Lamentations 4

 

אֵיכָה יוּעַם זָהָב יִשְׁנֶא הַכֶּתֶם הַטֹּוב תִּשְׁתַּפֵּכְנָה אַבְנֵי־קֹדֶשׁ בְּרֹאשׁ כָּל־חוּצֹות׃   4:1

Lame. 4:1   How could the gold have been dimmed,

                                the finest of the pure gold altered,

                       the stones of holiness poured out

                                at the height of all the streets!

בְּנֵי צִיֹּון הַיְקָרִים הַמְסֻלָּאִים בַּפָּז אֵיכָה נֶחְשְׁבוּ לְנִבְלֵי־חֶרֶשׂ מַעֲשֵׂה יְדֵי יֹוצֵר׃   4:2

Lame. 4:2   Precious sons of Zion,

                                comparable to refined gold!

                      How are they thought to be pitchers of earthenware,

                                the work of the hands of a potter!

גַּם־(תַּנִּין) [תַּנִּים] חָלְצוּ שַׁד הֵינִיקוּ גּוּרֵיהֶן בַּת־עַמִּי לְאַכְזָר (כִּי) (עֵנִים) [כַּיְעֵנִים] בַּמִּדְבָּר׃   4:3

Lame. 4:3   Even jackals puff out the breast;

                                they nurse their young.

                      In regard to cruelty, the daughter of my people

                                is like ostriches in the wilderness.

A number of remarks about this verse:  First, it’s hard to believe that the Israelites knew much first hand about

the behavior of ostriches.  They are non-kosher, so they would not have been even noticed by Jews.  In fact, little

has been known about the bird’s behavior until relatively recently, and there is considerable controversy as to the

factual nature of this passage.  If the Jews of Jerusalem knew of the common beliefs about ostriches, it was

probably word-of-mouth information.  Next, the word in the first set of parentheses is in error.  But oddly, the word

translated as jackals, is found only in the masculine form in the bible.  The word in the parentheses is assumed to

be the erroneous form of the plural of dragon, but its plural is denoted by the suffix yad final mem, not yad final nun

But the correction in the first set of brackets makes it masculine plural.  However, the next words hint very strongly

that the jackals being referred to here are feminine.  Moreover, they cannot be dragons, which wouldn’t suckle their

young (but it could also be translated as whales, another non-kosher animal, which does suckle).  Now if the noun

could be considered irregular, however, the yad final nun could be the correct plural suffix, and again the correction

is unnecessary.  I imagine no one knows for sure.  Finally, the two words in the second and third sets of

parentheses is assumed to be one word as in the second set of brackets.  There seems to be an extra space

in the earliest scrolls of this book, and this justifies the correction.

דָּבַק לְשֹׁון יֹונֵק אֶל־חִכֹּו בַּצָּמָא עֹולָלִים שָׁאֲלוּ לֶחֶם פֹּרֵשׂ אֵין לָהֶם׃   4:4

Lame. 4:4   The tongue of the baby sticks

                                to the roof of his mouth because of thirst.

                      Children ask for bread;

                                none is laid out for them.

הָאֹכְלִים לְמַעֲדַנִּים נָשַׁמּוּ בַּחוּצֹות הָאֱמֻנִים עֲלֵי תֹולָע חִבְּקוּ אַשְׁפַּתֹּות׃   4:5

Lame. 4:5   Those having been burning up for dainty foods

                                have become desolate on the streets.

                      Those having been brought up with scarlet

                                have embraced dung hills.

וַיִּגְדַּל עֲוֹן בַּת־עַמִּי מֵחַטַּאת סְדֹם הַהֲפוּכָה כְמֹו־רָגַע וְלֹא־חָלוּ בָהּ יָדָיִם׃   4:6

Lame. 4:6   But the iniquity of the daughter of my people

                                was greater than the sin of Sodom,

                      which was overthrown as in a moment

                                while no hands fell on it.

זַכּוּ נְזִירֶיהָ מִשֶּׁלֶג צַחוּ מֵחָלָב אָדְמוּ עֶצֶם מִפְּנִינִים סַפִּיר גִּזְרָתָם׃   4:7

Lame. 4:7   Her nazirites were purer than snow,

                                whiter than milk,

                      more ruddy of body than rubies,

                                of sapphire their polish.

חָשַׁךְ מִשְּׁחֹור תָּאֳרָם לֹא נִכְּרוּ בַּחוּצֹות צָפַד עֹורָם עַל־עַצְםָם יָבֵשׁ הָיָה כָעֵץ׃   4:8

Lame. 4:8   Their countenance is darker than black.

                                They are not recognized on the streets.

