The Prophet Speaks:

1 א (Alef)

Alas!2 Gold has lost its luster;3
pure gold loses value.4
Jewels5 are scattered
on every street corner.6

2 ב (Bet)

The precious sons of Zion
were worth their weight in gold –
Alas! – but now they are treated like7 broken clay pots,
made by a potter.8

3 ג (Gimel)

Even the jackals9 nurse their young
at their breast,10
but my people11 are cruel,
like ostriches12 in the desert.

4 ד (Dalet)

The infant’s tongue sticks
to the roof of its mouth due to thirst;
little children beg for bread,13
but no one gives them even a morsel.14

5 ה (He)

Those who once feasted on delicacies15
are now starving to death16 in the streets.
Those who grew up17 wearing expensive clothes18
are now dying19 amid garbage.20

6 ו (Vav)

The punishment21 of my people22
exceeded that of23 of Sodom,
which was overthrown in a moment
with no one to help her.24

7 ז (Zayin)

Her consecrated ones25 were brighter than snow,
whiter than milk;
their bodies more ruddy than corals,
their hair26 like lapis lazuli.27

8 ח (Khet)

Now their appearance28 is darker than soot;
they are not recognized in the streets.
Their skin has shriveled on their bones;
it is dried up, like tree bark.

9 ט (Tet)

Those who died by the sword29 are better off
than those who die of hunger,30
those who31 waste away,32
struck down33 from lack of34 food.35

10 י (Yod)

The hands of tenderhearted women36
cooked their own children,
who became their food,37
when my people38 were destroyed.39

11 כ (Kaf)

The Lord fully vented40 his wrath;
he poured out his fierce anger.41
He started a fire in Zion;
it consumed her foundations.42

12 ל (Lamed)

Neither the kings of the earth
nor the people of the lands43 ever thought44
that enemy or foe would enter
the gates45 of Jerusalem.46

13 מ (Mem)

But it happened47 due to the sins of her prophets48
and the iniquities of her priests,
who poured out in her midst
the blood of the righteous.

14 נ (Nun)

They49 wander blindly50 through the streets,
defiled by the blood they shed,51
while no one dares52
to touch their garments.

15 ס (Samek)

People cry to them, “Turn away! You are unclean!
Turn away! Turn away! Don’t touch us!”
So they have fled and wander about;
but the nations say,53 “They may not stay here any longer.”

16 פ (Pe)

The Lord himself54 has scattered them;
he no longer watches over them.
They did not honor the priests;55
they did not show favor to the elders.56
The People of Jerusalem Lament:

17 ע (Ayin)

Our eyes continually failed us
as we looked in vain for help.57
From our watchtowers we watched
for a nation that could not rescue us.

18 צ (Tsade)

Our enemies58 hunted us down at every step59
so that we could not walk about in our streets.
Our end drew near, our days were numbered,60
for our end had come!

19 ק (Qof)

Those who pursued us were swifter
than eagles61 in the sky.62
They chased us over the mountains;
they ambushed us in the wilderness.

20 ר (Resh)

Our very life breath – the Lord’s anointed king63
was caught in their traps,64
of whom we thought,65
“Under his protection66 we will survive among the nations.”
The Prophet Speaks:

21 ש (Sin/Shin)

Rejoice and be glad for now,67 O people of Edom,68
who reside in the land of Uz.
But the cup of judgment69 will pass70 to you also;
you will get drunk and take off your clothes.

22 ת (Tav)

