Online Encyclopedia

LAMENTATIONS (Lamentations of Jeremiah)

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V16, Page 129 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: del.icio.us del.icio.us it!
LAMENTATIONS (Lamentations of Jeremiah), a book of the Old Testament. In Hebrew MSS. and editions this little collection of liturgical poems is entitled nri Ah howl, the first word of ch. i. (and chs. ii., iv.); cf. the books of the Pentateuch, and the Babylonian Epic of Creation (a far older example). In the Septuagint it is called Opilvoc, " Funeral-songs " or " Dirges," the usual rendering of Heb. nu'p (Am. v. 1; Jer. Vii. 29; 2 Sam. i. 17), which is, in fact, the name in the Talmud (Baba Bathra 15a) and other Jewish writings; and it was known as such to the Fathers (Jerome, Cinoth). The Septuagint (B) introduces the book thus: " And it came to pass, after Israel was taken captive and Jerusalem laid waste, Jeremiah sat weeping, and lamented with this lamentation over Jerusalem, and said . . .," a notice which may have related originally to the first poem only. Some Septuagint MSS., and the Syriac and other versions, have the fuller title Lamentations of Jeremiah. In the Hebrew Bible Lamentations is placed among the Cetubim or Hagiographa, usually as the middle book of the five Megilloth or Ferial Rolls (Canticles, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther) according to the order of the days on which they are read in the Synagogue, Lamentations being read on the 9th of Ab (6th of August), when the destruction of the Temple is commemorated (Mass. Sopherim 18). But the Septuagint appends the book to Jeremiah (Baruch intervening), just as it adds Ruth to Judges; thus making the number of the books of the Hebrew Canon the same as that of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, viz. twenty-two (so Jos. c. Ap. i. 8), instead of the Synagogal twenty-four (see Baba Bathra r4b). External features and poetical structure.—These poems exhibit a peculiar metre, the so-called " limping verse," of which Am. V. 2 is a good instance: " She is fallen, to rise no more Maid Israel ! Left Torn upon her land none raising her ! " A longer line, with three accented syllables, is followed by a shorter with two. Chs. i.-iii. consist of stanzas of three such couplets each; chs. iv. and v. of two like Am. v. 2. This metre came in time to be distinctive of elegy. The text of Lamentations, however, so often deviates from it, that we can only affirm the tendency of the poet to cast his couplets into this type (Driver). Some anomalies; both of metre and of sense, may be removed by judicious emendation; and many lines become smooth enough, if we assume a crasis of open vowels of the same class, or a diphthongal pronunciation of others, or contraction or silence of certain suffixes as in Syriac. The oldest elegiac utterances are not couched in this metre; e.g. David's (2 Sam. iii. 33 f. Abner; ib. i. 19-27 Saul and Jonathan). Yet the refrain of the latter, 'Eik ndf 'lu gibborim, " Ah how are heroes fallen! " agrees with our longer line. The remote ancestor of Kiki liiskut I Kiki luq;%l-ma Ibri shd ardmmu j Itemi tittish " How shall I be dumb ? I How shall I bewail ? The friend whom I love I Is turned to clay ! Like a few of the Psalms, Lamentations i.