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Lamentations study guide

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Preparation Prior to the study session, participants should read:
Lamentations 1: 1-13: the writer describes the aftermath of the fall of Jerusalem
Lamentations 3: 21-33: the high point of the book (and only optimistic point) - as the writer expresses hope in God's love.
Lamentations 5: the prayer for restoration of the nation
Orientation Lamentations is book #25 of 39 in the Old Testament, and the third book of the Major Prophets. For more information see the Bible Overview page.

Synopsis Lamentations is a collection of five mournful poems, as the writer (presumed to be Jeremiah) expresses inconsolable loss over the fall of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem has been left desolate because of her sins, her enemies mock her (1:7). The Babylonians have dismantled the entire religious system, removing priests and kings and destroying palaces and temples (2). The high point is the expression of hope found in the middle of the book (3: 21-33). The siege of Jerusalem is reviewed (4), especially the sins of the prophets and priests themselves. The final lament (5) states the miserable condition of the people - their punishment is complete.

Construction The book is formula-written. Chapters 1, 2, and 4 all have 22 verses, written as an acrostic: each verse begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Chapter 3 has 66 verses, is also an acrostic with 3 lines using each letter. Chapter 5 is not an acrostic, but has 22 verses to conform to the pattern. The use of acrostics is thought to be a memorization aid.
Major Events Ch. 1 expresses grief at the destruction of Jerusalem
Ch. 2 expresses the cause as the anger of God
Ch. 3 expresses hope in a prayer for mercy
Ch. 4 expresses repentence, reviews the siege of Jerusalem
Ch. 5 expresses a penitent nation, in a prayer for restoration.
Discussion points Compare to Job. Job has done nothing to deserve his situation, and ponders how God can be just - but in Lamentations, it is quite clear that Judah is guilty and God's punishment is indeed just. Do all sins result in punishment?

Try writing your own acrostic lament. Choose a topic to be lamented. Write the alphabet in a column, then write a verse beginning with each letter.

Connections The book is similar to Job. While Job grieves over his personal calamities, the writer of Lamentations grieves over the destruction of Jerusalem.

Psalm 119 is another acrostic poem.

For source citations see the home page. Revised April 9 2014

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