BibleProject - Old Testament - Lesson 26

Lamentations - BibleProject

In this lesson, you will gain an understanding of the Book of Lamentations, which is a collection of five poems expressing grief over the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE. You will explore its historical background, authorship, and literary features, including its unique acrostic structure. The lesson will also delve into the purpose and message of Lamentations, highlighting the themes of grief, sorrow, hope amidst despair, and the role of God in the suffering of His people. Furthermore, you will learn about the theological significance of the book, focusing on the themes of suffering, divine judgment, God's faithfulness, and mercy.

Taught by a Team
Taught by a Team
BibleProject - Old Testament
Lesson 26
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Lamentations - BibleProject

BP100-26: Lamentations

I. Introduction to Lamentations

A. Historical Background

B. Authorship and Date

II. Structure and Literary Features

A. Acrostic Poems

B. Themes and Imagery

III. Purpose and Message

A. Expression of Grief and Sorrow

B. Hope Amidst Despair

C. The Role of God

IV. Theological Significance

A. Suffering and Divine Judgment

B. God's Faithfulness and Mercy

  • By watching this video, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the Old Testament, including its literary design and flow of thought. You will learn about the different sections of the Old Testament, including the Pentateuch, Historical Books, Wisdom Literature, Major Prophets, and Minor Prophets. You will also gain insights into the stories, themes, and messages of each of these sections and how they contribute to the overall narrative of God's relationship with humanity.
  • By studying Genesis, you will gain a deeper understanding of the Old Testament and its key themes and characters, as well as the literary features of the book, such as its structure, style, and genre. The creation story is a key part of the book, as are the stories of Abraham and the patriarchs, the fall and sin, the flood and Noah, and God's covenant with Israel. Additionally, Genesis introduces readers to the Old Testament and sets the stage for the Pentateuch and Books of Moses, while also introducing many themes and motifs that continue throughout the Bible.
  • Discover the captivating stories of the patriarchs in Genesis Part 2, exploring themes of covenant, God's sovereignty, human responsibility, faith, and obedience.
  • Explore the Bible's book of Exodus to gain insight into God's rescue of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, the significance of the covenant and law, and its connection to the New Testament.
  • Gain insight into the book of Exodus and its themes of salvation and redemption, revealing God's character through his interactions with Israel, with significant influence on Jewish and Christian traditions and connections to the New Testament through its foreshadowing of Jesus Christ.
  • By studying Leviticus with The Bible Project, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the historical and literary context, themes, and structure of this important book in the Old Testament. You will also learn about the significance of Leviticus for understanding the Torah and its relevance for Christians today.
  • By studying The Bible Project's lesson on Numbers, you'll comprehensively understand its structure, themes, and significance, gaining insight into the journey of the Israelites in the wilderness, God's guidance, rebellion, priesthood, and offerings, as well as its historical, theological, and contemporary relevance.
  • Explore Numbers' authorship, context, structure, and theology to gain a comprehensive understanding of its significance to the Pentateuch and the Old Testament, as well as its relevance to the Christian faith today.
  • You will gain knowledge and insight into the book of Joshua, including its historical context, literary genre, and summary. You will learn about the book's themes, such as God's faithfulness, obedience, and judgment, and its significance in foreshadowing Christ's work and providing historical and theological implications.
  • Explore the historical and cultural context, literary design, and theological significance of the book of Judges in the Old Testament, and learn how it fits into the broader biblical storyline, including its relevance for today.
  • Explore the Book of Ruth to understand its historical context, literary features, themes of loyalty and faithfulness, redemption, the kinsman-redeemer's role, and its Old Testament significance.
  • Studying the Book of Samuel provides insight into the rise of the Israelite monarchy, the lives of Saul and David, and the importance of obedience to God, covering themes of leadership and kingship with the presence of the Ark of the Covenant.
  • By exploring the story of Absalom in 2 Samuel and the broader context of the Old Testament Historical Books, you will gain insight into the themes and messages of these books, as well as their historical and modern-day significance.
  • Through the study of 1 Kings and 2 Kings, you will gain a deeper understanding of the history of Israel and Judah, as well as valuable spiritual lessons from these Old Testament books.
  • By studying this lesson, you understand the historical and literary aspects of 1 and 2 Chronicles, emphasizing God's sovereignty, covenant faithfulness, worship, and obedience.
  • Through this lesson, you grasp the historical context, key themes, and modern applications of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, enriching your understanding of faith, community, and commitment to God's Word.
  • You will gain an understanding of the book of Esther, a narrative in the Hebrew Bible that tells the story of a Jewish woman named Esther who becomes queen in the Persian court and, with the help of her cousin Mordecai, saves the Jews from genocide orchestrated by the villain Haman. The story highlights God's sovereignty and providential care, and the feast of Purim celebrates the Jews' victory.
