The Desolation of Jerusalem*

1How solitary sits the city,

once filled with people.

She who was great among the nations

is now like a widow.

Once a princess among the provinces,

now a toiling slave.

2She weeps incessantly in the night,

her cheeks damp with tears.

She has no one to comfort her

from all her lovers;*

Her friends have all betrayed her,

and become her enemies.a

3Judah has gone into exile,

after oppression and harsh labor;

She dwells among the nations,

yet finds no rest:b

All her pursuers overtake her

in the narrow straits.

4The roads to Zion mourn,

empty of pilgrims to her feasts.

All her gateways are desolate,

her priests groan,

Her young women grieve;

her lot is bitter.c

5Her foes have come out on top,

her enemies are secure;

Because the LORD has afflicted her

for her many rebellions.

Her children have gone away,

captive before the foe.

6From daughter Zion has gone

all her glory:

Her princes have become like rams

that find no pasture.

They have gone off exhausted

before their pursuers.

7Jerusalem remembers

in days of wretched homelessness,

All the precious things she once had

in days gone by.

But when her people fell into the hands of the foe,

and she had no help,

Her foes looked on and laughed

at her collapse.

8Jerusalem has sinned grievously,

therefore she has become a mockery;

Those who honored her now demean her,

for they saw her nakedness;

She herself groans out loud,

and turns away.d

9Her uncleanness is on her skirt;

she has no thought of her future.

Her downfall is astonishing,

with no one to comfort her.

“Look, O LORD, at my misery;

how the enemy triumphs!”*

10The foe stretched out his hands

to all her precious things;

She has seen the nations

enter her sanctuary,

Those you forbade to come

into your assembly.e

11All her people groan,

searching for bread;

They give their precious things for food,

to retain the breath of life.

“Look, O LORD, and pay attention

to how I have been demeaned!

12Come, all who pass by the way,

pay attention and see:

Is there any pain like my pain,

which has been ruthlessly inflicted upon me,

With which the LORD has tormented me

on the day of his blazing wrath?

13From on high he hurled fire down

into my very bones;

He spread out a net for my feet,

and turned me back.

He has left me desolate,

in misery all day long.f

14The yoke of my rebellions is bound together,

fastened by his hand.

His yoke is upon my neck;

he has made my strength fail.

The Lord has delivered me into the grip

of those I cannot resist.

15All my valiant warriors

my Lord has cast away;

He proclaimed a feast against me

to crush my young men;

My Lord has trodden in the wine press

virgin daughter Judah.

16For these things I weep—My eyes! My eyes!

They stream with tears!

How far from me is anyone to comfort,

anyone to restore my life.

My children are desolate;

the enemy has prevailed.”g

17Zion stretches out her hands,

with no one to comfort her;

The LORD has ordered against Jacob

his foes all around;

Jerusalem has become in their midst

a thing unclean.

18“The LORD is in the right;

I had defied his command.

Listen, all you peoples,

and see my pain:

My young women and young men

have gone into captivity.h

19I cried out to my lovers,

but they failed me.i

My priests and my elders

perished in the city;

How desperately they searched for food,

to save their lives!

20Look, O LORD, at the anguish I suffer!

My stomach churns,

And my heart recoils within me:

How bitter I am!

Outside the sword bereaves—

indoors, there is death.j

21Hear how I am groaning;

there is no one to comfort me.

All my enemies hear of my misery and rejoice

over what you have done.

Bring on the day you proclaimed,

and let them become like me!

22Let all their evil come before you

and deal with them

As you have so ruthlessly dealt with me

for all my rebellions.

My groans are many,

my heart is sick.”k

* [1:122] In this poem the poet first takes on the persona of an observer describing Jerusalem’s abject state after the destruction wrought by the Babylonian army (vv. 111a); but the detached tone gives way to a more impassioned appeal when the city itself—personified as the grieving widow and mother Zion—abruptly intrudes upon this description (vv. 9c, 11c16, 1822) to demand that God look squarely at her misery.

* [1:2] Lovers: language of love was typically used to describe the relationship between treaty partners, thus here it connotes Judah’s allies (see v. 19).

* [1:9] Zion breaks in on the poet’s description in v. 9c, albeit briefly, to demand that the Lord face squarely her misery. She takes up the lament in a more sustained fashion in v. 11c.

a. [1:2] Jer 30:14; Ez 16:37.

b. [1:3] Dt 28:65; Jer 45:3.

c. [1:4] Is 33:89; Jer 14:2.

d. [1:8] Is 47:23; Jer 13:22, 26; Na 3:5.

e. [1:10] Dt 23:36; Ps 74:48; Is 56:6; 66:2021; Jer 51:51.

f. [1:13] Ez 12:13.

g. [1:16] Ps 69:21; Eccl 4:1; Jer 13:17; 14:17; Na 3:7.

h. [1:18] Dt 28:41.

i. [1:19] Jer 30:14.

j. [1:20] Lam 2:11.

k. [1:22] Lam 3:64.

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