O people of Zion,71 your punishment72 will come to an end;73
he will not prolong your exile.74
But, O people of Edom,75 he will punish76 your sin77
and reveal78 your offenses!
1sn According to W. F. Lanahan (“The Speaking Voice in the Book of Lamentations” JBL 93 [1974]: 48), the persona or speaking voice in chap. 4 is a bourgeois, the common man. This voice is somewhat akin to the Reporter in chs 1-2 in that much of the description is in the third person. However, “the bourgeois has some sense of identity with his fellow-citizens” seen in the shift to the first person plural. The alphabetic acrostic structure reduces to two bicola per letter. The first letter of only the first line in each stanza spells the acrostic. 2tn See the note at 1:1 3tn Heb “had grown dim.” The verb יוּעַם (yuam), Hophal imperfect 3rd person masculine singular from עָמַם (’amam, “to conceal, darken”), literally means “to be dimmed” or “to be darkened.” Most English versions render this literally: the gold has “become dim” (KJV, NKJV), “grown dim” (RSV, NRSV), “is dulled” (NJPS), “grown dull” (TEV); however, but NIV has captured the sense well: “How the gold has lost its luster.” 4tc The verb יִשְׁנֶא (yishne’, Qal imperfect 3rd person feminine singular) is typically taken to be the only Qal imperfect of I שָׁנָהּ (shanah). Such a spelling with א (aleph) instead of ה (he) is feasible. D. R. Hillers suggests the root שָׂנֵא (sane’, “to hate”): “Pure gold is hated”. This maintains the consonantal text and also makes sense in context. In either case the point is that gold no longer holds the same value, probably because there is nothing available to buy with Heb “changes.” The imagery in this verse about gold is without parallel in the Bible and its precise nuance uncertain. 5tn Heb “the stones of holiness/jewelry.” קֹדֶשׁ (qodesh) in most cases refers to holiness or sacredness. For the meaning “jewelry” see J. A. Emerton, “The Meaning of אַבְנֵי־קֹדֶשׁ in Lamentations 4:1ZAW 79 (1967): 233-36. 6tn Heb “at the head of every street.” 7tn Heb “they are regarded as.” 8tn Heb “the work of the hands of a potter.” 9tn The noun תַּנִּין (tannin) means “jackals.” The plural ending ־ִין (-in) is diminutive (GKC 242 §87.e) (e.g., Lam 1:4). 10tn Heb “draw out the breast and suckle their young.” 11tn Heb “the daughter of my people.” 12tc The MT Kethib form כִּי עֵנִים (kienim) is by all accounts a textual corruption for כַּיְעֵנִים (kay’enim, “like ostriches”) which is preserved in the Qere and the medieval Hebrew mss, and reflected in the LXX. 13tn Heb “bread.” The term “bread” might function as a synecdoche of specific (= bread) for general (= food); however, the following parallel line does indeed focus on the act of breaking bread in two. 14tn Heb “there is not a divider to them.” The term פָּרַשׂ (paras), Qal active participle ms from פָּרַס (paras, “to divide”) refers to the action of breaking bread in two before giving it to a person to eat (Isa 58:7; Jer 16:7; Lam 4:4). The form פָּרַשׂ (paras) is the alternate spelling of the more common פָּרַס (paras). 15tn Heb “eaters of delicacies.” An alternate English gloss would be “connoisseurs of fine foods.” 16tn Heb “are desolate.” 17tn Heb “were reared.” 18tn Heb “in purple.” The term תוֹלָע (tola’, “purple”) is a figurative description of expensive clothing: it is a metonymy of association: the color of the dyed clothes (= purple) stands for the clothes themselves. 19tn Heb “embrace garbage.” One may also translate “rummage through” (cf. NCV “pick through trash piles”; TEV “pawing through refuse”; NLT “search the garbage pits.” 20tn The Hebrew word אַשְׁפַּתּוֹת (’ashpatot) can also mean “ash heaps.” Though not used as a combination elsewhere, to “embrace ash heaps” might also envision a state of mourning or even dead bodies lying on the ash heaps. 21tn The noun עֲוֹן (’avon) has a basic two-fold range of meanings: (1) basic meaning: “iniquity, sin” and (2) metonymical cause for effect meaning: “punishment for iniquity.” 22tn Heb “the daughter of my people.” 