-iv. are alphabetical acrostics. Each poem contains twenty-two stanzas, corresponding to the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet; and each stanza begins with its proper letter. (In ch. iii. each of the three couplets in a stanza begins with the same letter, so that the alphabet is repeated thrice: cf. Psalm cxix. for an eight-fold repetition.) The alphabet of Lamentations ii. iii. iv. varies from the usual order of the letters by placing Pe before Ain. The same was doubtless the case in ch. i. also until some scribe altered it. He went no further, because the sense forbade it in the other instances. The variation may have been one of local use, either in Judea or in Babylonia; or the author may have had some fanciful reason for the transposition, such as, for example, that Pe following Samech (nn) might suggest the word nhn, " Wail ye! " (2 Sam. iii. 31). Although the eldes_ Hebrew elegies are not alphabetic acrostics, it is a curious fact that the word n'r, " Was he a coward? " (Sc. ia5 ; Is. vii. 4), is formed by the initial letters of the four lines on Abner (om. 1, line 3); and the initials of the verses of David's great elegy are 1.= nranr1 rem, which may be read as a sentence meaning, perhaps, " Lo, I the Avenger " (cf. Deut. xxxii. 41, 43) " will go forth! "; or the first two letters (Wm) may stand for mK •tn, " Alas, my brother! " (Jer. xxii. 18; cf. xxxiv. 5). In cryptic fashion the poet thus registers a vow of vengeance on the Philistines. Both kinds of acrostic occur side by side in the Psalms. Psalm cx., an acrostic of the same kind as David's elegy, is followed by Psalms cxi. cxii., which are alphabetical acrostics, like the Lamentations. Such artifices are not in them-selves greater clogs on poetic expression than the excessive alliteration of old Saxon verse or the strict rhymes of modern lyrics. (Alliteration, both initial and internal, is common in Lamentations.) . As the final piece, ch. v. may have suffered more in transmission than those which precede it—even to the extent of losing the acrostic form (like some of the Psalms and Nahum i.), besides half of its stanzas. If we divide the chapter into quatrains, like ch. iv., we notice several vestiges of an acrostic. The Aleph stanza (verses 7, 8) still precedes the Beth (verses 9, so), and the Ain is still quite clear (verses 17, 18; cf. i. 16). Transposing verses 5, 6, and correcting their text, we see that the Jod stanza (verses 3, 4) precedes the Lamed (verses 6, 5), Caph having disappeared between them. With this clue, we may rearrange the other quatrains in alphabetical sequence, each according to its initial letter. We thus get a broken series of eleven stanzas, beginning with the letters it (verses 7, 8), a (9, so), n (21, 22), (19, cf. Psalm cii. 13; and 20), 1 (I, 2), n (13, o,-nn; 14), ' (3, 4), 5 (6, n'135; 5, 11'7nn . . . 5i), ] (I1, 12), y (17, 18), and v, (15, 16), successively. An internal connexion will now be apparent in all the stanzas. General subject and outline of contents.—The theme of Lamentations is the final siege and fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.), and the attendant and subsequent miseries of the Jewish people. In ch. i. we have a vivid picture of the distress of Zion, after all is over. The poet does not describe the events of the siege, nor the horrors of the capture, but the painful experience of subjection and tyranny which followed. Neither this nor ch. ii. is strictly a " dirge." Zion is not dead. She is personified as a widowed princess, bereaved and desolate, sitting amid the ruins of her former joys, and brooding over her calamities. From verse sic to the end (except verse 17) she herself is the speaker: " O come, ye travellers all ! Behold and see If grief there be like mine ! this Hebrew metre may be recognized in the Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh, written at least a thousand years earlier:—Ea-bdni ibri kutdni Nimru sha Geri, " Eabani, my friend, my little brother ! ~ Leopard of the Wild!" and. again: She images her sorrows under a variety of metaphors (cf. ch. iii. 1-18) ; ascribing all her woes to Yahweh's righteous wrath, provoked by her