The Book of the Prophet Jeremiah The Book of the Prophet Ezekiel


This book, like the several books of the Pentateuch, is denominated in Hebrew eicah, "how," from its first word; and sometimes kinnoth, "lamentations," from its subject. It is one of the books of the Megilloth, or Roll, among the Jews; and because it relates to the ruin of their affairs, and contains promises of restoration, it is peculiarly prized, and frequently read. The five Megilloth are: Ecclesiastes, Canticles, Lamentations, Ruth, and Esther.

There has been little difference among learned men concerning the author of this book. The whole current of antiquity and modern times has pointed out Jeremiah as the writer; of this the style is a sufficient evidence.

There has been more difference of opinion relative to the subject and occasion. Some have thought the book was composed on the death of Josiah; others, that it was composed on occasion of the destruction of Jerusalem, and the various desolations connected with it. To this all its parts and its general phraseology seem best to apply, and this is the sentiment most generally embraced at present. This will receive much proof from a minute consideration of the book itself.

The composition of this poem is what may be called very technical. Every chapter, except the last, is an acrostic. Of the first two, each verse begins with a several letter of the Hebrew alphabet, in the order of the letters, with this exception that in the second, third, and fourth chapters, the phe (פ) is put before the ain; (ע) whereas in all the acrostic psalms the latter preceded the former, as it does in all grammars of the Hebrew language. In the first and second chapters each verse is composed of three hemistichs, or half-verses, except the seventh verse of the first and the nineteenth of the second chapter, which have each four hemistichs.

The third chapter contains sixty-four verses, each, as before, formed of three hemistiches, but with this difference that each hemistich begins with the same letter, so that the whole alphabet is thrice repeated in this chapter.

The fourth chapter is made up of twenty-two verses, according to the number of the Hebrew letters; but the composition is different from all the rest, for each verse consists of only two hemistichs, and those much shorter than any in the preceding chapters.

I have called this an inimitable poem; better judges are of the same opinion. "Never," says Bishop Lowth, "was there a more rich and elegant variety of beautiful images and adjuncts arranged together within so small a compass, nor more happily chosen and applied."

Lamentations 1:1-11. Who Wrote Lamentations and Why?

Tradition has long ascribed the book of Lamentations to Jeremiah, though some modern critics question whether all of the book was written by him. Keil and Delitzsch concluded after an extensive examination of the arguments against Jeremiah's authorship "that the tradition which ascribes the Lamentations to the prophet Jeremiah as their author is as well-founded as any historical tradition whatsoever" (Commentary, 8:2:349-50).

The writer of Lamentations wrote to reveal Judah's pathetic condition as a despoiled people at the hands of the Babylonians. He likened abandoned Jerusalem to a woman whose husband was dead (see v. 1). All her "lovers" (the false gods she worshiped) abandoned her to her enemies (see vv. 2-3). All of this came about because of Judah's wickedness (see vv. 5-8). Even the Lord forsook her in the hour of her affliction. Her enemies "mock[ed] at her sabbaths" (v. 7).

The heading to the book of Lamentations in the Hebrew texts is aychah which is translated as "alas! how ..." (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 8:2:335). It was customary in ancient Judah to compose and sing lamentations about departed friends or relatives. Jeremiah did the same for his beloved Jerusalem.

The "pleasant things" in verses 10-11 are allusions, in part, to the precious vessels taken from the templeby the enemy. The few valuable items left had been sold to help relieve the hunger and distress that had come upon the people.

Lamentations 1:1-11. What did Jeremiah lament?

Lamentations 1:12-22. What did Jerusalem complain of?

Lamentations 1:12-22. "Zion Spreadeth Forth Her Hands, and There Is None to Comfort Her"

Jeremiah employed vivid images to depict Judah's great distress, likening it to fire in the bones, a net for the feet, a yoke around the neck, the crushing of grapes in a winepress. Each allusion is an apt one. The image of the yoke or bands around the neck is also used in Isaiah 52:2. According to the interpretation given in Doctrine and Covenants 113:10, the bands on Israel's neck "are the curses of God upon her, or the remnants of Israel in their scattered condition among the Gentiles." Judah's seventy-year captivity in Babylon was like that described in these scriptures.