23tn Heb “the sin of.” The noun חַטָּאת (khattat) often means “sin, rebellion,” but here it probably functions in a metonymical (cause for effect) sense: “punishment for sin” (e.g., Zech 14:19). The context focuses on the severity of the punishment of Jerusalem rather than the depths of its degradation and depravity that led to the judgment. 24tn Heb “without a hand turned.” The preposition ב (bet) after the verb חוּל (khul) in Hos 11:6 is adversative “the sword will turn against [Assyria’s] cities.” Other contexts with חוּל (khul) plus ב (bet) are not comparable (ב [bet] often being locative). However, it is not certain that hands must be adversarial as the sword clearly is in Hos 11:6. The present translation pictures the suddenness of Sodom’s overthrow as an easier fate than the protracted military campaign and subsequent exile and poverty of Judah’s survivor’s. 25tn Heb “Nazirites” (so KJV). The Nazirites were consecrated under a vow to refrain from wine, contact with the dead, and from cutting their hair. In Gen 49:26 and Deut 33:16 Joseph, who was not a Nazirite, is called the “Nazir” of his brothers. From context, many translate this as “prince” (e.g., NAB, NIV, NRSV, NLT), though the nuance is uncertain. If it is valid, then princes might be understood in this context as well. 26tn The noun גִּזְרָה (gizrah) is used primarily in Ezekiel 41-42 (seven of its nine uses), where it refers to a separated area of the temple complex described in Ezekiel’s vision. It is not used of people other than here. Probably based on the reference to a precious stone BDB 160 s.v. 1 postulated that it refers to the cutting or polishing of precious stones, but this is conjecture. The English versions handle this variously. D. R. Hillers suggests beards, hair, or eyebrows based on other ancient Near Eastern comparisons between lapis lazuli and the body (Lamentations [AB], 81). 27tn Heb “lapis lazuli.” Lapis lazuli is a dark blue semi-precious stone. 28tn Heb “their outline” or “their form.” The Hebrew noun תֹּאַר (toar, “outline, form”) is related to the Phoenician noun תֹּאַר (to’ar, “something gazed at”), and Aramaic verb תָּאַר (ta’ar, “to gaze at”). It is used in reference to the form of a woman (Gen 29:17; Deut 21:11; 1 Sam 25:3; Esth 2:7) and of a man (Gen 39:11; Judg 8:18; 1 Sam 16:18; 28:14; 1 Kgs 1:6; 1 Chr 17:17; Isa 52:14; 53:2). Here it is used in a metonymical sense: “appearance.” 29tn Heb “those pierced of the sword.” The genitive-construct denotes instrumentality: “those pierced by the sword” (חַלְלֵי־חֶרֶב, khalle-kherev). The noun חָלָל (khalal) refers to a “fatal wound” and is used substantivally to refer to “the slain” (Num 19:18; 31:8, 19; 1 Sam 17:52; 2 Sam 23:8, 18; 1 Chr 11:11, 20; Isa 22:2; 66:16; Jer 14:18; 25:33; 51:49; Lam 4:9; Ezek 6:7; 30:11; 31:17, 18; 32:20; Zeph 2:12). 30tn Heb “those slain of hunger.” The genitive-construct denotes instrumentality: “those slain by hunger,” that is, those who are dying of hunger. 31tn Heb “who…” The antecedent of the relative pronoun שֶׁהֵם (shehem, “who”) are those dying of hunger in the previous line: מֵחַלְלֵי רָעָב (mekhalle raav, “those slain of hunger”). 32tn Heb “they flow away.” The verb זוּב (zuv, “to flow, gush”) is used figuratively here, meaning “to pine away” or “to waste away” from hunger. See also the next note. 33tn Heb “pierced through and through.” The term מְדֻקָּרִים (mÿduqqarim), Pual participle masculine plural from דָּקַר (daqar, “to pierce”), is used figuratively. The verb דָּקַר (daqar, “to pierce”) usually refers to a fatal wound inflicted by a sword or spear (Num 25:8; Judg 9:54; 1 Sam 31:4; 1 Chr 10:4; Isa 13:15; Jer 37:10; 51:4; Zech 12:10; 13:3). Here, it describes people dying from hunger. This is an example of hypocatastasis: an implied comparison between warriors being fatally pierced by sword and spear and the piercing pangs of hunger and starvation. Alternatively “those who hemorrhage (זוּב [zuv, “flow, gush”]) [are better off] than those pierced by lack of food” in parallel to the structure of the first line. 34tn The preposition מִן (min, “from”) denotes deprivation: “from lack of” something (BDB 580 s.v. 2.f; HALOT 598 s.v. 6). 35tn Heb “produce of the field.” 