sins, and crying for vengeance on the malicious rivals who had rejoiced at her overthrow. The text has suffered much. Verse 5c read: 'eel: (v. 18), " into captivity," e'ne (v. 7), " adversaries." For verse 7, see Budde, V. 14: npLi, read -asp), " was bound." Verse 19c read: ivps 'e ins:e sell ea) e'e',n5 yes " For they sought food to restore life, and found it not: " cf. Septuagint; and verses II, i6. Verse 2o: the incongruous 'n',n rti~ 'e, " For I grievously re-belled," should be 'on, rtinzi, " My inwards burn "; Hos. xi. 8. Verses 21 f.: " All my foes heard, rejoiced That IT " (cf. Psalm ix. 13), " Thou didst. Bring Thou " (-rat s»), " the Day Thou hast proclaimed ; Let them become like me! Let the time " (ny; see Septuagint) " of their calamity come! " Chapter ii.—"Ah how in wrath the Lord ~ Beclouds Bath-Sion! " The poet laments Yahweh's anger as the true cause which destroyed city and kingdom, suspended feast and Sabbath, rejected altar and sanctuary. He mentions the uproar of the victors in the Temple; the dismantling of the walls; the exile of king and princes (verses 1-9). He recalls the mourning in the doomed city; the children dying of hunger in the streets; the prophets deluding the people with vain hopes. Passers-by jeered at the fallen city; and all her enemies triumphed over her (verses 10-17). Sion is urged to cry to the Lord in protest against His pitiless work (verses 18-22). Here too emendation is necessary. Verse 4a: lee e'sn, " He fixed His arrow," sc. on the string (Septuagint, L1-m1)&00-se) ; cf. Psalm xi. 2. Add at the end Imls (ne) n5:, " He spent His anger: " see iv. i i ; Ezek. vii. 8, xx. 8, 21. Verse 6: u:/n n1 1 ran, " And He broke down the wall of His dwelling-place " (Septuagint ea asi/vmµa atrov; cf. Psalm Ixxxiv. 7f., where nee follows, as here). Is. v. 5; Psalms lxxx. 13, xxxxix. 41. Perhaps risen, verses 2, 17. But Septuagint Kai bis rtrar€v= (i. 13, 17) =ono'i (iv. 4) or even nee. Verse 9, perhaps: " He sunk (y2n) her gates in the ground,—He shattered her bars; He made her king and her princes wander (12e, Jer. xxiii. 1)—Among the nations without Torah " (cf. Ezek. vii. 26 f.). Verse 18: " Cry much " (nee; or bitterly, an, Zeph. i. 14) " unto the Lord, 0 Virgin Daughter of Zion! " Verse 19 is metrically redundant, and the last clauses do not agree with what follows. " For the life of thy children " was altered from " for what He hath done to thee " (,5 ''71 r/ 5c) ; and then the rest was added. The uniform gloom of this, the most dirge-like of all the pieces, is unrelieved by a single ray of hope, even the hope of vengeance; cf. chapters i. iii. iv. ad fin. Chapter iii.—Here the nation is personified as a man (cf. Hos. xi. I), who laments his own calamities. In view of i. 12-22, ii. 20-22, this is hardly a serious deviation from the strict form of elegy (Klagelied). Budde makes much of the close external connexion with ch. ii." The truth is that the break is as great as between any two of these poems. Chapter ii. ends with a mother's lament over her slaughtered children; chapter iii. makes an entirely new beginning, with its abruptly independent " I am the Man! " The suppression of the Divine Name is intentional. Israel durst not breathe it, until compelled by the climax, verse 18: cf. Am. vi. 1o. Contrast its frequency afterwards, when ground of hope is found in the Divine pity and purpose (verses 22-40), and when the contrite nation turns to its God in prayer (verses 55-66). The spiritual aspect of things is now the main topic. The poet deals less with incident, and more with the moral significance of the nation's sufferings. It is the religious culmination of the book. His poem is rather lyrical than narrative, which may account for some obscurities