The Agora
The Lamentations of Jeremiah

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Author and Date of Writing

Although no author's name is attached to this book in the Hebrew, there has never been any serious, reasonable doubt among Bible students concerning its authorship. Since the third century BC, the majority of translators and commentators have acknowledged Jeremiah as the author.

Some of the "higher critics" of the past century criticize the idea of a single author, concluding instead that these poems were compiled from four or five different writers by a single editor. Others cite Lam 2:9; 4:17; 5:7 as proof that Jeremiah did not write the book. Others have claimed contradiction between Lam 5:7 and Jer 31:29, 30 (apparently failing to remember Jer 32:18).

However, we feel overwhelming evidence is presented to confirm Jeremiah as the single author. For example, the Septuagint begins:

"And it came to pass after Israel had been led into captivity and Jerusalem had been laid waste, Jeremiah sat weeping, and he lamented with this lamentation over Jerusalem, and he said..."
This has every appearance of being a translation from the Hebrew, and apparently stood at the head of the text used by the translator. Also, Jeremiah's dungeon experience (Jer 37:15; 38:13-16) fits in well with Lam 3:52-57.

Also compare Lam 2:22 with Jer 20:3: The name "Magormissabib" ("fear on every side") is Jeremiah's watchword and is found in its original form in Jer 6:25; 20:3,10; 46:5; 49:29; and in the plural in Lam 2:22; perhaps Jeremiah borrowed this from Psa 31:13. This phrase is not found anywhere else in the Bible and the word "magor" by itself is found only in Isa 31:9. Furthermore, any good set of marginal references will yield a wealth of comparisons between Lamentations and Jeremiah -- which can be followed up to good benefit.

Many analogies can be drawn between the prophecies of Jeremiah and Lamentations. Jeremiah spoke of the sins of the people and their coming desolation and tribulation due to their iniquities. He spoke of the fall of Jerusalem. He also spoke of a coming restoration and glory. In Lamentations we read an eyewitness account of the fulfillment of Jeremiah's prophecies of judgment from God; and we see within the book, as in Jeremiah, a bright future for those who trust, obey and fear the Lord.

The intense grief of the writer is seen throughout the book. These expressions of grief and tribulation appear to fix the date of the book's writing as shortly after the captivity of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar, 587-586 BC perhaps within thirty days of its fall. The fact that famine is, throughout the book, described as still prevalent (1:11, 19; 2:19, 20; 4:4) supports this also. Most of the book appears to be in the past tense. In Lamentations 4:22 it can be clearly seen that Jerusalem has already fallen:

"The punishment of thine iniquity is accomplished, O daughter of Zion; He will no more carry thee away into captivity."
The vividness of the scenes seem to indicate that Jeremiah wrote these poems while still in Judah. According to some commentaries, it was five years before Jeremiah along with other Jews left for Egypt; therefore it seems unlikely that Lamentations was written while he was there.

These words would become a warning -- a reminder -- but not an epitaph! Israel would be back!

"Israel is a scattered sheep; the lions have driven him away: first the king of Assyria hath devoured him: and last this Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon hath broken his bones. Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will punish the king of Babylon and his land, as I have punished the king of Assyria. And I will bring Israel again to his habitation" (Jer 50:17-19).
It should be stated, by way of conclusion to this part, that even though most of the book is in the first person and parts seem to portray a personal lament (eg, Lam 3), the style and content is determined by God's inspired message and not by reason of Jeremiah's feelings. We, therefore, study these Lamentations not to discover Jeremiah's personality, but God's message.

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