The Agora
The Lamentations of Jeremiah

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The Title Of The Book

The title used traditionally by the Jews is the first word of the book -- "Eeyek" (according to Strong's, but variously rendered "aichah", "ekah", "ekhah"), which means "How!" (The books of Moses are similarly titled by their first words in the Hebrew.) The first chapter begins:

"How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! How is she become as a widow! She that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces... How is she become tributary!"
Chapter 2 begins with this same exclamation of sorrowful bewilderment:

"How hath the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in His anger, and cast down from heaven unto the earth the beauty of Israel, and remembered not His footstool in the day of His anger!"
And again, Chapter 4:

"How is the gold become dim! How is the most fine gold changed! The stones of the sanctuary are poured out in the top of every street! The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold... How are they esteemed as earthen pitchers, the work of the hands of the potter!"
This word "how" (Isa 1:21; Jer 48:17) indicates the wonder, confusion and grief of the things that had occurred. How could Judah have allowed herself to become disobedient, so placing herself in this position of judgment and tribulation -- bringing about the disintegration of God's rule in Zion and Jerusalem? This word "how" succinctly expresses the feelings of all the people: "How could these things have happened to us? How could we have let this happen?" How? The nation had slept through the warnings of God.

The title used in other versions is taken from the general nature of the contents. The Septuagint called the poems "threnoi"; the Vulgate (Latin) titled the book "threni" -- both these words mean dirge or lament. The Rabbis titled the book "Kinoth" or elegy. Jeremiah uses this term in Jer 7:29; 9:10,20 and in 2Ch 35:25 it is used of the dirge to the memory of Josiah. The Syriac version and the Talmud also use the word for dirge or lament. The full title, "The Lamentations of Jeremiah", is found in the Syriac, Latin and later Greek versions.

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