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Book of Lamentations

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The Book of Lamentations Hebrew: אֵיכָה‎, ‘Êykhôh, from its incipit meaning "how" is a collection of poetic laments for the destruction of Jerusalem1 In the Hebrew Bible it appears in the Ketuvim "Writings", beside the Song of Songs, Book of Ruth, Ecclesiastes and the Book of Esther the Megilloth or "Five Scrolls", although there is no set order; in the Christian Old Testament it follows the Book of Jeremiah, as the prophet Jeremiah is its traditional author2 Jeremiah's authorship is no longer generally accepted, although it is generally accepted that the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon in 586 BCE forms the background to the poems3 The book is partly a traditional "city lament" mourning the desertion of the city by God, its destruction, and the ultimate return of the divinity, and partly a funeral dirge in which the bereaved bewails and addresses the dead3 The tone is bleak: God does not speak, the degree of suffering is presented as undeserved, and expectations of future redemption are minimal4

The book is traditionally recited on the fast day of Tisha B'Av "Ninth of Av", mourning the destruction of both the First Temple and the Second; in Christianity it is traditionally read during Tenebrae of the Holy Triduum

Contents

  • 1 Structure
  • 2 Summary
  • 3 Composition
  • 4 Themes
  • 5 Later interpretation and influence
  • 6 References
  • 7 Bibliography
  • 8 External links

Structureedit

"Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem" Rembrandt

Lamentations consists of five distinct poems, corresponding to its five chapters The first four are written as acrostics – chapters 1, 2, and 4 each have 22 verses, corresponding to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, the first lines beginning with the first letter of the alphabet, the second with the second letter, and so on Chapter 3 has 66 verses, so that each letter begins three lines, and the fifth poem is not acrostic but still has 22 lines5 The purpose or function of this form is unknown6

Summaryedit

The book consists of five separate poems In the first chapter 1, the city sits as a desolate weeping widow overcome with miseries In Chapter 2 these miseries are described in connection with national sins and acts of God Chapter 3 speaks of hope for the people of God: the chastisement would only be for their good; a better day would dawn for them Chapter 4 laments the ruin and desolation of the city and temple, but traces it to the people's sins Chapter 5 is a prayer that Zion's reproach may be taken away in the repentance and recovery of the people

Compositionedit

Lamentations has traditionally been ascribed to Jeremiah, probably on the grounds of the reference in 2 Chronicles 35:25 to the prophet composing a lament on the death of King Josiah, but there is no reference to Josiah in the book and no reason to connect it to Jeremiah5 The language fits an Exilic date 586–520 BCE, and the poems probably originated from Judeans who remained in the land7 Scholars are divided over whether they are the work of one or multiple authors7 One clue pointing to multiple authors is that the gender and situation of the first-person witness changes – the narration is feminine in the first and second lamentation, and masculine in the third, while the fourth and fifth are eyewitness reports of Jerusalem's destruction;8 conversely, the similarities of style, vocabulary, and theological outlook, as well as the uniform historical setting, are arguments for one author9

Themesedit

Lamentations combines elements of the qinah, a funeral dirge for the loss of the city, and the "communal lament" pleading for the restoration of its people10 It reflects the view, traceable to Sumerian literature of a thousand years earlier, that the destruction of the holy city was a punishment by God for the communal sin of its people11

Beginning with the reality of disaster, Lamentations concludes with the bitter possibility that God may have finally rejected Israel chapter 5:22 Sufferers in the face of grief are not urged to a confidence in the goodness of God; in fact God is accountable for the disaster The poet acknowledges that this suffering is a just punishment, still God is held to have had choice over whether to act in this way and at this time Hope arises from a recollection of God's past goodness, but although this justifies a cry to God to act in deliverance, there is no guarantee that he will Repentance will not persuade God to be gracious, since he is free to give or withhold grace as he chooses In the end, the possibility is that God has finally rejected his people and may not again deliver them: if God is predictable, then God is just a tool of humans Nevertheless, it also affirms confidence that the mercies of Yahweh the God of Israel never end, but are new every morning 3:22–3312

Later interpretation and influenceedit

The Book of Lamentations is recited annually by Jews on Tisha b'Av Ninth of Av, the anniversary of the destruction of both of the Jewish Temples

In Western Christianity, readings, chantings, and choral settings of the book are used in the Lenten religious service known as the Tenebrae Latin for darkness In the Church of England, readings are used at Morning and Evening Prayer on the Monday and Tuesday of Holy Week, and at Evening Prayer on Good Friday

In the Coptic Orthodox Church, the book's third chapter is chanted on the twelfth hour of the Good Friday service, that commemorates the burial of Jesuscitation needed

Referencesedit

  1. ^ Berlin 2004, p 1
  2. ^ Hayes 1998, p 167
  3. ^ a b Hayes 1998, p 168
  4. ^ Hayes 1998, p 169
  5. ^ a b Clines 2003, p 617
  6. ^ Hiller 1993, p 420
  7. ^ a b Dobbs-Allsopp 2002, pp 4–5
  8. ^ Lee 2008, pp 566–567
  9. ^ F B Huey, Jeremiah, Lamentations, vol 16, The New American Commentary Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993, 443
  10. ^ Berlin 2004, pp 23–24
  11. ^ Hillers 1993, p 420
  12. ^ Clines 2003, pp 617–618

Bibliographyedit

  • Berlin, Adele 2004 Lamentations: A Commentary Westminster John Knox Press 
  • Clines, David JA 2003 "Lamentations" In Dunn, James D G; Rogerson, John William Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible Eerdmans 
  • Dobbs-Allsopp, FW 2002 Lamentations Westminster John Knox Press 
  • Hayes, John H 1998 "The Songs of Israel" In McKenzie, Steven L; Graham, Matt Patrick The Hebrew Bible Today: An Introduction to Critical Issues Westminster John Knox Press 
  • Hillers, Delbert R 1993 "Lamentations of Jeremiah" In Metzger, Bruce M; Coogan, Michael D The Oxford Companion to the Bible Oxford University Press 
  • Lee, Archie CC 2008 "Book of Lamentations" In Sakenfeld, Katherine Doob The New Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, Volume 3 Abingdon Press ISBN 978-0-687-33365-3 

External linksedit

  • Jewish translations:
    • Eichah – Lamentations Judaica Press translation with Rashi's commentary at Chabadorg
    • Book of Lamentations with Hebrew/English and mp3 chanting of the entire book in Hebrew Website also contains other books of the bible
    • Laments R David Seidenberg: a fresh translation with linear Hebrew and English, on neohasidorg
    • A synopsis of Eichah's chapters
  • Christian translations:
    • Online Bible at GospelHallorg
    • Lamentations at Sacred Texts KJV, Tan, Sep, Vul
    • Lamentations public domain audiobook at LibriVox Various versions
  • Introductions
    • Introduction to the Book of Lamentations
Book of Lamentations Hebrew lament
Preceded by
Ruth
Hebrew Bible Succeeded by
Ecclesiastes
Preceded by
Jeremiah
Protestant
Old Testament
Succeeded by
Ezekiel
Roman Catholic
Old Testament
Succeeded by
Baruch
E Orthodox
Old Testament

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