Lamentations, Book of: 1. Called in the Hebrew canon 'Ekhah, meaning "How," being the
formula for the commencement of a song of wailing. It is the first
word of the book (see)
(2 Samuel 1:19-27) The LXX. adopted the name
rendered "Lamentations" (Gr. threnoi Heb. qinoth) now in common
use, to denote the character of the book, in which the prophet
mourns over the desolations brought on the city and the holy land
by Chaldeans. In the Hebrew Bible it is placed among the
2. As to its authorship, there is no room for hesitancy in following
the LXX. and the Targum in ascribing it to Jeremiah. The spirit,
tone, language, and subject-matter are in accord with the testimony
of tradition in assigning it to him. According to tradition, he
retired after the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar to a
cavern outside the Damascus gate, where he wrote this book. That
cavern is still pointed out. "In the face of a rocky hill, on the
western side of the city, the local belief has placed 'the grotto
of Jeremiah.' There, in that fixed attitude of grief which Michael
Angelo has immortalized, the prophet may well be supposed to have
mourned the fall of his country" (Stanley, Jewish Church).
3. The book consists of five separate poems.
a. In chapter 1 the prophet dwells on the manifold miseries
oppressed by which the city sits as a solitary widow weeping
b. In chapter 2 these miseries are described in connection with
the national sins that had caused them.
c. Chapter 3 speaks of hope for the people of God. The
chastisement would only be for their good; a better day would
dawn for them.
d. Chapter 4 laments the ruin and desolation that had come upon
the city and temple, but traces it only to the people's sins.
e. Chapter 5 is a prayer that Zion's reproach may be taken away
in the repentance and recovery of the people.
4. The first four poems (chapters) are acrostics, like some of the
Psalms (25, 34, 37, 119) i.e., each verse begins with a letter of
the Hebrew alphabet taken in order. The first, second, and fourth
have each twenty-two verses, the number of the letters in the
Hebrew alphabet. The third has sixty-six verses, in which each
three successive verses begin with the same letter. The fifth is
not acrostic. Speaking of the "Wailing-place (q.v.) of the Jews" at
Jerusalem, a portion of the old wall of the temple of Solomon,
Schaff says: "There the Jews assemble every Friday afternoon to
bewail the downfall of the holy city, kissing the stone wall and
watering it with their tears. They repeat from their well-worn
Hebrew Bibles and prayer-books the Lamentations of Jeremiah and