Lamentations 1*1 Each of the first four chapters of this book is an acrostic, laid out in the order of the Hebrew alphabet. The first word of each verse begins with a successive Hebrew letter. Chapters 1, 2, and 4 have one verse for each of the 22 Hebrew letters. Chapter 3 contains 22 stanzas of three verses each. Though chapter 5 has 22 verses, it is not an acrostic.
Sorrow in Jerusalem
1Jerusalem, once so full of people,
is now deserted.
She who was once great among the nations
now sits alone like a widow.
Once the queen of all the earth,
she is now a slave.
2She sobs through the night;
tears stream down her cheeks.
Among all her lovers,
there is no one left to comfort her.
All her friends have betrayed her
and become her enemies.
3Judah has been led away into captivity,
oppressed with cruel slavery.
She lives among foreign nations
and has no place of rest.
Her enemies have chased her down,
and she has nowhere to turn.
4The roads to Jerusalem*1:4 Hebrew Zion; also in 1:17. are in mourning,
for crowds no longer come to celebrate the festivals.
The city gates are silent,
her priests groan,
her young women are crying—
how bitter is her fate!
5Her oppressors have become her masters,
and her enemies prosper,
for the Lord has punished Jerusalem
for her many sins.
Her children have been captured
and taken away to distant lands.
6All the majesty of beautiful Jerusalem*1:6 Hebrew of the daughter of Zion.
has been stripped away.
Her princes are like starving deer
searching for pasture.
They are too weak to run
from the pursuing enemy.
7In the midst of her sadness and wandering,
Jerusalem remembers her ancient splendor.
But now she has fallen to her enemy,
and there is no one to help her.
Her enemy struck her down
and laughed as she fell.
8Jerusalem has sinned greatly,
so she has been tossed away like a filthy rag.
All who once honored her now despise her,
for they have seen her stripped naked and humiliated.
All she can do is groan
and hide her face.
9She defiled herself with immorality
and gave no thought to her future.
Now she lies in the gutter
with no one to lift her out.
“Lord, see my misery,” she cries.
“The enemy has triumphed.”
10The enemy has plundered her completely,
taking every precious thing she owns.
She has seen foreigners violate her sacred Temple,
the place the Lord had forbidden them to enter.
11Her people groan as they search for bread.
They have sold their treasures for food to stay alive.
“O Lord, look,” she mourns,
“and see how I am despised.
12“Does it mean nothing to you, all you who pass by?
Look around and see if there is any suffering like mine,
which the Lord brought on me
when he erupted in fierce anger.
13“He has sent fire from heaven that burns in my bones.
He has placed a trap in my path and turned me back.
He has left me devastated,
racked with sickness all day long.
14“He wove my sins into ropes
to hitch me to a yoke of captivity.
The Lord sapped my strength and turned me over to my enemies;
I am helpless in their hands.
15“The Lord has treated my mighty men
At his command a great army has come
to crush my young warriors.
The Lord has trampled his beloved city*1:15 Hebrew the virgin daughter of Judah.
like grapes are trampled in a winepress.
16“For all these things I weep;
tears flow down my cheeks.
No one is here to comfort me;
any who might encourage me are far away.
My children have no future,
for the enemy has conquered us.”
17Jerusalem reaches out for help,
but no one comforts her.
Regarding his people Israel,*1:17 Hebrew Jacob. The names “Jacob” and “Israel” are often interchanged throughout the Old Testament, referring sometimes to the individual patriarch and sometimes to the nation.
the Lord has said,
“Let their neighbors be their enemies!
Let them be thrown away like a filthy rag!”
18“The Lord is right,” Jerusalem says,
“for I rebelled against him.
Listen, people everywhere;
look upon my anguish and despair,
for my sons and daughters
have been taken captive to distant lands.
19“I begged my allies for help,
but they betrayed me.
My priests and leaders
starved to death in the city,
even as they searched for food
to save their lives.
20“Lord, see my anguish!
My heart is broken
and my soul despairs,
for I have rebelled against you.
In the streets the sword kills,
and at home there is only death.
21“Others heard my groans,
but no one turned to comfort me.
When my enemies heard about my troubles,
they were happy to see what you had done.
Oh, bring the day you promised,
when they will suffer as I have suffered.
22“Look at all their evil deeds, Lord.
as you have punished me
for all my sins.
My groans are many,
and I am sick at heart.”
