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Lamentations 1:9-11

Context

ט (Tet)

1:9 Her menstrual flow 1  has soiled 2  her clothing; 3 

she did not consider 4  the consequences of her sin. 5 

Her demise 6  was astonishing, 7 

and there was no one to comfort her.

She cried, “Look, 8  O Lord, on my 9  affliction

because my 10  enemy boasts!”

י (Yod)

1:10 An enemy grabbed 11 

all her valuables. 12 

Indeed she watched in horror 13  as Gentiles 14 

invaded her holy temple 15 

those whom you 16  had commanded:

“They must not enter 17  your assembly place.” 18 

כ (Kaf)

1:11 All her people groaned

as they searched for a morsel of bread. 19 

They exchanged 20  their valuables 21 

for 22  just enough food

to stay alive. 23 

Jerusalem Speaks:

“Look, O Lord! Consider 24 

that I have become worthless!”

1 tn Heb “uncleanness.” The noun טֻמְאָה (tumah, “uncleanness”) refers in general to the state of ritual uncleanness and specifically to (1) sexual uncleanness (Num 5:19); (2) filthy mass (Ezek 24:11; 2 Chr 29:16); (3) ritual uncleanness (Lev 16:16, 19; Ezek 22:15; 24:13; 36:25, 29; 39:24; Zech 13:2); (4) menstrual uncleanness (Lev 15:25, 26, 30; 18:19; Ezek 36:17); (5) polluted meat (Judg 13:7, 14). Here, Jerusalem is personified as a woman whose menstrual uncleanness has soiled even her own clothes; this is a picture of the consequences of the sin of Jerusalem: uncleanness = her sin, and soiling her own clothes = consequences of sin. The poet may also be mixing metaphors allowing various images (of shame) to circulate in the hearer’s mind, including rape and public exposure. By not again mentioning sin directly (a topic relatively infrequent in this book), the poet lays a general acknowledgment of sin in 1:8 alongside an exceptionally vivid picture of the horrific circumstances which have come to be. It is no simplistic explanation that sin merits such inhumane treatment. Instead 1:9 insists that no matter the legal implications of being guilty, the Lord should be motivated to aid Jerusalem (and therefore her people) because her obscene reality is so revolting.

2 tn Heb “her uncleanness is in her skirts.”

3 tn Heb “her skirts.” This term is a synecdoche of specific (skirts) for general (clothing).

4 tn The basic meaning of זָכַר (zakhar) is “to remember, call to mind” (HALOT 270 s.v. I זכר). Although it is often used in reference to recollection of past events or consideration of present situations, it also may mean “to consider, think about” the future outcome of conduct (e.g., Isa 47:7) (BDB 270 s.v. 5). The same term is used is 7a.

5 tn Heb “she did not consider her end.” The noun אַחֲרִית (’akharit, “end”) here refers to an outcome or the consequences of an action; in light of 1:8 here it is the consequence of sin or immoral behavior (Num 23:10; 24:20; Deut 32:20, 29; Job 8:7; Pss 37:37; 73:17; Prov 14:12; 23:32; 25:8; Eccl 7:8; Isa 46:10; 47:7; Jer 5:31; 17:11; Dan 12:8).

6 tc The MT reads וַתֵּרֶד (vattered) vav (ו) consecutive + Qal preterite 3rd person feminine singular from יָרַד (yarad, “to go down”). Symmachus καὶ κατήχθη (kai kathcqh, “and she was brought down”) and Vulgate deposita est use passive forms which might reflect וַתּוּרַד (vatturad, vav consecutive + Pual preterite 3rd person feminine singular from from יָרַד [yarad, “to go down”]). External evidence favors the MT (supported by all other ancient versions and medieval Hebrew mss); none of the other ancient versions preserve/reflect a passive form. Symmachus is known to have departed from a wooden literal translation (characteristic of Aquila) in favor of smooth and elegant Greek style. The second edition of the Latin Vulgate drew on Symmachus; thus, it is not an independent witness to the passive reading, but merely a secondary witness reflecting Symmachus. The MT is undoubtedly the original reading.

tn Heb “and she came down in an astonishing way” or “and she was brought down in an astonishing way.”

7 tn The noun פֶּלֶא (pele’) means not only “miracle, wonder” (BDB 810 s.v.) but “something unusual, astonishing” (HALOT 928 s.v.). The plural פְּלָאִים (pÿlaim, lit., “astonishments”) is an example of the plural of intensity: “very astonishing.” The noun functions as an adverbial accusative of manner; the nature of her descent shocks and astounds. Rendering פְּלָאִים וַתֵּרֶד (vattered pÿlaim) as “she has come down marvelously” (cf. BDB 810 s.v. 1 and KJV, ASV) is hardly appropriate; it is better to nuance it “in an astonishing way” (HALOT 928 s.v. 3) or simply “was astonishing.”

8 tn The words “she cried” do not appear in the Hebrew. They are added to indicate that personified Jerusalem is speaking.

9 tc The MT reads עָנְיִי (’onyi, “my affliction”) as reflected in all the ancient versions (LXX, Aramaic Targum, Latin Vulgate, Syriac Peshitta) and the medieval Hebrew mss. The Bohairic version and Ambrosius, however, read “her affliction,” which led the BHS editors to suggest a Vorlage of עָנְיָהּ (’onyah, “her affliction”). External evidence strongly favors the MT reading. The 3rd person feminine singular textual variant probably arose out of an attempt to harmonize this form with all the other 3rd person feminine singular forms in 1:1-11a. The MT is undoubtedly the original reading.