                      Their skin is shriveled on their bones;

                                it has dried up like a stick.

טֹובִים הָיוּ חַלְלֵי־חֶרֶב מֵחַלְלֵי רָעָב שֶׁהֵם יָזוּבוּ מְדֻקָּרִים מִתְּנוּבֹת שָׂדָי׃   4:9

Lame. 4:9   Better to be of those slain of the sword

                                than of those slain of hunger,

                      who pined away having been stricken

                                for want of the fruit of the field.

יְדֵי נָשִׁים רַחֲמָנִיֹּות בִּשְּׁלוּ יַלְדֵיהֶן הָיוּ לְבָרֹות לָמֹו בְּשֶׁבֶר בַּת־עַמִּי׃   4:10

Lame. 4:10   The hands of compassionate women

                                had cooked their own children

                         -- they were for eating

                                during the destruction of the daughter of my people.

כִּלָּה יְהוָה אֶת־חֲמָתֹו שָׁפַךְ חֲרֹון אַפֹּו וַיַּצֶּת־אֵשׁ בְּצִיֹּון וַתֹּאכַל יְסֹודֹתֶיהָ׃   4:11

Lame. 4:11   The Lord spent His “rage;”

                                He poured out the heat of His “anger,”

                         as He kindled a fire in Zion,

                                and consumed its foundations.

לֹא הֶאֱמִינוּ מַלְכֵי־אֶרֶץ (וְכֹל) [כֹּל] יֹשְׁבֵי תֵבֵל כִּי יָבֹא צַר וְאֹויֵב בְּשַׁעֲרֵי יְרוּשָׁלִָם׃   4:12

Lame. 4:12   The kings of the earth had not believed,

                                and all the inhabitants of the world,

                         that an adversary would enter, or an enemy,

                                into the gates of Jerusalem.

The word in the parentheses, translated as and all, is assumed to be in error.  The correction in the brackets

eliminates the and.  I see no appropriate reason to make this correction, as the verse reads well with the and.

מֵחַטֹּאת נְבִיאֶיהָ עֲוֹנֹות כֹּהֲנֶיהָ הַשֹּׁפְכִים בְּקִרְבָּהּ דַּם צַדִּיקִים׃   4:13

Lame. 4:13   Because of the sins of her prophets,

                                the iniquities of her priests,

                        who were spilling in her midst the blood of the just!

נָעוּ עִוְרִים בַּחוּצֹות נְגֹאֲלוּ בַּדָּם בְּלֹא יוּכְלוּ יִגְּעוּ בִּלְבֻשֵׁיהֶם׃   4:14

Lame. 4:14   They wandered blindly through the streets;

                                they were polluted by blood

                         so that no others were enabled

                                to touch their garments.

I imagine it is the prophets and priests who are being referred to here, and in the next two verses.

סוּרוּ טָמֵא קָרְאוּ לָמֹו סוּרוּ סוּרוּ אַל־תִּגָּעוּ כִּי נָצוּ גַּם־נָעוּ אָמְרוּ בַּגֹּויִם לֹא יֹוסִיפוּ לָגוּר׃   4:15

Lame. 4:15   “Depart!  Unclean!”

                               they cried out to them,

                        “Depart! Depart!  You must not touch.”

                               Though they fled, still they wandered.

                         It was said among the nations,

                                “They will not again be dwelling.”

There are two peculiarities in the Hebrew grammar of this verse, although they seem to have little effect on the

translation.  The first word, translated as Depart, is plural, but the second word, translated as Unclean, is singular. 

One might imagine that these words were directed at different objects, but in the second quotation all the verbs (that

is, Depart, Depart, and you must ... touch) are plural, as they should be, and they have the same object.  So all

these words must share the same plural object (the prophets and/or priests).  Thus the word for Unclean seems to

be an error, but which, however, can be attributed to poetic license.  Then the last word, translated as be dwelling, is

once more spelled in the singular, and it should be plural.  Again poetic license?  It seems odd to me that these two

anomalies appear here in the same verse.  I suspect there might have been a subtle meaning intended, whose

significance has been lost to us (or at least to me).  I might be convinced that the plural verbs refer to all the priests,

while the singular verbs refer to one priest -- the high priest?  But the last line of the verse speaks only of a plural

object and would refer to all the prophets and/or priests again.  Strange.

פְּנֵי יְהוָה חִלְּקָם לֹא יֹוסִיף לְהַבִּיטָם פְּנֵי כֹהֲנִים לֹא נָשָׂאוּ (זְקֵנִים) [וּזְקֵנִים] לֹא חָנָנוּ׃   4:16

Lame. 4:16   The presence of the Lord divided them;

                                He would no longer be considering them.

