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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

Lamentations of Jeremiah

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This book was formerly annexed to his prophecies, though it now forms a separate book. Josephus, and several other learned men, have referred them to the death of Josiah; but the more common opinion is, that they were applicable only to some period subsequent to the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. But though it be allowed that the Lamentations were primarily intended as a pathetic description of present calamities, yet while Jeremiah mourns the desolation of Judah and Jerusalem during the Babylonian captivity, he may be considered as prophetically painting the still greater miseries they were to suffer at some future time: this seems plainly indicated by his referring to the time when the punishment of their iniquity shall be accomplished, and they shall no more be carried into captivity, Lamentations 4:22 . The Lamentations are written in metre, and consist of a number of plaintive effusions, composed after the manner of funeral dirges. They seem to have been originally written by the author as they arose in his mind, and to have been afterward joined together as one poem. There is no regular arrangement of the subject, or disposition of the parts: the same thought is frequently repeated with different imagery, or expressed in different words. There is, however, no wild incoherency, or abrupt transition; the whole appears to have been dictated by the feelings of real grief. Tenderness and sorrow form the general character of these elegies; and an attentive reader will find great beauty in many of the images, and great energy in some of the expressions. This book of Lamentations is divided into five chapters; in the first, second, and fourth, the prophet speaks in his own person, or by an elegant and interesting personification introduces the city of Jerusalem as lamenting her calamities, and confessing her sins; in the third chapter a single Jew, speaking in the name of a chorus of his countrymen, like the Coryphaeus of the Greeks, describes the punishment inflicted upon him by God, but still acknowledges his mercy, and expresses some hope of deliverance; and in the fifth chapter, the whole nation of the Jews pour forth their united complaints and supplications to almighty God.

Every chapter, with the exception of the third, contains twenty-two verses, corresponding in number with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet; and each verse commences with a different letter, the first with aleph, the second with beth, the third with gimel, &c. The third chapter, consisting of sixty- six verses, has three verses together beginning with the same letter, the following three with the next letter, &c. This peculiarity may be seen in Psalm cxix; the first eight verses in which commence with aleph, the next eight with beth, &c, till the whole alphabet has been consecutively taken. This mode of versification, which has some distant resemblance to the modern acrostic style, seems to have been employed by the Hebrews in some of their elegiac poetry, perhaps to assist the memory.


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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Lamentations of Jeremiah'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/wtd/l/lamentations-of-jeremiah.html. 1831-2.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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