The Lamentations

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The Lamentations

  • Author: Jeremiah
  • Place Written: Near Jerusalem
  • When Written: c. 585 B.C.E.


How Lonely Sits the City

1 How lonely sits the city
    that was full of people!
She has become as a widow,
    who was once great among the nations!
She who was a princess among the provinces
    has become a forced laborer.

She weeps bitterly in the night,
    and her tears are on her cheeks;
among all her lovers
    she has none to comfort her;
all her friends have dealt treacherously with her;
    they have become her enemies.

Judah has gone into exile because of affliction
    and harsh servitude;
she dwells among the nations,
    but finds no resting place;
all her pursuers[1] have overtaken her
    in the midst of her distress.

The roads to Zion mourn,
    because none come to the festival;
all her gates are desolate;
    her priests groan;
her virgins are grieving,
    and she is in bitter anguish.

Her adversaries have become the head;[2]
    her enemies prosper,
because Jehovah has afflicted her
    for the multitude of her transgressions;
her children have gone away,
    captives before the adversary.

All the splendor has departed
    from the daughter of Zion.
Her princes have become like deer
    that find no pasture;
they fled without strength
    before the pursuer.

Jerusalem remembers
    in the days of her affliction and homelessness
all her precious things
    that were from the days of old.
When her people fell into the hand of the adversary,
    and no one helped her,
the adversaries saw her;
    they mocked at her downfall.

Jerusalem has sinned grievously;
    therefore she became an unclean thing;
all who honored her despise her,
    for they have seen her nakedness;
she herself groans
    and turns away.

Her uncleanness was in her skirts;
    she gave no thought of her future;
therefore her fall is astounding;
    she has no comforter.
“O Jehovah, look my affliction,
    for the enemy has magnified himself!”

10 The enemy has stretched out his hands
    over all her treasures;
for she has seen the nations
    enter her sanctuary,
those whom you commanded
    should not enter your congregation.

11 All her people groan
    as they look for bread;
they trade their treasures for food
    to restore the soul.
“Look, O Jehovah, and see,
    for I am despised.”

Zion Rejected by God

12 “Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?
    Look and see
if there is any sorrow like my sorrow,
    which was brought upon me,
which Jehovah inflicted
    on the day of his fierce anger.

13 “From on high he sent fire;
    into my bones he made it descend;[3]
he spread a net for my feet;
    he turned me back;
he has made me desolate,
    faint all the day long.

14 “The yoke of my transgressions was bound;[4]
    fastened together by his hand;
they were set upon my neck;
    he has made my strength fail;
Jehovah gave me into the hands
    of those whom I cannot withstand.

15 “Jehovah rejected
    all my mighty men in my midst;
he summoned an assembly against me
    to crush my young men;
Jehovah has trodden as in a winepress
    the virgin daughter of Judah.

16 “For these things I weep;
    my eyes flow with tears;
for a comforter is far from me,
    one to refresh my soul;
my sons are desolate,
    for the enemy has prevailed.”

17 Zion stretches out her hands,
    but there is none to comfort her;
Jehovah has commanded against Jacob
    that his neighbors should be his adversaries;
Jerusalem has become
    a filthy thing among them.

18 “Jehovah is righteous,
    for I have rebelled against his word;[5]
listen, all you peoples,
    and see my pain;
my virgins[6] and my young men
    have gone into captivity.

19 “I called to my lovers,
    but they deceived me;
my priests and my elders
    perished in the city,
while they sought food
    to restore the soul.

20 “Look, O Jehovah, for I am in great distress;
    my stomach[7] churns;
my heart is wrung within me,
    because I have been very rebellious.
In the street the sword bereaves;
    in the house it is like death.

21 “People have heard[8] my groaning,[9]
    yet there is no one to comfort me.
All my enemies have heard of my trouble;
    they are glad that you have done it.
You will bring[10] about the day you proclaimed;
    so that they will become like me.

22 “Let all their wickedness come before you,
    and deal with them
as you have dealt with me
    because of all my transgressions;
for my groans are many,
    and my heart is faint.”


Jehovah’s Anger Against Jerusalem

2 O how Jehovah[11] in his anger
    has covered the daughter of Zion in a cloud!
He has cast down from heaven to earth
    the beauty of Israel;
he has not remembered his footstool
    in the day of his anger.

