Lamentations, Book of
LAMENTATIONS, BOOK OF
LAMENTATIONS, BOOK OF , one of the Five *Scrolls in the Hagiographa section of the Bible, consisting of five poetic chapters, probably lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 b.c.e. and its aftermath. (The English title, like the Greek (θρηνοι), Latin (Lamentationes), and Syriac (אוליתא) titles, is a translation of the Hebrew קִינוֹת (Kinot (qinot)), bb 14b; cf. Sefer Kinot, Ḥag. 5b; Megillat Kinot, tj, Shab. 16:15c; and in Jerome's Prologus Galeatus: Cinoth.) The title more frequently used in Hebrew manuscripts and printings is Eikhah (Heb. איכה) after the book's opening word. Its location in the canon is bound up with the larger issue of the order of the Hagiographa (see *Bible: Canon). Bava Batra 14b, which does not list the Five Scrolls as a unit (see *Job), places Lamentations seventh in this section of the Bible. Some manuscripts that group the megillot together, including the Leningrad manuscript of 1009 c.e. and the Aleppo Codex, as well as the Masoretic work Adat Devorim, arrange the group chronologically, placing Lamentations fourth. The standard order followed in most printed Hebrew Bibles, which follows the order in which the megillot are read in the Ashkenazi liturgical calendar (starting with Passover), places Lamentations third, corresponding to its recitation on the Ninth of *Av (a custom already presupposed by Sof. 14:1). In the Septuagint, Peshitta, and Vulgate it is located after the Book of Jeremiah – Jeremiah being its supposed author – forming an appendix thereto (the two are connected in the present text of lxx by a statement introducing Lamentations: "And it came to pass, after Israel was taken captive and Jerusalem made desolate, that Jeremiah sat weeping and lamented this lamentation over Jerusalem, and said…"). This connection is not likely to have existed when the Septuagint translations of these books were first made, since the two were translated by different translators, as was demonstrated by T. Noeldeke.
Contents and Ideology
Although the individual chapters do not generally develop particular themes systematically, certain themes do stand out in the various chapters. Chapter 1 refers to Jerusalem as lonely and defiled, abused and abandoned by her former allies, her inhabitants in Exile. Chapter 2 stresses God's role in the disaster, with particular reference to the destruction of various parts of the city, such as the Temple, walls, and gates. Chapter 4, in contrast, stresses the suffering of the city's inhabitants. Chapter 5 describes the distress of those who remained after the destruction.
The ideological core of the book is Chapter 3, in which the poet describes and reflects on his own suffering. The interpretation of this chapter, however, has been the subject of much controversy in recent scholarship. According to the more common interpretation, in chapter 3, the sufferer finally grasps "a necessary relationship between the ordeal thrust upon him and his own actions" (Mintz in Bibl., 12). Although God undoubtedly is the cause of his grievous suffering (3:2–16, 37–38), he takes hope in the realization that God's kindness and mercy have not ended (reading lo' tammu in verse 22a)
but are renewed every morning (3:21–23). Furthermore, God is good to those who trust Him and seek Him; it is good to accept one's suffering and wait in silence for God's deliverance – in fact it is good for a man, when young, to bear a yoke (3:25–30), for the Lord does not reject forever, but ultimately pardons, for He does not afflict man willfully (3:31–36). Since God does not afflict willfully (Lam. 3:33–36), the ultimate cause can only be the sufferer's own sin (3:39). Now the poet shifts to the first person plural as he draws the practical inference of his observations: "Let us search and examine our ways, and turn back to the Lord…" (3:40–41), frankly admitting our guilt (3:42). The poem then reverts to the lamentation form with which it began, concluding with a plea to God for deliverance and vengeance (3:43–66).
