Lamentations 1:1-6, 9d, 11c, 20 – Alone, but Speaking


Lamentations 1:1-6, 9d, 11c, 20


The first chapter of Lamentations links third-person description of the plight of Zion with Zion’s first-person speech and petition from the midst of her plight.


Verses 1-11, spoken chiefly in the third person, make observations about the isolation and devastation of Zion and attribute the cause primarily to Zion’s disobedience. God makes Zion suffer, but the fault lies with Zion. Zion interjects her voice in 1:9d and 1:11c and continues to speak through the rest of the chapter (except for v. 17). Zion does not plead innocence; rather she pleads for attention to her plight. While Zion concedes that she bears guilt, it is equally true, if not more so, that God bears responsibility. God has rejected, and God has trodden down. God has broken Zion and Jerusalem, and thus God bears responsibility as well. God ought not ignore the afflicted, rejected, and downtrodden. Zion’s argument to God might well be summarized in the slogan, “You break it; you bought it.” Although alone, the speaker insists that God cannot walk away from the punished who are now the victims of the wrath God has unleashed.

Most interpreters understand the poet to have given voice to two separate characters in the first chapter: a dispassionate observer-an accuser of Zion-and Zion herself. These speakers do not address each other directly, but only indirectly through the poet’s interweaving their words. But could one not also imagine one character speaking in two modes, one attempting a distant and rational posture and the other speaking with immediacy and utter candor? Think of a single actor on a stage both speaking against herself and pleading her case.