א (Alef) 1
now sits all alone! 5
The prominent 6 lady among the nations
has become a widow! 7
they are fastened together by his hand.
he has sapped my strength. 15
to those whom I cannot resist.
He summoned an assembly 23 against me
to shatter my young men.
The Lord has stomped like grapes 24
the virgin daughter, Judah. 25
1 sn Chapters 1-4 are arranged in alphabetic-acrostic structures; the acrostic pattern does not appear in chapter 5. Each of the 22 verses in chapters 1, 2 and 4 begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet, while the acrostic appears in triplicate in the 66 verses in chapter 3. The acrostic pattern does not appear in chapter 5, but its influence is felt in that it has 22 verses, the same as the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet. For further study on Hebrew acrostics, see W. M. Soll, “Babylonian and Biblical Acrostics,” Bib 69 (1988): 305-23; D. N. Freedman, “Acrostic Poems in the Hebrew Bible: Alphabetic and Otherwise,” CBQ 48 (1986): 408-31; B. Johnson, “Form and Message in Lamentations,” ZAW 97 (1985): 58-73; K. C. Hanson, “Alphabetic Acrostics: A Form Critical Study,” Ph.D. diss., Claremont Graduate School, 1984; S. Bergler, “Threni V – Nur ein alphabetisierendes Lied? Versuch einer Deutung,” VT 27 (1977): 304-22; E. M. Schramm, “Poetic Patterning in Biblical Hebrew,” Michigan Oriental Studies in Honor of George S. Cameron, 175-78; D. N. Freedman, “Acrostics and Metrics in Hebrew Poetry,” HTR 65 (1972): 367-92; N. K. Gottwald, “The Acrostic Form,” Studies in the Book of Lamentations, 23-32; P. A. Munch, “Die alphabetische Akrostichie in der judischen Psalmendicthung,” ZDMG 90 (1936): 703-10; M. Löhr, “Alphabetische und alphabetisierende Lieder im AT,” ZAW 25 (1905): 173-98.
2 tc The LXX and Vulgate (dependent on the LXX) include a preface that is lacking in the MT: “And it came to pass after Israel had been taken captive and Jerusalem had been laid waste, Jeremiah sat weeping and lamented this lament over Jerusalem, and said….” Scholars generally view the preface in the LXX and Vulgate as a later addition, though the style is Hebrew rather than Greek.
3 tn The adverb אֵיכָה (’ekhah) is used as an exclamation of lament or desperation: “How!” (BDB 32 s.v.) or “Alas!” (HALOT 40 s.v. 1.e). It is often the first word in laments (Isa 1:21; Jer 48:17; Lam 1:1; 2:1; 4:1, 2). Like the less emphatic exclamation אֵיךְ (’ekh, “Alas!”) (2 Sam 1:19; Isa 14:4, 12; Ezek 26:17), it is used in contexts of lament and mourning.
sn The term אֵיכָה (’ekhah, “Alas!”) and counterpart אֵיךְ (’ekh, “Alas!”) are normally uttered in contexts of mourning as exclamations of lament over a deceased person (2 Sam 1:19; Isa 14:4, 12). The prophets borrow this term from its normal Sitz im Leben in the funeral lament and rhetorically place it in the context of announcements or descriptions of God’s judgment (Isa 1:21; Jer 48:17; Ezek 26:17; Lam 1:1; 2:1; 4:1, 2). This creates a personification of the city/nation which is either in danger of imminent “death” or already has “died” as a result of the
4 tn Heb “great of people.” The construct רַבָּתִי עָם (rabbati ’am, “great of people”) is an idiom for large population: “full of people, populous” (BDB 912-13 s.v. I רַב; HALOT 1172 s.v. 7.a). The hireq-campaginis ending on רַבָּתִי (rabbati), from the adjective רַב (rav, “great”), is a remnant of the old genitive-construct case (GKC 253 §90.l). By contrast to the first half of the line, it is understood that she was full of people formerly. רַבָּתִי עָם (rabbati ’am) may also be construed as a title.