In this reading, the poet proffers the view that Israel's destruction was caused by its own guilt. The punishment was earned, not arbitrary (3:33–39), and only submission could bring it to an end (3:40–41). The theory of suffering expressed in verses 25–36, then, is that of the wisdom tradition; many of its features are expressed in certain psalms, in Proverbs, Ben Sira, and in the arguments of Job's friends. Like Lamentations 3:27, this tradition holds that suffering can benefit a person. The classic expression of this view is Proverbs 3:11–12: "My son, reject not the Lord's discipline; Abhor not His chastisement. For the Lord chastises him whom He loves, As a father does the son he favors" (cf. Ps. 94:12–15; Job 5:17). Lamentations adapts this theory in order to explain the suffering not only of an individual but also of an entire nation.
In the alternative reading (see Dobbs-Alsopp, Linafelt, O'Connor, and Cooper in Bibl.), the sufferer does not acquiesce so readily to a wisdom-based theodicy. He is less concerned with explaining his suffering than with finding a way of putting an end to it. In his desperate quest for relief, he will try anything – even turn the other cheek (3:30), or profess an absurd faith in divine goodness that is at odds with his own experience (3:31–36). The hopeful possibilities turn out to be illusory: after that bit of soul-searching, the situation is no less desperate than before. The poet's call for self-examination in 3:40 has no apparent effect: God refuses to forgive (3:42), murders pitilessly, and blocks out prayer (3:42–46). The chapter opens with the details of the sufferer's gruesome victimization (3:2–16); the dominant theme is a parody of Psalm 23: "the Lord is a shepherd who misleads, a ruler who oppresses and imprisons" (Hillers in Bibl., 124). That description is complemented by the conclusion of the poem (3:52–66), which includes a parody of a thanksgiving psalm (3:52–61), a description of the speaker's suffering at the hands of his enemies, and a plea for revenge (3:62–66). The beginning of the poem is linked to the end by forms of the root shuv: "God has turned against me" (bi yashuv, 3:3) is transformed into "Take vengeance against them" (tashiv lahem gemul, 3:64). In chapter 4, God represents nothing to the poet except wrath and destruction.
The source of this bleak alternative reading of chapter 3 is not wisdom theology, but the widespread "personal religion" of the ancient Near East. Personal religion is a "religious attitude in which the religious individual sees himself as standing in a close personal relationship to the divine, expecting help and guidance in his personal life and personal affairs, expecting divine punishment if he sins, but also profoundly trusting to divine compassion, forgiveness, and love for him if he sincerely repents" (T. Jacobsen in Bibl., 147). The sufferer in chapter 3 recognizes God as the source of his suffering, and acknowledges his sinfulness in a general way, as part of being human, but he does not see his suffering as just punishment for his sin. Rather, he finds the extent of God's anger incomprehensible; his only hope is that crying out in his wretchedness will evoke God's compassion.
Aside from the possible affinity with the wisdom tradition noted above, the book generally reflects the ideology of popular religion (Y. Kaufmann). In particular, ideological affinities with classical prophecy are lacking. The book describes the demise of those institutions in which nations customarily place their trust, and the tone of the description shows the author to have shared this trust: he grieves over the spoliation and destruction of the Temple and its cult (1:4, 10; 2:1, 6, 7), the fate of priests and prophets (1:4, 19; 2:6, 9, 20; 4:16), king and princes, warriors, and officers (1:6, 15; 2:2, 6, 9; 4:7–8, 20; 5:12), the failure of the city's fortifications (4:12), and her defensive alliances (1:2; 4:17). Prior to the disaster, he may have thought that the city and its institutions were inviolable, owing to God's protective presence (Brunet, Albrektson in Bibl.). The classical prophets', especially Jeremiah's, excoriation of trust in these is nowhere reflected (2:14 reflects hindsight rather than the classical prophetic view on the popular prophets).