in the connexion of thought; but his alphabetic scheme proves that he designed twenty-two stanzas, not sixty-six detached couplets. There is something arresting in that bold " I am the Man "; and the lyrical intensity, the religious depth and beauty of the whole, may well blind us to occasional ruggedness of metre and language, abrupt transitions from figure to figure and other alleged blemishes, some of which may not have seemed such to the poet's contemporaries (e.g. the repetition of the acrostic word, far more frequent. in Psalm cxix.); and some disappear on revision of the text. Verse 5, perhaps: " He swallowed me up " (Jer. 34) " and begirt my head " (Septuagint) " with gloom " (n5Dls Is. lviii. 10, cf.verse 6, yet cf. also :ir:w, Neh. ix. 32). Verse 14: " all my people," rather all peoples (Heb. MSS. and Syr.). Verse 16b, rd. ori" err, " He made me bore " (i.e. grovel) " in the ashes:" cf. Jer. vi. 26; Ezek. xxvii. 30. Verse 17a should be : nn'i 'cm ehiy5 " And He cast off my soul for ever:" see verse 31; Psalm Ixxxviii. 15. Verse 26: " It is good to wait " (}•nn5) ' in silence "(o,n Is. xlvii. 5) ; or It is good that he wait and be silent " (00;? 'z; cf. verse 27). Verse 31, add Ire; " his soul." The verse is a reply to 17a. Verses 34-36 render: " To crush under His feet . . Adonai purposed not " (Gen. xx. 1o; Psalm lxvi. 18). Verse 39, 'n (Gen. v. 5; or n'n Neh. ix. 29) is the necessary second verb: " Why doth a mortal complain?" (or " What . . . lament? "). " Doth a man live by his sins? ": Man " lives by " righteousness (Ezek. xxxiii. 19). For the wording, cf. Psalm lxxxix. 49. Verse 43a: " Thou didst encompass with ' (rg. nniee; Hos. xii. I) `.` anger and pursue us." Syntax as verse 66a. Verse 49, rd. Nine (cf. ii. 18 also). Verse 51: " Mine eye did hurt to herself " (ee)ni'i), " By weeping over my people:" Verse 48: ch. i. 16; Jer. xxxi. 15. Verse 52: " They quelled my life in the pit " (Sheol; Psalms xxx. 4, Ixxxviii. 4, 7; verse 55) ; " They brought me down to Abaddon " (eels 'men; cf. Psalm lxxxvlii. 12). Verse 58: " 0 plead, Lord, the cause of my soul! 0 redeem my life! "; cf. Psalm cxix. 154. If the prayer for vengeance begins here, Budde's " deep division in the middle of an acrostic letter-group " vanishes. Verse 59, rd. 'rey, " my perverting; " inf. pi. c. suff. obj.; cf. verse 36. Verse 6ib repeated by mistake from 6ob. Perhaps: " Wherewith they dogged my steps: " 'nepy Items: Psalm Ixxxix. 51 f. Verse 63, rd. env, as usual, and oru'n, as in verse 14 and Job xxx. 9. Verse 65: " Thou wilt give them madness " (cf. Arab. gundn; magndn, mad) " of heart; Thou wilt curse. and consume them! " (e,in eae). Chapter iv. Ah, how doth gold grow dim, The finest ore change hue! " The poet shows how famine and the sword desolated Zion (verses i-1o). All was Yahweh's work; a wonder to the heathen world, but accounted for by the crimes of prophets and priests (Jer. xxiii. 11, 14, xxvi. 8, 20 if., xxix. 21-23), who, like Cain, became homeless wanderers and outcasts (verses 1I-16). Vainly did the besieged watch for succours from Egypt (Jer. xxxvii. 5 ff.); and even the last forlorn hope, the flight of " Yahweh's Anointed," King Zedekiah, was doomed to fail (verses 17-20; Jer. xxxix. 4 ff). Edom rejoiced in her ruin (Ezek. xxv. 12; xxxv. 15; Obad.; Psalm exxxvii. 7); but Zion's sin is now atoned for (cf. Is. xl. 2), and she may look forward to the judgment of her foe (verses 21-22). Verse 6d, perhaps: " And their ruin tarried not " (Sm ls' eve); cf. Pro. xxiv. 22. Verse 7d: " Their body " (rd. own) " was a sapphire: " see Ct. v. 14; Dn. x. 6. Verse 9: "Happier were the slain of the sword Than the slain of famine! For they " (Septuagint om.), " they passed away " (u5n Septuagint; Psalm xxxix. 