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Lamentations 1-3 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Chapter 1

The Desolation of Jerusalem[a]

How solitary sits the city,
    once filled with people.
She who was great among the nations
    is now like a widow.
Once a princess among the provinces,
    now a toiling slave.

She weeps incessantly in the night,
    her cheeks damp with tears.
She has no one to comfort her
    from all her lovers;[b]
Her friends have all betrayed her,
    and become her enemies.

Judah has gone into exile,
    after oppression and harsh labor;
She dwells among the nations,
    yet finds no rest:
All her pursuers overtake her
    in the narrow straits.

The roads to Zion mourn,
    empty of pilgrims to her feasts.
All her gateways are desolate,
    her priests groan,
Her young women grieve;
    her lot is bitter.

Her foes have come out on top,
    her enemies are secure;
Because the Lord has afflicted her
    for her many rebellions.
Her children have gone away,
    captive before the foe.

From daughter Zion has gone
    all her glory:
Her princes have become like rams
    that find no pasture.
They have gone off exhausted
    before their pursuers.

Jerusalem remembers
    in days of wretched homelessness,
All the precious things she once had
    in days gone by.
But when her people fell into the hands of the foe,
    and she had no help,
Her foes looked on and laughed
    at her collapse.

Jerusalem has sinned grievously,
    therefore she has become a mockery;
Those who honored her now demean her,
    for they saw her nakedness;
She herself groans out loud,
    and turns away.

Her uncleanness is on her skirt;
    she has no thought of her future.
Her downfall is astonishing,
    with no one to comfort her.
“Look, O Lord, at my misery;
    how the enemy triumphs!”[c]

10 The foe stretched out his hands
    to all her precious things;
She has seen the nations
    enter her sanctuary,
Those you forbade to come
    into your assembly.

11 All her people groan,
    searching for bread;
They give their precious things for food,
    to retain the breath of life.
“Look, O Lord, and pay attention
    to how I have been demeaned!

12 Come, all who pass by the way,
    pay attention and see:
Is there any pain like my pain,
    which has been ruthlessly inflicted upon me,
With which the Lord has tormented me
    on the day of his blazing wrath?

13 From on high he hurled fire down
    into my very bones;
He spread out a net for my feet,
    and turned me back.
He has left me desolate,
    in misery all day long.

14 The yoke of my rebellions is bound together,
    fastened by his hand.
His yoke is upon my neck;
    he has made my strength fail.
The Lord has delivered me into the grip
    of those I cannot resist.

15 All my valiant warriors
    my Lord has cast away;
He proclaimed a feast against me
    to crush my young men;
My Lord has trodden in the wine press
    virgin daughter Judah.

16 For these things I weep—My eyes! My eyes!
    They stream with tears!
How far from me is anyone to comfort,
    anyone to restore my life.
My children are desolate;
    the enemy has prevailed.”

17 Zion stretches out her hands,
    with no one to comfort her;
The Lord has ordered against Jacob
    his foes all around;
Jerusalem has become in their midst
    a thing unclean.

18 “The Lord is in the right;
    I had defied his command.
Listen, all you peoples,
    and see my pain:
My young women and young men
    have gone into captivity.

19 I cried out to my lovers,
    but they failed me.
My priests and my elders
    perished in the city;
How desperately they searched for food,
    to save their lives!

20 Look, O Lord, at the anguish I suffer!
    My stomach churns,
And my heart recoils within me:
    How bitter I am!
Outside the sword bereaves—
    indoors, there is death.

21 Hear how I am groaning;
    there is no one to comfort me.
All my enemies hear of my misery and rejoice
    over what you have done.
Bring on the day you proclaimed,
    and let them become like me!

22 Let all their evil come before you
    and deal with them
As you have so ruthlessly dealt with me
    for all my rebellions.
My groans are many,
    my heart is sick.”

Chapter 2

The Lord’s Wrath and Zion’s Ruin[d]

How the Lord in his wrath
    has abhorred daughter Zion,
Casting down from heaven to earth
    the glory of Israel,[e]
Not remembering his footstool
    on the day of his wrath!

The Lord has devoured without pity
    all of Jacob’s dwellings;
In his fury he has razed
    daughter Judah’s defenses,
Has brought to the ground in dishonor
    a kingdom and its princes.

