Let us examine our ways and test them,
and let us return to the Lord.
Let us lift up our hearts and our hands
to God in heaven, and say:
‘We have sinned and rebelled
and you have not forgiven.
‘You have covered yourself with anger and pursued us;
you have slain without pity.
You have covered yourself with a cloud
so that no prayer can get through.
You have made us scum and refuse
among the nations.
‘All our enemies have opened their mouths
wide against us.
We have suffered terror and pitfalls,
ruin and destruction.’
Streams of tears flow from my eyes
because my people are destroyed.
My eyes will flow unceasingly,
until the Lord looks down
from heaven and sees.
What I see brings grief to my soul
because of all the women of my city.
Those who were my enemies without cause
hunted me like a bird.
They tried to end my life in a pit
and threw stones at me;
the waters closed over my head,
and I thought I was about to perish.
I called on your name, Lord,
from the depths of the pit.
You heard my plea: ‘Do not close your ears
to my cry for relief.’
You came near when I called you,
and you said, ‘Do not fear.’
You, Lord, took up my case;
you redeemed my life.
Lord, you have seen the wrong done to me.
Uphold my cause!
You have seen the depth of their vengeance,
all their plots against me.
Lord, you have heard their insults,
all their plots against me –
what my enemies whisper and mutter
against me all day long.
Look at them! Sitting or standing,
they mock me in their songs.
Pay them back what they deserve, Lord,
for what their hands have done.
Put a veil over their hearts,
and may your curse be on them!
Pursue them in anger and destroy them
from under the heavens of the Lord.
[a]How the gold has lost its lustre,
the fine gold become dull!
The sacred gems are scattered
at every street corner.
How the precious children of Zion,
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.
Because of thirst the infant’s tongue
sticks to the roof of its mouth;
the children beg for bread,
but no one gives it to them.
Those who once ate delicacies
are destitute in the streets.
Those brought up in royal purple
now lie on ash heaps.
The punishment of my people
is greater than that of Sodom,
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 than soot;
they are not recognised in the streets.
Their skin has shrivelled on their bones;
it has become as dry as a stick.
Those killed by the sword are better off
than those who die of famine;
racked with hunger, they waste away
for lack of food from the field.
With their own hands compassionate women
have cooked their own children,
who became their food
when my people were destroyed.
The Lord has given full vent to his wrath;
he has poured out his fierce anger.
He kindled a fire in Zion
that consumed her foundations.
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.
But it happened because of the sins of her prophets
and the iniquities of her priests,
who shed within her
the blood of the righteous.
Now they grope through the streets
as if they were blind.
They are so defiled with blood
that no one dares to touch their garments.
‘Go away! You are unclean!’ people cry to them.
‘Away! Away! Don’t touch us!’
When they flee and wander about,
people among the nations say,
‘They can stay here no longer.’
The Lord himself has scattered them;
he no longer watches over them.
The priests are shown no honour,
the elders no favour.
Moreover, our eyes failed,
looking in vain for help;
from our towers we watched
for a nation that could not save us.
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.
Our pursuers were swifter
than eagles in the sky;
they chased us over the mountains
and lay in wait for us in the desert.
The Lord’s anointed, our very life breath,
was caught in their traps.
We thought that under his shadow
we would live among the nations.
Rejoice and be glad, Daughter Edom,
you who live in the land of Uz.
But to you also the cup will be passed;
you will be drunk and stripped naked.
Your punishment will end, Daughter Zion;
he will not prolong your exile.
But he will punish your sin, Daughter Edom,
and expose your wickedness.
- Lamentations 4:1 This chapter is an acrostic poem, the verses of which begin with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
Remember, Lord, what has happened to us;
look, and see our disgrace.
Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers,
our homes to foreigners.
We have become fatherless,
our mothers are widows.
We must buy the water we drink;
our wood can be had only at a price.
Those who pursue us are at our heels;
we are weary and find no rest.
We submitted to Egypt and Assyria
to get enough bread.
Our ancestors sinned and are no more,
and we bear their punishment.
Slaves rule over us,
and there is no one to free us from their hands.
We get our bread at the risk of our lives
because of the sword in the desert.
Our skin is hot as an oven,
feverish from hunger.
Women have been violated in Zion,
and virgins in the towns of Judah.
Princes have been hung up by their hands;
elders are shown no respect.
Young men toil at the millstones;
boys stagger under loads of wood.
The elders are gone from the city gate;
the young men have stopped their music.
Joy is gone from our hearts;
our dancing has turned to mourning.
The crown has fallen from our head.
Woe to us, for we have sinned!
Because of this our hearts are faint;
because of these things our eyes grow dim
for Mount Zion, which lies desolate,
with jackals prowling over it.
You, Lord, reign for ever;
your throne endures from generation to generation.
Why do you always forget us?
Why do you forsake us so long?
Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return;
renew our days as of old
unless you have utterly rejected us
and are angry with us beyond measure.