Daily Arts Web Nucleus


Discover the Arts! Each day a different image from the Literary, Performing, or Visual Arts representing a portion of Scripture
plus an explanation with links and a discussion forum

2013 October 11

Lamentation over the Dead Christ (detail) - (c. 1495)
Sandro Botticelli (c. 1445 - 1510)
Renaissance Style
Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan, Italy
Image Source: Web Gallery of Art

     The Book of Lamentations Overview: Lamentations is a series of 5 poems lamenting the final fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in about 586 B.C. The first four chapters are acrostic poems. The fifth chapter is a non-acrostic poem. Each chapter has 22 verses except for chapter 3 which has 66 verses, consisting of 22 triplet acrostics. The first chapter follows the normal alphabetic order; but chapters 2-4 have a reversal of letter number 16 (called "Ayin") with number 17 ( called "Pe") -- (i.e., the order is Pe, Ayin in chapters 2, 3, and 4). Tradition holds that Jeremiah is the author, and the content of the book is consistent with Jeremiah's style in the Book of Jeremiah - particularly his use of poetry, laments, and variations of speakers (where he speaks, the people speak, and the LORD speaks, often without formal introduction - discernible by context - which is a device used by other prophets and poets in Scripture). For purposes of illustration, I've analyzed the chapters for major components of the mourning process in accord with "The Five Stages of Grief," as well as for content.

     Explanation: Denial and Isolation. In Lamentations 5 the prevailing tone is a feeling of isolation, particularly the last verse: "But you have utterly rejected us; you are very wrathful against us." This is denial in the sense that the poet is attempting to deny to himself that the LORD has rejected his people in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary; and he is trying to ward-off the continued destruction by pleading with the LORD. I've chosen the illustration above for this aspect of grieving because it depicts a woman so overcome by grief that she tries to hide from it physically by shutting herself within her garment. For Jeremiah the shutting out (denial) is more of a mental and spiritual withdrawal. Jeremiah begins this attempt at denial by asking the LORD to consider what had come upon his people and to behold their reproach (1). Their inheritance had been given to strangers; their families were fractured; they had to buy water and wood (2-4). They labor without rest and must submit to Egypt and Assyria to get food (5-6). They bear the sins of their fathers; servants rule them; no one delivers them (7-8). They got food at the peril of their life; their skin is black from famine (9-10). Their enemies raped their women, hung their princes by the hand, and put young and old to hard labor (11-13). The elders were removed from power; music ceased; joy ceased; dancing turned to morning; the crown fell from their head -- all because they sinned (14-16). Therefore their heart faints, and their eyes are dim, and foxes roam in desolations of Zion (17-18). So Jeremiah concludes the chapter and the book with a prayer asking the LORD, who remains forever, not to forget them forever; and he pleads with him to turn their hearts to him and renew them unless he has utterly rejected them (19-22).

Lamentations 5

1 Remember, O LORD, what is come upon us: consider, and behold our reproach.
2 Our inheritance is turned to strangers, our houses to aliens.
3 We are orphans and fatherless, our mothers are as widows.
4 We have drunken our water for money; our wood is sold unto us.
5 Our necks are under persecution: we labour, and have no rest.
6 We have given the hand to the Egyptians, and to the Assyrians, to be satisfied with bread.
7 Our fathers have sinned, and are not; and we have borne their iniquities.
8 Servants have ruled over us: there is none that doth deliver us out of their hand.
9 We gat our bread with the peril of our lives because of the sword of the wilderness.
10 Our skin was black like an oven because of the terrible famine.
11 They ravished the women in Zion, and the maids in the cities of Judah.
12 Princes are hanged up by their hand: the faces of elders were not honoured.
13 They took the young men to grind, and the children fell under the wood.
14 The elders have ceased from the gate, the young men from their musick.
15 The joy of our heart is ceased; our dance is turned into mourning.
16 The crown is fallen from our head: woe unto us, that we have sinned!
17 For this our heart is faint; for these things our eyes are dim.
18 Because of the mountain of Zion, which is desolate, the foxes walk upon it.
19 Thou, O LORD, remainest for ever; thy throne from generation to generation.
20 Wherefore dost thou forget us for ever, and forsake us so long time?
21 Turn thou us unto thee, O LORD, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old.
22 But thou hast utterly rejected us; thou art very wroth against us.

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copyright 2013, Scott Souza