Lamentations also is perfunctory when it comes to the nature of Israel's sins. One searches the book almost in vain for the mention of a specific sin. Idolatry is not mentioned. Nowhere do we hear of the sins for which classical prophecy threatened destruction: social injustice, oppression of the weaker classes, bribery, and so on. Only 4:13 appears to specify a sin: "It was for the sins of her prophets, the iniquities of her priests, /Who had shed in her midst the blood of the innocent." It is not clear under what circumstances the priests and prophets are supposed to have shed innocent blood, since elsewhere in the Bible it is kings and ministers who are accused of this crime. The accusation does not carry conviction; it strikes one as a grasping at straws. It is a conventional accusation of the sort that biblical authors frequently level against nations and kings as well as individuals (cf. ii Kings 21:16; 24:4; Isa. 1:15; 59:7; Ezek. 7:23; 16:38; 18:10; 22:3, et al.). In Lamentations it gives the impression of an attempt to account for a calamity that the author could not really explain. A measure of his difficulty is provided in 5:7, where he complains "Our fathers sinned and are no more; /And we must bear their guilt" – a complaint that echoes the popular view mentioned and rejected by Jeremiah and Ezekiel (Jer. 31:28; Ezek. 18:2). The poet does not thereby disclaim any responsibility by his own generation, for just nine verses later he laments "Woe to us that we have sinned!" (5:16); but by invoking the sins of the fathers as at least partial explanation, he shows how difficult it was for him – quite unlike the classical prophets – to discover a sufficient measure of sinfulness in his own generation. Finally, the peculiar vacillation between hope and despair in the difficult concluding verses of the book perfectly epitomizes the equivocal nature of the book as a whole (see Linafelt in Bibl., 59–61). It follows that Lamentations' acknowledgement of sin is based on theological cliché, rooted in the widespread popular religious conceptions of the ancient Near East rather than a coherent biblical theology.
The book describes the destruction and suffering from the viewpoint of several speakers (see Lanahan and Kaiser), and uses various metaphors. The subject of chapters 1–2 is Lady Zion. The great lady who was virtually a goddess (rabbati in 1:1 could be read as a divine epithet) is now abased. In 1:1–11b the poet describes her suffering in the third person, while in 11b–22 (excepting verse 17) Zion herself speaks. The third person description is more brutal and explicit, verging on the pornographic in 1:8–10; the first-person account is more sympathetic. Chapter 2 features the same female personification, though somewhat less pronounced; in 2:1–10 the poet describes the destruction, speaking of Zion in the third person again, while in 11–17 he turns lyric, expressing his own sorrow and (13–17) addressing Jerusalem and her wall in the second person; in 18 or 19–22 he calls upon the city or the wall to cry out to God, and describes what is to be said. In 3:1–39 the speaker is a man who describes his own suffering in the first person singular, in the style of the individual laments in Psalms (see Westermann); in verses 40–47 (beginning with the letter nun, which is the Hebrew first person plural prefix) there is a shift to the first person plural, and the style is that of the national lament; in verses 48–51 the speaker is an individual mourning the fate of the city; and in verses 52–66 the lament of the individual sufferer, with which the poem began, resumes. The mixture of styles is certainly original in the chapter, since the acrostic structure presupposes all of these sections. The identity of the man speaking in the individual lament portion of the chapter has been the subject of many theories. Naturally many have thought him to be Jeremiah, both on the basis of his own suffering (which cannot easily be correlated with the description in Chapter 3) and his supposed authorship of the book (see below). Kaufmann identifies him as Zedekiah, Judah's last king, since Zedekiah's fate aptly symbolized the fate of the nation. R. Gordis suggests no specific individual, but invokes the concept of "fluid personality" and sees the poet as identifying his own suffering with that of his nation; D. Hillers similarly identifies the speaker with "Everyman." O. Eissfeldt treats the individual as a literary device personifying Jerusalem or Judah. Chapters 4 and 5 do not employ metaphors or personification for Judah and Jerusalem; 4:1–16 consist of a third person description of the suffering of Zion's inhabitants; 17–20 of a first person plural description of pursuit and frustrated hopes. In 21–22 the poet apostrophizes triumphant Edom, telling her that her time will come, too, and Zion, telling her that her sin is now expiated. Chapter 5 is a first person plural prayer calling upon God to take note of the suffering following the destruction.