Jehovah has swallowed up without compassion
    all the dwellings of Jacob;
in his wrath he has torn down
    the strongholds of the daughter of Judah;
he has brought down to the ground
    he has profaned the kingdom and her leaders.

He has cut off in fierce anger
    every horn of Israel;
he has withdrawn his right hand
    in the face of the enemy;
and in Jacob he has burned like a flaming fire,
    consuming everything around.

He has bent his bow like an enemy,
    his right hand is positioned as an adversary;
and he has killed all those desirable to the eyes
    in the tent of the daughter of Zion;
he has poured out his wrath like fire.

Jehovah[12] has become like an enemy;
    he has swallowed up Israel;
he has swallowed up all its palaces;
    he has destroyed its strongholds,
and he has multiplied in the daughter of Judah
    mourning and lamentation.

He has broken down his booth like a hut in a garden,
    he has destroyed his festival;
Jehovah has caused festival and Sabbath
    to be forgotten in Zion,
and in his fierce indignation has spurned king and priest.

Jehovah has rejected his altar,
    he has disowned his sanctuary;
he has delivered into the hand of the enemy
    the walls of her palaces;
they raised a clamor[13] in the house of Jehovah
    as on the day of festival.

Jehovah determined to destroy
    the wall of the daughter of Zion;
he stretched out the measuring line;
    he has not restrained his hand from destroying;
he caused rampart and wall to lament;
    they languished together.

Her gates have sunk into the ground;
    he has destroyed and broken her bars;
her king and princes are among the nations;
    the law is no more,
and her prophets find
    no vision from Jehovah.

10 The elders of the daughter of Zion
    sit on the ground in silence;
they have thrown dust on their heads
    and put on sackcloth;
the virgins of Jerusalem
    have bowed their heads to the ground.

Weeping Over Zion

11 My eyes fail because of tears;
    my stomach[14] churns;
my bile is poured out to the ground
    because of the destruction of the daughter of my people,
because children and infants faint
    in the streets of the city.

12 They say to their mothers,
    “Where is bread and wine?”
as they faint like a wounded man
    in the streets of the city,
as their soul is poured out
    on their mothers’ bosom.

13 What shall I testify to you, what shall I liken to you,
    O daughter of Jerusalem?
What shall I compare to you, that I may comfort you,
    O virgin daughter of Zion?
For your ruin is vast as the sea;
    who can heal you?

14 Your prophets have seen for you
    false and empty visions;
they have not exposed your error[15]
    to bring you back from captivity,
but have seen for you visions
    that are false and misleading.

15 All who pass along the way
    clap their hands at you;
they hiss and wag their heads
    at the daughter of Jerusalem:
“Is this the city that was called
    the perfection of beauty,
    the joy of all the earth?”

16 All your enemies
    have opened their mouths wide against you;
they hiss, they gnash their teeth,
    they cry: “We have swallowed her up!
Ah, this is the day we waited for;
    we have found it; we have seen it!”

17 Jehovah has done what he purposed;
    he has fulfilled his word,
which he commanded from the days of old;
    he has torn down without compassion;
he has made the enemy rejoice over you
    he has exalted the horn of your adversaries.

18 Their heart cried to Jehovah.
    O wall of the daughter of Zion,
let tears stream down like a torrent
    day and night!
Give yourself no respite,
    give no rest to the daughter of your eyes!

19 “Arise, cry out in the night,
    at the beginning of the night watches!
Pour out your heart like water
    before the presence of Jehovah!
Lift your hands to him
    for the souls of your children,
who faint for hunger
    at the head of every street.”

20 Look, O Jehovah, and see!
    With whom have you dealt thus?
Should women eat the fruit of their womb,
    the children of their tender care?
Should priest and prophet be killed
    in the sanctuary of Jehovah?[16]

21 Young man and old man are lying dead
    on the ground in the streets;
my virgins and my young men
    have fallen by the sword;
you have killed them in the day of your anger,
    you have slaughtered without compassion.

22 You summon terrors from every side
    as if to a festival day,
and on the day of Jehovah’s anger
    no one escaped or survived;
those whom I gave birth to and raised
    my enemy destroyed.