10 tn Heb “an enemy.” While it is understood that the enemy is Jerusalem’s, not using the pronoun in Hebrew leaves room to imply to God that the enemy is not only Jerusalem’s but also God’s.

11 tn Heb “stretched out his hand.” The war imagery is of seizure of property; the anthropomorphic element pictures rape. This is an idiom that describes greedy actions (BDB 831 s.v. פָרַשׂ), meaning “to seize” (HALOT 976 s.v. 2).

12 tc The Kethib is written מַחֲמוֹדֵּיהֶם (makhamodehem, “her desired things”); the Qere and many medieval Hebrew mss read מַחֲמַדֵּיהֶם (makhamaddehem, “her desirable things”). The Qere reading should be adopted.

tn Heb “all her desirable things.” The noun מַחְמָד (makhmad, “desirable thing”) refers to valuable possessions, such as gold and silver which people desire (e.g., Ezra 8:27). This probably refers, not to the valuable possessions of Jerusalem in general, but to the sacred objects in the temple in particular, as suggested by the rest of the verse. For the anthropomorphic image compare Song 5:16.

13 tn Heb “she watched” or “she saw.” The verb רָאָה (raah, “to see”) has a broad range of meanings, including “to see” a spectacle causing grief (Gen 21:16; 44:34; Num 11:15; 2 Kgs 22:20; 2 Chr 34:28; Esth 8:6) or abhorrence (Isa 66:24). The words “in horror” are added to “she watched” to bring out this nuance.

14 sn The syntax of the sentence is interrupted by the insertion of the following sentence, “they invaded…,” then continued with “whom…” The disruption of the syntax is a structural device intended to help convey the shock of the situation.

15 tn Heb “her sanctuary.” The term מִקְדָּשָׁהּ (miqdashah, “her sanctuary”) refers to the temple. Anthropomorphically, translating as “her sacred place” would also allow for the rape imagery.

16 sn Lam 1-2 has two speaking voices: a third person voice reporting the horrific reality of Jerusalem’s suffering and Jerusalem’s voice. See W. F. Lanahan, “The Speaking Voice in the Book of Lamentations” JBL 93 (1974): 41-49. The reporting voice has been addressing the listener, referring to the Lord in the third person. Here he switches to a second person address to God, also changing the wording of the following command to second person. The revulsion of the Reporter is so great that he is moved to address God directly.

17 tn Heb “enter.” The Hebrew term בּוֹא (bo’) is also a sexual metaphor.

18 tn The noun קָהָל (qahal, “assembly”) does not refer here to the collective group of people assembled to worship the Lord, but to the place of their assembly: the temple. This is an example of a synecdoche of the people contained (= assembly) for the container (= temple). The intent is to make the violation feel more personal than someone walking into a building.

sn This is a quotation from Deut 23:3, “No Ammonite or Moabite or any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, even down to the tenth generation.” Jeremiah applies this prohibition against Ammonites and Moabites to the Babylonians who ransacked and destroyed the temple in 587/586 b.c. This hermeneutical move may be explained on the basis of synecdoche of species (= Ammonites and Moabites) for general (= unconverted Gentiles as a whole). On a different note, the prohibition forbidding Ammonites and Moabites from entering the “assembly” (קָהָל, qahal, Deut 23:2-8) did not disallow Gentile proselytes from converting to Yahwism or from living within the community (= assembled body) of Israel. For example, Ruth the Moabitess abandoned the worship of Moabite gods and embraced Yahweh, then was welcomed into the community of Bethlehem in Judah (Ruth 1:15-22) and even incorporated into the lineage leading to King David (Ruth 4:18-22). This Deuteronomic law did not disallow such genuine conversions of repentant faith toward Yahweh, nor their incorporation into the life of the Israelite community. Nor did it discourage Gentiles from offering sacrifices to the Lord (Num 15:15-16). Rather, it prohibited Gentiles from entering into the tabernacle/temple (= place of assembly) of Israel. This is clear from the reaction of the post-exilic community when it realized that Deut 23:3-5 had been violated by Tobiah the Ammonite who had been given living quarters in the temple precincts (Neh 13:1-9). This is also reflected in the days of the Second Temple when Gentile proselytes were allowed to enter the “court of the Gentiles” in Herod’s temple, but were forbidden further access into the inner temple precincts.

19 tn Heb “bread.” In light of its parallelism with אֹכֶל (’okhel, “food”) in the following line, it is possible that לֶחֶם (lekhem, “bread”) is used in its broader sense of food or nourishment.

20 tn Heb “they sell.”

21 tn Heb “their desirable things.” The noun מַחְמָד (makhmad, “desirable thing”) refers to valuable possessions, such as gold and silver which people desire (e.g., Ezra 8:27).

22 tn The preposition ב (bet) denotes the purchase price paid for an object (BDB 90 s.v. בְּ III.3; HALOT 105 s.v. בְּ 17) (e.g., Gen 23:9; 29:18, 20; 30:16; Lev 25:37; Deut 21:14; 2 Sam 24:24).

23 tn The noun נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh) functions as a metonymy (= soul) of association (= life) (e.g., Gen 44:30; Exod 21:23; 2 Sam 14:7; Jon 1:14). When used with נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh), the Hiphil הָשִׁיב (hashiv) of שׁוּב (shuv, “to turn, return”) may mean “to restore a person’s vitality,” that is, to keep a person alive (Lam 1:14, 19).

24 sn The dagesh lene in כּי (ki) following the vowel ending the verb וְהַבִּיטָה (vÿhabbitah, “consider”) indicates a dramatic pause between calling for the Lord’s attention and stating the allegation to be seen and considered.



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