Friday, February 28, 2014

Lamentations 1:1-2:22


The tone of Lamentations 1 is sorrow with a heavy dose of confession. Daughter Zion (i.e. Jerusalem) has been brought down and made ashamed:

How deserted lies the city,
    once so full of people!
How like a widow is she,
    who once was great among the nations!
She who was queen among the provinces
    has now become a slave.
      (Lamentations 1:1)

She has been betrayed and abandoned by her lovers. Throughout Jeremiah, the NIV translated the word "lovers" with the explanatory "allies." Here it allows the metaphor to stand:

Bitterly she weeps at night,
    tears are on her cheeks.
Among all her lovers
    there is no one to comfort her.
All her friends have betrayed her;
    they have become her enemies.
      (Lamentations 1:2)

Verse 8 makes the reason for her condition clear:

Jerusalem has sinned greatly
    and so has become unclean.
All who honored her despise her,
    for they have all seen her naked;
she herself groans
    and turns away.

Jerusalem's sins are expressed in terms of sexual impropriety and ritual uncleanness.

Zion stretches out her hands,
    but there is no one to comfort her.
The Lord has decreed for Jacob
    that his neighbors become his foes;
Jerusalem has become
    an unclean thing among them.

      (Lamentations 1:17)

"Unclean thing" in that verse is, according to the notes in the Jewish Study Bible, literally "a menstruating woman."  Ancient Israel's misogyny and aversion to bodily fluids has been well-established in earlier blog posts.

It's clear that Jerusalem's condition is YHWH's doing.

...the Lord has sapped my strength.
He has given me into the hands
    of those I cannot withstand.

      (Lamentations 1:14b)

But Daughter Zion accepts the blame:

The Lord is righteous,
    yet I rebelled against his command.
Listen, all you peoples;
    look on my suffering.
My young men and young women
    have gone into exile. 

      (Lamentations 1:18)

If this sounds like the abused wife who blames herself to you, well, you're not the only one to think so.

Anger is the tone of Lamentations 2. In particular, it is YHWH's anger.

How the Lord has covered Daughter Zion
    with the cloud of his anger!
He has hurled down the splendor of Israel
    from heaven to earth;
he has not remembered his footstool
    in the day of his anger.
      (Lamentations 2:1)

YHWH has become like an enemy to his people.

The Lord is like an enemy;
    he has swallowed up Israel.
He has swallowed up all her palaces
    and destroyed her strongholds.
He has multiplied mourning and lamentation
    for Daughter Judah.    (Lamentations 2:5)

Everybody, from the young girls to the old men, mourns the situation. 

The elders of Daughter Zion
    sit on the ground in silence;
they have sprinkled dust on their heads
    and put on sackcloth.
The young women of Jerusalem
    have bowed their heads to the ground.
      (Lamentations 2:10)

And what a situation! The children are dying. Starving parents are reduced to cannibalism.

[Children] say to their mothers,
    “Where is bread and wine?”
as they faint like the wounded
    in the streets of the city,
as their lives ebb away
    in their mothers’ arms. 
      (Lamentations 2:12)

Look, Lord, and consider:
    Whom have you ever treated like this?
Should women eat their offspring,
    the children they have cared for?

      (Lamentations 2:20)

The people pray to an absent and uncaring God:

The hearts of the people
    cry out to the Lord.
You walls of Daughter Zion,
    let your tears flow like a river
    day and night;
give yourself no relief,
    your eyes no rest.

      (Lamentations 2:18) 

In some sectors of the Church, this call and response dialog has become popular:

God is good/All the time. All the time/God is good.

In the book of Lamentations, not so much.


Biblical quotations are taken from the New International Version. Next: Lamentations 3-5

No comments:

Post a Comment