Friday, October 7, 2016

Lamentations, the Saddest Book in the Bible

Lamentations is often called the saddest book in existence. In Hebrew this book is called Eichah meaning “how”, which is the first word (read vs. 1: How deserted lies the city, once so full of people!).

It was written by the prophet Jeremiah who was an eye-witness to the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.  He alternates between accounts of the horrible aftermath of the destruction of the city and the confessions of the people’s deep sins, and then to his appeals to God for mercy.

Randomly pick a verse and read it and you’ll see why we don’t normally read from this book in church.  However, the Jews read Lamentations publicly each year at Tisha B’av which is a fast commemorating the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem in both 586 BC and 70 AD.

There are specific parallels between Leviticus and Lamentations. The divine warning in Leviticus matches the divine retribution shown in Lamentations. Compare for yourself:
Leviticus 26:17 :

17 I will set my face against you so that you will be defeated by your enemies; those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee even when no one is pursuing you.

 Lamentations 3:52:

52 Those who were my enemies without cause
       hunted me like a bird.

Leviticus 26:33:

33 I will scatter you among the nations and will draw out my sword and pursue you. Your land will be laid waste, and your cities will lie in ruins.

Lamentations 2:21:

21 "Young and old lie together
       in the dust of the streets;
       my young men and maidens
       have fallen by the sword.
       You have slain them in the day of your anger;
       you have slaughtered them without pity.

There are more to check out on your own: Leviticus 26:26 + Lamentations 5:9, Leviticus 26:28 + Lamentations 4:10, and Leviticus 26:31 + Lamentations 3:46.

Notice also the number of verses in Lamentations. Chapters 1, and 4 each have 22 verses. Chapter 3 has 66 verses (3 x 22 = 66). This is a sure give away that Lamentations is full of alphabetic verses. In Lamentations 1, 2, and 4 each consecutive Hebrew letter begins a whole verse and in Lamentations 3 each letter begins three verses. 

More about alphabetic verses:

Also called “acrostic verses” alphabetic verses are found in Psalms, Proverbs and Lamentations. Each verse starts with the next consecutive Hebrew letter making memorization an easier assignment. The most famous and longest is Psalm 119, right in the center of the Holy Scripture. This chapter takes each letter and starts eight verses in a row with it before moving on to the following letter. This interesting rhetorical feature is believed by some to be hidden codes; others think that this is possibly a poetic way of saying that the subject is being covered completely from end to end. Besides Psalm 119, acrostics appear in Psalms 111 and 112, where each letter begins a line; in Psalms 25, 34, and 145, where each letter begins a half-verse; in Psalm 37, Proverbs 31:10-31, and Lamentations 1, 2, and 4, where each letter begins a whole verse; and in Lamentations 3, where each letter begins three verses. Check your Bible now to see if your translation footnotes this aspect of the Holy Word.