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Lamentations 4:3-4

Context

ג (Gimel)

4:3 Even the jackals 1  nurse their young

at their breast, 2 

but my people 3  are cruel,

like ostriches 4  in the desert.

ד (Dalet)

4:4 The infant’s tongue sticks

to the roof of its mouth due to thirst;

little children beg for bread, 5 

but no one gives them even a morsel. 6 

Lamentations 4:9-10

Context

ט (Tet)

4:9 Those who died by the sword 7  are better off

than those who die of hunger, 8 

those who 9  waste away, 10 

struck down 11  from lack of 12  food. 13 

י (Yod)

4:10 The hands of tenderhearted women 14 

cooked their own children,

who became their food, 15 

when my people 16  were destroyed. 17 

1 tn The noun תַּנִּין (tannin) means “jackals.” The plural ending ־ִין (-in) is diminutive (GKC 242 §87.e) (e.g., Lam 1:4).

2 tn Heb “draw out the breast and suckle their young.”

3 tn Heb “the daughter of my people.”

4 tc The MT Kethib form כִּי עֵנִים (kienim) is by all accounts a textual corruption for כַּיְעֵנִים (kayenim, “like ostriches”) which is preserved in the Qere and the medieval Hebrew mss, and reflected in the LXX.

5 tn Heb “bread.” The term “bread” might function as a synecdoche of specific (= bread) for general (= food); however, the following parallel line does indeed focus on the act of breaking bread in two.

6 tn Heb “there is not a divider to them.” The term פָּרַשׂ (paras), Qal active participle ms from פָּרַס (paras, “to divide”) refers to the action of breaking bread in two before giving it to a person to eat (Isa 58:7; Jer 16:7; Lam 4:4). The form פָּרַשׂ (paras) is the alternate spelling of the more common פָּרַס (paras).

7 tn Heb “those pierced of the sword.” The genitive-construct denotes instrumentality: “those pierced by the sword” (חַלְלֵי־חֶרֶב, khalle-kherev). The noun חָלָל (khalal) refers to a “fatal wound” and is used substantivally to refer to “the slain” (Num 19:18; 31:8, 19; 1 Sam 17:52; 2 Sam 23:8, 18; 1 Chr 11:11, 20; Isa 22:2; 66:16; Jer 14:18; 25:33; 51:49; Lam 4:9; Ezek 6:7; 30:11; 31:17, 18; 32:20; Zeph 2:12).

8 tn Heb “those slain of hunger.” The genitive-construct denotes instrumentality: “those slain by hunger,” that is, those who are dying of hunger.

9 tn Heb “who…” The antecedent of the relative pronoun שֶׁהֵם (shehem, “who”) are those dying of hunger in the previous line: מֵחַלְלֵי רָעָב (mekhalle raav, “those slain of hunger”).

10 tn Heb “they flow away.” The verb זוּב (zuv, “to flow, gush”) is used figuratively here, meaning “to pine away” or “to waste away” from hunger. See also the next note.

11 tn Heb “pierced through and through.” The term מְדֻקָּרִים (mÿduqqarim), Pual participle masculine plural from דָּקַר (daqar, “to pierce”), is used figuratively. The verb דָּקַר (daqar, “to pierce”) usually refers to a fatal wound inflicted by a sword or spear (Num 25:8; Judg 9:54; 1 Sam 31:4; 1 Chr 10:4; Isa 13:15; Jer 37:10; 51:4; Zech 12:10; 13:3). Here, it describes people dying from hunger. This is an example of hypocatastasis: an implied comparison between warriors being fatally pierced by sword and spear and the piercing pangs of hunger and starvation. Alternatively “those who hemorrhage (זוּב [zuv, “flow, gush”]) [are better off] than those pierced by lack of food” in parallel to the structure of the first line.

12 tn The preposition מִן (min, “from”) denotes deprivation: “from lack of” something (BDB 580 s.v. 2.f; HALOT 598 s.v. 6).

13 tn Heb “produce of the field.”

14 tn Heb “the hands of compassionate women.”

15 tn Heb “eating.” The infinitive construct (from I בָּרָה, barah) is translated as a noun. Three passages employ the verb (2 Sam 3:35; 12:17; 13:5,6,10) for eating when ill or in mourning.

16 tn Heb “the daughter of my people.”

17 tn Heb “in the destruction of the daughter of my people.”



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