Lamentations of Jeremiah

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Ketuvim (writings) of the Tanakh
Sifrei Emet (poetic books)
חמש מגילות- Megillot (fixed rollers)
Writing prophets
of the Old Testament
Great prophets
Little prophets
Names after the ÖVBE
italics: Catholic Deuterocanon

The Lamentations of Jeremiah , Hebrew אֵיכָה Echa , in the Septuagint θρῆνοι Thrē̂noi , in the Vulgate Lamentationes , also known in Latin as Thrēnī , sometimes also referred to as Jeremiads (abbreviated Klgl or Thr ), are a book of the Tanach that consists of five poems. There they are classified within the Ketuvim (writings), the third part of the Tanach according to Torah (instruction) and Nevi'im (prophets), under the fixed roles ( Megillot ), in the Old Testament of the Bible they are brought forward in the order, already after the prophet Jeremiah .

Time of origin

In the Lamentations, the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple of 586 BC is described. Mourned. The facts of the event are described in 2 Kings 25  EU and Jer 52  EU . From this point of view, an origin between 586 and 530 suggests itself. The deep shock in the first four chapters suggests that they were written out of direct experience shortly after the fall of Jerusalem. Chapter 5 emphasizes more the suffering of exile.


The lamentations are anonymous, they contain nothing that suggests the author. According to Jewish tradition from pre-Christian times ( Targum , Septuagint), the prophet Jeremiah is considered to be the author. Opinions differ in the secondary literature. In the mainstream of today's theological world, Jeremiah is hardly represented as the author. However, there are similarities in style and language between the prophetic book of Jeremiah and the Lamentations. It can be assumed that the author was an eyewitness to the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC. Was a contemporary of Jeremiah. Some authors assume that after the exile, Jeremiah stayed in Judah for a time to look after those who were left behind. The lamentations were written during this time.

Poetic style

The Lamentations are examples of high-quality Hebrew poetry. They are written in the meter of the Jewish lament for the dead ( Qina ), the first four as Abecedarius (alphabetical song). This acrostic not only has the practical purpose of a memory aid, but is also an expression of the limitlessness of all-inclusive grief - compare in German the expression “from A to Z” for “everything”. The acrostic shows that the songs were written literature from the start and not an oral tradition written down later.

The first two songs each contain 22 verses with three lines. The first words of each verse begin in sequence with the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The fourth song is designed in the same way, but there are two lines for each verse. The third song has 66 verses, divided into 22 units of three verses each. Each of these verses begins with the corresponding same letter. A peculiarity is that in the second to fourth song the Pe -vers is, contrary to the current alphabetical order, before the Ajin -vers. However, this sequence is also documented in old alphabet tables. The fifth song has 22 single-line verses, but no specific sequence of letters. The Lamentations use a large number of images to depict the suffering and grief in a vivid way.


The most striking feature is the personification of Jerusalem as the "daughter of Zion ", complaining mother, raped and dishonored lover and abandoned widow. These elements indicate that a genre of ancient oriental city complaints may have served as the model for these texts.
The following elements of complaint can be found:

  1. Description of the condition
  2. Individual complaints of the "Mrs. Jerusalem"
  3. Complaints of the people
  4. The need under the court
  5. The cause of misery
  6. Assumption of guilt

The Lamentations in Judaism and Christianity


Jeremiah laments the destruction of Jerusalem , image field on the great Knesset menorah

Orthodox Jews read the Lamentations weekly at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Tischa beAv is an annual Jewish day of remembrance and fasting to commemorate the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem (Bajith Rishon) by the Babylonians and the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem (Bajith Sheni) by the Romans , on which the Lamentations are recited. The Lamentations, along with Job and Jeremiah, are among the only parts of scripture that devout Jews read during the mourning after the death of a loved one.


Sebastian Raval: Lamentationes , Rome 1594

In the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church, the Lamentations in the Triduum Sacrum of Holy Week are sung as readings in the early morning carmets . In his introduction to the Lamentations, Allioli indicates various motives and intentions of the Church for this choice. In the reading chamber of Paul VI. Reformed and adapted for the German-speaking Catholic Church, the Lamentations have found their place as the first reading in the first series of Holy Week; the fifth lamentation, the Oratio Jeremiah, is also sung there as the third canticle of the reading chamber expanded to the vigil on the nights of the six Sundays of Lent, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.

