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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.


This verse is harshly explained by many, for they think that the daughter of the people is called cruel, because she acted towards her children as serpents do to their young ones. But this meaning is not suitable, for the word בת, beth, is well known to be feminine. He says that the daughter of the people had come to a savage or cruel one, the latter word is masculine. Then the Prophet seems to mean that the whelps (such is the word) of serpents are more kindly dealt with than the Jews. Serpents are void of all humanity, yet they nourish their brood and give them the breast,. Hence the Prophet by this comparison amplifies the miseries of the people, that their condition was worse than that of serpents, for the tender brood are nourished by their mothers; but the people were without any help, so that they in vain implored the protection of their mother and of others. ‘We now see the real meaning of the Prophet.

The particle גם, gam, is emphatical; for had he spoken of animals, such as are careful to nourish their young, it would not have been so wonderful; but so great seems to be the savageness and barbarity of serpents, that they might be expected to east away their brood. Now he says that even serpents draw out the breast The Jews say that the breasts of serpents are covered with scales, as though they were hidden; but this is one of their figments. It is a common phrase, taken from t common practice; for a woman draws out the breast when she gives suck to her infant; so serpents are said to draw out the breast when they give suck to their whelps; for גורים, gurim, are the whelps of lions or of bears; but in this place the word is applied to serpents. The daughter, then, of my people has come to the cruel one, for the people had to do with nothing but cruelty, there being no one to bring them help or to succor them in their miseries. He, then, does not accuse the people of cruelty, that they did not nourish their children, but on the contrary he means that they were given up to cruel enemies. 209209     The reference here is to the conduct of mothers, called here “the daughter of my people,” as it appears evident from the following verse, —
   Even dragons have drawn out the breast,
They have suckled their young ones:
The daughter of my people has been for cruelty
Like the ostriches in the desert.

   It is said that the ostrich lays her eggs and forsakes them. See Job 39:15. The verb, to be, is understood, as the case often is, but it must ever be in the same tense as the verb or verbs connected with the sentence. — Ed.

As the ostriches, or the owls, he says, in the wilderness. If we understand the ostrich to be intended, we know that bird to be very stupid; for as soon as she lays an egg, she forgets and leaves it. The comparison, then, would be suitable, were the daughter of the people said to be cruel, because she neglected her children; but the Prophet, as I think, means, on the contrary, that the Jews were so destitute of every help, as though they were banished into solitary places beyond the sight of men; for birds in solitude in vain seek the help of others. As, then, the ostrich Or the owl has in the desert no one to bring it help, and is without its own mother, so the Prophet intimates that there was no one to stretch forth a hand to the distressed people to relieve their extreme miseries. It follows, —

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