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Lamentations 5:19-22


5:19 But you, O Lord, reign forever;

your throne endures from generation to generation.

5:20 Why do you keep on forgetting 1  us?

Why do you forsake us so long?

5:21 Bring us back to yourself, O Lord, so that we may return 2  to you;

renew our life 3  as in days before, 4 

5:22 unless 5  you have utterly rejected us 6 

and are angry with us beyond measure. 7 

1 tn The Hebrew verb “forget” often means “to not pay attention to, ignore,” just as the Hebrew “remember” often means “to consider, attend to.”

sn The verbs “to forget” and “to remember” are often used figuratively in scripture when God is the subject, particularly in contexts of judgment (God forgets his people) and restoration of blessing (God remembers his people). In this case, the verb “to forget” functions as a hypocatastasis (implied comparison), drawing a comparison between God’s judgment and rejection of Jerusalem to a person forgetting that Jerusalem even exists. God’s judgment of Jerusalem was so intense and enduring that it seemed as though he had forgotten her. The synonymous parallelism makes this clear.

2 tc The Kethib is וְנָשׁוּב (vÿnashuv, “and we will return,” ו [vav] conjunction + Qal imperfect 1st person common plural from שׁוּב [shuv, “to return”]). The Qere is וְנָשׁוּבָה (vÿnashuvah, “and let us return,” ו [vav] conjunction + Qal cohortative 1st person common plural from שׁוּב [shuv, “to return”]).

tn The cohortative after a volitive indicates purpose (“so that”). There is a wordplay in Hebrew between “Bring us back” (Hiphil imperative of שׁוּב [shuv, “to return”]) and “let us return” (Qal imperfect of שׁוּב [shuv, “to return”]). This repetition of the root שׁוּב (shuv) is significant; it depicts a reciprocal relationship between God’s willingness to allow the nation to return to him on one hand and its national repentance on the other.

3 tn Heb “our days.” The term “days” is a synecdoche of time (= days) for what is experienced within that time span (= life) (e.g., Gen 5:4, 8, 11; 6:3; 9:29; 11:32; 25:7; 47:8, 9; Deut 22:19, 29; 23:7; Josh 24:31; Judg 2:7, 18; 2 Sam 19:35; Job 7:1, 16, 18; Pss 8:9; 39:5, 6; 90:9, 10, 12, 14; 103:15; Prov 31:12; Eccl 2:3; 5:17, 19; 6:3).

4 tn Heb “as of old.”

5 tn The compound conjunction כִּי אִם (kiim) functions to limit the preceding clause: “unless, or…” (e.g., Ruth 3:18; Isa 65:6; Amos 3:7) (BDB 474 s.v. 2.a): “Bring us back to yourself… unless you have utterly rejected us” (as in the present translation) or “Bring us back to yourself…Or have you utterly rejected us?” It is Jeremiah’s plea that the Lord be willing to relent of his anger and restore a repentant nation to himself; however, Jeremiah acknowledges that this wished-for restoration might not be possible if the Lord has become so angry with Jerusalem/Judah that he is determined to reject the nation once and for all. Then, Jerusalem/Judah’s restoration would be impossible.

6 tn Heb “Or have you utterly rejected us?” The construction מָאֹס מְאַסְתָּנוּ (maos mÿastanu), Qal infinitive absolute + Qal perfect 2nd person masculine singular from מָאַס (maas, “to reject”) is emphatic: the root מָאַס (maas) is repeated in these two verbal forms for emphasis.

7 tn Heb “Are you exceedingly angry with us?” The construction עַד־מְאֹד (’ad-mÿod) means “up to an abundance, to a great degree, exceedingly” (e.g., Gen 27:33, 34; 1 Sam 11:15; 25:36; 2 Sam 2:17; 1 Kgs 1:4; Pss 38:7, 9; 119:8, 43, 51, 107; Isa 64:9, 12; Lam 5:22; Dan 8:8; 11:25). Used in reference to God’s judgment, this phrase denotes total and irrevocable rejection by God and his refusal to forgive the sin and restore the people to a status under his grace and blessings, e.g., “Do not be angry beyond measure (עַד־מְאֹד, ’ad-mÿod), O Lord; do not remember our sins forever” (Isa 64:9) and “Will you keep silent and punish us beyond measure (עַד־מְאֹד, ’ad-mÿod)?” (Isa 64:12). The sentiment is expressed well in TEV, “Or have you rejected us forever? Is there no limit to your anger?” and CEV, “Or do you despise us so much that you don’t want us?”

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