The weeping Jerusalem (Lam 1:16-1:16)

Ayin

“I weep

For these things.

My eyes

Flow with tears.

A comforter is

Far from me.

There is no one

To revive

My courage.

My children are

Desolate.

The enemy has

Prevailed.”

Once again, we have Jerusalem speaking in the first person singular, weeping and crying with eyes filled with tears. There is no one to comfort or revive her courage. They all seem so far away. Her children are desolate because the enemy has won. This verse starts with the Hebrew consonant letter Ayin. Each verse after this will use the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet in this acrostic poem.

The Greek introduction

“It happened

After the captivity

Of Israel,

After the destruction

Of Jerusalem

The prophet Jeremiah

Cried.

He offered

This lamentation

Over Jerusalem.”

Most of the conjecture about the author of this book comes from this introductory title to the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible. It clearly states that this work takes place after the captivity of Israel and the destruction of Jerusalem. It explicitly says that Jeremiah was the one crying as he offered this lamentation over Jerusalem. Although this introduction was not in the original Hebrew text, the Greek translators believed that Jeremiah was the author. However, the style is not like Jeremiah. The style is a Hebrew acrostic poem that has each verse starts with a different sequential consonant of the 22 letter Hebrew alphabet. There were other acrostic works, especially the psalms, with the most prominent being Psalm 119.

Crying for Moab and its vineyard (Jer 48:31-48:33)

“Therefore I wail for Moab!

I cry out for all Moab!

I mourn for

The people of Kir-heres.

More than for Jazer,

I weep for you!

O vine of Sibmah!

Your branches

Crossed over the sea,

Reached as far as Jazer.

The destroyed has fallen

Upon your summer fruits,

Upon your vintage.

Gladness has been taken away.

Joy has been taken away,

From the fruitful land

Of Moab.

I have stopped the wine

From the wine presses.

No one treads them

With shouts of joy.

The shouting is

Not the shout of joy.”

Yahweh seems to have great pity for Moab, like in Isaiah, chapter 16. He seemed very concerned about the summer fruits and the wine in Moab. Both Isaiah and Jeremiah mention the town of Kir-heres that is on the main road about 10 miles from the Dead Sea. Of particular interest to both of them was the vineyard of Sibmah, since their descriptions are almost the same. The vines of Sibmah were about 5 miles east of Heshbon, also part of Moab and Reuben. The wonderful vine shoots that had strayed into the desert and even across waters were now languishing. Jeremiah, like Isaiah, has Yahweh crying, because there would no longer be any shouting in the fields at the grape harvest time, because there were no more summer fruits. There would be no joy, gladness, shouting, or singing since there was no one to tread the wine presses. There were no more grapes. Yahweh had stopped the wine presses. The shouts that you now heard were not shouts of joy.

The devastating cries from Moab (Jer 48:3-48:5)

“‘Hark!

A cry from Horonaim,

‘Desolation!

Great destruction!’

‘Moab is destroyed.’

Her little ones cry out!

At the ascent of Luhith

They go up weeping bitterly.

At the descent of Horonaim

They have heard

The distressing cry

Of anguish.”

Jeremiah explains that if you listen carefully, you can hear the cries from Horonaim or Horonan that may derive from the god Horon, a word for a cave or valley. These distressing cries of anguish spoke about desolation and destruction. This ascent of Luhith was also mentioned in Isaiah, chapter 15. It is clear that there was a lot of crying and weeping because of the destruction all around Moab.

A New Jerusalem (Isa 65:17-65:20)

“I am about to create new heavens.

I am about to create a new earth.

The former things

Shall not be remembered.

They shall not come to mind.

But be glad!

Rejoice forever In what I am creating!

I am about to create

Jerusalem as a joy.

I am about to create

Its people as a delight.

I will rejoice in Jerusalem!

I will delight in my people!

No more shall the sound

Of weeping be heard in it.

No more shall the sound

Of the cry of distress be heard in it.

No more shall there be in it

An infant that lives but a few days.

No more shall there be in it

An old person

Who does not live out a lifetime.

One who dies at a hundred years old

Will be considered a youth.

One who falls short of a hundred years old

Will be considered accursed.”

Yahweh was going to create a new heaven and a new earth. All the past things would be forgotten. Jerusalem was going to be a joy and a delight for its people, since there would be no more weeping or crying in distress. Infants would not die at child birth. Old people would live a long life. Anyone who died before 100 years of age would be considered a cursed youth. Good times would come to this new Jerusalem.

The languishing vines of Moab (Isa 16:8-16:11)

“The fields of Heshbon languish.

The vine of Sibmah languishes.

Those clusters once made drunk

The lords of the nations.

They reached to Jazer.

They strayed to the desert.

Their shoots once spread abroad.

They crossed over the sea.

Therefore I weep

With the weeping of Jazer

For the vines of Sibmah.

I drench you

With my tears.

O Heshbon!

O Elealeh!

The shout over your fruit harvest

Has ceased.

The shout over your grain harvest

Has ceased.

Joy is taken away,

Gladness is taken away

From the fruitful field.

In the vineyards,

No songs are sung.

No shouts are raised.

No one treads out wine

In the presses.

The vintage shout is hushed.

