The care of Yahweh (Lam 3:34-3:36)

Lamed

“When all

The prisoners

Of the land

Are crushed

Under foot,

Does Yahweh not see it?

When human rights

Are perverted

In the presence

Of the Most High,

Does Yahweh not see it?

When one’s case

Is subverted,

Does Yahweh not see it?”

In a strange way, this author seems to say that Yahweh sees bad things and lets them happen. Prisoners are being crushed. Human rights are perverted. Cases are subverted. The basic question is why doesn’t Yahweh do something, since he sees all this going on? These three verses start with the Hebrew consonant letter Lamed in this acrostic poem.

The vicious animals (Lam 3:10-3:12)

Daleth

“Yahweh is

Like a bear

Lying in wait.

Yahweh is

Like a lion

In hiding.

He led me

Off my way.

He tore me to pieces.

He has made me

Desolate.

He bent his bow.

He set me

As a mark

For his arrow.”

Yahweh was like a bear or a lion waiting to attack this author. He was afraid to be torn into pieces since he had become desolate. Meanwhile, Yahweh has aimed his bow and arrow at him. This is a man in a lot of trouble. These three verses start with the Hebrew consonant letter Daleth in this acrostic poem.

The walled in situation (Lam 3:7-3:9)

Gimel

“Yahweh has walled me about

So that I cannot escape.

He has put heavy chains

On me.

Although I call,

Although I cry for help,

He shuts out

My prayer.

He has blocked

My ways

With hewn stones.

He has made

My paths crooked.”

This author feels walled in. He cannot escape, because he has heavy chains on him. When he calls for help, no one listens to him. Yahweh has blocked his way with carved stone walls. He can no longer walk a straight path, since all his paths are crooked, like a maze. These three verses start with the Hebrew consonant letter Gimel in this acrostic poem.

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.

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.

Yahweh causes the death of many in Jerusalem (Lam 2:21-2:21)

Shin

“The young

With the old

Are lying

On the ground

In the streets.

My young women

With my young men

Have fallen

By the sword.

In the day

Of your anger,

You have killed them,

Slaughtering

Without mercy.”

Suddenly, the author switches to the first person singular as Jerusalem itself laments the death of its people. Both the young and the old people were lying in the streets dead. Both the young men and the young women were killed by the sword. Now this author, speaking as Jerusalem, blames all of this on Yahweh. He claimed with a very strong accusation that on the day of his anger, Yahweh killed and slaughtered the people of Jerusalem without mercy. This verse starts with the Hebrew consonant letter Shin. 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 upside down side of nature (Wis 19:18-19:21)

“The elements changed places with one another.

As on a harp

The notes vary the nature of the rhythm,

While each note remains the same.

This may be clearly inferred

From the sight of what took place.

The land animals were transformed into water creatures.

The creatures that swim moved over to the land.

Fire even in water retained its normal power.

Water forgot its fire-quenching nature.

On the contrary,

Flames failed to consume

The flesh of perishable creatures

That walked among them.

Nor did they melt the crystalline,

Quick melting kind of heavenly food.”

Now we see what happened in the desert on the way to the Promised Land. Nature was turned upside down. Somehow the rhythm of life had changed. Just like notes on a harp, there was a new sound. The land animals became water creatures, while the water creatures moved to the land. What is this author talking about? Probably this is a reference to some cattle that might have crossed the Red Sea. The water frogs, however, were on land. Water did not quench fire as the fire blazed even in water. The use of water and fire at various times on this journey points to their unique powers. Finally the manna from heaven did not melt. Most of this can be found in chapter 16 of this book.

Food on the journey (Wis 19:10-19:12)

“They still recalled the events of their sojourn.

Instead of producing animals,

The earth brought forth gnats.

Instead of fish,

The river spewed out vast numbers of frogs.

Afterward they saw also new kind of birds.

When desire led them to ask for luxurious food,

To give them relief,

Quails came up from the sea.”

Based on the Exodus stories in chapters 8 and 16 and Numbers, chapter 11, this author tells how the Israelites were feed in the wilderness or strange land (γῆ σκνῖπα). Interesting there is no mention of manna. They ate gnats and frogs and some kind of birds. The luxury foods were the quails (παραμυθίαν) that somehow came from the sea.

The serpents (Wis 16:10-16:12)

“But your children were not conquered

Even by the fangs of venomous serpents.

Your mercy came to their help.

You healed them.

To remind them of your oracles

They were bitten.

But then they were quickly delivered.

Thus they would not fall into deep forgetfulness.

They would not become unresponsive to your kindness.

Herbs did not cure them.

Poultice did not cure them.

But it was your word,

O Lord!

That heals all people.”

This author continued with the comparison of the Israelites in the wilderness with the deadly serpents the Egyptians endured. In a simplification of the story in Numbers, chapter 21, the children or sons of God (δὲ υἱούς σου) were not conquered by the serpents. God’s mercy came to help them. He healed them. He reminded them of his oracles and words (λογίων σου). Although bitten, they were healed so that they would not fall into a deep forgetfulness. It was not herbs or suave lotions applied to the bite that cured them. It was only the word of the Lord (ὁ σός, Κύριε, λόγος) that healed them.