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Lamentations: Chapter 3

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Text view alone


I am one who has seen affliction under the rod of God's a Meaning of Heb uncertain wrath; 2 he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light; 3 against me alone he turns his hand, again and again, all day long.


He has made my flesh and my skin waste away, and broken my bones; 5 he has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation; 6 he has made me sit in darkness like the dead of long ago.


He has walled me about so that I cannot escape; he has put heavy chains on me; 8 though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer; 9 he has blocked my ways with hewn stones, he has made my paths crooked.


He is a bear lying in wait for me, a lion in hiding; 11 he led me off my way and tore me to pieces; he has made me desolate; 12 he bent his bow and set me as a mark for his arrow.


He shot into my vitals the arrows of his quiver; 14 I have become the laughingstock of all my people, the object of their taunt‐songs all day long. 15 He has filled me with bitterness, he has sated me with wormwood.


He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; 17 my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; 18 so I say, “Gone is my glory, and all that I had hoped for from the LORD.”


The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall! 20 My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me. 21 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:


The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, a Cn: Heb Their heart cried his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”


The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. 26 It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. 27 It is good for one to bear the yoke in youth, 28 to sit alone in silence when the Lord has imposed it, 29 to put one's mouth to the dust (there may yet be hope), 30 to give one's cheek to the smiter, and be filled with insults.


For the Lord will not reject forever. 32 Although he causes grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; 33 for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.


When all the prisoners of the land are crushed under foot, 35 when human rights are perverted in the presence of the Most High, 36 when one's case is subverted —does the Lord not see it?


Who can command and have it done, if the Lord has not ordained it? 38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come? 39 Why should any who draw breath complain about the punishment of their sins?


Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD. 41 Let us lift up our hearts as well as our hands to God in heaven. 42 We have transgressed and rebelled, and you have not forgiven.


You have wrapped yourself with anger and pursued us, killing without pity; 44 you have wrapped yourself with a cloud so that no prayer can pass through. 45 You have made us filth and rubbish among the peoples.


All our enemies have opened their mouths against us; 47 panic and pitfall have come upon us, devastation and destruction. 48 My eyes flow with rivers of tears because of the destruction of my people.


My eyes will flow without ceasing, without respite, 50 until the LORD from heaven looks down and sees. 51 My eyes cause me grief at the fate of all the young women in my city.


Those who were my enemies without cause have hunted me like a bird; 53 they flung me alive into a pit and hurled stones on me; 54 water closed over my head; I said, “I am lost.”


I called on your name, O LORD, from the depths of the pit; 56 you heard my plea, “Do not close your ear to my cry for help, but give me relief‐!” 57 You came near when I called on you; you said, “Do not fear!”


You have taken up my cause, O Lord, you have redeemed my life. 59 You have seen the wrong done to me, O LORD; judge my cause. 60 You have seen all their malice, all their plots against me.


You have heard their taunts, O LORD, all their plots against me. 62 The whispers and murmurs of my assailants are against me all day long. 63 Whether they sit or rise—see, I am the object of their taunt‐songs.


Pay them back for their deeds, O LORD, according to the work of their hands! 65 Give them anguish of heart; your curse be on them! 66 Pursue them in anger and destroy them from under the LORD's heavens.


a Meaning of Heb uncertain

a Cn: Heb Their heart cried

Text Commentary view alone

3.1–18 : The complaint of the one who has seen affliction.

This counterpart to Zion's speech in 1.12–22 uses the language and motifs of the individual lament.

1 :

I am one (lit. “I am the man”), counterbalancing Zion's feminine voice.

2 :

Driven and brought, like a flock (e.g., Isa 40.11; Ps 78.52–53 ). The rod is a shepherd's tool (Mic 7.14; Ezek 20.37; Ps 23.4 ) also used for beatings (Ex 21.20; Prov 10.13 ).

4 :

See Mic 3.1–3; Ps 38.3–4; Job 13.28 .

6 :

Darkness, the netherworld (Ps 88.18; cf. Job 10.21–22; Eccl 6.4 ).

7 :

Walled me about, i.e., the destroyed city and Temple walls (Ezek 42.7,12; Mic 7.11 ) are rebuilt (Am 9.11 ) as a prison.

9 :

The hewn stones, which should be used in relaying the foundation for the Temple (1 Kings 5.31; 1 Chr 22.2 ), are instead scattered in the road to block the man's path.

12–13 :

The Divine Archer imagery (Deut 32.23–24; Ps 38.2; Job 16.12–13 ) carries over from one stanza to the next. Similar strategies for interlocking stanzas appear elsewhere in this poem, e.g., 3.27–28,28–36,48–50,53–55 . Vitals (lit. “kidneys”), a seat of the emotions (Ps 16.7; Jon 19.27; Prov 23.16; cf. Lam 1.20; 2.11 ).

