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Lamentations 2:13-19


מ (Mem)

2:13 With what can I equate 1  you?

To what can I compare you, O Daughter Jerusalem?

To what can I liken you 2 

so that 3  I might comfort you, O Virgin Daughter Zion?

Your wound is as deep 4  as the sea. 5 

Who can heal you? 6 

נ (Nun)

2:14 Your prophets saw visions for you

that were worthless lies. 7 

They failed to expose your sin

so as to restore your fortunes. 8 

They saw oracles for you

that were worthless 9  lies.

ס (Samek)

2:15 All who passed by on the road

clapped their hands to mock you. 10 

They sneered and shook their heads

at Daughter Jerusalem.

“Ha! Is this the city they called 11 

‘The perfection of beauty, 12 

the source of joy of the whole earth!’?” 13 

פ (Pe)

2:16 All your enemies

gloated over you. 14 

They sneered and gnashed their teeth;

they said, “We have destroyed 15  her!

Ha! We have waited a long time for this day.

We have lived to see it!” 16 

ע (Ayin)

2:17 The Lord has done what he planned;

he has fulfilled 17  his promise 18 

that he threatened 19  long ago: 20 

He has overthrown you without mercy 21 

and has enabled the enemy to gloat over you;

he has exalted your adversaries’ power. 22 

צ (Tsade)

2:18 Cry out 23  from your heart 24  to the Lord, 25 

O wall of Daughter Zion! 26 

Make your tears flow like a river

all day and all night long! 27 

Do not rest;

do not let your tears 28  stop!

ק (Qof)

2:19 Get up! Cry out in the night 29 

when the night watches start! 30 

Pour out your heart 31  like water

before the face of the Lord! 32 

Lift up your hands 33  to him

for your children’s lives; 34 

they are fainting 35 

at every street corner. 36 

1 tc The MT reads אֲעִידֵךְ (’aidekh), Hiphil imperfect 1st person common singular + 2fs suffix from עָדָה (’adah, “to testify”): “[How] can I testify for you?” However, Latin Vulgate comparabo te reflects the reading אֶעֱרָךְ (’eerakh), Qal imperfect 1st person common singular from עָרַךְ (’arakh, “to liken”): “[To what] can I liken [you]?” The verb עָרַךְ (’arakh) normally means “to lay out, set in rows; to get ready, set in order; to line up for battle, set battle formation,” but it also may denote “to compare (as a result of arranging in order), to make equal” (e.g., Pss 40:6; 89:6 [HT 7]; Job 28:17, 19; Isa 40:18; 44:7). The BHS editors suggest the emendation which involves simple orthographic confusion between ר (resh) and ד (dalet), and deletion of י (yod) that the MT added to make sense of the form. The variant is favored based on internal evidence: (1) it is the more difficult reading because the meaning “to compare” for עָרַךְ (’arakh) is less common than עָדָה (’adah, “to testify”), (2) it recovers a tight parallelism between עָרַךְ (’arakh, “to liken”) and דָּמָה (damah, “to compare”) (e.g., Ps 89:6 [HT 7]; Isa 40:18), and (3) the MT reading: “How can I testify for you?” makes little sense in the context. Nevertheless, most English versions hold to the MT reading: KJV, RSV, NRSV, NASB, NIV, TEV, CEV. This textual emendation was first proposed by J. Meinhold, “Threni 2,13,” ZAW 15 (1895): 286.

2 tc The MT reads מָה אַשְׁוֶה־לָּךְ וַאֲנַחֲמֵךְ (mahashveh-lakh vaanakhamekh, “To what can I compare you so that I might comfort you?”). The LXX reflects a Vorlage of מִי יוֹשִׁיעַ לָךְ וְנִחַמְךָ (mi yoshialakh vÿnikhamÿkha, “Who will save you so that he might comfort you?”). This textual variant reflects several cases of orthographic confusion between similarly spelled words. The MT best explains the origin of the LXX textual variants. Internal evidence of contextual congruence favors the MT as the original reading.

3 tn The ו (vav) prefixed to וַאֲנַחֲמֵךְ (vaanakhamekh, “I might comfort you”) denotes purpose: “so that….”

4 tn Heb “as great as the sea.”

