Lamentations and its Structure

The book of Lamentations is only five chapters, but is filled with much information about how the people felt when Jerusalem fell.  The book consists of poems that express teh grief they were feeling using language, theology, imagery, and forms that were customary in the Hebrew traditions of suffering [1].  As previously states, the book consists of five chapters, but Chapters 1-4 have an individualized acrostic pattern  that give each book integrity [2].  The structures of the book indicate that it goes through various stages such as isolation in Chapter 1, anger is chapter 2, bargaining in chapter 3, depression in chapter 4, and acceptance in chapter 5.  The book of lamentations utilizes the the literary genre known as lament.  The lament forms such as the city dirge, individual, and communal are used from the Psalter and they are used dominantly in the book [3].  Here it is used to show the individual lament, and that of the community when faced with the exile and destruction of the Jerusalem temple.  According to researcher Dobbs-Allsopp the laments used are similar to those used in Mesopotamian laments.  However, Lamentations uses Hebrew poetic devices to show that the people are culpable, and replaces the Mesopotamian god with Yahweh [4].  The functions used show that the people of Israel are suffering not only individually, but also as a community.  This can be seen in the five poems of Lamentations.  Lamentations 1, 2, and 4 show the type of lament known as the city dirge which is linked to the destruction of a city and sanctuary.  Chapter 3 is dominated by an individual lament with some communal underpinning.  Chapter 5 consists solely of a communal lament [5].


Chapter 3 is the longest chapter of the book and its structure and content are very significant.  It begins with man and man’s suffering and subsequent move from despair to hope.  The situation described is applied to all generations that experience something similar [6].  It works as a call for all to look at themselves, examine their sinfulness, repent, and return to God.  The source of hope is the grace that only God can give and can be seen in Lamentations 3:21-33.  The word “grace” can be a little misleading, but in a Hebrew context is covenant loyalty, compassion, faithfulness, goodness, and salvation [7].  The chapter also describes the justice of God.  Though the book can be seen as sad it is also about a lovong father who punishes the disobedience of his children, but never leaves them.  He promises that they will be restored.


Works Cited

1.  Tremper Longman and Peter Enns.  Dictionary of the Old Testament.  (Downers Grove, IL:  IVP Academic, 2008), 399.

2.  Ibid, 403.

3.  Ibid, 401.

4.  Ibid, 401.

5.  Ibid, 401.

6.  Ibid, 405.

7.  Ibid, 405.

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