Preaching from Lamentations -- By: Gavin Beers

Journal: Puritan Reformed Journal
Volume: PRJ 03:2 (Jul 2011)
Article: Preaching from Lamentations
Author: Gavin Beers

Preaching from Lamentations

Gavin Beers

Lamentations is one of those much forgotten and neglected books of the Bible. Nestled between Jeremiah and Ezekiel it is easy to pass over and, as one of the most tragic books in the inspired record, its dark themes are not naturally appealing, which may create a tendency to shy away from it in private study and public preaching. However, Lamentations will greatly reward those who stop to ponder its content, and that is what this article is designed to encourage.

The book was written in the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 587 b.c. Following a long siege, the city was decimated. Her walls were torn down, her palaces burned, and her temple plundered and destroyed. As for the inhabitants of the city, the majority had been slain or enslaved while only a remnant remained struggling for existence in the face of cruel persecution and famine. The national, social, physical, psychological, and spiritual devastation of Judah and Jerusalem was horrific. To the Jew, the unthinkable had happened, even the impossible: Zion, the city of God, had fallen!

In introducing this book, Matthew Henry gives us some wise advice on its importance and the manner in which it should be approached: “Since what Solomon says, though contrary to the common opinion of the world, is certainly true, that sorrow is better than laughter, and it is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting, we should come to the reading and consideration of the melancholy chapters of this book, not only willingly, but with an expectation to edify ourselves by them; and that we may do this, we must compose ourselves to a holy sadness and resolve to weep with the weeping prophet.”1

Introduction to Lamentations

Title & Author

In the Hebrew Bible, Lamentations receives its title from the first word of the book איכה ekah, meaning how. The word is not interrogative, intending a question, but rather exclamative, carrying a sense of astonishment: “How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people!” (1:1). Chapters 2 and 4 also begin with exclamations of wonder. The title of the book in the Septuagint (LXX) is “The tears of Jeremiah.” The Latin Vulgate follows the Septuagint, calling it “The Lamentations of Jeremiah the Prophet,” and it is from this tradition that we get the title “The Lamentations of Jeremiah” in our English Bibles.

Concerning authorship, the book is anonymous, but the traditional view from at least the third century b.c....

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