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Lamentations 4:3-6

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 

ה (He)

4:5 Those who once feasted on delicacies 7 

are now starving to death 8  in the streets.

Those who grew up 9  wearing expensive clothes 10 

are now dying 11  amid garbage. 12 

ו (Vav)

4:6 The punishment 13  of my people 14 

exceeded that of 15  of Sodom,

which was overthrown in a moment

with no one to help her. 16 

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 “eaters of delicacies.” An alternate English gloss would be “connoisseurs of fine foods.”

8 tn Heb “are desolate.”

9 tn Heb “were reared.”

10 tn Heb “in purple.” The term תוֹלָע (tola’, “purple”) is a figurative description of expensive clothing: it is a metonymy of association: the color of the dyed clothes (= purple) stands for the clothes themselves.

11 tn Heb “embrace garbage.” One may also translate “rummage through” (cf. NCV “pick through trash piles”; TEV “pawing through refuse”; NLT “search the garbage pits.”

12 tn The Hebrew word אַשְׁפַּתּוֹת (’ashpatot) can also mean “ash heaps.” Though not used as a combination elsewhere, to “embrace ash heaps” might also envision a state of mourning or even dead bodies lying on the ash heaps.

13 tn The noun עֲוֹן (’avon) has a basic two-fold range of meanings: (1) basic meaning: “iniquity, sin” and (2) metonymical cause for effect meaning: “punishment for iniquity.”

14 tn Heb “the daughter of my people.”

15 tn Heb “the sin of.” The noun חַטָּאת (khattat) often means “sin, rebellion,” but here it probably functions in a metonymical (cause for effect) sense: “punishment for sin” (e.g., Zech 14:19). The context focuses on the severity of the punishment of Jerusalem rather than the depths of its degradation and depravity that led to the judgment.

16 tn Heb “without a hand turned.” The preposition ב (bet) after the verb חוּל (khul) in Hos 11:6 is adversative “the sword will turn against [Assyria’s] cities.” Other contexts with חוּל (khul) plus ב (bet) are not comparable (ב [bet] often being locative). However, it is not certain that hands must be adversarial as the sword clearly is in Hos 11:6. The present translation pictures the suddenness of Sodom’s overthrow as an easier fate than the protracted military campaign and subsequent exile and poverty of Judah’s survivor’s.



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