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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.


Here the Prophet charges the people with another crime, that neglecting God, and even despising his favor, they had always attached themselves to vain and false hopes. And this was a sacrilege not to be endured, because they thus robbed God of his rights: and what does he demand more than that we should depend on him, and that our minds should acquiesce in him alone? When, therefore, salvation is expected from others rather than from God alone, he is, in a manner, reduced to nothing. The Prophet, then, accuses the Jews of this great, sacrilege, that they never betook themselves to God, nor had any hope in him, but on the contrary wandered here and there for help.

As yet for us, he says, that, is, while we were yet standing. 217217     The true reading is no doubt עדינו; and Blayney thinks that there is a ו wanting before the next verb, as it is in other in other instances; 1 Kings 1:14, 22; Job 1:16, 17, 18. It is supplied in the Sept., Syr., and Vulg.
   Yet we were, and fail did our eyes
As to our assistance;
In vain by looking out did we look out
To a nation that could not save.

   The Syr. connect “in vain,” more properly, with the third line. — Ed.
And this circumstance deserves to be noticed; for after the Jews had been overthrown, they at length began to know how they had been previously deceived, when they placed confidence in the Egyptians. Prosperity inebriates men, so that they take delight ill their own vanities: and while we seem to ourselves to stand, or while we remain alive, God is disregarded, and we seek help here and there, and think our safety beyond all danger. The Prophet then says, that the Jews had been inebriated with false confidence, so that they disregarded God, and in the meantime fled to the Egyptians. When, he says, we were standing, our eyes failed, etc. We have before seen what this phrase means: the eyes are said to fail, when with unwearied perseverance we pursue a hope to the last, as it is said in the Psalms,

“Our eyes have failed for the living God,” (Psalm 69:3;)

that is, We have persevered, and though many trials may have wearied us, yet we have been constant in our hope in God. So now the Prophet says, that the eyes of the people had failed; but he adds, for a vain help, or a help of vanity, by which term he designates the Egyptians: and there is an implied contrast between empty and fallacious help and the help of God, which the people rejected when they preferred the Egyptians. Our eyes, he says, failed, that is, we were unwearied in hoping vainly, for we always thought that the Egyptians would be a sufficient, defense to us. This is one thing.

He afterwards adds, In our looking out, we looked out to a nation which could not save us. He. repeats the same thing in other words. Some consider a relative to be understood, “In our expectation with which we have expected,” etc.; but it seems not necessary. I, then, so connect the words of the Prophet, that the meaning is, that the Jews always turned their eyes to Egypt, as long as they stood as a state and kingdom and thus they willfully deceived themselves, because they took delight in their own vanity. The other clause which follows has the same meaning, In our expectation we expected a nation, etc.; and this clause is added as an explanation; for the Prophet explains how their eyes failed for a vain hope, or for a vain help, even because the people did not look to God, but only to the Egyptians.

Now the words, to look out and looking out, are not unsuitable, for they refer to those vain imaginations to which the unbelieving give heed; for God called them, but turning away from him they transferred their hope to the Egyptians. It was, then, their own looking out or speculation, when, through a foolish conceit, they imagined that safety would be secured to them by the Egyptians.

He says that they were a nation which could not save; and there is no doubt but that the Prophet here puts them in mind of the many warnings which had not been received by the Jews, for God had tried to call them back from that ruinous confidence, but without any success; for we know how much the Prophets labored in this respect, but they were never believed until at length experience proved how vain was the help of Egypt, as God had testified by his servants.

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