36tn Heb “the hands of compassionate women.” 37tn Heb “eating.” The infinitive construct (from I בָּרָה, barah) is translated as a noun. Three passages employ the verb (2 Sam 3:35; 12:17; 13:5,6,10) for eating when ill or in mourning. 38tn Heb “the daughter of my people.” 39tn Heb “in the destruction of the daughter of my people.” 40tn Heb “has completed.” The verb כִּלָּה (killah), Piel perfect 3rd person masculine singular from כָּלָה (kalah, “to complete”), has a range of closely related meanings: (1) “to complete, bring to an end,” (2) “to accomplish, finish, cease,” (3) “to use up, exhaust, consume.” Used in reference to God’s wrath, it describes God unleashing his full measure of anger so that divine justice is satisfied. This is handled admirably by several English versions: “The Lord has given full vent to his wrath” (NIV), “The Lord gave full vent to his wrath” (RSV, NRSV), “The Lord vented all his fury” (NJPS), “The Lord turned loose the full force of his fury” (TEV). Others miss the mark: “The Lord has accomplished his wrath/fury” (KJV, NKJV, ASV, NASB). 41tn Heb “the heat of his anger.” 42tn The term יְסוֹד (yÿsod, “foundation”) refers to the ground-level and below ground-level foundation stones of a city wall (Ps 137:7; Lam 4:11; Mic 1:6). 43tn Heb “inhabitants of the mainland.” 44tn Heb “they did not believe that.” The verb הֶאֱמִינוּ (heeminu), Hiphil perfect 3rd person common plural from אָמַן (’aman, “to believe”), ordinarily is a term of faith and trust, but occasionally it functions cognitively: “to think that” (Job 9:16; 15:22; Ps 116:10; Lam 4:12) and “to be convinced that” (Ps 27:13) (HALOT 64 s.v. I אמן hif.1). The semantic relationship between “to believe” = “to think” is metonymical, that is, effect for cause. 45sn The expression “to enter the gates” of a city is an idiom referring to the military conquest of that city. Ancient Near Eastern fortified cities typically featured double and sometimes triple city gates – the bulwark of the defense of the city. Because fortified cities were enclosed with protective walls, the Achilles tendon of every city was the city gates – the weak point in the defense and the perennial point of attack by enemies (e.g., Judg 5:8, 11; 1 Sam 17:52; Isa 29:6; Jer 17:27; 51:54; Ezek 21:20, 27; Mic 1:9, 12; Neh 1:3; 2:3, 13, 17). 46map For location see Map5-B1; Map6-F3; Map7-E2; Map8-F2; Map10-B3; JP1-F4; JP2-F4; JP3-F4; JP4-F4. 47tn These words do not appear in the Hebrew, but are supplied to make sense of the line. The introductory causal preposition מִן (min) (“because”) indicates that this phrase – or something like it – is implied through elision. 48tn There is no main verb in the verse; it is an extended prepositional phrase. One must either assume a verbal idea such as “But it happened due to…” or connect it to the following verses, which themselves are quite difficult. The former option was employed in the present translation. 49tn “They” are apparently the people, rather than the prophets and priests mentioned in the preceding verse. 50tc The Hebrew word עִוְרִים (’ivrim) appears to be an adjective based on the root I עִוֵּר (’ivver, “blind”). The LXX, using a rare perfect optative of ἐγείρω (egeirw), seems to have read a form of II עוּר (’ur, “to rise”), while the Syriac reads “her nobles,” possibly from reading שָׂרִים (sarim). The evidence is unclear. 51tn Heb “defiled with blood.” 52tn The translation is conjecture. The MT has the preposition ב (bet, “in,” “by,” “with,” “when,” etc.), the negative particle לֹא (lo’), then a finite verb from יָכַל (yakhal, Qal impfect 3rd person masculine plural): “in not they are able.” Normally יָכַל (yakhal) would be followed by an infinitive, identifying what someone is or is not able to do, or by some other modifying clause. לֹא יָכַל (lo’ yakhal) on its own may mean “they do not prevail.” The preposition ב (bet) suggests possible dependence on another verb (cp. Jer 2:11, the only other verse with the sequence ב [bet] plus לֹא [lo’] plus finite verb). The following verb נָגַע (naga’, “touch”) regularly indicates its object with the preposition ב (bet), but