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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

Lamentations - Introduction

The English title of the book, Lamentations, sums up very well its subject-matter. As is commonly the case, the Hebrew title is taken from its first word, ᾽ěkâ, meaning ‘how!’ The book consists of a series of complaints about a disaster, which has struck the city of Jerusalem and her people. It comprises five poetic laments, in style similar to many in the psalter. The qînâ or lament metre (classically three beats followed by two) characterizes much of the poetry of the book, and is best seen in ch. 3 (Shea 1979 ). Four of the five chapters are acrostic poems; acrostics typically begin each verse with a different letter of the alphabet, in sequence (Freedman 1986 ). Some have thought that this elaborate literary form reflects a long development and prolonged polishing (cf. Kaiser 1992 ). However, it is more likely that this feature is evidence of the drive to establish order in a time of traumatic loss, and so is quite compatible with composition during the immediate aftermath of a great catastrophe.

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