Jeremiah Expresses His Faithfulness

3 I am the man who has seen affliction
    under the rod of his wrath;
he has driven me out and makes me
    walk in darkness and not in light;
surely against me he turns his hand
    again and again all day long.

He has worn away my flesh and my skin;
    he has broken my bones;
he has besieged me; he has surrounded me
    with bitterness and tribulation;
he has made me dwell in darkness
    like men who died long ago.

He has walled me about so that I cannot escape;
    he has made my copper fetters heavy;
though I call and cry for help,
    he shuts out my prayer;
he has blocked my ways with hewn stones;
    he has made my paths crooked.

10 He is a bear lying in wait for me,
    a lion in hiding;
11 he turned aside my steps and tore me to pieces;
    he has made me desolate;
12 he bent his bow and set me
    as a target for his arrow.

13 He pierced my kidneys with
    the arrows[17] of his quiver;
14 I have become the laughingstock to all my people,[18]
    the mocking of their song all day long.
15 He has filled me with bitterness;
    he has sated me with wormwood.

16 He has broken my teeth with gravel,
    and made me cower in ashes;
17 my soul is deprived of peace;[19]
    I have forgotten what is good;
18 so I say, “My strength has perished;
    so has my expectation in Jehovah.”

19 Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
    the wormwood and the bitter poison!
20 Your[20] soul will surely remember it
    and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of Jehovah’s loyal love we are not cut off;[21]
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 “Jehovah is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

25 Jehovah is good to those who wait for him,
    to the soul who seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly
    for the salvation of Jehovah.
27 It is good for a man that he bear
    the yoke in his youth.

28 Let him sit alone and keep silent
    when it is laid on him;
29 let him put his mouth in the dust,
    there may yet be hope;
30 let him give his cheek to the one who strikes,
    and let him be filled with insults.

31 For Jehovah[22] will not
    cast us off forever,
32 for though he causes grief, he will have compassion
    according to the abundance of his loyal love;
33 for he does not afflict from his heart
    or grieve the sons of men.

34 To crush underfoot
    all the prisoners of the earth,
35 to deprive a man justice
    in the presence of the Most High,
36 to defraud a man in his lawsuit,
    Jehovah[23] does not approve.

37 Who has spoken, and it came to pass,
    unless Jehovah[24] has commanded it?
38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
    that good and bad come?
39 Why should a living man complain,
    a man, about the punishment of his sin?

40 Let us search and examine our ways,
    and return to Jehovah!
41 Let us lift up our heart and hands
    to God in the heavens:
42 “We have transgressed and rebelled,
    and you have not forgiven.

43 “With anger you have covered yourself,
    you have pursued and killed without compassion;
44 you have covered yourself with a cloud
    so that no prayer can pass through.
45 You have made us scum and refuse
    among the peoples.

46 “All our enemies
    open their mouths against us;
47 panic and pitfall have come upon us,
    devastation and destruction;
48 my eyes flow with streams of tears
    because of the destruction of the daughter of my people.

49 “My eyes flow without ceasing,
    without pausing,
50 until Jehovah looks down
    and sees from heaven;
51 my eyes cause my soul grief
    because of all the daughters of my city.

52 “Without cause my enemies
    have hunted me like a bird;
53 they have silenced me in a pit,
    and have cast stones at me;
54 water flowed over my head;
    I said, ‘I am cut off.’

55 “I called on your name, O Jehovah,
    from the depths of the pit;
56 you heard my voice, ‘Do not shut
    your ear to my cry for help!’
57 You drew near in the day that I called you;
    you said, ‘Do not fear!’

58 “O Jehovah,[25] you have pleaded the causes of my soul;
    you have redeemed my soul.
59 O Jehovah, you have seen the wrong done to me;
    judge my cause.
60 You have seen all their vengeance,
    all their plots against me.

61 “You have heard their reproach, O Jehovah,
    all their plots against me.
62 The lips of those who rose up against me
    and their whispering against me all day long.
63 Look their sitting and their rising;
    I am the burden of their songs.

