Lamentations 1

Today we return to another example provided by Saul M. Olyan

“The rhetoric of honor [and shame] is introduced twice in Lamentations 1. In verse 6, we are told that ‘all her honor has gone forth from the daughter of Zion’. The wider context of the poem suggests that this loss of honor is as a result of the humiliations Jerusalem has endured: her defeat, her exile, the loss of the Temple, the disloyalty of her allies, the desperation of her people. Her diminishment is extreme; she has descended from a position of honor to a place of shame. … In verse 8 we are told that ‘all who honoured her despise her, for they have seen her nakedness’; in verse 11 she states: ‘See YHWH and look, for I am despised’.” (Olyan: p216.)

This passage is interesting in that, rather than being a narrative, it is a lament. The author laments over Jerusalem and one of the principal concerns in this lament is her disgrace, her shame. The enemy’s scorn and laughter is unbearable (Lam. 1:7). It is worth noting also that the equation in this lament is between sin and impurity, rather than sin and guilt – ‘Jerusalem has sinned greatly and so has become unclean’ (Lam. 1:8).


Saul M. Olyan; “Honour, Shame, and Covenant Relations in Ancient Israel and its Environment“; in Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 115, No. 2, Summer 1996; p201-218.

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