World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
The Punishment of Zion
How the gold has grown dim,
how the pure gold is changed!
The sacred stones lie scattered
at the head of every street.
The precious children of Zion,
worth their weight in fine gold—
how they are reckoned as earthen pots,
the work of a potter’s hands!
Even the jackals offer the breast
and nurse their young,
but my people has become cruel,
like the ostriches in the wilderness.
The tongue of the infant sticks
to the roof of its mouth for thirst;
the children beg for food,
but no one gives them anything.
Those who feasted on delicacies
perish in the streets;
those who were brought up in purple
cling to ash heaps.
For the chastisement of my people has been greater
than the punishment of Sodom,
which was overthrown in a moment,
though no hand was laid on it.
Her princes were purer than snow,
whiter than milk;
their bodies were more ruddy than coral,
their hair like sapphire.
Now their visage is blacker than soot;
they are not recognized in the streets.
Their skin has shriveled on their bones;
it has become as dry as wood.
Happier were those pierced by the sword
than those pierced by hunger,
whose life drains away, deprived
of the produce of the field.
The hands of compassionate women
have boiled their own children;
they became their food
in the destruction of my people.
The Lord gave full vent to his wrath;
he poured out his hot anger,
and kindled a fire in Zion
that consumed its foundations.
The kings of the earth did not believe,
nor did any of the inhabitants of the world,
that foe or enemy could enter
the gates of Jerusalem.
It was for the sins of her prophets
and the iniquities of her priests,
who shed the blood of the righteous
in the midst of her.
Blindly they wandered through the streets,
so defiled with blood
that no one was able
to touch their garments.
“Away! Unclean!” people shouted at them;
“Away! Away! Do not touch!”
So they became fugitives and wanderers;
it was said among the nations,
“They shall stay here no longer.”
The Lord himself has scattered them,
he will regard them no more;
no honor was shown to the priests,
no favor to the elders.
Our eyes failed, ever watching
vainly for help;
we were watching eagerly
for a nation that could not save.
They dogged our steps
so that we could not walk in our streets;
our end drew near; our days were numbered;
for our end had come.
Our pursuers were swifter
than the eagles in the heavens;
they chased us on the mountains,
they lay in wait for us in the wilderness.
The Lord’s anointed, the breath of our life,
was taken in their pits—
the one of whom we said, “Under his shadow
we shall live among the nations.”
Rejoice and be glad, O daughter Edom,
you that live in the land of Uz;
but to you also the cup shall pass;
you shall become drunk and strip yourself bare.
The punishment of your iniquity, O daughter Zion, is accomplished,
he will keep you in exile no longer;
but your iniquity, O daughter Edom, he will punish,
he will uncover your sins.
La 4:1-22. The Sad Capture of Jerusalem, the Hope of Restoration, and the Retribution Awaiting Idumea for Joining Babylon against Judea.
stones of … sanctuary—the gems on the breastplate of the high priest; or, metaphorically, the priests and Levites.
3. sea monsters … breast—Whales and other cetaceous monsters are mammalian. Even they suckle their young; but the Jewish women in the siege, so desperate was their misery, ate theirs (La 4:10; La 2:20). Others translate, "jackals."
4. thirst—The mothers have no milk to give through the famine.
5. delicately—on dainties.
are desolate—or, "perish."
in scarlet embrace dunghills—Instead of the scarlet couches on which the grandees were nursed, they must lie on dunghills.
embrace—They who once shrank sensitively from any soil, gladly cling close to heaps of filth as their only resting-place. Compare "embrace the rock" (Job 24:8).
6. greater than … Sodom—(Mt 11:23). No prophets had been sent to Sodom, as there had been to Judea; therefore the punishment of the latter was heavier than that of the former.
overthrown … in a moment—whereas the Jews had to endure the protracted and manifold hardships of a siege.
no hands stayed on her—No hostile force, as the Chaldeans in the case of Jerusalem, continually pressed on her before her overthrow. Jeremiah thus shows the greater severity of Jerusalem's punishment than that of Sodom.
