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The Deserted City

 1

How lonely sits the city

that once was full of people!

How like a widow she has become,

she that was great among the nations!

She that was a princess among the provinces

has become a vassal.

 

2

She weeps bitterly in the night,

with tears on her cheeks;

among all her lovers

she has no one to comfort her;

all her friends have dealt treacherously with her,

they have become her enemies.

 

3

Judah has gone into exile with suffering

and hard servitude;

she lives now among the nations,

and finds no resting place;

her pursuers have all overtaken her

in the midst of her distress.

 

4

The roads to Zion mourn,

for no one comes to the festivals;

all her gates are desolate,

her priests groan;

her young girls grieve,

and her lot is bitter.

 

5

Her foes have become the masters,

her enemies prosper,

because the Lord has made her suffer

for the multitude of her transgressions;

her children have gone away,

captives before the foe.

 

6

From daughter Zion has departed

all her majesty.

Her princes have become like stags

that find no pasture;

they fled without strength

before the pursuer.

 

7

Jerusalem remembers,

in the days of her affliction and wandering,

all the precious things

that were hers in days of old.

When her people fell into the hand of the foe,

and there was no one to help her,

the foe looked on mocking

over her downfall.

 

8

Jerusalem sinned grievously,

so she has become a mockery;

all who honored her despise her,

for they have seen her nakedness;

she herself groans,

and turns her face away.

 

9

Her uncleanness was in her skirts;

she took no thought of her future;

her downfall was appalling,

with none to comfort her.

“O Lord, look at my affliction,

for the enemy has triumphed!”

 

10

Enemies have stretched out their hands

over all her precious things;

she has even seen the nations

invade her sanctuary,

those whom you forbade

to enter your congregation.

 

11

All her people groan

as they search for bread;

they trade their treasures for food

to revive their strength.

Look, O Lord, and see

how worthless I have become.

 

12

Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?

Look and see

if there is any sorrow like my sorrow,

which was brought upon me,

which the Lord inflicted

on the day of his fierce anger.

 

13

From on high he sent fire;

it went deep into my bones;

he spread a net for my feet;

he turned me back;

he has left me stunned,

faint all day long.

 

14

My transgressions were bound into a yoke;

by his hand they were fastened together;

they weigh on my neck,

sapping my strength;

the Lord handed me over

to those whom I cannot withstand.

 

15

The Lord has rejected

all my warriors in the midst of me;

he proclaimed a time against me

to crush my young men;

the Lord has trodden as in a wine press

the virgin daughter Judah.

 

16

For these things I weep;

my eyes flow with tears;

for a comforter is far from me,

one to revive my courage;

my children are desolate,

for the enemy has prevailed.

 

17

Zion stretches out her hands,

but there is no one to comfort her;

the Lord has commanded against Jacob

that his neighbors should become his foes;

Jerusalem has become

a filthy thing among them.

 

18

The Lord is in the right,

for I have rebelled against his word;

but hear, all you peoples,

and behold my suffering;

my young women and young men

have gone into captivity.

 

19

I called to my lovers

but they deceived me;

my priests and elders

perished in the city

while seeking food

to revive their strength.

 

20

See, O Lord, how distressed I am;

my stomach churns,

my heart is wrung within me,

because I have been very rebellious.

In the street the sword bereaves;

in the house it is like death.

 

21

They heard how I was groaning,

with no one to comfort me.

All my enemies heard of my trouble;

they are glad that you have done it.

Bring on the day you have announced,

and let them be as I am.

 

22

Let all their evil doing come before you;

and deal with them

as you have dealt with me

because of all my transgressions;

for my groans are many

and my heart is faint.

 


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La 1:1-22.

Aleph.

1. how is she … widow! she that was great, &c.—English Version is according to the accents. But the members of each sentence are better balanced in antithesis, thus, "how is she that was great among the nations become as a widow! (how) she who was princess among the provinces (that is, she who ruled over the surrounding provinces from the Nile to the Euphrates, Ge 15:18; 1Ki 4:21; 2Ch 9:26; Ezr 4:20) become tributary!" [Maurer].

sit—on the ground; the posture of mourners (La 2:10; Ezr 9:3). The coin struck on the taking of Jerusalem by Titus, representing Judea as a female sitting solitary under a palm tree, with the inscription, Judæa Capta, singularly corresponds to the image here; the language therefore must be prophetical of her state subsequent to Titus, as well as referring retrospectively to her Babylonian captivity.

