THE FIVE POEMS
Desolation in Jerusalem (1:1-22)
Jerusalem, once a busy commercial city, is now empty. She is like a woman who has lost her husband, like a princess who has become a slave. The nations (her ‘lovers’) who she thought would help her have proved useless, some even treacherous (1:1-3).
When Jerusalem’s hour of crisis came, all her leaders fled, leaving the people to be attacked, plundered and taken captive. Now that all the usual activities of daily life have ceased, there remain only the memories of the pleasant way of life she once enjoyed – and the memory of how her enemies laughed at her downfall (4-7).
The reason for Jerusalem’s desolation is her sin. In her idolatry and wickedness she had acted like an immoral woman; now she has been treated like one (8-9). Babylonian soldiers not only entered the temple (something that was forbidden to foreigners) but also plundered its precious metals and took its sacred treasures. The starving people in the crushed city try to trade their personal possessions with the enemy soldiers in a desperate effort to obtain bread (10-11).
In anguish the personified city asks those who pass by if they feel any pity for her because of the suffering God has sent her. She has been attacked, burnt, and left in a condition of hopeless ruin (12-13). Her sins have weighed her down as a heavy yoke weighs down on the neck of a working animal.
Consequently, when God sent the enemy armies against her, she was so weak and helpless that she was unable to withstand them (14-16).
Although she does not receive the sympathy for which she cries out, she is not bitter against God. She knows God has justly punished her for her sins. She warns others to learn from her experience (17-18).
When she called for help, none came. Some of the people starved to death in the siege, others were killed or taken captive when the city finally fell (19-20).
Jerusalem’s grief is made worse by the mockery of her neighbours. They rejoice over the fall of Jerusalem, yet they themselves are wicked. She prays that God will carry out justice against them as he has carried it out against Judah (21-22).