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Orthodox Jewish custom requires the book of Lamentations to be read aloud during the fast of Tisha b'Av—the traditional day on which the temple of Solomon was destroyed in 586 B.C. and also the day on which the second temple was demolished by the Roman army in A.D. 70.
The author of Lamentations is not named, but it is traditionally thought to be to the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah was present at the destruction of Solomon's temple when Jerusalem was sacked by the Babylonian armies. He saw the horrifying imagery described in this book.
As well as the historical significance of Lamentations the descriptions of the terrible suffering seems to reflect more than what occurred at that time. It anticipates future events to befall "all the dwelling places of Jacob...every horn of Israel" (Lamentations 2:2-3), not just Judah.
"The first dirge (1:1-22) focuses on the city of Jerusalem… the poet sees the city as a grieving widow, bereft of her children…” (Bible Reader's Companion, chapters 1-3 summary), but it also points to the prophesied time of "Jacob's trouble" or the “great tribulation" (Jeremiah 30:7; Matthew 24:21-22). It highlights what will befall Judah and the nations of modern day Israel in the end time—the former British Empire and the present United States. (See the study guide The United States And Britian In Bible Prophecy).
Lamentations describes not only the lamenting of Jeremiah and the people of Israel, but also of God Himself, who grieved over what befell the rebellious nation. The fact there was a remnant left at all was due to the mercies and compassions of God (3:22). The point of chapter 3 is that we must not fight the judgment of God, but patiently wait on Him. God's message to the Jews of Jeremiah's day was that they surrender to Babylon with full hope and trust that, "... the Lord will not cast off forever" (Lamentations 3:31). Verses 40-41 are a call to self-examination and change, which will renew the relationship with God. God requires repentance as the Apostle Peter urged in Acts 2:38.
In verses 48-55 of chapter 3, Jeremiah again describes his grief over what they must endure, and looks back on his own sufferings at the hands of his enemies, who were the same people he is now weeping for (verse 52). Serving God involved suffering for the prophets just as it did for the Apostles centuries later. Even Jesus was made perfect through what He suffered (Hebrews 2:10 and 5:8; 1 Peter 5:10).
Christians today also suffer for their beliefs. Paul wrote about how the experience of suffering, coupled with God's comfort equips us to serve others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). Sometimes, we also have to learn the hard lesson that giving in to Satan's temptations or to our human nature brings painful consequences.
Chapter 4:13-20 goes on to describe the culpability of corrupt religious leadership.“The active hostility of the religious leadership to Jeremiah and their indifference to the needs of common men, as well as their destructive meddling in politics, all contributed to the corruption of Jewish society and made judgment inevitable" (Bible Reader's Companion, note on Lamentations 4:13-16). The religious leadership of the nations of Israel in the end time will be likewise culpable.
Ancient Israel remained rebellious and did not turn to God, resulting in destruction and suffering occurring again more than six centuries later under the Roman armies and, as mentioned, Scripture also indicates there will be a final great punishment for Israel as the return of Christ draws near.
The last chapter of Lamentations is the cry of human beings about to return to their God in the full understanding of their sin and God's great mercy and love toward them. It takes a miracle and direct intervention by God through the gift of His Holy Spirit for mankind to learn and change. As Jesus Christ explained, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him" (John 6:44). None of the prophets at that time could have foreseen centuries and millennia passing before God brings this evil age to an end.
UCG-iA Bible Commentary