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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 L ord 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 L ord 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 L ord’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.


He at length concludes that nothing was wanting to complete the extreme vengeance of God; for had the Jews been chastised in an ordinary way, they would have still extenuated their sins, as we know that they were not easily led to repentance. Hence the Prophet, to shew that their offenses had not been slight, but that they had been extremely wicked before God, says that the whole of God’s wrath had been executed: Jehovah has completed his wrath The expression is indeed harsh to Latin ears; but the meaning is, that he had executed his extreme judgment.

He afterwards adds, He has poured forth the indignation of his wrath. God is indeed content with moderate punishment, provided men be awakened from their torpor; but when he pours forth his wrath, there is no hope of repentance. It is then a sign of final despair when God’s vengeance overflows like a deluge. But when Jeremiah thus speaks, he does not contend with God, but rather reminds the Jews of what they deserved, as it was stated yesterday. There is, then, no doubt but that he argues, from the grievousness of their punishment, that there was no reason for the Jews to flatter themselves any longer, since God had dealt so severely with them.

He then, in other words, points out the same thing, that God had kindled a fire which devoured or consumed the very foundations. Fire is wont rather to take hold on the roofs of houses, or, when it creeps farther, it does not proceed beyond the surface. It is a very rare thing for it to penetrate into the foundations. Let us at the same time know that the Prophet speaks metaphorically of the destruction of the city, for it was such as left nothing remaining. For when some ruins remain, there is some intimation of a future restoration at least the minds of beholders are inclined to hope that what has fallen is to be restored; but when the buildings are not only pulled down, but also demolished from their foundations, then the destruction seems to be without any hope of restoration. And this is what the Prophet means when he says, that the fire had consumed, not only what was above ground, but the very foundations of Jerusalem. It follows, —

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