Friday, April 9, 2010

Lamentations 4

It is a relief to get back to Lamentations after a week away. The poem in this chapter is a part of the scaffolding for the central chapter. In chapter 3 we see a specific warrior taking personal responsibility for the disaster. Now we return to 99% plural pronouns. (I couldn't stop myself in the middle of this scroll - must finish).

Notice of course the links to the Song and to Job.
VerseHebrew textA translationWhat shall we say?
Aleph
אֵיכָה יוּעַם זָהָב
יִשְׁנֶא הַכֶּתֶם הַטּוֹב
תִּשְׁתַּפֵּכְנָה אַבְנֵי קֹדֶשׁ
בְּרֹאשׁ כָּל חוּצוֹת ס
Ah how gold is dimmed
the finest gold, the good is changed
the stones of the sanctuary are poured out
at the head of every street
compare Lam 2:18
But who is the gold? Not just the temple's gold, but the Beloved himself as described in Song 5:11. Poured out - 4 times in chapter 2, 3 times in this chapter, unifying the two and highlighting that which comes between them - chapter 3
Betבְּנֵי צִיּוֹן הַיְקָרִים הַמְסֻלָּאִים בַּפָּז
אֵיכָה נֶחְשְׁבוּ לְנִבְלֵי חֶרֶשׂ
מַעֲשֵׂה יְדֵי יוֹצֵר ס
But the kids of Zion, the splendid ones
to be compared with gold
how they are zeroed in on as earthenware skin-bottles
made by the potter's hand
As in Job 28, 3 differing words for gold.

zero (esteemed is a normal gloss) matches Zayin in Lam 2:7 - again linking the two poems since the word  occurs only in these two chapters in Lamentations.
Gimelגַּם תַּנִּים חָלְצוּ שַׁד
הֵינִיקוּ גּוּרֵיהֶן
בַּת עַמִּי לְאַכְזָר

כַּיְעֵנִים בַּמִּדְבָּר ס
Great sea monsters bare a breast
they suckle their whelps
the daughter of my people is fierce
like the ostriches of the desert
Two connections with words from Job - sea monster and fierce. Job had become a sea monster (Job 7:12, 30:29), here depicted as still doing normal caring things. Daughter of Zion has become fierce as Job accused Hashem of being. (Job 30:21, 41:10)
Daletדָּבַק לְשׁוֹן יוֹנֵק
אֶל חִכּוֹ בַּצָּמָא
עוֹלָלִים שָׁאֲלוּ לֶחֶם

פֹּרֵשׂ אֵין לָהֶם ס
Direct to their palate the tongues of the suckling stick in their thirst.
Babes ask for bread
there is no one to spread it for them
suckling is plural - tongue is singular. I have treated suckling as collective and tongue as plural - with 'their' as pronoun rather than 'his'.
Heהָאֹכְלִים לְמַעֲדַנִּים  נָשַׁמּוּ בַּחוּצוֹת
הָאֱמֻנִים עֲלֵי תוֹלָע חִבְּקוּ אַשְׁפַּתּוֹת ס
How they who devoured delicacies
are desolate in the streets
they who were reared faithfully in crimson
eke from garbage dumps
brought up with a silver spoon in the mouth - I was tempted to coin a new verb in English - 'to amen'. Joining the sound to verse 12 doesn't work well with any English word.
Vavוַיִּגְדַּל עֲו‍ֹן בַּת עַמִּי
מֵחַטַּאת סְדֹם
הַהֲפוּכָה כְמוֹ רָגַע
וְלֹא חָלוּ בָהּ יָדָיִם ס
Visualize the iniquity of the daughter of my people - greater than the sin of Sodom
overturned as in a moment
and no hands working her over
There is no word for punishment here - why should it be added to the text (here or in verse 22)?
Zayinזַכּוּ נְזִירֶיהָ מִשֶּׁלֶג
צַחוּ מֵחָלָב
אָדְמוּ עֶצֶם מִפְּנִינִים

