Conventional readings of Lamentations invariably appeal to the “central” chapter 3 and its male character, the רבג, as pivotal for the meaning and purpose of Lamentations. Such readings emphasize the sin of humanity and the justice of God and can be broadly described as theodic in character. A number of more recent readings that can be aptly described as antitheodic, however, react against this centralizing tendency, emphasizing instead the protesting voice of Zion in chapters 1 and 2. Neither the רבג nor Zion’s discourses, however, is as homogeneously theodic or antitheodic as these readings and counter-readings would suggest. Rather, both speakers present elements of penitence and submission to suffering (theodicy), on the one hand, and protest and accusation of God (antitheodicy), on the other.
In light of the pervasive influence of the “central” chapter 3 in readings of Lamentations, I focus this paper on the רבג’s discourse. I read Lamentations 3 as the רבג’s internal dialogue as he expresses various understandings of the extreme suffering in which he finds himself. I use Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of the dialogic interaction between authoritative and internally persuasive discourses as a framework for illustrating the various moods through which the רבג moves. While the רבג appeals to authoritative discourses, I conclude that he does not, finally, find the “central” faithful statements, so often appealed to as determinative for meaning, to be internally persuasive.
So Mintz Ḥurban p. 33; S.P. Re’emi “The Theology of Hope: A Commentary on the Book of Lamentations” in Amos and Lamentations: God’s People in Crisis (ITC; Edinburgh: Handsel 1984) pp. 73-134 (116-17); J. Bracke Jeremiah 30-52 and Lamentations (WBC; Louisville: Westminster John Knox 2000) p. 188.
See Tigay Cooper and Bayer“Lamentations Book of” p. 447.
See Mandolfo Daughter Zion p. 72; O’Connor “Lamentations” p. 1046.
See O’Connor Tears of the World p. 57; Linafelt Surviving Lamentations pp. 17-18.
Green How Are the Mighty Fallen? p. 25; see also G. Morson and C. Emerson “Extracts from a Heteroglossary” in M. Macovski (ed.) Dialogue and Critical Discourse: Language Culture Critical Theory (New York: Oxford University Press 1997) p. 266.
See M. Holquist“Glossary” in M.M. Bakhtin The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays by M.M. Bakhtin (trans. C. Emerson and M. Holquist; Austin: University of Texas Press 1981) pp. 423-34 (427); Levine “Dialogic Discourse of Psalms” p. 279.
House Lamentations p. 414. דסח is predicated of Yhwh in Gen. 24:12 14 27; 32:11; 39:21; Exod. 15:13; 20:6; 34:6-7; Num. 14:18-19; Deut. 5:10; 7:9 12; 1 Sam. 20:14; 2 Sam. 2:6; 7:15; 15:20; 22:26 51; 1 Kgs 3:6; 8:23; Isa. 54:8 10; 55:3; 63:7; Jer. 3:12; 9:23; 16:5; 31:3; 32:18; 33:11; Hos. 2:21; Joel 2:13; Jon. 4:2; Mic. 7:18 20. Reading synchronically the covenant context of דסח resounds. R.B. Salters however suggests that linking דסח to covenant was a relatively late development such that “it is perhaps reading too much into this passage to assume that the poet was thinking of the covenant” (Salters Lamentations [ICC; New York: T & T Clark 2010] p. 225; cf. J. Renkema Lamentations [trans. Brian Doyle; HCOT; Leuven: Peeters 1998] p. 385).
Salters Lamentations p. 224; cf. B. Albrektson Studies in the Text and Theology of the Book of Lamentations with a Critical Edition of the Peshitta Text (Studia Theologica Lundensia Series 21; Lund: CWK Gleerup 1963) p. 145; and BHQ p. 65.
See Mintz Ḥurban p. 35; Renkema Lamentations p. 383; Dobbs-Allsopp Lamentations p. 116; House Lamentations p. 413.
See O’Connor Tears of the World p. 49; O’Connor “Lamentations” p. 1051.
Salters Lamentations p. 228.
See Salters Lamentations p. 226.
House Lamentations p. 415.
Hillers Lamentations p. 129; see also Parry Lamentations p. 101.
See Ryken Jeremiah and Lamentations p. 757; Mintz Ḥurban p. 35.
See Hillers Lamentations p. 130.
Parry Lamentations p. 114. See Renkema Lamentations p. 411; Krašovec “The Source of Hope” p. 232. And yet Lamentations itself is riddled with complaint.
Hillers Lamentations p. 130.
In a Bakhtinian framework“a given proverb is easily seen as monologic: it is ‘no-man’s-speech’” (Stordalen “Dialogue and Dialogism in Job” p. 36). The very “procedure of collecting proverbs into continuous writing forces ‘monologic’ utterances to meet and wrestle” such that “there is a discernible intent to engage outside discourse by citing it” (Stordalen “Dialogue and Dialogism in Job” p. 36emphasis original). By citing proverbial wisdom here then the רבג engages this outside discourse dialogically in an attempt to integrate sapiential mores with his experience of suffering.
House Lamentations p. 420; Provan Lamentations p. 100; Childs Old Testament as Scripture p. 595.
Gordis Lamentations p. 185. See also Krašovec “The Source of Hope” p. 233; Parry Lamentations p. 116; Longman Jeremiah and Lamentations p. 339; Thomas “Poetry and Theology” p. 249; House Lamentations p. 421. Berlin agrees that vv. 40-41 suggest the straightforward equation: “If God is indeed so good and so merciful and if the people have sinned the natural next step is that the people must repent and then they will surely be forgiven” (A. Berlin Lamentations [OTL; Louisville: Westminster John Knox 2002] pp. 95-96). She rightly foreshadows however the “sudden jolt” that upsets the assumption in v. 42 (Berlin Lamentations p. 96).
So House Lamentations p. 421; Parry Lamentations p. 116.
Tigay Cooper and Bayer“Lamentations Book Of” p. 447.
So House Lamentations p. 426; Salters Lamentations p. 266.
So Gottlieb Lamentations p. 53; I.W. Provan “Past Present and Future in Lamentations 3:52-66: The Case for a Precative Perfect Re-examined” VT 41/2 (1991) pp. 164-75; Gordis Lamentations p. 187; E. Boase The Fulfilment of Doom? The Dialogic Interaction Between the Book of Lamentations and the Pre-Exilic/Early Exilic Prophetic Literature (LHB/OTS 437; New York: T & T Clark 2006) p. 194; Hillers Lamentations pp. 118-19; Berlin Lamentations p. 97. See especially Provan’s meticulous examination (Provan “Past Present and Future” pp. 164-75) and note Parry’s helpful excursus (Parry Lamentations pp. 120-24).