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Lamentations 3:1-20

Context
The Prophet Speaks:

א (Alef) 1 

3:1 I am the man 2  who has experienced 3  affliction

from the rod 4  of his wrath.

3:2 He drove me into captivity 5  and made me walk 6 

in darkness and not light.

3:3 He repeatedly 7  attacks me,

he turns his hand 8  against me all day long. 9 

ב (Bet)

3:4 He has made my mortal skin 10  waste away;

he has broken my bones.

3:5 He has besieged 11  and surrounded 12  me

with bitter hardship. 13 

3:6 He has made me reside in deepest darkness 14 

like those who died long ago.

ג (Gimel)

3:7 He has walled me in 15  so that I cannot get out;

he has weighted me down with heavy prison chains. 16 

3:8 Also, when I cry out desperately 17  for help, 18 

he has shut out my prayer. 19 

3:9 He has blocked 20  every road I take 21  with a wall of hewn stones;

he has made every path impassable. 22 

ד (Dalet)

3:10 To me he is like a bear lying in ambush, 23 

like a hidden lion 24  stalking its prey. 25 

3:11 He has obstructed my paths 26  and torn me to pieces; 27 

he has made me desolate.

3:12 He drew 28  his bow and made me 29 

the target for his arrow.

ה (He)

3:13 He shot 30  his arrows 31 

into my heart. 32 

3:14 I have become the laughingstock of all people, 33 

their mocking song 34  all day long. 35 

3:15 He has given me my fill of bitter herbs

and made me drunk with bitterness. 36 

ו (Vav)

3:16 He ground 37  my teeth in gravel;

he trampled 38  me in the dust.

3:17 I 39  am deprived 40  of peace; 41 

I have forgotten what happiness 42  is.

3:18 So I said, “My endurance has expired;

I have lost all hope of deliverance 43  from the Lord.”

ז (Zayin)

3:19 Remember 44  my impoverished and homeless condition, 45 

which is a bitter poison. 46 

3:20 I 47  continually think about 48  this,

and I 49  am depressed. 50 

1 sn The nature of the acrostic changes here. Each of the three lines in each verse, not just the first, begins with the corresponding letter of the alphabet.

2 tn The noun גֶּבֶר (gever, “man”) refers to a strong man, distinguished from women, children, and other non-combatants whom he is to defend. According to W. F. Lanahan the speaking voice in this chapter is that of a defeated soldier (“The Speaking Voice in the Book of Lamentations” JBL 93 [1974]: 41-49.) F. W. Dobbs-Allsopp (Lamentations [IBC], 108) argues that is the voice of an “everyman” although “one might not unreasonably suppose that some archetypal communal figure like the king does in fact stand in the distant background.”

3 tn The verb רָאָה (raah, “to see”) has a broad range of meanings, including (1) “to see” as to learn from experience and (2) “to see” as to experience (e.g., Gen 20:10; Ps 89:49; Eccl 5:17; Jer 5:12; 14:13; 20:18; 42:14; Zeph 3:15). Here it means that the speaker has experienced these things. The same Hebrew verb occurs in 2:20 where the Lord is asked to “see” (translated “Consider!”), although it is difficult to maintain this connection in an English translation.

4 tn The noun שֵׁבֶט (shevet, “rod”) refers to the weapon used for smiting an enemy (Exod 21:20; 2 Sam 23:21; 1 Chr 11:3; Isa 10:15; Mic 4:14) and instrument of child-discipline (Prov 10:13; 22:15; 29:15). It is used figuratively to describe discipline of the individual (Job 9:34; 21:9; 37:13; 2 Sam 7:14; Ps 89:33) and the nation (Isa 10:5, 24; 14:29; 30:31).

5 tn The verb נָהַג (nahag) describes the process of directing (usually a group of) something along a route, hence commonly “to drive,” when describing flocks, caravans, or prisoners and spoils of war (1 Sam 23:5; 30:2). But with people it may also have a positive connotation “to shepherd” or “to guide” (Ps 48:14; 80:1). The line plays on this through the reversal of expectations. Rather than being safely shepherded by the Lord their king, he has driven them away into captivity.

