Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The Lamentations of Jeremiah
1. The Name, Contents, and Arrangement of the Book
The five Lamentations composed on the fall of Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judah, which have received their position in the canon of the Old Testament among the Hagiographa, have for their heading, in Hebrew MSS and in printed editions of the Hebrew Bible, the word איכה ("alas! how..."), which forms the characteristic initial word of three of these pieces (Lam 1:1; Lam 2:1, and Lam 4:1). The Rabbis name the collection קינות (Lamentations), from the nature of its contents: so in the Talmud (Tract. Baba Bathra, f. 14b); cf. Jerome in the Prol. galeat, and in the prologue to his translation: "incipiunt Threni, i.e., lamentationes, quae Cynoth hebraice inscribuntur." With this agree the designations Θρῆνοι (lxx), and Threni or Lamentationes, also Lamenta in the Vulgate and among the Latin writers.
The ancient custom of composing and singing lamentations over deceased friends (of which we find proof in the elegies of David on Saul and Jonathan, Sa2 1:17., and on Abner, Sa2 3:33., and in the notice given in Ch2 35:25) was even in early times extended so as to apply to the general calamities that befell countries and cities; hence the prophets often speak of taking up lamentations over the fall of nations, countries, and cities; cf. Amo 5:1; Jer 7:29; Jer 9:9, Jer 9:17., Eze 19:1; Eze 26:17; Eze 27:2, etc. The five lamentations of the book now before us all refer to the destruction of Jerusalem and of the kingdom of Judah by the Chaldeans; in them are deplored the unutterable misery that has befallen the covenant people in this catastrophe, and the disgrace which the fallen daughter of Zion has thereby suffered. This subject is treated of in the five poems from different points of view. In the first, the lamentation is chiefly made over the carrying away of the people into captivity, the desolation of Zion, the acts of oppression, the plundering and the starvation connected with the taking of Jerusalem, the scoffing and contempt shown by the enemy, and the helpless and comfortless condition of the city, now fallen so low. In the second, the destruction of Jerusalem and Judah is set forth as an act of God's wrath against the sins of the people, the impotency of human comfort in the midst of the terrible calamity is shown, and the people are exhorted to seek help from the Lord. In the third, the deep spiritual sufferings of God's people in the midst of the general distress form the subject of grievous complaint, out of which the soul endeavours to rise, and to see the compassion of the Lord, and the justice of His dealings on earth generally, as well as in this visitation of judgment; and on this is founded the confident expectation of help. In the fourth, the dreadful misery that has befallen Zion's citizens of every class is represented as a punishment for the grievous sins of the people and their leaders. And lastly, in the fifth, the Lord is entreated to remove the disgrace from His people and restore them to their former state of grace. According to this view, one may readily perceive in these poems a well-cogitated plan in the treatment of the material common to the whole, and a distinct progress in the execution of this plan. There is no foundation, on the other hand, for the opinion of De Wette, that a gradation may be traced in the description given of the condition of the city; and the attempt of earlier expositors (Horrer, Pareau, Jahn, etc.) to explain and apply the contents of the different poems to different leading features in the Chaldean catastrophe - such as the siege, the capture, the destruction of the city and the temple - has entirely failed. Ewald, again, assumes that the five poems were composed for a time to be solemnly spent in sorrow and penitence, and that in the five lamentations the prophet-writer presents a kind of changing act (drama), making five different acts follow each other progressively; and further, that it is only with the changing series of these that the entire great act of real lamentation and divine sorrow concludes. But neither in the design nor in the execution of these poems are any points to be found which form a safe foundation for this assumption. Ewald is so far correct, however, in his general remark, that the prophetic composer sought to present to the community, in their deep sorrow, words which were meant to direct the grieving heart to the only source of true comfort; and that he understood how "to lead the deeply sorrowing ones imperceptibly to a proper knowledge of themselves and of their own great guilt, and thereby, in the first place, to true sorrow and sighing; that he also knew how to resolve the wildest grief at last into true prayer for divine retribution, and to change new strength into rejoicing over the everlasting Messianic hope, and into the most touching request for the divine compassion" (Die Dichter des Alt. Bundes, 3 Ausg. i. 2, S. 322).
