Book of Lamentations

Introduction to the Book of Lamentations

Lamentations of Jeremiah
The Lamentations of Jeremiah by Schnorr (circa 1840). Hulton Archive / Stringer / Getty Images

Book of Lamentations:

Lamentations paints a portrait of the devastating consequences of sin.  The prophet Jeremiah gives an eyewitness account of the misery in Jerusalem after the Babylonians besieged and destroyed the city, about 586 B.C.

Jeremiah chose poetry to tell his story, a bitter tale of Judah's rejection of God through idolatry.  This short book is divided into five chapters, each a separate poem featuring an acrostic structure.

  Each verse begins with one of the succeeding 22 letters of the ancient Hebrew alphabet.

At times the picture is almost unbearable.  Besides starving mothers resorting to cannibalism of their own children, the account also tells of the total destruction of the beloved temple built by King Solomon, which had stood 400 years.  Jeremiah weeps over the deaths of the city's royalty and peasants, bemoaning how Jerusalem's finest were enslaved and forced into exile.

The cause of the tragedy is clear: Judah rebelled against God and broke its covenant with him.  God responded by using the Babylonians as his pawn to discipline his people.

Despite the deep suffering described in the book, Chapter Three interrupts with a promise of hope.  Jeremiah remembers the goodness of God.  He offers consolation through the truth of God's faithfulness, telling his readers of the Lord's compassion and unfailing love.

  Some of the most beautiful verses in the Bible break through to restore faith.

The book of Lamentations foreshadows a similar incident 600 years later in the New Testament.  In Luke 19:41-44, Jesus Christ approaches Jerusalem and weeps over it, prophesying its destruction because they had rejected the Messiah.

  In 70 A.D., the Roman army did build an embankment, just as Jesus said, overran the city and tore down Herod's temple.

Author of the Book of Lamentations:

The prophet Jeremiah.

Date Written:

Between 587-516 B.C.

Written To:

Hebrews who survived the Exile and returned to Israel, and all Bible readers.

Landscape of the Book of Lamentations:

Jerusalem.

Themes in the Book of Lamentations:

  • Sin, both national and individual, has consequences.  Jerusalem chose idolatry over God and lost its temple and way of life.
  • God uses people and circumstances as instruments to bring his followers back to him.  Throughout the Bible, God acts as the author of history, working his will through human events.
  • Hope lies in God alone.  Just as God spared a remnant of the Jews in exile, so he provided a Savior in his Son, Jesus.  Sin brings eternal death, yet God offers eternal life through his plan of salvation.

Key Characters in the Book of Lamentations:

Jeremiah, the citizens of Jerusalem.

Key Verses:

Lamentations 1:5
Her foes have become her masters; her enemies are at ease. The LORD has brought her grief because of her many sins. Her children have gone into exile, captive before the foe. (NIV)

Lamentations 3:55-57
I called on your name, O LORD, from the depths of the pit. You heard my plea: "Do not close your ears to my cry for relief." You came near when I called you, and you said, "Do not fear." (NIV)

Lamentations 5:21
Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may return; renew our days as of old; (NIV)

Outline of the Book of Lamentations:

  • Jeremiah grieves over Jerusalem's suffering (1:1-22).
  • Sin brings the wrath of God (2:1-22).
  • God never abandons his own (3:1-66).
  • Jerusalem's glory has been lost (4:1-22).
  • Jeremiah asks God to restore his people (5:1-22).

 

Old Testament Books of the Bible (Index)
New Testament Books of the Bible (Index)

Jack Zavada, a career writer and contributor for About.com, is host to a Christian website for singles. Never married, Jack feels that the hard-won lessons he has learned may help other Christian singles make sense of their lives. His articles and ebooks offer great hope and encouragement. To contact him or for more information, visit Jack's Bio Page.