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Survey of Lamentations

Book Type: The third book of the Major Prophets; the twenty-fifth book of the Old Testament; the twenty-fifth book of the Bible.

Author: Jeremiah is the traditional author, though the book does not specifically note who wrote it. As with Jeremiah, it may have been written in part with the help of his servant Baruch.

Audience: The original readers and hearers of Lamentations included the survivors of the destruction of Jerusalem. Shocked and saddened at the loss of their capital city, friends, and family members, Lamentations identified with the people's grief while looking forward to a future hope.

Date: Approximately 586 BC, shortly after the fall of Jerusalem.

Overview: Lamentations consists of five chapters, with each chapter providing a specific lament. In the first four chapters, each verse begins with sequential letters of the Hebrew alphabet as an aid for memorization. Chapter 1 includes two major parts, the sorrow experienced by the writer (Lamentations 1:1–11) and the sorrow of the city (Lamentations 1:12–22).

Chapter 2 focuses attention on the reasons for the Lord's anger. Lamentations 2:1–9 emphasizes the Lord's destruction without mercy on the city of Jerusalem. Lamentations 2:10–19 shifts to the human perspective of the destruction. The chapter closes with a prayer by the author for the city (Lamentations 2:20–22).

Chapter 3 continues to express grief over the plight of the city's destruction. Consisting of sixty-six verses, each verse begins with consecutive letters of the twenty-two-letter Hebrew alphabet, for a total of three consecutive cycles. The first section emphasizes discouragement, the second section offers hope, while the third section offers words of prayer for the city.

Chapter 4 provides details of God's wrath for two areas. Most of the chapter repeats the theme of the Lord's judgment upon Jerusalem (Lamentations 4:1–20). However, Lamentations 4:21–22 shifts to God's wrath upon Edom.

The final chapter breaks from the pattern of the first four, highlighting the prayers of those who remain. The first emphasis of prayer is that the Lord remembers those who have survived the devastation of Jerusalem (Lamentations 5:1–18). There is recognition that the Lord reigns forever and a prayer for Him to restore the people to Himself (Lamentations 5:19–22).

Key Verses (ESV):

Lamentations 2:17: "The Lord has done what he purposed; \ he has carried out his word, \ which he commanded long ago; \ he has thrown down without pity; \ he has made the enemy rejoice over you \ and exalted the might of your foes."

Lamentations 3:22–23: "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; \ his mercies never come to an end; \ they are new every morning; \ great is your faithfulness."

Lamentations 5:19–22: "But you, O LORD, reign forever; \ your throne endures to all generations. \ Why do you forget us forever, \ why do you forsake us for so many days? \ Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may be restored! \ Renew our days as of old— \ unless you have utterly rejected us, \ and you remain exceedingly angry with us."

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