Beth.

2. in the night—even in the night, the period of rest and oblivion of griefs (Job 7:3).

lovers … friends—the heathen states allied to Judah, and their idols. The idols whom she "loved" (Jer 2:20-25) could not comfort her. Her former allies would not: nay, some "treacherously" joined her enemies against her (2Ki 24:2, 7; Ps 137:7).

Gimel.

3. (Jer 52:27).

because of great servitude—that is, in a state "of great servitude," endured from the Chaldeans. "Because" is made by Vatablus indicative of the cause of her captivity; namely, her having "afflicted" and unjustly brought into "servitude" the manumitted bond-servants (Jer 34:8-22). Maurer explains it, "Judah has left her land (not literally 'gone into captivity') because of the yoke imposed on it by Nebuchadnezzar."

no rest—(De 28:64, 65).

overtook her between … straits—image from robbers, who in the East intercept travellers at the narrow passes in hilly regions.

Daleth.

4. feasts—the passover, pentecost (or the feast of weeks), and the feast of tabernacles.

gates—once the place of concourse.

He.

5. the chief—rule her (De 28:43, 44).

adversaries … prosper; for the Lord—All the foes' attempts would have failed, had not God delivered His people into their hands (Jer 30:15).

Vau.

6. beauty … departed—her temple, throne, and priesthood.

harts that find no pasture—an animal timid and fleet, especially when seeking and not able to "find pasture."

Zain.

7. remembered—rather, "remembers," now, in her afflicted state. In the days of her prosperity she did not appreciate, as she ought, the favors of God to her. Now, awakening out of her past lethargy, she feels from what high privileges she has fallen.

when her people fell, &c.—that is, after which days of prosperity "her people fell."

mock at her sabbaths—The heathen used to mock at the Jews' Sabbath, as showing their idleness, and term them Sabbatarians [Martial, 4.4]. Now, said they ironically, ye may keep a continuous Sabbath. So God appointed the length of the captivity (seventy years) to be exactly that of the sum of the Sabbaths in the four hundred ninety years in which the land was denied its Sabbaths (Le 26:33-35). Maurer translates it "ruin." But English Version better expresses the point of their "mocking," namely, their involuntary "Sabbaths," that is, the cessation of all national movements. A fourth line is added in this stanza, whereas in all the others there are but three. So in La 2:19.

Cheth.

8. (1Ki 8:46).

is removed—as a woman separated from the congregation of God for legal impurity, which is a type of moral impurity. So La 1:17; Le 12:2; 15:19, &c.

her nakedness—They have treated her as contumeliously as courtesans from whom their clothes are stripped.

turneth backward—as modest women do from shame, that is, she is cast down from all hope of restoration [Calvin].

Teth.

9. Continuation of the image in La 1:8. Her ignominy and misery cannot be concealed but are apparent to all, as if a woman were suffering under such a flow as to reach the end of her skirts.

remembereth not … last end—(De 32:29; Isa 47:7). She forgot how fatal must be the end of her iniquity. Or, as the words following imply: She, in despair, cannot lift herself up to lay hold of God's promises as to her "latter end" [Calvin].

wonderfullyHebrew, "wonders," that is, with amazing dejection.

O Lord, behold—Judah here breaks in, speaking for herself.

for the enemy hath magnified himself—What might seem ground for despair, the elated insulting of the enemy, is rather ground for good hope.

Jod.

10. forsurely she hath seen, &c.

heathen … command … not enter … congregation—for instance, the Ammonites and Moabites (De 23:3; Ne 13:1, 2). If the heathen, as such, were not allowed to enter the sanctuary for worship, much less were they allowed to enter in order to rob and destroy.

Caph.

11. (Jer 37:21; 38:9; 52:6).

given … pleasant things for meat—(2Ki 6:25; Job 2:4).

relieve … soul—literally, "to cause the soul or life to return."

for I am become vile—Her sins and consequent sorrows are made the plea in craving God's mercy. Compare the like plea in Ps 25:11.

