In Lamentations 2:1 it is written:

How the Lord has covered the daughter of Zion with the cloud of his anger! He has hurled down the splendour of Israel from heaven to earth, he has not remembered his footstool in the day of his anger.

I want to establish the meaning of the 'splendour of Israel' in the context bolded above. 'Israel' has not been hurled down from Heaven to earth, but 'her splendour' has. What is the significance of this distinction and what does this splendour consist of?

One commentary1 suggests the phrase 'from heaven to earth' is used to imply the "most extreme fall imaginable", but I struggle to accept this view in full as it is only the splendour of Israel on which the emphasis is placed.

1 A bible commentary for today, W. Osborne, Lamentations page 855, Editors: G.C.D. Howley, F.F. Bruce, H.L. Ellison.


4 Answers 4


The period immediately preceding the Babylonian Captivity marked the time when the "Shekinah" of the Lord hesitatingly departed from the temple in Jerusalem (Ezek 10:4, Ezek 10:18 and Ezek 11:23).

This glory is what provided shade to the Israelites from the hot desert sun when they were in the wilderness (for 40 years after leaving Egypt). The same glory also provided them heat in the cold desert nights. The glory of the Lord ("Shekinah") thus provided them shade in the day (cloud) and heat in the night (pillar of fire). This glory was their protector and "head of state," who gave the Law. Moses was the mediator.

In this passage of Lamentations, this glory of the Lord is now the "cloud of anger" (Lam 2:1), which is also "like a burning fire" in Jacob (Lam 2:2). The location of the "Shekinah" was the Ark of the Covenant, which was the footstool for the Lord (1 Chr 28:2 and Ps 132:7 -- i.e., the "Shekinah" reposed above the Ark. This footstool is now abandoned (Lam 2:1).

The "glory of Israel" which is now cast down to earth was the loss of this glory; that is, by departing the Temple, the "Shekinah" no longer provided his presence on earth so that the King of Judah ruled the Jewish people through of the theocratic government of the Lord. Therefore from this point forward there are no more Jewish kings who are anointed.... the last chapter of Lamentations states: "The crown has fallen from our head" (Lam 5:16). The reference is to Jeremiah 13:18, which describes the last king of Judah who sat on the throne, and who was "de-crowned" -

Jeremiah 13:18 (NASB)
Say to the king and the queen mother,
“Take a lowly seat,
For your beautiful crown
Has come down from your head.”

The glory of the king is cast down. That is, King Jehoiachin and the queen mother, Nehusta (2 Ki 24:8), were taken captive into Babylon (Jer 29:2). What was worse, King Jehoiachin was cursed by the Lord that no descendent of his would ever prosper on the throne ruling in Judah (Jer 22:24-28 and Jer 37:1). Gentiles from this point forward appoint Jewish leaders, who are in some cases assassinated by the Jewish people (e.g., Gedaliah in Jer 41:2-3). So we now see a "flip-flop."

In other words, the casting down of the glory of Israel is the "flip-flop" of representing the Lord through the visible theocratic kingdom on earth. Thus the glory is cast from heaven to earth. Please click here for the illustration. The "glory" now comes from earth instead of from heaven.

Jeremiah 2:11 (NASB)
“Has a nation changed gods
When they were not gods?
But My people have changed their glory
For that which does not profit.

Thus the beasts of the earth replace the glory ("flip-flop"). Daniel will later describe during the Babylonian Captivity that these "beasts" are the gentile nations that now will trample the earth (to include the Promised Land). According to the "flip-flop" illustration, we also see the parallel to the Garden of Eden, where the glory of the man went "flip-flop." The man is the head of the wife, and therefore his head is the glory of the Lord (1 Cor 11:7-9); when the woman disobeyed him in the Garden of Eden, his glory (or crown) was cast down to the animals (earth).

The image here is thus not the rejection of the Jewish people by the Lord, who made his irrevocable promises to Abraham and David. Instead, the imagery here is the "flip-flop" of glory, which is turned upside-down, and thus no longer comes from heaven, but is instead cast down to earth where the "animals" dwell. Thus the crown or glory of Israel has fallen from heaven to earth. Thus the glory of the gentile nations now prevails and menaces the earth, which includes the Promised Land.

