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Like the book of Job, Lamentations represents a man of God who wonders about the results of evil and suffering in the world. However, while Job dealt with an inexplicable evil, Jeremiah lamented a tragedy of the creation of Jerusalem. 

People of this great city once experienced the judgment of the holy God, and the results were devastating. But at the heart of this book, at the center of this lament about the effects of sin in the world, are some verses dedicated to hope in the Lord (Lamentations 3: 22-25). 

This declaration of firm faith in the midst of the surrounding darkness shines like a beacon for all those who suffer under the consequences of their own sin and disobedience.

Lamentations is a Soliloquy

There is no word of God, though there are words about God. The structure of the book, apart from the final chapter, is a set of acrostics (not obvious in the English translations). Its genre is the lament. Several traditions, such as the punishment nexus for sin, inform the book. 

The setting is the historical crisis of a destroyed city, Jerusalem. The speaker is both a spectator and a victim of the tragedy. A dominant personality within the monologue is God; human agents like Babylon (unnamed) and Edom also appear in view. 

Language is Mixed with Metaphors

It is with an eye to form, genre, traditions, situation, and characters that the book’s theology can be exposed. The perspective in the book is initially of this word. The tragedy of Jerusalem, now devastated by the Babylonians (587 BC) and a people in exile, is confronted head on (1:3; 2:8-9). The citizenry is humiliated and in a desperate situation (1: 1-21a; 5: 1-18). 

The calamity and pathos of suffering is a central theme (3: 1-20). Poetry, more than prose, is the vehicle of pathos. Funeral chants set the tone (Ch. 1, 2, 4). Four of the five chapters are in acrostic form using the Hebrew alphabet, perhaps as a way of achieving a total expression of grief. The vocabulary and metaphors that describe suffering are graphic and earthy.

The once proud city is now like a widow, a queen becomes a slave (1:1). The theology of Zion, which emphasizes the indestructibility of the city and the temple (Psalm 48; 132:13; Jer 7:4), has been shown to be bankrupt. 

The good life of joy, feasting, treasure and prosperity is gone (1:7; 3:17). Once elegant and adorned with finery, leaders are now blacker than soot, with their skin wrinkled (4:8; cf. 1:6). 

Women have been raped (5:11). Children cry for food (2:12). There is no one to comfort Zion (1:17). The harsh reality is described, not denied. Pain is not silenced or distorted even though it raises great questions about God. Grief, for therapeutic reasons, as for Job, must be brought into speech.

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