LAMENTATIONS

The text of the Bible does not tell us who wrote the Book of Lamentations. But a tradition says that Jeremiah is the author. The old Greek translation, the Septuagint, added this note at the beginning of the book: “And it came to pass, after Jeremiah was taken captive and Jerusalem laid waste, that Jeremiah sat weeping and lamented with this lamentation over Jerusalem and said …” Perhaps Jeremiah is the author, but we cannot know for certain. A “lamentation” is an expression of deep sorrow. The Book of Lamentations is made up of five sad poems or songs. The sad event that each of the five poems is concerned with is the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. In tone the poems are like a dirge that might be heard at a funeral. They are bursting with grief and teardrops. The author of the five Lamentations grieves so deeply not just because the beloved city of Jerusalem has been destroyed; he grieves especially because he knows that the destruction came because of God’s judgment on the people’s unrepented sins. The reader can almost feel the poems dripping with sorrow even as the first poem begins:

How deserted lies the city, once so full of people! How like a widow is she, who once was great among the nations! She who was queen among the provinces has now become a slave.” (1:1)
Still today the Jews sadly chant the words of Lamentations to commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem. If you visit the so-called “wailing wall” near the old temple area in Old Jerusalem, you will hear the sobbing laments from Lamentations. For Christians today, the book serves as a serious reminder of God’s attitude toward sin and the need for sincere repentance. Each of the five chapters of Lamentations is a separate poem. The first four are arranged as acrostic poems.

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