5 tc The MT reads כָּיָּם (kayyam, “as the sea”), while the LXX reflects a Vorlage of כּוֹס (kos, “a cup”). The textual variant is probably due to simple orthographic confusion between letters of similar appearance. The idiomatic expression favors the MT.

6 sn The rhetorical question implies a denial: “No one can heal you!” The following verses, 14-17, present four potential healers – prophets, passersby, enemies, and God.

7 tn Heb “emptiness and whitewash.” The nouns שָׁוְא וְתָפֵל (shvvÿtafel) form a nominal hendiadys. The first noun functions adjectivally, modifying the second noun that retains its full nominal sense: “empty whitewash” or “empty deceptions” (see following translation note on meaning of תָּפֵל [tafel]). The noun תָּפֵל (tafel, “whitewash”) is used literally in reference to a white-washed wall (Ezek 13:10, 11, 14, 15) and figuratively in reference to false prophets (Ezek 22:28).

8 tc The Kethib שְׁבִיתֵךְ (shÿvitekh) and Qere שְׁבוּתֵךְ (shÿvutekh), which is preserved in many medieval Hebrew mss here and elsewhere (Ps 85:1 Heb 85:2; 126:4; Job 42:10), are struggling with the root. The ancient versions take it from ָָשׁבָה (shavah) meaning “captivity.” Such a meaning is not tenable for the Job passage, which along with a similar phrase in the Sefire inscription suggest that the proper meaning is “to restore someone’s fortunes.”

9 tn The nouns שָׁוְא וּמַדּוּחִים (shavumaddukhim, lit., “emptiness and enticements”) form a nominal hendiadys. The first functions adjectivally, modifying the second noun that retains its nominal sense: “empty enticements” or “false deceptions.” The noun מַדּוּחַ (madduakh), meaning “enticement” or “transgression” is a hapax legomenon (term that appears only once in the Hebrew OT). It is related to the verb נָדָח (nadakh, “to entice, lead astray”) which is often used in reference to idolatry.

10 tn Heb “clap their hands at you.” Clapping hands at someone was an expression of malicious glee, derision and mockery (Num 24:10; Job 27:23; Lam 2:15).

11 tn Heb “of which they said.”

12 tn Heb “perfection of beauty.” The noun יֹפִי (yofi, “beauty”) functions as a genitive of respect in relation to the preceding construct noun: Jerusalem was perfect in respect to its physical beauty.

13 tn Heb “the joy of all the earth.” This is similar to statements found in Pss 48:2 and 50:2.

14 tn Heb “they have opened wide their mouth against you.”

15 tn Heb “We have swallowed!”

16 tn Heb “We have attained, we have seen!” The verbs מָצָאנוּ רָאִינוּ (matsanu rainu) form a verbal hendiadys in which the first retains its full verbal sense and the second functions as an object complement. It forms a Hebrew idiom that means something like, “We have lived to see it!” The three asyndetic 1st person common plural statements in 2:16 (“We waited, we destroyed, we saw!”) are spoken in an impassioned, staccato style reflecting the delight of the conquerors.

17 tn The verb בָּצַע (batsa’) has a broad range of meanings: (1) “to cut off, break off,” (2) “to injure” a person, (3) “to gain by violence,” (4) “to finish, complete” and (5) “to accomplish, fulfill” a promise.

18 tn Heb “His word.” When used in collocation with the verb בָּצַע (batsa’, “to fulfill,” see previous tn), the accusative noun אִמְרָה (’imrah) means “promise.”

19 tn Heb “commanded” or “decreed.” If a reference to prophetic oracles is understood, then “decreed” is preferable. If understood as a reference to the warnings in the covenant, then “threatened” is a preferable rendering.

20 tn Heb “from days of old.”

21 tn Heb “He has overthrown and has not shown mercy.” The two verbs חָרַס וְלֹא חָמָל (kharas vÿlokhamal) form a verbal hendiadys in which the first retains its verbal sense and the second functions adverbially: “He has overthrown you without mercy.” וְלֹא חָמָל (vÿlokhamal) alludes to 2:2.

22 tn Heb “He has exalted the horn of your adversaries.” The term “horn” (קֶרֶן, qeren) normally refers to the horn of a bull, one of the most powerful animals in ancient Israel. This term is often used figuratively as a symbol of strength, usually in reference to the military might of an army (Deut 33:17; 1 Sam 2:1, 10; 2 Sam 22:3; Pss 18:3; 75:11; 89:18, 25; 92:11; 112:9; 1 Chr 25:5; Jer 48:25; Lam 2:3; Ezek 29:21), just as warriors are sometimes figuratively described as “bulls.” To lift up the horn often means to boast and to lift up someone else’s horn is to give victory or cause to boast.

