Lamentations is assumed by tradition to have been authored by Jeremiah soon after the fall of Jerusalem and Judah. This chapter is, as are three others in this short book, an acrostic composition. That is, each consecutive verse in the chapter starts with the next letter in the Hebrew alphabet, beginning with aleph and ending with tav. Thus each of these chapters is 22 verses in length. Another chapter (Chapter 3) is 66 verses long and consists of a triple acrostic. Only Chapter 5 doesn’t follow this acrostic pattern, though, oddly enough, it also has 22 verses. There appears also to be no connection between the chapters. They are each a separate elegy about Jerusalem and Judah.
אֵיכָה יָשְׁבָה בָדָד הָעִיר רַבָּתִי עָם הָיְתָה כְּאַלְמָנָה רַבָּתִי בַגֹּויִם שָׂרָתִי בַּמְּדִינֹות הָיְתָה לָמַס׃ 1:1
Lame. 1:1 How isolated the city sits!
So full of people, it has become like a widow.
Great among nations!
Princess among the provinces!
It has been for tribute.
בָּכֹו תִבְכֶּה בַּלַּיְלָה וְדִמְעָתָהּ עַל לֶחֱיָהּ אֵין־לָהּ מְנַחֵם מִכָּל־אֹהֲבֶיהָ כָּל־רֵעֶיהָ בָּגְדוּ בָהּ הָיוּ לָהּ 1:2
Lame. 1:2 She must weep sorely at night,
as her tears are on her cheek.
There is no one to comfort her out of all her lovers.
All her friends deal treacherously with her;
they have become as enemies to her.
גָּלְתָה יְהוּדָה מֵעֹנִי וּמֵרֹב עֲבֹדָה הִיא יָשְׁבָה בַגּוֹיִם לֹא מָצְאָה מָנוֹחַ כָּל־רֹדְפֶיהָ הִשִּׂיגוּהָ בֵּין 1:3
Lame. 1:3 Judah has gone into an exile of affliction
and of much servitude.
She dwells among nations; she finds no rest.
All her pursuers overtook her amidst straits.
דַּרְכֵי צִיֹּון אֲבֵלֹות מִבְּלִי בָּאֵי מֹועֵד כָּל־שְׁעָרֶיהָ שֹׁומֵמִין כֹּהֲנֶיהָ נֶאֱנָחִים בְּתוּלֹתֶיהָ נּוּגֹות וְהִיא 1:4
Lame. 1:4 The roads of Zion are mourners,
without enterers of the appointed time.
All her gates are so desolate, her priests are moaning.
Her maidens are grieving, and she herself is bitter.
הָיוּ צָרֶיהָ לְרֹאשׁ אֹיְבֶיהָ שָׁלוּ כִּי־יְהוָה הוֹגָהּ עַל רֹב־פְּשָׁעֶיהָ עוֹלָלֶיהָ הָלְכוּ שְׁבִי לִפְנֵי־צָר׃ 1:5
Lame. 1:5 Her adversaries are established on top;
her enemies prosper.
For the Lord has caused her grief
over the magnitude of her transgressions.
Her children have departed captives before an adversary.
וַיֵּצֵא (מִן־בַת) [מִבַּת]־צִיֹּון כָּל־הֲדָרָהּ הָיוּ שָׂרֶיהָ כְּאַיָּלִים לֹא־מָצְאוּ מִרְעֶה וַיֵּלְכוּ בְלֹא־כֹחַ לִפְנֵי 1:6
Lame. 1:6 And all her splendor has gone from the daughter of Zion.
Her princes have become like deer; they find no pasture,
and move with no strength before a pursuer.
The two words in the parentheses constitute an odd error. Translated as from the daughter of, they are an example of this two-word phrase where normally a contraction is used, as shown in the brackets. Strictly speaking, the words are not an error, as they are grammatically correct, only an oddity.
זָכְרָה יְרוּשָׁלִַם יְמֵי עָנְיָהּ וּמְרוּדֶיהָ כֹּל מַחֲמֻדֶיהָ אֲשֶׁר הָיוּ מִימֵי קֶדֶם בִּנְפֹל עַמָּהּ בְּיַד־צָר וְאֵין 1:7
עוֹזֵר לָהּ רָאוּהָ צָרִים שָׂחֲקוּ עַל מִשְׁבַּתֶּהָ׃
Lame. 1:7 Jerusalem remembers the days of her affliction and wretchedness,
all her precious things that were from the days of old,
along with the falling of her people at the hand of the foe
and there was no helper for her.
Enemies see her; they mock at her extinction.
