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Lamentations 4:7-9

Context

ז (Zayin)

4:7 Her consecrated ones 1  were brighter than snow,

whiter than milk;

their bodies more ruddy than corals,

their hair 2  like lapis lazuli. 3 

ח (Khet)

4:8 Now their appearance 4  is darker than soot;

they are not recognized in the streets.

Their skin has shriveled on their bones;

it is dried up, like tree bark.

ט (Tet)

4:9 Those who died by the sword 5  are better off

than those who die of hunger, 6 

those who 7  waste away, 8 

struck down 9  from lack of 10  food. 11 

1 tn Heb “Nazirites” (so KJV). The Nazirites were consecrated under a vow to refrain from wine, contact with the dead, and from cutting their hair. In Gen 49:26 and Deut 33:16 Joseph, who was not a Nazirite, is called the “Nazir” of his brothers. From context, many translate this as “prince” (e.g., NAB, NIV, NRSV, NLT), though the nuance is uncertain. If it is valid, then princes might be understood in this context as well.

2 tn The noun גִּזְרָה (gizrah) is used primarily in Ezekiel 41-42 (seven of its nine uses), where it refers to a separated area of the temple complex described in Ezekiel’s vision. It is not used of people other than here. Probably based on the reference to a precious stone BDB 160 s.v. 1 postulated that it refers to the cutting or polishing of precious stones, but this is conjecture. The English versions handle this variously. D. R. Hillers suggests beards, hair, or eyebrows based on other ancient Near Eastern comparisons between lapis lazuli and the body (Lamentations [AB], 81).

3 tn Heb “lapis lazuli.” Lapis lazuli is a dark blue semi-precious stone.

4 tn Heb “their outline” or “their form.” The Hebrew noun תֹּאַר (toar, “outline, form”) is related to the Phoenician noun תֹּאַר (toar, “something gazed at”), and Aramaic verb תָּאַר (taar, “to gaze at”). It is used in reference to the form of a woman (Gen 29:17; Deut 21:11; 1 Sam 25:3; Esth 2:7) and of a man (Gen 39:11; Judg 8:18; 1 Sam 16:18; 28:14; 1 Kgs 1:6; 1 Chr 17:17; Isa 52:14; 53:2). Here it is used in a metonymical sense: “appearance.”

5 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).

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

7 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”).

8 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.

9 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.

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

11 tn Heb “produce of the field.”



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