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The Punishment of Jerusalem

The Prophet Speaks:

The purest gold is ruined
    and has lost its shine;
jewels from the temple
    lie scattered in the streets.
These are Zion’s people,
    worth more than purest gold;
yet they are counted worthless
    like dishes of clay.

Even jackals[a] nurse their young,
but my people are like ostriches
    that abandon their own.
Babies are so thirsty
that their tongues
are stuck
    to the roof of the mouth.
Children go begging for food,
    but no one gives them any.
All who ate expensive foods
    lie starving in the streets;
those who grew up in luxury
    now sit on trash heaps.

My nation was punished worse
    than the people of Sodom,
whose city was destroyed
in a flash
without the help
    of human hands.[b]
The leaders of Jerusalem
were purer than snow
    and whiter than milk;
their bodies were healthy
    and glowed like jewels.[c]
Now they are blacker than tar,
    and no one recognizes them;
their skin clings to their bones
    and is drier than firewood.
Being killed with a sword
is better
than slowly
    starving to death.
10 Life in the city is so bad
that loving mothers
have boiled
    and eaten their own children.

11 The Lord was so fiercely angry
that he burned the city of Zion
    to the ground.
12 Not a king on this earth
    or the people of any nation
believed enemies could break
    through her gates.

13 Jerusalem was punished because
    her prophets and her priests
had sinned and caused the death
    of innocent victims.
14 Yes, her prophets and priests
    were covered with blood;
no one would come near them,
as they wandered
    from street to street.
15 Instead, everyone shouted,
    “Go away! Don’t touch us!
You’re filthy and unfit
    to belong to God’s people!”

So they had to leave
    and become refugees.
But foreign nations told them,
    “You can’t stay here!”[d]
16 The Lord is the one
who sent them scattering,
    and he has forgotten them.
No respect or kindness
will be shown
    to the priests or leaders.
17 Our eyes became weary,
    hopelessly looking
for help
from a nation[e]
    that could not save us.
18 Enemies hunted us down
    on every public street.
Our time was up;
    our doom was near.
19 They swooped down faster
    than eagles from the sky.
They hunted for us in the hills
and set traps to catch us
    out in the desert.
20 The Lord’s chosen leader[f]
    was our hope for survival!
We thought he would keep us safe
    somewhere among the nations,
but even he was caught
    in one of their traps.

21 You people of Edom
    can celebrate now!
But your time will come
to suffer
and stagger
    around naked.
22 The people of Zion
    have paid for their sins,
and the Lord will soon
    let them return home.
But, people of Edom,
you will be punished,
    and your sins exposed.


  1. 4.3 jackals: Desert animals related to wolves, but smaller.
  2. 4.6 hands: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 6.
  3. 4.7 jewels: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 7.
  4. 4.15 here: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 15.
  5. 4.17 nation: Egypt, a former ally of Judah.
  6. 4.20 chosen leader: Probably Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, taken away to Babylonia in 586 B.C.