1. Jerusalem's misery and desolation: Lam
2. The Lord's anger against his people: Lam
3. Judah's complaint -- and basis for consolation: Lam
4. The contrast between Zion's past and present: Lam
5. Judah's appeal for God's forgiveness: Lam 5:1–22
In the analysis, note the emphasis on "affliction", and the
progression: Jerusalem's affliction (Lam 1) is brought by God (Lam 2) and is
necessary (Lam 3) because of her persistent apostasy (Lam 4), but she will at
last be delivered from affliction (Lam 5). Note also the succession of prayers
at the ends of the chapters, growing in length and intensity until culminating
in the extended prayer, filling all of Lam 5.
Parallel passages to Book as a whole: David's funeral dirge
for Saul and Jonathan (2Sa 1:17-27); the national lament of Psa 74; the personal
laments of Psa 22; Psa 69; Job.
Place In The Canon
According to one major tradition, this book is not found in
the Law or the Prophets sections of the Canon, which has caused some doubt as to
the Jeremiah authorship of these poems. Instead it is placed with the "Kethubim"
or writings, which include the Psalms, Proverbs, and Job as well as the
"megilloth" or rolls. The "megilloth" consist of Esther, Ecclesiastes, Song of
Songs, Ruth and Lamentations. The edition commonly used in scholarly study
today, Kittel's "Biblia Hebraica", is based on a manuscript of 1008 AD which
lists the scrolls in chronological order: Ruth, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes,
Lamentations, and Esther. In many manuscripts they are listed in the order in
which they are used to commemorate the different Jewish festivals: Song of Songs
(Passover); Ruth (Pentecost); Lamentations (the great fast of the ninth of Ab);
Ecclesiastes (the feast of Tabernacles); and Esther (Purim).
The following is Schaff's description of a scene at the
Wailing Wall in Jerusalem: "There the Jews assembled... to bewail the downfall
of the holy city. I saw... a large number, old and young, male and female,
venerable rabbis with patriarchal beards and young men kissing the stone wall
and watering it with their tears. They repeat from their well-worn Hebrew Bibles
and prayer books the Lamentations of Jeremiah and suitable Psalms... The keynote
of all these laments and prayers was struck by Jeremiah, the most pathetic and
tender-hearted of prophets, in the Lamentations, that funeral dirge of Jerusalem
and the theocracy. This elegy, written with sighs and tears, has done its work
most effectually in great public calamities, and is doing it every year on the
ninth of the month Ab (July, when it is read with loud weeping in all the
synagogues of the Jews and especially at Jerusalem). It keeps alive the memory
of their deepest humiliation and guilt and the hope of final deliverance. The
scene of the Wailing Place was to me touching and pregnant with meaning."
A second major tradition places Lamentations immediately after
the prophecy of Jeremiah. This is the order followed by the Septuagint, the
Vulgate, Josephus and most of the English versions. Jerome explains this by
stating that this fits with an enumeration of the Old Testament books which
makes their number agree with the letters in the Hebrew alphabet; in this
listing Jeremiah and Lamentations are counted as one book.