Reflecting back on a whole book when I read it all in just two weeks seems a little silly. Usually, when I write these closing thoughts, it’s an opportunity for me to remember chapters I had read months earlier, allowing me to make connections that are more difficult to make when I’m nose-deep. But I can still talk about my overall impressions of Lamentations, now that I’ve read it.

I was a little concerned going in because I don’t tend to do well with the verse portions of the text. I have the normal lack-of-exposure aversion to verse in general, but on top of that I often find it very difficult to find anything to say. When we’ve encountered verse in the past, such as the song of Moses in Exodus 15, it’s just a lot of imagery that expresses a fairly simply/short idea, often even one that’s already been covered by the surrounding narrative. Apart from oddments here or there, there’s little I can say other than “this image was nice, but that one is rather horrid.”

And it’s clear that I’m not the only one. My Study Bible’s notes have been very sparse for Lamentations, and my New Bible Commentary largely contented itself with drawing parallels to the New Testament to show how Lamentations is really all just presaging Jesus.

But I was pleasantly surprised! My initial plan had been to cover the whole book in just three posts: 1-2, 3, 4-5. But after reading one and seeing all my notes, I realized that I was going to have to take them one at a time, and only my post on Lam. 5 turned out a little on the shorter side.

Mostly, this came down to the themes – where they were similar and, occasionally, where they differed. Each ode seemed to have a different focus, and that was very interesting to look at.

Of course, it was also somewhat depressing. Despite the terrible suffering the odes described, these experiences seemed to have done nothing to teach empathy. Much to the contrary, in fact, two odes ended with notes of hope that all that same suffering would be visited onto others so that the Israelites could have their own turn to gloat. These odes were a perfect opportunity to draw connections between people, to learn perspective and empathy, and yet the authors used them instead to wallow and to form new nationalistic lines. It’s made me very glad that I don’t have a theological interest in trying to understand why this should be a part of my holy book.

Coming up next, I will begin posts on Amos on Feb 29. See you then!