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Book of LAMANTATIONS Introduction
Introduction to Lamentations
This book very correctly follows the Prophecy of Jeremiah, not only because Jeremiah wrote it, but because of the subject matter of it, which was the deplorable case of the Jews when their city was destroyed and has been counted without a doubt as making a book of it. Some believe the Book of Lamentations was counted by Josephus, according to the number of the books of the Old Testament, which he gives; but it does not stand in this order in the printed Hebrew Bibles, especially in those published by the Jews; where it is placed in the Hagiographa, and among the five Megilloth; or with the books of Ruth, Esther, Ecclesiastes, and Solomon's Song, read at their festivals, and too on their public fast, on the ninth of Ab, for the destruction of their city; because they think it was not written by the gift of prophecy, but by the Holy Ghost, between which they make a distinction; and therefore remove it from the prophets; but this is the most natural place for it, after the Book of Jeremiah. It is sometimes called by the Jews Echa, from the first word of it, which signifies how; and sometimes Kinoth, Lamentations, from the subject of it (lamentation); and so by the Septuagint version Threni, which means the same thing; and which is followed by the Vulgate Latin, and others, and by us. That Jeremiah was the writer of it is not questioned; nor is the divine authority of it doubted. The precise place and time where and when he wrote it is not certain: some say he wrote it in a cave or den near Jerusalem; and one makes mention of a place, called the Prophet Jeremiah's pit, where he sat in the bitterness of his soul, grieving and weeping; and lamented and described the destruction of Jerusalem made by the Chaldeans, where Helena the empress, according to some, built some wonderful works.
It seems reasonable that Jeremiah wrote these Lamentations after he was carried away with the rest of the captives to Ramah, and went to Mizpah, at a place there. It is written in Hebrew metre, though now little understood; and the first four chapters is in alphabetical fashion; every verse beginning in order with the letters of the alphabet; and in the third chapter it is done three times over; three verses together beginning with the same letter: this seems to be done to make it more agreeable, and to help the memory. Some think that this is the same Book, which, having been publicly read by Baruch, was cut to pieces by King Jehoiakim, and cast into the fire and burned it (Jer.36:23); which contained the first, second, and fourth chapters, and to which was afterwards added the third chapter. This is without reason or foundation; seeing that it contained all Jeremiah's prophecies, not only against Israel and Judah, but against all the nations (Jer.32:2). This Book has nothing of; nor even the words, which are particularly said to be in that, respecting the destruction of Jerusalem by the king of Babylon (Jer.32:29). Josephus seems to think that this book of Lamentations was written by Jeremiah because of the death of Josiah (2 Chr.35:25); and which many agree . . . but the lamentation made in this book is NOT for a single person, but for a city, and even for the whole nation of the Jews. It is clear that this was written after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, and the sad desolation made in the land of Judea, because of the sins of the priests and people. The intention of it is to lament these things; to bring the people to repentance and to humble them for their sins, and to give a comfortable hope that God will be merciful to them, and restore them again to their former privileges, for which the prophet prays. The introduction to it, in the Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, and Arabic versions, is, and it came to pass after Israel was carried captive, and Jerusalem laid waste, Jeremiah sat weeping, and delivered out this lamentation over Jerusalem; and said, what follows in this Book.
This book in Greek, Latin, and English has its name from the subject matter of it, which is lamentation (to mourn); and also among the Hebrew writers; but in the Hebrew it has its name from the first word of the book, as also the five books of Moses have.
That it was written by Jeremiah none can question, because in the Hebrew it is styled, The Book of Jeremiah.
There is little controversy about the time or occasion of the writing of it. The occasion was the miseries of the people, because of the famine, sword and captivity, and is clear to those that read any part of it . . . but did those miseries begin with the death of Josiah, and hold on until the city was taken, which was twenty two or twenty three years after, or those only which began with the siege and followed for many years, has been doubted by some. That Jeremiah lamented for Josiah, and all the singing men and singing women spake of Josiah in their lamentations, is plain from: 2 Chr. 35:25 And Jeremiah lamented for Josiah: and all the singing men and the singing women spake of Josiah in their lamentations to this day, and made them an ordinance in Israel: and, behold, they are written in the lamentations. (KJV) But that these were the methods they used, nor that they were composed because of that sad account, appears not to be; for the miseries which the prophet mentioned occurred not on the people in the time of Josiah, but during the siege, more than twenty years after Josiah's death. Nor is there anything which looks like a lamentation for Josiah through the whole book, unless it would be: Lam. 4:20 The breath of our nostrils, the anointed of the LORD, was taken in their pits, of whom we said, Under his shadow we shall live among the heathen. (KJV)
This verse may also be fairly interpreted of Zedekiah. Some think that Jeremiah began to write the Lamentations on the death of Josiah, and continued his style to the time of the captivity, setting down all the miseries the people suffered all along that time.