In order to give an air of continuity as well as of exhaustive completeness to the lamentation, which constantly assumes new figures and turns of thought, the poems, with the exception of the last (Lamentations 5), are alphabetically arranged, and in such a form that the first three consist of long stanzas, each of three lines, which are for the most part further divided about the middle by a caesura into two portions of unequal length. These poems are so arranged in accordance with the letters of the alphabet, that in the first two, every verse of three lines, and in the third, every line in the verse, begins with the letters of the alphabet in their order. In this last third poem, moreover, all the letters of the alphabet occur thrice in succession, for which reason the Masoretes have divided these lines of the verses as if each formed a complete verse. In the fourth poem, the verses, which are also arranged and marked alphabetically, consist only of lines which are likewise divided into two by a caesura; in the fifth, the alphabetic arrangement of the verses is departed from, and it is only in their number that the verses of the poem are made like the letters of the alphabet. This alphabetic arrangement of the verses is exactly carried out in the four poems, but with the remarkable difference, that in the first only does the order of the letters entirely agree with the traditional arrangement of the alphabet, while, in the other three, the verse beginning with פ stands before that beginning with ע. This deviation from the rule does not admit of being explained by the assumption that the verses in question were afterwards transposed in consequence of an oversight on the part of the copyist, nor by the supposition that the order of the letters had not yet been absolutely fixed. The former assumption, adopted by Kennicott, Jahn, etc., is shown to be utterly incorrect, by the circumstance that the supposed transmutation cannot be reconciled with the course of thought in the poems; while the latter, which has been maintained by C. B. Michaelis, Ewald, etc., is disproved by the fact that no change has taken place in the order of the letters in the Shemitic alphabets (cf. Sommer, Bibl. Abhandll. i. S. 145; Gesenius, 5, Rem. 2; Ewald, 12, a); and other alphabetic poems, such as Psa 111:1-10, Psa 112:1-10; 119, and Prov 31:10-31, exactly preserve the common arrangement of the letters. Still less does the irregularity in question permit of being attributed to an oversight on the part of the composer (which is Bertholdt's view), for the irregularity is repeated in three poems. It is rather connected with another circumstance. For we find in other alphabetic poems also, especially the older ones, many deviations from the rule, which undeniably prove that the composers bound themselves rigorously by the order of the alphabet only so long as it fitted in to the course of thought without any artificiality. Thus, for instance, in Ps 145 the Nun verse is wanting; in Ps 34 the Vav verse; while, at the close, after ת, there follows another verse with פ. Just such another closing verse is found in Ps 25, in which, besides, the first two verses begin with א, while ב is wanting; two verses, moreover, begin with ר instead of ק and ר: in Ps 37 ע is replaced by צ, which is again found after פ in its proper order. It is also to be considered that, in may of these poems, the division of the verses into strophes is not continuously and regularly carried out; e.g., in these same Lam; Lam 1:7 and Lam 2:19, verses of four lines occur among those with three. Attempts have, indeed, been made to attribute these irregularities to later reviewers, who mistook the arrangement into strophes; but the arguments adduced will not stand the test; see details in Hvernick's Einl. iii. S. 51ff.
If we gather all these elements together, we shall be obliged to seek for the reason of most, if not all of these deviations from the norm, in the free use made of such forms by the Hebrew poets. Gerlach here objects that, "in view of the loose connection of thought in alphabetic poems generally, and in these Lamentations particularly, and considering the evident dexterity with which the poet elsewhere uses the form, another arrangement of the series would not have caused him any difficulty." We reply that there is no want in these poems of a careful arrangement of thought; but that the skill of the poet, in making use of this arrangement, was not always sufficient to let him put his thoughts, corresponding to things, into the alphabetic form, without using artificial means or forced constructions; and that, in such cases, the form was rather sacrificed to the thought, than rigorously maintained through the adoption of forced and unnatural forms of expression.
Finally, the reason for the absence of the alphabetic arrangement from the fifth poem is simply, that the lamentation there resolves itself into a prayer, in which the careful consideration indispensable for the carrying out of the alphabetic arrangement must give place to the free and natural outcome of the feelings.
2. The Author, Time of Composition, and Position in the Canon
In the Hebrew text no one is named as the author of the Lamentations; but an old tradition affirms that the prophet Jeremiah composed them. Even so early as in the Alexandrine version, we find prefixed to Jer 1:1, the words, Καὶ ἐγένετο μετὰ αἰχμαλωτισθῆναι τὸν ̓Ισραὴλ καὶ ̔Ιερουσαλὴμ ἐρημωθῆναι, ἐκάθισεν ̔Ιερεμίας κλαίων καὶ ἐθρήνησε τὸν θρῆνον τοῦτον ἐπὶ ̔Ιερουσαλὴμ, καὶ ει. These words are also found in the Vulgate; only, instead of et dixit, there is the amplification, et amaro animo suspirans et ejulans dixit. The Syriac is without this notice; but the Arabic exactly reproduces the words of the lxx, and the Targum begins with the words, Dixit Jeremias propheta et sacerdos magnus. After this, both in the Talmud (Baba bathr. f. 51. 1) and by the Church Fathers (Origen in Euseb. hist. eccl. iv. 25, Jerome in prolog. gal., etc.), as well as the later theologians, the Jeremianic authorship was assumed as certain. The learned but eccentric Hermann von der Hardt was the first to call in question the Jeremianic composition of the book, in a "Programm" published in 1712 at Helmstdt; he attributed the five poems to Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and King Jehoiachin (!). This doubt was resumed at a later period by an unknown writer in the Tbingen Theol. Quartalschr. 1819, part i.; it was mentioned by Augusti (Einl.), and further carried out by Conz in Bengel's Archiv, iv. p. 161f. and 422ff. Kalkar was the next to question the traditional belief, and urged against it the position of the book among the כּתוּבים, and the difference existing between the Greek translation of the Lamentations and that of the prophecies of Jeremiah; these objections he held to be not inconsiderable, yet not decisive. Then Ewald (Poet. Bcher des A. B. i. S. 145, and in the third edition of the same book, i. 2, S. 326; cf. Bibl. Jahrbb. vii. S. 151f., and History of the People of Israel, iv. p. 22) decidedly refused to ascribe the book to the prophet, and rather attributed it to one of his pupils, Baruch or some other; in this opinion he is followed by Bunsen, as is usual in questions regarding the criticism of the Old Testament. Finally, Ngelsbach (in Lange's series, see Clark's For. Theol. Lib.), with the help of the Concordance, has prepared a table of those words and forms of words found in the Lamentations, but not occurring in the prophecies of Jeremiah; by this means he has endeavoured to set forth the difference of language in the two books, which he accepts as a decisive reason for rejecting the Jeremianic authorship of the Lamentations. And Thenius assures us that, "in consequence of pretty long and conscientious examination, he has become convinced" that Lamentations 2 and 4, judging from their contents and form, undeniably proceeded from Jeremiah; while Lamentations 1 and 3 were composed by one who was left behind in the country, some time after the destruction of Jerusalem, and shortly before the last deportation; but Lamentations 5 is from a man "who was probably wandering about everywhere, as the leader of a band of nobles seeking a safe asylum, but unwilling to attach themselves to the caravan going to Egypt."
