Theme: Destruction, Death, Exile; Key Verses: Lamentations 3:19-23 (Updated January 2006)
Lamentations Bible Walk
Title from the Latin Vulgate
The Hebrew title is אֵיכָה (ekah) “How!” “Alas!”
Sin, Destruction, Death, Exile
- Sin, Destruction, Death, Exile
- Lamentations 2:11 and 3:19-23
- “My eyes fail because of tears, My spirit is greatly troubled; My heart is poured out on the earth Because of the destruction of the daughter of my people, When little ones and infants faint In the streets of the city.” Lamentations 2:11
- “Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness. Surely my soul remembers And is bowed down within me. This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Thy faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him.” Lamentations 3:19-23
- This was the time of the Israel’s greatest apostasy and rejection of her major prophet’s messages, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the exile of the people to Babylon.
- See the Jeremiah notes for the history. Jeremiah also wrote Lamentations.
- Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Babylonian army under Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah wrote about the destruction of the city, the temple, and the people that occurred in July and August, 586 BC.
- The author was Jeremiah, though he is not named. He served as prophet from 627 B.C. until at least 586 BC (Jeremiah 1:1-3); and according to Jeremiah 40-44, possibly until 562 BC or beyond.
- Lamentations 1:13-15; 2:6, 9; 4:1-12 indicate that the author was an eyewitness to the destruction of Jerusalem.
- Jeremiah and Lamentations are similar: Lamentations 1:2 and Jeremiah 30:14; Lamentations 1:15 and Jeremiah 8:21; Lamentations 1:16 and 2:11 with Jeremiah 9:1, 18; Lamentations 2:22 and Jeremiah 6:25; Lamentations 4:21 and Jeremiah 49:12.
- The LXX superscription to Lamentations claims Jeremiah as the author.
- The Talmud (200-500 AD), Aramaic Targum of Jonathan (first century AD), Origen (185-254 AD), and Jerome (345-419 AD) all say Jeremiah wrote this book. The Talmud is made up of the Mishna (the written oral law) and the Gemara (commentaries on the Mishnah).
- The Talmud (תלמוד) is a record of rabbinic discussions on Jewish law, Jewish ethics, customs, legends and stories, which Jewish tradition considers authoritative. It is a fundamental source of legislation, customs, case histories and moral exhortations. The Talmud has two components, the Mishnah which is the first written compilation of Judaism’s Oral Law, and the Gemara, a discussion of the Mishnah (though the terms Talmud and Gemara are generally used interchangeably).
- It [The Talmud (תלמוד)] expands on the earlier writings in the Torah in general and in the Mishnah in particular, and is the basis for all later codes of Jewish law, and much of Rabbinic literature. The Talmud is also traditionally referred to as Shas (a Hebrew abbreviation of shishah sedarim, the “six orders” of the Mishnah). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talmud
- Jeremiah in this book “laments” Jerusalem and Judah’s sin and judgment.
- The accepted tradition of Judaism and Christianity accept Jeremiah as the author.
Poetry and Structure
- Lamentations was a lament for Jerusalem. Jerusalem was not just the capital of Israel and the city of David, it was the center for worship and sacrifice, for the temple, and later where Christ would be crucified.
- Lamentations is more than a dirge about suffering. It is a funeral poem for the center of God’s redemption plan—Jerusalem, the temple, and the Messiah’s people.
- Lamentations is a poem composed of five laments. A lament is a funeral poem or song. The technical name for this funeral poem is qina, which expresses grief, sorrow, and mourning.
- Jeremiah is expressing his anguished grief over the destruction of Jerusalem, the temple, and the people.
- Chapters 1, 2, 4 are acrostic poems. Each chapter is a unit and each chapter has 22 verses. The first verse begins with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet (a, aleph) and each succeeding verse begins with the next successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
- Chapter 3 is also an acrostic, but the chapter is in 3 verse segments. It has 66 verses. Verses 1, 2, and 3 begin with a, aleph, and so on. Chapter 3 is an individual lament like Psalm 7 and 22.
- Chapter 5 with its 22 verses is not in acrostic form. Jeremiah penned this lament in a somewhat whispered fashion as he quietly grieves over the people and then pleads for restoration based upon God’s sovereignty and grace.
- Chapter 1. 22 verse acrostic
- Chapter 2. 22 verse acrostic
- Chapter 3. 66 verse acrostic, 3 verses per letter
- Chapter 4. 22 verse acrostic
- Chapter 5. 22 verse, not acrostic.