In blazing wrath, he cut down entirely
    the horn[f] of Israel;
He withdrew the support of his right hand
    when the enemy approached;
He burned against Jacob like a blazing fire
    that consumes everything in its path.

He bent his bow like an enemy;
    the arrow in his right hand
Like a foe, he killed
    all those held precious;
On the tent of daughter Zion
    he poured out his wrath like fire.

The Lord has become the enemy,
    he has devoured Israel:
Devoured all its strongholds,
    destroyed its defenses,
Multiplied moaning and groaning
    throughout daughter Judah.

He laid waste his booth like a garden,
    destroyed his shrine;[g]
The Lord has blotted out in Zion
    feast day and sabbath,
Has scorned in fierce wrath
    king and priest.

The Lord has rejected his altar,
    spurned his sanctuary;
He has handed over to the enemy
    the walls of its strongholds.
They shout in the house of the Lord
    as on a feast day.

The Lord was bent on destroying
    the wall of daughter Zion:
He stretched out the measuring line;[h]
    did not hesitate to devour,
Brought grief on rampart and wall
    till both succumbed.

Her gates sank into the ground;
    he smashed her bars to bits.
Her king and her princes are among the nations;
    instruction is wanting,
Even her prophets do not obtain
    any vision from the Lord.

10 The elders of daughter Zion
    sit silently on the ground;
They cast dust[i] on their heads
    and dress in sackcloth;
The young women of Jerusalem
    bow their heads to the ground.

11 My eyes are spent with tears,
    my stomach churns;[j]
My bile is poured out on the ground
    at the brokenness of the daughter of my people,
As children and infants collapse
    in the streets of the town.

12 They cry out to their mothers,
    “Where is bread and wine?”
As they faint away like the wounded
    in the streets of the city,
As their life is poured out
    in their mothers’ arms.

13 To what can I compare you[k]—to what can I liken you—
    O daughter Jerusalem?
What example can I give in order to comfort you,
    virgin daughter Zion?
For your breach is vast as the sea;
    who could heal you?

14 Your prophets provided you visions
    of whitewashed illusion;
They did not lay bare your guilt,
    in order to restore your fortunes;
They saw for you only oracles
    of empty deceit.

15 All who pass by on the road,
    clap their hands at you;
They hiss and wag their heads
    over daughter Jerusalem:
“Is this the city they used to call
    perfect in beauty and joy of all the earth?”

16 They open their mouths against you,
    all your enemies;
They hiss and gnash their teeth,
    saying, “We have devoured her!
How we have waited for this day—
    we have lived to see it!”

17 The Lord has done what he planned.
    He has fulfilled the threat
Decreed from days of old,
    destroying without pity!
He let the enemy gloat over you
    and exalted the horn of your foes.

18 Cry out to the Lord from your heart,
    wall of daughter Zion!
Let your tears flow like a torrent
    day and night;
Give yourself no rest,
    no relief for your eyes.

19 Rise up! Wail in the night,
    at the start of every watch;
Pour out your heart like water
    before the Lord;
Lift up your hands to him
    for the lives of your children,
Who collapse from hunger
    at the corner of every street.[l]

20 “Look, O Lord, and pay attention:
    to whom have you been so ruthless?
Must women eat their own offspring,[m]
    the very children they have borne?
Are priest and prophet to be slain
    in the sanctuary of the Lord?

21 They lie on the ground in the streets,
    young and old alike;
Both my young women and young men
    are cut down by the sword;
You killed them on the day of your wrath,
    slaughtered without pity.

22 You summoned as to a feast day
    terrors on every side;
On the day of the Lord’s wrath,
    none survived or escaped.
Those I have borne and nurtured,
    my enemy has utterly destroyed.”

Chapter 3

The Voice of a Suffering Individual[n]

I am one who has known affliction
    under the rod of God’s anger,
One whom he has driven and forced to walk
    in darkness, not in light;
Against me alone he turns his hand—
    again and again all day long.

He has worn away my flesh and my skin,
    he has broken my bones;
He has besieged me all around
    with poverty and hardship;
He has left me to dwell in dark places
    like those long dead.

