I looked on the earth, and
beheld it formless (laid waste) and void;
and to the heavens, and they had no light.
I looked on the mountains,
and, behold, they quaked.
And all the hills were shaken.
I beheld and lo, there was no man (Adams);
and all the cover of the skies had fled.
I looked, and, behold, the fruitful place
was a wilderness; and all its cities
were broken down before the face of Jehovah,
before his glowing anger. For so Jehovah has said.
The whole land shall be a desolation;
yet I will not make a full end.
Jeremiah looked into the ages before Adam and described the destruction of the earth.
There were no men, (descendents of Adam), yet there were cities which were destroyed by God's wrath - who dwelt in these cities? Very interesting!
23 I looked at the earth—it was waste and void;
at the heavens—their light had gone out!n
24 I looked at the mountains—they were quaking!
All the hills were crumbling!
25 I looked—there was no one;
even the birds of the air had flown away!
26 I looked—the garden land was a wilderness,
with all its cities destroyed
before the LORD, before his blazing anger.
27 For thus says the LORD:
The whole earth shall be waste,
but I will not wholly destroy it.
28 Because of this the earth shall mourn,
the heavens above shall darken;
I have spoken, I will not change my mind,
I have decided, I will not turn back.
Jeremiah is a book about crisis in the Kingdom of Judah. He was called during the reign of King Josiah who had been attempting to institute many needed reforms, especially concerning idolatry. The changes ended with his death at Megiddo in 609BC.
Josiah had been fighting to stop the Egyptians from helping the Assyrians in their battle with the Babylonians. Ninevah, the capital of Assyria, was destroyed in 612BC. This left the way clear for the new superpower, Babylon, to end Judah’s independence.
Following Josiah’s death, King Joachim allowed the idolatry to begin anew. This is the issue that is angering God. Jeremiah warned that this would bring about doom for Judah. Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem in 598BC sending the apostate King Joachim into exile. This was followed by the Babylonian Captivity.
Since this is the background, I would assume the cities to be Jerusalem and the cities of Judah. The land is empty because the Jews have been exiled to Babylon.