14) " with a stab " (Ju. ix. 54; Is. xiii. 15; Jer. li. 4), " Suddenly, in the field " ('ce mew; Jer. xiv. 18). Verse 13, add rem after n'lsn1; cf. Ju. xiv. 4; Jer. xxii. 16. Verse 17c.: " While we watched " (Septuagint) " continually: " ies umese. Verse 18: " Our steps were curbed " (es MSS.; see Pro. iv. 12; Job xviii. 7) " from walking In our open places " (before the city gates: Neh. viii. I, 3) ; " The completion of our days drew nigh " OOrs' ms5n or enp; cf. Lev. viii. 33; Job xx. 22), " For our end was come " (Ezek. vii. 2, 6, &c.). Verse 21, Septuagint om. Uz (dittogr. ?) ; " Settler in the Land! " (i.e. of Judah; cf. Ezek. xxxv. 10, xxxvi. 5. Perhaps 'sn weir " Seizer of the Land "). Chapter v.—A sorrowful supplication, in which the speakers deplore, not the fall of Jerusalem, but their own state of galling dependence and hopeless poverty. They are still suffering for the sins of their fathers, who perished in the catastrophe (verse 7). They are at the mercy of " servants " (verse 8; cf. 2 Kings XXV. 24; Neh. v. 15: " Yea, even their ` boys ' lorded it over the people "), under a tyranny of pashas of the worst type (verses 11 f.). The soil is owned by aliens; and the Jews have to buy their water and firewood (verses 2, 4; cf. Neh. ix. 36 f.). While busy harvesting, they are exposed to the raids of the Bedouins (verse 9). Jackals prowl among the ruins of Zion (verse 18; cf. Neh. iv. 3). And this condition of things has already lasted a very long time (verse 2o). Verses 5 f. transpose and read : " To adversaries " (Des's) " we submitted, Saying " (roils$), " ' We shall be satisfied with bread ' " (cf. Jer. xlii. 14) ; " The yoke of our neck they made heavy " . (Neh. v. 15: vim Sy n'een) ; " We toil, and no rest is allowed us." Verse 13: " Nobles endured to grind, And princes staggered under logs " (o' nn for a'ene, which belongs to verse 14; D'IW for o',y]. Eccl. x. 7; Is. xxxiv. 12; Neh. iv. i 4; V. 7 ; vi. 17). Verse 19, " But Thou . " Psalm cii. 13 (1 fell out after preceding 1, verse 18). Verse 22, omit ms; dittogr. of following so. Authorship and date.—The tradition of Jeremiah's authorship cannot be traced higher than the Septuagint version. The prefatory note there may come from a Hebrew MS., but perhaps refers to chapter i. only (" Jeremiah sang this dirge "). The idea that Lamentations was originally appended to Jeremiah in the Hebrew Canon, as it is in the old versions, and was after-wards separated from it and added to the other Megilloth for the liturgical convenience of the Synagogue, rests on the fact that Josephus (Ap. 8) and, following him, Jerome and Origen reckon 22 books, taking Ruth with Judges and Lamentations with Jeremiah; whereas the ordinary Jewish reckoning gives 24 books, as in our Hebrew Bibles. There is no evidence that this artificial reckoning according to the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet was ever much more than a fanciful suggestion. Even in the Septuagint the existing order may not be original. It appears likely that Lamentations was not translated by the same hand as Jeremiah (Noldeke) Unlike the latter, the Septuagint Lamentations sticks closely to the Massoretictext. The two books can hardly have been united from the first. On the strength of 2 Chron. xxxv. 25, some ancient writers (e.g. Jerome ad Zech. xii. II) held that Jeremiah composed Lamentations. When, however, Josephus (Ant. x. 5, r) states that Jeremiah wrote an elegy on Josiah still extant in his day, he may be merely quoting a little too much of Chron. loc. cit.; and it is obvious that he need not mean our book (see Whiston's note). It is urged, indeed, that the author of Chronicles could not have imagined a prophet to have sympathized with such