  • I would agree that the crown of Israel has been hurled from heaven to earth because Lam 1:1 says,'She who was queen among the provinces has now become a slave.But you have only answered half my question because in Lam 1:8 it says,'All who honoured her despise her,for they have seen her nakedness.'She has obviously been stripped of her clothing as well as her crown and the removal of this splendour reduces her royal standing to the humiliation of a naked slave held in captivity.What is Israel,the virgin daughter of Zion, clothed with that has also been hurled to earth?
    – Bagpipes
    Jan 25, 2014 at 11:37
  • @Bagpipes - The parallel continues from the Garden of Eden, when the man (Adam) and the woman were stripped of their glory and found themselves "naked." The clothing of glory that was lost in Israel was the "Shekinah." That is, Israel was covered, or clothed, with this glory, which (up until this time) is what protected Jerusalem from foreign conquest. This removal also meant the end of the visible theocratic kingdom on earth, and thus the Virgin Daughter of Zion is now on par with the kingdoms of this world, which are described as animals or "beasts," which now menace the Promised Land...
    – Joseph
    Jan 25, 2014 at 20:29
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    Some good thoughts and reflections here (although I admit I'm not convinced by Joseph's closing extrapolation in his answer!), but it ought to be noted that "Shekinah" is a post-biblical concept, and does not appear in the Bible itself. See also the Jastrow entry (right-column, 4th entry). If the question is about what tiph'eret means in the context of Lamentations and as lament in the 6th C. BC, then "shekinah" isn't part of the solution.
    – Dɑvïd
    Jan 27, 2014 at 11:30
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    The concept of "Shekinah" is writ-large in the Bible. The Hebrew verb שָׁכַן ("Sh'kan") means to dwell, or to tabernacle, and was used to refer to the Glory of the Lord dwelling among men (Ex 24:16, Ex 25:8, Ex 29:45-46, Ex 40:35, + over 50 other instances). In the Greek New Testament the verb is translated σκηνόω; thus the concept of "Sh'kan" (Shekinah), or "the tabernacle dwelling (of the Lord)" is found in John 1:14, where the Word from heaven dwells or "tabernacles among us" (σκηνόω) in allusion to the concept found in the Hebrew Bible. Ditto in Rev 21:3, Rev 7:15, and Rev 13:6.
    – Joseph
    Jan 27, 2014 at 22:45
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    Depends what you mean by "writ large"! Since you know Hebrew and Greek, you'll know that not one of the verses you cite contains "šĕkînâ"; σκηνόω is a good Greek word, means "encamp", used by Xenophon, etc. Did you check the links in my previous comment? (Jastrow was out by a page - sorry! or see image if easier.) It's like saying ὁμοούσιος is "writ large": maybe, but it still isn't in the Bible! See also anachronism.
    – Dɑvïd
    Jan 28, 2014 at 8:40

There are a number of issues in this verse. It's one of those in which the overall import is abundantly clear, even while the details remain somewhat obscure.

First, the text of Lam 2:1 -

אֵיכָה יָעִיב בְּאַפּוֹ
אֲדֹנָי אֶת־בַּת־צִיּוֹן
ʾēkâ yāʿîb bĕʾappô / ʾădōnāy ʾet-bat-ṣīyyôn
How he has beclouded in anger / the Lord,a Daughter Zion

הִשְׁלִיךְ מִשָּׁמַיִם אֶרֶץ
תִּפְאֶרֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל
hišlîk miššāmayim ʾereṣ / tipʾeret yiśraʾēl
He has cast down from heaven earth[wards] / the tiph’eret of Israel

וְלֹא־זָכַר הֲדֹם־רַגְלָי
בְּיוֹם אַפּוֹ
wělōʾ-zākar hădōm-raglāy / bĕyôm ʾappô
and took no noticeb of his footstool / in the day of his anger.

a. This is in most printed Hebrew Bibles; many manuscripts read the Tetragram here.
b. literally, "did not remember"


In all of the poems of Lamentations, the first verse sets to the tone for the poem to follow, and this is true also here in ch. 2. Notice here how "his anger (ʾappô) begins and ends the verse, and reappears in v. 22 at its conclusion. The whole of Lam. 2 is about the the nature and effects of the Lord's anger aginst Jerusalem (note vv. 6-10, which are wholly set within the city, and in vv. 13 and 18 Zion/Jerusalem is directly addressed).


This is word in question, the middle of these three poetic lines.1 In abstract form, the lexical range of this word (right-hand column, second full entry) covers mostly the following:

  • beauty, as in jewlery and apparel (Isa 3:18; Ezek 16:17);
  • glory, as an attribute, e.g. of crown (Prov 4:9) or name (Isa 63:14);
  • fame or honour (Judges 4:9; Prov 17:6)
  • or, in a negative sense, pride or arrogance (Isa 10:12).