Schrader, in his late revision of De Wette's Introduction, 339, has thus condensed the results of these critical investigations: In support of the old tradition, which mentions Jeremiah as the author, "one might appeal to the affinity in contents, spirit, tone, and language (De W.). Nevertheless, this same style of language, and the mode of representation, exhibit, again, so much that is peculiar; the artificiality of form, especially in Lamentations 1, 2, and 4, is so unlike Jeremiah's style; the absence of certain specific Jeremianic peculiarities, and the contradiction between some expressions of the prophet and those of the author of the Lamentations, is again so striking, that one must characterize the authorship of Jeremiah as very improbable, if not quite impossible, especially since the points of likeness to the language used by Jeremiah, on the one hand, are sufficiently accounted for in general by the fact that both works were composed at the same time; and on the other hand, are nullified by other points of likeness to Ezekiel's style, which show that use has already been made of his prophecies." Again: "The hypothesis of Thenius, that the poems are by different authors, is refuted by the similarity in the fundamental character of the poems, and in the character of the language." We may therefore dispense with a special refutation of this hypothesis, especially since it will be shown in the exposition that the points which Thenius has brought forward in support of his view are all founded on a wretchedly prosaic style of interpretation, which fails to recognise the true nature of poetry, and regards mere poetic figures as actual history. Of the considerations, however, which Schrader has adduced against the Jeremianic authorship, the last two that are mentioned would, of course, have decided influence, if there were any real foundation for them, viz., the contradiction between some expressions of Jeremiah and those of the author of the Lamentations. But they have no foundation in fact.
The only instance of a contradiction is said to exist between Lam 5:7 and Jer 31:29-30. It is quoted by Schrader, who refers to Nldeke, die alttest. Literat. S. 146. But the expression, "Our fathers have sinned, they are no more, we bear their iniquities" (Lam 5:7), does not stand in contradiction to what is said in Jer. 39:29f. against the current proverb, "The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth have become blunt," viz., that in the future, after the restoration of Israel, "every one shall die for his own iniquity, and the teeth of every one who eats sour grapes shall become blunt." One statement would contradict the other only if the latter meant that those who bear the punishment were guiltless, or thought themselves such. But how far this thought was from the mind of the suppliant in Lam 5:7, is shown by what he says in Lam 5:16 : "Woe unto us, for we have sinned." According to these words, those in Lam 5:7 can only mean, "We atone not merely for our own sins, but also the sins of our fathers," or, "The sins of our fathers as well as our own are visited on us." This confession accords with Scripture (cf. Exo 20:5; Jer 16:11, etc.), and is radically different from the proverb, "The fathers have eaten sour grapes," etc., which was constantly in the mouth of those who considered themselves innocent, and who thereby perverted the great truth, that God visits the sins of the fathers upon the children who hate Him, into the false statement, that innocent children must atone for the sins of their fathers. On this, cf. also the exposition of Lam 5:7. But when Schrader, following Nldeke, further remarks, "that Jeremiah would hardly have said nothing whatever about God's having foretold all this suffering through him," there lies at the foundation of this remark the preposterous notion, that Jeremiah ought to have brought himself prominently forward in the Lamentations (supposing him to have written them), as one who ought not to suffer the evil under which the people were groaning. Such gross Pelagianism was foreign to the prophet Jeremiah. No one need speak, therefore, of a contradiction between the Lamentations and the prophecies of Jeremiah.
