The Community’s Lament to the Lord
1Remember, LORD, what has happened to us,
pay attention, and see our disgrace:
2Our heritage is turned over to strangers,
our homes, to foreigners.a
3We have become orphans, without fathers;
our mothers are like widows.
4We pay money to drink our own water,
our own wood comes at a price.
5With a yoke on our necks, we are driven;
we are worn out, but allowed no rest.
6We extended a hand to Egypt and Assyria,
to satisfy our need of bread.*
7Our ancestors, who sinned, are no more;
but now we bear their guilt.
8Servants* rule over us,
with no one to tear us from their hands.
9We risk our lives just to get bread,
exposed to the desert heat;b
10Our skin heats up like an oven,
from the searing blasts of famine.c
11Women are raped in Zion,
young women in the cities of Judah;d
12Princes have been hanged by them,
elders shown no respect.e
13Young men carry millstones,
boys stagger under loads of wood;
14The elders have abandoned the gate,*
the young men their music.
15The joy of our hearts has ceased,
dancing has turned into mourning;f
16The crown has fallen from our head:
woe to us that we sinned!
17Because of this our hearts grow sick,
at this our eyes grow dim:
18Because of Mount Zion, lying desolate,
and the jackals roaming there!
19But you, LORD, are enthroned forever;
your throne stands from age to age.g
20* Why have you utterly forgotten us,
forsaken us for so long?h
21Bring us back to you, LORD, that we may return:
renew our days as of old.i
22For now you have indeed rejected us
and utterly turned your wrath against us.j
* [5:6] Extended a hand: that is, made an alliance. In its state of abjection, Judah was forced to depend on the major powers to the west and the east for subsistence.
* [5:8] Servants: the Hebrew word for “servant” is also the word used for an official of relatively high status (servant of the ruler; cf. 2 Kgs 25:24, where the term is used to refer to Babylonian rulers over occupied Jerusalem); the author doubtless intends the double meaning here.
* [5:14] The gate: a place of assembly, where city decisions were made and judgment given by the elders and other community leaders; see note on Ru 4:1.
* [5:20–22] Unlike most of the laments found in the Book of Psalms, the Book of Lamentations never moves from lament to thanksgiving. It ends with this question still unanswered by God: “Why have you utterly forgotten us?”
f. [5:15] Jer 16:9; 25:10; Am 8:10.
g. [5:19] Ps 9:8; 45:7; 102:13, 27.
h. [5:20] Ps 13:2; 42:10; Is 49:14.