The range of the writing as to those whom it immediately concerned is quite clear, it was to affect the people with those judgments which came upon them for their sins: to remind us to take heed of their sins, lest we share in their plagues.
The Book is made up of complaints of their lamentable condition, petitions to God for mercy, and prophecies both to their better estate and the ruin of their enemies.
In the four first chapters are several alphabets of letters beginning the numerous verses, each verse beginning with a new letter. In Lam.3:1-66, every three verses begin with a new letter; the mystery of which we do not understand, nor possibly was there any mystery intended in it, it seems the Chapter was so composed for the advantage of our memories.
The entire Book lets us see from a height of self-respect to such a depth of misery sin can bring upon nations, how much soever interested in God; and likewise directs us to our duty in such states of affliction and misery if we would obtain mercy.
The Book Lamentations is a sad book. It has five parts, and all five parts are about the city called Jerusalem.
God wanted His people to take care of Jerusalem and the Temple there. God wanted people to worship only Him in His House. But the people who lived in Jerusalem did not obey God, and after many warnings and threats by the prophets, he was furious with the people. His wrath permitted armies to come from another country. Those armies came to destroy Jerusalem and to take the people away. The writer of Lamentation was Jeremiah, and he lived in Jerusalem. Jeremiah was a man who loved God and loved his people. He was sad because the people would not listen to the warnings he brought from God, they refused to repent and be restored, so God sent enemies to destroy his city, Jerusalem. Jeremiah wrote this book about 586 BC.
In the first two parts of the book, Jeremiah writes sometimes as if he himself is speaking. Other times he writes as if Jerusalem city and its people are speaking. The city speaks as if it is a woman who is speaking. In the next two parts, only Jeremiah speaks. In the last part, he writes as if the city's people are praying to God.
The first part is about the lonely city. The second part says that God was like an angry enemy. In the next part, Jeremiah remembers how good God is. If people really love God, they can always hope for better things. After that, Jeremiah talks about the cruel enemies. He remembers what those enemies did to the people in the city. In the last part, the city's people know that they have done many wrong things. So they ask God to forget those bad things.
Lamentations clearly shows us that God is serious about sin, and His anger rises when His wrath sets in. God is indeed patient, but He will take just so and then He lowers the boom. This Book also shows us WHAT God wants. He wants us to love Him. He wants us to obey Him.
OUTLINE of the BOOK
(1). The awful Desolation of Jerusalem (1:1-11).
(2). The sad cry, confession, and prayer of the people (1:12-22).
A. The cry (1:12-13).
B. The Confession (1:18-19).
C. The prayer (1:20-22).
(3). The LORD seen as the One who punished Jerusalem (Chapter 2).
A. The effects of God’s wrath (2:1-13).
B. The cause of God’s wrath . . . the false prophets’ failure to warn the people (2:14).
C. The ridicule of onlookers (2:15-16).
D. Fulfillment of God’s threats (2:17).
E. The call to repentance (2:18-19).
F. The prayer of God’s mercy (2:20-22).
(4). The prophet voices the sorrow and confession of the remnant (Chapter 3).
The judgments of God (3:1-18).
- The mercies of God (3:19—39).
- The call for spiritual renewal (3:40-42).
- The sorrow of Jeremiah over Jerusalem (3:43-51).
- The prophet’s prayer for deliverance rom his foes (3:52-66).
(5). The past and present of Judah contrasted (4:1-20).
(6). The future prospect . . . Edom to be destroyed and Judah restored (4: 21-22).
(7). The remnant appeals to God for mercy and restoration (Chapter 5).
Christ in the Lamentations
Similar to the Psalms we may also see in Lamentations a prophetical preview of the sufferings of the Jewish remnant in the last time of trouble before Christ's appearing. As Jeremiah identified himself with the sad condition of the people under God's judgment so too will the LORD Jesus have compassion with Israel's woe, and especially so with the remnant's woe.
There are various parallels to be seen. Jeremiah lamented over Jerusalem and the LORD Jesus did so too.
Mat. 23:38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. (KJV)
Luke 19:41-44 And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, 42 Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. 43 For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, 44 And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation. (KJV)
Further parallels are:
Lamentations 2:15-16 All that pass by clap their hands at thee; they hiss and wag their head at the daughter of Jerusalem, saying, Is this the city that men call The perfection of beauty, The joy of the whole earth? 16 All thine enemies have opened their mouth against thee: they hiss and gnash the teeth: they say, We have swallowed her up: certainly this is the day that we looked for; we have found, we have seen it. (KJV)
Matthew 27:39 And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, (KJV)
Lam. 3:8 Also when I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayer. (KJV)
Mat. 27:46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (KJV)
Lam. 3:19 Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall. (KJV)
Mat. 27:34 They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink. (KJV)
Book of Lamentations
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