pure gold loses value. 4
Jewels 5 are scattered
on every street corner. 6
4:2 The precious sons of Zion
were worth their weight in gold –
Alas! – but now they are treated like 7 broken clay pots,
made by a potter. 8
1 sn According to W. F. Lanahan (“The Speaking Voice in the Book of Lamentations” JBL 93 : 48), the persona or speaking voice in chap. 4 is a bourgeois, the common man. This voice is somewhat akin to the Reporter in chs 1-2 in that much of the description is in the third person. However, “the bourgeois has some sense of identity with his fellow-citizens” seen in the shift to the first person plural. The alphabetic acrostic structure reduces to two bicola per letter. The first letter of only the first line in each stanza spells the acrostic.
3 tn Heb “had grown dim.” The verb יוּעַם (yu’am), Hophal imperfect 3rd person masculine singular from עָמַם (’amam, “to conceal, darken”), literally means “to be dimmed” or “to be darkened.” Most English versions render this literally: the gold has “become dim” (KJV, NKJV), “grown dim” (RSV, NRSV), “is dulled” (NJPS), “grown dull” (TEV); however, but NIV has captured the sense well: “How the gold has lost its luster.”
4 tc The verb יִשְׁנֶא (yishne’, Qal imperfect 3rd person feminine singular) is typically taken to be the only Qal imperfect of I שָׁנָהּ (shanah). Such a spelling with א (aleph) instead of ה (he) is feasible. D. R. Hillers suggests the root שָׂנֵא (sane’, “to hate”): “Pure gold is hated”. This maintains the consonantal text and also makes sense in context. In either case the point is that gold no longer holds the same value, probably because there is nothing available to buy with it.
tn Heb “changes.” The imagery in this verse about gold is without parallel in the Bible and its precise nuance uncertain.
5 tn Heb “the stones of holiness/jewelry.” קֹדֶשׁ (qodesh) in most cases refers to holiness or sacredness. For the meaning “jewelry” see J. A. Emerton, “The Meaning of אַבְנֵי־קֹדֶשׁ in Lamentations 4:1” ZAW 79 (1967): 233-36.
6 tn Heb “at the head of every street.”
7 tn Heb “they are regarded as.”
8 tn Heb “the work of the hands of a potter.”