12-13 Lam 1-5 Desperate Distress & Fervent PrayerJeremiah & Lamentations
The book of Lamentations presents five intricately interconnected poems. Together they describe a movement from horrible loss and personal shame, to restored hope and prayer for renewal. This movement has both individual and community components, and is conveyed by the literary type, acrostic forms, meter, and basic movement of Lamentations. The key passage in Lamentations is 3:19-24, where the speaker affirms that belief in God’s mercy and faithfulness is the key to a restored relationship with God. This fact is true even for people who have merited and received God’s judgment (1:18). Hope, not despair, is the final word in Lamentations.
In terms of structure, the first four poems are acrostics. This structure, using the entire Hebrew alphabet, matches the poet’s intent, which is to give full expression to the suffering of his people and the sorrows of his own soul—in effect, to offer a lament “from A to Z” (or aleph to taw). Perhaps the highly structured form of the acrostic is also an attempt to impose some sense of order on a tragic situation that is chaotic beyond what anyone can bear. – ESV Study Bible
Introduction to Lamentations
Poetry, not Narrative – Formatted Eng. Bibles; prayed or sung in worship. Five interconnected poems. Movement from horrible loss and personal shame to restored hope and prayer for renewal.
Acrostics. (Like Ps 119). The first four chaptLam 1:1-22, each verse (segment) begins with next Heb. alphabet letter. Aleph, Beth, Gimel, etc.
Rhythm. Qinah meter – lines of two unequal parts. First, three words and second two words. Three accents, then two. Falling, rising, and falling cadence. In this way the poems seem to “limp,” as if the reader is walking haltingly along behind a funeral procession.
Compelling Prayers – that confess sin, express renewed hope, and declare total dependence on God’s grace.
Authorship of Lamentations
Book itself anonymous. Most likely Jeremiah.
2 Chr 35:25 Then Jeremiah chanted a lament for Josiah. And all the male and female singers speak about Josiah in their lamentations to this day. And they made them an ordinance in Israel; behold, they are also written in the Lamentations.
The Septuagint (LXX or Greek OT) ascribes the book to Jeremiah.
And yet …
Jeremiah is never named, as he is so often in the previous book.
No mention in that previous book of his writing Lamentations.
Poetry is not typical in Jeremiah’s recorded sermons.
Lam 1 Effect: Desolation and Misery
1:1-11 Jerusalem’s Devastation
Once a princess, now a lonely widow and a slave.
Her former friends and lovers now her enemies and foes.
1:12-22 Jerusalem’s Entreaty
Lament: “I am despised. Pain … fire … net for feet … yoke … no strength … Trodden as a wine press. None to comfort. Behold!”
Confession: “The LORD is righteous. I have been very rebellious!”
Petition: “Deal with my enemies’ sin as You have dealt with mine!”
Lam 2 Cause: Wrath and Judgment
2:1-10 The Lord’s Unrelenting Attack
Judah’s splendor (1), kingdom & rulers (2), palaces & strongholds (3-5), temple (6-7), defenses (8-9a), and leaders (9b-10).
2:11-19 The People’s Urgent Need: Cry Out to God!
Jerusalem’s dying children (11-12), false prophets (13-14), ridiculing enemies (15-16), and pressing call to prayer (17-19).
2:20-22 Jerusalem’s Response: “LORD, Look and See!”
Lam 3 Agony and Ecstasy
The centerpiece and peak of the five poems. High point: 3:21-24.
3:1-20 His Complaint: His Individual Sufferings
3:21-39 His Consolation: God’s Mercy, Faithfulness, & Compassion
3:40-54 His Confession: His Sorrow for Sin & its Consequences
3:55-66 His Confidence: His Assurance of God’s Response
Lam 4 Desperate Distress
4:1-10 The Suffering of Jerusalem’s Children
Starving, perishing, clothed in ashes, shriveled, and cannibalized.
4:11-16 The Judgment of Jerusalem’s Leaders
Nations shocked. Prophets and priests blood-soaked and scattered.
4:17-20 The Power of Jerusalem’s Enemies
No help from allies. Pursuers swifter than eagles. King captured.
4:21-22 The End of Jerusalem’s Suffering
Exile over. Exultant foes (Edom) now to drink the cup of judgment.
Lam 5 Passionate Prayer
Conclusion: the Community’s Plea for Restoration
5:1 Petition: “Remember, Look, and See Our Disgrace!”
5:2-18 Description: “We are Absolutely Devastated!”
5:2-10 Economic Impoverishment
5:11-14 Social Humiliation
5:15-18 Social and Political Disintegration
5:19-22 Supplication: “Don’t Reject Us! Restore and Renew Us!”
The LORD’s eternal reign. His righteous wrath. His amazing grace.
Written by Cory Collins
Cory Collins is a Bible teacher and a minister of the gospel. He serves with Keller church of Christ in Keller, Texas. He and his wife, Tanya, have been married since 1977. They have two children and two grandchildren.