a king as Zedekiah so warmly as is implied by Lamentations iv. 20; and, therefore, he must have connected the passage with Josiah, the last of the good kings. However that may have been, the Chronicler neither says that Jeremiah wrote all the elegies comprised in The Qinoth, nor does he imply that the entire collection consisted of only five pieces. Rather, the contrary; for he implies that The Qinoth contained not only Jeremiah's single dirge on Josiah, but also the elegies of " all the singing men and singing women," from the time of Josiah's death (6o8) down to his own day (3rd century). The untimely fate of Josiah became a stock allusion in dirges. It is not meant that for three centuries the dirge-writers had nothing else to sing of; much less, that they sang of the fall of Jerusalem (pre-supposed by our book) before its occurrence. Upon the whole, it does not seem probable, either that the Chronicler mistook Lamentations iv. for Jeremiah's dirge on Josiah, or that the book he calls The Qinoth was identical with our Qinoth. Later writers misunderstood him, because—on the ground of certain obtrusive similarities between Jeremiah and Lamentations (see Driver, L.O.T. p. 433 f.), and the supposed reference in Lamentations iii. 53 if. to Jeremiah xxxviii. 6 if., as well as the fact that Jeremiah was the one well-known inspired writer who had lived through the siege of Jerusalem—they naturally enough ascribed this little book to the prophet. It is certainly true that the same emotional temperament, dissolving in tears at the spectacle of the country's woes, and expressing itself to a great extent in the same or similar language, is noticeable in the author(s) of Lamentations i.-iv. and in Jeremiah, And both refer these woes to the same cause, viz, the sins of the nation, and particularly of its prophets and priests. This, however, is not enough to prove identity of authorship; and the following considerations militate strongly against the tradition. (i.) The language and style of Lamentations are in general very unlike those of Jeremiah (see the details in Nagelsbach and Lohr); whatever allowance may be made for conventional differences in the phraseology of elegiac poetry and prophetic prose, even of a more or less lyrical cast. (ii.) Lamentations i.-iv. show a knowledge of Ezekiel (cf. Lamentations H. 4c; Ez. xx. 8, 21; Lam. ii. 14; Ez. xii. 24; xiii. 1o, 14; Lam. ii. 15; Ez. xxvii. 3; xxviii. 12; Lam. iv. 2o; Ez. xix. 4, 8) and of Is. xl.-Ixvi. (Lam. i. ro, Dann; Is. lxiv. ro; Lam. i. 15; Is. Ixiii. 2; Lam. ii. r ; Is. lxvi. 1; Lam. ii. 2c; Is. xliii. 28; Lam. ii. 13 the 3 verbs; Is. xl. 18, 25; Lam. ii. r5c; Is. Ix." t5b; Lam. iii. 26 marl; Is. xlvii. 5; Lam. iii. 3o; Is. i. 6; Lam. iv. 14; Is. lix. 3, ro; Lam. iv. r5; Is. it; Lam. iv. 17c; Is. xlv. 2o; Lam. iv. 22; Is. xl. 2). Jeremiah does not quote Ezekiel; and he could hardly have quoted writings of the age of Cyrus. (iii.) The coincidences of language between Lamentations and certain late Psalms, such as Psalms 1xix., lxxiv., 1xxx., lxxxviii., lxxxix., cxix., are numerous and significant, at least as a general indication of date. (iv.) The point of view of Lamentations sometimes differs from that of the prophet. This need not be the case in i. 21 f. where the context shows that the " enemies " are not the Chaldeans, but Judah's ill neighbours, Edom, Ammon, Moab and the rest (cf. iv. 21 f.; 59-66 may refer to the same foes). Ch. ii. 9c may refer to popular prophecy (" her prophets "; cf. verse 14), which would naturally be silenced by the overwhelming falsification of its comfortable predictions (iv. 14 ff.; cf. Jer. xiv. 13; Ezek. vii. 26 f.; Psalm lxxiv. 9). But though Jeremiah was by no means disloyal (Jer. xxxiv. 