The book of Lamentations is book of sorrowful songs or poems. The name implies that the topic is expressing grief over something (to lament). Jeremiah, also known as the “weeping prophet” writes this after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.
It was written soon after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.; he was an eyewitness. He predicted this destruction (as did others), watched it take place, and now in this book he is sadly reflecting on it. Key personalities are the prophet Jeremiah and the people of Jerusalem.
Its purpose was to express despair and teach God’s people that disobedience to the Lord results in immense suffering and distress. Jeremiah pours out his emotions in compassion, and empathy for God’s nation, as he watches them inhabit a foreign land.
Chapter 1: Jeremiah mourns for Jerusalem and Judea as it lays in ruin by the raid and destruction of Babylon:
How doth the city sit solitary that was full of people! How is she become as a widow! She that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary! (1:1).
Chapter 2: Jeremiah describes the anger of the Lord who brought judgment to the wicked land (as God had warned):
“He hath cut off his fierce anger all the horn of Israel: He hath drawn back His right hand from before the enemy and He burned against Jacob like a flaming fire, which devoureth round about (2:3).
Chapter 3: We see Jeremiah expressing his troubled spirit and suffering in gloom. He too is afflicted, as his homeland has been pillaged. On the other hand, he reminds us in verses 19-23, that God is faithful and will restore and bring His promise to pass:
“It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed because His compassions fail not (3:22).
Chapter 4: We read that God has brought justice and ruled mightily. During the siege, the city of Jerusalem suffered incredibly. Starvation was so bad and widespread that the Israelites resorted to eating their own children.
The nation was warned about their sin and disobedience and the penalty of the coming judgment of God:
“The LORD has accomplished His fury; He hath poured out His fierce anger, and hath kindled a fire in Zion and it hath devoured the foundations thereof (4:11).
Chapter 5: This last chapter is one loud outcry of prayer, faith and hope. Remember what has happened to us and see our degradation. Strangers have taken our inheritance; our houses are occupied by others.
“We have drunken our water for money; our wood is sold unto us (5:4).
“The crown is fallen from out head: woe unto us that we have sinned! (5:16).