He has hemmed me in with no escape,
    weighed me down with chains;
Even when I cry for help,
    he stops my prayer;
He has hemmed in my ways with fitted stones,
    and made my paths crooked.

10 He has been a bear lying in wait for me,
    a lion in hiding!
11 He turned me aside and tore me apart,
    leaving me ravaged.
12 He bent his bow, and set me up
    as a target for his arrow.

13 He pierced my kidneys
    with shafts from his quiver.
14 I have become a laughingstock to all my people,
    their taunt all day long;
15 He has sated me with bitterness,
    filled me with wormwood.

16 He has made me eat gravel,
    trampled me into the dust;
17 My life is deprived of peace,
    I have forgotten what happiness is;
18 My enduring hope, I said,
    has perished before the Lord.

19 The thought of my wretched homelessness
    is wormwood and poison;
20 Remembering it over and over,
    my soul is downcast.
21 But this I will call to mind;[o]
    therefore I will hope:

22 The Lord’s acts of mercy are not exhausted,
    his compassion is not spent;
23 They are renewed each morning—
    great is your faithfulness!
24 The Lord is my portion, I tell myself,
    therefore I will hope in him.

25 The Lord is good to those who trust in him,
    to the one that seeks him;
26 It is good to hope in silence
    for the Lord’s deliverance.
27 It is good for a person, when young,
    to bear the yoke,

28 To sit alone and in silence,
    when its weight lies heavy,
29 To put one’s mouth in the dust—[p]
    there may yet be hope—
30 To offer one’s cheek to be struck,
    to be filled with disgrace.

31 For the Lord does not
    reject forever;
32 Though he brings grief, he takes pity,
    according to the abundance of his mercy;
33 He does not willingly afflict
    or bring grief to human beings.

34 That someone tramples underfoot
    all the prisoners in the land,
35 Or denies justice to anyone
    in the very sight of the Most High,
36 Or subverts a person’s lawsuit—
    does the Lord not see?

37 Who speaks so that it comes to pass,
    unless the Lord commands it?
38 Is it not at the word of the Most High
    that both good and bad take place?
39 What should the living complain about?
    about their sins!

40 [q]Let us search and examine our ways,
    and return to the Lord!
41 Let us lift up our hearts as well as our hands
    toward God in heaven!
42 We have rebelled and been obstinate;
    you have not forgiven us.

43 You wrapped yourself in wrath and pursued us,
    killing without pity;
44 You wrapped yourself in a cloud,
    which no prayer could pierce.
45 You have made us filth and rubbish
    among the peoples.

46 They have opened their mouths against us,
    all our enemies;
47 Panic and the pit have been our lot,
    desolation and destruction;
48 [r]My eyes stream with tears over the destruction
    of the daughter of my people.

49 My eyes will flow without ceasing,
    without rest,
50 Until the Lord from heaven
    looks down and sees.
51 I am tormented by the sight
    of all the daughters of my city.

52 Without cause, my enemies snared me
    as though I were a bird;
53 They tried to end my life in the pit,
    pelting me with stones.
54 The waters flowed over my head:
    and I said, “I am lost!”

55 I have called upon your name, O Lord,
    from the bottom of the pit;
56 You heard me call, “Do not let your ear be deaf
    to my cry for help.”
57 You drew near on the day I called you;
    you said, “Do not fear!”

58 You pleaded my case, Lord,
    you redeemed my life.
59 You see, Lord, how I am wronged;
    do me justice!
60 You see all their vindictiveness,
    all their plots against me.

61 You hear their reproach, Lord,
    all their plots against me,
62 The whispered murmurings of my adversaries,
    against me all day long;
63 Look! Whether they sit or stand,
    I am the butt of their taunt.

64 Give them what they deserve, Lord,
    according to their deeds;
65 Give them hardness of heart;
    your curse be upon them;
66 Pursue them in wrath and destroy them
    from under the Lord’s heaven!