- Lamentations was read on the ninth day of Ab when the Jews commemorated the destruction of Jerusalem. Ab in our calendar is July-August. It is the fifth month of the religious calendar and he eleventh month of the civil calendar.
Overview Outline and Chapter Titles
- Chapter 1: Jerusalem, lonely and desolate (1, 3, 17)
- Chapter 2: The Lord’s anger, wrath, and destruction (1, 3, 4)
- Chapter 3: Jeremiah’s affliction, hope, and prayer (1, 21, 55)
- Chapter 4: Sin caused unspeakable suffering (1, 6, 10, 11)
- Chapter 5: Jeremiah prays because joy has ceased (5, 15)
Trace the Theme of Lamentations Simply Sin, Destruction, Death, Exile
- Lamentations 1:1 and 8, Jerusalem, lonely and desolate.
- Lamentations 2:1 and 11, The Lord’s anger, wrath, and destruction.
- Lamentations 3:1 and 21-23, Jeremiah’s affliction, hope, and prayer.
- Lamentations 4:6, 10 and 11, Sin caused unspeakable suffering.
- Lamentations 5:1, 15, and 21, Jeremiah prays because joy has ceased.
- Chapter 1: Jerusalem, lonely and desolate (1, 3, 17). Verse 1 sets the theme for the chapter and the book.
- Lamentations 1:1, “How lonely sits the city that was full of people! She has become like a widow who was once great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces Has become a forced laborer!”
- Lamentations 1:3, Judah has gone into exile under affliction, and under harsh servitude; She dwells among the nations, But she has found no rest; All her pursuers have overtaken her in the midst of distress.
- Some descriptive terms and phrases include “weeps bitterly” 2; “harsh servitude” 3; “sinned greatly” 8; “her nakedness” 8; “fallen astonishingly 9; “groan seeking bread” 11; “sent fire into my bones” 13; “Jerusalem has become an unclean thing” 17; “The Lord is righteous…captivity” 18; “in the house it is like death” 20; “no one to comfort me” 21.
- Chapter 2: The Lord’s anger, wrath, and destruction. Verses 1, 3, and 4 demonstrated this.
- Lamentations 2:1, How the Lord has covered the daughter of Zion With a cloud in His anger! He has cast from heaven to earth the glory of Israel, And has not remembered His footstool In the day of His anger.
- Lamentations 2:3, In fierce anger he has cut off all the strength of Israel. He has drawn back his right hand From before the enemy.
- This lament concentrates on the Lord’s anger against Judah. Jeremiah emphasizes this in numerous verses. “His anger” 2x in 1; “not spared” 2; “wrath” 2; “fierce anger” 3; “bent his bow” and “wrath like fire” 4; “violently treated” and “despised” 6; “rejected” and “abandoned” 7; “destruction” 11; “life is poured out” 12; “the Lord has done” 17; “women eat their offspring” 20; “hast slaughtered” 21; “day of the Lord’s anger” 22.
- Chapter 3: Jeremiah’s affliction, hope, and prayer. Verses 1, 21, 55 are illustrative verses.
- Lamentations 3:1 I am the man who has seen affliction Because of the rod of His wrath.
- Lamentations 3:22 The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail.
- Lamentations 3:23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.
- Lamentations 3:24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.”
- Lamentations 3:55 I called on Your name, O Lord, Out of the lowest pit
- This lament gives us Jeremiah’s thinking, discouragement, confident expectation, and prayer. We can see this by “seen affliction” 1; “in darkness” 2; “against me” 3; “He shuts out my prayer” 8; “laughing stock” 14; “bitterness” 15; “forgotten happiness” 17; “bowed down” 20; “I have hope” 21; “great is thy faithfulness” 23; “I have hope in Him” 21; “compassion” and “abundant lovingkindness” 32; “both good and ill” 38; “in view of his sins” 39; “let us examine and probe…and return” 40; “no prayer” 44; “devastation and destruction” 47;“I am cut off” 54; “I called” 55; “Thou hast heard” 56; “do not fear” 57; “Thou has redeemed” 58; “Thou wilt recompense” 64;
- Chapter 4: Sin caused unspeakable suffering. Verses 1, 6, 10, and 11 demonstrate this theme.
- Lamentations 4:1 How dark the gold has become, How the pure gold has changed! The sacred stones are poured out.