17 :

My soul, a person's essential life force ( 1.11b,16b,19c; 2.12c,19c ).

18 :

For the first time in this chapter the LORD is explicitly named.

19–24 :

Two transitional stanzas joined by the refrain therefore I have/will hope ( 3.21,24 ).

22–23 :

Steadfast love, mercies, faithfulness, the LORD's covenant loyalties, as in the divine promises to David (2 Sam 7.15; 1 Kings 8.23; Isa 55.3; Ps 89.2–4 ).

3.25–39 : Sapiential consolation.

The second major section contemplates reasons for hope in the face of adversity and suffering, drawing on wisdom traditions.

25 :

The Lord is good to those who wait in hope; see Ps 25.3; Prov 20.22 , but see 2.16c and 3.17 . The soul recalls the earlier threefold use of this term ( 3.17,20,24 ), but here it is generic, i.e., “any soul.”

26 :

Wait (lit. “hope”) quietly, cf. Ps 4.4; 37.7 , but the speaking voices in these poems are far from quiet (Lam 2.10a ).

27 :

To bear the yoke implies a beneficial value to suffering (see Prov 13.24; 23.13–14 ), although 1.14b and 5.5 express the opposite sentiment.

28 :

Sit alone, cf. 1.1a .

29 :

To put one's mouth to the dust, in obeisance and humiliation (cf. Mic 7.17; Ps 72.9 ).

31 :

Cf. 2.7a; 5.20,22 .

32 :

Cf. 2.2a,17b,21c .

33 :

Willingly, lit. “from his heart.”

36 :

The translation does the Lord not see it? is conjectural. The words echo the claim expressed else‐where: “The LORD does not see” (Ezek 8.12; 9.9; Ps 94.7 ).

39 :

Complain (Num 11.1; Sir 10.25 ) here likely bears overtones of mourning.

3.40–47 : Communal lament.

This section is set apart by its use of “we.”

40–41 :

As if persuaded by 3.25–39 , the speaker calls for self‐examination, repentance, and contrition.

42 :

The turning point in the poem. We have transgressed and rebelled, a confession of sin. But the penitence is short‐lived. And, better, “but,” given the following statement's promised adversative sense. The speaker, having come to the brink of being consoled (cf. vv. 25–39 ), is finally crushed by the LORD's continued absence and silence and the persistence of suffering.

44 :

Wrapped yourself with a cloud, as in 2.1a , recalls the radiant cloud (Ex 19.16 ) by which the LORD reveals himself, overwhelms enemies, and even, as here, hides himself (cf. Isa 45.15; Ps 55.1; 88.14 ).

3.48–66 : Individual lament.

The “I” returns, now a more inclusive “I” than in 3.1–18 . The shift in voice reasserts the personal dimension of the suffering.

51 :

Cause me grief, better, “assault my soul” (i.e., “my very being”). The verb is the same as found in 1.12b, 22a,b, and 2.20a . The eyes either are worn out from crying or are assaulted by terrible knowledge.

52 :

See Ps 11.1; 124.7 .

53 :

Pit, the netherworld, Sheol (Isa 14.15; Ps 30.3; 88.4 ).

54 :

Water, associated with Sheol (Jon 2.3–6; Ps 69.1–2,14–16; 88.6–7 ). I am lost (lit. “I am cut off”), i.e., dead (Isa 53.8; Ps 88.5 ).

55–56 :

Many of the verbs translated as past tense throughout the remainder of the poem are to be understood as expressing a wish or request (cf. 1.21c; 4.22b ).

55 :

See Ps 88.10; 119.145–46 .

56 :

My plea, lit. “my voice.” See Ps 130.2 .

57 :

You came near ‐, better, “come near when I call you.” You said, better, “say.”

58 :

You have taken up, better “take up (legally).” Cause is a legal term and recalls the imagery in 3.34–36 . You have redeemed, better, “redeem.” Redemption here denotes rescue from the speaker's current distress (see Ps 69.18 ), and more specifically from the powers of death ( 3.53–55; cf. Hos 13.14; Ps 103.4 ).

59–60 :

You have seen, better, “see.” Malice, lit. “vengeance, vindication,” primarily associated with the LORD, prefiguring the vengeance called or in 3.64–66 .

61 :

You have heard, better, “hear.”

63 :

I am recalls the I am that began the poem, providing a sense of closure to the poem before it shifts to invective in the final stanza.

3.64–66 : Final invectives.

Cf. 1.21–22; 4.21–22 . The stanza is unified by the use of imperfect verb forms throughout.

64 :

As in 1.22a,b , the LORD should deal out retribution in exact proportion to the crime.

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