The first four poems are alphabetic acrostics, as if to express the gamut of sorrow from a to z (see Gottwald in Bibl.). In chapters 1 and 2 each letter of the alphabet introduces a verse of three lines (1:7 and 2:19 have four). Chapter 3 is a triple acrostic with each letter introducing each of three successive stichs; in chapter 4 each letter introduces a verse of two lines (chs. 2–4 have an unusual alphabetic order, with פ preceding ע; this alternative to the usual order is attested in an inscription from the biblical period; see *Alphabet). Chapter 5, while not acrostic, has 22 verses (like ch. 1, 2, 4), corresponding to the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet, of one line each. Because of the limitations imposed on the poet's choice of words by the alphabetic structure, the logical connection of the verses is somewhat loose (in 3:17–42 these limitations have been largely overcome); themes are treated where the alphabet provides opportunity; the exegete must consequently piece together a complete picture of a theme from various passages.
Chapters 1–2, as noted by A. Condamin, also display chiasmus: with 1:22, 21, 20, 19, 18, and 12 echoing, respectively, 1:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 11; and with 2:22, 21, 20, 13, and 12 echoing, respectively, 2:1, 2, 3, 10, and 11. Symmetrical design has been discerned more recently in chapters 3 and 4 as well (see Brandscheidt, Renkema, Cooper). On the possible chronological arrangement of the chapters, see below.
Lamentations incorporates elements of the lamentation form known from elsewhere in the Bible, in funeral dirges, national laments, and other expressions of grief and regret. Typical is the opening of chapters 1, 2, and 4 with (איכ(ה, eikh (ah), introducing a description of unexpected reversal of good fortune (cf. ii Sam. 1:19ff.; Isa. 14:4ff.; Jer. 9:18; Zeph. 2:15). Each of the poems ends on a note of prayer or confidence (1:20–22; 2:18–22; 3:64–66; 4:22; 5:20–21), as do other biblical laments (Ps. 28:6–9; 44:25–27; 74:19–23, et al.). The book's acknowledgement of guilt is paralleled in individual laments (Ps. 38:5, 19; 51:3ff.), but this element is rare in the national laments in Psalms (Ps. 79:8–9), which more frequently protest innocence (Ps. 44:18–23) or at least confess no guilt; on the other hand, national laments appearing in the prophets do express guilt (Jer. 3:25; 14:7, 20; Hos. 6:1, 3; 14:3b–4), suggesting that this was an original element in the genre (Eissfeldt in bibl., 113–14). Chapters 1–4 often employ distichs in which the second hemistich is shorter than the first, which seems to die away in the second, producing a choked or sobbing effect (e.g., 1:5; 2:5; 3:1ff.; 4:7; 5:2–3). Since this pattern appears in some other biblical laments (e.g., Isa. 14:4ff.; Ezek. 19; Amos 5:2), and was first identified in Lamentations, it is often called the elegiac or qinah meter; however, other laments lack this meter (e.g., ii Sam. 1:19ff.; 3:33–34), and at the same time it also appears in other types of compositions (e.g., Song 5:9ff.; Ps. 19:8ff.); understanding of the meter of biblical poetry is too poor to allow for definite conclusions.
