Sunday, September 18, 2011

Lamentations of collapse

The Book of Lamentations was likely written after the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple in 586 B.C.E.   In this case the immediate destructive agent was the (neo-) Babylonian Empire, and the Jews of Judea (or at least their leaders) were sent into exile.  As we noted earlier, the northern portion of the combined kingdon of Judea-Isreal had been conquered 100 years earlier by the (neo-) Assyrians.

The lament has some similarity to the earlier Lament for Ur, and other ancient laments of conquered peoples.  In effect they are laments for once mighty cities, brought down by God (or the Gods).  It is also noteworthy that even in a time when the cities were the typically the size of modest towns, and most people did make provisions for food storage and basic sustenance, that the city’s population could not be maintained and starvation ensued.

Note that I have used the Amplified version because, in the KJ and other versions, it can be a little hard to tell what exactly is going on.

Lamentations 4 (Amplified)

1HOW THE gold has become dim! How the most pure gold has changed! The hallowed stones [of the temple] are poured out at the head of every street.
2The noble and precious sons of Zion, [once] worth their weight in fine gold--how they are esteemed [merely] as earthen pots or pitchers, the work of the hands of the potter!
3Even the jackals draw out the breast, they give suck to their young ones, but the daughter of my people has become cruel like ostriches in the wilderness [that desert their young].
4The tongue of the nursing babe cleaves to the roof of its mouth because of thirst; the young children beg for food, but no one gives it to them.
5Those who feasted on dainties are perishing in the streets; those who were brought up in purple lie cleaving to refuse and ash heaps.
6For the punishment of the iniquity of the daughter of my people is greater than the punishment of the sin of Sodom, which was overthrown in a moment, and no hands had come against her or been laid on her.
7[In physical appearance] her princes were purer than snow, they were whiter than milk; they were more ruddy in body than rubies or corals, their shapely figures [suggested a carefully cut] sapphire.
8[Prolonged famine has made] them look blacker than soot and darkness; they are not recognized in the streets. Their skin clings to their bones; it is withered and it has become [dry] like a stick.
9Those who are slain with the sword are more fortunate than those who are the victims of hunger [slain by the famine]; for they [the hungry] pine and ebb away, stricken through for want of the fruits of the field.
10The hands of [heretofore] compassionate women have boiled their own children; they were their food during the destruction of the daughter of my people [Judah].
11The Lord has fulfilled His wrath; He has poured out His fierce anger and has kindled a fire in Zion that has consumed her foundations.

From the Lament For Ur

On that day did the storm leave the city; that city was a ruin.
O father Nanna, that town was left a ruin. The people mourn.
On that day did the storm leave the country. The people mourn.
Its people('s corpses), not potsherds,
littered the approaches.
The walls were gaping;
the high gates, the roads,
were piled with dead.
In the wide streets, where feasting crowds (once) gathered, jumbled they lay.
In all the streets and roadways bodies lay.
In open fields that used to fill with dancers,
the people lay in heaps.
The country's blood now filled its holes, like metal in a mold;
bodies dissolved -- like butter left in the sun.

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