As little proof is there for the assertion that the author of the Lamentations made use of the prophecies of Ezekiel. Ngelsbach and Schrader, in support of this allegation, have adduced only Lam 2:14, compared with Eze 12:24; Eze 13:5.; and Lam 2:15, compared with Eze 27:3; Eze 28:12. Ngelsbach says: "The words, נביאיך חזוּ לך, in Lam 2:14, are no doubt a quotation from Eze 12:24; Eze 13:6-11, Eze 13:14-15, Eze 13:23; Eze 21:28, 34; Eze 22:28. For it is only in these passages, and nowhere else in the Old Testament, that the expression חזוּ occurs, and in combination with תפל. Moreover, כּלילת יפי, in Lam 2:15, is an expression decidedly peculiar to Ezekiel, for it occurs only in Eze 27:3 (cf. Eze 28:12), and nowhere else." But the three expressions of these two passages form really too weak a proof that the author of the Lamentations made use of the prophecies of Ezekiel. Of course, as regards the mere form of the words, it is true that the expression כּלילת יפי, "she who is perfect in beauty," is found, besides Lam 2:15, only in Eze 27:3, where the prophet says of Tyre, "Thou sayest, I am perfect in beauty," and in Eze 28:12, where it is said of the king of Tyre, "Thou art... כּליל;" but the thing occurs also in Psa 50:2, with the unimportant change in the form of the words מכלל יפי, "perfection of beauty," where Zion is so designated. Now, if we not merely gather out of the Concordance the expressions of like import, but also keep in view the idea presented in Lam 2:15, "Is this the city שׁיּאמרוּ?" and at the same time consider that the poet says this of Jerusalem, there cannot be the least doubt that he did not take these epithets, which are applied to Jerusalem, from Ezekiel, who used them to designate Tyre, but that he had Psa 50:2 in view, just as the other epithet, "a joy of the whole earth," points to Psa 48:3. Only on the basis of these passages in the Psalms could he employ the expression sheשׁיּאמרוּ, "which they call." Or are we to believe that the word כּליל, כּלילה was originally unknown to the author of the Lamentations, and that he first became acquainted with it through Ezekiel? Nor, again, can we say that the words taken by Ngelsbach out of Lam 2:14 are "undoubtedly a quotation from Ezekiel," because they do not occur in this way in any of the passages cited from Ezekiel. All that we can found on this assertion is, that in the prophecies of Jeremiah neither חזה שׁוא or the word-form תּפל occurs; while Ezekiel not only uses חזון שׁוא, Eze 12:14, חזה שׁוא, and מחזה שׁוא, as synonymous with דּבּר שׁוא, קסם שׁוא, and חזה כזב (Eze 13:6-9, Eze 13:23), but also says of the false prophets, Eze 13:9-11, "They build a wall, and plaster it over with lime" (טחים, Eze 13:10, cf. Eze 13:14, Eze 13:15, Eze 13:18). These same false prophets are also called, in Eze 13:11, טחי תפל, "those who plaster with lime." But Ezekiel uses the word תפל only in the meaning of "lime," while the writer of these Lamentations employs it in the metaphorical sense, "absurdity, nonsense," in the same way as Jer; Jer 23:13, uses תּפלה, "absurdity," of the prophets of Samaria. Now, just as Jeremiah has not taken תּפלה from Ezekiel, where it does not occur at all (but only in Job 1:22; Job 24:12), so there is as little likelihood in the opinion that the word תפל, in Lam 2:14, has been derived from Ezekiel, because Job 6:6 shows that it was far from rarely used by the Hebrews.
Nor does the non-occurrence of חזה שׁוא in Jeremiah afford any tenable ground for the opinion that the expression, as found in Lam 2:14, was taken from Ezekiel. The idea contained in חזה was not unknown to Jeremiah; for he speaks, Jer 14:14, of חזון שׁקר, and in Jer 23:16 of חזון מלבּם, referring to the false prophets, whose doings he characterizes as שׁקר sa sezi; cf. Jer 6:13; Jer 8:10; Jer 14:14; Jer 23:25., 32, Jer 27:10, Jer 27:15; Jer 28:16; Jer 29:9, Jer 29:23, Jer 29:31. Further, if we consult only the text of the Bible instead of the Concordance, and ponder the connection of thought in the separate passages, we can easily perceive why, instead of שׁקר (חזון) חזה, which is so frequent in Jeremiah, there is found in Lam 2:14, חזה שׁוא and חזה משּׂאות שׁוא dna . In the addresses in which Jeremiah warns the people of the lying conduct of the false prophets, who spoke merely out of their own heart, שׁקר was the most suitable expression; in Lam 2:14, on the contrary, where complaint is made that the prophecies of their prophets afford no comfort to the people in their present distress, שׁוא was certainly the most appropriate word which the composer could select, even without a knowledge of Ezekiel. There can be no question, then, regarding a quotation from that prophet. but even though it were allowed that 2:14 implied an actual acquaintance with Lamentations 12 and 13 of Ezekiel, still, nothing would follow from that against the Jeremianic authorship of the Lamentations. For Jeremiah uttered these prophecies in the sixth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin, i.e., in the third year before the last siege, and the fifth before the destruction of Jerusalem; and considering the frequent intercourse carried on between the captives in Babylon and those who still remained in Judah and Jerusalem, in virtue of which the former even sent letters to Jerusalem (cf. Jer 29:25), some of Ezekiel's prophecies might have become known in the latter city a considerable time before the final catastrophe, and even reached the ears of Jeremiah.
