Questions From Readers
▪ Why does Lamentations 4:10 refer to mothers who ate their own children as “compassionate women”?
Describing the desperate situation of the Jews during the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E., Jeremiah wrote: “The very hands of compassionate women have boiled their own children. They have become as bread of consolation to one during the breakdown of the daughter of my people.”—Lamentations 4:10.
Centuries before, Moses had alerted the Israelites that their future would be marked by either “blessing” or “malediction.” They would enjoy blessings if they kept God’s commandments, but they would bring suffering upon themselves if they rejected his righteous ways. One of the terrible consequences was that the Israelites would be reduced to eating their own children. (Deuteronomy 28:1, 11-15, 54, 55; 30:1; Leviticus 26:3-5, 29) This actually occurred after Jehovah abandoned the faithless, disobedient nation into the hand of the Babylonians.
At Lamentations 4:10 the prophet Jeremiah drew upon the well-known fact that a mother is naturally tenderhearted, compassionate, and protective toward her children. (1 Kings 3:26, 27; 1 Thessalonians 2:7) Yet, the famine in besieged Jerusalem was so extreme and the resulting starvation so compelling that mothers who would normally be compassionate boiled and cannibalistically ate their offspring.—Compare Lamentations 2:20.
A similar situation occurred after the Jews rejected the Messiah, who had warned about a coming siege of Jerusalem. (Matthew 23:37, 38; 24:15-19; Luke 21:20-24) Historian Josephus described one of the horrors of the siege in 70 C.E.: “Mary the daughter of Eleazar . . . killed her son, then roasted him and ate one half, concealing and saving up the rest.”—The Jewish War, translated by G. A. Williamson, chapter 20, page 319.
Truly, abandoning God’s laws and ways is not the course of wisdom.