The passage continues, perhaps in poetry, with this description of what the end of a city means. It may be interesting to compare it with the description in poetry of death, in Ecclesiastes 12:2-8. Both passages emphasise the loss of activities, sights and sounds. Both passages end with a reference to the judgement of God. Cities, like people, may continue their activities for many years, but the end is always the judgement of God. God is the judge of cities and nations, as well as the judge of people (Matthew 25:32).
Cities have always been noisy places. People played music at funerals, as well as on happy occasions and for the purposes of their religion (Matthew 11:17; Daniel 3:7). Then, there was the constant sound of people at work. From morning until evening, people would hear the sound of workmenís tools. In 1 Kings 6:7, Solomon made special efforts to reduce the noise during the construction of the temple (Godís house) in Jerusalem.
Women too had to work constantly. One of their main tasks was to make grain into flour. To do that, they had to pass the grain between two heavy stones. The process made constant noise. Women did it daily, because they would bake the fresh flour into bread each day. The usual meal for poor people was that bread, with a kind of soup (see John 13:26).
These were such usual activities that no city would ever be without them. If anyone ever entered a silent city, clearly something very terrible had happened there. A silent city was a city without inhabitants. So, the passage is describing a city that has suffered a very terrible judgement. Its inhabitants are dead, and nobody can ever live there again.
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© 2016, Keith Simons.