Lamentations 2

This second poem leaves no doubt of the horrifying prospect that God himself is the antagonist: that he has turned against his own Daughter Zion. Bookended by "the day of the Lord's anger", it is the polar opposite of the psalmist's praise, 118:24–27; it is the nightmare incarnation of the prophet's warning, Amos 5:18–20.

The first poem was in two "voices", approximately 50–50: a witness-bystander and Daughter Zion herself. This second poem is mostly voiced by the witness, but at 19 the witness can be seen to implore the city herself to voice her complaint, which she accordingly does to close the poem.


Alas![1] In his anger my Lord beclouded
 Daughter Zion;
flung down from the heavens to earth
 the honour of Israel;
nor remembered his footstool[2]
 in the day of his anger;


Brought to the ground in desecration
 a kingdom and its princes;
in fury has razed the defences
 of Daughter Judah.
My Lord has devoured without pity
 all the dwellings of Jacob;


Cut off in his smouldering wrath
 every horn of Israel;
has withdrawn his right hand
 at enemy approach;
has blazed against Jacob in fire,
 consuming all around.


Drawing his bow like an enemy,
 his right hand poised,
like a foe, he has slain those precious
 in his eye, and has poured
out his wrath like fire on the tent
 of Daughter Zion.


Enemy! So the Lord has become,
 and devoured Israel—
has devoured all of her palaces,
 and laid waste her strongholds;
has multiplied for Daughter Judah
 wailing and weeping.[3]


Felling his tent like a garden,
 he destroyed his meeting place;
The Lord has blotted from Zion
 both feast-day and sabbath;
in raging anger has spurned
 both king and priest.


God has rejected his altar,
 spurned his shrine;
to the hands of the enemy has given
 the walls of her strongholds.
They in the Lord's house shout
 as on festival-day.


He was bent on destroying
 Daughter Zion's wall;
The Lord stretched out the measuring line;
 did not hesitate to devour;
made wall and rampart lament
 together they succumbed.


Into the ground her gates sunk;
 he shattered her bars.
Her king and her princes are exiled;
 law is absent;[4]
her prophets no longer could find
 any vision from the Lord.


Jerusalem-Daughter, your elders
 sit silent on the ground;
dust they cast on their heads
 and sackcloth they gird.
Zion's young women bow
 their heads to the ground.


Lamenting, my weeping eyes fail;
 my stomach is turned;
at the holocaust of my Daughter People
 my heart to the ground spills
as the infants and children expire
 in the city streets.


Mothers hear them crying out loud:
 "Where is corn and wine?"
as they expire like the wounded
 in the city streets;
as their lives ebb away
 in their mothers' arms.


O Daughter Jerusalem: to what can I
 liken you or compare?
O virgin Daughter Zion:
 whose plight is like yours?
Wide as the sea breaks your wound;
 who could heal you?


Prophets provided you visions—
 whitewashed illusion.[5]
They did not lay bare your guilt
 to restore your fortunes;
they saw for you only oracles
 of illusions and deceit.


Remembered once: "Perfect in beauty,
 joy of all earth";[6]
now those who pass by on the road
 clap in derision;
they hiss and wag their heads
 over Daughter Jerusalem.


Snarling and gnashing their teeth,
 all your enemies
open their mouths at you, saying
 "We have devoured her!
Long for this day we have waited—
 we have lived to see it!"


The Lord has done what he planned,
 has fulfilled his threat
decreed from days of old,
 to destroy without pity;
has let the enemy over you gloat
 and exalted your foes' horn.


Unto the Lord let your heart cry,
 wall of Daughter Zion.
Shed tears like a torrent
 day and night;
give yourself no relief,
 your eyes no rest.


Vociferous! Cry anguished all night,
 at the start of each watch.
Spill out your heart like water
 in full sight of the Lord.
Lift up your hands to him
 for the lives of your babes
[who faint from famine and hunger
 at every street-corner].[7]


Who have you thus tormented?
 Look, Lord; notice.
Must women eat their own womb's fruit,
 their nursed babes?
Should priest and prophet be slain
 in the sanctuary of the Lord?


Young and old lie dead together
 on the ground in the streets;
young women and young men fallen,
 cut down by the sword.
You slaughtered on the day of your wrath:
 slew them without pity.


Zoned round: the terrors you summoned
 as to a feast day;
on the day of the Lord's anger
 none escaped or survived.
Those I had nursed and reared,
 my enemy annihilated.

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

[2]Footstool: a metaphorical reference to the Jerusalem Temple.

[3]The Hebrew also has an alliterative wordplay here.

[4]This line may well refer to the absence of religious law (in parallel to the secular goverance of the first line).

[5]This striking translation courtesy of NABRE.

[6]Psalm 48:2, Psalm 50:2; Ezek.27:3.

[7]This verse has an extra line in the Hebrew, considered by some commentators to be a marginal gloss. See also 1:7 and 4:15.