6 tn The Hiphil of הָלַךְ (halakh, “to walk”) may be nuanced either “brought” (BDB 236 s.v. 1) or “caused to walk” (BDB 237 s.v. 5.a).

7 tn The two verbs יָשֻׁב יַהֲפֹךְ (yashuv yahafokh, “he returns, he turns”) form a verbal hendiadys: the second verb retains its full verbal sense, while the first functions adverbially: “he repeatedly turns…” The verb שׁוּב (shuv, lit., “to return”) functions adverbially to denote repetition: “to do repeatedly, do again and again” (GKC 386-87 §120.d, g) (Gen 26:18; 30:31; Num 11:4; Judg 19:7; 1 Sam 3:5, 6; 1 Kgs 13:33; 19:6; 21:3; 2 Chr 33:3; Job 10:16; 17:10; Ps 7:13; Jer 18:4; 36:28; Lam 3:3; Dan 9:25; Zech 5:1; 6:1; Mal 1:4).

8 tn The idiom “to turn the hand against” someone is a figurative expression denoting hostility. The term “hand” (יָד, yad) is often used in idioms denoting hostility (Exod 9:3, 15; Deut 2:15; Judg 2:15; 1 Sam 5:3, 6, 9; 6:9; 2 Sam 24:16; 2 Chr 30:12; Ezra 7:9; Job 19:21; Ps 109:27; Jer 15:17; 16:21; Ezek 3:14). The reference to God’s “hand” is anthropomorphic.

9 tn Heb “all of the day.” The idiom כָּל־הַיּוֹם (kol-hayom, “all day”) means “continually” or “all day long” (Gen 6:5; Deut 28:32; 33:12; Pss 25:5; 32:3; 35:28; 37:26; 38:7, 13; 42:4, 11; 44:9, 16, 23; 52:3; 56:2, 3, 6; 71:8, 15, 24; 72:15; 73:14; 74:22; 86:3; 88:18; 89:17; 102:9; 119:97; Prov 21:26; 23:17; Isa 28:24; 51:13; 52:5; 65:2, 5; Jer 20:7, 8; Lam 1:13, 14, 62; Hos 12:2).

10 tn Heb “my flesh and my skin.” The two nouns joined with ו (vav), בְשָׂרִי וְעוֹרִי (basari vÿori, “my flesh and my skin”), form a nominal hendiadys: the first functions adjectivally and the second retains its full nominal sense: “my mortal skin.”

11 tn Heb “he has built against me.” The verb בָּנָה (banah, “to build”) followed by the preposition עַל (’al, “against”) often refers to the action of building siege-works against a city, that is, to besiege a city (e.g., Deut 20:2; 2 Kgs 25:1; Eccl 9:14; Jer 52:4; Ezek 4:2; 17:17; 21:27). Normally, an explicit accusative direct object is used (e.g., מָצוֹד [matsor] or מָצוֹדִים [matsorim]); however, here, the expression is used absolutely without an explicit accusative [BDB 124 s.v. בָּנָה 1a.η]).

12 tn The verb נָקַף (naqaf, “to surround”) refers to the military action of an army surrounding a besieged city by placing army encampments all around the city, to prevent anyone in the city from escaping (2 Kgs 6:14; 11:8; Pss 17:9; 88:18; Job 19:6).

13 tn Heb “with bitterness and hardship.” The nouns רֹאשׁ וּתְלָאָה (rosh utÿlaah, lit. “bitterness and hardship”) function as adverbial accusatives of manner: “with bitterness and hardship.” The two nouns רֹאשׁ וּתְלָאָה (rosh utÿlaah, “bitterness and hardship”) form a nominal hendiadys: the second retains its full nominal sense, while the first functions adverbially: “bitter hardship.” The noun II רֹאשׁ (rosh, “bitterness”) should not be confused with the common homonymic root I רֹאשׁ (rosh, “head”). The noun תְּלָאָה (tÿlaah, “hardship”) is used elsewhere in reference to the distress of Israel in Egypt (Num 20:14), in the wilderness (Exod 18:8), and in exile (Neh 9:32).

14 tn The plural form of the noun מַחֲשַׁכִּים (makhashakkim, “darknesses”) is an example of the plural of intensity (see IBHS 122 §7.4.3a).

