א (Alef) 1
now sits all alone! 5
The prominent 6 lady among the nations
has become a widow! 7
1:2 She weeps bitterly at night;
tears stream down her cheeks. 12
She has no one to comfort her
among all her lovers. 13
All her friends have betrayed her;
they have become her enemies.
She 17 lives among the nations;
she has found no resting place.
All who pursued her overtook her
her priests groan. 26
Her virgins grieve; 27
she is in bitter anguish! 28
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 tn Heb “her tears are on her cheek.”
13 tn Heb “lovers.” The term “lovers” is a figurative expression (hypocatastasis), comparing Jerusalem’s false gods and foreign political alliances to sexually immoral lovers. Hosea uses similar imagery (Hos 2:5, 7, 10, 13). It may also function as a double entendre, first evoking a disconcerting picture of a funeral where the widow has no loved ones present to comfort her. God also does not appear to be present to comfort Jerusalem and will later be called her enemy. The imagery in Lamentations frequently capitalizes on changing the reader’s expectations midstream.
14 tn Heb “Judah.” The term “Judah” is a synecdoche of nation (= Judah) for the inhabitants of the nation (= people).
15 tn There is a debate over the function of the preposition מִן (min): (1) temporal sense: “after” (HALOT 598 s.v. 2.c; BDB 581 s.v. 4.b) (e.g., Gen 4:3; 38:24; Josh 23:1; Judg 11:4; 14:8; Isa 24:22; Ezek 38:8; Hos 6:2) is adopted by one translation: “After affliction and harsh labor, Judah has gone into exile” (NIV). (2) causal sense: “because” (HALOT 598 s.v. 6; BDB 580 s.v. 2.f) (e.g., Isa 5:13) is adopted by many English versions: “Judah has gone into exile because of misery and harsh oppression/servitude” (cf. KJV, NKJV, RSV, NRSV, NJPS). (3) instrumentality: “by, through” (BDB 579 s.v. 2.e): “Judah has gone into exile under affliction, and under harsh servitude” (NASB). The issue here is whether this verse states that Judah went into exile after suffering a long period of trouble and toil, or that Judah went into exile because of the misery and affliction that the populace suffered under the hands of the Babylonians. For fuller treatment of this difficult syntactical problem, see D. R. Hillers, Lamentations (AB), 6-7.
16 tn Heb “great servitude.” The noun עֲבֹדָה (’avodah, “servitude”) refers to the enforced labor and suffering inflicted upon conquered peoples who are subjugated into slavery (Exod 1:14; 2:23; 5:9, 11; 6:9; Deut 26:6; 1 Kgs 12:4; 1 Chr 26:30; 2 Chr 10:4; 12:8; Isa 14:3; Lam 1:3).
17 tn The antecedent of “she” is “Judah,” which functions as a synecdoche of nation (= Judah) for the inhabitants of the nation (= people). Thus, “she” (= Judah) is tantamount to “they” (= former inhabitants of Judah).
18 tn The preposition בִּין (bin) is used in reference to a location: “between” (BDB 107 s.v. 1). The phrase בִּין הַמְּצָרִים (bin hammÿtsarim, “between the narrow places”) is unparalleled elsewhere in the Hebrew scriptures; however, this line is paraphrased in “The Thanksgiving Psalm” from Qumran (Hodayoth = 1QH v 29) which adds the phrase “so I could not get away.” Following the interpretation of this line at Qumran, it describes a futile attempt to flee from the enemies in narrow straits which thwarted a successful escape.
19 tn Heb “distresses.” The noun מֵצַר (metsar, “distress”) occurs only here and in Ps 118:5 (NIV, “anguish”). Here, the plural form מְצָרִים (mÿtsarim, lit., “distresses”) is an example of the plural of intensity: “intense distress.” The phrase בִּין הַמְּצָרִים (bin hammÿtsarim, “between the narrow places”) is unparalleled elsewhere in the Hebrew scriptures; however, this line is paraphrased in “The Thanksgiving Psalm” from Qumran (Hodayoth = 1QH v 29) which adds the phrase “so I could not get away.” Following the interpretation of this line at Qumran, it describes a futile attempt to flee from the enemies in narrow straits which thwarted a successful escape.
