Loading
Lamentations

Author: Unknown

Date Written: 587-550 BC

 

Lamentations is a short poetic book of mourning over the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians.  Traditionally, Jeremiah has been considered the author of the book.  The Hebrew sources do not mention his name, but the Greek text credits him at the beginning of the book.  It is possible that this tradition arose because another biblical passage mentions that Jeremiah wrote a lament for King Josiah (2 Chr 35:25).

 

The book is a series of five poems.  The first four are acrostic, meaning they are structured alphabetically according to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet.  Chapters 1, 2 and 4 each contain 22 lines, corresponding to the alphabet, but chapter 3 is 66 lines since it has 3 lines for each letter.  Chapter 5 is 22 lines, but it is not acrostic.  Scholars have found similarities between Lamentations and other Ancient Near Eastern poems of lament.

 

Several different voices are represented in the text.  This fact can make Lamentations a bit confusing.  The main voice that begins the book is the voice of the author, narrator or the prophet Jeremiah.  But quickly, the voice of Jerusalem chimes in (1:9, 11-16).  Then Jerusalem's enemies speak (2:15-16).  Chapter 3 presents a different voice, the voice of a strong-man (geber in Hebrew) who seems to represent the nation of Judah.  The main voice returns for the last two chapters.

 

The author truly "laments" the fate of Judah and Jerusalem.  The Babylonians have come and destroyed the Temple and the city and taken the leaders of the people into exile.  In the midst of this calamity, the author acknowledges the sins of Judah since he understands the tragic circumstances as God's just judgment upon the nation (1:8-9, 14).  Yet the book holds out hope for Judah's future, for a return from exile and for judgment upon the nation's enemies.  In the context of total desolation, prayers for vindication fill the book (1:21-22; 3:64-66).  The last half of chapter 3 and the very end of chapter 5 are the most hopeful sections of the book.  They illustrate the hope that the nation has in the Lord and in his power to redeem his people and punish their enemies.

 

The message of Lamentations is hard.  It challenges us with the fact that there are tangible and painful consequences for our sin.  Judah suffered exile because of its infidelity to its covenant relationship with the Lord.  Yet the prayer of lament does not end in despair, but looks forward to the Lord's purposes for Judah's future, for vindication and restoration.  The suffering is not permanent, but purgative.  The Lord will bring his people back.

 

Lamentations is a prayer.  It is a prayer of sorrow, a prayer of repentence, a prayer in time of suffering, a prayer for God's deliverance.  The Jewish people suffered greatly at the time of the exile.  The reader of Lamentations can try to identify with their sufferings and pray along with them.

 

The book is read in Jewish liturgy to commemorate the destruction of the first and second Temples and in Christian liturgy for the Tenebrae services of Holy Week.

 

Lamentations expresses the desperation of a suffering soul and a suffering people.  This book not only helps us to understand the plight of the Jews at the time of the exile but it shows us how to bring our own sufferings to God in prayer.

 

By Mark Giszczak

Ads by Google
(What's this?)

RESOURCES »

Ads by Google (What's this?)
Ads by Google (What's this?)

Featured Videos

Pope Francis celebrates the closing Mass and announces site of next World Youth Day
Pope Francis celebrates the closing Mass and announces site of next World Youth Day
Pope Francis visits poor neighborhood and meets with young people from Argentina
Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida
Denver rally draws hundreds in support of religious freedom
Pope Francis prays over a sick man in St Peter's Square
Denver women's clinic will offer natural, Catholic care
Interview Clips: Barbara Nicolosi speaks to CNA
US Cardinals press conference at North American College
Pope Benedict to retire to monastery inside Vatican City
Pope cites waning strength as reason for resignation
Hundreds convene in Denver to urge respect for life
New Orange bishop encourages Catholic unity in diversity
Chinese pro-life activist calls for reform, international attention
At Lincoln installation, Bishop Conley says holiness is success
Mother Cabrini shrine reopens in Chicago after a decade
Ordination of 33 deacons fills St. Peter's with joy
Cardinal says "Charity is the mother of all the virtues"
Augustine Institute expands evangelization effort with new campus
Bishops recall 'Way of St. James' as chance to trust in God
Los Angeles cathedral's newest chapel houses Guadalupe relic
Apr
18

Liturgical Calendar

April 18, 2014

Friday of the Passion of the Lord (Good Friday)

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Jn 18:1 - 19:42

Gospel
Date
04/18/14
04/17/14
04/16/14

Daily Readings


First Reading:: Is 52:13-53:12
Second Reading:: Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9
Gospel:: Jn 18:1-19:42

Homily of the Day

Jn 18:1 - 19:42

Homily
Date
04/18/14
04/17/14
04/16/14

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com
     HTML
Text only
Headlines
  

Follow us: