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The Deserted City


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.



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.



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.



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.



Her foes have become the masters,

her enemies prosper,

because the L ord has made her suffer

for the multitude of her transgressions;

her children have gone away,

captives before the foe.



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.



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.



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.



Her uncleanness was in her skirts;

she took no thought of her future;

her downfall was appalling,

with none to comfort her.

“O L ord, look at my affliction,

for the enemy has triumphed!”



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.



All her people groan

as they search for bread;

they trade their treasures for food

to revive their strength.

Look, O L ord, and see

how worthless I have become.



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 L ord inflicted

on the day of his fierce anger.



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.



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.



The L ord 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.



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.



Zion stretches out her hands,

but there is no one to comfort her;

the L ord has commanded against Jacob

that his neighbors should become his foes;

Jerusalem has become

a filthy thing among them.



The L ord 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.



I called to my lovers

but they deceived me;

my priests and elders

perished in the city

while seeking food

to revive their strength.



See, O L ord, 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.



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.



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.


The beginning of the verse is variously explained. Some read it interrogatively, “Is it nothing to you who pass by the way?” Others more simply, “I see that I am not cared for by you; to you my sorrow is nothing.” Some again read thus, “Let it not be a sorrow to you;” and others, “Let not sorrow be upon you,” that is, let not what I have happen to you; so that it is a prayer expressive of benevolence.

What I prefer is the interrogation, Is it nothing to you who pass by the way? for the letter, ה, He, the note of a question, is often omitted. But were it read affirmatively, the meaning would not be unsuitable: “It does not concern you who pass by,” as though Jerusalem, in its lamentations, felt grieved that all those who passed by were not touched either with pity or with sorrow. 138138     It is evidently taken as לו by the Sept., the Vulg., and the Targ.; but as a negative by the Syr., and the sentence is taken as a question: and this gives the best meaning. — Ed

But she addressed those who passed by, that she might more fully set forth the greatness of her calamity. For. had she directed her words to neighbors alone, there would not have been so much force in them; but when she spoke to strangers, she thus shewed that her calamity was so great, that it ought to have roused the sympathy of men from the remotest parts, even while on their journey. And she asks them to look and see. The order is inverted, for she said before, “See, Jehovah, and look.” Then Jerusalem asked God, first to turn his eyes to see her calamities, and then attentively to notice them: but now for another purpose she says, look ye and see, that is, consider how evident is my calamity, which otherwise might have been in a measure hidden from you. Look ye, she says, is there a sorrow like my sorrow? she adds, which is come to me: some render the words actively, “which Jehovah has brought on me;” but the other version is more correct, for it is more literal. Jerome’s rendering is, “who has gleaned me;” and צעלל olal, means sometimes to glean, nor do I wish to reject this interpretation. But what follows is incorrectly rendered, as in a former instance, by Jerome, “of which Jehovah has spoken:” for he derived the verb, as before stated, from הגה, ege; but it comes from יגה, ige, as it is evident from the letter ו, vau, being inserted. There is then no doubt but that the Church intimates that God was the author of that sorrow which she deplored.

And it is necessary to know this, lest men should be carried away into excesses in their mourning, as it frequently happens. For the majesty of God imposes a check, when we perceive that we have to do with him. Simple and bare knowledge of this is not, indeed, sufficient, for, as it has been said, the ungodly, while they know that their sorrows proceed from God, yet murmur against him: but it is nevertheless the beginning of patience and meekness when we have a regard to God. It was, then, for this reason that Jerusalem said that she had been afflicted by God.

And it is added, In the day of the indignation of his wrath. Here the Prophet wished to express the grievousness of God’s vengeance, by mentioning the indignation of wrath. Some render חרום, cherun, “fury;” but as the word “fury” is too harsh, the word “indignation,” or great heat (excandescentia) is not unsuitable. We must, however, bear in mind the design of the Prophet, which was to shew that God’s vengeance had been so dreadful, as though his wrath had all been on a flame against Jerusalem: and this is more fully confirmed in the following verse, —

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