Book of the Week 25: Lamentations

Book of the Bible: Lamentations                                         

Hebrew Name: Akhah 

Human Author: Unknown (possibly Jeremiah)                  

OT or NT: Old Testament 

Number of Chapters: 5

Basic Facts

  1. Lamentations is the twenty-fifth book of the Bible.
  2. The Hebrew name for the book of Lamentations is Akhah, which means “how?”
  3. Lamentations was written shortly after Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon.
  4. The old Greek name for the book of Lamentations is Threnoi, which means “wailings” or “lamentations.”
  5. Lamentations is likely a mixture of different literary genres including poetry and a communal lament

Story of the Book

Lamentations begins with the author mourning over the city of Jerusalem. The Babylonians had recently come in and destroyed the city, burned the palace, burned and plundered the temple, and taken most of the people of Jerusalem into exile. With the destruction of Jerusalem in 587/6 B.C., the entire nation of Judah had been destroyed. The rest of the book contains the following pieces:

  • The author’s mourning over the destroyed city of Jerusalem and its people
  • God’s anger over the nation’s sin and His judgments
  • The ways in which the wrath of God was poured out on the nation of Judah through the Babylonians
  • A message of future hope for the restoration and the nation
  • The author’s plea to God to restore Judah to prosperity

The book ends with a plea by the author that God would restore Judah and its people back to God.

Jesus Foreshadowed in Lamentations

Despite how Lamentations is a mourning cry over the destruction of Jerusalem, and by extension the nation of Judah, it has a message of hope. At the very end of Lamentations, the author acknowledges that God’s throne endures forever as he writes, “But you, O Lord, reign forever; your throne endures to all generations” (Lamentations 5:19). Even in the midst of despair at God’s wrath and punishment, the author acknowledges the eternal rule of God and His faithfulness to His people. The language of Lamentations 5:19 is very similar to Psalm 45:6 describing the eternal endurance of God’s throne. Hebrews 1:8-9 ties this text in Psalm 45:6-7 to the Son of God, who is the Messiah. The plea of the author of Lamentations is that God would restore the people of Judah to Himself (Lamentations 5:21-22). This plea for mercy and restoration to God is ultimately fulfilled in the Messiah. When the city of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians, the king of Judah, who was descended from David’s royal line, was carried off as a prisoner into exile. The kingship of Judah would never be restored in an earthly sense again, meaning no royal descendant of David’s line has ever sat on a throne in Jerusalem as an earthly king since the destruction of Jerusalem when it fell to Babylon in 587/6 B.C. However, Jesus as the royal descendant of David has been resurrected to the right hand of God and rules over the earth. This is the restoration of the kingdom in answer to the cry of the author of Lamentations (Mark 16:19; Acts 2:33). What the author of Lamentations sought in an earthly restoration of the kingdom was fulfilled instead by Jesus the Messiah in his spiritual mission to restore the kingdom of God by redeeming the world from sin.