God’s Anger at Sin
1The Lord in his anger
has cast a dark shadow over beautiful Jerusalem.*2:1a Hebrew the daughter of Zion; also in 2:8, 10, 18.
The fairest of Israel’s cities lies in the dust,
thrown down from the heights of heaven.
In his day of great anger,
the Lord has shown no mercy even to his Temple.*2:1b Hebrew his footstool.
2Without mercy the Lord has destroyed
every home in Israel.*2:2a Hebrew Jacob; also in 2:3b. See note on 1:17.
In his anger he has broken down
the fortress walls of beautiful Jerusalem.*2:2b Hebrew the daughter of Judah; also in 2:5.
He has brought them to the ground,
dishonoring the kingdom and its rulers.
3All the strength of Israel
vanishes beneath his fierce anger.
The Lord has withdrawn his protection
as the enemy attacks.
He consumes the whole land of Israel
like a raging fire.
4He bends his bow against his people,
as though he were their enemy.
His strength is used against them
to kill their finest youth.
His fury is poured out like fire
on beautiful Jerusalem.*2:4 Hebrew on the tent of the daughter of Zion.
5Yes, the Lord has vanquished Israel
like an enemy.
He has destroyed her palaces
and demolished her fortresses.
He has brought unending sorrow and tears
upon beautiful Jerusalem.
6He has broken down his Temple
as though it were merely a garden shelter.
The Lord has blotted out all memory
of the holy festivals and Sabbath days.
Kings and priests fall together
before his fierce anger.
7The Lord has rejected his own altar;
he despises his own sanctuary.
He has given Jerusalem’s palaces
to her enemies.
They shout in the Lord’s Temple
as though it were a day of celebration.
8The Lord was determined
to destroy the walls of beautiful Jerusalem.
He made careful plans for their destruction,
then did what he had planned.
Therefore, the ramparts and walls
have fallen down before him.
9Jerusalem’s gates have sunk into the ground.
He has smashed their locks and bars.
Her kings and princes have been exiled to distant lands;
her law has ceased to exist.
Her prophets receive
no more visions from the Lord.
10The leaders of beautiful Jerusalem
sit on the ground in silence.
They are clothed in burlap
and throw dust on their heads.
The young women of Jerusalem
hang their heads in shame.
11I have cried until the tears no longer come;
my heart is broken.
My spirit is poured out in agony
as I see the desperate plight of my people.
Little children and tiny babies
are fainting and dying in the streets.
12They cry out to their mothers,
“We need food and drink!”
Their lives ebb away in the streets
like the life of a warrior wounded in battle.
They gasp for life
as they collapse in their mothers’ arms.
13What can I say about you?
Who has ever seen such sorrow?
O daughter of Jerusalem,
to what can I compare your anguish?
O virgin daughter of Zion,
how can I comfort you?
For your wound is as deep as the sea.
Who can heal you?
14Your prophets have said
so many foolish things, false to the core.
They did not save you from exile
by pointing out your sins.
Instead, they painted false pictures,
filling you with false hope.
15All who pass by jeer at you.
They scoff and insult beautiful Jerusalem,*2:15 Hebrew the daughter of Jerusalem. saying,
“Is this the city called ‘Most Beautiful in All the World’
and ‘Joy of All the Earth’?”
16All your enemies mock you.
They scoff and snarl and say,
“We have destroyed her at last!
We have long waited for this day,
and it is finally here!”
17But it is the Lord who did just as he planned.
He has fulfilled the promises of disaster
he made long ago.
He has destroyed Jerusalem without mercy.
He has caused her enemies to gloat over her
and has given them power over her.
18Cry aloud*2:18 Hebrew Their heart cried. before the Lord,
O walls of beautiful Jerusalem!
Let your tears flow like a river
day and night.
Give yourselves no rest;
give your eyes no relief.
19Rise during the night and cry out.
Pour out your hearts like water to the Lord.
Lift up your hands to him in prayer,
pleading for your children,
for in every street
they are faint with hunger.
20“O Lord, think about this!
Should you treat your own people this way?
Should mothers eat their own children,
those they once bounced on their knees?
Should priests and prophets be killed
within the Lord’s Temple?
21“See them lying in the streets—
young and old,
boys and girls,
killed by the swords of the enemy.
You have killed them in your anger,
slaughtering them without mercy.
22“You have invited terrors from all around,
as though you were calling them to a day of feasting.
In the day of the Lord’s anger,
no one has escaped or survived.