20 tn Heb “roads of Zion.” The noun צִיּוֹן (tsiyyon, Zion) is a genitive of direction (termination) following the construct noun, meaning “roads to Zion.”
sn The noun דַּרְכֵי (darkhe, “roads”) is normally masculine in gender, but here it is feminine (e.g., Exod 18:20) (BDB 202 s.v.) as indicated by the following feminine adjective אֲבֵּלּוֹת (’avelot, “mourning”). This rare feminine usage is probably due to the personification of Jerusalem as a bereaved woman throughout chap. 1.
21 tn The adjective אֲבֵּלּוֹת (’avelot, “mourning”) functions as a predicate of state.
sn The term אָבַּלּ (’aval, “mourn”) refers to the mourning rites for the dead or to those mourning the deceased (Gen 37:35; Job 29:25; Ps 35:14; Jer 16:7; Esth 6:12; Sir 7:34; 48:24). The prophets often use it figuratively to personify Jerusalem as a mourner, lamenting her deceased and exiled citizens (Isa 57:18; 61:2, 3) (BDB 5 s.v.; HALOT 7 s.v.).
22 tn Heb “from lack of.” The construction מִבְּלִי (mibbÿli) is composed of the preposition מִן (min) functioning in a causal sense (BDB 580 s.v. מִן 2.f) and the adverb of negation בְּלִי (bÿli) to denote the negative cause: “from want of” or “without” (HALOT 133 s.v. בְּלִי 4; BDB 115 s.v. בְּלִי 2.c) (Num 14:16; Deut 9:28; 28:55; Eccl 3:11; Isa 5:13; Jer 2:15; 9:11; Hos 4:6; Ezek 34:5).
23 tn Heb “those coming of feast.” The construct chain בָּאֵי מוֹעֵד (ba’e mo’ed) consists of (1) the substantival plural construct participle בָּאֵי (ba’e, “those who come”) and (2) the collective singular genitive of purpose מוֹעֵד (mo’ed, “for the feasts”).
24 tc The MT reads שְׁעָרֶיהָ (shÿ’areha, “her gates”). The BHS editors suggest revocalizing the text to the participle שֹׁעֲרֶיהָ (sho’areha, “her gate-keepers”) from שֹׁעֵר (sho’er, “porter”; BDB 1045 s.v. שֹׁעֵר). The revocalization creates tight parallelism: “her gate-keepers”//“her priests,” but ruins the chiasm: (A) her gate-keepers, (B) her priests, (B’) her virgins, (A’) the city itself.
26 tn Heb “groan” or “sigh.” The verb אָנַח (’anakh) is an expression of grief (Prov 29:2; Isa 24:7; Lam 1:4, 8; Ezek 9:4; 21:11). BDB 58 s.v. 1 suggests that it means “sigh” but HALOT 70-71 s.v. prefers “groan” here.
27 tc The MT reads נּוּגוֹת (nugot, “are grieved”), Niphal participle feminine plural from יָגָה (yagah, “to grieve”). The LXX ἀγόμεναι (agomenai) reflects נָהוּגוֹת (nahugot, “are led away”), Qal passive participle feminine plural from נָהַג (nahag, “to lead away into exile”), also reflected in Aquila and Symmachus. The MT reading is an unusual form (see translator’s note below) and best explains the origin of the LXX which is a more common root. It would be difficult to explain the origin of the MT reading if the LXX reflects the original. Therefore, the MT is probably the original reading.
tn Heb “are grieved” or “are worried.” The unusual form נּוּגוֹת (nugot) is probably best explained as Niphal feminine plural participle (with dissimilated nun [ן]) from יָגָה (yagah, “to grieve”). The similarly formed Niphal participle masculine plural construct נוּגֵי (nuge) appears in Zeph 3:18 (GKC 421 §130.a). The Niphal of יָגָה (yagah, “to grieve”) appears only twice, both in contexts of sorrow: “to grieve, sorrow” (Lam 1:4; Zeph 3:18).