- Lamentations 4:6 For the iniquity of the daughter of my people Is greater than the sin of Sodom, Which was overthrown as in a moment, And no hands were turned toward her.
- Lamentations 4:10 The hands of compassionate women Boiled their own children; They became food for them Because of the destruction of the daughter of my people.
- Lamentations 4:11 The Lord has accomplished His wrath, He has poured out His fierce anger; And He has kindled a fire in Zion Which has consumed its foundations.
- “tongue of infants” and “ask for bread” (4); “Embrace ash pits” (5); “greater than the sin of Sodom” (6); “skin is shriveled” (8); “slain with hunger” (9); “boiled their own children” (10); “accomplished His wrath” (11); “kings of the earth did not believe” (12); “our end had come” (18); “captured in the pits” (20); “your iniquity has been completed” (22).
- Chapter 5: Jeremiah prays because joy has ceased. Verses 1, 5, 15, 21, 22 demonstrate this theme.
- Lamentations 5:1 Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us; Look, and see our reproach!
- Lamentations 5:5 Our pursuers are at our necks; We are worn out, there is no rest for us.
- Lamentations 5:15 The joy of our hearts has ceased; Our dancing has been turned into mourning.
- Lamentations 5:21 Restore us to You, O Lord, that we may be restored; Renew our days as of old, 22 Unless You have utterly rejected us And are exceedingly angry with us.
- “Remember, O Lord” (1); “our inheritance has been turned over” (2); “become orphans” (3); “pay for drinking water” (4); “Slaves rule over us” (8); “They ravished the women” (11); “Princes were hung by their hands” (12); “joy of our hearts has ceased” and “dancing has been turned into mourning” (15); “our heart is faint” and “eyes are dim” (17); “why dost Thou forget us forever” (20); “Restore us” (21); “Renew our days” (21); “unless” (22).
- Chapter 1: Jerusalem, lonely and desolate (1, 3, 17). Verse 1 sets the theme for the chapter and the book.
- Jeremiah. God’s prophet to Judah during her final days. He faithfully proclaimed God’s word to apathetic, disobedient, and idolatrous Jews. Jeremiah penned Lamentations has he recalled the destruction, death, and exile of God’s people and his people.
Key Words and Phrases in NASB
- Daughters 18x, of Judah, Zion, Jerusalem, my people. 1x, daughters of my city. All references to Israel’s relationship to the Lord and the land and city. Points out God’s choice of the Jewish people and the city of Jerusalem (1:6; 2:2; 2:13; 3:48; 3:51).
- Lament 1x, (2:8). Personification of the defenses of the city, which once breached, leads to destruction of the city and people.
- Cry 3x. Refers to pleading with the Lord for help during the destruction of Jerusalem, the temple, and the people (2:19; 3:8; 3:56).
- Help 4x. This brings out the helpless situation. Only the Lord can deliver Judah (1:7; 3:8; 3:56; 4:17).
- Compassion 2x, and Lovingkindness 2x. These are found in those great passages about God’s compassion that revived Jeremiah (3:22; 3:32).
- Sin (1-5)
- National discipline (1-5)
- Suffering (1-5)
- Hope in a crisis (3)
- God’s character (3)
- Faith and waiting (3)
- Spiritual recovery (5)
Lessons for us today
- God is perfect. The more one understands who he is and what he is like, the more one can relate to life and live successfully. All truth stems from God’s character.
- God’s anger and discipline demonstrate his love for his people. If he did not love Israel, he would not have gone to such lengths to correct and restore them. Hebrews 12, in the NT, also teaches this.
- In any and every situation God is always faithful to his word and his people. This is what restored Jeremiah from his discouragement.
- God the Lord rules over life. He disciplines and he restores. Without him, suffering is unbearable and joy ceases.
- What five questions should I ask myself in a crisis?
- Five Questions to Ask in Suffering
- Am I believing in Jesus Christ to give me eternal life (John 3.16-18; 20.31; Romans 6.23)?
- Do I really know what God is like (Lamentations 3:21-25)?
- Am I walking in fellowship with God (1 John 1) and living by faith, by the Holy Spirit, in the Word of God, and in love (Galatians 2.20; 5.5; 2 John 4-6)?
- Do I accept the fact that what I believe is more important that how I feel (Psalm 13)?
- Am I watching for the good (the blessing) that God is working out in my life and testing (Romans 8.28)?