סַפִּיר גִּזְרָתָם ס
Zero dirt - white like snow her Nazirites
shining from milk
ruddier of bone than rubies
sapphire their polish
O Z - can you do better than this? Zapped can't be like snow. Zot is a Hebrew word but appears in English only in comic books. Zero is a cold water wash too - good for silk and other delicates.
Shining? I imagined the greased warriors body (another link with Job are the rubies) - and why white here when the poet has already used snow? This is a foreign image after all.
Chetחָשַׁךְ מִשְּׁחוֹר תָּאֳרָם
לֹא נִכְּרוּ בַּחוּצוֹת
צָפַד עוֹרָם עַל עַצְמָם יָבֵשׁ הָיָה כָעֵץ ס
How their form is black as coal
unrecognizable in the streets
their skin sticks to their bones
dried like a piece of wood
and to be contrasted in this next verse.
Wood will match the sound to come in chapter 5 - it is a new word in the poem.
Tetטוֹבִים הָיוּ חַלְלֵי חֶרֶב
מֵחַלְלֵי רָעָב
 שֶׁהֵם יָזוּבוּ 
מְדֻקָּרִים מִתְּנוּבֹת שָׂדָי
To be wounded by sword is better than the wound of hunger
for these waste away,
pierced for the produce of the field



Yodיְדֵי נָשִׁים רַחֲמָנִיּוֹת
בִּשְּׁלוּ יַלְדֵיהֶן
הָיוּ לְבָרוֹת לָמוֹ
בְּשֶׁבֶר בַּת-עַמִּי ס
Yea the hands of the women to be pitied
have boiled their own offspring
they become meals to them
in the destruction of the daughter of my people
Kafכִּלָּה יְהוָה אֶת חֲמָתוֹ  שָׁפַךְ חֲרוֹן אַפּוֹ
וַיַּצֶּת אֵשׁ בְּצִיּוֹן וַתֹּאכַל יְסֹדֹתֶיהָ ס
Know that יְהוָה has exhausted his wrath
he has poured out his fierce anger
and it has kindled a fire in Zion
and devoured her foundations
חֲמָתוֹ is another link to chapter 2 as is poured out (4 times in chapter 2 and 3 times in chapter 4 and nowhere else in Lamentations) and devoured (see also verse 5 here). There are enough of these verbal links to suggest that the repetitions are deliberate around the central chapter.
Lamedלֹא הֶאֱמִינוּ מַלְכֵי אֶרֶץ
כֹּל יֹשְׁבֵי תֵבֵל
כִּי יָבֹא צַר וְאוֹיֵב
בְּשַׁעֲרֵי יְרוּשָׁלִָם ס
Leaders of the earth and dwellers in the world would not have had faith
that there would come adversity and enemy
into the gates of Jerusalem
Mem מֵחַטֹּאת נְבִיאֶיהָ
עֲו‍ֹנֹת כֹּהֲנֶיהָ
הַשֹּׁפְכִים בְּקִרְבָּהּ דַּם צַדִּיקִים ס
Mid the sins of her prophets
and the iniquities of her priests
pouring out in her midst the blood of the righteous
iniquity frames this chapter and connects to both chapters 2 and 5.
Nunנָעוּ עִוְרִים בַּחוּצוֹת
נְגֹאֲלוּ בַּדָּם
בְּלֹא יוּכְלוּ יִגְּעוּ בִּלְבֻשֵׁיהֶם ס
Nodding about blind in the streets
defiled with blood
so they were not able to touch their garments
it is strange that there are homonyms meaning defile and redeem - blood should redeem and not defile, especially the blood of the righteous. This could be severely misread. Compare Lam 1:14 (Nun)
Samechסוּרוּ טָמֵא קָרְאוּ לָמוֹ סוּרוּ סוּרוּ אַל-תִּגָּעוּ
כִּי נָצוּ גַּם-נָעוּ
אָמְרוּ בַּגּוֹיִם

לֹא יוֹסִפוּ לָגוּר ס
Scurry off unclean, they cry to them
scurry - scurry - do not touch
for they fled - even nodding
they say among the nations
they will no longer continue here
נוץ (fled) occurs elsewhere only in the Song where it is glossed as 'bud'.