4 f.), he would hardly have spoken of Zedekiah in the terms of Lam. iv. 2o; and the prophet never looked to Egypt for help, as the poet of iv. 17 appears to have done. It must be admitted that Lamentations exhibits, upon the whole, " a poet (more) in sympathy with the old life of the nation, whose attitude towards the temple and the king is far more popular than Jeremiah's" (W. Robertson Smith); cf. i. 4, 10 19, ii. 6, 7, 20c. (v.) While we find in Lamentations some things that we should not have expected from Jeremiah, we miss other things characteristic of the prophet. There is no trace of his confident faith in the restoration of both Israel and Judah (Jer. 14-18, xxiii. 3-8, xxx.-xxxiii.), nor of his unique doctrine of the New Covenant (Jer. xxxi. 31-34), as a ground of hope and consolation for Zion. The only hope ex-pressed in Lamentations i. is the hope of Divine vengeance on Judah's malicious rivals (i. 21 f.); and even this is wanting from ch. ii. Chapter iii. finds comfort in the thought of Yahweh's unfailing mercy; but ends with a louder cry for vengeance. Chapter iv. suggests neither hope nor consolation, until the end, where we have an assurance that Zion's punishment is complete, and she will not again he exiled (iv. 21 f.). The last word is woe for Edom. In chapter v. we have a prayer for restoration: " Make us return, 0 Yahweh, and we shall return!" (i.e. to our pristine state). Had Jeremiah been the author, we should have expected something more positive and definitely prophetic in tone and spirit. (The author of chapter iii. seems to have felt this. It was apparently written in view of chapter ii. as a kind of religious counterpoise to its burden of despair, which it first takes up, verses .1-20. and then dissipates, verses 21 ff.). (vi.) It seems almost superfluous to add that, in the brief and troubled story of the prophet's life after the fall of the city Jer. xxxix.-x1iv.), it is difficult to specify an occasion when he may be supposed to have enjoyed the necessary leisure land quiet for the composition of these elaborate and carefully constructed pieces, in a style so remote from his ordinary freedom and spontaneity of utterance. And if at the very end of his stormy career he really found time and inclination to write any-thing of this nature, we may wonder why it was not included in the considerable and somewhat miscellaneous volume of his works, or at least mentioned in the chapters which relate to his public activity after the catastrophe. Budde's date, 550 B.C., might not be too early for chapter v., if it stood alone. But it was evidently written as the close of the book, and perhaps to complete the number of five divisions, after the model of the Pentateuch; which would bring it below the date of Ezra (457 B.C.). And this date is supported by internal indications. The Divine forgetfulness has already lasted a very long time since the catastrophe (" for ever," verse 20); which seems to imply the lapse of much more than thirty-six years (cf. •Zech. i. 12). The hill of Zion is still a deserted site haunted by jackals, as it was when Nehemiah arrived, 445 B.C. (Neh. i. 3, ii. 3, 13, 17, iv. 3). And the conditions, political and economic, seem to agree with what is told us by Nehemiah of the state of things which he found, and which prevailed before his coming: cf. esp. Neh. v. 2-5 with Lamentations V. 2, 10, and Neh. v. 15 with Lamentations v. 5, 8. There is nothing in chapter i. which Nehemiah himself might not have written, had he been a poet (cf. Neh. i. 4). The narrative of Neh. xiii. throws light on verse 10; and there are many coincidences of language, e.g. " The Province " (of Judea), Neh. i. 3, cf. verse 1; " adversaries " (o'-is), of Judah's hostile neighbours, verse 7, Neh. iv. 11; " made my strength stumble," verse 14, cf.