With the demolition of these two arguments, the main strength of our opponents, in the bringing forward of proof, has been broken. Schrader has not adduced a single instance showing "the absence of certain specific Jeremianic peculiarities." For "the comparatively less emphasis given to the sins of the people," which is alleged in Nldeke's note, cannot be applied in support of that position, even if it were correct, in view of the prominence so frequently assigned to grievous sin, Lam 1:5, Lam 1:8,Lam 1:14, Lam 1:18, Lam 1:22; Lam 2:14; Lam 3:39, Lam 3:42; Lam 4:6, Lam 4:13; Lam 5:7; because the Lamentations were not composed with the design of punishing the people for their sin, but were intended to comfort in their misery, and to raise up again, the people who had been severely chastised for the guilt of their sin, which was greater than the sin of Sodom (Lam 4:6). Add to this, that Schrader, by using this argument, contradicts himself; for he has shortly before adduced the affinity in contents, spirit, tone, and language as an argument to which one might appeal in support of the Jeremianic authorship, and this affinity he has established by a long series of quotations.
(Note: The passages are the following: Lam 1:8., cf. with Jer 4:30; Jer 13:21., 26; Lam 1:20; Lam 4:13., with Jer 14:7, Jer 14:18; Lam 2:14 with Jer 14:13; Lam 1:16; Lam 2:11; Lam 3:48-49, with Jer 8:21., Jer 9:16., Jer 13:17; Jer 14:17;Lam 3:52 with Jer. 15:26f.; Lamentations 3 with Jer 15:10., Jer 17:5., 14ff., Jer 20:7., 14ff. (De Wette). Further, בּתוּלת בּת , Lam 1:15; Lam 2:13, cf. Jer 14:17; Jer 46:11; מגור, Lam 2:22, cf. Jer 4:25; Jer 10:3, Jer 10:10; זולל, Lam 1:11, cf. Jer 15:19; מחמוּדים instead of מחמדּים, Lam 1:11; נידה instead of נדּה, Lam 1:8; לוא instead of לא; אכל ל, Lam 4:5; גּאל, Lam 4:14; תּפל, Lam 2:14. Finally, Chaldaizing forms: שׁוממין, Lam 1:4; ישׁנא instead of ישׁנה, Lam 4:1; מטּרא, Lam 3:12; העיב, Lam 2:1; שׂרג, Lam 1:14.)
Further, the remark that "the artificiality of form, especially in Lamentations 1, 2, and 4, is unlike Jeremiah," is correct only in so far as no alphabetic poems are to be found in the prophetic book of Jeremiah. But are we then to look for poetic compositions in prophetic addresses and historical narratives? The remark now quoted is based on the assertion made by other critics, that the alphabetic arrangement of poetic compositions generally is a mere rhetorical work of art, and the production of a later but degenerate taste (Ed. Reuss and others), or a piece of trifling unworthy of the prophet. This view has long ago been shown groundless; cf. Hvernick's Einl. iii. S. 46ff. Even Hupfeld, who calls the alphabetical arrangement "artificiality or trifling," considers that it is of a kindred nature with collections of proverbs, and with small poems of a didactic character but deficient in close connection of thought; he thinks, too, that it may be comparatively ancient as a style of composition, and that it was not applied till later to other species of writing (as Lamentations). To this, Ed. Riehm, in the second edition of Hupfeld on the Psalms, i. p. 31, has added a very true remark: "In lyric poetry proper, the employment of this artificial form is naturally and intrinsically justified only when a single fundamental strain, that fills the whole soul of the poet, - deep, strong, and sustained, - seeks to die away in many different forms of chords; hence its employment in the elegy." The application of this artificial form to such a purpose is perfectly justified in these Lamentations; and the attempt to deny that these poems are the work of Jeremiah, on the ground of their artificial construction, would be as great an exhibition of arbitrary conduct, as if any one refused to ascribe the hymn "Befiehl du deine Wege" to Paul Gerhardt, or "Wie schn leucht uns der Morgenstern" to Philip Nicolai, on the ground of the "artificiality" that manifests itself in the beginning of the verses.
