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Lamentations 4:13-15

Context

מ (Mem)

4:13 But it happened 1  due to the sins of her prophets 2 

and the iniquities of her priests,

who poured out in her midst

the blood of the righteous.

נ (Nun)

4:14 They 3  wander blindly 4  through the streets,

defiled by the blood they shed, 5 

while no one dares 6 

to touch their garments.

ס (Samek)

4:15 People cry to them, “Turn away! You are unclean!

Turn away! Turn away! Don’t touch us!”

So they have fled and wander about;

but the nations say, 7  “They may not stay here any longer.”

1 tn These words do not appear in the Hebrew, but are supplied to make sense of the line. The introductory causal preposition מִן (min) (“because”) indicates that this phrase – or something like it – is implied through elision.

2 tn There is no main verb in the verse; it is an extended prepositional phrase. One must either assume a verbal idea such as “But it happened due to…” or connect it to the following verses, which themselves are quite difficult. The former option was employed in the present translation.

3 tn “They” are apparently the people, rather than the prophets and priests mentioned in the preceding verse.

4 tc The Hebrew word עִוְרִים (’ivrim) appears to be an adjective based on the root I עִוֵּר (’ivver, “blind”). The LXX, using a rare perfect optative of ἐγείρω (egeirw), seems to have read a form of II עוּר (’ur, “to rise”), while the Syriac reads “her nobles,” possibly from reading שָׂרִים (sarim). The evidence is unclear.

5 tn Heb “defiled with blood.”

6 tn The translation is conjecture. The MT has the preposition ב (bet, “in,” “by,” “with,” “when,” etc.), the negative particle לֹא (lo’), then a finite verb from יָכַל (yakhal, Qal impfect 3rd person masculine plural): “in not they are able.” Normally יָכַל (yakhal) would be followed by an infinitive, identifying what someone is or is not able to do, or by some other modifying clause. לֹא יָכַל (loyakhal) on its own may mean “they do not prevail.” The preposition ב (bet) suggests possible dependence on another verb (cp. Jer 2:11, the only other verse with the sequence ב [bet] plus לֹא [lo’] plus finite verb). The following verb נָגַע (naga’, “touch”) regularly indicates its object with the preposition ב (bet), but the preposition ב (bet) is already used with “their garments.” If both are the object of נָגַע (naga’), the line would read “they touched what they could not, their garments.” As this makes no sense, one should note that any other verb on which the phrase would be dependent is not recoverable. The preposition ב (bet) can also introduce temporal clauses, though there are no examples with לֹא (lo’) plus a finite verb. A temporal understanding could yield “when they could not succeed, they touched [clutched?] their garments” or “while no one is able [to ?] they touch their garments.” In Jer 49:10 the meaning of יָכַל (yakhal) is completed by a finite verb (though it is not governed by the preposition ב [bet]). If so here, then we may understand “while (ב [bet]) no one dares (יָכַל, yakhal) to touch their garments.” This gives the picture of blind people stumbling about while others cannot help because they are afraid to touch them.

7 tn Heb “They say among the nations.”



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