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lamentations of jeremiah Summary and Overview

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lamentations of jeremiah in Smith's Bible Dictionary

Title. --The Hebrew title of this book, Ecah, is taken, like the titles of the five books of Moses, from the Hebrew word with which it opens. Author. --The poems included in this collection appear in the Hebrew canon with no name attached to them, but Jeremiah has been almost universally regarded as their author. Date. --The poems belong unmistakably to the last days of the kingdom, or the commencement of the exile, B.C. 629-586. They are written by one who speaks, with the vividness and intensity of an eye-witness, of the misery which he bewails. Contents. --The book consists of five chapter, each of which, however, is a separate poem, complete in itself, and having a distinct subject, but brought at the same time under a plan which includes them all. A complicated alphabetic structure pervades nearly the whole book. (1) Chs. 1,2 and 4 contain twenty-two verses each, arranged in alphabetic order, each verse falling into three nearly balanced clauses; ch. #La 2:19| forms an exception, as having a fourth clause. (2) Ch. 3 contains three short verses under each letter of the alphabet, the initial letter being three times repeated. (3) Ch. 5 contains the same number of verses as chs. 1,2,4, but without the alphabetic order. Jeremiah was not merely a patriot-poet, weeping over the ruin of his country; he was a prophet who had seen all this coming, and had foretold it as inevitable. There are perhaps few portions of the Old Testament which appear to have done the work they were meant to do more effectually than this. The book has supplied thousands with the fullest utterance for their sorrows in the critical periods of national or individual suffering. We may well believe that it soothed the weary years of the Babylonian exile. It enters largely into the order of the Latin Church for the services of passion-week. On the ninth day of the month of Ab (July-August), the Lamentations of Jeremiah were read, year by year, with fasting and weeping, to commemorate the misery out of which the people had been delivered.

lamentations of jeremiah in Schaff's Bible Dictionary

LAMENTA'TIONS OF JEREMI'AH . Contents. -- The Lamentations are an elegiac poem on the destruction of Jerusalem and Judah by Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldees -- a sort of funeral dirge of the theocratic state, yet not without hope of its future resurrection in a purer and better form. The book consists of five separate poems, each complete in itself. The first verse strikes the keynote, where Jerusalem, once a princess among cities, is personified as a lonely widow, weeping sorely in the night with none to comfort her, her very friends having become her enemies. Chs. 1 and 2 describe the calamities of the siege, its causes and destructive results. The long siege brought on the horrors of famine; the city was taken by storm, the temple was polluted, the priests who defended it were massacred, and it was then destroyed. The fortresses of Judah were thrown down; the chief of the people were carried into exile; under the rule of the foreigner the Sabbaths and solemn feasts were forgotten. Ch. 3 deplores the persecutions which Jeremiah suffered, and represents the lowest depth of sorrow, almost in the midnight darkness of despair, yet followed by the dawn of a better day. The fourth chapter laments the ruin and desolation of the city and temple and the misfortune of Zedekiah. The fifth chapter is a prayer for the Jews in their captivity. The poetical form of this composition is a very elaborate alphabetical structure. The first four chapters are acrostics, like Ps. 25, 34, 37, 119, etc.-- that is, every verse begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet in regular order. Chs. 1, 2, and 4 contain twenty-two verses each, according to the number of Hebrew letters. The third chapter has three successive verses beginning with the same letter, making sixty-six verses in all. The verses are nearly of the same length, and each has three nearly-balanced clauses. The fifth chapter is not acrostic, but contains the same number of verses as 1, 2, and 4. At first glance this artificial form may seem inconsistent with the subject and the spirit. It must be remembered, however, that the purpose of the author of the Lamentations was not simply to give an artistic representation of the grief of the Exile, but much more to give to the exiles a means of assuaging their grief; and for this purpose the peculiarly complicated form was of great advantage, its complications being so many aids to the memory. And, indeed, few sections of the O.T. have done their work more effectually than this. It has soothed the weary years of the Babylonian exile, and afterward kept up a lively remembrance of the days of the deepest humiliation. On the ninth day of the month of Ab (July) it was read, year by year, with fasting and weeping, to commemorate the national misery and the final deliverance. Authorship. -- The author is not named anywhere in the Bible, and the book is not quoted in the N. T.; but general tradition assigns the composition to Jeremiah, and this is the prevailing opinion to this day. A cavern is still pointed out in the neighborhood of Jerusalem, outside of the Damascus gate, to which he retired to write the book; it is now called the Grotto of Jeremiah, and is by some regarded as the true site of Calvary. But besides the old traditions, the general fitness of things also speaks for Jeremiah's authorship, and the objections which have been raised against it are not conclusive. See Jeremiah.