Finally, the language and the mode of representation in these poems certainly exhibit much that is peculiar; and we find in them many words, word-forms, and modes of expression, which do not occur in the prophecies of Jeremiah. But it must also be borne in mind that the Lamentations are not prophetic addresses intended to warn, rebuke, and comfort, but lyric poetry, which has its own proper style of language, and this different from prophetic address. Both the subject-matter and the poetic form of these poems, smooth though this is in general, necessarily resulted in this, - that through the prevalence of peculiar thoughts, modes of representation, and feelings, the language also received an impress, in words and modes of expression, that was peculiar to itself, and different from the prophetic diction of Jeremiah. The mere collection of the words, word-forms, and expressions peculiar to the Lamentations, and not occurring in the prophecies of Jeremiah, cannot furnish irrefragable proof that the authors of the two writings were different, unless it be shown, at the same time, that the character of the language in both writings is essentially different, and that for the ideas, modes of representation, and thoughts common to both, other words and expressions are used in the Lamentations than those found in the prophecies of Jeremiah. But neither the one nor the other has been made out by Ngelsbach. After giving the long list he has prepared, which occupies five and a half columns, and which gives the words occurring in the different verses of the five chapters, he explains that he does not seek to lay any weight on the ἅπαξ λεγόμενα, probably because Jeremiah also has many such words; but then he raises the question, "How is the fact to be accounted for, that Jeremiah never uses עליון or אדני except as divine names, while the latter, nevertheless, occurs fourteen times in the Lamentations; that Jeremiah never uses הבּיט, יגה, אנח, זנח, חטא, מחמד, בּלּע, לא חמל, עפר, עטף, חזה, חשׁך, נגינה, יחל, נשׂא פּנים, nor למו, the relative שׁ, or בּקרב without a suffix, while all these expressions occur more or less frequently in the Lamentations? And it has been well remarked that these expressions are not of so specific a kind, that the fact of their not being used in the prophetic book, but employed in the Lamentations, might be explained from the nature of the contents; but they belong, in great measure, to what I may call the house-dress of the author, which he constantly wears, - which he more or less unconsciously and unintentionally uses." We answer that the simile of the house-dress has been most unhappily chosen. Although the style of a writer may possibly be compared to his coat, yet nobody is in the habit of wearing his house-coat always, on Sundays and week-days, in the house and out of it; so, too, no writer is in the habit of using always the same words in prose and poetry. When we investigate the matter itself, we find we must, first of all, deduct fully one-third of the words enumerated, although these have evidently been collected and arranged as the most convincing proof; the words thus rejected are also found in the prophetic book of Jeremiah, though not quite in the same grammatical form, as the note shows.
(Note: For בּקרב, without a suffix, Lam 3:45, exactly corresponds to מקּרב, Jer 6:1 : cf. besides, בּקרבּי, Lam 4:15, Lam 4:20, with Jer 23:9; בּקרבּהּ, Jer 4:13, and Jer 6:6; Jer 46:21. לא, Lam 2:2, Lam 2:17, Lam 2:21; Lam 3:43, is found five times in Jeremiah (Jer 13:14; Jer 15:5; Jer 21:7; Jer 50:14; Jer 51:3), not only in the 3rd pers. perfect, but also in the imperfect. Of בּלע there occurs the Kal, Jer 51:34, and the noun בּלע, Jer 51:44; from חשׁך, the noun חשׁך certainly is not found, but perhaps the verb is used in the Hiphil, Jer 13:16, as the Kal in Lam 4:8; Lam 5:16. With חטא, Lam 1:8 and Lam 3:39, alternates חטּאת, Lam 4:6, Lam 4:22, which Jeremiah frequently uses. Of שׁמם, the participle שׁומם certainly is not found in Jeremiah, but the adj. שׁמם is found in Jer 12:11, as in Lam 5:8; and the Niphal of the verb in Jer 4:9 and Jer 33:10, as in Lam 4:5. Lastly, neither is ענה wholly wanting in Jeremiah; for in Jer 22:16 we are to read עני, miser, although the noun עני and the verb are not met with in his book.)
Then we ask the counter question, whether words which one who composed five poems employs only in one of these pieces, or only once or twice throughout the whole, ought to be reckoned as his house-dress? Of the words adduced, we do not find a single on in all the five poems, but חשׁך only in Lam 3:2, נשׂא פּנים only in Lam 4:16, נגינה only in Lam 3:14 and Lam 5:14, פּצה פה only in Lam 2:16 and Lam 3:46, עליון only in Lam 3:35 and Lam 3:38, אנח (Niphal) only in Lamentations 1 (four times). Moreover, we ask whether Jeremiah might not also, in lyric poems, use poetic words which could not be employed in homely address? But of the words enumerated, למו, עליון, and אדני alone as a name of God, together with נגינה, belong to the poetic style.
(Note: עליון as a name of God (3:35 and 38), besides Isa 14:14, is found only in poetic pieces, Num 26:16; Deu 32:8, and about twenty times in the Psalms; אדני used by itself, except in direct addresses to God and interviews with Him, occurs in the Psalms about forty times, and also in the addresses of particular prophets, composed in the loftier style, particularly Isaiah and Amos; lastly, נגינה, in Amo 3:14, occurs as a reminiscence of Job 30:9, and in the Psalms and hymns, Isa 38:20, and Hab 3:10.)