Authorship and Date
Lamentations itself contains no statement of its authorship. The tradition that Jeremiah wrote the book is reflected in the introductory verses of the present Septuagint (see above) and the Targum, the book's complete Greek and Latin titles (θρὴνφοι Ἰερεμίον, lamentationes Jeremiae prophetae), and rabbinic sources (bb 15a, et al.). Beyond the fact that (1) Jeremiah was, in the eyes of later generations, the dominant personality who lived through the disaster, this tradition may have been prompted to some extent by (2) similar metaphors and expressions in Jeremiah and Lamentations, (3) by Jeremiah's call, before the destruction, for a lament to be uttered over it by himself and others (Jer. 7:29; 9:9, 19), (4) by the statement that Jeremiah composed a lament over Josiah which is written "in the laments" (ii Chron. 35:25; cf. Jos., Ant., 10:5, 78; the Targum actually takes Lam. 4:20 to refer to Josiah), and (5) by presumed references to Jeremiah's life in 3:14, 53–56 (cf. Jer. 20:7; 38:6ff.). Modern advocates of Jeremianic authorship stress (2) in particular.
Most modern scholars deny Jeremianic authorship. Arguments (1) and (3) are clearly inconclusive. Stylistic similarities (2) may indicate at most literary influence or a common contemporary idiom, and in view of similarities to Deuteronomy (Kaufmann, in bibl., 597) and Ezekiel (Perles, in bibl., 98; Löhr, in bibl., 31–50) as well, an explanation along these lines seems more likely. Jeremiah's lament over Josiah (4) refers not to the events of 587 but to one in 609. The supposed references to Jeremiah's life (5) are nothing more than literary clichés standard in individual laments, and Lamentations 3:54 in fact contradicts Jeremiah 38:6. The most telling argument is that of ideology: as noted above, the viewpoints of Lamentations and classical prophecy conflict on fundamental issues. For example, the author of Lamentations is one of those who counted on foreign help and who trusted in Zedekiah (4:17, 20), while Jeremiah denounced reliance on other nations and predicted doom for Zedekiah (Jer. 2:18, 36b; 24:8–10). Jeremiah, who pointed out Israel's sins on many occasions and to whom the destruction was self-understood, could hardly have been as vague and uncertain about Israel's sin as the author of Lamentations is.
There is some reason to doubt that all the chapters are from the same hand. The usual type of argument from style is of course notoriously subjective. However, the unusual alphabetic order of chapters 2–4 suggests that they may not be by the same author as chapter 1, and the absence of acrostic in chapter 5 suggests the same for it. Numerous linguistic similarities between the chapters can be invoked in favor of the book's unity (Rudolph, Kaufmann, et al.), but these might also be explained by literary influence or a common contemporary style, and/or a vocabulary characteristic of the literary genre. Hence, though for convenience it is customary to speak of "the author," there is a strong possibility of several authors. It is at least arguable that the author(s) belonged to the upper classes or the court circles. This is suggested by his devotion to royalty (4:7–8), his esteem for the leaders (1:6), and his concern for the suffering of the well-to-do (4:5). Chapter 4, verse 19 implies that the author was among the party that fled with Zedekiah but escaped when he was captured (ii Kings 25:4–6). While sins of priests and prophets are mentioned (2:14; 4:13), those of the king and officials are not.
Dating the individual chapters is an especially elusive problem, and the following remarks are offered with reserve. It seems quite likely that the author is a contemporary of the events that he describes, since he so frequently seems to have shared the hopes, disappointments, and experiences of the period of destruction (see esp. 4:17–20). W. Rudolph argues that chapter 1 presupposes only the events of 598, since it does not mention the destruction of Jerusalem (cf. R. Judah in Lam. R. 1:1, 20 (ed. Buber, 22a) who dates the entire book to the reign of Jehoiakim). However, in this and other details the chapter could as well reflect the events of 587 before the final destruction and deportation following the seventh of Av (ii Kings 25:8ff.). Chapters 2 and 4 could be slightly later than that date: Zedekiah has been captured and taken to Babylon (2:9; 4:20; cf. ii Kings 25:6–7), the Temple and the city walls have been destroyed (2:1, 4, 6–9, 17 (but cf. 18); 4:1, 11; cf. ii Kings 25:9–10), but the deportation (ii Kings 25:11) is as yet incomplete, and starvation (cf. ii Kings 25:3) continues (Lam. 2:10–12, 19–22; 4:3–5, 8, 17). Chapter 3 offers no firm criteria for dating. Chapter 5 speaks as if the suffering and subjugation have continued for some time (e.g., 5:20); the Temple Mount is now desolate (5:18). How much later than the destruction the chapter was written cannot be determined. Certainly none of the chapters can postdate Cyrus' proclamation of 538 (ii Chron. 36:22–23; Ezra 1:1–4), since the hope that it engendered is not reflected in the book.
