acting as if they were individual people and having hands, etc. This does not violate my principle of strictly literal interpretationfor two reasons...
(Lamentations 1:1) How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! how is she become as a widow! she that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary!
Jerusalem has become as a widow. This introduces the imagery of the city, its people, and its predicament as a person, as a personification.
(Lamentations 1:2) She weepeth sore [bitterly] in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks: among all her lovers she hath none to comfort her: all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies.
People living in the city or people carried away into captivity who remember their life in the city are the ones weeping.
The lovers mentioned are other cities and nations which had various treaties or other arrangements of helping each other in times of crisis. But all these were conquered so no one could help. Some even sided with the conquerors hoping for a better outcome.
(Lamentations 1:3) Judah is gone into captivity because of [under] affliction, and because of [under] great servitude: she dwelleth among the heathen, she findeth no rest: all her persecutors overtook her between the straits [in distress].
What a shock to suddenly be living among the heathen and as slaves.
The society and culture has been wiped out. No more religious holy days and celebrations. Everyone is affected including the priests and young women.
(Lamentations 1:5) Her adversaries are the chief [have become their masters], her enemies prosper; for the LORD hath afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions: her children are gone into captivity before the enemy.
This captivity of Judah by the Babylonians is as a result of the disloyalty and disobedience of the people to God and his covenant.
The question is why would God destroy his chosen people who he loves? I think there is a misconception about the nature of judgment,that God actively punishes for sin and wickedness. In my view, sin carries within it its own punishment.In allowing people to exercise their free will he also allows them to fall into destruction, to be influenced by the wicked spirits who desire the destruction of everyone. The nation of Israel was to remain forever strong and united and could have defended itself militarily from all kinds of enemies. But instead they became increasingly fragmented, even fighting each other.
(Lamentations 1:7) Jerusalem remembered in the days of her affliction and of her miseries all her pleasant things that she had in the days of old, when her people fell into the hand of the enemy, and none did help her: the adversaries saw her, and did mock at her sabbaths [destruction].
(Lamentations 1:9) Her filthiness is in her skirts; she remembereth [considered] not her last end [future]; therefore she came down wonderfully [fell astonishingly]: she had no comforter. O LORD, behold my affliction: for the enemy hath magnified himself.
There was immorality and depravity in the land leading to their destruction. We have this today and should expect the same outcome.
(Lamentations 1:10) The adversary hath spread out his hand upon all her pleasant things: for she hath seen that the heathen entered into her sanctuary, whom thou didst command that they should not enter into thy congregation.
An expressive image of the enemy having one huge hand reaching out for all the plunder. Even the temple was plundered.
(Lamentations 1:11) All her people sigh, they seek bread; they have given their pleasant [precious] things for meat [food] to relieve the soul [restore life]: see, O LORD, and consider; for I am become vile [despised].
Perhaps some had treasures buried in the fields and they exchanged it for their very lives during the conflict.
The word "I" is used for a plurality of people sharing the same fate. In their distress they call out to the Lord.
(Lamentations 1:12) Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the LORD hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger.
(Lamentations 1:13) From above hath he sent fire into my bones, and it prevaileth against them: he hath spread a net for my feet, he hath turned me back: he hath made me desolate and faint all the day.
(Lamentations 1:14) The yoke of my transgressions is bound by his hand: they are wreathed, and come up upon my neck: he hath made my strength to fall, the LORD hath delivered me into their hands, from whom I am not able to rise up.
(Lamentations 1:15) The LORD hath trodden under foot all my mighty men in the midst of me: he hath called an assembly against me to crush my young men: the LORD hath trodden the virgin, the daughter of Judah, as in a winepress.
(Lamentations 1:16) For these things I weep; mine eye, mine eye runneth down with water, because the comforter that should relieve my soul is far from me: my children are desolate, because the enemy prevailed.
(Lamentations 1:17) Zion spreadeth forth her hands, and there is none to comfort her: the LORD hath commanded concerning Jacob, that his adversaries should be round about him: Jerusalem is as a menstruous woman among them.
(Lamentations 1:20) Behold, O LORD; for I am in distress: my bowels are troubled; mine heart is turned within me; for I have grievously rebelled: abroad the sword bereaveth, at home there is as death.
