The Punishment of the Prophet and People
1 How the gold has become tarnished,
how the pure gold has lost its luster!
The sacred stones lie scattered
at every street corner.
2 The precious sons of Zion
were formerly worth their weight in gold.
Now they are reckoned as no more valuable
than clay jars fashioned by a potter.
3 Even jackals bare their breasts
and nurse their young.
But the daughters of my people have become
as cruel as ostriches[a] in the desert.
4 The tongue of an infant
sticks to the roof of its mouth in thirst.
Little children beg for bread,
but no one offers them a crumb.
5 Those who once feasted on delicacies
now lie dying in the streets.
Those who once wore purple garments
now grovel in rubbish heaps.
6 The punishment inflicted on my people
has been greater than that of Sodom,
which was overthrown in an instant
without a hand being lifted to help her.
7 Her princes were once brighter than snow
and whiter than milk.
Their bodies were more ruddy than coral,
more precious than sapphire.
8 Now their faces are blacker than soot,
and no one recognizes them in the streets.
Their skin has shriveled tightly over their bones,
as dry as a stick.
9 More blessed were those who died by the sword
than those who died of hunger,
with their limbs wasting away,
deprived of the produce of the field.
10 With their own hands, compassionate women
have boiled their own children;
those offspring became their food
when my people were on the verge of extinction,
11 The Lord let his blazing anger pour forth
and gave full vent to his wrath
as he kindled a fire in Zion
that devoured her foundations.
12 The kings of the earth never believed,
nor did any of the inhabitants of the world,
that any adversary or enemy
could ever penetrate the gates of Jerusalem.
13 That occurred because of the sins of her prophets
and the crimes of her priests
who had shed within her walls
the blood of the righteous.[b]
14 They staggered blindly in the streets,
so defiled with blood
that not one of the people dared
to touch their garments.
15 “Go away! You are unclean!” the people shouted.
“Keep away! Do not touch us!”
Wherever they fled, the people would cry out,
“You cannot stay here any longer!”
16 The Lord himself scattered them;
he no longer watches over them.
He showed no favor to the priests
or kindness to the elders.
17 Continually we strained our eyes,
looking in vain for help.
From our towers we watched endlessly
for a nation that could not save us.
18 Men dogged our steps
so that we were unable to walk in our streets.
Our end drew near; our days were numbered;
our time had come.
19 Our pursuers were swifter
than eagles in the heavens.
They hounded us over the mountains
and lay in ambush for us in the wilderness.
20 The Lord’s anointed,[c] our breath of life,
was caught in their traps,
he in whose shadow we thought
that we could live in safety among the nations.
21 Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom,
you who live in the land of Uz.
But to you also the cup will be passed;
you will become drunk and strip yourself naked.
22 O daughter of Zion, your punishment is now complete;
he will not prolong your exile.
But, daughter of Edom, he will punish your iniquity,
and he will lay bare your sins.
- Lamentations 4:3 Ostriches: it was thought that ostriches did not take care of their young.
- Lamentations 4:13 The sins of the priests and prophets were cause for great hurt and destruction for the people. This is true in our day as well, and a cause for deep repentance and renewal in the church.
- Lamentations 4:20 The Lord’s anointed: King Zedekiah, the Lord’s anointed, was taken prisoner (see 2 Ki 25:4-7).