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Lamentations 3:27-30

Context

3:27 It is good for a man 1 

to bear 2  the yoke 3  while he is young. 4 

י (Yod)

3:28 Let a person 5  sit alone in silence,

when the Lord 6  is disciplining him. 7 

3:29 Let him bury his face in the dust; 8 

perhaps there is hope.

3:30 Let him offer his cheek to the one who hits him; 9 

let him have his fill of insults.

1 tn See note at 3:1 on the Hebrew term for “man” here.

2 tn Heb “that he bear.”

3 sn Jeremiah is referring to the painful humiliation of subjugation to the Babylonians, particularly to the exile of the populace of Jerusalem. The Babylonians and Assyrians frequently used the phrase “bear the yoke” as a metaphor: their subjects were made as subservient to them as yoked oxen were to their masters. Because the Babylonian exile would last for seventy years, only those who were in their youth when Jerusalem fell would have any hope of living until the return of the remnant. For the middle-aged and elderly, the yoke of exile would be insufferable; but those who bore this “yoke” in their youth would have hope.

4 tn Heb “in his youth.” The preposition ב (bet) functions in a temporal sense: “when.”

5 tn Heb “him.” The speaking voice in this chapter continues to be that of the גֶּבֶר (gever, “man”). The image of female Jerusalem in chs. 1-2 was fluid, being able to refer to the city or its inhabitants, both female and male. So too the “defeated soldier” or “everyman” (see note at 3:1 on “man”) is fluid and can represent any member of the Jewish community, male and female. This line especially has a proverbial character which can be extended to any person, hence the translation. But masculine pronouns are otherwise maintained reflecting the Hebrew grammatical system and the speaking voice of the poem.

6 tn Heb “he”; the referent (the Lord) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

7 tn Heb “has laid it on him.” The verb נָטַל (natal) is used 4 times in Biblical Hebrew; the related noun refers to heaviness or a burden. The entry of BDB 642 s.v. is outdated while HALOT 694 s.v. נטל is acceptable for the Qal. See D. R. Hillers, Lamentations (AB), 57. Hillers’ suggestion of a stative meaning for the Qal is followed here, though based on 2 Sam 24:12 “impose” is also possible.

8 tn Heb “Let him put his mouth in the dust.”

9 tn Heb “to the smiter.”



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