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Guide to the Book of Lamentations

Key Information and Helpful Resources

Lament in the Larger Story of the Bible

Now, the lament poems found here are not unique in the Bible, as there are many of them found in the book of Psalms (Ps. 10, 63, 69, 74, 79). These biblical poems of lament are a form of protest. They draw everyone’s attention, including God’s, to the horrible things that happen in his world that should not be tolerated. They are also a way of processing emotion. In these poems, God’s people vent their anger and dismay at the ruin caused by sin and violence. Finally, they give a voice to our confusion. How does our suffering relate to God’s character and his promises? Lament poems are a full-blown emotional explosion, and none of this is looked down upon in the Bible. Just the opposite, these poems give a sacred dignity to human suffering, as these human words of grief addressed to God have become part of God’s word to his people.

The design of the five poems in the book of Lamentations is very intentional and part of the book’s message. Chapters 1-4 are made up of acrostics, or alphabet poems, in which each poetic verse begins with a new letter of the Hebrew alphabet, consisting of 22 letters. This very ordered and linear structure is a stark contrast to the disordered pain and confused grief explored in the poems. It’s like Israel’s suffering is explored A to Z, trying to express that which is inexpressible.

Big Idea

As a memorial to the Israelites’ pain and confusion following the destruction of Jerusalem, Lamentations shows how prayerful lament is a crucial part of our journey of faith in a broken world.

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