Lamentations 3

Lamentations 3 takes the acrostic nature of these poems a step further than the others. Here, not only do we have the twenty-two stanzas corresponding to successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet, but each stanza itself has three lines, each with the same initial letter. To achieve the all-embracing "A to Z" of completeness, we omit J, K, Q and X.

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


Agonies: I know their searing
from 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;

Confounding my walkway with boulders,
he twisted my paths.


Dangerous as quiet-lurking bear,
like 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 then in him; may I say
"My portion is the Lord".


Irreproachable[1] 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.


Let him[2] sit, alone and in silence
when the Lord has so directed.

Let him bury his mouth in the dust—
perhaps yet may be hope.

Let him offer his cheek to the assailant;
take his fill of disgrace.


Mankind's desertion by the Lord
lasts not forever;

Mercy and kindness will follow
his sorrow-borne strike;

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


Neutering, foot-crushing
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 God's mouth, come not
both disaster and good?

Of what shall one living complain
when punished for his wrong?


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

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

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


Retributive in anger, you pursued us,
slew us, remorselessly;

Raiment of cloud thick encloaks you,
impervious to prayer;

Repellent and filth 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,
ruin, destruction;

Stream-running tears from my eyes
for the shattering of my people.


Tears stream unbidden,
no respite, unending,

Till out looks the Lord
and sees from the heavens.

Tumult I see grieves my soul
for the daughters of my city.


Uncaused is the enmity of those
who ensnared me as a bird;

Undone is my life, in a pit dumped
as rocks they cast on me;

Under water is my head whelmed;
I thought, "I am gone".


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.

Win my case! O Lord,
you have seen the wrong done to me;

Witness, I beg, their vindictiveness,
their scheming against me.


You have heard, Lord, their insults,
their scheming against me;[3]

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

Your eyes see them, seated or rising:
mocking 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] In this 'I' stanza, each line shares an opening Hebrew word meaning "good".

[2] Regarding the apparent lack of inclusivity here, we should note that this male-oriented chapter should be taken alongside the preceding female-oriented "daughters of Zion" chapter.

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