If the above chronology should be correct, chapters 1, 2, 4, and 5 would seem to be ordered chronologically: chapter 1 before the burning of the Temple and city; chapters 2 and 4 after the burning but before the deportation is complete; chapter 5 somewhat later.
Relation to Mesopotamian Lamentations
Lamentations over destroyed cities and temples are known from Mesopotamia. Several Sumerian laments date from the early second millennium b.c.e., while Akkadian laments date from the first millennium b.c.e. Numerous parallels in subject matter – hunger, destruction of city and temple, pillage, flight, captivity, wailing – might reflect similar experiences, or might be evidence of a more specific literary relationship. In recent years, scholars have taken up these comparisons in detail (see Ferris, Dobbs-Alsopp, and Emmendörfer in Bibl.). In addition, there have been suggestive comparisons of Lamentations with genres of Mesopotamian penitential literature other than the city and temple laments (see, e.g., Gwaltney and Cooper in Bibl.), and these, too, have been productive for the interpretation of Lamentations. These studies have shown that Lamentations uses many of the same rhetorical strategies as contemporary Mesopotamian laments: the plea to an unanswering god; the invective against the enemy; the detailed description of the suffering; and the changes of person. The overall intention of Lamentations may be comparable to the purpose of the Mesopotamian laments as well. It is to quench the burning anger of the god(s), as is clearly indicated by two of the major genre designations, "Lament for Calming the Heart," and "Incantation for Appeasing an Angry God." In these prayers, as in Lamentations, the speaker's suffering and misfortune are in the foreground, alongside acknowledgement of the divine anger that caused the suffering. For example, in a text reminiscent of Lamentations 5:7: "Drive out from my body illness that is from known and unknown iniquity … the iniquity of clan, kith, and kin, that has come upon me because of the raging anger of my god and goddess." As in Lamentations, the penitent confesses in a general way: "The iniquities of mankind are more numerous than the hairs on his head." Like the poet in Lamentations 5:21, the Mesopotamian sufferer seeks a return to a former, happier time: "For me may the heart of my god become as it was." The speaker acknowledges guilt, and recognizes divine wrath as the cause of suffering, but the confessional element is not integrated into a "prophetic" scheme of sin, punishment, repentance, and forgiveness.
[Jeffrey Howard Tigay /
Alan Cooper (2nd ed.)]
In the Arts
The Lamentations traditionally ascribed to Jeremiah have given rise to the literary term "jeremiad" (from Late Latin by way of French), in the sense of a prolonged complaint or lament. Writers directly inspired by the Book of Lamentations are, however, comparatively rare. In the 16th century, Jan Kochanowski, the architect of Polish verse, wrote the epic poem Treny ("Lamentations," 1580; Eng. selections, 1920), one of several biblical works by this Renaissance author. Two other works of the 17th century were Lágrimas de Hieremías castellanas (1613) by the Spanish writer Francisco Gómez de Quevedo y Villegos (1580–1645), and the Marrano writer João *Pinto Delgado's Lamentaciones del Propheta Jeremias (Rouen, 1627). Les Lamentations de Jérémie (Dresden, 1752), a religious poem by François-Thomas de Baculard d'Arnaud (1718–1805), is best remembered for a satirical epigram which it drew from *Voltaire. The Latin (Vulgate) text of Lamentations was included in the French writer D. Desmarchais' four-canto poem Jérémie (1772). A powerful work of the 19th century was Skargi Jeremiego ("The Lamentations of Jeremiah," 1893), a poem written in 1847–48 by Kornel Ujejski, who commemorated the sufferings of the oppressed Poles and the heroism of Adam *Mickiewicz.
