Terrors of the Besieged City

א Alef

How the gold has become tarnished,
the fine gold become dull!
The stones of the temple[a] lie scattered
at the corner of every street.(A)

ב Bet

Zion’s precious people—
once worth their weight in pure gold(B)
how they are regarded as clay jars,
the work of a potter’s hands!

ג Gimel

Even jackals offer their breasts
to nurse their young,
but my dear people have become cruel
like ostriches(C) in the wilderness.

ד Dalet

The nursing infant’s tongue
clings to the roof of his mouth from thirst.(D)
Little children beg for bread,
but no one gives them any.

ה He

Those who used to eat delicacies
are destitute in the streets;
those who were reared in purple garments(E)
huddle in garbage heaps.

ו Vav

The punishment of my dear people
is greater than that of Sodom,(F)
which was overthrown in an instant
without a hand laid on it.

ז Zayin

Her dignitaries were brighter than snow,
whiter than milk;
their bodies[b] were more ruddy than coral,
their appearance like sapphire.[c]

ח Khet

Now they appear darker than soot;(G)
they are not recognized in the streets.
Their skin has shriveled on their bones;
it has become dry like wood.

ט Tet

Those slain by the sword are better off
than those slain by hunger,
who waste away, pierced with pain
because the fields lack produce.

י Yod

10 The hands of compassionate women
have cooked their own children;(H)
they became their food
during the destruction of my dear people.(I)

כ Kaf

11 The Lord has exhausted His wrath,
poured out His burning anger;
He has ignited a fire in Zion,
and it has consumed her foundations.(J)

ל Lamed

12 The kings of the earth
and all the world’s inhabitants did not believe
that an enemy or adversary
could enter Jerusalem’s gates.(K)

מ Mem

13 Yet it happened because of the sins of her prophets
and the guilt of her priests,
who shed the blood of the righteous
within her.(L)

נ Nun

14 Blind, they stumbled in the streets,(M)
defiled by this blood,(N)
so that no one dared
to touch their garments.

ס Samek

15 “Stay away! Unclean!” people shouted at them.
“Away, away! Don’t touch us!”(O)
So they wandered aimlessly.(P)
It was said among the nations,
“They can stay here no longer.”

פ Pe

16 The Lord Himself has scattered them;
He regards them no more.
The priests are not respected;
the elders find no favor.

ע Ayin

17 All the while our eyes were failing
as we looked in vain for assistance;(Q)
we watched from our towers
for a nation[d] that refused to help.

צ Tsade

18 Our steps were closely followed
so that we could not walk in our streets.
Our end drew near;(R) our time ran out.
Our end had come!

ק Qof

19 Those who chased us were swifter
than eagles in the sky;(S)
they relentlessly pursued us over the mountains
and ambushed us in the wilderness.

ר Resh

20 The Lord’s anointed,[e] the breath of our life,[f](T)
was captured in their traps.
We had said about him,
“We will live under his protection among the nations.”

שׂ Sin

21 So rejoice and be glad, Daughter Edom,(U)
you resident of the land of Uz!(V)
Yet the cup(W) will pass to you as well;
you will get drunk and expose yourself.

ת Tav

22 Daughter Zion, your punishment is complete;
He will not lengthen your exile.[g]
But He will punish your iniquity, Daughter Edom,
and will expose your sins.(X)


  1. Lamentations 4:1 Or The sacred gems
  2. Lamentations 4:7 Lit bones
  3. Lamentations 4:7 Or lapis lazuli
  4. Lamentations 4:17 Probably Egypt
  5. Lamentations 4:20 = King Zedekiah
  6. Lamentations 4:20 Lit nostrils
  7. Lamentations 4:22 Or not deport you again

[a]How the gold has lost its luster,
    the fine gold become dull!
The sacred gems are scattered
    at every street corner.(A)

How the precious children of Zion,(B)
    once worth their weight in gold,
are now considered as pots of clay,
    the work of a potter’s hands!

Even jackals offer their breasts
    to nurse their young,
but my people have become heartless
    like ostriches in the desert.(C)

Because of thirst(D) the infant’s tongue
    sticks to the roof of its mouth;(E)
the children beg for bread,
    but no one gives it to them.(F)

Those who once ate delicacies
    are destitute in the streets.
Those brought up in royal purple(G)
    now lie on ash heaps.(H)

The punishment of my people
    is greater than that of Sodom,(I)
which was overthrown in a moment
    without a hand turned to help her.

Their princes were brighter than snow
    and whiter than milk,
their bodies more ruddy than rubies,
    their appearance like lapis lazuli.

But now they are blacker(J) than soot;
    they are not recognized in the streets.
Their skin has shriveled on their bones;(K)
    it has become as dry as a stick.

Those killed by the sword are better off
    than those who die of famine;(L)
racked with hunger, they waste away
    for lack of food from the field.(M)

10 With their own hands compassionate women
    have cooked their own children,(N)
who became their food
    when my people were destroyed.

11 The Lord has given full vent to his wrath;(O)
    he has poured out(P) his fierce anger.(Q)
He kindled a fire(R) in Zion
    that consumed her foundations.(S)

12 The kings of the earth did not believe,
    nor did any of the peoples of the world,
that enemies and foes could enter
    the gates of Jerusalem.(T)

13 But it happened because of the sins of her prophets
    and the iniquities of her priests,(U)
who shed within her
    the blood(V) of the righteous.

14 Now they grope through the streets
    as if they were blind.(W)
They are so defiled with blood(X)
    that no one dares to touch their garments.

15 “Go away! You are unclean!” people cry to them.
    “Away! Away! Don’t touch us!”
When they flee and wander(Y) about,
    people among the nations say,
    “They can stay here no longer.”(Z)

16 The Lord himself has scattered them;
    he no longer watches over them.(AA)
The priests are shown no honor,
    the elders(AB) no favor.(AC)

17 Moreover, our eyes failed,
    looking in vain(AD) for help;(AE)
from our towers we watched
    for a nation(AF) that could not save us.

18 People stalked us at every step,
    so we could not walk in our streets.
Our end was near, our days were numbered,
    for our end had come.(AG)

19 Our pursuers were swifter
    than eagles(AH) in the sky;
they chased us(AI) over the mountains
    and lay in wait for us in the desert.(AJ)

20 The Lord’s anointed,(AK) our very life breath,
    was caught in their traps.(AL)
We thought that under his shadow(AM)
    we would live among the nations.

21 Rejoice and be glad, Daughter Edom,
    you who live in the land of Uz.(AN)
But to you also the cup(AO) will be passed;
    you will be drunk and stripped naked.(AP)

22 Your punishment will end, Daughter Zion;(AQ)
    he will not prolong your exile.
But he will punish your sin, Daughter Edom,
    and expose your wickedness.(AR)


  1. Lamentations 4:1 This chapter is an acrostic poem, the verses of which begin with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

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