Lessing, R. Reed & Andrew E. Steinmann. Prepare the Way of the Lord: An Introduction to the Old Testament. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2014. Chapter 24, “Lamentations” pp. 407-416.
Enduring a loss is a complicated process. “The book of Lamentations is a stellar example of Israelite prayers that argue, protest, and complain” (Lessing 2014, 407). Lessing reviews a number of biblical occasions for such prayers. This one is different because it is a tremendous occasion of communal grief. Jerusalem, the special city of God’s people, has fallen to enemies. The text has normally been ascribed to Jeremiah, though it is formally anonymous (Lessing 2014, 408). Lessing lists many sources and pieces of textual evidence which point to Jeremiah as the author. If the text does come from Jeremiah or another witness to Jerusalem’s fall, it is best dated “shortly after the fall of the city to the Babylonians in 587 BC” (Lessing 2014, 410).
The first four chapters of Lamentations are centered around acrostic poems, while chapter 5 is not acrostic but retains a stanza of 3 lines (Lessing 2014, 410). There may be some metrical elements, though this is not a characteristic of Hebrew poetry (Lessing 2014, 411). Some have suggested similarities between Lamentations and Babylonian or Sumerian laments over cities from an earlier period (Lessing 2014, 412).
Important themes in the book are God’s wrath due to sin, His vengeance, and calls to repentance (Lessing 2014, 413). The book calls people to repent and believe God for their rescue. There are numerous statements of God’s mercy, which Lessing sees pointing forward to Jesus as the merciful king (Lessing 2014, 414).