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Lamentations 2:20-22

Context
Jerusalem Speaks:

ר (Resh)

2:20 Look, O Lord! Consider! 1 

Whom have you ever afflicted 2  like this?

Should women eat their offspring, 3 

their healthy infants? 4 

Should priest and prophet

be killed in the Lord’s 5  sanctuary?

ש (Sin/Shin)

2:21 The young boys and old men

lie dead on the ground in the streets.

My young women 6  and my young men

have fallen by the sword.

You killed them when you were angry; 7 

you slaughtered them without mercy. 8 

ת (Tav)

2:22 As if it were a feast day, you call 9 

enemies 10  to terrify me 11  on every side. 12 

On the day of the Lord’s anger

no one escaped or survived.

My enemy has finished off

those healthy infants whom I bore 13  and raised. 14 

1 tn Heb “Look, O Lord! See!” When used in collocation with verbs of cognition, רָאָה (raah) means “to see for oneself” or “to take notice” (1 Sam 26:12). The parallelism between seeing and understanding is often emphasized (e.g., Exod 16:6; Isa 5:19; 29:15; Job 11:11; Eccl 6:5). See also 1:11 and cf. 1:9, 12, 20; 3:50, 59, 60; 5:1.

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.

2 tn For the nuance “afflict” see the note at 1:12.

3 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).

4 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).

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

6 tn Heb “virgins.” The term “virgin” probably functions as a metonymy of association for single young women.

7 tn Heb “in the day of your anger.” The construction בָּיוֹם (bayom, “in the day of…”) is a common Hebrew idiom, meaning “when…” (e.g., Gen 2:4; Lev 7:35; Num 3:1; Deut 4:15; 2 Sam 22:1; Pss 18:1; 138:3; Zech 8:9). This temporal idiom refers to a general time period, but uses the term “day” as a forceful rhetorical device to emphasize the vividness and drama of the event, depicting it as occurring within a single day. In the ancient Near East, military minded kings often referred to a successful campaign as “the day of X” in order to portray themselves as powerful conquerors who, as it were, could inaugurate and complete a victory military campaign within the span of one day.

8 tc The MT reads לֹא חָמָלְתָּ (lokhamalta, “You showed no mercy”). However, many medieval Hebrew mss and most of the ancient versions (Aramaic Targum, Syriac Peshitta and Latin Vulgate) read וְלֹא חָמָלְתָּ (vÿlokhamalta, “and You showed no mercy”).

9 tn The syntax of the line is awkward. English versions vary considerably in how they render it: “Thou hast called as in a solemn day my terrors round about” (KJV), “Thou hast called, as in the day of a solemn assembly, my terrors on every side” (ASV), “You did call as in the day of an appointed feast my terrors on every side” (NASB), “Thou didst invite as to the day of an appointed feast my terrors on every side” (RSV), “As you summon to a feast day, so you summoned against me terrors on every side” (NIV), “You summoned, as on a festival, my neighbors from roundabout” (NJPS), “You invited my enemies to hold a carnival of terror all around me” (TEV), “You invited my enemies like guests for a party” (CEV).

10 tn The term “enemies” is supplied in the translation as a clarification.

11 tn Heb “my terrors” or “my enemies.” The expression מְגוּרַי (mÿguray, “my terrors”) is difficult and may refer to either enemies, the terror associated with facing enemies, or both.

12 tn Heb “surrounding me.”

13 tn The meaning of the verb טָפַח (tafakh) is debated: (1) BDB suggests that it is derived from טָפַה (tafah, “to extend, spread” the hands) and here means “to carry in the palm of one’s hands” (BDB 381 s.v. טָפַה 2). (2) HALOT 378 s.v. II טָפַח suggests that it is derived from the root II טָפַח (tafakh) and means “to give birth to healthy children.” The recent lexicons suggest that it is related to Arabic tafaha “to bring forth fully formed children” and to Akkadian tuppu “to raise children.” The use of this particular term highlights the tragic irony of what the army of Babylon has done: it has destroyed the lives of perfectly healthy children whom the women of Israel had raised.

14 tn This entire line is an accusative noun clause, functioning as the direct object of the following line: “my enemy has destroyed the perfectly healthy children….” Normal word order in Hebrew is: verb + subject + direct object. Here, the accusative direct object clause is moved forward for rhetorical emphasis: those whom the Babylonians killed had been children born perfectly healthy and well raised … what a tragic loss of perfectly good human life!



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