"The breath of our nostrils, the anointed of the LORD, was taken in their pits, of whom we said, Under His shadow we shall live among the heathen" (Lamentations 4:20).
In the hot desert lands so familiar to the Israelites, a place of shade was considered a blessing wherever it could be found, and this was often taken as a symbol of God's protection from the hot hatred of their (and His) enemies. In fact, the Hebrew word for "shadow" is used twelve times in the Bible as a type of God's guarding presence.
The first is in Psalm 17:8: "Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings." Three other times "the shadow of thy wings" is used (Psalm 36:7; 57:1; 63:7). Isaiah speaks of His presence "as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land" and as like being hidden "in the shadow of His hand" (Isaiah 32:2; 49:2; also 51:16). The Lord is compared to "a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain" (Isaiah 4:6). He is "a shadow from the heat" and like "the shadow of a cloud" (Isaiah 25:4-5).
The last reference to God's shadow is in our text above in reference to the forced exile of God's people into Babylon. In this sad context, Jeremiah laments that even "the anointed of the LORD"--that is, literally, the Lord's Messiah (fulfilled in Jesus Christ)--has been taken captive with His people. He is even called "the breath of our nostrils," recognizing implicitly that it was He who breathed into man's nostrils the breath of life in the beginning (Acts 17:25). Thus, He will even be with His people as they undergo their just chastisements; they can even "live among the heathen under His shadow." No matter how dark our circumstances, we can say with the psalmist: "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. . . . In Him will I trust" (Psalm 91:1-2). HMM