The Book No One Wants To Study
Some acrostic poems begin each succeeding line with the next letter of the alphabet. For example, chapter 1 consists of 22 one-verse sentences. Therefore 1:1 starts with a word that begins with aleph, 1:2 uses a word that begins with beth, and so forth through the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
Other acrostic poems open a segment with aleph and then begin each succeeding segment with the succeeding letter of the alphabet. Only the first word in a stanza exhibits the acrostic pattern. For example, chapters 1 and 2 feature 22 three-line verses, for a total of 66 lines. The first word in 1:1, 2:1, and 4:1 begins with an aleph; the first word in 1:2, 2:2, and 4:2 begins with beth; and so forth.
There are variations on that second type. For example, chapter 4 follows the same procedure as chapters 1 and 2, except that each segment is two lines long, for a total of 44 lines.
Still other acrostic poems have stanzas of three lines each that begin with the same letter of the alphabet. Thus, chapter 3 has 66 lines, like chapters 1 and 2. But each line in 3:1–3 begins with aleph; 3:4–6 has each line begin with beth; and so forth. The composition of acrostics requires great skill.
Meter. Lamentations often utilizes qinah meter, a type used in some passages that mourn the dead (e.g., Isaiah 14; Ezekiel 27). This rhythm is based on lines of two unequal parts. The first part normally consists of three words and the second part usually includes two words. This pattern creates three accents, then two, thereby creating a falling, rising, and falling cadence. In this way the poems seem to “limp,” as if the reader is walking haltingly along behind a funeral procession.
Basic movement. The acrostic forms noted above convey the book’s movement from Jerusalem’s protest concerning what she has suffered (1:1–22) to her penitent turning to God again (5:1–22). Chapters 1–2 relate Jerusalem’s horrible defeat at the hands of Babylon. People, property, opportunity, and hope have been lost. A narrator and a prophetic voice encourage Jerusalem to turn to God. Jerusalem prays, but almost solely in protest. These chapters are the least acrostic of all the poems, and they portray the least movement toward God.
A. A Widowed City (chap. 1).
B. A Broken People (chap. 2).
C. A Suffering Prophet (chap. 3).
D. A Ruined Kingdom (chap. 4).
E. A Penitent Nation (chap. 5).
I. First Dirge: Jerusalem’s Desolation because of Her Sin (chap. 1)
A. Jeremiah’s lament over Jerusalem’s desolation (1:1–11)
B. Jerusalem’s plea for mercy (1:12–22)
II. Second Dirge: God’s Punishment of Jerusalem’s Sin (chap. 2)
A. God’s anger (2:1–10)
B. Jeremiah’s grief (2:11–19)
C. Jerusalem’s plea (2:20–22)
III. Third Dirge: Jeremiah’s Response (chap. 3)
A. Jeremiah’s afflictions (3:1–18)
B. Jeremiah’s hope (3:19–40)
C. Jeremiah’s prayer (3:41–66)
IV. Fourth Dirge: The Lord’s Anger (chap. 4)
A. Contrast before and after the siege (4:1–11)
B. Causes for the siege (4:12–20)
C. Call for vindication (4:21–22)
V. Fifth Dirge: The Remnant’s Response (chap. 5)
A. The remnant’s prayer for remembrance (5:1–18)
B. The remnant’s prayer for restoration (5:19–22)
THE PROVOCATION AGAINST GOD (1)
THE PUNISHMENT FROM GOD (2)
THE SORROWFUL PROPHET OF GOD (3)
THE SUFFERING PEOPLE OF GOD (4)
THE PRAYER TO GOD (5)
I. Grief after the destruction of Jerusalem 1:1–22
II. Personal suffering after the destruction of Jerusalem 2:1–22
III. Hope in the face of adversity 3:1–66
IV. The pain of the destruction of Jerusalem 4:1–22
V. Remembering that God still reigns 5:1–22
INTRODUCTION: THE MEANING AND PURPOSE OF LAMENTATIONS
1. The name of the book
2. Its place in the Canon
3. Forms and types
4. The time and place of composition
SONG I: THE DESOLATION OF ZION
Part I (vv. 1–11)
Part II (vv. 12–22)
SONG II: THE WRATH OF GOD
Part I (vv. 1–10)
Part II (vv. 11–22)
SONG III: THE DAWN OF HOPE
Part I (vv. 1–24)
Part II (vv. 25–51)
Part III (vv. 52–66)
SONG IV: THE JUDGMENT
Part I (vv. 1–11)
Part II (vv. 12–16)
Part III (vv. 17–22)
SONG V: A CORPORATE PRAYER
Part I (vv. 1–18)
Part II (vv. 19–22)
• The desolation of Jerusalem (Lam 1:1–22)
• God’s judgment on Jerusalem (Lam 2:1–22)
• Hope in God’s faithfulness in the midst of disaster (Lam 3:1–66)
• Jerusalem before and after the siege (Lam 4:1–22)
• A prayer for restoration (Lam 5:1–22)
Jerusalem in Mourning
Jerusalem in Ruin
Call for Renewal
Restitution to Come
A Cry for Relief
Lamentations agrees with the theology of Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 27–30, Joshua–Kings, and Jeremiah in that it affirms that Jerusalem fell:
a. because of the people’s sins (Lam. 1:18);
b. because they rejected God’s word sent through the prophets (2:8, 14, 17);
c. because their leaders led them astray (4:13). God warned (2:17), but the people did not heed the warning.
5. It affirms God’s faithful, never-ceasing mercy (3:19–24; cf. Deut. 30:1–10). Therefore, readers can know that God is not finished with his people even when they sin greatly.
6. The book agrees with Psalms in that it affirms that prayers of confession and petition are the means for restoring a broken relationship with God. These poems also coincide with the Psalms in their honest expressions of pain and their dismay at what God has allowed to happen. By attributing what has occurred to God’s will, the poems also share the Psalms’ emphasis on God’s sovereignty as King of creation (Ps. 103:19).
7. Lamentations agrees with the emphasis on “the day of the LORD” found in the prophetic books. This “day” is the day God comes to judge sin. It can occur in historical contexts like 587 B.C., or it can occur at the end of time and be the final “day of the LORD.” Regardless, such “days” do occur, and people need to take seriously the warnings about such days in Lamentations and the rest of the Bible.