Title.--The Hebrew title of this book, Ecah, is taken, like the titles of the five books of Moses, from the Hebrew word with which it opens. Author.--The poems included in this collection appear in the Hebrew canon with no name attached to them, but Jeremiah has been almost universally regarded as their author. Date.--The poems belong unmistakably to the last days of the kingdom, or the commencement of the exile, B.C. 629-586. They are written by one who speaks, with the vividness and intensity of an eye-witness, of the misery which he bewails. Contents.--The book consists of five chapter, each of which, however, is a separate poem, complete in itself, and having a distinct subject, but brought at the same time under a plan which includes them all. A complicated alphabetic structure pervades nearly the whole book. (1) Chs. 1,2 and 4 contain twenty-two verses each, arranged in alphabetic order, each verse falling into three nearly balanced clauses; ch. (Lamentations 2:19) forms an exception, as having a fourth clause. (2) Ch. 3 contains three short verses under each letter of the alphabet, the initial letter being three times repeated. (3) Ch. 5 contains the same number of verses as chs. 1,2,4, but without the alphabetic order. Jeremiah was not merely a patriot-poet, weeping over the ruin of his country; he was a prophet who had seen all this coming, and had foretold it as inevitable. There are perhaps few portions of the Old Testament which appear to have done the work they were meant to do more effectually than this. The book has supplied thousands with the fullest utterance for their sorrows in the critical periods of national or individual suffering. We may well believe that it soothed the weary years of the Babylonian exile. It enters largely into the order of the Latin Church for the services of passion-week. On the ninth day of the month of Ab (July-August), the Lamentations of Jeremiah were read, year by year, with fasting and weeping, to commemorate the misery out of which the people had been delivered.
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