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

Theological Themes.

1.

It is clear that the work expresses many questions about the recent disaster and its meaning. There have been various attempts to present the religious teaching of the book in a systematic way. The most influential have been those of N. K. Gottwald and B. Albrektson. Gottwald (1962 ) proposed that the theological key to the work is provided by Deuteronomistic theology, which presented a ‘just deserts’ pattern; he argued that the problem in Lamentations is that the disaster, coming so soon after the reforms of the ideal king, Josiah, is perceived as undeserved (cf. 2:20; 5:7 ). Albrektson (1963 ), on the other hand, interpreted the book in the light of the old belief in the inviolability of the city of Jerusalem, a belief apparently falsified by the present disaster (cf. 2:15; 4:12 ). He found this dilemma resolved in the Deuteronomistic view of the catastrophe as a divine judgement (cf. Deut 28:64–5 ). Both Gottwald and Albrektson gave a clear place to hope in their overall interpretations, and Gerstenberger (1971 ) argued that the complaint (in contrast to the lament of resignation) is in fact an act of hope. However, it must be recognized that the place of hope is at best ambiguous and fleeting (the clearest cases are found in 3:19–39 and 4:22 ).

2.

The inconsistencies of theme prompt the question as to whether the book will indeed yield a coherent overall message. This (together with inconsistencies of form, especially in chs. 3 and 5 ) has led some, such as Brandscheidt (1988 ), to assert that the book is composite. Joyce (1993 ) has argued that the book's lack of theological consistency is not surprising, drawing upon the insights of pastoral psychology to show that such lack of coherence is typical of human reaction to the perennial experience of radical loss.

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