                        The priests were not respected,

                                the elders were not shown favor.

The word in the parentheses, translated as the elders, is thought to be missing a vav, signifying the insertion of the

connective and.  As I see it, my translation, which omits the and, is just as reasonable.   So as far as I am

concerned, the correction is unnecessary.

עֹודֵינָה) [עֹודֵינוּ] תִּכְלֶינָה עֵינֵינוּ אֶל־עֶזְרָתֵנוּ הָבֶל בְּצִפִּיָּתֵנוּ צִפִּינוּ אֶל־גֹּוי לֹא יֹושִׁעַ׃   4:17

Lame. 4:17   As a result of it, our eyes had to be used up

                                concerning our vain help.

                         In our looking about,

                                we looked to a nation, not a Savior.

Two remarks about this verse.  First, the word before the left parenthesis, translated by me as As a result of it, is

assumed to be in error.  The correction in the brackets indicates that the word should be masculine with a

masculine third-person pronoun.  However, I have assumed the heh suffix does not indicate the word is feminine (as

indicated by the correction), but is the feminine third-person pronoun.  Now the feminine third-person pronoun is

always used with a nonspecific antecedent (which in this case is the circumstances described in the preceding few

verses).  Therefore, I believe the spelling of the word is correct, and the correction is unnecessary.  Second, the last

two words can be translated two ways, as the verb phrase could not save, or as a noun phrase, not a Savior.  All

the bibles I am familiar with translate the words corresponding to the last English line as something like we looked to

a nation could not save.  Now this is a fairly reasonable translation (but one I would not prefer, because it is missing the word for that), and the nation was Egypt.  But I chose the alternative translation because it is more grammatically

correct, and because it implies something that the author might really be intending.  If he was Jeremiah, it’s easy to

imagine him saying this.

צָדוּ צְעָדֵינוּ מִלֶּכֶת בִּרְחֹבֹתֵינוּ קָרַב קִצֵּינוּ מָלְאוּ יָמֵינוּ כִּי־בָא קִצֵּינוּ׃   4:18

Lame. 4:18   They prevent our steps

                                from proceeding through the plazas.

                        Our end approaches;

                                our days are fulfilled.

                         Indeed, our end has come.

קַלִּים הָיוּ רֹדְפֵינוּ מִנִּשְׁרֵי שָׁמָיִם עַל־הֶהָרִים דְּלָקֻנוּ בַּמִּדְבָּר אָרְבוּ לָנוּ׃   4:19

Lame. 4:19   Our pursuers are swifter

                                than the eagles of the heavens.

                        They pursue us on the mountains;

                                in the wilderness they lay in wait for us.

רוּחַ אַפֵּינוּ מְשִׁיחַ יְהוָה נִלְכַּד בִּשְׁחִיתֹותָם אֲשֶׁר אָמַרְנוּ בְּצִלֹּו נִחְיֶה בַגֹּויִם׃   4:20

Lame. 4:20   The breath of our nostrils,

                                the anointed of the Lord,

                        was taken into their pits,

                                of whom we said,

                         “In his shadow we will live among the nations.”

שִׂישִׂי וְשִׂמְחִי בַּת־אֱדֹום (יֹושַׁבְתִּי) [יֹושֶׁבֶת] בְּאֶרֶץ עוּץ גַּם־עָלַיִךְ תַּעֲבָר־כֹּוס תִּשְׁכְּרִי וְתִתְעָרִי׃   4:21

Lame. 4:21   Rejoice and be glad, daughter of Edom,

                                dweller in the land of Uz.

                        Over you also the cup shall pass.

                                You will be drunk and make yourself naked.

The “error” in the parentheses doesn’t need to be incorrect.  The spelling could denote either a feminine participle

(dwelling) or a feminine noun (dweller).  To avoid making this word an error, I chose the latter translation.  In this

case, the correction in the brackets is unnecessary.

תַּם־עֲוֹנֵךְ בַּת־צִיֹּון לֹא יֹוסִיף לְהַגְלֹותֵךְ פָּקַד עֲוֹנֵךְ בַּת־אֱדֹום גִּלָּה עַל־חַטֹּאתָיִךְ׃   4:22

Lame. 4:22   The punishment of your iniquity is done, daughter of Zion.

                                He will no more carry you away into exile.

                        He punishes your iniquity, daughter of Edom.

                                He uncovers concerning your sins.

Sadly, the prophecy contained in the second line seems in time to have been proved wrong.  However, the

possibility exists that it was intended only for the then current inhabitants of the city, in which case it was probably

accurate.

 

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