Treatments of the subject in music far outnumber those in literature. (For the traditional Jewish musical rendition, see The Five *Scrolls, Musical Rendition.) Several melodic patterns for the recitations of Lamentations in the Roman Catholic Church are known from the manuscript tradition of the Gregorian chant, although one version only is now commonly used. The melodic recitation includes not only the text itself, but also the opening sentence Incipit lamentatio Jeremiae prophetae (a practice found also in the other biblical and New Testament readings of the Roman rite) and the Hebrew letters aleph, beth, etc., which mark the beginning of each verse or group of verses in the acrostic chapters 1 to 4; and a concluding sentence for each section, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, convertere ad Dominum Deum tuum. The Hebrew letter names are set to long melismas (melodic arabesques), which are also imitated in the art music settings of Lamentations. During the baroque period, the practice arose of setting Jerusalem, Jerusalem as a series of calls, preferably with echo effects. Until well into the baroque period, art music settings were always based on the traditional melodies, which (sung by the tenor voice) formed the "skeleton" of a simple harmonic construction.
Ten examples of the traditional Tonus Lamentationum from various regions can be found in B. Staeblein, "Lamentatio" (in mgg, 8 (1960), cols. 135–9). The resemblance of two of these to Jewish traditional melodies was pointed out by A.Z. *Idelsohn (Idelsohn, Music, 51, 55–56). Many of the others, too, evoke some association with various Jewish recitations of Eikhah (Lamentations) or of the *kinot. However, the intrinsic plausibility of a common heritage has still to be proved by a far more rigorous comparative and historical reconstruction than that at present available in the work of Idelsohn and his successors (cf. *Music, Jewish; Introduction).
The first polyphonic settings of Lamentations made their appearance in the 15th century in the works of composers of the "Netherland" school. In 1454, Guillaume Dufay wrote a four-voice motet on the fall of Constantinople, O très piteux, for the "Banquet of the Pheasant" held in Lille by Philip the Good of Burgundy and intended to open a new Crusade. The liturgical melody of Lamentations is sung in Latin by the tenor, while the other voices sing the French poem. Two collections of polyphonic Lamentations by various composers were among the first products of music printing (Petrucci, Venice, 1506); and by the end of the 16th century more than a dozen similar collections had appeared in Italy, France, and Germany. C. Morales' Lamentations (1564) represent the first unified composition of the entire text by a single composer, and this became the common practice. The list of composers of Lamentations is practically identical with that of the major composers of the 16th century. Until 1587, the Papal Chapel sang the settings by Genet (Carpentras); these were then replaced by those of Palestrina themselves which were partly superseded after 1641 by those of Allegri. Other notable settings of the 17th century were those of William Byrd, Viadana, and Rosenmueller.
During the 17th, and especially the 18th century, extended compositions of the text became particularly prominent in French music, usually under the name of Leçon de Ténèbres. The liturgical melody was abandoned in favor of free composition, although the principle was retained, i.e., the Incipit lamentatio, the melisma on the Hebrew letter names, and the Jerusalem, Jerusalem call. The Leçons of Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Michel-Richard de Lalande, and François Couperin are particularly well known (see T. Kaeser, Die Leçon de Ténèbres im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert, 1966). Johann Sebastian Bach's cantata no. 46., Schauet doch und sehet (Leipzig, 1723–27), is mainly based on Lam. 1:12–13. Other interesting 18th-century settings are that by Antonio Soler and the motet for solo voice and basso continuo on the Latin text of Lamentations 1 by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (dated 1772).
