That is why the Lord our God has made good his threats against us; against the rulers of Israel, whether kings or nobles, and against the common folk of Israel and Juda.
Here was a threat made in the law of Moses, that went beyond all hitherto seen on earth, and yet in Jerusalem it came true;
that men would be eating the flesh of their own sons and daughters!
Neighbouring kings had the mastery, and in all the far countries to which the Lord had banished us, we became a thing of scorn and horror.
Slaves are we, that might have ruled; and the reason of it? Because by sinning we offended the Lord our God, and left his voice unheeded;
his was never the fault; for us and for our fathers the blush of shame, as this day can witness.
No calamity has befallen us but he, the Lord, had prophesied it;
and still we would not sue for the divine mercy, but each of us went on straying by false paths.
That is why the Lord’s jealous care was for our undoing; he has but fulfilled what he threatened; in all he has imposed upon us,✻ the Lord our God is without fault.
It was our fault if we would not listen to his warnings, would not follow the divine commands which he set before us.
Lord God of Israel, whose constraining hand rescued thy people from Egypt with portents and wonders, with sovereign power signally manifested, and won thee renown that is thine yet,
we are sinners! We have wronged thee, revolted against every claim thou hast upon us.
But oh, would thy vengeance give over the pursuit! So wide thou hast parted us, and we are left so few.
Grant a hearing, Lord, to this our plaint and plea; for thy own honour, be our rescuer still, and win over the hearts of our captors;
prove to the whole world that thou art the Lord our God, that it was thy name Israel bore, and Israel’s race yet bears.
Look down upon us, Lord, from the sanctuary where thou dwellest; thine be the attentive ear,
the watchful eye! Once breath has left body, and a man lies in the grave, honour and devoir is none he can pay thee;
but let a man be downcast over his great misfortune, so that he goes bowed and tottering, dim eyes and hungry belly, there, Lord, thou shalt have the honour that is thy due.
Well for us, O Lord our God, as we pour out our supplications for thy mercy, if we could plead that fathers of ours, kings of ours, did loyally thy will.
But no; thou hadst given them due warning, through those prophets that were servants of thine, before letting thy angry vengeance have its way, and the warning went unheeded.✻
Bow shoulder and bow neck, said the divine voice, and be vassals to the king of Babylon; and the land I gave to your fathers shall still be your home.
Refuse to serve the king of Babylon at my divine bidding, and Jerusalem with her daughter cities shall mourn their loss;
no more the cry of joy and mirth, no more the voice of bridegroom and of bride; untrodden the whole land shall be, and uninhabited.
But all thy threats could not persuade them to be the king of Babylon’s vassals; thy servants prophesied in vain. And so thy threats were performed; kings of ours and fathers of ours might not rest quiet in their graves;
their bones were cast out to endure sun’s heat and night frost, and great anguish they endured in their deaths, from the sword, and famine, and pestilence.✻
As for the temple that was the shrine of thy name, thou madest it into the thing it is this day, for Israel’s sin, for Juda’s sin.
No greater proof we could have had of thy consideration, of that abundant mercy✻ which is thine.
And merciful was the promise thou didst make to thy servant Moses, when thou badest him write down thy law for Israel’s acceptance.
Out of all this swarming multitude, thou didst say to him, what a sorry remnant of scattered exiles will be left, if my voice goes unheeded!
And go unheeded it will; this is a race that ever spurns the yoke. What then if they come back to a right mind, there in the country of their banishment?
What if they learn to recognize that I, the Lord, am their God (the heedful heart, the listening ear, are mine to give them);
what if they remember to honour me, to invoke my name, in their exile?
What if they follow the example of their fathers, that were sinners before them, repent of their stubborn indifference and of all their ill doings?
Then they shall come home again; back to the country I promised to their fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; they shall be masters of it, and their dwindled strength shall thrive anew.
A fresh covenant I will make with them, that shall last for ever; I their God, and they my people; never again will I banish my people, the sons of Israel, from the land I have made theirs.
The Holy Bible