Therefore my soul throbs

Like a lyre for Moab.

My very soul throbs

For Kir-heres.”

Heshbon was in the northern part of Reuben or the northern part of Moab. The vines of Sibmah were about 5 miles east of Heshbon, also part of Moab and Reuben. Elealeh was a town about a mile outside of Heshbon, also part of Reuben and Moab. The grapes from this vine at Sibmah made many various great leaders drunk. There is a special mention of Jazer, a Levitical city near Gilead that was given to Gad in Joshua, chapter 21. The wonderful vine shoots that had strayed into the desert and even across waters were now languishing. Now Isaiah was also crying, because there would no longer be any shouting in the fields at the grape or grain harvest time. There would be no joy, gladness, shouting, or singing at harvest time, because there was no harvest. There was no one to tread the wine presses because there were no grapes. Therefore Isaiah was like a lyre or harp throbbing for Moab and the folks at Kir, on the main road, about 10 miles from the Dead Sea, as mentioned earlier.

The results of the attack on Moab (Isa 15:4-15:6)

“Heshbon cries out.

Elealeh cries out.

Their voices are heard

As far as Jahaz.

Therefore the loins of Moab quiver.

His soul trembles.

My heart cries out for Moab.

His fugitives flee to Zoar,

To Eglath-shelishiyah.

At the ascent of Luhith,

They go up weeping.

On the road to Horonaim,

They raise a cry of destruction.

The waters of Nimrim

Are a desolation.

The grass is withered.

The new growth fails.

The verdure is no more.”

As far as we can tell, everybody was crying out from the towns of Heshbon (mentioned 37 times in the biblical literature) and Elealeh (mentioned 10 times in the biblical literature). They were towns in the Israelite Reuben territory, but Isaiah seems to indicate here that they were part of upper Moab. This crying could be heard 25 miles away north in Jahaz (mentioned 8 times in the biblical literature) which was in the Israelite Gad territory. The Moab people were frightened. They were trembling. In fact, Isaiah says that even his heart cried out for them. These Moabites fugitives fled south to the tip of the Dead Sea near Zoar, which is on southeast end of the Dead Sea. There was a story about Lot in Genesis about this city (chapters 13-19). They also fled to the surrounding towns of Eglath-shelishiyah and Horonaim, near the ascent of the Luhith hills. Isaiah is the only one to mention any of these towns, but they seem to be in southern Moab near Zoar. The waters of Nimrim were desolate with grass withering and nothing growing. Only Jeremiah and Isaiah make any reference to these waters of Nimrim. Anyway, everybody was crying and upset.

The destruction of Moab (Isa 15:2-15:3)

“Because Ar is laid waste in a night,

Moab is undone.

Because Kir is laid waste in a night,

Moab is undone.

Dibon has gone up to the temple.

They have gone

To the high places to weep

Over Nebo,

Over Medeba.

Moab wails!

On every head is baldness.

Every beard is shorn.

In the streets

They bind on sackcloth.

On the housetops

Everyone wails.

In the squares

Everyone melts in tears.”

According to Isaiah, Moab was destroyed as it came undone, probably by the Assyrian army. Two towns were wiped out in one night, Ar and Kir. Ar was a town in Moab that was mentioned about 7 times in the Torah, while Kir was a town mentioned about 9 times, mostly by the prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah as well as 2 Kings. This might mean that Kir was a newer town. The people of Dibon, which was the capital and major city of Moab, mentioned about 12 times in the biblical literature, went to their temple to weep. Mount Nebo in Moab was mentioned about 10 times in the biblical literature. The Medeba plateau or plains near Dibon was mentioned about 5 times in the biblical literature. The country Moab was wailing over its destruction. They cut the hair on their heads and cut off their beards. They walked around in sackcloth. Everyone was wailing and crying in the city squares.

Yahweh’s vineyard (Isa 5:7-5:7)

“The vineyard of Yahweh of hosts

Is the house of Israel.

The people of Judah

Are his pleasant planting.

He expected justice.

But he saw bloodshed!

He expected righteousness.

But he heard a cry!”

Isaiah is clear about explaining this song of the vineyard. This vineyard is the house of Israel, and in particular the people of Judah. Yahweh was expecting justice and righteousness from his pleasant planting in the vineyard. However, all he saw and heard was bloodshed and crying. These wild grapes were very disconcerting.

Mourning for the dead (Sir 38:16-38:17)

“My child!

Let your tears fall

For the dead!

As one in great pain,

Begin the lament!

Lay out the body

With due ceremony.

Do not neglect the burial.

Let your weeping be bitter!

Let your wailing be fervent!

Make your mourning

Worthy of the departed.

Do this for one day,

Or two.

Avoid criticism!

Be comforted for your grief.”

Sirach points out the importance of the correct ceremonial actions for the dead, like many of the ancient Middle Eastern societies. You should not be ashamed to cry for the dead, because you are in great pain. You should lay out the body according to the proper rituals. Make sure to bury the dead, a common topic in the biblical writings, especially Tobit. You can have bitter wailing and crying that is worthy of the departed person. Do this for a day or two to avoid criticism. There is no need for a long mourning period. However, in chapter 22, he said that there should be a 7 day mourning period for the dead. You should be comforted in your mourning for the dead.