15 tn The verb גָּדַר (garad) has a two-fold range of meanings: (1) “to build up a wall” with stones, and (2) “to block a road” with a wall of stones. The imagery depicts the Lord building a wall to seal off personified Jerusalem with no way of escape out of the city, or the Lord blocking the road of escape. Siege imagery prevails in 3:4-6, but 3:7-9 pictures an unsuccessful escape that is thwarted due to blocked roads in 3:7 and 3:9.

16 tn Heb “he has made heavy my chains.”

17 tn Heb “I call and I cry out.” The verbs אֶזְעַק וַאֲשַׁוֵּעַ (’ezaq vaashavvea’, “I call and I cry out”) form a verbal hendiadys: the second retains its full verbal sense, while the first functions adverbially: “I cry out desperately.”

18 tn The verb שׁוע (“to cry out”) usually refers to calling out to God for help or deliverance from a lamentable plight (e.g., Job 30:20; 36:13; 38:41; Pss 5:3; 18:7, 42; 22:25; 28:2; 30:3; 31:23; 88:14; 119:147; Isa 58:9; Lam 3:8; Jon 2:3; Hab 1:2).

19 tn The verb שָׂתַם (satam) is a hapax legomenon (term that appears in the Hebrew scriptures only once) that means “to stop up” or “shut out.” It functions as an idiom here, meaning “he has shut his ears to my prayer” (BDB 979 s.v.).

20 tn The verb גָּדַר (garad) has a two-fold range of meanings: (1) “to build up a wall” with stones, and (2) “to block a road” with a wall of stones. The collocated terms דְּרָכַי (dÿrakhay, “my roads”) in 3:9 clearly indicate that the second category of meaning is in view.

21 tn Heb “my roads.”

22 tn Heb “he had made my paths crooked.” The implication is that the paths by which one might escape cannot be traversed.

23 tn Heb “he is to me [like] a bear lying in wait.”

24 tc The Kethib is written אַרְיֵה (’aryeh, “lion”), while the Qere is אֲרִי (’ari, “lion”), simply a short spelling of the same term (BDB 71 s.v. אַרְיֵה).

25 tn Heb “a lion in hiding places.”

26 tn Or “he made my paths deviate.”

27 tn “Since the Heb. וַיְפַשְּׁחֵנִי (vaypashÿkheni) occurs only here, and the translation relies on the Syriac and the Targum, it is not certain that the image of God as a predatory animal continues into this verse especially since [the beginning of the verse] is also of uncertain meaning” (D. R. Hillers, Lamentations [AB], 54).

28 tn Heb “bent.”

29 tn Heb “and set me as the target.”

30 tn The Hiphil stem of בוֹא (bo’, lit., “cause to come in”) here means “to shoot” arrows.

31 tn Heb “sons of his quiver.” This idiom refers to arrows (BDB 121 s.v. בֵּן 6). The term “son” (בֵּן, ben) is often used idiomatically with a following genitive, e.g., “son of flame” = sparks (Job 5:7), “son of a constellation” = stars (Job 38:22), “son of a bow” = arrows (Job 41:2), “son of a quiver” = arrows (Lam 3:13), “son of threshing-floor” = corn (Isa 21:10).

32 tn Heb “my kidneys.” In Hebrew anthropology, the kidneys are often portrayed as the most sensitive and vital part of man. Poetic texts sometimes portray a person fatally wounded, being shot by the Lord’s arrows in the kidneys (Job 16:13; here in Lam 3:13). The equivalent English idiomatic counterpart is the heart, which is employed in the present translation.

33 tc The MT reads עַמִּי (’ammi, “my people”). Many medieval Hebrew mss read עַמִּים (’ammim, “peoples”), as reflected also in Syriac Peshitta. The internal evidence (contextual congruence) favors the variant עַמִּים (’ammim, “peoples”).

34 tn The noun נְגִינָה (nÿginah) is a musical term: (1) “music” played on strings (Isa 38:20; Lam 5:14), (2) a technical musical term (Pss 4:1; 6:1; 54:1; 55:1; 67:1; 76:1; Hab 3:19) and (3) “mocking song” (Pss 69:13; 77:7; Job 30:9; Lam 3:14). The parallelism with שׂחוֹק “laughingstock” indicates that the latter category of meaning is in view.

