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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.


Now, on the contrary, he says that the Nazarites were become withered, that their skin clave to their bones, that, in short, they were so deformed that they could not be known, not only in obscure corners, but even in the open street, hi the middle of the market-place. We hence learn that as the favor of God had before appeared as to the Nazarites, so now also his vengeance might be certainly known, because they had fallen off from their vigor, and were reduced to a degrading deformity. 214214     As to these two verses there is much disagreement in the early versions and the Targ.; that of the Sept. comes nearest to the original. They may be thus rendered, —

   7. Clearer were her Nazarites than snow,
They were whiter than milk;
Ruddier were they in body than rubies,
Sapphire was their polish (or smoothness:)

   8. Darker than the dusk became their appearance,
They were not known in the streets:
Cleave did their skin to their bones,
Dried up, it became like a stick.

   “Rubies,” rendered “pearls,” by Bochart; “load stones,” or magnets, by Parkhurst; “red corals,” by Gesenius. They were no doubt precious stones of reddish appearance. The “sapphire” is mentioned for its smoothness, as it appears from the contrast at the end of the eighth verse, where it is said that their skin had become like a dried “stick,” whose rind is shriveled. “Dusk” is rendered “soot” by the Sept., and “coals” by the Vulg. and the Syr. שחור is the dusk, or the dawn: but the river Nile is also thus called on account of its muddy and dusky waters. See Jeremiah 2:18. This being the case, may it not be so taken here.; The character of the passage favors this, “snow,” “milk,” etc. Then the line would be, —

   Darker than Sihor (or, the Nile) became their appearance.

    — Ed

The Prophet at the same time shews that worship according to the law had in a manner deteriorated on account of the vices of the people; and this is the design of the whole, as I reminded you at the beginning. For there is no doubt but that he wished to rouse the Jews, that they might at length raise up their eyes to God; for they had long grown torpid in their vices, and had been even inflated with diabolical pride; hence was their inveterate obstinacy. As long as the Temple stood, they thought that they satisfied God by the sacrifices they offered. When the Prophet now tells them that the stones of the Temple were thrown down, it hence follows that the Temple was profaned’ whence this profanation? from the wickedness of the people. The Chaldeans, indeed, thought that they brought a great reproach on God when they demolished the Temple; but, as long pollution had preceded, our Prophet now represents to the Jews their sins as in a mirror or a living form; for they had polluted the Temple before the Chaldeans. So also he shews that the worship according to the law was no longer pleasing to God, for they had mocked him with empty specters; for it was only a vain display when there was no integrity within. The Prophet then shews to them what, he could before by no means have persuaded them to believe, that God was in no way pleased with the external worship of the Jews, while they were audaciously violating the whole law. It afterwards follows, —

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