Handbook of Lamentations
A Funeral Dirge Over the Desolation of Jerusalem
Jeremiah's Sorrow over the city he had done his best to save; not without faith that the city would rise again from its ruins (3:21, 31, 32). Jerusalem did rise, and gave its name to the capital of a Redeemed World of Eternal Glory (Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 21:2).
An Appendage to Jeremiah
The last chapter of Jeremiah should be read as an introduction to this book. The Septuagint gives this prefix:. "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, in the Hebrew Old Testament this book does not follow Jeremiah, as in our Bible, but is in the group called "Hagiographa," or "Writings": Song, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther. These were on separate rolls, because they were read at different feasts. This book of Lamentations, to this day, throughout the world, wherever there are Jews, is read in the synagogs, on the 9th day of the 4th month (Jeremiah 52:6).
Is the name of the place, just outside the north wall of Jerusalem, where tradition says, Jeremiah wept bitter tears and composed this sorrowful elegy. This grotto is under the knoll that is now called "Golgotha," the self-same hill on which the cross of Jesus stood. Thus the suffering prophet wept where later the suffering Savior died.
An Alphabetic Acrostic
The book consists of five poems, four of which are acrostic, that is, each verse begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, in alphabetic sequence. This was favorite form of Hebrew poetry, adopted to help the memory. In chapters 1, 2, 4, there are 22 verses in each, 1 verse to a letter. In chapter 3 there were 3 verses to each letter, making 66 in all. Chapter 5 has 22 verses, but not in alphabetic order.
Its Immediate Use
The book must have been composed in the 3 months between the burning of Jerusalem and the departure of the remnant to Egypt (Jeremiah 39:2; 41:1, 18; 43:7), during which the seat of government was at Mizpah (Jeremiah 40:8). Probably a number of copies were made: some taken to Egypt; others sent to Babylon, for the
captives to memorize and sing.
It is not easy to give a subject to each chapter. The same ideas, in different wording, run through all the chapters: horrors of the siege; desolate ruins; all due to Zion's sins. Jeremiah, stunned, dazed, heartbroken, weeps with grief inconsolable. Special emphasis of this chapter is that the people brought the catastrophe upon themselves by they sins (5, 8, 9, 14, 18, 20, 22).
The devastation of Jerusalem is attributed to the Anger of God (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 21, 22). Jerusalem, situated on a mountain, surrounded by mountains, was, for physical situation, the most beautiful city then known, "the perfection of beauty" (15), even when compared to Babylon, Nineveh, Thebes and Memphis, which were built on river
plains. Moreover, it was the city of God's special care, chosen of Him for a unique mission, the main channel for God's dealings with men, most favored and highly privileged city in all the world, beloved of God in an exceptional,way, and under His special protection. Moreover, it was so well fortified that it was generally believed to
be impregnable (4:12). But this City of God had become worse than Sodom (4:6). That the God of Love is also a God of Wrath is a teaching that is stated and illustrated again and again throughout the Bible.
In this chapter Jeremiah seems to be complaining that God had ignored him and his prayers (8); God "had covered himself with a could that no prayer could, pass through" (44). Though complaining, he, justifies God, acknowledging that they deserved worse (22). The high point of the book is 21-39.
Enumerated and summarized. Jeremiah could not keep his mind off the horrors of the siege, cries of starving children (2:11, 12, 19; 4:4), women boiling their babies for food (2:20; 4:10).
Howbeit, in spite of its horrible sufferings, Jerusalem failed to learn its lesson. After the Captivity it was rebuilt, and in Jesus' day had , again become a great and powerful city, and climaxed its sin by crucifying the Son of God. Then followed its eradication by the armies of Rome (A.D. 70. See under Hebrews 13).