Lamentations 4:7-8 describes the reversal of fortune among some group of people. The NIV has:

Their princes were brighter than snow and whiter than milk

While the KJV has:

Her Nazarites were purer than snow, they were whiter than milk

These are— to my mind— two very different groups of people. As far as I can tell, there isn't a textual issue here with the KJV following a different text. So which is the appropriate translation?

  • 1
    The NET note (#25) may be helpful.
    – Susan
    Feb 13, 2018 at 5:38

2 Answers 2


Both are plausible translations of the same word. The word in Hebrew is נזיריה the root of which is נזר. This is the root of נזיר which is the word for the person referred to in the book of Numbers who abstains from wine and contamination and grows his hair; the so-called "Nazirite." נזר is also the root of a word which means a kind of crown and refers to nobility -- the gold plate adorning the forehead of the high priest is the נזר (Ex. 29:6); Joseph is described as the נזיר of his brothers (Deut. 32:16); etc. Thus both "princes" and "Nazirites" are plausible translations, and Rashi brings both (he prefers "Nazirites").


The word translated as "princes" or "Nazarites" in Lamentations 4:7 is "naziyr", which comes from the Hebrew word "nazar", meaning:

to hold aloof, i.e. (intransitively) abstain (from food and drink, from impurity, and even from divine worship (i.e. apostatize)); specifically, to set apart (to sacred purposes), i.e. devote:--consecrate, separate(-ing, self).

The word "naziyr" is also translated elsewhere in the NIV (such as Numbers 6:2) as "Nazarite," so it would seem that "Nazarites" is the appropriate translation.

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