The Lord’s Wrath and Zion’s Ruin*
1How the Lord in his wrath
has abhorred daughter Zion,
Casting down from heaven to earth
the glory of Israel,*
Not remembering his footstool
on the day of his wrath!
2The Lord has devoured without pity
all of Jacob’s dwellings;
In his fury he has razed
daughter Judah’s defenses,
Has brought to the ground in dishonor
a kingdom and its princes.
3In blazing wrath, he cut down entirely
the horn* of Israel;
He withdrew the support of his right hand
when the enemy approached;
He burned against Jacob like a blazing fire
that consumes everything in its path.
4He bent his bow like an enemy;
the arrow in his right hand
Like a foe, he killed
all those held precious;
On the tent of daughter Zion
he poured out his wrath like fire.
5The Lord has become the enemy,
he has devoured Israel:
Devoured all its strongholds,
destroyed its defenses,
Multiplied moaning and groaning
throughout daughter Judah.
6He laid waste his booth like a garden,
destroyed his shrine;*
The LORD has blotted out in Zion
feast day and sabbath,
Has scorned in fierce wrath
king and priest.a
7The Lord has rejected his altar,
spurned his sanctuary;
He has handed over to the enemy
the walls of its strongholds.
They shout in the house of the LORD
as on a feast day.b
8The LORD was bent on destroying
the wall of daughter Zion:
He stretched out the measuring line;*
did not hesitate to devour,
Brought grief on rampart and wall
till both succumbed.c
9Her gates sank into the ground;
he smashed her bars to bits.
Her king and her princes are among the nations;
instruction is wanting,
Even her prophets do not obtain
any vision from the LORD.d
10The elders of daughter Zion
sit silently on the ground;
They cast dust* on their heads
and dress in sackcloth;
The young women of Jerusalem
bow their heads to the ground.e
11My eyes are spent with tears,
my stomach churns;*
My bile is poured out on the ground
at the brokenness of the daughter of my people,
As children and infants collapse
in the streets of the town.f
12They cry out to their mothers,
“Where is bread and wine?”
As they faint away like the wounded
in the streets of the city,
As their life is poured out
in their mothers’ arms.
13To what can I compare you*—to what can I liken you—
O daughter Jerusalem?
What example can I give in order to comfort you,
virgin daughter Zion?
For your breach is vast as the sea;
who could heal you?g
14Your prophets provided you visions
of whitewashed illusion;
They did not lay bare your guilt,
in order to restore your fortunes;
They saw for you only oracles
of empty deceit.h
15All who pass by on the road,
clap their hands at you;
They hiss and wag their heads
over daughter Jerusalem:
“Is this the city they used to call
perfect in beauty and joy of all the earth?”i
16They open their mouths against you,
all your enemies;
They hiss and gnash their teeth,
saying, “We have devoured her!
How we have waited for this day—
we have lived to see it!”j
17The LORD has done what he planned.
He has fulfilled the threat
Decreed from days of old,
destroying without pity!
He let the enemy gloat over you
and exalted the horn of your foes.k
18Cry out to the Lord from your heart,
wall of daughter Zion!
Let your tears flow like a torrent
day and night;
Give yourself no rest,
no relief for your eyes.
19Rise up! Wail in the night,
at the start of every watch;
Pour out your heart like water
before the Lord;
Lift up your hands to him
for the lives of your children,
Who collapse from hunger
at the corner of every street.*
20“Look, O LORD, and pay attention:
to whom have you been so ruthless?
Must women eat their own offspring,*
the very children they have borne?
Are priest and prophet to be slain
in the sanctuary of the Lord?l
21They lie on the ground in the streets,
young and old alike;
Both my young women and young men
are cut down by the sword;
You killed them on the day of your wrath,
slaughtered without pity.m
22You summoned as to a feast day
terrors on every side;
On the day of the LORD’s wrath,
none survived or escaped.
Those I have borne and nurtured,
my enemy has utterly destroyed.”n
* [2:1–22] This chapter continues to move between the voice of the poet (vv. 1–20) and that of personified Zion (vv. 20–22). The persona of the poet, first portrayed in chap. 1 as a detached observer recounting both the desolation as well as the sins of the city, becomes in this chapter an advocate for Zion in her appeal to the Lord and never once mentions her sins.
* [2:1] The glory of Israel: the Temple. His footstool: the ark of the covenant (1 Chr 28:2; Ps 99:5; 132:7); or again, the Temple (Ez 43:7).
* [2:3] Horn: a symbol of power and strength; cf. v. 17; 1 Sm 2:1, 10; Ps 89:18, 25; 92:11; 112:9.
* [2:6] Booth…shrine: synonyms for the Temple; cf. Ps 27:5; 74:4, 8. The term for “shrine” in Hebrew (mo‘ed) figures prominently in the pentateuchal expression “tent of meeting” (’ohel mo‘ed).
* [2:8] The measuring line: normally used for building, here employed ironically as an instrument of destruction; cf. Is 34:11; 2 Kgs 21:13.
* [2:10] They cast dust: as a sign of mourning; cf. Jos 7:6; Jb 2:12; Ez 27:30.
* [2:11] My eyes are spent with tears, my stomach churns: the poet appropriates the emotional language used by Zion in 1:16 and 1:20 to express a progressively stronger commitment to her cause. After describing the systematic dismantling of the city in vv. 5–9, the poet turns to the plight of the inhabitants in vv. 10–12. It is the description of children dying in the streets that finally brings about the poet’s emotional breakdown, even as it did for Zion in 1:16.
* [2:13] To what can I compare you…?: the author calls attention to the poetic task: to find language that speaks adequately of the atrocities and incomparable suffering experienced by Zion, and thus to attempt to offer comfort.
* [2:19] The poet urges Zion to appeal to the Lord once more on behalf of her dying children. The image of Zion’s children effectively condenses the metaphorical sense of all residents of the city (young and old alike) into the more poignant picture of actual children at the point of death. It was precisely this image, no doubt well known to survivors of besieged cities, that led to the emotional breakdown of both Zion (1:16) and the poet (2:11). The hope is that the Lord will be similarly affected by such a poignant image and respond with mercy.
* [2:20] Must women eat their own offspring: extreme famine in a besieged city sometimes led to cannibalism; this becomes a stereotypical way of expressing the nearly unthinkable horrors of war; cf. Lam 4:10; Dt 28:53; 2 Kgs 6:28–29; Bar 2:3; Ez 5:10.
f. [2:11] Lam 1:16, 20; 3:48; Jer 8:18.
h. [2:14] Is 58:1; Jer 2:8; 23:16; Ez 13:9; 22:28.
i. [2:15] Ps 48:3; 50:12; Jer 18:16.
m. [2:21] Lam 3:43; 2 Chr 36:17; Jer 6:11.