The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT) simply glosses this phrase as "the adornment of Israel ", and adds by way of comment: "what this means in concrete terms is uncertain, perhaps Jerusalem, or perhaps the temple" (!). So, OP is not alone in spotting a difficulty here.

What is clear is that tiph’eret is some glorious attribute of Israel, at home in "heaven" ... but what that is explicitly remains obscure.


(1) Typically with this kind of question, one looks in the first instance to the parallelism of the Hebrew poetry for a guide. Often -- not always -- a corresponding term in an adjacent line will require one or other possible meanings from its partner in its neigbhoring line. Here, the reference to "footstool" in the third line might offer some help. In the Psalms, this is a reference to the Temple (Ps 99:5; 132:7). In Isaiah 66:1, however, "footstool" is the earth itself, for heaven's divine throne (compare Isaiah 6:1-4). This might bring us, then, into a "temple" setting ... although tiph’eret itself does not regularly have this association.

(2) Often, the ancient versions provide a good guide to an earlier understanding (where they are not reduced to guessing themselves, that is). The pre-Christian Greek translation (Septuagint) translates this key phrase by δόξασμα Ισραηλ (doxasma Israel), "glory(?) of Israel". It's hard to know how much help this translation gives. The authoritative Liddell-Scott lexicon (linked above) glosses it as if the meaning of the Greek word was to be wholly aligned with its Hebrew counterpart. This kind of transferance is certainly not unknown, but one wonders, then, why here (and in Isa 46:13, an analogous context) the tranlsator did not simply use the standard and widely used Greek equivalent, δόξα (doxa) "glory". IF the translator's choice is deliberate and thoughtful, then something like "reputation" would be in mind -- not a bad translation at all.

(The Aramaic Targum only gives "glory of Israel" at this point, so not adding much to our investigation.)

(3) Reverting to lexical range of the Hebrew, as an attribute,2 tiph’eret adds lustre or brilliance to the thing it describes. What might that be here, for Israel? Robin Salters, in his Lamentations commentary,3 suggests a number of possibilities, including Israel's "boasting", or the city of Jerusalem itself, or (his own preference) "Israel's illustrious past" (p. 114).

Others hold out the possibility, given the connection of tiph’eret with "crown", that this could be a "metonym" (where the part represents the whole) for the king. Was the king in Jerusalem really pictured in "heaven", however, from which setting to be cast down?

(4) Older commentators can also offer insight, of course. Unfortunately, Rashi opted not to comment on this term so we can't call on his wisdom. What he does say points to the violence and suddenness of the fall, not the nature of the thing cast down.

Concluding thoughts

Unfortunately, this exercise (at least my efforts towards it) are somewhat inconclusive. That the authoritative HALOT withholds judgment should counsel us not to be hasty in wanting to pin down what the poet of Lamentations 2 did not make concrete. Two options stand out, to my mind

Given the slightly unusual Septuagint (Greek) rendering, however, there is some merit in Salters' suggestion that it is the "reputation" of Israel which has been so dramatically cast down. As the poet will go on to say, the God of Israel has become an enemy (Lamentations 2:5). While most of the poem will depict this graphically in terms of the destruction of the holy city, the active neglect to which the Lord subjects his people (2:1c) finds its counterpart in tarnishing their reputation in thus severing (casting from heaven) the relationship between them. This would participate in the sense of as a national attribute (e.g., Deut 26:19; Jer 13:11, cf. 33:9).

However (and on the other hand), when used as an attribute, tiph’eret can also rather generically describe jewels (Isa 3.18), or the temple (as in #1 under "Assessment", above), or a divine attribute (Psalm 71:8; 1 Chron 29:11), or (fairly often) a crown (e.g., Prov 4:9; Ezek 23:42; + several more). Given the parallelism with "footstool", the notion of tiph’eret suggesting a "crown" (i.e., cast down from "head to foot", in its entirety), is also appealing.

This is, however, one of those occasions where the poetic, metaphorical, and evocative language of the Bible resists the pedantic precision we as modern readers sometimes crave.