7. Nazarites—literally, "separated ones" (Nu 6:2). They were held once in the highest estimation, but now they are degraded. God's blessing formerly caused their body not to be the less fair and ruddy for their abstinence from strong drink. Compare the similar case of Daniel, &c. (Da 1:8-15). Also David (1Sa 16:12; 17:42). Type of Messiah (So 5:10).
rubies—Gesenius translates, "corals," from a Hebrew root, "to divide into branches," from the branching form of corals.
polishing—They were like exquisitely cut and polished sapphires. The "sapphires" may represent the blue veins of a healthy person.
like a stick—as withered as a dry stick.
9. The speedy death by the sword is better than the lingering death by famine.
pine away—literally, "flow out"; referring to the flow of blood. This expression, and "stricken through," are drawn from death by "the sword."
pitiful—naturally at other times compassionate (Isa 49:15). Josephus describes the unnatural act as it took place in the siege under Titus.
12. Jerusalem was so fortified that all thought it impregnable. It therefore could only have been the hand of God, not the force of man, which overthrew it.
14. blind—with mental aberration.
polluted … with blood—both with blood of one another mutually shed (for example, Jer 2:34), and with their blood shed by the enemy [Glassius].
not touch … garments—as being defiled with blood (Nu 19:16).
15. They … them—"They," that is, "men" (La 4:14). Even the very Gentiles, regarded as unclean by the Jews, who were ordered most religiously to avoid all defilements, cried unto the latter, "depart," as being unclean: so universal was the defilement of the city by blood.
wandered—As the false prophets and their followers had "wandered" blind with infatuated and idolatrous crime in the city (La 4:14), so they must now "wander" among the heathen in blind consternation with calamity.
they said—that is, the Gentiles said: it was said among the heathen, "The Jews shall no more sojourn in their own land" [Grotius]; or, wheresoever they go in their wandering exile, "they shall not stay long" [Ludovicus De Dieu], (De 28:65).
anger—literally, "face"; it is the countenance which, by its expression, manifests anger (Ps 34:16). Gesenius translates, "the person of Jehovah"; Jehovah present; Jehovah Himself (Ex 33:14; 2Sa 17:11).
divided—dispersed the Jews.
they respected not … priests—This is the language of the Gentiles. "The Jews have no hope of a return: for they respected not even good priests" (2Ch 24:19-22) [Grotius]. Maurer explains it, "They (the victorious foe) regard not the (Jewish) priests when imploring their pity" (La 5:12). The evident antithesis to "As for us" (La 4:17) and the language of "the heathen" at the close of La 4:15, of which La 4:16 is the continuation, favor the former view.
18. They—the Chaldeans.
cannot go—without danger.
19. The last times just before the taking of the city. There was no place of escape; the foe intercepted those wishing to escape from the famine-stricken city, "on the mountains and in the wilderness."
swifter … than … eagles—the Chaldean cavalry (Jer 4:13).
20. breath … anointed of … Lord—our king, with whose life ours was bound up. The original reference seems to have been to Josiah (2Ch 35:25), killed in battle with Pharaoh-necho; but the language is here applied to Zedekiah, who, though worthless, was still lineal representative of David, and type of Messiah, the "Anointed." Viewed personally the language is too favorable to apply to him.
live among the heathen—Under him we hoped to live securely, even in spite of the surrounding heathen nations [Grotius].
21. Rejoice—at our calamities (Ps 137:7). This is a prophecy that Edom should exult over the fall of Jerusalem. At the same time it is implied, Edom's joy shall be short-lived. Ironically she is told, Rejoice while thou mayest (Ec 11:9).
22. (Isa 40:2). Thou hast been punished enough: the end of thy punishment is at hand.
no more carry thee … into captivity—that is, by the Chaldeans. The Romans carried them away subsequently. The full accomplishment of this prophecy must therefore refer to the Jews' final restoration.
discover—By the severity of His punishments on thee, God shall let men see how great was thy sin (Jer 49:10). God "covers" sin when He forgives it (Ps 32:1, 5). He "discovers," or "reveals," it, when He punishes it (Job 20:27). Jer 49:10 shows that Margin is wrong, "carry captive" (this rendering is as in Na 2:7; compare "discovered," Margin).