sn Two thirds of Lamentations is comprised of enjambed lines rather than Hebrew poetry’s more frequent couplets of parallel phrasing. This serves a rhetorical effect not necessarily apparent if translated in the word order of English prose. Together with the alphabetic acrostic form, these pull the reader/hearer along through the various juxtaposed pictures of horror and grief. For further study on the import of these stylistic features to the function of Lamentations see F. W. Dobbs-Allsopp, Lamentations (IBC), 12-20; idem, “The Enjambing Line in Lamentations: A Taxonomy (Part 1),” ZAW 113/2 (2001): 219-39; idem, “The Effects of Enjambment in Lamentations,” ZAW 113/5 (2001): 1-16. However, for the sake of English style and clarity, the translation does not necessarily reflect the Hebrew style and word order.
5 tn The noun בָּדָד (badad, “isolation, alone”) functions as adverbial accusative of state. After verbs of dwelling, it pictures someone sitting apart, which may be linked to dwelling securely, especially of a city or people (Num 23:9; Deut 33:28; Jer 49:31; Ps 4:8 [HT 9]), or to isolation (Lev 13:46; Jer 15:17; 3:28). Applied to personified Jerusalem, it contrasts a possible connotation of dwelling securely, instead stating that Lady Jerusalem is abandoned and connoting that the city is deserted.
6 tn Heb “great.” The adjective רַב (rav, “great”) is used in reference to a position of prominence, leadership (Ps 48:3; Dan 11:3, 5) or strength (Isa 53:12; 63:1; 2 Chr 14:10) (BDB 913 s.v. 2.b; HALOT 1172 s.v. 6). The hireq-campaginis ending on רַבָּתִי (rabbati) from the adjective רַב (rav, “great”) is a remnant of the old genitive-construct case (GKC 253 §90.l). This adjective is the same word mentioned at the beginning of the verse in the phrase “full of people.” These may also be construed as epithets.
7 tn The kaf (כּ) prefixed to אַלְמָנָה (’almanah, “widow”) expresses identity (“has become a widow”) rather than comparison (“has become like a widow”) (see HALOT 453 s.v. 1; BDB 454 s.v. כְּ 1.d). The construction emphasizes the class of widowhood.
8 tn The noun שָׂרָתִי (sarati, “princess”) is in construct with the following noun. The hireq-campaginis ending on שָׂרָתִי (sarati) is a remnant of the old genitive-construct case (GKC 253 §90.l).
sn Judah was organized into administrative districts or provinces under the rule of provincial governors (שָׂרִים, sarim) (1 Kgs 20:14, 17, 19). The feminine term שָׂרָה (sarah, “princess, provincial governess”) is a wordplay alluding to this political background: personified Jerusalem had ruled over the Judean provinces.
9 tn Heb “princess among the provinces.” The noun מְדִינָה (mÿdinah) is an Aramaic loanword which refers to an administrative district or province in the empire (e.g., Ezek 19:8; Dan 8:2) (BDB 193 s.v. 2; HALOT 549 s.v.).
11 tn The noun מַס (mas) means “forced labor, corveé slave, conscripted worker.” It refers to a subjugated population, subject to forced labor and/or heavy taxes (Gen 49:15; Exod 1:11; Deut 20:11; Josh 16:10; 17:13; Judg 1:28, 30, 33, 35; 1 Kgs 5:28; 9:15, 21; 12:18; 2 Chr 10:18; Isa 31:8; Lam 1:1).
12 tc The consonantal text נשקד על פּשעי (nsqd ’l ps’y) is vocalized by the MT as נִשְׂקַד עֹל פְּשָׁעַי (nisqad ’ol pÿsha’ay, “my transgression is bound by a yoke”); but the ancient versions (LXX, Aramaic Targum, Latin Vulgate, Syriac Peshitta) and many medieval Hebrew
tn Heb “my transgressions are bound with a yoke.”
