The term "lamentations" is from a Greek verb that means "to cry aloud"...This book contains five melancholy poems of mourning over the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Babylonians.
The first four poems are acrostics, each verse beginning with a word whose first letter is successively one of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet (all consonants)...except in chapter 3, where three verses are allotted to each letter. They are written in what is called "limping meter," a cadence used in funeral dirges. The Jews read this book publicly on the ninth day of the month of Ab (about mid-July), in commemoration of the destructions of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. and A.D. 70. Roman Catholics use it during the last three days of Holy Week.
The Ryrie Study Bible, Introduction to the Book of Lamentations, p. 1213
Author: Jeremiah (586-585 B.C.)
The book itself does not identify its author. However, it is the consensus of Jewish tradition that it was written by Jeremiah. The Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) gives this prefix to Lamentations:
“And it came to pass, after Israel was led into captivity and Jerusalem was laid waste, that Jeremiah sat weeping, and lamented this lamentation over Jerusalem, and said:”
However, those words are not included in the original Hebrew texts.
Lamentations is a look back to the same event that the book of Jeremiah looked ahead to…the destruction of Jerusalem. It records Jeremiah’s sorrow over the city that he had done his best to save.
While it is placed after the book of Jeremiah in our English Bibles, it is included in the category of books called the “Hagiographa”, or “Writings” in the Hebrew Bible. These 5 books are each written on a separate scroll, and the Jews read them publicly at Jewish festivals…
Song of Solomon Passover
Ruth Feast of Pentecost
Ecclesiastes Feast of Tabernacles
Esther Feast of Purim
Lamentations Anniversary of the destruction of Jerusalem.
Time written & time covered in history:
David had established his capital in Jerusalem around 1,000 B.C. (cf. 2 Samuel 6). Eventually, the Kingdom divided and Israel (the northern part) was carried into exile by the Assyrians in 721 B.C. Then, despite God’s patience for over 400 years, Judah (the southern part) was finally judged. In 586 B.C., the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and carried its inhabitants into exile. Lamentations was written following this event…probably in the 3 months between the burning of Jerusalem and the departure of the remnant to Egypt (cf. Jeremiah 39:2; 41:1,18; 43:7)
Just outside the north wall of Jerusalem there is a knoll that is now called Golgotha. It is the hill on which tradition tells us that Jesus was crucified. Under this knoll there is a grotto (cave) in which tradition also tells us that Jeremiah sat and wrote the book of Lamentations. Thus, the suffering prophet wrote inside a cave that is located at the foot of the hill on which the suffering Savior would die.
- J. Vernon Mcgee writes:
“The book is filled with tears and sorrow. It is a paean of pain, a poem of pity, a proverb of pathos, a hymn of heartbreak, a psalm of sadness, a symphony of sorrow…It is the wailing wall of the Bible.”
Willmington’s Guide to the Bible, p. 208; Briefing the Bible, p. 232
The Jews read this book publicly on the 9th day of the month of Ab (about mid-July)…to commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (586 B.C.) and the Romans (A.D. 70).
There is no chronological or thematic outline of Lamentations. Some topics are repeated several times in different chapters. You have to read it closely and with several dates and events in mind to clearly understand what he was saying and what event it was associated with. In a sense, that is the style of Jeremiah’s writing in both books. It’s as if his thoughts are just flowing and whatever comes to mind is what is written…without regard to order. That seems to be especially true in Lamentations. Here are the thoughts of a man in mourning, in sorrow. His heart is broken and the wound is still very fresh. He is telling us not just what is on his mind…but what he feels in his heart. It’s almost as if we are in a conversation with him and he is just rambling on. His pain is too great to stop and try to be logical and systematic. Anyway, the tears falling from his eyes keep interrupting the words falling from his mouth. While he is transparent and honest in regard to his feelings over what has happened, God’s judgment, and his own subsequent spiritual depression…he consistently reminds himself and us that God is still present, still working, and one day will restore Jerusalem to its state of glory.
A City with No Comfort Lamentations 1
Lamentations 1:1-11-The destruction of Jerusalem
Lamentations 1:5-The reason why Jerusalem had been destroyed was her sin (:8,9,18,20).
Lamentations 1:9-"She did not consider her future." The people thought that they could sin and not have to pay for it. They lived for the moment, only.
Lamentations 1:12-22-The sorrow over Jerusalem
Lamentations 1:17-"There is no one to comfort her..." (cf. :2,9,16,17,21).
Lamentations 1:22-Speaking in behalf of the city of Jerusalem, Jeremiah prays for the day when those who destroyed her will be held accountable for their sins, just as she was held accountable for her sins.
God’s Judgment…seen from Heaven Lamentations 2
Lamentations 2:1-10-The judgment of Jerusalem
The judgment of God on Judah is reviewed. God even destroyed His own place of worship (:6) and withdrew His law and prophecy (:9).
Lamentations 2:11-22-The suffering of Jerusalem
Prayer: Lord, help me to recognize and repent of sin in my life…before it brings judgment. Don’t let me be self-deceived. It is not just what it does in my life. But it is foremost a reflection on You. My sin is a negative testimony in the eyes of many people. In reality, You have done all that is necessary, all that can be done, for my benefit. The sin is mine. I must own it. However, for those who don’t believe, or who don’t want to believe, my sin becomes their indictment against You. Don’t let me provide them with any reasoning, no matter how false it may be, to decide against You.