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Online Text for Lamentations

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Geoffrey F. Wood writes: "In 2 Chr 35:25, reference is made to the preservation of dirges composed by Jeremiah on the death of King Josiah in 609. It is not strange that later generations saw in this passage a reference to the canonical Book of Lamentations and thus concluded that Jeremiah was its author. It is highly questionable, however, whether 2 Chr 35:25 has any relation to canonical Lam, for nothing in Lam refers to Josiah's death. Lam dwells entirely on disasters occurring from 597 on. The true author manifests some relationship in style and spirit to Jeremiah; he was certainly his contemporary. W. Rudolph thinks he was a political or military figure who perhaps participated in the flight of Zedekiah (see 4:19)." (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 1, pp. 609-610)

Norman K. Gottwald writes: "Lamentations was almost certainly written in the sixth century B.C. to commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem by the Neo-Babylonians in 587. The stock of lament language was, by this time, already richly developed in Israelite religion. Moreover, the genre of lament over a destroyed city probably owes much in ancient Mesopotamian tradition and practice that continued unabated until late biblical times." (Harper's Bible Commentary, p. 647)

J. Alberto Soggin writes: "The work is composed of five laments, one for each chapter. However, they are not all composed in the same way. Chapters 1-4 are acrostics; but in terms of content, chs. 2; 4; 5 describe the situation of Jerusalem after the destruction of 587, while ch. 3 belongs to a different literary genre. It is an individual lament, and it has nothing to do with the exile. The despair expressed in 1-2; 4-5 is a fairly certain sign that the work is not far removed in time from the events which it narrates, so that an attribution to Jeremiah would not be impossible from a historical point of view. The author was not in fact deported, but is one of the survivors left behind by Nebuchadnezzar in the ruins of the capital: the details of the description in chs. 2; 4 indicate this. It would also be impossible to understand 2.9 on the lips of the exiles among whom Ezekiel worked." (Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 396-397)

Samuel Sandmel writes: "Poems 2 and 4 are probably by a single author. Poem 1 by another, Poem 5 by still another, and Poem 3 by a fourth author. The latter, which, indeed, is the poem of some 'eyewitness,' begins with the words: 'I am the man who has seen misery from the rod of His wrath.' In other poems, however, Jerusalem, personified as a woman, is the protagonist." (The Hebrew Scriptures, p. 304)

James King West writes: "Whether or not the five poems are the work of a single author is unclear. Different literary forms are evident—funeral dirge (most of chs. 1, 2, and 4), individual lament (1:11c ff.; 3:1-39, 52-66), and communal lament (3:48ff.; 4:17ff.; ch. 5)—but are so blended together within the separate compositions as to constitute no adequate criterion of authorship. A more significant difference may involve the confessional character of some passages (e.g., 1:5ff.; 3:22ff.) as compared with the mood of protest in others (e.g., ch. 5). The Psalter, nevertheless, provides examples of similar fluctuation within a single psalm. The tradition (Septuagint) which ascribes the poems to Jeremiah has little to support it. The language and style are unlike those of the prophet; so too, are the attitudes manifested toward Babylon (1:21ff.; 3:59-66), Egypt (4:17), King Zedekiah (4:20), and the reason for Judah's fall (5:7)." (Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 408)

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