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Lamentations 4:17-20

Context
The People of Jerusalem Lament:

ע (Ayin)

4:17 Our eyes continually failed us

as we looked in vain for help. 1 

From our watchtowers we watched

for a nation that could not rescue us.

צ (Tsade)

4:18 Our enemies 2  hunted us down at every step 3 

so that we could not walk about in our streets.

Our end drew near, our days were numbered, 4 

for our end had come!

ק (Qof)

4:19 Those who pursued us were swifter

than eagles 5  in the sky. 6 

They chased us over the mountains;

they ambushed us in the wilderness.

ר (Resh)

4:20 Our very life breath – the Lord’s anointed king 7 

was caught in their traps, 8 

of whom we thought, 9 

“Under his protection 10  we will survive among the nations.”

1 tn Heb “Our eyes failed in vain for help.”

2 tn Heb “they”; this has been specified in the translation as “our enemies” for clarity.

3 tn Heb “they hunted our steps.”

4 tn Heb “our days were full.”

5 tn The bird referred to here could be one of several species of eagles, but more likely is the griffin-vulture (cf. NEB “vultures”). However, because eagles are more commonly associated with swiftness than vultures in contemporary English, “eagles” was used in the translation.

6 tn Or “in the heavens.” The Hebrew term שָׁמַיִם (shamayim) may be translated “heaven(s)” or “sky” depending on the context.

7 tn Heb “the anointed one of the Lord.” The term “king” is added in the translation to clarify the referent of the phrase “the Lord’s anointed.”

8 tn Heb “was captured in their pits.”

9 tn Heb “of whom we had said.”

10 tn Heb “under his shadow.” The term צֵל (tsel, “shadow”) is used figuratively here to refer the source of protection from military enemies. In the same way that the shade of a tree gives physical relief and protection from the heat of the sun (e.g., Judg 9:15; Job 40:22; Ps 80:11; Song 2:3; Ezek 17:23; 31:6, 12, 17; Hos 4:13; 14:8; Jon 4:5, 6), a faithful and powerful king can provide “shade” (= protection) from enemies and military attack (Num 14:19; Ps 91:1; Isa 30:2, 3; 49:2; 51:16; Jer 48:45; Lam 4:20).



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