Commentaries on Jer 8:18–23 generally recognize that this celebrated passage represents a cohesive lament over the destruction facing Judah. Exegesis of the passage has been impaired, however, by the opacity of the lament’s opening verse and particularly of its initial word, a notorious crux interpretum. In this article, I analyze the word in light of the Akkadian noun balaggu. I offer a new reading of the verse and explore the Mesopotamian cultural influences that appear to have been at work in the composition of the lament.

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