The Congregation at Duke University Chapel

Lamentations for Lent

A presentation by The Rev. Dr. Stephen Chapman, Associate Professor of Old Testament, Duke Divinity School on February 14, 2016.

For the ears, you can listen to an audio recording of this presentation.
[high fidelity audio playable under all personal computer operating systems via VLC media player, Microsoft Windows Media Player with the codecs for FLAC et al, OS X QuickTime with the XiphQT plugin, etc., on many Android-based mobile devices, and on iOS-based mobile devices via apps such as FLAC Player or Golden Ear]

Lamentations 1
Lamentations 2
Lamentations 3
Lamentations 4
Lamentations 5
Introduction to Old Testament Interpretation (OT 753)
Supplementary Handout, Lecture #24
Dr. Stephen Chapman


  1. Parallelism
    1. Synonymous
      1. Bicolon
        It is good to give thanks, O LORD,
        To sing praises to your name, O Most High.

        Ps 92:1

      2. Tricolon
        Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth,
        Worship the LORD with gladness;
        come into his presence with singing.

        Ps 100:1

    2. Antithetic
      A wise son makes a glad father,
      but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.

      Prov 10:1

    3. Synthetic
      I will be as dew to Israel:
      he shall blossom as the lily;
      and he shall strike his roots like Lebanon;
      his shoots shall spread,
      and his glory shall be as the olive-tree,
      and his smell as Lebanon.

      Hos 14:5-6 (H 6-7)

    4. Combined Example (Robert Lowth)
      Fools say in their hearts,
      "There is no God.".


      They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds,
      there is no one who does good.


      The LORD looks down from heaven
      on humankind,


      to see if there are any who are wise,
      who seek after God.


      Ps 14:1-2

    5. Grammatical (Michael O'Connor)
      1. Number
        Ask your father, and he will inform you;
        your elders, and they will tell you.

        Deut 32:7

      2. Tense
        The LORD at the flood sat enthroned;
        the LORD sits enthroned, king forever.

        Ps 33:2

    6. Syntagmatic / Paradigmatic (Adele Berlin)
      Ascend a high hill, herald to Zion;
      Lift your voice aloud, herald to Jerusalem.

      Isa 40:9

    7. External (Norman K. Gottwald)
      The ox knows its owner,
      and the donkey its master's crib;
      but Israel does not know,
      my people do not understand.

      Isa 1:3

  2. Rhythmic Patterns
    Lift up your heads, O gates!
        and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
        that the King of glory may come in.

    Who is the King of glory?

        The LORD, strong and mighty,
        the LORD, mighty in battle!

    Ps 24:7-8

  3. Style
    1. Simile (like or as) / Metaphor (is)
      That one is like a tree planted by steams of water ...

      Ps 1:3

      The Lord is my shepherd ...

      Ps 23:1; cf. Hos 4:16 ("like")

    2. Inclusio
      O LORD, our LORD,
      how majestic is your name
          in all the earth.

      Ps 8:1b and 9

    3. Refrain
      1. ... for his steadfast love endures forever.

        Ps 136:1, etc.

      2. ... yet you did not return to me, says the LORD.

        Am 4:6, 8, 9, 10, 11

    4. Chiasm
      Blessed is the one
      who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
      and in the way of sinners does not stand,
      or in the gathering of scoffers does not sit.

      Ps 1:1

Examples drawn from David L. Petersen/ Kent Harold Richards, Interpreting Hebrew Poetry (Old Testament Guides; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992)

Tisha B'Av
the ninth (day of the month) of Av, which occurs in July or August
dirge, or elegaic pentameter, an unbalanced 3 + 2 line (3 accent groups in the first colon, but only 2 in the second)

You may also wish to read Soong-Chan Rah's book Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times, InterVarsity Press, 2015.

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