Personal distress (Lam 3:4-3:6)

Beth

“Yahweh has made

my flesh waste away.

He has made

My skin waste away.

He has broken

My bones.

He has besieged me.

With bitterness.

He has enveloped me

With tribulation.

He has made me

Sit in darkness

Like the dead

Of long ago.”

Almost like the sufferings of Job, this author complains about his own personal suffering. His flesh and his skin are wasting away, since his bones are broken. He has been besieged and enveloped in bitterness and tribulation, sitting in darkness like a person dead for a long time. Throughout this poem, these three verses start with the Hebrew consonant letter Beth. Each three verse section after this will use the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet in this personal acrostic poem.

The bad situation of Jeremiah (Jer 23:9-23:10)

“My heart is crushed

Within me

Concerning the prophets.

All my bones shake.

I have become

Like a drunken man

Because of Yahweh.

I have become

Like one overcome by wine

Because of his holy words.

The land is full of adulterers.

Because of the curse,

The land mourns.

The pastures of the wilderness

Are dried up.

Their course has been evil.

Their might is not right.”

Jeremiah complains about the terrible situation he is in. His heart is crushed. His bones shake. He has become like a drunkard, overcome with wine, because of Yahweh and his words. His land is full of adulterers. His land itself mourns as the pastures have dried up. There is evil all around. No one does the right thing. Jeremiah is worried.

Personal lament of Jeremiah (Jer 20:7-20:9)

“Yahweh!

You have enticed me!

I was enticed!

You have overpowered me!

You have prevailed!

I have become a laughingstock

All day long!

Every one mocks me!

Whenever I speak,

I must cry out!

I must shout!

‘Violence!

Destruction!’

The word of Yahweh

Has become for me

A reproach.

It has become

A derision all day long.

If I say.

‘I will not mention him,

I will not speak any more

In his name,’

Then within me

There is something

Like a burning fire

Shut up in my bones.

I am weary

With holding it in.

I cannot.”

Jeremiah seems to blame Yahweh for enticing him into being a prophet in this personal lament. Yahweh has overpowered him so that he cannot prevail. He has become a laughing stock all day long, as everyone mocks him. Every time Jeremiah cries out “violence and destruction” to others, they reproach and deride him, despite the fact that it is the word of God in him. If he tries not to mention Yahweh and not speak about him, then there is something within him like a burning fire in his bones. Jeremiah was tired of holding it in. Thus he has no other option than to shout it out despite everything that happened to him. He can no longer hold it in.

Prayer of suffering (Isa 38:12-38:15)

“My dwelling is plucked up.

My dwelling is removed from me

Like a shepherd’s tent.

Like a weaver,

I have rolled up my life.

He cuts me off from the loom.

From day to night,

You bring me to an end.

I cry for help

Until morning.

Like a lion,

He breaks all my bones.

From day to night,

You bring me to an end.

I clamor

Like a swallow,

Like a crane.

I moan

Like a dove.

My eyes are weary

With looking upward.

O Lord!

I am oppressed!

Be my security!

But what can I say?

He has spoken to me.

He himself has done it.

All my sleep has fled.

Because of the bitterness of my soul.”

Second Isaiah has King Hezekiah suffering a lot. He has lost his dwelling so that all he has is a tent, like a shepherd. His life has been rolled up so that he is like a weaver who cannot get to his loom. He suffers both day and night as he cries all night. His bones are broken as if from a lion’s attack. He clamors like a swallow or a crane and moans like a dove. He is weary from looking up. He wanted Yahweh to be his security because he was oppressed. What can he say? Yahweh has told him about what he has done to him. He cannot sleep because of his bitter soul. This king is depressed.

Joseph (Sir 49:15-49:15)

“Nor was anyone born

Like Joseph,

The leader of his brothers,

The support of the people.

Even his bones

Were cared for.”

Sirach gives Joseph only one verse, as he seems to have an odd spot here. The story of Joseph and his activity in Egypt can be found in 13 chapters of Genesis, 37-50. Although abandoned by his brothers, he turns out to be their leader and the support of his people. He wanted his bones returned to Canaan, but they were buried in an Egyptian tomb until Moses took them in Exodus, chapter 13. They were finally buried at Shechem in Joshua, chapter 24. Two of his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, make up part of the 12 territorial tribes since Levi did not get any territory.

The stories about David (Ps 109:16-109:19)

“He did not remember to show kindness.

He pursued the poor and needy.

He pursued the brokenhearted to their death.

He loved to curse.

Let curses come on him!

He did not like blessing.

May it be far from him!

He clothed himself with cursing as his coat.

May it soak into his body like water!

May it soak into his bones like oil!

May it be like a garment that he wraps around himself!

May it be like a belt with that he wears everyday!”

This is one of the few descriptions of David that is not favorable. It was an attempt to portray David as some others saw him. Apparently David did not show kindness. He pursued the poor, the needy, and brokenhearted to their death. He loved to curse so that curses should come back on him. He did not like blessings as he clothed himself in cursing. Thus the wish was for him to soak his body like water and his bones like oil. He should wear these garments and belts every day. Somehow he was to wear something like a scarlet letter of disapproval so that all could see it.

Mt terrible life (Ps 102:3-102:11)

“My days pass away like smoke.

My bones burn like a furnace.

My heart is stricken.

My heart is withered like grass.

I am too wasted to eat my bread.

Because of my loud groaning

My bones cling to my flesh.

I am like an owl of the wilderness.

I am like a little owl of the waste places.

I lie awake.

I am like a lonely bird on the housetop.

All day long my enemies taunt me.

Those who deride me

Use my name for a curse.

I eat ashes like bread.

I mingle tears with my drink.

Because of your indignation and anger,

You have lifted me up,

You have thrown me aside.

My days are like an evening shadow.

I wither away like grass.”

This psalmist is in a terrible situation. His days are passing away like smoke. His bones are burning. His heart is broken and withering like grass. He cannot even eat. His bones are clinging to his skin since he is all skin and bones. He is like an owl or a lonely bird since he cannot sleep. His enemies taunt him every day as they use his name as a curse word. He eats ashes instead of bread. He drinks his own tears. Yahweh seems to be angry and indignant as he has been thrown aside. His days are like evening shadows and withering grass. He is in over all bad shape.