64 “You will repay them, O Jehovah,
    according to the work of their hands.
65 You will give them dullness of heart;[26]
    your curse will be on them.
66 You will pursue them in anger and destroy them
    from under the heavens of Jehovah.”[27]


Horrifying Consequences of Jerusalem’s Siege

4 How the gold has grown dim,
    how the pure gold is changed!
The holy stones lie scattered
    at the head of every street.

The precious sons of Zion,
    worth their weight in fine gold,
how they are regarded as earthen pots,
    the work of a potter’s hands!

Even jackals offer the breast;
    they nurse their young,
but the daughter of my people has become cruel,
    like the ostriches in the wilderness.

The tongue of the nursing infant sticks
    to the roof of its mouth for thirst;
the children beg for bread,
    but no one gives to them.

Those who used to eat delicacies
    lie desolate in the streets;
those who were brought up in scarlet
    embrace ash heaps.

For the error of the daughter of my people has been greater
    than the sin[28] of Sodom,
which was overthrown in a moment,
    with no hand to help her.

Her Nazirites were purer than snow,
    they were whiter than milk;
their bodies were more ruddy than coral,
    their polish was as the sapphire.

Now their appearance is darker than soot;
    they are not recognized in the streets;
their skin has shriveled on their bones;
    it has become as dry as wood.

Those that are slain with the sword
    are better than those that are slain with hunger,
who wasted away,[29] pierced through
    by lack of the fruits of the field.

10 The hands of compassionate women
    have boiled their own children;
they became their food
    during the destruction of the daughter of my people.

11 Jehovah has expressed his wrath;
    he poured out his hot anger,
and he kindled a fire in Zion
    that consumed her foundations.

12 The kings of the earth did not believe,
    nor any of the inhabitants of the world,
that adversary or enemy could enter
    the gates of Jerusalem.

13 It was because of the sins of her prophets
    and the errors of her priests,
who shed in the midst of her
    the blood of the righteous.

14 They wandered, blind, through the streets;
    they were so defiled with blood
that no one was able to touch
    their garments.

15 “Depart! Unclean!” people cried at them.
    “Depart! depart! Do not touch!”
So they became fugitives and wanderers;
    people said among the nations,
    “They shall no longer dwell with us.”

16 The face of Jehovah has scattered them;
    he will regard them no more;
men will show no respect for the priests,
    no favor to the elders.

17 Our eyes failed, ever watching
    vainly for help;
in our watching we watched
    for a nation which could not save.

18 They hunted our steps
    so that we could not walk in our streets;
our end drew near; our days were finished,
    for our end had come.

19 Our pursuers were swifter
    than the eagles in the heavens;
they chased us on the mountains;
    they lay in wait for us in the wilderness.

20 The breath of our nostrils, Jehovah’s anointed,
    was captured in their pits,
of whom we said, “Under his shadow
    we shall live among the nations.”

21 Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom,
    you who dwell in the land of Uz;
but to you also the cup[30] shall pass;
    you shall become drunk and strip yourself naked.

22 The punishment for your error, O daughter of Zion, is completed;
    he will not exile you again;
but your error, O daughter of Edom, he will punish;
    he will uncover your sins.


Prayer for Restoration, O Jehovah

5 Remember, O Jehovah, what has befallen us;
    look, and see our disgrace!
Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers,
    our homes to foreigners.
We have become orphans, fatherless;
    our mothers are like widows.
We must pay to drink our own water;
    and our own wood comes at a price.
Our pursuers are at our necks;
    we are weary; we are given no rest.
We have given the hand to Egypt, and to Assyria,
    to get enough bread.
Our fathers sinned, and are no more;
    and we bear their errors.
Slaves rule over us;
    there is none to deliver us from their hand.
We get our bread at the peril of our lives,
    because of the sword in the wilderness.
10 Our skin is hot as an oven
    with the burning heat of famine.
11 The wives in Zion they have raped,
    the virgins in the cities of Judah.
12 Princes are hung up by their hands;
    the faces of elders were shown no respect.
13 Young men carry the hand mill,
    and boys stumble under loads of wood.
14 The elders are gone from the city gate,
    the young men from their music.
15 The joy of our hearts has ceased;
    our dancing has been turned to mourning.
16 The crown has fallen from our head;
    woe to us, for we have sinned!
17 For this our heart has become sick,
    for these things our eyes have grown dim,
18 because of Mount Zion, which lies desolate;
    jackals prowl over it.
19 But you, O Jehovah, are enthroned forever;
    your throne is for generation after generation.
20 Why do you forget us forever,
    why do you forsake us for so many days?
21 Restore us to yourself, O Jehovah, that we may be restored!
    Renew our days as of old,
22 unless you have utterly rejected us,
    and you remain exceedingly angry with us.

