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Review of Biblical Literature Blog

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

Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix, 2013 pp. xiv + 244. $95.00

Series Information
Hebrew Bible Monographs, 54

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Chorus in the Dark invites attention to the treaty negotiated by the voices of Lamentations. The issues of Godís 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 Godís 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.

Subjects: Bible, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Writings, Lamentations, Ancient Near East, Mesopotamian Literature, Literature, Methods, Historical Approaches, Literary Approaches

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Review by Charles William Miller
Published 2/5/2015
Citation: Charles William Miller, review of Kim Lan Nguyen, Chorus in the Dark: The Voices of the Book of Lamentations, Review of Biblical Literature [] (2015).

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