35 tn Heb “all of the day.” The idiom כָּל־הַיּוֹם (kol-hayyom, “all day”) means “continually” (Gen 6:5; Deut 28:32; 33:12; Pss 25:5; 32:3; 35:28; 37:26; 38:7, 13; 42:4, 11; 44:9, 16, 23; 52:3; 56:2, 3, 6; 71:8, 15, 24; 72:15; 73:14; 74:22; 86:3; 88:18; 89:17; 102:9; 119:97; Prov 21:26; 23:17; Isa 28:24; 51:13; 52:5; 65:2, 5; Jer 20:7, 8; Lam 1:13; 3:3, 62; Hos 12:2).

36 tn Heb “wormwood” or “bitterness” (BDB 542 s.v. לַעֲנָה; HALOT 533 s.v. לַעֲנָה).

37 tn Heb “crushed.”

38 tn The Hiphil stem of כָּפַשׁ (kafash) means “to tread down” or “make someone cower.” It is rendered variously: “trampled me in the dust” (NIV), “covered me with ashes” (KJV, NKJV), “ground me into the dust” (NJPS), “made me cower in ashes” (RSV, NRSV), “rubbed my face in the ground” (TEV) and “rubbed me in the dirt” (CEV).

39 tn Heb “my soul.” The term נַפְשִׁי (nafshi, “my soul”) is used as a synecdoche of part (= my soul) for the whole person (= I ).

40 tc The MT reads וַתִּזְנַח (vattiznakh), vav (ו) consecutive + Qal preterite 3rd person feminine singular from זָנַח (zanakh, “to reject”), resulting in the awkward phrase “my soul rejected from peace.” The LXX καὶ ἀπώσατο (kai apwsato) reflects a Vorlage of וַיִּזְנַח (vayyiznakh), vav (ו) consecutive + Qal preterite 3rd person masculine singular from זָנַח (zanakh): “He deprives my soul of peace.” Latin Vulgate repulsa est reflects a Vorlage of וַתִּזָּנַח (vattizzanakh), vav (ו) consecutive + Niphal preterite 3rd person feminine singular from זָנַח (zanakh): “My soul is excluded from peace.” The MT best explains the origin of the LXX and Vulgate readings. The מ (mem) beginning the next word may have been an enclitic on the verb rather than a preposition on the noun. This would be the only Qal occurrence of זָנַח (zanakh) used with the preposition מִן (min). Placing the מ (mem) on the noun would have created the confusion leading to the changes made by the LXX and Vulgate. HALOT 276 s.v. II זנח attempts to deal with the problem lexically by positing a meaning “to exclude from” for זָנַח (zanakh) plus מִן (min), but also allows that the Niphal may be the correct reading.

41 tn Heb “from peace.” H. Hummel suggests that שָׁלוֹם (shalom) is the object and the מ (mem) is not the preposition מִן (min), but an enclitic on the verb (“Enclitic Mem in Early Northwest Semitic, Especially in Hebrew” JBL 76 [1957]: 105). שָׁלוֹם (shalom) has a wide range of meaning. The connotation is that there is no peace within; the speaker is too troubled for any calm to take hold.

42 tn Heb “goodness.”

43 tn Heb “and my hope from the Lord.” The hope is for deliverance. The words, “I have lost all…” have been supplied in the translation in order to clarify the Hebrew idiom for the English reader.

44 tc The LXX records ἐμνήσθην (emnhsqhn, “I remembered”) which may reflect a first singular form זָכַרְתִּי (zakharti) whereas the MT preserves the form זְכָר (zÿkhor) which may be Qal imperative 2nd person masculine singular (“Remember!”) or infinitive construct (“To remember…”). A 2nd person masculine singular imperative would most likely address God. In the next verse נַפְשִׁי (nafshi, “my soul”) is the subject of זְכָר (zÿkhor). If נַפְשִׁי (nafshi) is also the subject here one would expect a 2fs Imperative זִכְרִי (zikhri) a form that stands in the middle of the MT’s זְכָר (zÿkhor) and the presumed זָכַרְתִּי (zakharti) read by the LXX. English versions are split between the options: “To recall” (NJPS), “Remember!” (RSV, NRSV, NASB), “Remembering” (KJV, NKJV), “I remember” (NIV).

tn The basic meaning of זָכַר (zakhar) is “to remember, call to mind” (HALOT 270 s.v. I זכר). Although it is often used in reference to recollection of past events, it can also describe consideration of present situations: “to consider, think about” something present (BDB 270 s.v. 5).

