Jeremiah’s words are laced with emotion. And stewing just beneath his grief was an anguished question: How could God have permitted these children to suffer?
All people—including children—are born into sin (see Ro 5:12). The sin of Adam and Eve infected each succeeding generation, leading to the suffering and consequences that sin produces. While these children had not participated in the specific sins that incited God’s wrath, they were not themselves sinless.
Unfortunately, children often suffer for their parents’ actions—whether they are crack babies, adult children of alcoholics or teens of emotionally absent parents. In the same way, children, as members of a community, share in the benefits or consequences of that community’s actions, even though they had nothing to do with the decision. In many countries, children are the victims of the older generation’s war and terrorism.
Some insist that no one but God can be ultimately responsible for such suffering, and perhaps these are the feelings behind Jeremiah’s honest, but bitter complaints (see La 2:19–20). Yet God never wanted anyone to suffer. Death is the natural result of sin (see Ro 6:23). Judah could only blame herself.