when the night watches start! 2
Pour out your heart 3 like water
before the face of the Lord! 4
Lift up your hands 5 to him
for your children’s lives; 6
they are fainting 7
at every street corner. 8
Whom have you ever afflicted 10 like this?
Should women eat their offspring, 11
their healthy infants? 12
Should priest and prophet
be killed in the Lord’s 13 sanctuary?
1 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
tn The noun בַּלַּיְלָה (ballaylah, “night”) functions as an adverbial accusative of time: “in the night.”
2 tn Heb “at the head of the watches.”
3 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).
5 sn Lifting up the palms or hands is a metaphor for prayer.
6 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.”
7 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.”
8 tn Heb “at the head of every street.”
9 tn Heb “Look, O
sn Integral to battered Jerusalem’s appeal, and part of the ancient Near Eastern lament genre, is the request for God to look at her pain. This should evoke pity regardless of the reason for punishment. The request is not for God to see merely that there are misfortunes, as one might note items on a checklist. The cognitive (facts) and affective (feelings) are not divided. The plea is for God to watch, think about, and be affected by these facts while listening to the petitioner’s perspective.
11 tn Heb “their fruit.” The term פְּרִי (pÿri, “fruit”) is used figuratively to refer to children as the fruit of a mother’s womb (e.g., Gen 30:2; Deut 7:13; 28:4, 11, 18, 53; 30:9; Pss 21:11; 127:3; 132:11; Isa 13:18; Mic 6:7).
12 tn Heb “infants of healthy childbirth.” The genitive-construct phrase עֹלֲלֵי טִפֻּחִים (’olale tippukhim) functions as an attributive genitive construction: “healthy newborn infants.” The noun טִפֻּחִים (tippukhim) appears only here. It is related to the verb טָפַח (tafakh), meaning “to give birth to a healthy child” or “to raise children” depending on whether the Arabic or Akkadian cognate is emphasized. For the related verb, see below at 2:22.
sn Placing the specific reference to children at the end of the line in apposition to clarify that it does not describe the normal eating of fruit helps produce the repulsive shock of the image. Furthermore, the root of the word for “infants” (עוֹלֵל, ’olel) has the same root letters for the verb “to afflict” occurring in the first line of the verse, making a pun (F. W. Dobbs-Allsopp, Lamentations [IBC], 99-100).