The book of Lamentations begins with the word 'êḵāh (“Ah, how!”), a typical expression of lament, in the Hebrew text. Since the book originally had no title, the opening word 'êḵāh became its title in the Hebrew Bible. The title conveys the nature of its contents. It reminds the reader that this book contains sorrowful words about the sudden, tragic, and untimely destruction of someone who was renowned and held in high esteem by others. Such funeral songs were a part of the religious and literary tradition of ancient Israel (see 2Sa 1:17-27; Am 5:1-2; Eze 19:1-14; 26:17-18; 27:1-36; 28:11-19). The Jewish tradition sometimes referred to this book as qînôṯ (“lamentations”). The book has the title Threnoi (“wailings”) in the Septuagint translation. The English title comes from the word lamentationes, part of the title in the Latin translation (Vulgate).
Lamentations is placed in the Ketûbîm, the third division of the Hebrew canon, among the five megilloth or rolls that were used for public reading at the five major festivals of Judaism (Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther). Lamentations was read on Ab (mid-July) when the destruction of the Jerusalem temple was commemorated. In the Septuagint this book is placed after the book of Jeremiah and the apocryphal book of Baruch. This order is maintained by other ancient versions.
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