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Though the Hebrew text does not specify, Jeremiah is thought to have written Lamentations. The prophet very likely witnessed Jerusalem’s destruction, and Lamentations bears a striking resemblance to his book in subject and wording. The Talmudic title is Ginoth, “Elegies” or “Lamentations,” describing the book’s topic. Scholars agree that the book comes from Jeremiah’s time, around 586 to 575 B.C. In the LXX Lamentations contains an introduction indicating that in the second century B.C. at least some Jews believed Jeremiah to be the author. Later, the Talmud, the Targums and Jerome (who translated the Bible into Latin in A.D. 400) all testified to Jeremiah’s authorship. 

Written in Judah’s final days as a nation, during and after the siege of Jerusalem from 588 to 586 B.C., Lamentations expresses the prophet’s sorrow at his beloved country’s destruction. King Josiah’s death signaled the start of a steady political, social and religious decline. Four kings later, Babylon overcame Jerusalem after a 30-month siege and carried away nearly the entire population, leaving only the poorest of the people to care for the land. More than 100 years before, Micah had foretold Jerusalem’s destruction. For 40 years Jeremiah had pleaded with the people to repent and warned of the consequences if they didn’t. As the culmination of these prophecies, Lamentations attests to God’s faithfulness in carrying out His promised judgments. Mingled with judgment are hopeful promises of forgiveness and restoration.

Lamentations has been likened to the “funeral” of Jerusalem, the once-proud city now in ruins. Four of the book’s five poems are written in a meter typical of Hebrew elegies, while the fifth reads more like a prayer. In the original Hebrew, the five poems are acrostic, with each verse starting with a succeeding letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

In the midst of calamity Jeremiah called out, “Great is Thy faithfulness!” This great faith demonstrates that we too can find hope and comfort in God in the middle of disappointment. Even in judgment, God extends love, hope and deliverance. 

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