Lamentations 1

Throughout chapters one, two and four, Zion is not only dwelling-place of God but is additionally personified by the hauntingly endearing term "Daughter Zion". The poems lament not merely an inamimate city; the city is a precious daughter, beloved of God.[1] This is set out within the very first verse.

Observe that this first poem is in two "voices": a witness-bystander recites most of 1–11b; the city herself recites most of 11c–22. In each, though, the voice of the other occasionally appears (e.g. 9c; 17).

Reminder: "qinah" rhythm is vitally important to recitation and reading. Each line-pair has three then two strong beats. For an example, hover the mouse over the opening "Alas! ..." verse.


Alas![2] Alone lies the city
 once teeming with people;
She, once a lady among nations,
 now abandoned, widowed;
she, once princess among provinces,
 now chained, enslaved.


Bitterly she weeps through the night
 tears wet her cheeks;
None there is to comfort her
 from all her lovers;
all her friends have betrayed her:
 become her enemies.


Cast out into exile by force
 is Judah to hard labour.
She lodges among the nations
 but finds no rest.
All who pursue her overtake her:
 dire her straits.


Devoid of all pilgrims to her assemblies,
 the roads to Zion mourn;
her gateways all are desolate,
 her priests groan,
her young women are wailing;
 how bitter her fate.


Enemies now have mastered her;
 her foes prosper,
since the Lord has stricken her with sorrow
 for her many misdeeds.
Her young children are driven to exile,
 captive before the foe.


From Daughter Zion has departed
 all her splendour.
Her leaders now wander like deer—
 they find no pasture;
They run, all their strength spent,
 pursued by the hunter.


Great treasures that once were hers
 in days gone by
Jerusalem calls to mind
 in her days of affliction.
[When her people fell to enemy hand,
 there was none to help.][3]
Her foes look on and mock
 her fallen state.


How grievously has Jerusalem sinned—
 how become a soiled rag.
Those who once honoured her, despise her,
 seeing her nakedness.
She, aghast, cries out;
 she hides her face.


Iniquity clings to her skirts;
 she heeded not her future.
Her downfall renders amazement;
 there is none to comfort her.
"Look, O Lord on my affliction,
 for the enemy triumphs."


Lecherous enemy hands spread
 all over her treasures;
pagan nations she sees
 enter her sanctuary—
those you forbade to enter
 your assembly.


Moaning in famine her people
 searching for bread,
bartering treasures for food
 to cling to their lives.
"Look, O Lord, and notice,
 for I am despised."


Notice! And look, you passers-by;
 is it nothing to you?
Is there any pain like my pain,
 inflicted on me,
that the Lord wreaked on me
 in the day of his wrath?


Out of the heights he hurled fire
 down into my bones.
He spread out a net for my feet;
 he turned me back.
He has made me desolate:
 all day faint.


Packed[4] into a yoke are my sins;
 entwined by his hand
his yoke was upon my neck;
 it sapped my strength.
My Lord has given me into the grip of those
 I cannot withstand.


Rejecting my own mighty warriors,
 the Lord scorned them,
and called an assembly against me
 to crush my young men.
In a winepress my Lord has trodden
 virgin Daughter Judah.


Streaming with tears, my eyes—
 my eyes weep for these things;
far distant one who might comfort me,[5]
 to restore my soul.
My children all are desolate;
 the enemy has prevailed.


Taut-stretched reach out Zion's hands,
 but none comforts her;
the Lord has summoned against Jacob
 his foes to encircle;
Jerusalem in their eyes has become
 a soiled towel.


Upright in judgement is the Lord,
 for I defied his command.
Hear, I pray, all you peoples,
 and look on my pain:
all my young men and maidens
 have gone into exile.


Vainly I called to my lovers—
 they abandoned me.
In the city my priests and my elders
when they search for food to revive
 their souls.


Witness, O Lord, my distress!
 My stomach churns,
my heart recoils within me:
 defiantly I had defied.
Outside the sword bereaves;
 inside, too, death.


Yearnings of anguish they heard,
 but none brings me comfort.
My enemies all heard my malignant state—
 rejoiced that you caused it.
Oh, bring on the day you called forth—
 let them be as me!


Zero in—their malignant ways all
 are before you; torment them
as you tormented me
 for all my rebellions.
For many are my groans;
 my heart is sick.

[1]Adelman, Rachel (2021). Daughter Zion (Bat Tzion) Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women.

[2]"Alas!": Hebrew 'Ekah, meaning "how", the name of the book itself, and beginning with the Hebrew letter 'aleph' equivalent to our 'A'.

[3]This verse has an extra line in the Hebrew, considered by some commentators to be a marginal gloss. See also 2:19 and 4:15.

[4]The Hebrew verb "nisqad" only occurs here so any translation is conjectural.

[5]Some Jewish commentators here see a comforter-Messiah being yearned for.