The enemy has killed all the children
whom I carried and raised.”
Hope in the Lord’s Faithfulness
1I am the one who has seen the afflictions
that come from the rod of the Lord’s anger.
2He has led me into darkness,
shutting out all light.
3He has turned his hand against me
again and again, all day long.
4He has made my skin and flesh grow old.
He has broken my bones.
5He has besieged and surrounded me
with anguish and distress.
6He has buried me in a dark place,
like those long dead.
7He has walled me in, and I cannot escape.
He has bound me in heavy chains.
8And though I cry and shout,
he has shut out my prayers.
9He has blocked my way with a high stone wall;
he has made my road crooked.
10He has hidden like a bear or a lion,
waiting to attack me.
11He has dragged me off the path and torn me in pieces,
leaving me helpless and devastated.
12He has drawn his bow
and made me the target for his arrows.
13He shot his arrows
deep into my heart.
14My own people laugh at me.
All day long they sing their mocking songs.
15He has filled me with bitterness
and given me a bitter cup of sorrow to drink.
16He has made me chew on gravel.
He has rolled me in the dust.
17Peace has been stripped away,
and I have forgotten what prosperity is.
18I cry out, “My splendor is gone!
Everything I had hoped for from the Lord is lost!”
19The thought of my suffering and homelessness
is bitter beyond words.*3:19 Or is wormwood and gall.
20I will never forget this awful time,
as I grieve over my loss.
21Yet I still dare to hope
when I remember this:
22The faithful love of the Lord never ends!*3:22 As in Syriac version; Hebrew reads of the Lord keeps us from destruction.
His mercies never cease.
23Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
24I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
therefore, I will hope in him!”
25The Lord is good to those who depend on him,
to those who search for him.
26So it is good to wait quietly
for salvation from the Lord.
27And it is good for people to submit at an early age
to the yoke of his discipline:
28Let them sit alone in silence
beneath the Lord’s demands.
29Let them lie face down in the dust,
for there may be hope at last.
30Let them turn the other cheek to those who strike them
and accept the insults of their enemies.
31For no one is abandoned
by the Lord forever.
32Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion
because of the greatness of his unfailing love.
33For he does not enjoy hurting people
or causing them sorrow.
34If people crush underfoot
all the prisoners of the land,
35if they deprive others of their rights
in defiance of the Most High,
36if they twist justice in the courts—
doesn’t the Lord see all these things?
37Who can command things to happen
without the Lord’s permission?
38Does not the Most High
send both calamity and good?
39Then why should we, mere humans, complain
when we are punished for our sins?
40Instead, let us test and examine our ways.
Let us turn back to the Lord.
41Let us lift our hearts and hands
to God in heaven and say,
42“We have sinned and rebelled,
and you have not forgiven us.
43“You have engulfed us with your anger, chased us down,
and slaughtered us without mercy.
44You have hidden yourself in a cloud
so our prayers cannot reach you.
45You have discarded us as refuse and garbage
among the nations.
46“All our enemies
have spoken out against us.
47We are filled with fear,
for we are trapped, devastated, and ruined.”
48Tears stream from my eyes
because of the destruction of my people!
49My tears flow endlessly;
they will not stop
50until the Lord looks down
from heaven and sees.
51My heart is breaking
over the fate of all the women of Jerusalem.
52My enemies, whom I have never harmed,
hunted me down like a bird.
53They threw me into a pit
and dropped stones on me.
54The water rose over my head,
and I cried out, “This is the end!”
55But I called on your name, Lord,
from deep within the pit.
56You heard me when I cried, “Listen to my pleading!
Hear my cry for help!”
57Yes, you came when I called;
you told me, “Do not fear.”
58Lord, you have come to my defense;
you have redeemed my life.
59You have seen the wrong they have done to me, Lord.
Be my judge, and prove me right.
60You have seen the vengeful plots
my enemies have laid against me.
61Lord, you have heard the vile names they call me.
You know all about the plans they have made.
62My enemies whisper and mutter
as they plot against me all day long.
63Look at them! Whether they sit or stand,
I am the object of their mocking songs.
64Pay them back, Lord,
for all the evil they have done.
65Give them hard and stubborn hearts,
and then let your curse fall on them!
66Chase them down in your anger,
destroying them beneath the Lord’s heavens.
God’s Anger Satisfied
1How the gold has lost its luster!
Even the finest gold has become dull.
The sacred gemstones
lie scattered in the streets!
