The precious children of Zion (Lam 4:2-4:2)


“The precious children

Of Zion!

They are worth

Their weight

In fine gold!

How they are reckoned

As earthen pots!

They are the work

Of a potter’s hands!”

This author turns to the precious children of Zion, who are worth their weight in gold. They are the earthen jugs of the potter who made them. Thus the God made children of Jerusalem are worth more than gold. This verse starts with the Hebrew consonant letter Beth in this acrostic poem.

The potter and Israel (Jer 18:5-18:6)

“Then the word of Yahweh

Came to me.

‘O house of Israel!

Can I not do with you

Just as this potter has done?’

Says Yahweh.

‘Just like the clay

In the potter’s hand,

So are you

In my hand.

O house of Israel!’”

As Jeremiah was at the potter’s house, the word of Yahweh came to him. Yahweh said that he could do to the house of Israel as the potter had done, since Israel was just like clay in his hand, similar to the clay in the potter’s hand.

Jeremiah goes to the potter’s house (Jer 18:1-18:4)

“The word came to Jeremiah

From Yahweh.


Go down to the potter’s house!

There I will let you hear my words.’

So I went down to the potter’s house.

There he was working at his wheel.

The vessel he was making of clay

Was spoiled

In the potter’s hand.

He reworked it into another vessel.

As it seemed good to him to do.”

Yahweh told Jeremiah to go to the potter’s house, probably in the southern section of Jerusalem. Jeremiah did just as Yahweh wanted him to do, as he went to the potter’s house. There he saw the potter working with clay at his pottery wheel. However, the potter spoiled the first jug that he was making, so he made it into another kind of vessel instead of throwing it away. So far, this is a pretty straight forward story.

The artisans (Sir 38:27-38:30)

“Every master artisan

Labors by night

As well as by day.

Those who cut the signets of seals,

Each is diligent

In making a great variety.

They set their heart

On painting a lifelike image.

They are careful

To finish their work.

The smith sits by the anvil.

He is intent on his iron-work.

The breath of the fire

Melts his flesh.

He struggles

With the heat of the furnace.

The sound of the hammer

Deafens his ears.

His eyes are

On the pattern of the object.

He sets his heart

On finishing his handiwork.

He is careful

To complete its decoration.

The potter sits at his work.

He turns the wheel

With his feet.

He is always deeply concerned

Over his products.

He produces them in quantity.

He moulds the clay with his arm.

He makes it pliable with his feet.

He sets his heart

To finish the glazing,

He takes care

In firing the kiln furnace.”

Sirach then explained in detail about the various skilled artists who work day and night to finish their creative works. First, there were those who made the various colorful painted seals as lifelike as possible. Then there were the blacksmiths who worked in iron with a hammer, anvil, and a hot furnace that affected their hands, ears, and eyes. Finally, there was the potter who made lots of different products. He molded the clay with his hands and feet. He finished it off by glazing it in the kiln furnace. All these artisans worked diligently until they completed their products.