  • By studying the Book of Job, you will explore the complexities of human suffering, the search for divine wisdom, and the tension between God's sovereignty and human limitations within a unique literary structure.
  • You will gain a comprehensive understanding of the book of Psalms, including its background, structure, authorship, and theology. You will also learn about the various themes and motifs present in the Psalms, which will help you better understand and appreciate this important book in the Old Testament.
  • By studying Proverbs, you will understand the definition and purpose of wisdom, the fear of the Lord, and the personification of wisdom in the book. You will also gain insights into the literary structure of Proverbs and the themes of the book, including the importance of listening to wisdom, the power of words, and the value of hard work.
  • In the Ecclesiastes lesson, you gain insights into the book's structure, themes, and significance, while exploring the search for meaning, vanity, and the importance of fearing God and enjoying life.
  • You will gain an understanding of the literary features, interpretation, theology, and application of the book Song of Songs, including its authorship, historical and cultural context, allegorical and literal interpretation, and its teachings on God and human love, sexuality, and relationships.
  • Through this lesson, you gain insight into Isaiah's historical context, literary features, major themes, and its significance in the Old Testament.
  • Discover how Isaiah's prophetic message of judgment and hope for Jerusalem evolves, as it predicts the fall of Israel's kingdom and envisions a new, purified Jerusalem where God's kingdom will be restored through a future messianic king, uniting all nations in peace.
  • Through this lesson, you will gain understanding of the book of Jeremiah, including its historical and cultural context, literary features, major themes and message, and significance in the Old Testament.
  • In this lesson, you learn about the Book of Lamentations, its structure, themes, and the role of God in the midst of suffering and divine judgment, while ultimately highlighting His faithfulness and mercy.
  • In the book of Ezekiel, you follow the story of a priest named Ezekiel who has a vision of God's glory riding on a royal throne chariot, and is commissioned by God to accuse Israel of rebellion and warn them of their impending destruction due to their covenant violations and rampant social injustice, while also providing a small glimmer of hope for the future.
  • By viewing this lesson on Daniel, you will gain understanding of its structure, themes, and significance in the Old Testament, gaining knowledge about living as faithful exiles in a hostile culture, God's sovereignty and faithfulness in times of trial, and remaining faithful to God even in difficult circumstances.
  • Through this lesson, you grasp the complexities of Hosea, discovering the book's themes, messages, and its role in the Old Testament, emphasizing the relationship between Israel's unfaithfulness and God's unwavering love.
  • By studying the book of Joel, you will gain insight into the historical and cultural context of Judah, the literary features of prophetic literature, and the themes of repentance, restoration, and the Day of the Lord. Joel's prophecy also has significance in the New Testament as it is quoted by Peter at Pentecost, emphasizing the fulfillment of Joel's vision through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
  • In the Amos lesson, you explore its historical context, literary features, and themes, enhancing your understanding of justice, the Day of the Lord, and God's sovereignty within the Old Testament.
  • By studying Obadiah, you will gain insight into the historical context and literary features of this prophetic oracle. You will learn about the pride of Edom, their judgment, and the hope for Israel. Through understanding the significance of Obadiah in the Old Testament, you will have a deeper appreciation for the themes and message of this book.
  • Through this lesson, you gain insight into Jonah's themes, including God's mercy, human rebellion, repentance, and the significance of mission, while also understanding its connections to other biblical narratives.
  • Studying the book of Micah will give you an understanding of its historical context, literary genre, prophetic message of judgment and restoration, and insights into God's character and how He interacts with His people.
  • In this lesson, you gain insight into the historical context, structure, and themes of the book of Nahum, learning about God's sovereignty, justice, and the relevance of these concepts in today's world.
  • Studying Habakkuk will deepen your understanding of how to wrestle with difficult questions about God's character and the problem of evil and respond with faith and trust in God's sovereignty.
  • In this lesson, you explore the book of Zephaniah, gaining insights into its background, context, literary features, themes, and significance in the Old Testament, including the central message of the Day of the Lord and the promise of future hope.
  • You will gain an in-depth understanding of the Book of Haggai, including its historical and cultural context, literary structure, purpose and themes, individual sections, and theological significance in relation to the Exile, Restoration, and Messiah.
  • In this lesson, you gain insights into Zechariah's historical context, structure, themes of restoration, the coming Messiah, God's sovereignty, and its significance in the Old Testament.
  • Discover the last book of the Old Testament and its themes, such as God's love for Israel, the importance of worship, and the coming of the messenger and the day of the Lord, as well as its connection to the New Testament, which prophesies the coming of John the Baptist and Jesus and calls for a return to God.

