OT Encounters: Lamentations 3:22-33 – Chesed!

By Jeff Pulse

The Old Testament text for this Sunday, July 1, 2018, the sixth Sunday after Pentecost, is from Jeremiah’s book of Lamentations. The text is Lamentations 3:22-33 and is one of the few texts in the pericopal system from this writing. Lamentations, as the name indicates, is full of laments and woes. However, our text for this Sunday has a strong message of hope and confidence in the LORD. In the overall context of Lamentation, this text stands out as a breath of fresh air, or perhaps more accurately as words of relief after so much dismal lamenting!

Jeremiah is a well-known, even famous, lamenter in Holy Scripture. His prophetic book Jeremiah breaks into lament on a regular basis. It is important to remember that “lament” does not demonstrate a lack of faith. In fact, the opposite is true; lament is an act of faith! One does not complain to One they do not believe in. Truthfully, one does not complain/lament to One who has no power to change the course of things either. After all, what would be the point? For a Hebrew, lamenting is considered an act of faith. Here in chapter 3:22-33, Jeremiah follows a long litany of lament with beautiful words of Gospel/grace. In Hebrew, the word used to express all of this is “Chesed.” Grace, mercy, steadfast love, undeserved forgiveness all wrapped up into one word! Obviously, this is a very significant concept!

3:22 chasedey Yahweh “The steadfast love of the LORD” In the Hebrew Old Testament writings this is the most Gospel-orientated phrase.

thamnu—root: tamam “to cease; come to an end” The understanding in Hebrew as well as Aramaic of this verse is: “Because of the steadfast love of the LORD, we shall not be cut off/come to an end.” The “cutting off” idea invokes the covenantal promise the LORD has made with Israel.

rachamayw from: rachamiym “mercy; a feeling of love; compassion”

3:23 chadashim from: chadash “new; fresh”

emunatheka from: emunah “faithfulness; steadfastness; trustworthiness”

3:24 chelqiy from: cheleq “portion; share (of possession)”

ochiyl—root: yachal—hiphil “to wait; hope”

3:25 leqowaw—root: quh—qal infinitive “to wait for; to hope”

3:26 weyachiyl from: yachiyl “hope; waiting”

wedumam from: dumam “in silence; silently”

litheshuath from: teshuah “help; deliverance”

3:27 lagever from: gever “man; one; one who”

yissa root: nasa “to lift up; to bear; to carry”

ol “yoke”

binurayw from: neuriym “youth; early life”

These are powerful words of Gospel comfort in the midst of the laments. In the Book of Jeremiah, the prophet prophesies and then, almost without warning, he descends into lament for a short section. He does this over and over. Here in the Lamentations, Jeremiah seems to do the opposite. He laments and then ascends into Gospel comfort for a short section.

3:28 badad “alone”

weyidom—root: damam “to be silent; keep silent”

natal “to lay upon; to impose; to lift up upon”

3:29 ulay “perhaps; may be”

tiqwah “hope”

3:30 lemakehu lechiy “his cheek for striking”

yisba—root: saba “to be full; to eat one’s fill; to satisfy oneself”

becherpah from: cherpah “insults; shame; disgrace”

3:31 yiznach—root: zanach “to reject; expel; to cast off/away”

3:32 hogah—root: yagah—hiphil “to cause torment; to cause grief/sorrow”

wericham—root: racham—piel “to have compassion; to greet with love; to take pity”

chesed “steadfast love” Note the return to the theme of “steadfast love” from verse 22.

3:33 innah—root: ahah—piel “to oppress; to afflict”

wayaggeh—root: yagah—piel “to grieve; torment”