Lamentations 3:1-18 – Metaphorical Descriptions of God’s Role


Lamentations 3:1-18


Using a striking series of metaphors, the “strongman” voicing chapter 3 speaks of God’s role in his affliction.


A key feature of biblical poetry, like any poetry, is vibrant metaphorical language, which is used to communicate particular emotions or sensations. In this passage, the speaker, a valorous man, feels drained of his power by the violence and deprivation of the Babylonian occupation, which he understands to have been sent by God as judgment. To describe this feeling of constant assault, the speaker uses powerful metaphors. In vv. 7-9, the speaker feels trapped with no way out. It is as if God has walled him in (v. 7), blocked his escape routes (v. 9), and made his movements slow and halting by draping him in chains (v. 7). In vv. 10-11, the speaker describes God as a wild animal who has attacked him: a bear or lion who chased him off the path and mauled him. In vv. 12-13, God is an archer who has shot the speaker through with arrows.

It should be noted that these adversarial depictions of God are figurative descriptions of the speaker’s own feelings more than they are actual depictions of God. The poet uses non-literal language to work through theological questions. If God is the creator of the world, and if all the world’s nations are under God’s power, then is the Babylonian invasion a result of God’s anger? Is there something Zion has done to merit this suffering (cf. Lamentations 3:40-45)? As the chapter continues, the strongman turns from confessing the sins of the people to calling for the punishment of the invaders (v. 64-66). The speaker sees God as the primary agent of the suffering, but also the one who can ultimately bring relief.