Introduction to Lamentations
The short book of Lamentations is included among what many call the Major Prophets because it is actually sort of an appendix to the book of its author Jeremiah. Three of its five chapters begin with “How?” (Hebrew Eykah, which was the Hebrew title of the book). In context, the essential question is “why?”
Jeremiah wrote his “lamentations” after he witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple by Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian armies. Though he had predicted it, it was a great sorrow to him to see his prophecies actually come to pass.
Each chapter is composed as an acrostic poem, with twenty-two verses corresponding to the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, each verse beginning with its successively appropriate letter of the alphabet. The middle chapter, however, has sixty-six verses, devoting three verses to each letter. Because of this unique structure and style, some authorities say that someone other than Jeremiah must have written it. Such a notion, however, is contrary to uniform Jewish tradition and opinion. Even though the book itself makes no mention of the name of its author, there is no good reason not to ascribe it to “the weeping prophet.”
The book closes on a note of hope, with a prayer to the unchanging God somehow to bring about a spiritual revival of His people (Lamentations 5:19; 5:21).