  1. It's a good opportunity, too, to see the poet's characteristic qinah, or dirge/lament meter: notice how each line has a 3:2 pattern. If the line is abstracted as A/B, then A has three stress units, and B has two.
  2. Rather than "free-standing" as in the "fame"/"pride" nuances noted above.
  3. R. Salters, Lamentations: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary (International Critical Commentary; London: T & T Clark, 2010). For some reason, the next link to the precise page works in Chrome, but not Firefox...
  • In the section Headed 'Assessment'(3) 2nd paragraph,you ask,"Was the King in Jerusalem really pictured in heaven,however, from which setting to be cast down?In Lam1:1 with reference to Israel (Jerusalem) the scripture says, "She who was Queen among the provinces,has now become a slave." sorry! but i am not understanding why you mention 'King' and not 'Queen.'
    – Bagpipes
    Jan 27, 2014 at 16:47
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    @Bagpipes Wherever you see "she" in Lam (I might need to nuance this!), it's referring to Jerusalem/Zion: cities are "feminine" in biblical Hebrew language and thought. On "king", I'm reporting what commentators (esp. Provan, Lamentations, p. 59 have suggested. If tiph’eret is used here with reference to "crown" in metonymy for royalty, it would refer to kings (compare Joseph's reference to Lam 5:16). ¶ My growing sense is, though one wants to have some clarity here, most commentators I've checked are tentative, reluctant to be definite on tiph’eret!
    – Dɑvïd
    Jan 27, 2014 at 18:56
  • Ezekiel 16:8-14 would appear to 'shed some light.'
    – Bagpipes
    Jan 27, 2014 at 19:37
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    @Bagpipes I'm not aware of any find in Rev 12:1 an allusion to Lam 2:1 (although I'm hardly in a position to know for sure!). Lam 2:1 and Matt 5:35 have been linked, though. Revelation 12 is a special case: see the 154-page book by Pierre Prigent, Apocalypse 12: Histoire de l'exégèse (1959) on the history of interpretation of this chapter alone. If your French is up to it, you can read a fairly full review of it online. This is quite a different question from the one you posed (on "splendour" in Lam 2:1), though! Is this your "real" interest?
    – Dɑvïd
    Jan 27, 2014 at 21:58
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    @Bagpipes Maybe, but you might be the first one ever to do so. :) Remember, things often look different in the original languages, and other connections may have more explanatory power. Really, 12:4 is where you should be looking, and the parallels between Lam 2:1 and Rev 12:4 are not close; note too 12:3 = "another [as in 'different'] sign". One of the most comprehensive lists of OT-in-NT ever didn't spot it: you have to ask "why"! (Read some background on that work, if you're interested.) Need to be careful which dots are being connected.
    – Dɑvïd
    Jan 28, 2014 at 12:41

According to Rabbinic tradition, found in a Midrash (Eicha Rabbosi 2,2):

It is analogous to the inhabitants of a kingdom who made a crown for the king; they kept provoking and angering the king and, yet, he tolerated them; finally, the king said to them that seeing as he tolerates their provocations only because of the crown they fashioned on his behalf, “here is your gift tossed back in your faces”; so, too, did the Holy One say to Yisroel, “I only tolerate your provocations due to the glorious image of Yaakov that is engraved upon my Throne, here it is tossed back in your faces,” as it is written: “He cast down from heaven to earth the glory of Yisroel.'

So, in this context the term "Glory" or "Splendor" of Israel (תפארת ישראל) refers to the Image of Jacob that existed in Heaven wearing a crown (תפארת also means "crown"). Because of Jacob's merit, G-d could not destroy the Temple as long as the crowned image of Jacob remained there. Accordingly, G-d first through down the crown of Jacob, freeing Him to destroy the Temple (i.e. the "footstool of G-d").

The Rabbis would not have said that the Children of Israel's entire merit was cast off because that would be contrary to Lev. 26:44-45, where G-d promises that no matter how great Israel's iniquity "I will not reject them, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break My covenant with them; for I am Hashem their G-d. But I will for their sakes rememberthe covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in plain sight of the nations, that I might be their G-d; I am Hashem."

  • This is very interesting! Has your answer in any way been influenced by the sun, moon and stars we read about in Genesis:37-9.?
    – Bagpipes
    Jan 28, 2014 at 16:20
  • @Bagpipes -- I don't see the connection, so I'm pretty sure it didn't influence me. Jan 28, 2014 at 20:18

The word splendor (תִּפְאֶ֖רֶת tip̄·’e·reṯ) meaning excellence, glory, and beauty.

When we think about he BEST indicator of Israel's Glory, we think about the stars in heaven. The oath God made to Abraham. The second best indicator at that time, it would be The Temple. Thus the shift from heaven to earth in Lamentations. It is as if God burst out their bubble. The bubble being the stars in heaven. The idea of Israel's Glory, the stars in heaven, the oath. It is possible to see Israel's focus more on the Temple as they struggle to rebuilt it and lack of Joy as when rebuilt it. Wanting a Human King more than a God in Heaven.

In General, Lamentations 2:1, is like a figure of speech, burst someone's bubble.

  • Your input is appreciated.
    – Bagpipes
    Jan 27, 2014 at 12:07

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