the preposition ב (bet) is already used with “their garments.” If both are the object of נָגַע (naga’), the line would read “they touched what they could not, their garments.” As this makes no sense, one should note that any other verb on which the phrase would be dependent is not recoverable. The preposition ב (bet) can also introduce temporal clauses, though there are no examples with לֹא (lo’) plus a finite verb. A temporal understanding could yield “when they could not succeed, they touched [clutched?] their garments” or “while no one is able [to ?] they touch their garments.” In Jer 49:10 the meaning of יָכַל (yakhal) is completed by a finite verb (though it is not governed by the preposition ב [bet]). If so here, then we may understand “while (ב [bet]) no one dares (יָכַל, yakhal) to touch their garments.” This gives the picture of blind people stumbling about while others cannot help because they are afraid to touch them. 53tn Heb “They say among the nations.” 54tn Heb “the face of the Lord.” The term פָּנֶה (paneh, “face”) is a synecdoche of part (= face) for the whole person (= the Lord himself). The phrase is often translated “the presence of the Lord.” The term “face” also functions anthropomorphically, depicting the invisible spirit God as though he had a physical face. 55tc The MT reads the plural verb לֹא נָשָׂאוּ (lonasau, “they did not lift up”), Qal perfect 3rd person common plural from נָשָׂא (nasa’, “to lift up” the face); however, the ancient versions (LXX, Aramaic Targum, Latin Vulgate, Syriac Peshitta) have singular verbs, reflecting a Vorlage of לֹא נָשָׂא (lo’ nasa’, “he did not lift up”), Qal perfect 3rd person masculine singular from נָשָׂא (nasa’). D. R. Hillers suggests that the MT plural is an intentional scribe change, to avoid the appearance that God brought about evil on the priests and elders. Equally possible is that consonantal לא חננו (l’ khnnv) should be revocalized as Qal passive perfect 3rd person common plural, and that כֹהֲנִים (kohanim, “the priests”) functions as the subject of a passive verb rather than the accusative direct object of an active verb: “(the faces of ) the priests were not lifted up.”tn Heb “did not lift up.” The verb נָשָׂא (nasa’) means “to lift up” (the face); however, the specific contextual nuance here is probably “to show consideration” (e.g., Deut 28:50; Lam 4:16) (BDB 670 s.v. 1.b.3). 56tc The MT reads the plural verb לֹא חָנָנוּ (lokhananu, “they did not show favor”), Qal perfect 3rd person common plural from חָנַן (khanan, “to show favor, be merciful”); however, the ancient versions (LXX, Aramaic Targum, Latin Vulgate, Syriac Peshitta) have singular verbs, reflecting a Vorlage of לֹא חָנַן (lo’ khanan, “he did not show favor”), Qal perfect 3rd person masculine singular from חָנַן (khanan). D. R. Hillers suggests that the MT plural is an intentional scribe change, to avoid the appearance that God brought about evil on the priests and elders. Equally possible is that consonantal לא חננו (l’ khnnv) should be revocalized as Qal passive perfect 3rd person common plural, and that זְקֵנִים (zÿqenim, “the elders”) functions as the subject of a passive verb rather than the accusative direct object of an active verb: “the elders were not shown favor/mercy.”tn The basic meaning of the verb חָנַן (khanan) is “to show favor [to], be gracious [to].” In some contexts this can mean “to spare” the lives of someone (Deut 7:2; 28:50; Job 19:21; Lam 4:16) (BDB 336 s.v. 1.c), though it is not clear whether that is the case here. 57tn Heb “Our eyes failed in vain for help.” 58tn Heb “they”; this has been specified in the translation as “our enemies” for clarity. 59tn Heb “they hunted our steps.” 60tn Heb “our days were full.” 61tn The bird referred to here could be one of several species of eagles, but more likely is the griffin-vulture (cf. NEB “vultures”). However, because eagles are more commonly associated with swiftness than vultures in contemporary English, “eagles” was used in the translation. 62tn Or “in the heavens.” The Hebrew term שָׁמַיִם (shamayim) may be translated “heaven(s)” or “sky” depending on the context. 