2See how the precious children of Jerusalem,*4:2 Hebrew precious sons of Zion.
worth their weight in fine gold,
are now treated like pots of clay
made by a common potter.
3Even the jackals feed their young,
but not my people Israel.
They ignore their children’s cries,
like ostriches in the desert.
4The parched tongues of their little ones
stick to the roofs of their mouths in thirst.
The children cry for bread,
but no one has any to give them.
5The people who once ate the richest foods
now beg in the streets for anything they can get.
Those who once wore the finest clothes
now search the garbage dumps for food.
6The guilt*4:6 Or punishment. of my people
is greater than that of Sodom,
where utter disaster struck in a moment
and no hand offered help.
7Our princes once glowed with health—
brighter than snow, whiter than milk.
Their faces were as ruddy as rubies,
their appearance like fine jewels.*4:7 Hebrew like lapis lazuli.
8But now their faces are blacker than soot.
No one recognizes them in the streets.
Their skin sticks to their bones;
it is as dry and hard as wood.
9Those killed by the sword are better off
than those who die of hunger.
Starving, they waste away
for lack of food from the fields.
have cooked their own children.
They have eaten them
to survive the siege.
11But now the anger of the Lord is satisfied.
His fierce anger has been poured out.
He started a fire in Jerusalem*4:11 Hebrew in Zion.
that burned the city to its foundations.
12Not a king in all the earth—
no one in all the world—
would have believed that an enemy
could march through the gates of Jerusalem.
13Yet it happened because of the sins of her prophets
and the sins of her priests,
who defiled the city
by shedding innocent blood.
14They wandered blindly
through the streets,
so defiled by blood
that no one dared touch them.
15“Get away!” the people shouted at them.
“You’re defiled! Don’t touch us!”
So they fled to distant lands
and wandered among foreign nations,
but none would let them stay.
16The Lord himself has scattered them,
and he no longer helps them.
People show no respect for the priests
and no longer honor the leaders.
17We looked in vain for our allies
to come and save us,
but we were looking to nations
that could not help us.
18We couldn’t go into the streets
without danger to our lives.
Our end was near; our days were numbered.
We were doomed!
19Our enemies were swifter than eagles in flight.
If we fled to the mountains, they found us.
If we hid in the wilderness,
they were waiting for us there.
20Our king—the Lord’s anointed, the very life of our nation—
was caught in their snares.
We had thought that his shadow
would protect us against any nation on earth!
21Are you rejoicing in the land of Uz,
O people of Edom?
But you, too, must drink from the cup of the Lord’s anger.
You, too, will be stripped naked in your drunkenness.
22O beautiful Jerusalem,*4:22 Hebrew O daughter of Zion. your punishment will end;
you will soon return from exile.
But Edom, your punishment is just beginning;
soon your many sins will be exposed.
Prayer for Restoration
1Lord, remember what has happened to us.
See how we have been disgraced!
2Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers,
our homes to foreigners.
3We are orphaned and fatherless.
Our mothers are widowed.
4We have to pay for water to drink,
and even firewood is expensive.
5Those who pursue us are at our heels;
we are exhausted but are given no rest.
6We submitted to Egypt and Assyria
to get enough food to survive.
7Our ancestors sinned, but they have died—
and we are suffering the punishment they deserved!
8Slaves have now become our masters;
there is no one left to rescue us.
9We hunt for food at the risk of our lives,
for violence rules the countryside.
10The famine has blackened our skin
as though baked in an oven.
11Our enemies rape the women in Jerusalem*5:11 Hebrew in Zion.
and the young girls in all the towns of Judah.
12Our princes are being hanged by their thumbs,
and our elders are treated with contempt.
13Young men are led away to work at millstones,
and boys stagger under heavy loads of wood.
14The elders no longer sit in the city gates;
the young men no longer dance and sing.
15Joy has left our hearts;
our dancing has turned to mourning.
16The garlands have*5:16 Or The crown has. fallen from our heads.
Weep for us because we have sinned.
17Our hearts are sick and weary,
and our eyes grow dim with tears.
18For Jerusalem*5:18 Hebrew Mount Zion. is empty and desolate,
a place haunted by jackals.
19But Lord, you remain the same forever!
Your throne continues from generation to generation.
20Why do you continue to forget us?
Why have you abandoned us for so long?
21Restore us, O Lord, and bring us back to you again!
Give us back the joys we once had!
22Or have you utterly rejected us?
Are you angry with us still?