13 tc The MT reads עָלוּ (’alu, “they went up”), Qal perfect 3rd person common plural from עָלָה (’alah, “to go up”). However, several important recensions of the LXX reflect an alternate vocalization tradition: Lucian and Symmachus both reflect a Vorlage of עֻלּוֹ (’ullo, “his yoke”), the noun עֹל (’ol, “yoke”) + 3rd person masculine singular suffix. The Lucianic recension was aimed at bringing the LXX into closer conformity to the Hebrew; therefore, this is an important textual witness. Internal evidence favors the readings of Lucian and Symmachus as well: the entire stanza focuses on the repeated theme of the “yoke” of the
14 tn Heb “his yoke is upon my neck.”
15 tn Heb “he has caused my strength to stumble.” The phrase הִכְשִׁיל כֹּחִי (hikhshil kokhi, “He has made my strength stumble”) is an idiom that means “to weaken, make feeble.”
16 tc Here the MT reads אֲדֹנָי (’adonay, “the Lord”), the perpetual Qere reading for יהוה (YHWH, “Yahweh”), but a multitude of Hebrew
17 tn Heb “The
18 tn The verb סָלַה (salah) occurs only twice in OT; once in Qal (Ps 119:118) and once here in Piel. It is possibly a by-form of סָלַל (salal, “to heap up”). It may also be related to Aramaic סלא (sl’) meaning “to throw away” and Assyrian salu/shalu meaning “to hurl (away)” (AHw 1152) or “to kick up dust, shoot (arrows), reject, throw away?” (CAD 17:272). With people as its object shalu is used of people casting away their children, specifically meaning selling them on the market. The LXX translates סָלַה (salah) as ἐξῆρεν (exhren, “to remove, lead away”). Thus God is either (1) heaping them up (dead) in the city square, (2) putting them up for sale in the city square, or (3) leading them out of the city (into exile or to deprive it of defenders prior to attack). The English “round up” could accommodate any of these and is also a cattle term, which fits well with the use of the word “bulls” (see following note).
19 tn Heb “bulls.” Metaphorically, bulls may refer to mighty ones, leaders or warriors. F. W. Dobbs-Allsopp (Lamentations [IBC], 69) insightfully suggests that the Samek stanza presents an overarching dissonance by using terms associated with a celebratory feast (bulls, assembly, and a winepress) in sentences where God is abusing the normally expected celebrants, i.e. the “leaders” are the sacrifice.
21 tn The verb is elided and understood from the preceding colon. Naming “my Lord” as the subject of the verb late, as it were, emphasizes the irony of the action taken by a person in this position.
22 tc The MT reads the preposition בּ (bet, “in”) prefixed to קִרְבִּי (qirbi, “my midst”): בְּקִרְבִּי (bÿkirbi, “in my midst”); however, the LXX reads ἐκ μέσου μου (ek mesou mou) which may reflect a Vorlage of the preposition מִן (min, “from”): מִקִּרְבִּי (miqqirbi, “from my midst”). The LXX may have chosen ἐκ to accommodate understanding סִלָּה (sillah) as ἐξῆρεν (exhren, “to remove, lead away”). The textual deviation may have been caused by an unusual orthographic confusion.
tn Or “out of my midst.” See the preceding tc note.
23 tn Heb “an assembly.” The noun מוֹעֵד (mo’ed, “assembly”) is normally used in reference to the annual religious festive assemblies of Israel (Ezek 45:17; Hos 9:5; Zeph 3:18; Zech 8:19), though a number of English versions take this “assembly” to refer to the invading army which attacks the city (e.g., NAB, NIV, TEV, NLT).
24 tn Heb “a winepress he has stomped.” The noun גַּת (gat, “winepress”) functions as an adverbial accusative of location: “in a winepress.” The translation reflects the synecdoche that is involved – one stomps the grapes that are in the winepress, not the winepress itself.
25 sn The expression the virgin daughter, Judah is used as an epithet, i.e. Virgin Judah or Maiden Judah, further reinforcing the feminine anthrpomorphism.