Those killed by the sword are better off
than those who die of famine;
racked with hunger, they waste away
for lack of food from the field.
With their own hands compassionate women
have cooked their own children,
who became their food
when my people were destroyed.
Yahweh has given full vent to his wrath;
he has poured out his fierce anger.
He kindled a fire in Zion
that consumed her foundations.
I cannot speak to this—it is an unthinkable horror. I refuse.
Jerusalem’s gates have sunk into the ground;
their bars God has broken and destroyed.
Her king and her princes are exiled among the nations,
the law is no more,
and her prophets no longer find visions from the Lord.
The elders of the Daughter of Zion
sit on the ground in silence;
they have sprinkled dust on their heads
and put on sackcloth.
The young women of Jerusalem
have bowed their heads to the ground.
My eyes fail from weeping,
I am in torment within,
my heart is poured out on the ground
because my people are destroyed,
because children and infants faint
in the streets of the city.
They say to their mothers,
“Where is bread and wine?”
as they faint like wounded men
in the streets of the city,
as their lives ebb away
in their mothers’ arms.
What can I say for you?
With what can I compare you,
O Daughter of Jerusalem?
To what can I liken you,
that I may comfort you,
O Virgin Daughter of Zion?
Your wound is as deep as the sea.
Who can heal you?
God utterly destroyed His people; He abandoned them to the wrath of Babylon. They were thrust out into foreign nations where they could not meet with God; where Torah was no more; where there was no prophetic vision; and where they were not ruled by their own kings and princes, but by oppressive foreign powers. I try desperately to empathize with these people, but cannot—I cannot find in my own experience the feeling of infinite loss that was infinitely present to these suffering exiles. I find myself echoing the plaintive cry of Jeremiah, “What can I say for you?” There is nothing. Only silence in the midst of brokenness; only to sit among the starving, the fainting and the tortured, in the dust. Job’s friends could conjure nothing but silence: “Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was” (Job 2:13). For what can one meaningfully say—ought one to say anything?—in the midst of the confession: “The Lord is like an enemy; he has swallowed up Israel … He has multiplied mourning and lamentation for the Daughter of Judah” (Lamentations 2:5).