63tn Heb “the anointed one of the Lord.” The term “king” is added in the translation to clarify the referent of the phrase “the Lord’s anointed.” 64tn Heb “was captured in their pits.” 65tn Heb “of whom we had said.” 66tn Heb “under his shadow.” The term צֵל (tsel, “shadow”) is used figuratively here to refer the source of protection from military enemies. In the same way that the shade of a tree gives physical relief and protection from the heat of the sun (e.g., Judg 9:15; Job 40:22; Ps 80:11; Song 2:3; Ezek 17:23; 31:6, 12, 17; Hos 4:13; 14:8; Jon 4:5, 6), a faithful and powerful king can provide “shade” (= protection) from enemies and military attack (Num 14:19; Ps 91:1; Isa 30:2, 3; 49:2; 51:16; Jer 48:45; Lam 4:20). 67tn The phrase “for now” is added in the translation to highlight the implied contrast between the present joy of the Gentiles (4:21a) and their future judgment (4:21b). 68tn Heb “O Daughter of Edom.” 69tn Heb “the cup.” Judgment is often depicted as a cup of wine that God forces a person to drink, causing him to lose consciousness, red wine drooling out of his mouth – resembling corpses lying on the ground as a result of the actual onslaught of the Lord’s judgment. The drunkard will reel and stagger, causing bodily injury to himself – an apt metaphor to describe the devastating effects of God’s judgment. Just as a cup of poison kills all those who are forced to drink it, the cup of God’s wrath destroys all those who must drink it (e.g., Ps 75:9; Isa 51:17, 22; Jer 25:15, 17, 28; 49:12; 51:7; Lam 4:21; Ezek 23:33; Hab 2:16). 70tn The imperfect verb “will pass” may also be a jussive, continuing the element of request, “let the cup pass…” 71tn Heb “O Daughter Zion.” 72tn Heb “your iniquity.” The noun עָוֹן (’avon) has a broad range of meanings, including: (1) iniquity, (2) guilt of iniquity, and (3) consequence or punishment for iniquity (cause-effect metonymical relation). The context suggests that “punishment for sin” is most appropriate here (e.g., Gen 4:13; 19:15; Exod 28:38, 43; Lev 5:1, 17; 7:18; 10:17; 16:22; 17:16; 19:8; 20:17, 19; 22:16; 26:39, 41, 43; Num 5:31; 14:34; 18:1, 23; 30:15; 1 Sam 25:24; 28:10; 2 Sam 14:9; 2 Kgs 7:9; Job 10:14; Pss 31:11; 69:28; 106:43; Prov 5:22; Isa 5:18; 30:13; 40:2; 53:6, 11; 64:5, 6; Jer 51:6; Lam 4:22; 5:7; Ezek 4:4-6, 17; 7:16; 14:10; 18:19-20; 21:30, 34; 24:23; 32:27; 35:5; 39:23; 44:10, 12). 73tn Heb “will be completed.” The perfect tense verb תַּם (tam), Qal perfect 3rd person masculine singular from תָּמַם (tamam, “to be complete”), could be taken as a precative perfect expressing a request (“may your punishment be complete”). The translation understands it as an example of the so-called “prophetic perfect.” The perfect tense often describes actions that are viewed as complete (normally past- or present-time events). When the perfect tense describes a future event, it often depicts it as “complete,” that is, “as good as done” or certain to take place from the viewpoint of the prophet. Thus, by using the perfect tense, Jeremiah may be emphasizing the certainty that the exile will eventually come to an end. It has also been viewed as a simple perfect “your punishment is ended.” 74tn The verb לֹא יוֹסִיף (loyosif) could be taken as a precative perfect, making a request to God. See the note at the beginning of the verse. 75tn Heb “O Daughter of Edom.” 76tn The verb פָּקַד (paqad) could be taken as a precative perfect, making a request to God. See the note at the beginning of the verse. 77tn The noun עָוֹן (’avon) is repeated twice in this verse: its first occurrence means “punishment for iniquity” (v. 22a), and its second usage means “iniquity” (v. 22b). See preceding translator’s note on the broad range of meanings of this word. The repetition of the same root with different meanings creates an ironic polysemantic wordplay: Zion’s “punishment” for its sin is about to come to an end; however, the punishment for Edom’s “sin” is about to begin. 78tn The verb גִּלָּה (gillah) could be taken as a precative perfect, making a request to God. See the note at the beginning of the verse.