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xiv + 242 pp.

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Chorus in the Dark
The Voices of the Book of Lamentations
Kim Lan Nguyen

Chorus in the Dark invites attention to the treaty negotiated by the voices of Lamentations. The issues of God’s justice and human rights are at the centre of a forceful discussion embodied in the five poems of Lamentations. Difficult questions are subtly raised: How can God’s justice be recognized and honoured in the midst of suffering? How can the human right to protest against mistreatment be respected? How can loss, grief, and shame be overcome? What future is there for the victims? How can these sensitive issues be negotiated without loss?

Zion is the first major speaker in Lamentations. Zion projects the voice of a woman crying by the grave. Her pain is intense, her loss is vast, her anger is uncontrollable. Zion is unable to see any future. God is indeed just in destroying her, but her surviving children do not deserve her fate.

The other major speaker is the man of Lamentations 3. He too speaks of the pain, grief, anger, and desire for vengeance of a victim bent under the yoke of affliction. Yet, like a Davidic king, he dares to claim covenant promises and hope that darkness will eventually turn to light.

Through both harmony and discord, and with a profound ambivalence toward the future, the separate voices of Lamentations resonate in a timbre that transcends the sum of its parts. The five poems, while having unique value individually, are meant to be read together as a living documentation of a moment of suspension, a great turning point in the history of Israel.

Kim Lan Nguyen is Assistant Professor of Old Testament, Cornerstone University, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Series: Hebrew Bible Monographs, 54
978-1-907534-91-1 hardback
Publication October 2013

1. Introduction

2. Genres of Lamentations

3. Personification of Jerusalem as a Woman: Origin
       1. Fitzgerald’s Thesis: City as Goddess Married to the Patron God
       2. Follis’s Thesis: Athena: the Daughter of Zeus
       3. Dobbs-Allsopp’s Thesis: The Weeping Goddess
       4. A New Approach: City as a Mourning Virgin

4. Zion: Protector, Comforter, or Scapegoat?
       1. Personification as a Means to Engage the Audience
       2. Means for Expressing Frustration and Anger
       3. Means to Convey New Insight

5. The Man of Lamentations 3: Identity
       1. Existing Interpretations
                a. Literal interpretation
                b. Personification
                c. Representative interpretation
       2. A New Approach: The Man as a Type Figure of Davidic Kings
               a. King and Participant in the Davidic Covenant
               b. Suffering like Davidic Kings
               c. Antithesis of Blessed Kings

6. The Man of Lamentations 3: Mission
       1. Psychological Function
                a. Man as Voice of Communal Suffering
                b. Means to Establish Solidarity
       2. Didactic function
                a. Instruction
                b. Theory versus Feasibility
       3. Theological function
                a. Deuteronomic Indictment
                b. Status of the Covenant

7. Chorus in the Dark: Will There Be a Future?
       1. Zion and the Man in the Context of Lamentations
               a. Lamenter’s Voice
               b. Surviving Community’s Voice
               c. Zion and the Man in the Context of Lamentations
               d. Man as Response to Zion
               e. Zion and Man as Two among Other Responses
       2. Meaning of the Book of Lamentations

Nguyen’s monograph is a positive contribution to the growing number of articles and monographs focusing on Lamentations, especially those focusing on the various voices one hears within these poems. The strength of Nguyen’s monograph is in her excellent summaries of other scholars’ positions … Nguyen’s book will reward anyone who spends the time to read and to reflect on her many interesting insights into the book of Lamentations, especially into the function of the voices of Zion and the Man contained in its poetry. Charles William Miller, Review of Biblical Literature.