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Lamentations: Chapter 1

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Text view alone


How lonely sits the city that once was full of people! How like a widow she has become, she that was great among the nations! She that was a princess among the provinces has become a vassal.


She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has no one to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they have become her enemies.


Judah has gone into exile with suffering and hard servitude; she lives now among the nations, and finds no resting place; her pursuers have all overtaken her in the midst of her distress.


The roads to Zion mourn, for no one comes to the festivals; all her gates are desolate, her priests groan; her young girls grieve, a Heb lacks wall and her lot is bitter.


Her foes have become the masters, her enemies prosper, because the LORD has made her suffer for the multitude of her transgressions; her children have gone away, captives before the foe.


From daughter Zion has departed all her majesty. Her princes have become like stags that find no pasture; they fled without strength before the pursuer.


Jerusalem remembers, in the days of her affliction and wandering, all the precious things that were hers in days of old. When her people fell into the hand of the foe, and there was no one to help her, the foe looked on mocking over her downfall.


Jerusalem sinned grievously, so she has become a mockery; all who honored her despise her, for they have seen her nakedness; she herself groans, and turns her face away.


Her uncleanness was in her skirts; she took no thought of her future; her downfall was appalling, with none to comfort her. “O LORD, look at my affliction, for the enemy has triumphed!”


Enemies have stretched out their hands over all her precious things; she has even seen the nations invade her sanctuary, those whom you forbade to enter your congregation.


All her people groan as they search for bread; they trade their treasures for food to revive their strength. Look, O LORD, and see how worthless I have become.


Is it nothing to you, a Cn: Heb that were under the stands all you who pass by? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow, which was brought upon me, which the LORD inflicted on the day of his fierce anger.


From on high he sent fire; it went deep into my bones; he spread a net for my feet; he turned me back; he has left me stunned, faint all day long.


My transgressions were bound a Cn: Heb that were under the stands into a yoke; by his hand they were fastened together; they weigh on my neck, sapping my strength; the Lord handed me over to those whom I cannot withstand.


The LORD has rejected all my warriors in the midst of me; he proclaimed a time against me to crush my young men; the Lord has trodden as in a wine press the virgin daughter Judah.


For these things I weep; my eyes flow with tears; for a comforter is far from me, one to revive my courage; my children are desolate, for the enemy has prevailed.


Zion stretches out her hands, but there is no one to comfort her; the LORD has commanded against Jacob that his neighbors should become his foes; Jerusalem has become a filthy thing among them.


The LORD is in the right, for I have rebelled against his word; but hear, all you peoples, and behold my suffering; my young women and young men have gone into captivity.


I called to my lovers but they deceived me; my priests and elders perished in the city while seeking food to revive their strength.


See, O LORD, how distressed I am; my stomach churns, my heart is wrung within me, because I have been very rebellious. In the street the sword bereaves; in the house it is like death.


They heard how I was groaning, with no one to comfort me. All my enemies heard of my trouble; they are glad that you have done it. Bring on the day you have announced, and let them be as I am.


Let all their evil doing come before you; and deal with them as you have dealt with me because of all my transgressions; for my groans are many and my heart is faint.


a Heb lacks wall

b Cn: Heb that were under the stands

Text Commentary view alone

1.1–11 : Lament over Zion.

Suffering is refracted through personified Jerusalem.

1 :

How or “Ah,” commonly found in dirges (Isa 1.21; Jer 48.17; cf. Lam 2.1a; 4.1a ). Great among the nations and princess among the provinces, may be titles of Jerusalem (cf. Isa 47.5 ).

2 :

Lovers, literally Judah's political allies, but metaphorically her loved ones who have neglected their obligation of compassion. For the metaphor of allies as lovers, see Ezek 16.26–28 .

3 :

Suffering (Ex 3.7,17; 4.31 ) and hard servitude (Ex 1.14; 2.23; 5.11; 6.6 ), allusions to the Egyptian captivity.

5 :

Transgressions, although 2 Kings attributes Judah's destruction to specific transgressions (2 Kings 21.10–15 ), here the sins are not specified.

6 :

Daughter Zion (lit. “Daughter of Zion”), the personified city's most common epithet ( 1.6,15; 2.1–2,4–5,8,10,13,15,18; 4.21–22; cf. 3.48; 4.3,6,10; Isa 1.8; 52.2; Jer 4.31; Mic 4.8 ; etc.).

8 :

Nakedness, an allusion to both the punishment of a prostitute (cf. Isa 47.3; Jer 13.22; Ezek 16.37; Nah 3.5 ) and her victimization.

9 :

Uncleanness … skirts, perhaps menstruation, or a bloody discharge. O LORD …, Zion herself voices this plea.

10 :

Precious things, Temple treasures (cf. 2 Chr 36.10 ). Invade, elsewhere connotes sexual intercourse (Gen 6.4; 2 Sam 16.21; Ezek 23.44; Prov 6.29 ), suggesting rape.

11 :

Look … and see, repeated in v. 12 , joining the two halves of the poem, vv. 1–11 and 12–22 .

1.12–22 : The city's lament.

Except in 1.17 , the city itself speaks the second half of the poem.


Sorrow, better, “pain.” The Heb word translated weakly as was brought, properly conveys violence: torture or rape (1 Sam 31.4; Jer 38.19; Judg 19.25 ). Day … anger, i.e., “the Day of the LORD,” when God comes in judgment against Judah itself (e.g., Am 5.18 ).

13 :

Left me stunned, better, “ravished or desolated me,” describing devastated lands (Lev 26.33; Isa 1.7; 54.3; Jer 12.11; Am 9.14 ) and the physical state of a raped woman (2 Sam 13.20 ).

14 :

“Yoke,” servitude (Deut 28.48; 1 Kings 12.4; Isa 47.6; Jer 28.1–17 ). Lord (Heb “adonai”), occurs fourteen times in Lamentations, while the proper name, LORD (“yhwh”), occurs thirty‐two times.

15 :

In the midst of me (lit. “the Lord in my midst”), God's presence, which typically means good things for Israel and Judah and bad things for their enemies (Deut 7.21; Josh 3.5; Isa 12.6; Jer 14.9; Zeph 3.15 ), here, ironically, spells disaster for Judah. Virgin, another common epithet applied to the goddess Anat in Ugaritic and to personified cities (Isa 23.12; Jer 31.4; Am 5.2; Lam 2.13b ).

17 :

Filthy thing, i.e., “menstruant,” the ruined city as an arch‐symbol of death and impurity (see Lev 15.16–24 ).

18 :

The Lord is in the right, a double entendre constituting both a legal declaration of innocence (Ex 9.27; 1 Sam 24.18; 2 Kings 10.9 ) and a statement of the common expectation for divine and royal behavior (Isa 45.21; Jer 12.1; Ps 11.5,7 ).

20 :

Distressed, in Hebrew, forms a pun with “adversary, foe,” which appears five other times ( 1.5a,c,7d,10a,17b ). In the street … in the house, see Deut 32.25 .

21 :

They heard, better “hear” (as in Syr, Gk), an imperative addressed to the LORD.

22 :

Deal with them as you have dealt with me, correspondence between the wrong and the judgment (e.g., Ob 13; 1 Sam 15.33; Judg 1.7 ). The Heb word for many (“rabbot”) is a form of the word translated “full” in v. 1 , a device for marking closure as well as contrast: formerly, many people; now, many sighs.

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