The Book of Lamentations was virtually ignored by composers of the 19th century. However, there has been a significant revival of interest and a rise in quality and quantity during the 20th century. The most notable modern works are Ernst Křenek's Lamentatio Jeremiae Prophetae, for a capella choir, opus 93 (composed 1941/42); Manuel *Rosenthal's Deux prières pour les temps malheureux (composed 1942); Leonard *Bernstein's Jeremiah Symphony (his first), which contains a middle section in which the Hebrew text of Lamentations 1 is sung by a mezzo-soprano (written 1943); Alberto Ginastera's Hieremiae prophetae Lamentationes, three motets for mixed choir a capella (1946); Edmund Rubbra's Tenebrae-9 Lamentations for orchestra (1951); and Igor Stravinsky's Threni, id est Lamentationes Jeremiae Prophetae for soloists, choir, and orchestra (première, 1958).
commentaries: F. Perles (Heb., 1930); W. Rudolph (Ger., 19622); B. Albrektson, Studies in the Text and Theology of the Book of Lamentations (1963); R. Gordis, in: Seventy-fifth Anniversary Volume of the jqr (1967), 267–86; idem, in: jqr, 58 (1967), 14–33; H.J. Kraus (Ger., 19683); T.F. McDaniel, in: Biblica, 49 (1968), 27–53, 199–220; G. Brunet (Fr., 1968). add. bibliography: H.J. Boecker (Ger., 1985); I.W. Provan (1991); O. Kaiser (Ger., 19924); D.R. Hillers (19922); J. Renkema (1998); A. Berlin (2002); F.W. Dobbs-Allsopp (2002); K.M. O'Connor, Lamentations and the Tears of the World (2002). introductions: S.R. Driver, An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament (1913), 456–65; E.G. Hirsch and M. Löhr, in: je, 7 (1925), 597–9; R.H. Pfeiffer, Introduction to the Old Testament (1948), 720–23; O. Eissfeldt, The Old Testament, An Introduction (1965), 500–5; E. Sellin-G. Fohrer, Introduction to the Old Testament (1968), 295–9; H.L. Ginsberg (ed.), The Five Megilloth and the Book of Jonah (1969), 33–34. add. bibliography: B.S. Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture (1974), 590–97; D.R. Hillers, in: abd, 4 (1992), 137–41. special studies: M. Löhr, in: zaw, 14 (1894), 31–59; 24 (1904), 1–16; 25 (1905), 173–98. add. bibliography: Y. Kaufmann, Toledot, 3 (1960), 584–601; N.K. Gottwald, Studies in the Book of Lamentations (19622); A. Condamin, in: jts, 7 (1905/6), 137–40; W.F. Lanahan, in: jbl, 93 (1974), 41–49; A. Mintz, in: Prooftexts, 2 (1982), 1–17; R. Brandscheidt, Gotteszorn und Menschenleid (1983); B. Johnson, in: zaw, 97 (1985), 58–73; B.B. Kaiser, in: jr, 67 (1987), 164–82; C. Westermann, Lamentations: Issues and Interpretation (1994); F.W. Dobbs-Allsopp, in jsot, 74 (1997), 29–60; K.M. Heim, in: Zion: City of Our God (1999), 129–69; T. Linafelt, Surviving Lamentations (2000); A. Cooper, in: janes, 28 (2001), 1–18; M.J. Boda, in: hbt, 25 (2003), 51–75. extra-biblical lamentations: T.F. McDaniel, in: vt, 18 (1968), 198–209; T. Jacobsen, Treasures of Darkness (1976); W.C. Gwaltney, in: Scripture in Context ii (1983), 191–211; P.W. Ferris, The Genre of Communal Lament in the Bible and the Ancient Near East (1992); F.W. Dobbs-Allsopp, Weep, O Daughter of Zion (1993); M. Emmendörfer, Der ferne Gott (1998). place of lamentations in the canon: L. Blau, in: je, 3 (1902), 144; 8 (1904), 429–31; C.D. Ginsburg, Introduction to the Massoretico-Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible (1966), 3–4. add. bibliography: G. Stemberger, in: jbt, 18 (2003), 261–76.