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The Book of Lamentations. It's a unique book in the Old Testament that contains five poems from an anonymous author who survived and is now reflecting back on the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem and the destruction and exile that followed. Remember the whole story from the Book of Second Kings, The Fall of Jerusalem and the Exile was the most horrendous catastrophe in Israel's history up to this point. So remember, God had promised Abraham the land he'd given David victory to make Jerusalem Israel's capital. And from David came the royal line of kings. You had God's presence there in the temple. And that's where the priests maintained the rituals of Israel's worship. And after 500 years of all of this history, in the summer of 587 B.C., the city fell to Babylon. It was all decimated and gone. And so the Book of Lamentations is a memorial to the pain and confusion of the Israelites that followed this destruction. Now, the lament poems found here are not unique in the Bible. There's lots of them in the Book of Psalms and these biblical poems of lament. They do a number of things. They're a form of protest. They're a way of drawing everybody's attention, including God's attention to the horrible things that happened in this world that should not be tolerated. There are a way of processing emotion. So in these poems, God's people vent their anger and dismay at the ruin caused by people, sin and selfishness. And these poems are a place to voice confusion. Suffering makes us ask questions about God's character and promises. And none of this is looked down on in the Bible. Just the opposite. These poems of lament give a sacred dignity to human suffering. And so these human words of grief that are addressed to God have now become part of God's Word to His people. 

The design of these five poems, it's very intentional. It's part of the book's message. So chapters one through four are called Acrostic, which means alphabet poems. Each poetic verse begins with a new letter of the Hebrew alphabet, which is made up of 22 letters. Now, this very ordered and linear structure, it's in stark contrast to the disorder of the pain and the confused grief that's explored in these poems. So it's like Israel's suffering is explored A to Z and is trying to express something that is inexpressible. Chapters one and two each have one verse per letter, giving them a really similar design, but the themes are very different. So chapter one focuses on the grief and shame of a figure called Lady Zion. The poet personifies the city of Jerusalem as a widow, also called the daughter of Zion, and she sits alone. She's bereaved of her loved ones, devastated. No one comes to comfort her. It's a very powerful metaphor. And then Lady Zion speaks. She calls on the Lord to notice her fate. And through this image, the poet. He's showing that the city's destruction brought a level of psychological trauma on the Israelites that can only be expressed as the experience of a funeral and the death of a loved one. Chapter two focuses on the fall of Jerusalem and how it was a consequence of Israel's sin and was brought about by God's wrath, which is the key word in this poem. Now, it's important to remember that in the Bible God's wrath is not spontaneous, volatile anger. The biblical poets and prophets, they use this word to talk about God's justice. So Israel had entered a covenant agreement with God, and for centuries they've been violating it by worshiping other gods, perpetrating injustice, oppressing the poor. 

And so, yes, God is slow to anger, but he eventually does get angry at human evil, and he will bring his just anger in the form of punishment. In the case of Jerusalem, this involved allowing Babylon to come and conquer the city. And so this poem is acknowledging that God's wrath is justified. But this doesn't keep the poet from lamenting and asking God to show compassion once again. Chapter three breaks this design pattern by having three verses per letter. So it's the longest poem in the book, and the voice is that of a lonely man speaking out of his suffering and grief as a representative of the whole people. And what's interesting is that this chapter is full of language that's drawn from other parts of the Old Testament, from the laments of Joab and from other important lament Psalms, and even from the suffering servant poems and Isaiah. And the poet sees his hardship as a form of God's justice, like Chapter two said. But paradoxically, this is what gives the poet hope, and it leads him to offer the only hopeful words in the whole book. Because of the Lord's covenant faithfulness, we do not perish. His mercies never fail. They're new every morning. How great is your faithfulness? Oh, God. So I say to myself, The Lord is my inheritance. Therefore I will put my hope in him. So the poet reasons, If God is consistent enough to bring his justice on human evil, then He'll also be consistent with this covenant promise to not allow evil to get the final word. And so for this poet, God's judgment is the seedbed of hope for the future. Chapter four goes back to the same alphabet structure as chapters one and two in. 

The vivid and disturbing depiction of the two year siege in Jerusalem. And it contrasts how things used to be in Jerusalem of the past and how terrible they became in the siege. So children used to laugh and play in the streets, but now they beg for food. The wealthy used to eat lavish meals, but now they eat whatever they can find in the dirt. And the royal leaders used to be full of splendor, but now they're famished and dirty and unrecognizable. And the anointed king from the line of David has been captured and dragged away. So the poem's power comes from the shock of these contrasts, and it's exploring the depth of the suffering that Israel brought on itself. Now, the final poem is unique because it breaks the design pattern. It's the same length as all of the other alphabet poems, but the alphabet order is gone. It's like the poet can't hold it together anymore, and his grief has exploded back into chaos. The poem is a communal prayer for God's mercy. Israel begs God not to ignore their suffering or abandon them. In the poem offers a long list of all of the different kinds of people who were devastated by the fall of the city. They ask God not to forget these people, and they lament on behalf of others, giving voice to their pain. Suffering in silence is just not a virtue in this book. God's people are not asked to deny their emotions, but voice their protest, to vent their feelings and pour it all out before God. The book ends with something of a paradox. The poet acknowledges that God is the eternal king of the world, but also that Israel's circumstances make them feel like God is nowhere to be found. 

And so the final words of the book leave this tension totally unresolved. It asks, Unless you've totally rejected us and the book ends, the poet doesn't offer a nice, neat conclusion, much like our own experiences of pain and suffering. The story of the Bible doesn't end here. But this very important book shows us how lament and prayer and grief are a crucial part of the journey of faith of God's people in a broken world. And that's what the Book of Lamentations is all about.