Lamentations 3

Lamentations 3 takes the acrostic nature of these poems a step further than the others. Not only do we have the twenty-two stanzas corresponding to the Hebrew alphabet, but each stanza itself has three lines sharing that same initial letter.

In contrast to the first and second poems which are voiced by Daughter Zion and reflect a woman's perspective of the effects of war and siege, this poem is strongly masculine in perspective. Indeed its opening words would be best translated as "I am the man", from the gender-specific Hebrew "geber" (unlike, say, "adam" which can sometimes be read in gender-inclusive ways).

Like the earlier two poems, this can also be seen as being in two "voices": an individual (1–24 and 40–66) and a narrator (25–39).

Some see in this chapter's first six verses a sort of "anti-psalm" to the well-known Psalm 23 "The Lord is my shepherd". (Hover the mouse over verses 1–6 to see the text of the psalm.)


Agonies: I am the man[1] seared
by the rod of his wrath;

Away he has driven, force-marched me
in darkness, no light;

Against me he turns his hand
from day-dawn to dusk;


Breaking my bones, he has wasted
my flesh and my skin;

Besieged by him; he caged me
by bitterness, hardship;

Bound by him in darkness
to dwell as the long-dead.


Confined, inescapably walled,
he chained me and weighted me;

Cry though I into the void,
he blanks out my prayer.

Confining my walkway with hewn stone,
he twisted my paths;


Dangerous as an ambushing bear,
as a prey-stalking lion,

Dragging from my pathway he ripped me
and desolate made me.

Drawing his bow, he propped me:
for his arrows a target;


Eviscerated he my innards
with the shafts of his quiver.

Excoriated, to my kinsfolk a laughing-stock,
their taunt-tune the day long.

Engorging me, force-feeding bitterness
he sated me with gall;


Fracturing my teeth on gravel,
he ground me in dust.

Far from my mind any peace,
I forgot what is good;

Fled, dregs of honour; and gone
all I'd hoped in the Lord.


Gall, a bitter remembrance
of my affliction, my wandering;

Grief downcasts my soul,
in its pained recollection;

Glimmering, though, to heart
dawns a faint, far-off hope;


Habitual, though, his compassions;
the Lord's love never fails us;

His mercies renew each day-dawning;
how great is your faithfulness.

Hope I then in him; may I say
"My portion is the Lord".[2]


Irreproachable[3] is the Lord to his seekers,
to those who quest for him;

Irreproachable is our hoping in quietness
for the Lord's saving rescue;

Irreproachable is it to bear
the yoke while in youth.


Lie he alone and in silence[4][5]
when it's laid so upon him.

Lend he his mouth to the dust—
perhaps yet may be hope.

Lend he his cheek to the assailant;
take his fill of disgrace.


Mankind's desertion by the Lord[6]
lasts not forever;

Mercy and kindness will follow
his sorrow-borne strike;

Mean heart guides not his affliction
of humanity's children.


Neutering, crushing underfoot
all prisoners of earth?

Nay-saying, denying our rights
before the Most High?

Negating our crying for justice?—
the Lord would not bide.


Ordering futures? Who can make so
should the Lord not decree?

Out of the Most High's mouth, come not
both disaster and good?

Of what shall one living complain
on account of his wrong?


Plumb we our ways, let us audit them,
that we return to the Lord;

Palms aloft, hearts lifted
to God on high we say:

Perfidious we were in sin and revolt,
and you did not forgive.


Retributively you enveloped us, pursued us;
you slew us unsparingly;

Raiment of storm cloud enveloped you,
blocking out prayer;

Rejected[7] and outcast you made us
in the midst of the peoples.


Snapping and gaping their mouths at us
are all our enemies;

Suffering, ours: terror and traps,
holocaust and horror;

Stream tears from my eyes at the holocaust
of my Daughter People.[8]


Tears stream: unbidden,
no respite, unending,

Till out looks the Lord
and sees from the heavens.

Tears stream: how grieves my soul
for the daughters of my city.


Unreasoning, my enemies ensnare me,
ensnaring as a bird;

Undone—my life in a pit
as rocks they cast on me;

Under waters engulfing my head;
I thought, "I am lost".


Voiced I your name, Lord,
from bottom-most pit;

Validate my plea; close not
your ears to my cry.

Venturing close when I called you,
you spoke: "do not fear".


When you pleaded, O Lord, my cause,
you redeemed my life.

Witness, O Lord, how I am wronged;
do justice for me.

Witness all their vindictiveness,
their scheming against me.


You have heard, Lord, their insults,
their scheming against me;[9]

Yonder, they mutter and prattle
from day-dawn to dusk;

You see them? Whether seated or rising,
they mock me in songs.


Zilch make their rewards, O Lord,
for the works at their hands;

Ziplock their cold hearts:
your curse upon them;

Zealously hunt them, destroy them
under the heavens of the Lord.

[1]Translation compromise. Ideally this would start "I am the man" but the acrostic constraint doesn't allow this.

[2]This section of first person narrative concludes with three references to the self, before the narrative switches to a third person perspective.

[3]In this 'I' stanza, each line shares an opening Hebrew word meaning "good".

[4]"Lie" is the same verb as 1:1—"Alone lies the city".

[5]The three lines of this stanza all begin with verbs; lines two and three share the same one that can mean put, give or offer.

[6]As with the "I" stanza, the lines here should all start with the same word. Unfortunately this is a challenge too far. The Hebrew word is a little anacrusis meaning "for…" ("because…"). There seems no such word in English. Nor does there seem any other reasonable common word across the three lines. Had this stanza been "N" rather than "M", "now" would have been a possibility. But that would later require a stanza of three "Q" or "X" words.

[7]The verb "rejected" can be seen as anticpating its recurrence at 5:22, the devasting final verse of the enitre book.

[8]Verses 47–48 involve alliteration and the repetition of 'holocaust'. Further, the final part of 48 is the same as 2:11.

[9]It is unclear whether this direct repetition from the end of the previous verse was a deliberate reinforcement ("epiphora") or an inadvertent scribal duplication.