In the Hebrew Old Testament, the book of Lamentations is known as ekah, meaning “How” or “Alas,” taken from this first verse. The Greek version (LXX) calls it Threnoi Ieremiou, lamentations of Jeremiah. The word threnoi is the plural form of a Greek term meaning “to cry aloud,” which is indicative of the anguished nature of the document.

In order to appreciate the message of this book, one must understand something of the historical circumstances which it addresses. It has to do with the destruction of the city of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The account of this is found in 2 Kings 25. Affliction and destruction were very intense.

The prophet Jeremiah was a witness to the spiritual death of the holy city, and the book of Lamentations is actually sort of a funeral dirge that depicts the suffering and sorrow of Jerusalem’s death. The document can be outlined as follows: Chapter 1 – The Suffering of Jerusalem; Chapter 2 – The Suffering of the Temple; Chapter 3 – The Suffering of Jeremiah; Chapter 4 – The Suffering of the Siege; Chapter 5 – Judah’s Penitent Plea.

In the margin of your Bible, near verse 1, write: A funeral song lamenting Jerusalem’s destruction in 586 B.C. Then, enter the little, five-point outline listed above.