By Joseph Benson
The Author. (1) His name means "Exalted of Jehovah," and he is ranked second among the great Old Testament writers. (2) He lived the last of the sixth and the first of the fifth centuries before Christ. His ministry began in 626 B. C., the thirteenth year of Josiah (1:2), and lasted about forty years. He probably died in Babylon during the early years of the captivity. (3) He was of a sensitive nature, mild, timid, and inclined to melancholy. He was devoutly religious and naturally shrank from giving pain to others. (4) He was uncommonly bold and courageous in declaring the message of God, it was unpopular and subjected him to hatred and even to suffering wrong. He was unsparing in the denunciations and rebukes administered to his nation, not even sparing the prince. (5) He is called the weeping prophet. He was distressed both by the disobedience and apostasy of Israel and by the evil which he foresaw. Being very devoutly religious, he was pained by the impiety of his time.
Condition of the Nations. (1) Israel, the northern kingdom, had been carried into captivity and Judah stood alone against her enemies. (2) Judah had fallen into a bad state, but Josiah, who reigned when Lamentations began his ministry, attempted to bring about reforms and restore the old order. After his death, however, wickedness grew more and more until, in the later part of the life of Lamentations, Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and Judah was led away in captivity. (3) The world powers of the time of Lamentations's birth were Assyria and Egypt. They were contending for supremacy. But Lamentations lived to see both of them subdued and Babylon mistress of the world. He foresaw also how Babylon would fall and how a kingdom greater than all would rise wherein there would be righteousness and peace.
The name means elegies or mournful or plaintive poems. It was formerly a part of Lamentations and represents the sorrows of Lamentations when the calamities which he had predicted befell his people, who had often despised and rejected him for his messages. He chose to live with them in their suffering and out of his weeping pointed them to a star of hope. There are five independent poems in as many chapters. Chapters 1, 2, 4 and 5 have each 22 verses or just the number of the Hebrew alphabet. Chapter 3 has 66 verses or just three times the number of the alphabet. The first four chapters are acrostic, that is each verse begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. In chapter three, each letter is used in order and is three times repeated as the initial letter of three successive lines.
For Study and Discussion. (1) Make a list of the evils predicted against the people because of their sins. (Example 19:7-9). (2) Make a list of the different sins and vices of which Lamentations accuses Israel. (Example 2:12; :3:20, etc.) (3) Point out all the prophesies of Divine judgment against other nations and analyze the punishment foretold. (Example 5:18-25). (4) Study the case of fidelity to parents given in Ch. 35. (5) Collect all passages in both books which tell of the Messiah and of Messianic times and make a study of each (as 23:5-6). (6) Select a few of the striking passages of Lamentations and show how they apply to the facts of history. (6) The sign and type of the destruction of the land. Chs. 13-14. (8) The potter an illustration of God's power over nations, Chs. 18-19. (9) The illustration of the return, seen in the figs, Ch. 24. (10) Lamentations's letter to the captive, Ch. 29. (11) Lamentations's love for Judah-it saw their faults, rebuked them for their sins, but did not desert them when they were in suffering, because they despised his advice.