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New American Bible

2002 11 11
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Chapter 4


How tarnished is the gold, how changed the noble metal; How the sacred stones lie strewn at every street corner!


Zion's precious sons, fine gold their counterpart, Now worth no more than earthen jars made by the hands of a potter!


1 Even the jackals bare their breasts and suckle their young; The daughter of my people has become as cruel as the ostrich in the desert.


The tongue of the suckling cleaves to the roof of its mouth in thirst; The babes cry for food, but there is no one to give it to them.


Those accustomed to dainty food perish in the streets; Those brought up in purple now cling to the ash heaps.


The punishment of the daughter of my people is greater than the penalty of Sodom, Which was overthrown in an instant without the turning of a hand.


Brighter than snow were her princes, whiter than milk, More ruddy than coral, more precious than sapphire.


Now their appearance is blacker than soot, they are unrecognized on the streets; Their skin shrinks on their bones, as dry as wood.


Better for those who perish by the sword than for those who die of hunger, Who waste away, as though pierced through, lacking the fruits of the field!


The hands of compassionate women boiled their own children, To serve them as mourners' food in the downfall of the daughter of my people.


The LORD has spent his anger, poured out his blazing wrath; He has kindled a fire in Zion that has consumed her foundations.


The kings of the earth did not believe, nor any of the world's inhabitants, That enemy or foe could enter the gates of Jerusalem.


2 Because of the sins of her prophets and the crimes of her priests, Who shed in her midst the blood of the just! - 


They staggered blindly in the streets, soiled with blood, So that people could not touch even their garments:


"Away you unclean!" they cried to them, "Away, away, do not draw near!" If they left and wandered among the nations, nowhere could they remain.


The LORD himself has dispersed them, he regards them no more; He does not receive the priests with favor, nor show kindness to the elders.


3 Our eyes ever wasted away, looking in vain for aid; From our watchtower we watched for a nation that could not save us.


Men dogged our steps so that we could not walk in our streets; Our end drew near, and came; our time had expired.


Our pursuers were swifter than eagles in the air, They harassed us on the mountains and waylaid us in the desert.


4 The anointed one of the LORD, our breath of life, was caught in their snares, He in whose shadow we thought we could live on among the nations.


5 Though you rejoice and are glad, O daughter Edom, you who dwell in the land of Uz, To you also shall the cup be passed; you shall become drunk and naked.


Your chastisement is completed, O daughter Zion, he will not prolong your exile; But your wickedness, O daughter Edom, he will punish, he will lay bare your sins.



1 [3] Cruel as the ostrich: see note on Job 39:14-16. Jerusalem, in her distress, has abandoned her children.

2 [13-15] The priests and the false prophets lulled the people into an illusory security ( Jeremiah 2:8; 5:31; 6:13; etc.), condoning and entering into their crimes so that they themselves became unclean.

3 [17] A nation: Egypt, which failed to give effective aid against Babylon.

4 [20] Our breath of life: the king. This is a royal epithet borrowed from Egyptian usage, while the anointed one of the LORD is Israelite. After the disaster of 598 B.C. ( 2 Kings 24:1-17), Jerusalem could have hoped to live in peace amidst her neighbors; but they ( Lam 4:21-22) as well as Babylon turned against her to ensure her total devastation in 587 B.C.

5 [21] Uz: see note on Jeremiah 25:20.

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