חֵטְא חָטְאָה יְרוּשָׁלִַם עַל־כֵּן לְנִידָה הָיָתָה כָּל־מְכַבְּדֶיהָ הִזִּילוּהָ כִּי־רָאוּ עֶרְוָתָהּ גַּם־הִיא נֶאֶנְחָה 1:8
Lame. 1:8 Jerusalem has sinned grievously;
therefore she has become an impure one;
all who had honored her despise her,
for they see her nakedness.
Indeed she groans as she turns backward.
טֻמְאָתָהּ בְּשׁוּלֶיהָ לֹא זָכְרָה אַחֲרִיתָהּ וַתֵּרֶד פְּלָאִים אֵין מְנַחֵם לָהּ רְאֵה יְהוָה אֶת־עָנְיִי כִּי הִגְדִּיל 1:9
Lame. 1:9 Her filthiness was on her skirts;
she was not mindful of her latter time,
so she went down extraordinarily.
There is no one comforting her.
“Behold, Lord, my affliction!”
But He magnified the enemy.
The author interjects what he imagines is the voice of Jerusalem in the next-to-last line of this verse.
יָדֹו פָּרַשׂ צָר עַל כָּל־מַחֲמַדֶּיהָ כִּי־רָאֲתָה גֹויִם בָּאוּ מִקְדָּשָׁהּ אֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתָה לֹא־יָבֹאוּ בַקָּהָל לָךְ׃ 1:10
Lame. 1:10 The enemy spread his hand over all her precious things
when she saw the heathen enter her sanctuary,
whom You commanded should not enter Your congregation.
כָּל־עַמָּהּ נֶאֱנָחִים מְבַקְּשִׁים לֶחֶם נָתְנוּ (מַחֲמֹודֵּיהֶם) [מַחֲמַדֵּיהֶם] בְּאֹכֶל לְהָשִׁיב נָפֶשׁ רְאֵה 1:11
יְהוָה וְהַבִּיטָה כִּי הָיִיתִי זֹולֵלָה׃
Lame. 1:11 All her people are groaning, seeking food.
They give their desirable items because of food to refresh the soul.
”See, Lord, and regard that I am squandered.”
The word in the parentheses constitutes another odd error. Again strictly speaking, the word is not incorrectly spelled. But it does not agree with the spelling of its root, which has no vav. As it turns out, this word appears only here and no where else in the bible. So let’s call this another oddity rather than an error, although the correction in the brackets can be considered a proper spelling as well.
לוֹא אֲלֵיכֶם כָּל־עֹבְרֵי דֶרֶךְ הַבִּיטוּ וּרְאוּ אִם־יֵשׁ מַכְאוֹב כְּמַכְאֹבִי אֲשֶׁר עוֹלַל לִי אֲשֶׁר הוֹגָה 1:12
יְהוָה בְּיוֹם חֲרוֹן אַפּוֹ׃
Lame. 1:12 “Not to you, all passers of the road!
Consider, and discern if there has been any pain like my pain
that was thrust upon me,
by which the Lord has caused grief
at the time of the burning of His ‘anger.’”
The general assumption is that the first line means “Let it not happen to you, ...” or “It is nothing to you, ....” And the latter is the translation that appears in most bibles. There’s a possibility that the phrase not to you refers back to the desirable things that were given away (in the preceding verse), but not to the passers of the road.
מִמָּרוֹם שָׁלַח־אֵשׁ בְּעַצְמֹתַי וַיִּרְדֶּנָּה פָּרַשׂ רֶשֶׁת לְרַגְלַי הֱשִׁיבַנִי אָחוֹר נְתָנַנִי שֹׁמֵמָה כָּל־הַיּוֹם דָּוָה׃ 1:13
Lame. 1:13 “From on high He sent fire into my bones,
and it prevailed over them.
He spread a net for my feet, turned me backward,
made me desolate, all the time faint.”
נִשְׂקַד עֹל פְּשָׁעַי בְּיָדוֹ יִשְׂתָּרְגוּ עָלוּ עַל־צַוָּארִי הִכְשִׁיל כֹּחִי נְתָנַנִי אֲדֹנָי בִּידֵי לֹא־אוּכַל קוּם׃ 1:14
Lame. 1:14 “The yoke of my transgressions is kept on by His “hand;”
they must be interwoven;
they come up upon my neck.
He made my strength feeble.
The Master delivered me by my own hand.
I cannot stand.”
Two observations on this verse. First, the Hebrew is a bit esoteric, especially the last seven words, translated by me as the last three lines of the English. Almost the entire verse, but especially these words, is mistranslated in every bible with which I am familiar, and they thereby miss an interesting implication. The mistranslations come about by adding at least three words not in the Hebrew and ignoring some of the grammar. A typical translation is "The yoke of my transgressions is bound; by His hand they are knit together. They have come upon my neck; He has made my strength fail. The Lord has given me into the hands of those against whom I am not able to stand.” What my translation shows and which they miss, is that the author recognizes that Judah is itself responsible for this awful situation. Judah cannot stand, not because the enemy is so strong. It can’t stand because of its own debilitating guilt feelings and remorse, and the Lord has enfeebled it. Second, the pronoun they in the second line of this verse must refer to the transgressions in the first line. The Lord has interwoven Jerusalem’s transgressions so they are a yoke about her neck. Thus she is constantly aware of her guilt.