23 tc The MT reads צָעַק לִבָּם אֵל־אֲדֹנָי (tsaaq libbam el-adonay, “their heart cried out to the Lord”) which neither matches the second person address characterizing 2:13-19 nor is in close parallel to the rest of verse 18. Since the perfect צָעַק (tsaaq, “cry out”) is apparently parallel to imperatives, it could be understood as a precative (“let their heart cry out”), although this understanding still has the problem of being in the third person. The BHS editors and many text critics suggest emending the MT צָעַק (tsaaq), Qal perfect 3rd person masculine singular, to צָעֲקִי (tsaaqi), Qal imperative 2nd person masculine singular: “Cry out!” This restores a tighter parallelism with the two 2nd person masculine singular imperatives introducing the following lines: הוֹרִידִי (horidi, “Let [your tears] flow down!”) and אַל־תִּתְּנִי (’al-tittni, “Do not allow!”). In such a case, לִבָּם (libbam) must be taken adverbially. For לִבָּם (libbam, “their heart”) see the following note. The adverbial translation loses a potential parallel to the mention of the heart in the next verse. Emending the noun to “your heart” while viewing the verb as a precative perfect would maintain this connection.

24 tn Heb “their heart” or “from the heart.” Many English versions take the ־ם (mem) on לִבָּם (libbam) as the 3rd person masculine plural pronominal suffix: “their heart” (cf. KJV, NASB, NIV, NJPS, CEV). However, others take it as an enclitic or adverbial ending: “from the heart” (cf. RSV, NRSV, TEV, NJPS margin). See T. F. McDaniel, “The Alleged Sumerian Influence upon Lamentations,” VT 18 (1968): 203-4.

25 tc The MT reads אֲדֹנָי (’adonay, “the Lord”) here rather than יהוה (YHWH, “the Lord”). See the tc note at 1:14.

26 tn The wall is a synecdoche of a part standing for the whole city.

27 tn Heb “day and night.” The expression “day and night” forms a merism which encompasses everything in between two polar opposites: “from dawn to dusk” or “all day and all night long.”

28 tn Heb “the daughter of your eye.” The term “eye” functions as a metonymy for “tears” that are produced by the eyes. Jeremiah exhorts personified Jerusalem to cry out to the Lord day and night without ceasing in repentance and genuine sorrow for its sins.

29 tc The Kethib is written בַּלַּיִל (ballayil) a defective spelling for בַּלַּיְלָה (ballaylah, “night”). The Qere reads בַּלַּיְלָה (ballaylah, “night”), which is preserved in numerous medieval Hebrew mss.

tn The noun בַּלַּיְלָה (ballaylah, “night”) functions as an adverbial accusative of time: “in the night.”

30 tn Heb “at the head of the watches.”

31 tn The noun לֵבָב (levav, “heart”) functions here as a metonymy of association for the thoughts and emotions in the heart. The Hebrew לֵבָב (levav) includes the mind so that in some cases the translation “heart” implies an inappropriate division between the cognitive and affective. This context is certainly emotionally loaded, but as part of a series of admonitions to address God in prayer, these emotions are inextricably bound with the thoughts of the mind. The singular “heart” is retained in the translation to be consistent with the personification of Jerusalem (cf. v. 18).

32 tc The MT reads אֲדֹנָי (’adonay, “the Lord”) here rather than יהוה (YHWH, “the Lord”). See the tc note at 1:14.

33 sn Lifting up the palms or hands is a metaphor for prayer.

34 tn Heb “on account of the life of your children.” The noun נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh) refers to the “life” of their dying children (e.g., Lam 2:12). The singular noun נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh, “life”) is used as a collective, as the plural genitive noun that follows makes clear: “your children.”

35 tc The BHS editors and many commentators suggest that the fourth bicola in 2:19 is a late addition and should be deleted. Apart from the four sets of bicola in 1:7 and 2:19, every stanza in chapters 1-4 consists of three sets of bicola.

tn Heb “who are fainting.”

36 tn Heb “at the head of every street.”

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