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Bible Dictionaries
Lamentations, Book of

Holman Bible Dictionary

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(lay mehn tay' shuhnss) Twenty-fifth book of Bible preserving mourning over the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. Lamentations are elegies or mournful poems which lament some great loss. The biblical Book of Lamentations is made up of such poems. The book contains five poems, each one comprising a chapter. The first four chapters are in acrostic form, where successive verses begin with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet with slight variations.

An ancient tradition, dating back to the earliest Greek translation (about 250 B.C.), claims that Jeremiah is the author of Lamentations. However, the Hebrew text of the book does not make that claim. Factors which favor authorship by Jeremiah are the antiquity of the tradition associating him with the book, the similarity in tone between Lamentations and portions of Jeremiah's book (Jeremiah 8-9;Jeremiah 8-9;14-15 ), and a similar perspective in Lamentations and Jeremiah as to the cause of the fall of Jerusalem (for example, Lamentations 1:2-18; Lamentations 2:14; Lamentations 4:13-17; Jeremiah 2:18; Jeremiah 14:7; Jeremiah 16:10-12; Jeremiah 23:11-40; Jeremiah 37:5-10 ).

Factors which militate against Jeremianic authorship are differences in phraseology between the two books and differences in viewpoints on several issues. Lamentations 1:21-22 and Lamentations 3:59-66 appear to be incongruent with Jeremiah's conviction that the Babylonians were functioning as God's instrument of judgment ( Jeremiah 20:4-5 ). Lamentations 4:17 suggests that the author was expecting help from the Egyptians, a perspective which Jeremiah strongly opposed ( Jeremiah 37:5-10 ). The view of Zedekiah, Judah's last king, in Lamentations 4:20 is also quite different from that found regarding him in Jeremiah 24:8-10 . The evidence tends to favor the opinion that Lamentations was written by someone other than Jeremiah; however, Jeremianic authorship is not —impossible. In either case the author was surely an eyewitness of the fall of Jerusalem.

Lamentations 1:1 mourns the misery resulting from the destruction of Jerusalem and explains that the desolation was God's judgment for the nation's sin. Lamentations 2:1 continues the lament over the ruin wrought by divine anger and calls the people to prayer. While Lamentations 3:1 further extends the mourning over Jerusalem's destruction, it also declares that God's steadfast love gives reason to hope that He will extend mercy in the future. In light of that hope the author calls for repentance. Lamentations 4:1 vividly pictures the horrors of the siege and fall of Jerusalem and places part of the blame for the judgment on the immoral prophets and priests of the city. Lamentations 5:1 summarizes the calamitous situation and closes with a prayer for restoration.

Lamentations served the Judeans as an expression of their grief, an explanation for the destruction, and a call for repentance and hope. The book warns modern readers that an immoral nation stands in danger of God's awesome judgment and that the only hope for survival is submission to God.


I. The Appalling Price of Sin (Lamentations 1:1-22 )

A. Description of punishment for sins (Lamentations 1:1-17 )

B. Admission of sin (Lamentations 1:18-20 )

C. Cry for vengeance (Lamentations 1:21-22 )

II. God Is the One Who Punishes Sin (Lamentations 2:1-22 )

A. God has done as He said (Lamentations 2:1-17 ).

B. Call the people to repent (Lamentations 2:18-19 ).

C. Call on the Lord to relent (Lamentations 2:20-22 ).

III. A Personal Cry to God (Lamentations 3:1-66 )

A. I am suffering (Lamentations 3:1-18 ).

B. I cry to God in hope (Lamentations 3:19-21 ).

C. God will hear and help (Lamentations 3:22-33 ).

D. God knows our unacceptable actions (Lamentations 3:34-36 ).

E God punishes unforgiven sin (Lamentations 3:37-54 ).

F. God will hear, respond, and requite the enemy (Lamentations 3:55-66 ).

IV. A Graphic Portrayal of Suffering Caused by Sin (Lamentations 4:1-22 )

V. A Plea to God (Lamentations 5:1-22 )

A. Remember us, O God, (Lamentations 5:1-18 ).

B. Restore us, O God, (Lamentations 5:19-22 ).

Bob R. Ellis

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Lamentations, Book of'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hbd/​l/lamentations-book-of.html. 1991.
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