In her captive condition, none appeared to comfort Judah. She put forth her hands in a plea for help, but no one responded (see Lamentations 1:16-17). Her false "lovers" and former allies deserted her (see v. 19). Zion was in great distress. She knew then that her wickedness was the cause of her sorrowful state. (See vv. 20-22)

Lamentations 2:1-10. As a Result of Her Wickedness, Judah Was Forsaken and Punished by the Lord

Judah's pitiful condition, caused by her iniquities, had come about by God's power. In Lamentations 2:1-10, God was credited with having brought about Judah's present calamity as a punishment for her former wickedness.

"The writer evidently could not get the harrowing scenes out of his mind. The elders or heads of families who shared in the administration were powerless to do anything. Grave magistrates and light-hearted maidens alike were reduced to grief-stricken silence (v. 10)." (D. Guthrie and J. A. Motyer, eds., The New Bible Commentary: Revised, p. 661)

Lamentations 2:1-22. What prevailed in Jerusalem?

Lamentations 2:11-22. "O Wall of the Daughter of Zion, Let Tears Run Down like a River Day and Night"

Jerusalem was an object not only of pity but of scorn. Innocent babies wasted away in her streets, crying in vain for food (see vv. 11-12). The prophets that Judah did listen to were untrue to their task of crying out against iniquity. They spoke flattering words and thus encouraged Judah in her transgressions. Hence, Jerusalem was a hiss and a byword in the eyes of the nations (see vv. 13-14). Clearly, there was nothing about Jerusalem in which to rejoice. In verses 18-22 she called the Lord's attention to her doleful plight. Her tears were real tears of godly sorrow for her iniquities as well as for her temporal losses to the Babylonians.

Lamentations 3:1-66. Is There Hope Judah Can Recover from Her Fall, and If So, How?

Lamentations 3:1-66 contains the writer's individual lament over his and his people's distressed condition. His thoughts were expressed in a Hebrew poetic form.

"In true prophetic vein the elegist puts himself alongside his countrymen and entreats them to return to the Lord and to seek reconciliation with Him. Let them examine themselves in the light of His commandments which they have transgressed, and let the lifting up of their hands to God in heaven be accompanied by the lifting up of their hearts also, i.e. let their prayers for pardon be true and sincere. Let them know too what it feels like to be unpardoned, to be under God's judgment still (v. 42b), and they will come to appreciate all the more the wonder of His forgiveness." (Guthrie and Motyer, New Bible Commentary, p. 662)

Still, it would not be easy to obtain pardon. The rest of chapter 3 indicates that in spite of God's unwillingness to hear, the petitioner will continue to plead for relief. Verses 61-66 contain a plea that the Lord will also reward Judah's enemies for their harsh and evil ways.

Lamentations 3:55-66. What did Jeremiah do?

Lamentations 4. Which Specific Groups Are Responsible for Judah's Fall?

In Lamentations 4:1-22 the writer returned to his former theme and the mournful dirge began again. Various groups were responsible for Jerusalem's suffering. First, the "sons of Zion" once "comparable to fine gold" (v. 2) had become inferior vessels like those made of earthen clay. The mothers of Judah, unlike the monsters (whales and other large fish) of the sea who feed their young properly, had neglected their children. Wickedness was everywhere.

Verses 8-10 depict the bitter hunger experienced during the siege of Jerusalem, which finally led some to eat their own children.

Lamentations 4:13. Why was the state of Zion pitiful?

Lamentations 4:21-22. "O Daughter of Edom; He Will Discover Thy Sins"

Edom, at the time of Jerusalem's capture, had sought to enrich herself through Judah's tragedy (compare Obadiah 1:10-16), and her actions at that time were bitterly resented by the Jews (see Ezekiel 25:12-14; Psalm 137:7-9). But the Jews could console themselves with the thought that whereas their own punishment was now accomplished, that of Edom was still to come: "The cup also shall pass through unto thee" (Lamentations 4:21).

Lamentations 5. "Remember, O Lord, What Is Come upon Us: Consider, and Behold Our Reproach"

Lamentations 5:1-22 is a prayer for aid. The Lord alone held the key to Judah's deliverance. Her plight was very sad, and her sins had made it so.

"Water and wood are mentioned in ver. 4 as the greatest necessities of life, without which it is impossible to exist. Both of these they must buy for themselves, because the country, with its waters and forests, is in the possession of the enemy. The emphasis lies on 'our water ... our wood.' What they formerly had, as their own property, for nothing, they must now purchase." (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 8:2:448)

Lamentations 5:1-22. What did Jeremiah recite in prayer?

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