They are therefore not found in Jeremiah, simply because his prophetic addresses are neither lyric poems, nor rise to the lyric height of prophetic address. The rest of the words mentioned are also found in the Psalms especially, and in Job, as will be shown in the detailed exposition. And when we go deeper into the matter, we find that, in the Lamentations, there is the same tendency to reproduce the thoughts and language of the Psalms (especially those describing the psalmist's sufferings) and of the book of Job, that characterizes the prophecies of Jeremiah, in the use he makes of Deuteronomy and the writings of earlier prophets. Another peculiarity of Jeremiah's style is seen in the fact that the composer of the Lamentations, like Jeremiah in his addresses, repeats himself much, not merely in his ideas, but also in his words: e.g., לא חמל occurs four times, of which three instances are in Lamentations 2 (Lam 2:2, Lam 2:17, Lam 2:21) and one in Lam 3:43; מחמד (and מחמוד) also occurs four times (Lam 1:7, Lam 1:10-11; Lam 2:4), and נאנה as frequently (Lam 1:4, Lam 1:8,Lam 1:11, Lam 1:21); יגה is found five times (Lam 1:4-5, Lam 1:12; Lam 3:32-33), but in all the other Old Testament writings only thrice; and Jeremiah also uses יגון four times, while, of all the other prophets, Isaiah is the only one who employs it, and this he does twice.
These marks may be sufficient of themselves to show unmistakeably that the peculiarity of the prophet as an author is also found in the Lamentations, and that nothing can be discovered showing a difference of language in the expression of thoughts common to both writings. But this will be still more evident if we consider, finally, the similarity, both as regards the subjects of thought and the style of expression, exhibited in a considerable number of instances in which certain expressions characteristic of Jeremiah are also found in Lamentations: e.g., the frequent employment of שׁבר and שׁבר בּת עמּי, Lam 2:11, Lam 2:13; Lam 3:47-48; Lam 4:10, cf. with Jer 4:6, Jer 4:20; Jer 6:1, Jer 6:14; Jer 8:11, Jer 8:21; Jer 10:19; Jer 14:17, etc.; מגוּרי, Lam 2:22, with מגור מסּביב, Jer 6:25; Jer 20:3, Jer 20:10; Jer 46:5; Jer 49:29; (מים, or) עין, Lam 1:16; Lam 2:18; Lam 3:48; Lam 2:11, cf. with Jer. 8:23; Jer 9:17; Jer 13:17; Jer 14:17; הייתי שׂחק, Jer 3:14, with הייתי לשׂחק, Jer 20:7; פּחד ופחת, Lam 3:47, as in Jer 48:43. Cf. also the note on p. 471, after the passages quoted by De Wette. Pareau, then, had good reason when, long ago, he pointed out the peculiarities of Jeremiah in the style of the Lamentations; and only a superficial criticism can assert against this, that the existing coincidences find a sufficient explanation in the assumption that, speaking generally, the two books were composed at the same period.
(Note: Pareau has discussed this question very well in the Observatt. general., prefixed to his Commentary, 6-8, and concludes with this result: Non tantum regnant in Threnis varii illi characteres, quos stilo Jeremiae proprios esse vidimus, verum etiam manifesto cernitur in eorum scriptore animus tener, lenis, ad quaevis tristia facile commotus ac dolorem aegre ferens. Quod autem in iis frequentius observetur, quam in sermonibus Jeremiae propheticis, dictionis sublimitas et brevitas majorque imaginum copia et pulchritudo, atque conceptuum vis et intentio: illud vix aliter fieri potuisse agnoscemus, si ad argumenti naturam attendamus, quo vehementur affici debuerit Jeremias; etc., p. 40.)
We therefore close this investigation, after having proved that the tradition which ascribes the Lamentations to the prophet Jeremiah as their author is as well-founded as any ancient historical tradition whatever.
Time of Composition
From the organic connection of the five poems, as shown above, it follows of itself that they cannot have proceeded from different authors, nor originated at different periods, but were composed at brief intervals, one after the other, not long after the destruction of Jerusalem and the fall of the kingdom of Judah, and in the order in which they have been transmitted to us. What gives special support to this conclusion is the circumstance that, throughout these Lamentations, there is no possibility of mistaking the expression of grief, still fresh in the writer's mind, over the horrors of that fearful catastrophe. The assumption, however, that the prophet, in the picture he draws, had before his eyes the ruins of the city, and the misery of those who had been left behind, cannot be certainly made out from a consideration of the contents of the poems. But there seems to be no doubt that Jeremiah composed them in the interval between the destruction of Jerusalem and his involuntary departure to Egypt. There is no tenable ground for the confident assertion of Ewald, that they were composed in Egypt; for the passages, Jer 1:3; Jer 4:18., Lam 5:5, Lam 5:9, do not mean that the writer was then living among the fugitives who had fled in such vast multitudes to Egypt, partly before and partly after the destruction of the city.
