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The Catholic Study Bible A special version of the New American Bible, with a wealth of background information useful to Catholics.

Poetic Analysis of the Book

The literary structure of Lamentations blends the fixed forms of Hebrew poetry with exceptionally free movement. The first four poems follow the alphabetic or acrostic arrangement: the first letters of the stanzas in Hebrew are the letters of the alphabet, in order. In the third Lamentation all three lines of a stanza start with the same letter. The first four songs follow the qinah meter of lament, one of the clearest metric styles in Hebrew poetry. The common Hebrew poetic line has two parts with equal number of accents in each part. The qinah meter has five beats, 3 + 2, so that a beat is missing in the second part. The final moment remains suspended and unfinished. It is associated with the topics of lament and loss.

An exceptional variety of attitudes follow one another: national and individual laments of misery ( 1, 12–16; 3, 43–45 ); prayer for help ( 1, 9c ); confidence ( 3, 22–25 ); faith in the wisdom of God to assure that all receive what they deserve ( 3, 26–42 ); hymn of praise ( 5, 19 ). Jerusalem is addressed by the congregation ( 1, 1 ) and also speaks in her own name ( 1, 12–16 ).

While lamenting how chaos erupts everywhere (even cannibalism in 2, 20 and 4, 10), the author surrounds the entire exposition with the strict rules of alphabetic poetry and qinah meter. The poetry implies that God is still in control; all is not lost. Good order must return, and Israel's theology must absorb and teach the lessons of Jerusalem's destruction and exile. Lamentations asks that this process not be hurried. Israel needs space for mourning, time for disorder. Theology too cannot be hurried in unraveling an explanation of redemptive suffering.

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