See what we mean? If Shmoop asks you that, we don't mean it literally. In this case, seeing is all about getting it. Having something in your sight means you can wrap your mind around it easier. We know. So deep.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
The Poet doesn't blame God for letting the Babylonians trample the city into pebbles. But he doesn't let God totally off the hook either. Over and over again, he begs God to look at the people and see what's happened to them:
- Lord, look at my affliction, for the enemy has triumphed! (1:9)
- Look, O Lord, and see how worthless I have become. (1:11)
- See, O Lord, how distressed I am; my stomach churns, my heart is wrung within me. (1:20)
- Look, O Lord, and consider! To whom have you done this? (2:20)
- Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us; look, and see our disgrace! (5:1)
The Poet isn't asking for God's help here. He's just requesting that he look and see what the people are going through. God has allowed all this death and destruction to rain down on them and the least he could do is not hide his face in his hands while it's going down. Here, seeing is understanding. The Poet wants the Almighty to know exactly what he's done to his people.
His tone's actually a little bit defiant here. It's sort of like the Poet is telling God that if he's gonna smite them, he should at least have the decency to look them in the eyes while he's doing it.
Look, But Don't Smite
Okay, so God doesn't only see destruction and death. He's also an eyewitness to injustice on Earth. And the Poet wants the Creator to take a look around this place because there's some pretty shady stuff going on:
- When one's case is subverted—does the Lord not see it? (3:36)
- The Lord from heaven looks down and sees. (3:50)
- You have seen the wrong done to me, O Lord; judge my cause. (3:59)
- You have seen all their malice, all their plots against me. (3:60)
The point here is that if God sees a problem, he can fix it. He takes it all in and then decides what to do. God's sight is tied to understanding. When God sees something, he knows what's up. If he knows the truth about their suffering, how can he not act and save his people? Are you listening up there? Wait, we meant looking.
In Pop Culture
Seeing and looking are pretty powerful symbolic actions in all kinds of art and literature. Our favorite? The all-seeing eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg in The Great Gatsby looking down from the billboard and seeing the horrible things the characters are doing to each other.
He just looks; he doesn't smite. The people take care of that themselves.