  1. 1:1–22 In this poem the poet first takes on the persona of an observer describing Jerusalem’s abject state after the destruction wrought by the Babylonian army (vv. 1–11a); but the detached tone gives way to a more impassioned appeal when the city itself—personified as the grieving widow and mother Zion—abruptly intrudes upon this description (vv. 9c, 11c–16, 18–22) to demand that God look squarely at her misery.
  2. 1:2 Lovers: language of love was typically used to describe the relationship between treaty partners, thus here it connotes Judah’s allies (see v. 19).
  3. 1:9 Zion breaks in on the poet’s description in v. 9c, albeit briefly, to demand that the Lord face squarely her misery. She takes up the lament in a more sustained fashion in v. 11c.
  4. 2:1–22 This chapter continues to move between the voice of the poet (vv. 1–20) and that of personified Zion (vv. 20–22). The persona of the poet, first portrayed in chap. 1 as a detached observer recounting both the desolation as well as the sins of the city, becomes in this chapter an advocate for Zion in her appeal to the Lord and never once mentions her sins.
  5. 2:1 The glory of Israel: the Temple. His footstool: the ark of the covenant (1 Chr 28:2; Ps 99:5; 132:7); or again, the Temple (Ez 43:7).
  6. 2:3 Horn: a symbol of power and strength; cf. v. 17; 1 Sm 2:1, 10; Ps 89:18, 25; 92:11; 112:9.
  7. 2:6 Booth…shrine: synonyms for the Temple; cf. Ps 27:5; 74:4, 8. The term for “shrine” in Hebrew (mo‘ed) figures prominently in the pentateuchal expression “tent of meeting” (’ohel mo‘ed).
  8. 2:8 The measuring line: normally used for building, here employed ironically as an instrument of destruction; cf. Is 34:11; 2 Kgs 21:13.
  9. 2:10 They cast dust: as a sign of mourning; cf. Jos 7:6; Jb 2:12; Ez 27:30.
  10. 2:11 My eyes are spent with tears, my stomach churns: the poet appropriates the emotional language used by Zion in 1:16 and 1:20 to express a progressively stronger commitment to her cause. After describing the systematic dismantling of the city in vv. 5–9, the poet turns to the plight of the inhabitants in vv. 10–12. It is the description of children dying in the streets that finally brings about the poet’s emotional breakdown, even as it did for Zion in 1:16.
  11. 2:13 To what can I compare you…?: the author calls attention to the poetic task: to find language that speaks adequately of the atrocities and incomparable suffering experienced by Zion, and thus to attempt to offer comfort.
  12. 2:19 The poet urges Zion to appeal to the Lord once more on behalf of her dying children. The image of Zion’s children effectively condenses the metaphorical sense of all residents of the city (young and old alike) into the more poignant picture of actual children at the point of death. It was precisely this image, no doubt well known to survivors of besieged cities, that led to the emotional breakdown of both Zion (1:16) and the poet (2:11). The hope is that the Lord will be similarly affected by such a poignant image and respond with mercy.
  13. 2:20 Must women eat their own offspring: extreme famine in a besieged city sometimes led to cannibalism; this becomes a stereotypical way of expressing the nearly unthinkable horrors of war; cf. Lam 4:10; Dt 28:53; 2 Kgs 6:28–29; Bar 2:3; Ez 5:10.
  14. 3:1–66 This chapter is focused less on the destruction of Jerusalem than are chaps. 1 and 2 and more on the suffering of an individual. The identity of the individual is never given, and one probably should not search for a specific identification of the speaker. The figure of the representative sufferer makes concrete the pain of the people in a way similar to the personification of Zion as a woman in chaps. 1 and 2. Indeed, in vv. 40–48 the individual voice gives way to a communal voice, returning in vv. 49–66 to the individual sufferer.
  15. 3:21–24 In the midst of a description of suffering, the speaker offers this brief but compelling statement of hope in God’s ultimate mercy. It is a hard-won and precarious hope, nearly submerged by the volume and intensity of the surrounding lament, but it is hope nonetheless.
  16. 3:29 To put one’s mouth in the dust: a sign of humiliation and submission; cf. v. 16; Ps 72:9.
  17. 3:40–66 The plural voice in this lament suggests that a communal lament begins here; it then continues in the singular voice in vv. 55–66.
  18. 3:48–51 These verses are more appropriate on the lips of the poet, who speaks of “my city” (v. 51). Daughters of my city: here as elsewhere “daughter” may refer to villages dependent on a larger city.
New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Scripture texts, prefaces, introductions, footnotes and cross references used in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.


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