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The Jewish Study Bible Contextualizes the Hebrew Bible with accompanying scholarly text on Jewish traditions and history.

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Commentary on Lamentations

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Text Commentary side-by-side

1.1–22 :

Jerusalem in mourning, with no one to comfort her. First the poet and then the city lament the destruction of Jerusalem. The chapter may be divided into two parts, vv. 1–11 and 12–22 , corresponding to the two speaking voices. There is an interlocking design that binds the two parts together: 1.22, 21, 20, 19, 18, and 12 echo 1.1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 11 , respectively.

1.1–11 :

The poet’s lament. The city is described as a woman, widowed, abandoned, and shamed.

1.1 :

Alas! This mournful cry is characteristic of the Hebrew elegy and also opens chs 2 and 4 (cf. Isa. 1.21; 2.1; 4.1 ). It suggests a contrast between a former glorious state and the current state of misery. The image of the widow evokes loneliness and bereavement, and also vulnerability.

2 :

Bitterly she weeps: “To weep”means to cry out, to utter sounds of sadness. Heb “bakhoh tivkeh,” “weeping she weeps”: a common grammatical construction indicating intensity. The Talmud explains the double occurrence of the verbal root, as referring to the destruction of both Temples (b. Sanh. 104.2 ). Friends, her political allies, who should have aided and comforted her. The term also points to Judah’s idolatry, her pursuit of “friends” other than her “husband,” God.

3 :

Misery and harsh oppression recall the enslavement in Egypt (Gen. 15.13; Exod. 1.11; Deut. 26.6 ). Judah’s exile to Babylonia is like a second Egyptian enslavement. The verse makes more sense if translated “after misery” rather than “because of misery.” No rest, no resting place, no place to dwell secure.

4 :

The once‐busy thoroughfares are empty of pilgrims to the Temple, for the Temple is destroyed and the people are gone. (The idea that Judah was totally depopulated is a rhetorical exaggeration—many Judeans were not exiled and remained behind.)

5 :

Her many transgressions, first of several admissions ( 1.8, 9, 14, 18, 20 ) that the sins of Israel brought on the destruction.

6 :

Fair Zion, lit. “Daughter of Zion,” the designation of the personified city that appears most frequently throughout Lamentations and the Prophets (e.g., 2.1, 4, 8, 10, 13, 18; 4.22; Isa. 1.8; 52.2; Jer. 4.31; Mic. 4.8 ).

8 :

A mockery, or, alternatively, she has been banished. Her disgraced, lit. “her nakedness,” meaning her shame.

9 :

Her uncleanness; The metaphor of ritual impurity (Lev. 15.16–24 ) is used to indicate Fair Zion’s moral impurity. Zion has “exposed herself” immodestly and is sexually immoral. Sexual immorality is, in turn, a metaphor for idolatry, the sin which caused the exile. See, O LORD, my misery: Personified Zion’s words ( 1.12 ), introduced into the poet’s lament, integrate the two parts of ch 1 .

10 :

The Temple has been violated as a woman is sexually violated.

11 :

A second interjection of personified Zion’s words into the poet’s lament. See, O LORD, and behold, how abject I have become: A cry to God for compassion ends the first half of the ch (see 1.12 ).

1.12–22 :

Personified Zion’s lament. The pain of Jerusalem and the harsh treatment she has suffered.

12 :

Jerusalem calls out for sympathy to passers‐ by as she called out to God in the previous verse. His day of wrath: God’s destruction is often depicted as transpiring in a single day, as in the Day of the LORD (e.g., Isa. 13.13; Joel 2.1; Amos 5.18; Obad. 15 ).

13 :

The imagery of war—fire and nets to capture prisoners—is invoked to describe God’s actions against Judah.

14 :

The yoke of submission is constructed from Judah’s sins; i.e., it is the sins that led to this situation.

15 :

The blood of Judah is squeezed out of her like wine in a winepress.

16 :

Comforter: The lack of a comforter is mentioned in vv. 2, 9, 16, 17, 21 and is a major theme in the ch. With no comforter, Jerusalem’s mourning cannot be completed.

17 :

A thing unclean, lit. a menstruating woman, who is ritually impure. Again, ritual impurity serves as a metaphor for the moral impurity of adultery/idolatry.

18 :

The LORD is in the right, an admission of Judah’s guilt and a confirmation of the justice of God.

20 :

I know how wrong I was to disobey: An alternate translation is “How very bitter I am.”

22 :

The enemy is no more righteous than Judah, and deserves a punishment like hers. Are many, Heb “rabot,” recalls “great [with]” Heb “rabati” (twice in 1.1 ). They frame the ch and contrast the former “rabati” (“great with people” and “great among nations”) to the latter “rabot” (my sighs are many).

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