(Lamentations 1:21) They have heard that I sigh: there is none to comfort me: all mine enemies have heard of my trouble; they are glad that thou hast done it: thou wilt bring the day that thou hast called, and they shall be like unto me.
(Lamentations 2:1) How hath the LORD covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger, and cast down from heaven unto the earth the beauty of Israel, and remembered not his footstool in the day of his anger!
(Lamentations 2:2) The LORD hath swallowed up all the habitations of Jacob, and hath not pitied: he hath thrown down in his wrath the strong holds of the daughter of Judah; he hath brought them down to the ground: he hath polluted the kingdom and the princes thereof.
(Lamentations 2:3) He hath cut off in his fierce anger all the horn of Israel: he hath drawn back his right hand from before the enemy, and he burned against Jacob like a flaming fire, which devoureth round about.
(Lamentations 2:4) He hath bent his bow like an enemy: he stood with his right hand as an adversary, and slew all that were pleasant to the eye in the tabernacle of the daughter of Zion: he poured out his fury like fire.
(Lamentations 2:5) The LORD was as an enemy: he hath swallowed up Israel, he hath swallowed up all her palaces: he hath destroyed his strong holds, and hath increased in the daughter of Judah mourning and lamentation.
(Lamentations 2:6) And he hath violently taken away his tabernacle, as if it were of a garden: he hath destroyed his places of the assembly: the LORD hath caused the solemn feasts and sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion, and hath despised in the indignation of his anger the king and the priest.
(Lamentations 2:7) The LORD hath cast off his altar, he hath abhorred his sanctuary, he hath given up into the hand of the enemy the walls of her palaces; they have made a noise in the house of the LORD, as in the day of a solemn feast.
(Lamentations 2:8) The LORD hath purposed to destroy the wall of the daughter of Zion: he hath stretched out a line, he hath not withdrawn his hand from destroying: therefore he made the rampart and the wall to lament; they languished together.
(Lamentations 2:9) Her gates are sunk into the ground; he hath destroyed and broken her bars: her king and her princes are among the Gentiles: the law is no more; her prophets also find no vision from the LORD.
(Lamentations 2:10) The elders of the daughter of Zion sit upon the ground, and keep silence: they have cast up dust upon their heads; they have girded themselves with sackcloth: the virgins of Jerusalem hang down their heads to the ground.
(Lamentations 2:11) Mine eyes do fail with tears, my bowels are troubled, my liver is poured upon the earth, for the destruction of the daughter of my people; because the children and the sucklings swoon in the streets of the city.
(Lamentations 2:13) What thing shall I take to witness for thee? what thing shall I liken to thee, O daughter of Jerusalem? what shall I equal to thee, that I may comfort thee, O virgin daughter of Zion? for thy breach is great like the sea: who can heal thee?
(Lamentations 2:14) Thy prophets have seen vain and foolish things for thee: and they have not discovered thine iniquity, to turn away thy captivity; but have seen for thee false burdens and causes of banishment.
(Lamentations 2:15) All that pass by clap their hands at thee; they hiss and wag their head at the daughter of Jerusalem, saying, Is this the city that men call The perfection of beauty, The joy of the whole earth?
(Lamentations 2:16) All thine enemies have opened their mouth against thee: they hiss and gnash the teeth: they say, We have swallowed her up: certainly this is the day that we looked for; we have found, we have seen it.
(Lamentations 2:17) The LORD hath done that which he had devised; he hath fulfilled his word that he had commanded in the days of old: he hath thrown down, and hath not pitied: and he hath caused thine enemy to rejoice over thee, he hath set up the horn of thine adversaries.
(Lamentations 2:19) Arise, cry out in the night: in the beginning of the watches pour out thine heart like water before the face of the LORD: lift up thy hands toward him for the life of thy young children, that faint for hunger in the top of every street.
(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?
(Lamentations 2:21) The young and the old lie on the ground in the streets: my virgins and my young men are fallen by the sword; thou hast slain them in the day of thine anger; thou hast killed, and not pitied.
(Lamentations 2:22) Thou hast called as in a solemn day my terrors round about, so that in the day of the LORD's anger none escaped nor remained: those that I have swaddled and brought up hath mine enemy consumed.
(Lamentations 4:22) The punishment of thine iniquity is accomplished, O daughter of Zion; he will no more carry thee away into captivity: he will visit thine iniquity, O daughter of Edom; he will discover thy sins.
King James Version