In the pre-conciliar karliturgy, the chanting of the lamentations is introduced with Incipit Lamentatio Ieremiae prophetae (if the pericope matches the beginning of the text) or De Lamentatione Ieremiae prophetae (if the pericope begins in the middle of the text) or in Klgl 5 with Oratio Ieremiae and in each case with the Latin call Jerusalem, Jerusalem, convertere ad Dominum Deum tuum ("Jerusalem, Jerusalem, convert to your Lord and God") completed.

Third reading, Holy Saturday, Lamentations of Jeremiah 5: 1–11, Tonus peregrinus in Gregorian chant

In the history of church music there are a large number of settings, either only the lamentations or the responsories . The latter include works by Carlo Gesualdo and Marc-Antoine Charpentier . The text of the lamentations is distributed differently on the respective days or nocturnes :

Gregorian chant ( Middle Ages )
(for example in Liber Usualis )
1 day 1: 1-5 1: 6-9 1: 10-15
2 day 2: 8-11 2: 12-15 3: 1-9
3rd day 3: 22-30 4: 1-6 5: 1-11
Carpentras (1539)
1 day 1: 1-4 1: 5.4: 1-2 1: 11-13
2 day 2: 8-10 2: 11.1: 14-15 4: 10-12
3rd day 3: 22-29 1: 8-9.2: 17 5: 1-7
Orlando di Lasso (1584)
1 day 1: 1-3 1: 7-9 1: 12-14
2 day 2: 8-10 2: 13-15 3: 1-9
3rd day 3: 22-30 4: 1-3 5: 1-6
Marc-Antoine Charpentier (late 17th century)
1 day 1: 1-5 1: 6-9 1: 10-14
2 day 2: 8-11 2: 12-15 3: 1-9
3rd day 3: 22-30 4: 1-6 5: 1-11
Jan Dismas Zelenka (1722)
1 day 1: 1-5 1: 6-9 (is missing)
2 day 2: 8-11 2: 12-15 (is missing)
3rd day 3: 22-30 4: 1-6 (is missing)

In the current evangelical pericope order , valid from 2018, the section Lamentations 5.1–22  LUT as part of the sermon series IV is assigned to the 10th Sunday after Trinity ( Israeli Sunday ). Lamentations 3, 22–26, 31–32  LUT is the Old Testament reading (sermon series III) for the 16th Sunday after Trinity.

In August 1663 Matthias Weckmann created a sacred concert from verses from the first chapter with the title How is the city so desert on the 10th Sunday after Trinity, on which the destruction of the city of Jerusalem was commemorated. Rudolf Mauersberger set verses 1, 4, 9, 13 to music; 2.15; 5.17.20-21 in his motet How is the city so desolate from the Dresden cycle on Holy Saturday 1945 as a reaction to the destruction of Dresden . Klaus Miehling wrote a complete cycle of nine lamentations (op.15, 1985) as well as individual pieces: for choir and strings (op.20, 1987), soprano and recorder quartet (op.78, 1999), four parts ATTB (op.84, 2001), high voice and organ (op.230, 2015).


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Richard Brooks: "From the heart ..." Lamentations - ... with pain! 3L, Friedberg 2002, ISBN 3-935188-16-1 , pp. 13-15.
  2. The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments from the Vulgate , Volume 4, p. 298 online at google-books ; see also: GFH Rheinwald, Ed .: Allgemeines Repertorium , Berlin 1836 p. 101 online
  3. Cf. Paul VI., Laudis Canticum 8 (Book of Hours. For the Catholic dioceses of the German-speaking area. Authentic edition for liturgical use. Volume 1. Advent and Christmas Time, Freiburg 1978, 19 * -24 *) and the general introduction to the Book of Hours 55–73 (Book of hours. For the Catholic dioceses of the German-speaking area. Authentic edition for liturgical use. Volume 1. Advent and Christmas time, Freiburg 1978, 52 * –56 *)
  4. See Lectionary. For the Catholic dioceses in the German-speaking area. Authentic edition for liturgical use. Book 2. Lent. First annual series, Freiburg a. a. 1978, 180-182; 184-186; 188-190; 193f .; 197f.
  5. See Book of Hours. For the Catholic dioceses in the German-speaking area. Authentic edition for liturgical use. Second volume. Lent and Easter, Freiburg 1978, 1461f.
  6. The Genre of the Lamentations at (English)