Lamed.

12. The pathetic appeal of Jerusalem, not only to her neighbors, but even to the strangers "passing by," as her sorrow is such as should excite the compassion even of those unconnected with her. She here prefigures Christ, whom the language is prophetically made to suit, more than Jerusalem. Compare Israel, that is, Messiah, Isa 49:3. Compare with "pass by," Mt 27:39; Mr 15:29. As to Jerusalem, Da 9:12. M AURER, from the Arabic idiom, translates, "do not go off on your way," that is, stop, whoever ye are that pass by. English Version is simpler.

Mem.

13. bones—a fire which not only consumes the skin and flesh, but penetrates even to my "bones" (that is, my vital powers).

prevaileth against—not as Rosenmuller, "He (Jehovah) hath broken them"; a sense not in the Hebrew.

net—(Eze 12:13); image from hunting wild beasts. He has so entangled me in His judgments that I cannot escape.

turned me back—so that I cannot go forward and get free from His meshes.

Nun.

14. yoke … is bound by his hand—(De 28:48). Metaphor from husbandmen, who, after they have bound the yoke to the neck of oxen, hold the rein firmly twisted round the hand. Thus the translation will be, "in His hand." Or else, "the yoke of my transgressions" (that is, of punishment for my transgressions) is held so fast fixed on me "by" God, that there is no loosening of it; thus English Version, "by His hand."

wreathed—My sins are like the withes entwined about the neck to fasten the yoke to.

into their hands, from whom—into the hands of those, from whom, &c. Maurer translates, "before whom I am not able to stand."

Samech.

15. trodden, &c.—Maurer, from Syriac root, translates, "cast away"; so 2Ki 23:27. But Ps 119:118, supports English Version.

in … midst of me—They fell not on the battlefield, but in the heart of the city; a sign of the divine wrath.

assembly—the collected forces of Babylon; a very different "assembly" from the solemn ones which once met at Jerusalem on the great feasts. The Hebrew means, literally, such a solemn "assembly" or feast (compare La 2:22).

trodden … virgin … in a wine-press—hath forced her blood to burst forth, as the red wine from the grapes trodden in the press (Isa 63:3; Re 14:19, 20; 19:15).

Ain.

16. (Jer 13:17; 14:17). Jerusalem is the speaker.

mine eye, mine eye—so La 4:18, "our end … our end"; repetition for emphasis.

Pe.

17. Like a woman in labor-throes (Jer 4:31).

menstruous woman—held unclean, and shunned by all; separated from her husband and from the temple (compare La 1:8; Le 14:19, &c.).

Tzaddi.

18. The sure sign of repentance; justifying God, condemning herself (Ne 9:33; Ps 51:4; Da 9:7-14).

his commandment—literally, "mouth"; His word in the mouth of the prophets.

Koph.

19. lovers—(La 1:2; Jer 30:14).

elders—in dignity, not merely age.

sought … meat—Their dignity did not exempt them from having to go and seek bread (La 1:11).

Resh.

20. bowels … troubled—(Job 30:27; Isa 16:11; Jer 4:19; 31:20). Extreme mental distress affects the bowels and the whole internal frame.

heart … turned—(Ho 11:8); is agitated or fluttered.

abroad … sword … at home … as death—(De 32:25; Eze 7:15). The "as" does not modify, but intensifies. "Abroad the sword bereaveth, at home as it were death itself" (personified), in the form of famine and pestilence (2Ki 25:3; Jer 14:18; 52:6). So Hab 2:5, "as death" [Michaelis].

Schin.

21. they are glad that thou hast done it—because they thought that therefore Judah is irretrievably ruined (Jer 40:3).

the day … called—(but) thou wilt bring on them the day of calamity which thou hast announced, namely, by the prophets (Jer 50:1-46; 48:27).

like … me—in calamities (Ps 137:8, 9; Jer 51:25, &c.).

Tau.

22. Such prayers against foes are lawful, if the foe be an enemy of God, and if our concern be not for our own personal feeling, but for the glory of God and the welfare of His people.

come before thee—so Re 16:19, "Babylon came in remembrance before God" (compare Ps 109:15).




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