45 tn The two nouns עָנְיִי וּמְרוּדִי (’onyi umÿrudi, lit., “my poverty and my homelessness”) form a nominal hendiadys in which one noun functions adjectivally and the other retains its full nominal sense: “my impoverished homelessness” or “homeless poor” (GKC 397-98 §124.e). The nearly identical phrase is used in Lam 1:7 and Isa 58:7 (see GKC 226 §83.c), suggesting this was a Hebrew idiom. Jerusalem’s inhabitants were impoverished and homeless.

46 tn Heb “wormwood and gall.” The two nouns joined by ו (vav), לַעֲנָה וָרֹאשׁ (laana varosh, “wormwood and bitterness”) form a nominal hendiadys. The first retains its full verbal sense and the second functions adjectivally: “bitter poison.”

47 tc The MT reads נַפְשִׁי (nafshi, “my soul”); however, the Masoretic scribes preserve an alternate textual tradition, marked by the Tiqqune Sopherim (“corrections by the scribes”) of נַפְשֶׁךָ (nafshekha, “your soul”).

tn Heb “my soul.” The term נַפְשִׁי (nafshi, “my soul”) is used as a synecdoche of part (= my soul) for the whole person (= I ). The verb תִּזְכּוֹר (tizkor) is Qal imperfect 3rd person feminine singular and the subject is נַפְשִׁי (nafshi, “my soul”), though the term does not appear until the end of the verse functioning as the subject of both verbs. Due to the synecdoche, the line is translated as though the verb were 1st person common singular.

48 tn The infinitive absolute followed by an imperfect of the same root is an emphatic rhetorical statement: זָכוֹר תִּזְכּוֹר (zakhor tizkor, “continually think”). Although the basic meaning of זָכַר (zakhar) is “to remember, call to mind” (HALOT 270 I זכר), here it refers to consideration of a present situation: “to consider, think about” something present (BDB 270 s.v. זָכַר 5). The referent of the 3rd person feminine singular form of תִּזְכּוֹר (tizkor) is the feminine singular noun נַפְשִׁי (nafshi, “my soul”).

49 tc The MT reads נַפְשִׁי (nafshi, “my soul”); however, the Masoretic scribes preserve an alternate textual tradition, included in some lists of the Tiqqune Sopherim (“corrections by the scribes”) of נַפְשֶׁךָ (nafshekha, “your soul”).

tn Heb “my soul…” or “your soul…” The term נַפְשִׁי (nafshi, “my soul”) is used as a synecdoche of part (= my soul) for the whole person (= I ). Likewise, נַפְשֶׁךָ (nafshekha, “your soul”) is also a synecdoche of part (= your soul) for the whole person (= you).

50 tc The MT preserves the Kethib וְתָשִׁיחַ (vÿtashiakh), Qal imperfect 3rd person feminine singular from II שׁוּחַ (shuakh) + vav (ו) consecutive, while the Qere reads וְתָשׁוֹחַ (vÿtashoakh), Hiphil imperfect 3rd person feminine singular from II שׁוּחַ (shuakh) + vav (ו) consecutive. According to D. R. Hillers (Lamentations [AB], 56), the Kethib implies a Hiphil of שׁוּחַ (shuakh) which is unclear due to a lack of parallels, and reads the Qere as from the root שָׁחַח (shakhakh) which has close parallels in Ps 42:6, 7, 11; 43:5. The conjectured meaning for שׁוּחַ (shuakh) in BDB 1005 s.v שׁוּחַ is that of שָׁחַח (shakhakh). HALOT 1438-39 s.v. שׁוח reads the root as שָׁחַח (shakhakh) but the form as Qal.

tn Heb “and my soul sinks down within me.” The verb II שׁוּחַ (shuakh, “to sink down”) is used here in a figurative sense, meaning “to be depressed.”



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