4 Aaghh! The gold no longer shines;
even our finest gold is changed,
And precious gems from the holy place
are scattered and spilled in the street.
2 But worse yet, the people themselves, the precious children of Zion,
are treated like clay pots formed by a potter—
Now debased and devalued,
but they were once worth their weight in gold.
3 Cruelty marks our young women.
Even jackals nourish their young,
But like the stupid ostrich in the desert,
my people don’t care a whit for their own.
4 Desperate infants thirst for milk,
their tongues stuck to the roofs of their mouths.
Hungry children beg for food,
and no one responds.
5 Even those raised with a silver spoon,
swaddled in the richest fabrics,
Are starving, perishing in the streets.
They swarm through rubbish like flies.
6 Forever, without relief, it seems my city will suffer
more for their wrongdoing than cruel Sodom did;
With their instant and violent overthrow,
no one wrung hands in despair for that city.
7 Eternal One: Glory comes in service for those consecrated to Me;
they are purer and cleaner than snow and whiter than milk
Their bodies chiseled and healthy,
as polished as sapphires and redder than coral.
8 How stark the contrast; they have suffered so.
Now they are sullied with grime,
Unrecognizable on the streets,
skeletal and frail, as dry as tender.
9 If only they could have died valiantly by the sword—
rather than doubled over by famine,
This long-drawn agony of hunger,
deprived of the yield of the field.
10 Just imagine the injustice: loving mothers
are forced to cook their babies’ flesh.
Children have become their food!
All because of the destruction of the daughter of my people.
Is this poetic hyperbole, or could such a horror really have happened? Even today, famine and disease cause devastation in developing nations reminiscent of what this poet describes happening in Jerusalem. Suffering will always exist because sin—rebellion against God—affects every aspect of a culture at every level of society. When Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem in the early sixth century b.c., he did not allow any food or provision to enter the city; he literally waited for God’s people in Jerusalem to starve to death. As the executioner of God’s judgment, Nebuchadnezzar punished everyone equally, regardless of the severity of his or her sins, because all sin is worthy of death. The people in Jerusalem really experienced God’s dark cloud and His frowning countenance.
11 Kindling a fire, the Eternal attacked Zion
until nothing was left—not even the foundations.
His anger was poured out
as that angry fire consuming all.
12 Little did they know, thinking Jerusalem could not be breached—
not by kings, not by ordinary people, and not by anyone on the earth—
Absolutely no one imagined
Jerusalem’s enemies would get in.
13 Many and terrible were the crimes that her leaders,
the ones who should be most righteous of all, committed.
Prophets and priests shed the blood of the upstanding
and also the just in her midst.
14 Never had leaders wandered blindly,
polluted by the blood they spilled,
Untouchable even by their garments.
15 “Out! Get away from us. We’re impure. Do not touch us!”
the priests and prophets yelled.
So they wandered like fugitives, rejected wherever they went.
Even the foreign nations wouldn’t take them.
16 Presence of the Eternal is overwhelming.
God has scattered them to the winds.
He no longer held them in esteem:
the priests received no honor, the elders no respect.
17 Quietly we waited for help until our eyes failed.
We hoped and watched for a nation to rescue us.
But we waited in vain: no rescue came.
18 Routinely our steps were tracked
so that we could not even walk our own streets.
This was it, our days at an end;
we were done for.
19 Swifter than eagles in the sky,
they pursued us through the mountains;
And in all the wild places,
they hunted us and lay in wait.
20 Trapped, our king, the Eternal’s anointed, the breath of our life,
was taken to their pits;
Of him we said, “He casts a long shadow
that will protect us from the nations.”
21 Utter your words of joy: Edom, inhabitants of the land of Uz,
go ahead—be happy.
In time the cup of suffering will be yours too,
and you’ll drink so deeply, so perilously as to be intoxicated and stripped naked.
22 Viciously, daughter Zion, your iniquity has been punished.
That is done; your exile is over.
Daughter Edom, on the other hand, is a different story:
you’ll be called to account for your sins and uncovered accordingly.