The capture of Jerusalem

What is Lamentations about?
Lamentations is the 25th book in the Bible, and is made up of five laments, a poetic form of grieving, written after the fall of Jerusalem.

The first chapter describes the sorry state of the unclean Jerusalem, all but gone after having been taken over by the Babylonians. Then, the author turns to the Lord and contemplates His hand in Jerusalem’s judgment. God is in the right, as Jerusalem has sinned too much. Chapter 2 picks up along the same lines of thought, with the Lord’s anger against Jerusalem and Judah in general. All the people in Jerusalem have been brought low, and they cannot excuse themselves from having known this would have happened. The author urges everyone to cry out to the Lord.

Chapter 3 describes the “man who has seen affliction”, describing all the ways he has been attacked, mutilated, etc., beyond belief. This man, though, turns to the Lord, contemplating His mightiness and sufficiency for his soul. He believes that the Lord will one day balance the scales with his enemies. Chapter 4 once again describes the sorry state of Jerusalem. People are going hungry, and those that had been killed are arguably better off than the ones who are left, who are even left to boil their own children. Once again, the author remarks that this was because of Jerusalem straying from the Lord, prideful in their belief that nobody could touch them. At the end, though, the author makes reference to the punishment being finished. Finally, Chapter 5 is a plea to the Lord to look upon the disgrace of Jerusalem and once again bring the people to Himself.

Who wrote it?
Lamentations has no named author. Some believe that the prophet Jeremiah wrote Lamentations, but this is merely an educated guess and there are some issues with it.

When does it take place?
Lamentations clearly describes Jerusalem after its downfall at the end of 2 Kings. That happened in 587 B.C. The exiles started to come back around 538 B.C., so a date between those two years, possibly one near the beginning of that range, is likely.

How does Lamentations apply to me today?
Lamentations describes the Israelites at their lowest point since servitude to Egypt in the beginning of the book of Exodus. Even at this point, the author still expresses hope in the Lord, that He will be faithful and just to His people. Indeed, after a couple decades, the exiles return to Jerusalem and build a new temple there. Today, sometimes we see the world situation right now and wonder how it could get any worse, or that it won’t get better for us. The situation in Lamentations reminds us that we are wrong on both counts. Indeed, it was worse, and through the grace of God it did get better. Faithfulness in God does not prevent worldly troubles, but it does see us through them.

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Recommended resources:

As for all posts in this series, a book introduction in a good study Bible will provide more information than listed here. The ESV Study Bible is one recommendation.
The Bible Project’s video on Lamentations

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Biblical illustrations by Jim Padgett, courtesy of Sweet Publishing, Ft. Worth, TX, and Gospel Light, Ventura, CA. Copyright 1984. Released under new license, CC-BY-SA 3.0