•Neh. iv. 4 (Heb.); the prayers, verses 21 f., Neh. iv. 4 f. (Heb. iii. 36 f.), are similar. The memory of what is told in Neh. iv. 5 (11), Ezra iv. 23 f., v. 5, may perhaps have suggested the peculiar term mien, stoppage, arrest, verse 7. With verse 3 " Judah migrated from oppression; From greatness of servitude; She settled among the nations, Without finding a resting-place," cf. Neh. v. 18 end, Jer. xl. 11 f. The "remnant of the captivity" (Neh. i. 2 f.) became much attenuated (cf. verse 4), because all who could escape from the galling tyranny of the foreigner left the country (cf. verse 6). Verses II, 19 (dearth of food), 20 (danger in the field, starvation in the house) agree curiously with Neh. v. 6, 9 f. Chapters ii. and iv. can hardly be dated earlier than the beginning of the Persian period. They might then have been written by one who, as a young man of sixteen or twenty, had witnessed the terrible scenes of fifty years before. If, however, as is generally recognized, these poems are not the spontaneous and unstudied outpourings of passionate grief, but compositions of calculated art and studied effects, written for a purpose, it is obvious that they need not be contemporary. A poet of a later generation might have sung of the great drama in this fashion. The chief incidents and episodes would be deeply graven in the popular memory; and it is the poet's function to make the past live again. There is much metaphor (i. 13-15, ii. 1-4, iii. 1-18, iv. 1 ff.), and little detail beyond the horrors usual in long sieges (see Dent. xxviii. 52 ff.; 2 Kings vi. 28 f.) Acquaintance with the existing literature and the popular reminiscences of the last days of Jerusalem would supply an ample foundation for all that we find in these poems. For textual and literary criticism see also Houbigant, Notae Criticae, ii. 477-483 (1777) ; E. H. Rodhe, Num Jeremias Threnos scripserit quaestiones (Lundae, 1871); F. Montet, Etude sur le livre des Lamentations (Geneva, 1875) ; G. Bickell, Carmina V. T. metrice, 112-120 (1882), and Wiener Zeitschrift fur Kunde des Morgenlandes, viii. lot if. (1894) (cf. also his Dichtungen der Hebrder, i. 87-108, 1882); Merkel, Uber das A.T. Buck der Klagelieder (Halle, 1889); J. Dyserinck, Theologisch Tijdschrift, xxvi. 359 if. (1892) ; S. A. Fries, ' Parallele zwischen Thr. iv., v. and der Makkabaerzeit,".Z.A.T.W., xiii. Ito if. (1893) (chaps. iv. v. Maccabean; i.-iii. Jercmiah's); and on the other side Lohr, Z.A.T.W. xiv. 51 if. (1894) ; id. ib., p. 31 if., Der Sprachgebrauch des Buches der Klagelieder; and Lohr, " Threni iii. and die jeremianische Autorschaft des Buches der Klagelieder," Z.A.T.W., xxiv. 1 if. (1904). On the prosody, see (besides the works of Bickell and Dyserinck) K. Budde, " Das hebraische Klagelied," Z.A.T.W., if. (1882), iii. 299 if. (1883), xi. 234 if. (1891), xii. 31 if. 261 if. (1892); Preussische Jahrbiicher, lxxiii. 461 if. (1893); and C. J. Ball, ' The Metrical Structure of Qinoth," P.S.B.A. (March 1887). (The writer was then unacquainted with Budde's previous labours.) The following may also be consulted, Noldeke, Die A.T. Literature pp. 142-148 (1868); Seinecke, Gesch. des Volkes Israel, ii. 29 ff. (1884); Stade, Gesch. p. 701, n. 1 (1887) ; Smend in Z.A.T.W. (1888), p. 62 f. ; Steinthal, "Die Klagelieder Jer." in Bibel and Rel.-philosophie, 16-33 (1890) ; Driver, L.O.T. (1891), p. 428, "The Lamentations" ; and Cheyne's article " Lamentations_(Book)," in Enc. Bibl. iii. (C. J. B.*)
End of Article: LAMENTATIONS (Lamentations of Jeremiah)
[back]
HUGUES LAMENNAIS
[next]
COMTE DE ALEXANDRE THEODORE VICTOR LAMETH (1760-182...

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.