Gold (Lam 4:1-4:1)

Aleph

“How the gold

Has grown dim!

How the pure gold

Is changed!

The sacred stones

Lie scattered

At the head

Of every street.”

This lamentation begins with talk about the dimming gold and sacred stones scattered all over the streets, especially at the head of the street or the street corners. This is a reference to the holy treasures and vessels of the Temple that have been stolen due to the attack on Jerusalem. This first verse of this single verse acrostic poem starts with the Hebrew consonant letter Aleph. Each verse after this will use the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

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Personal suffering (Lam 3:1-3:3)

Aleph

“I am the one

Who has seen affliction

Under the rod

Of God’s wrath.

He has driven me.

He has brought me

Into darkness

Without any light.

Against me alone

He turns his hand

Again and again

All day long.”

These three short verses, instead of one verse, start with the Hebrew consonant letter Aleph. Each section after this will use the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet in this personal acrostic poem or psalm. Using the first person singular, this author proclaims that he has seen a lot of suffering. He has seen affliction, due to the rod or stick of God’s wrath. God drove him into darkness, without any light. God has turned his hand against him alone, over and over again, all day long. He was in great pain.

The anger of Yahweh (Lam 2:1-2:1)

Aleph

“How Yahweh,

In his anger,

Has humiliated

Daughter Zion!

He has thrown down

From heaven

To earth

The splendor of Israel.

He has not remembered

His footstool

In the day

Of his anger.”

The anger of Yahweh is the theme of this second lamentation. Yahweh has humiliated his favorite daughter Zion. The splendor of Israel has been cast aside from heaven to earth. Yahweh even forgot his footstool, the Temple, because he was so angry. This first verse starts with the Hebrew consonant letter Aleph. Each verse after this will use the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet in this acrostic poem.

The lonely city (Lam 1:1-Lam 1:1)

Aleph

“How lonely

Sits the city

That once was

Full of people!

How like a widow,

She has become!

She that was great

Among the nations!

She that was

A princess

Among the provinces!

She has become

A vassal.”

This first verse starts with the Hebrew consonant letter Aleph. Each verse after this will use the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet in this acrostic poem. This author laments that this once inhabited city is now lonely like a widow. This city was great among the nations like a princess, but now it has become a vassal slave. Thus the tone for these lamentations has been set. Although not explicitly mentioned here, the obvious reference is to the lonely city Jerusalem.

The happy ones follow the law (Ps 119:1-119:8)

Aleph

“Happy are those whose way is blameless!

They walk in the law of Yahweh.

Happy are those who keep his decrees!

They seek him with their whole heart.

They also do no wrong.

They walk in his ways!

You have commanded your precept.

You have commanded it to be kept diligently.

O that my ways may be steadfast!

That I may keep your statutes!

Then I shall not be put to shame.

I have my eyes fixed on all your commandments.

I will praise you with an upright heart.

I will learn your righteous ordinances.

I will observe your statutes.

Do not utterly forsake me!”

Psalm 119 is one of the longest psalms. However, there are not any titles to this acrostic alphabet psalm about the importance of the law. There are 8 verses to every consonant letter of the Hebrew alphabet instead of just a line or two as in some of the other acrostic psalms. In this eulogy to the law, the happy ones are the blameless ones because they walk in the law of Yahweh. They are happy because they keep his decrees. They seek Yahweh with their whole hearts. They do not do anything wrong because they keep Yahweh’s commandments diligently. They are steadfast in their determination to follow the law. The psalmist will try not to be ashamed as he tries to follow the law. He gets personal since he has an upright heart. Using the first person singular, he wanted to learn all the right ordinances and statutes. He wanted to observe them. He asked Yahweh not to forsake him. This section on the first consonant letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Aleph, comes to an end.