סִלָּה כָל־אַבִּירַי אֲדֹנָי בְּקִרְבִּי קָרָא עָלַי מוֹעֵד לִשְׁבֹּר בַּחוּרָי גַּת דָּרַךְ אֲדֹנָי לִבְתוּלַת בַּת־יְהוּדָה׃ 1:15
Lame. 1:15 “The Master flouted all my valiant ones in my midst.
He proclaimed a meeting against me
to crush my young people.
The Master trod the winepress of the virgin daughter of Judah.”
עַל־אֵלֶּה אֲנִי בוֹכִיָּה עֵינִי עֵינִי יֹרְדָה מַּיִם כִּי־רָחַק מִמֶּנִּי מְנַחֵם מֵשִׁיב נַפְשִׁי הָיוּ בָנַי שׁוֹמֵמִים כִּי גָבַר 1:16
Lame. 1:16 “On behalf of them, I am weeping.
My eye, my eye! It drips water,
because the Comforter, the Refresher of my soul, is far from me.
My children were desolated when the enemy prevailed.”
פֵּרְשָׂה צִיּוֹן בְּיָדֶיהָ אֵין מְנַחֵם לָהּ צִוָּה יְהוָה לְיַעֲקֹב סְבִיבָיו צָרָיו הָיְתָה יְרוּשָׁלִַם לְנִדָּה בֵּינֵיהֶם׃ 1:17
Lame. 1:17 Zion stretches out with her hands;
her Comforter is not there.
The Lord ordained for Jacob his adversaries to be all around him;
among them Jerusalem was for an unclean thing.
צַדִּיק הוּא יְהוָה כִּי פִיהוּ מָרִיתִי שִׁמְעוּ־נָא כָל־(עַמִּים) [הָעַמִּים] וּרְאוּ מַכְאֹבִי בְּתוּלֹתַי וּבַחוּרַי 1:18
Lame. 1:18 “The righteous Lord He is,
for I disobeyed His word.
Listen, now, all peoples, and see my pain!
My maidens and my young men have gone into captivity.”
Yet another odd error! The word in the parentheses has an empty space before the letter ayin in the original manuscript, and the assumption is that the space suggests a missing letter, a heh. So that correction is in the brackets.
קָרָאתִי לַמְאַהֲבַי הֵמָּה רִמּוּנִי כֹּהֲנַי וּזְקֵנַי בָּעִיר גָּוָעוּ כִּי־בִקְשׁוּ אֹכֶל לָמֹו וְיָשִׁיבוּ אֶת־נַפְשָׁם׃ 1:19
Lame. 1:19 “I called to my lovers; they betrayed me.
My priests and my elders perished with the city
while they sought food for themselves
so they could refresh their soul.”
רְאֵה יְהוָה כִּי־צַר־לִי מֵעַי חֳמַרְמָרוּ נֶהְפַּךְ לִבִּי בְּקִרְבִּי כִּי מָרוֹ מָרִיתִי מִחוּץ שִׁכְּלָה־חֶרֶב בַּבַּיִת 1:20
Lame. 1:20 Reconsider, Lord, for such distress is mine.
My organs are in turmoil;
my heart that rebelled grievously turns within me.
Outside the sword made childless
as death was in the home.
שָׁמְעוּ כִּי נֶאֱנָחָה אָנִי אֵין מְנַחֵם לִי כָּל־אֹיְבַי שָׁמְעוּ רָעָתִי שָׂשׂוּ כִּי אַתָּה עָשִׂיתָ הֵבֵאתָ יוֹם־קָרָאתָ 1:21
Lame. 1:21 “They heard that I was groaning;
my Comforter was not there.
All my enemies heard of my misery; they rejoiced.
But You accomplish;
You bring the time You proclaimed,
and they will be like me.”
תָּבֹא כָל־רָעָתָם לְפָנֶיךָ וְעוֹלֵל לָמוֹ כַּאֲשֶׁר עוֹלַלְתָּ לִי עַל כָּל־פְּשָׁעָי כִּי־רַבּוֹת אַנְחֹתַי וְלִבִּי דַוָּי׃ 1:22
Lame. 1:22 “All their wickedness shall come before You.
Then act as severely to them
as You did to me for all my transgressions.
For my groans are many, and my heart is faint.”
From the last line of v. 1:12, all the following verses except for v. 1:20 are the author’s imagined anguished plaintive cries of Jerusalem.
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