Nod is odd but also links these two chapters 2 and 4.

Pehפְּנֵי יְהוָה חִלְּקָם
לֹא יוֹסִיף לְהַבִּיטָם
פְּנֵי כֹהֲנִים לֹא נָשָׂאוּ

וּזְקֵנִים לֹא חָנָנוּ ס
Presence divides them
יְהוָה  will no longer look to them
they did not bear the presence of the priests
and the elders they did not favour
there are many unresolved or ambiguous third person plural pronouns - who is saying what to whom about what?

A severe warning against taking pleasure in another's humiliation
Ayinעוֹדֵינוּ תִּכְלֶינָה עֵינֵינוּ
אֶל-עֶזְרָתֵנוּ הָבֶל
בְּצִפִּיָּתֵנוּ צִפִּינוּ
אֶל גּוֹי לֹא יוֹשִׁעַ ס
Indeed for us, for them, our eyes are exhausted
over our vaporous help
in our watch we watched
over a nation he will not deliver
I am looking forward to the challenge of dealing with הָבֶל in Qohelet


.
Tsadeצָדוּ צְעָדֵינוּ
מִלֶּכֶת בִּרְחֹבֹתֵינוּ
קָרַב קִצֵּנוּ
מָלְאוּ יָמֵינוּ
כִּי בָא קִצֵּנוּ ס
'ts-our steps they hunt
more than going into our plazas
near is our end
fulfilled our days
for our end is come
plaza - another join with chapter 2
Qofקַלִּים הָיוּ רֹדְפֵינוּ  מִנִּשְׁרֵי שָׁמָיִם
עַל הֶהָרִים דְּלָקֻנוּ בַּמִּדְבָּר אָרְבוּ לָנוּ ס
Quicker are our persecutors
than the eagles of heaven
on the mountains they pursued us
in the desert they lurk for us
Reshרוּחַ אַפֵּינוּ
מְשִׁיחַ יְהוָה
נִלְכַּד בִּשְׁחִיתוֹתָם
אֲשֶׁר אָמַרְנוּ בְּצִלּוֹ נִחְיֶה בַגּוֹיִם ס
Removed in their destroying
is the breath of our noses,
the anointed of יְהוָה
as we said
under his shadow we will live among the nations
third phrase in the Hebrew moved up for the R.

The anointed is singular and appears to be in apposition to the breath of our noses - the spirit of our life. Make of it what you must.
Shinשִׂישִׂי וְשִׂמְחִי בַּת אֱדוֹם יוֹשֶׁבֶת בְּאֶרֶץ עוּץ
גַּם עָלַיִךְ תַּעֲבָר כּוֹס
תִּשְׁכְּרִי וְתִתְעָרִי ס
Sing and rejoice daughter of Edom
that lives in the land of Uz
Even to you a cup will pass
You will be intoxicated and will expose yourself
A similar ending to Lam 1:21-22 - no Adam (in this case Edom) will escape - is Uz, the land of Job, the generic land?
Tafתַּם עֲו‍ֹנֵךְ בַּת צִיּוֹן
לֹא יוֹסִיף לְהַגְלוֹתֵךְ
פָּקַד עֲו‍ֹנֵךְ בַּת אֱדוֹם
גִּלָּה עַל חַטֹּאתָיִךְ פ
Thus your iniquity is complete daughter of Zion
No longer will he carry you into exile
He will visit your iniquity daughter of Edom
He will carry on about your sins.
the envelope opened in Lam 1:3 and touched in Lam 2:14 is closed here. The threat is ultimately accomplished but with the unforeseen circumstance that Edom also is given opportunity for consecration and deliverance from sin and iniquity


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