Lamentations
A Funeral Dirge Over the Desolation of Jerusalem

This letter is Jeremiah's sorrow over the city he had done his best to save. As he laments there is a hope that the city would rise again from it ruins (3:21,31, 32) Jerusalem did rise again and gave its name to the capital of a Redeemed World of Eternal Glory (Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 21:2) Now we call this "new Jerusalem'' heaven.

An Appendage to Jeremiah

The last chapter of Jeremiah should be read as an introduction to this book. The Septuagint (the Greek translation to the Old Testament) gives this prefix: "And it came to pass, after Israel was led into captivity and Jerusalem was laid waste, that Jeremiah sat weeping, and lamented this lamentation over Jerusalem and said..."

In the Hebrew Old Testament this book does not follow the prophet Jeremiah as in our Bible. It is in the group called "Haigiographa'' or "Writings" These books include Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther.

These books were on separate rolls, because they were read at different feasts. This book of Lamentations, to this day, throughout the world, wherever there are Jews, is read in the synagogues, on the 9th day of the 4th month. (Jeremiah 52:6)

Jeremiah's Grotto

In the name of the place, just outside the north wall of Jerusalem, where tradition says, Jeremiah wept bitter tears and composed this sorrowful elegy. This grotto is under the knoll that is now called "Golgotha" the self-same hill on which the cross of Jesus Christ stood. Thus the suffering prophet wept where later the suffering Savior died.

An Alphabetic Acrostic

The book consists of five poems, four of which are acrostic, that is, each verse begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, in alphabetic sequence. (An example of an English acrostic might be the spelling of the word "arithmetic" a rat in the house might eat the ice cream!)

An alphabetic Acrostic is a favorite form of Hebrew poetry, adopted to help the memory. Psalm 119 is also an alphabetic acrostic of the Hebrew alphabet.

In chapters 1,2,4 there are 22 verses in each, one verse to a letter. In chapter 3 there were 3 verses to each letter making 66 in all. Chapter 5 has 22 verses, but not in alphabetic order.

Its Immediate Use

The book must have been composed in the three months between the burning of Jerusalem and the departure of the remnant to Egypt (Jeremiah 39:2; 41:1, 18; 43:7) during which the seat of government was at Mizpah (Jeremiah 40:8) probably a number of copies were made: some taken to Egypt, others sent to Babylon, for the captives to memorize and sing.

Chapter 1
Zion Desolate

It is not easy to give a subject to each chapter. The same ideas, in different wording, run through all the chapters: horrors of the siege; desolate ruins; all due to Zion's sins.

Jeremiah stunned, dazed, heart broken, weeps with grief inconsolable. Special emphasis of this chapter is that the people brought the catastrophe upon themselves by their sins... (verses  5, 8, 9, 14, 18, 20, 22 ) Although specific sins are not mentioned the general feeling and though is present in these verses. The captivity and destruction of Jerusalem is the direct result of Judah’s sin against the Holy One.

Chapter 2
God's Anger

The devastation of Jerusalem is attributed to the Anger of God. (verse 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 21, 22) Jerusalem situated on a high mountain surrounded by other mountains, was, for physical situation, the most beautiful city then known, ''the perfection of beauty" (verse 15) Even when compared to Babylon, Nineveh, Thebes and Memphis, which were built on river plains Jerusalem was a far more splendid city.

Moreover, Jerusalem was the city of God’s special care, chosen of Him for a unique mission, the main channel for God's dealings with men, most favored and highly privileged city in all the world, beloved of God in an exceptional way, and under His special protection. This is why Jeremiah weeps as he does all of this is no more.

Jerusalem was so well fortified that it was generally believed to be impregnable (4:12) But this City of God had become worse than Sodom (4:6). That the God of Love is also a God of Wrath is a teaching that is stated and illustrated again and again through­out the Bible.

Chapter 3
Jeremiah's Grief

In this chapter, Jeremiah seems to be complaining that God had ignored him and his prayers (verse 8). God ''had covered Himself with a cloud that no prayer could pass through" (verse 44) Though complaining, Jeremiah justifies God, acknowledging that they deserved worse (verse 22) The high point of the book is found in chapter three, verses 21-39.

What this chapter teaches us is that hope in God cannot be based on human merit. Sins cannot be expiated by suffering. A full confession of guilt and an unreserved plea for pardon are needed if there is to be an escape from the consequences of having transgressed and rebelled against the Lord

Because the people refused to turn to the lord, He poured out His anger on the rebellious nation. The devastation and destruction will end only when the Lord from heaven looks down and sees a change of heart (verses 40-51).

At the same time, let there be no doubt that God be moved by a penitent appeal to His mercy to forgive and to heal the wounds He inflicted. Deliverance is as certain as if it had been already come to pass. In order to awaken faith in God's promises, the poet Jeremiah lets an unnamed person appear on the scene and testify how the Lord heard his cry from the depths of the pit (verses 52-57).

Convinced that in espousing his cause God's honor is at stake.  He is bold enough to insist that the Lord pursue...and destroy His assailants (verse 58-66).

Chapters 4 & 5
Suffering of the Siege

Enumerated and summarized. Jeremiah could not keep his mind off the horrors of the siege, cries of starving children (2:11, 12, 19, 4:4), women boiling their babies for food (2:20; 4:10)

In spite of its horrible sufferings, Jeremiah failed to learn its lesson. After the captivity Jerusalem was rebuilt, and in Jesus' day had again become a great and powerful city, and climaxed its sin by crucifying the Son of God. Then followed its eradication by the armies of Rome in 70 AD. Hebrews 13 points to the fact that Christ out shines this once glorious city.

Sources

Halley’s Bible Handbook 24th. Edition, Zondervan Publishing House Grand Rapids, MI. 1965 pp. 320-322