Who wrote it?
The book of Lamentations does not explicitly identify its author. The tradition is that the Prophet Jeremiah wrote Lamentations. This view is highly likely considering the author was a witness of the Babylonians destroying Jerusalem. Jeremiah fits this qualification (2 Chronicles 35:25; 36:21-22).
When(ish) was it written?
Lamentations was likely written between 586 and 575 BC, during or soon after Jerusalem’s fall.
Why was it written?
As a result of Judah’s continued and unrepentant idolatry, God allowed the Babylonians to besiege, plunder, burn, and destroy the city of Jerusalem. Solomon’s Temple, which had stood for approximately 400 years, was burned to the ground. The Prophet Jeremiah, an eyewitness to these events, wrote the book of Lamentations as a lament for what occurred to Judah and Jerusalem.
Some Key Verses
The Lord has done what he purposed; he has carried out his word, which he commanded long ago; he has thrown down without pity; he has made the enemy rejoice over you and exalted the might of your foes.
– Lamentations 2:17
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
– Lamentations 3:22-23
But you, O Lord, reign forever; your throne endures to all generations. Why do you forget us forever, why do you forsake us for so many days? Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old— unless you have utterly rejected us, and you remain exceedingly angry with us.
– Lamentations 5:19-22
A Quick Summary
The book of Lamentations is divided into five chapters. Each chapter represents a separate poem. In the original Hebrew, the verses are acrostic, each verse starting with a succeeding letter of the Hebrew alphabet. In the book of Lamentations, the Prophet Jeremiah understands that the Babylonians were God’s tool for bringing judgment on Jerusalem (Lamentations 1:12-15; 2:1-8; 4:11). Lamentations makes it clear that sin and rebellion were the causes of God’s wrath being poured out (1:8-9; 4:13; 5:16). Lamenting is appropriate in a time of distress, but it should quickly give way to remorse and repentance (Lamentations 3:40-42; 5:21-22).
Jeremiah was known as the “weeping prophet” for his deep and abiding passion for his people and their city (Lamentations 3:48-49). This same sorrow over the sins of the people and their rejection of God was expressed by Jesus as He approached Jerusalem and looked ahead to her destruction at the hands of the Romans (Luke 19:41-44). Because of the Jews’ rejection of their Messiah, God used the Roman siege to punish His people. But God takes no joy in having to punish His children and His offer of Jesus Christ as a provision for sin shows His great compassion on His people. One day, because of Christ, God will wipe away all tears (Revelation 7:17).
What does this mean?
Even in terrible judgment, God is a God of hope (Lamentations 3:24-25). No matter how far we have gone from Him, we have the hope that we can return to Him and find Him compassionate and forgiving (1 John 1:9). Our God is a loving God (Lamentations 3:22), and because of His great love and compassion, He sent His Son so that we would not perish in our sins, but can live eternally with Him (John 3:16). God’s faithfulness (Lamentations 3:23) and deliverance (Lamentations 3:26) are attributes that give us great hope and comfort. He isn’t a disinterested, capricious god, but a God who will deliver all those who turn to Him, admit they can do nothing to earn His favor, and call upon the Lord’s mercy so that we will not be consumed (Lamentations 3:22).
Take a few minutes to review the Scripture from Lamentations 1, Lamentations 3:21-29, Romans 8:26. What verses or ideas stand out to you from these passages? What questions do you have? What would you like to remember and apply to your life?
Describe some of the truly lamentable realities you observe in the world today. How have these issues and events affected you? What Gospel impact (actual or potential) do you see for yourself, to show Jesus to a broken world in a tangible way? How can you “enter the fray?”
Are you in an ongoing season of lament? What are the circumstances? As best you can, describe the thoughts and feelings associated. What truths from Scripture are important for you to dwell on and to believe? What help do you need from godly people?
Read Matthew 27:46. Take a few minutes to reflect on and discuss the fact that we have a Savior who understands our lament, and that God actually saved us through the horrific events of Jesus’ death. How does the resurrection of Jesus (He overcame death) provide hope and perspective in the midst of lament?
How can we pray for each other? Is there anyone who needs additional care? Be sure to address any need for care that has surfaced through your discussion.