Book of Lamentations
|SERMONS, ESSAYS AND OPINIONS||
"Lamentations" in Hebrew is named by its first word: "How" - How the city sits solitary, that was full of people! She has become as a widow, who was great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces is become tributary!
The Septuagint adopted the name "Lamentations" which is now in common use, to denote the character of the book, in which the prophet Jeremiah mourns over the desolations brought on Jerusalem and the Holy Land by the Chaldeans.
Traditionally, the Prophet Jeremiah is believed to have been the author. Jeremiah was a court official during the conquest of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, during which the first Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and King Jehoiachin was taken prisoner (Isaiah 38 and Isaiah 52).
It is said that Jeremiah retired to a cavern outside the Damascus gate, where he wrote this book. That cavern is still pointed out by tour guides
- "In the face of a rocky hill, on the western side of the city, the local belief has placed 'the grotto of Jeremiah.' There, in that fixed attitude of grief which Michelangelo has immortalized, the prophet may well be supposed to have mourned the fall of his country" - Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, History of the Jewish Church
Neither Jeremiah's name nor that of any other author appears in the text itself.
The work is probably related in style to the older Mesopotamian genre of the "city lament", of which the Lament for Ur is among the oldest and best-known.
Date and Historical Setting
Lamentations reflects the period immediately following the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC. Many elements of the lament are borne out in the historical narrative in 2 Kings concerning the fall of Jerusalem with Jerusalem lying in ruins (Lamentations 2:2 and 2 Kings 25:9), enemies entering the city (Lamentations 4:12 and 2 Kings 24:11), people going into exile (Lamentations 1:3 and 2 Kings 24:14) and the sanctuary being plundered (Lamentations 1:10 and 2 Kings 24:13). On the other hand, Babylon is never mentioned in Lamentations, though this could simply be to make the point that the judgment comes from God, and is a consequence of Judah disobeying him.
Lamentations was probably composed soon after 586 BC.
Content of Lamentations
The book consists of five separate poems.
In Lamentations 1, the prophet dwells on the manifold miseries oppressed by which the city sits as a solitary widow weeping sorely.
In Lamentations 2 these miseries are described in connection with the national sins that had caused them.
Lamentations 3 speaks of hope for the people of God. The chastisement would only be for their good; a better day would dawn for them.
Lamentations 4 laments the ruin and desolation that had come upon the city and temple, but traces it only to the people's sins.
Lamentations 5 is a prayer that Zion's reproach may be taken away in the repentance and recovery of the people.
The first four poems (chapters) are acrostics - each verse begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet taken in order.