Lamentations 4

God punishes his people

4:1In this chapter, Jeremiah continues to speak.

1 Look! The gold has stopped shining!

Look how the best gold has changed!

The valuable stones from the Holy Place lie at the end of every street!

2 Jerusalem's men were valuable, like the best gold.

4:2Jerusalem's people were valuable to God, as gold is valuable. Perhaps the ‘valuable stones’ from the Holy Place were like Jerusalem's leaders and priests. Certainly the enemy had destroyed and burnt the Holy Place there. They broke the beautiful stones from its walls, and those stones were lying in the street.

Now they lie in the streets, because God has broken them.

They are like common pots that a potter makes.

4:2People did not think that ordinary pots were valuable.

3 Even the jackals feed their babies at their breasts.

But Jerusalem's young women have become cruel.

They are like ostriches that leave their eggs in the desert.

4:3Ostriches are large birds that lay their eggs in the sand. See Job 39:14-16.

4 The mouths of the babies in Jerusalem are completely dry, because they are so thirsty.

And the young children ask for food, but nobody gives them anything to eat.

5 There are people here who had been very rich.

They ate the best foods, but now they are hungry.

Now they lie in the streets with nothing to eat.

They wore the best clothes, but now they sit in the ashes.

6 God has punished my people.

He punished us more than he punished Sodom's people.

God destroyed that city in a moment, and nobody was there to help them.

4:6Sodom's people were very bad and they did not obey God. See Genesis 18:16-19:29. They all died quickly.

7 In past times, the leaders of Jerusalem were more pure than very white snow.

They were strong and healthy.

Their bodies seemed to shine like valuable stones.

8 Now their faces are dirty and black.

People see them in the streets, but they do not recognize them.

Their skin hangs on their bones.

Their skin is as dry as wood for a fire.

4:8A long time ago, these leaders had been extra careful to be clean. They wanted to do what God wanted them to do. People thought that these leaders were very special. But now, they are the same as everybody else in the streets.

9 Our enemies have killed many people with long knives.

It is better for those dead people

than for the people who have no food.

They are very hungry.

And they die slowly because they have nothing to eat.

4:9Jerusalem's people knew a lot about God, but they also did many very bad things. They died more slowly. They were in pain for a long time before they died.

10 Women who once were very kind

have boiled their own children.

Their children became their food,

when the enemies were destroying the city.

4:10These people had done some very bad things in the bad times when they were very sad and hungry. But God wants them to learn his ways again.

11 The Lord was very angry.

So he sent fire to burn Zion.

It destroyed the whole city, even the strongest houses.

12 The kings in the other cities on earth could not believe it.

4:12These other people had seen or they knew about Jerusalem's strong walls. They also knew that Jerusalem and Jerusalem's people were special to God. So they were very surprised about what happened to the city.

None of the people on earth could believe it.

They thought that no enemy could go through Jerusalem's gates.

13 God punished Jerusalem and its people because their leaders sinned.

God did not like the things that their prophets and priests did.

They had caused good people to die.

14 Those leaders walked in the streets like men who cannot see.

There was blood on their clothes and everybody was afraid to touch them.

15 ‘Go away!’ people shouted at them.

‘Do not touch us!

You are too dirty to be among God's people!’

So they went away to other countries, but the people there did not want them.

‘They cannot stay here with us!’ those people said.

16 The Lord himself has sent them away.

He will not take care of them any longer.

Nobody respects the priests.

Nobody is kind to the leaders.

4:16Some people were as bad as their leaders, the priests and the prophets. It was sad that good people in Jerusalem also died because of other people's sins.

17 Our eyes became red as we watched.

We were looking for help, but it did not come.

The people from other countries could not save us.

18 Enemies ran after us, so that we could not go into the streets any longer.

We knew that we would die soon.

We could not live like this any longer.

19 The enemy was quicker than big birds that fly in the air.

They followed us so that they could catch us out on the mountains.

They hid and they waited for us in the desert.

20 The Lord had chosen a man to be our king.

We thought that he would save us.

‘Under his shadow we will live among the other countries,’ we had always said.

But the enemy caught him.

4:20Nobody could help them if God was against them. The king was Zedekiah. He was the last king of Judah. Jeremiah tells us about him in the other book that he wrote. (See Jeremiah 39:1-8.) Israel's people thought that their kings were very special. They thought that God had given those kings to them.

21 You, Edom's people, live in the country called Uz. And you are happy now.

But at a future time, God will hurt you too.

The enemy will take away everything that you have.

So you will become like drunks.

22 God has finished punishing Zion's people.

He will let them return to their homes soon.

But you, Edom's people, God will certainly punish you.

4:22God will punish Edom's people because they have been cruel to God's people. Edom's people did all die. There is no country called Edom now.

He will discover everything that you have done wrong.