AN INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF LAMENTATIONS
Lamentations is the work of one person with a broken heart. If, as has been the traditional view, Jeremiah was the author, it serves as a supplement to his longer work (the Book of Jeremiah). The writer was surely a witness to the destruction of Jerusalem and its aftermath in 586 B.C., and the book is largely comprised of elegies for that holy city. He alternates between horrifying accounts of the destruction of the city and the suffering of its inhabitants, descriptions and confession of the sins which caused it, appeals for divine help, and the holding out of hope because of God's great mercy. The overall tone is melancholy.
In the midst of the gloom, the author framed the chapters with a beautiful literary device called acrostic. Jer.1, Jer.2, and Jer.4 each have twenty-two verses, corresponding to the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and the first word of each verse begins with a different letter, in order, through the entire alphabet. Jer.3 does the same thing in blocks of three verses, for a total of sixty-six verses (22 X 3=66). Although Jer.5 also has twenty-two verses, no acrostic mechanism is present. To this day, Jews use the Book of Lamentations in their religious calendar to mourn the destruction of Jerusalem.
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