Position of the Lamentations in the Canon
The separation of the Lamentations from the book of the prophecies of Jeremiah, and their reception into the third division of the Old Testament canon (the Kethubim), - which Kalkschmidt and Thenius, in complete misunderstanding of the principle on which the tripartition of the canon is founded, would bring to bear as an argument against their having been composed by Jeremiah, - are fully accounted for by their subjective, lyric contents; in consequence of this they differ essentially from the prophecies, and take their place alongside of the Psalms and other productions of sacred poesy. This position of theirs among the Kethubim must be considered (against Bleek) as the original one; their arrangement by the side of the prophetic writings of Jeremiah in the lxx and Vulgate, which Luther as well as the translators of the "authorized" English version has retained, must have originated with the Alexandrine translators, who could not understand the arrangement of the Hebrew canon, and who afterwards, in order to make the number of the books of the Bible the same as that of the letters of the alphabet (twenty-two), counted the Lamentations as forming one book with the prophecies of Jeremiah. That this arrangement and enumeration of the Lamentations, observed by the Hellenists, deviated from the tradition of the Jews of Palestine, may be perceived from the remark of Jerome, in his Prol. galeat., regarding this mode of reckoning: quamquam nonnulli Ruth et Cynoth inter hagiographa scriptitent, et hos libros in suo putent numero supputandos. Their arrangement in the series of the five Megilloth (rolls appointed to be read on certain annual feast-days and memorial-days) in our editions of the Hebrew Bible was not fixed till a later period, when, according to the ordinance in the synagogal liturgy, the Lamentations were appointed to be read on the ninth of the month Ab, as the anniversary of the destruction of the temples of Solomon and of Herod. (Cf. Herzog's Real-Encykl. xv. 310.)
The importance of the Lamentations, as a part of the canon, does not so much consists in the mere fact that they were composed by Jeremiah, and contain outpourings of sorrow on different occasions over the misery of his people, as rather in their being an evidence of the interest with which Jeremiah, in the discharge of his functions as a prophet, continued to watch over the ruins of Jerusalem. In these Lamentations he seeks not merely to give expression to the sorrow of the people that he may weep with them, but by his outpour of complaint to rouse his fellow-countrymen to an acknowledgement of God's justice in this visitation, to keep them from despair under the burden of unutterable woe, and by teaching them how to give due submission to the judgment that has befallen them, to lead once more to God those who would not let themselves be brought to Him through his previous testimony regarding that judgment while it was yet impending. The Jewish synagogue has recognised and duly estimated the importance of the Lamentations in these respects, by appointing that the book should be read on the anniversary of the destruction of the temple. A like appreciation has been made by the Christian Church, which, rightly perceiving that the Israelitish community is the subject in these poems, attributed to them a reference to the church militant; and, viewing the judgment on the people of God as a prophecy of the judgment that came on Him who took the sins of the whole world upon Himself, it has received a portion of the Lamentations into the ritual for the Passion Week, and concludes each of these lessons with the words, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, convertere ad Dominum, deum tuum." Cf. The Passion Week in its Ceremonies and Prayers, Spires 1856, and the Officium hebdomadae sanctae, a reprinted extract from Dr. Reischl's Passionale, Mnich 1857. The motives for this choice are so far set forth by Allioli (in Neumann, ii. S. 486) in the following terms: "The church wished believers to see, in the great punishments which God had ordained against Jerusalem by the instrumentality of Nebuchadnezzar, the still more severe chastisement that God has brought on Israel after the dreadful murder of the Messias. She seeks to bewail the unhappy condition of the blinded nation, once favoured with the divine revelation. In the fall of Jerusalem, she seeks to deplore the evil that has come on herself from external and internal foes, the persecution of brother by brother, the havoc made by false teachers, the looseness of opinions, the sad advances made by indifference in matters of faith and by the corruption of morals. In the devastation and the penalties inflicted on Jerusalem, she wishes to present for consideration the destruction which comes on every soul that dies the death in sins. In the condition of the ruined city and the homeless nation, she seeks to make men bewail the homeless condition of the whole race, who have fallen into decay and disorder through Adam's sin. And lastly, in the nation visited with punishment, she seeks to set forth Jesus Christ Himself, in so far as He has become the substitute of all men, and suffered for their sins." This display of all these references is sadly deficient in logical arrangement; but it contains a precious kernel of biblical truth, which the Evangelical Church
(Note: i.e., the "United Evangelical Church" of Germany, the National Protestant Church, which was formed by the coalition of the Lutheran and Reformed (or Calvinistic) communions. This union began in Prussia in 1817, and was gradually effected in other German states. But many staunch adherents of the old distinctive (Augsburg and Helvetic) Confessions endured persecution rather than consent to enter the "United" Church. The liturgy was framed under the special direction of the Prussian king in 1821, and after some alterations were made on it, appointed by a royal decree, in 1830, to be used in all the churches. - Tr.)
has endeavoured in many ways to turn to advantage. Regarding the adaptations of the Lamentations made for liturgical use in the Evangelical Church, see particulars in Schberlein, Schatz des liturgischen Chor-und Gemeindegesanges, ii. S. 444ff.
As to the commentaries on the Lamentations, see Keil's Manual of Introduction to the Old Testament, vol. i. p. 508 Clark's Foreign Theol. Library. To the list of works therein given are to be appended, as later productions, Ewald's recent treatment of the book in the third edition of the Dichter des A. Bundes (1866), i. 2, where the Lamentations have been inserted among the Psalms, S. 321ff.; Wilh. Engelhardt, die Klagel. Jerem. bersetzt. 1867; Ernst Gerlach, die Klagel. erkl. 1868; and Ngelsbach, in Lange's series of commentaries (Clark's English edition), 1868.