[1] Or persecutors

[2] That is, her masters

[3] MT “and it prevailed against them” LXX MTemendation “he made it descend”

[4] LXX SYR AT VG some Heb. MSS “He has watched over my sins”

[5] Lit mouth

[6] Or young women

[7] Lit intestines

[8] MT “they heard” LXX “hear”

[9] LXX SYR “hear now, for I am groaning”

[10] MT VG “they have heard” AT “nations have heard” SYR “bring” LXX “hear [pl.] please”

[11] This is one of the 134 scribal changes from יהוה [JHVH] to אדני [Adonai]. The earliest MSS have the Tetragrammaton.

[12] This is one of the 134 scribal changes from יהוה [JHVH] to אדני [Adonai]. The earliest MSS have the Tetragrammaton.

[13] That is, their voice by shouting

[14] Lit intestines

[15] Error: (עָוֹן awon; Gr. ἀνομία anomia; παρανομία paranomia) is found five times in the book of Lamentations. The Hebrew word awon essentially relates to the erring, acting illegally or wrongly. This aspect of sin refers to committing perverseness, wrongness, lawlessness, law-breaking, which can also include the rejection of the sovereignty of God. It is an act or a feeling that steps over the line of God’s moral standard, as something God forbids, or the person ignores carry out (doing) something that God requires, whether it be by one’s thoughts, feelings, speech, or actions. It also focuses on the liability or guilt of one’s wicked, wrongful act. This error may be deliberate or accidental; either willful deviation of what is right or unknowingly making a mistake. (Lev. 4:13-35; 5:1-6, 14-19; Num. 15:22-29; Ps 19:12-13) Of course, if it is intentional; then, the consequence is far more serious. (Num. 15:30-31) Error is in opposition to the truth, and those willfully sinning corrupt the truth, a course that only brings forth flagrant sin. (Isa 5:18-23) We can be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. – Ex 9:27, 34-35; Heb. 3:13-15.

[16] This is one of the 134 scribal changes from יהוה [JHVH] to אדני [Adonai]. The earliest MSS have the Tetragrammaton.

[17] Lit the sons of his quiver

[18] MT LXX VG “all my people” SYR “all peoples” AT “all scatterers of my people”

[19] LXX “And he thrust my soul away from peace”

[20] “Your” was emended by the Sopherim to read “my” in the MT. This is one of the Eighteen Emendations of the Sopherim. Some notes read in the Masoretic text margin: “This is one of the eighteen emendations of the Sopherim” or similar words. The scribe who made these revisions had good intentions as he saw the original reading as though it showed a lack of respect for God or his people.

[21] Most Heb. MSS “Because of Jehovah’s loyal love we are not cut off” MTemendation LXX SYR AT “The loyal love of Yahweh does not cease.”

[22] This is one of the 134 scribal changes from יהוה [JHVH] to אדני [Adonai]. The earliest MSS have the Tetragrammaton.

[23] This is one of the 134 scribal changes from יהוה [JHVH] to אדני [Adonai]. The earliest MSS have the Tetragrammaton.

[24] This is one of the 134 scribal changes from יהוה [JHVH] to אדני [Adonai]. The earliest MSS have the Tetragrammaton.

[25] This is one of the 134 scribal changes from יהוה [JHVH] to אדני [Adonai]. The earliest MSS have the Tetragrammaton.

[26] The Hebrew word (מְגִנָּה meginnah) occurs only here in the OT. It is a figurative expression that refers to blindness when it comes to understanding.

[27] LXX SYR VG “O Lord”

[28] That is, punishment for the sin

[29] Lit flow away

[30] MT SYR VG “the cup” AT “the cup of cursing” LXX “the cup of Jehovah”

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