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Confession of Guilt the Source of Hope in Lamentations

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Chapter Summary

Complaint, continuous and unrelieved, is the salient characteristic of the book of Lamentations. Its author portrays, in the darkest possible terms, the ruin of Jerusalem and the agony of her people at home and in exile. After introductory descriptions of Jerusalem's destruction and the misery of exile (1: 1-4), the poet touches upon the rawest nerve of the nation's pain, the malicious triumph of her adversaries. The unrelieved portrayal of suffering and the revelation of Israel's guilt are interrupted in the middle of Lamentations by an acknowledgment of God's benevolence and mercifulness. In keeping with the spirit of the entire book of Lamentations, the passages demonstrate that their author sees the current tragedy of Israel as strictly causally linked with her guilt. Communal penitence signifies true recognition of God and an extreme realism with regard to relationship of humankind with him. God is merciful, but is never prepared to compromise.

Keywords: book of Lamentations; God's benevolence; guilt; Jerusalem

10.1163/9789004276031_029
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