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39 Why should any living person[a] complain
when punished for his sins?[b]

נ (Nun)

40 Let us carefully examine our ways,[c]
and let us return to the Lord.
41 Let us lift up our hearts[d] and our hands
to God in heaven:

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  1. Lamentations 3:39 tn The Hebrew word here is אָדָם (ʾadam), which can mean “man” or “person.” The second half of the line is more personalized to the speaking voice of the defeated soldier by using גֶּבֶר (gever, “man”). See the note at 3:1.
  2. Lamentations 3:39 tc The Kethib has the singular חֶטְאוֹ (khetʾo, “his sin”), which is reflected in the LXX. The Qere reads the plural חֲטָאָיו (khataʾayv, “his sins”), which is preserved in many medieval Hebrew mss and reflected in the other early versions (Aramaic Targum, Syriac Peshitta, Latin Vulgate). The external and internal evidence are not decisive in favor of either Heb “concerning his punishment.” The noun חֵטְא (khetʾ) has a broad range of meanings: (1) “sin,” (2) “guilt of sin” and (3) “punishment for sin,” which fits the context of calamity as discipline and punishment for sin (e.g., Lev 19:17; 20:20; 22:9; 24:15; Num 9:13; 18:22, 32; Isa 53:12; Ezek 23:49). The metonymical (cause-effect) relation between sin and punishment is clear in the expressions חֵטְא מִשְׁפַט־מָוֶת (khetʾ mishpat mavet, “sin deserving death penalty,” Deut 21:22) and חֵטְא מָוֶת (khetʾ mavet, “sin unto death,” Deut 22:26). The point of this verse is that the punishment of sin can sometimes lead to death; therefore, anyone who is being punished by God for his sins, and yet lives, has little to complain about.
  3. Lamentations 3:40 tn Heb “Let us test our ways and examine.” The two verbs וְנַחְקֹרָהנַחְפְּשָׂה (nakhpesahvenakhqorah, “Let us test and let us examine”) form a verbal hendiadys in which the first functions adverbially and the second retains its full verbal force: “Let us carefully examine our ways.”
  4. Lamentations 3:41 tc The MT reads the singular noun לְבָבֵנוּ (levavenu, “our heart”), but the ancient versions (LXX, Aramaic Targum, Latin Vulgate) and many medieval Hebrew mss read the plural noun לְבָבֵינוּ (levavenu, “our hearts”). Hebrew regularly places plural pronouns on singular nouns used as collectives (135 times on the singular “heart” and only twice on the plural “hearts”). The plural “hearts” is actually rather rare in any Hebrew construction. The LXX renders similar Hebrew constructions (singular “heart” plus a plural pronoun) with the plural “hearts” about 1/3 of the time; therefore it cannot be considered evidence for the reading. The Vulgate may have been influenced by the LXX. Although a distributive sense is appropriate for a much higher percentage of passages using the plural “hearts” in the LXX, no clear reason for the differentiation in the LXX has emerged. Likely the singular Hebrew form is original, but the meaning is best represented in English with the plural.

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