A Lament for Zion 4Q179

The lamentation for a fallen city was a well-known literary genre in the ancient Near East. One of the oldest known is the “Lamentation for the Destruction of Ur,” written in Mesopotamia in the twentieth century B.C.E., and several others are known. The biblical exemplar of the form is the book of Lamentations, comprising five laments over the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in the sixth century B.C.E. The scroll 4Q179 is clearly modeled after the biblical Lamentations and quotes from it occasionally. It is unclear whether this lament describes a historical incident. Between 586 B.C.E. and 70 C.E., the Holy City was not completely destroyed, but it suffered many conquests, most notably at the hands of the Syrian king Antiochus IV-Eplphanes, who, according to Josephus, robbed the Temple, took thousands captive, pillaged the city, and burned down many of the finest buildings (Ant. 12.5.4). This ordeal, which helped to incite the Maccabean war for independence, may well have inspired this lament.

Frag. 1 Col. 1 2[ . . . ] all our misdeeds and it is not within our power; for we did not obey [ . . . ] 3[ . . . ] Judah, that all these things should befall us, by evil 4[ . . . ] his covenant.
Woe to us 5[ . . . ] has become burned by fire and overthrown 6[ . . . ] our distinction, and there is nothing pleasing in it, in [ . . . ] 7[ . . . ] his holy courts have become 8[ . . . ] Jerusalem, city of 9[the sanctuary, ~has been hande d over] to wild animals, and there is no [ . . . ] and her avenues [ . . . ] all her fine buildings are desolate [ . . . ] there are no pilgrims in them, all the cities of [Judah . . . ] our inheritance has become like the desert, no [ . . . ] ‘we no longer hear rejoicing, and [there is none]. who seeks ~4[God . . . no] one to heal our wounds. All our enemies [ . . . ] our offenses [ . . . ] our sins.

Col. 2 Woe to us, for the wrath of God has come upon [ . . . ] 2that we should congregate with the dead 3[ . . . ] like an unloved wife Is[rael . . . neglects her babies, and my dear people have become] cruel [ . . . ] young men are desolate, the children of [ . . . fleeing] 6from winte when their hands are weak [ . . . ] 7Ash~heaps are now the home of the house of [Israel . . . ] 8they ask for water, but there is no attendant [ . . . ] 9those who were worth their weight [in gold . . . ] there is nothing to delight them, those who drew their strength from scarlet [clothing :.; . . ] nor fine gold, their garments bearing jewelry [ . . . no longer] do my hands touch purple stuff, [ . . . ] has risen [ . . . ] the sensitive women of Zion with them [ . . . ]

Frag. 2 4[“How] lonely [she sits], the city [once full of people!Ó (Lam. 1:1) . . . ] 5[ . . . ] the princess of all the nations is as desolate as an abandoned woman, and all: her daughters are likewise abandoned. 6[ . . . ] like a woman abandoned and miserable, whose husband has left her All her fine buildings and [walls] 7are like a barren woman,all her streets are like awoman confined [ . . . ] like a woman whose life is bitter 8and a11 her daughters are like those in mourning for [their] husbands [ . . . ] like those bereft 90f their only children, Jerusalem keeps on weeping [ . . . tears] on her cheek for her children. . .

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