The Book of Lamentations is a reflection by the Prophet Jeremiah on the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 586 BC, with the subsequent Babylonian Exile. The Book contains five poems of 22 verses each, except for Chapter 3 which contains 66 verses. Each verse of the first four chapters begins with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet, Chapter 3 having three lines for each letter. While the poetry expressed pain and sorrow over the loss of Jerusalem, there is also an acceptance of punishment for the sins of Israel in their disregard for the way of God. Finally there is an expression of hope that God will one day provide deliverance from their chastisement, such as 3:25-26.

The Book of Lamentations was included in the Writings of Hebrew Scripture, and in traditional manner is named after the first word - אֵיכָה - Eichah, which means How, in what manner - "How deserted lies the city, once so full of people."

Lamentations is the third of the five Megillot or Scrolls (See also Song of Songs, Ruth, Ecclesiastes, and Esther) that are read throughout the year during Festivals (Leviticus 23) or Jewish Memorial Holidays. Lamentations is read on the Ninth of Av - Tisha B'Av - a day of mourning recalling the destruction of Jerusalem and Solomon's Temple (Second Kings 25:8-9, Jeremiah 52:12-23), and the Second Temple in 70 AD by the Romans. The Memorial Holiday generally occurs during the months of July or August (July 26-27 in 2023).

Tisha B'av - the Ninth of Av in Hebrew.

In the Greek Septuagint, the book was named Θρήνοι - Threnoi - and placed in the Prophetic Books, following Jeremiah. The Book is followed by Baruch and the Letter of Jeremiah in the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate, and then the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel. It is found in all Christian Old Testaments of the Bible.

The following Scripture is from the Authorized King James Version of the Holy Bible, now in the public domain, and the New International Version. King James I commissioned a group of Biblical scholars in 1604 to establish an authoritative translation of the Bible from the ancient languages and other translations at the time, and the work was completed in 1611. The original King James Bible included the Apocrypha but in a separate section. A literary masterpiece of the English language, the original King James Bible is still in use today. Chapter One, 3:25-26, and 5:19-22 are taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society (now Biblica).



The Desolation of Jerusalem

1 How deserted lies the city,
once so full of people!
How like a widow is she,
who once was great among the nations!
She who was queen among the provinces
has now become a slave.

2 Bitterly she weeps at night,
tears are upon her cheeks.
Among all her lovers
there is none to comfort her.
All her friends have betrayed her;
they have become her enemies.

3 After affliction and harsh labor,
Judah has gone into exile.
She dwells among the nations;
she finds no resting place.
All who pursue her have overtaken her
in the midst of her distress.

4 The roads to Zion mourn,
for no one comes to her appointed feasts.
All her gateways are desolate,
her priests groan,
her maidens grieve,
and she is in bitter anguish.

5 Her foes have become her masters;
her enemies are at ease.
The LORD has brought her grief
because of her many sins.
Her children have gone into exile,
captive before the foe.

6 All the splendor has departed
from the Daughter of Zion.
Her princes are like deer
that find no pasture;
in weakness they have fled
before the pursuer.

7 In the days of her affliction and wandering
Jerusalem remembers all the treasures
that were hers in days of old.
When her people fell into enemy hands,
there was no one to help her.
Her enemies looked at her
and laughed at her destruction.

8 Jerusalem has sinned greatly
and so has become unclean.
All who honored her despise her,
for they have seen her nakedness;
she herself groans and turns away.

9 Her filthiness clung to her skirts;
she did not consider her future.
Her fall was astounding;
there was none to comfort her.
"Look, O LORD, on my affliction,
for the enemy has triumphed."

10 The enemy laid hands
on all her treasures;
she saw pagan nations
enter her sanctuary -
those you had forbidden
to enter your assembly.

11 All her people groan
as they search for bread;
they barter their treasures for food
to keep themselves alive.
"Look, O LORD, and consider,
for I am despised."

12 Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?
Look around and see.
Is any suffering like my suffering
that was inflicted on me,
that the LORD brought on me
in the day of his fierce anger?

13 From on high he sent fire,
sent it down into my bones.
He spread a net for my feet
and turned me back.
He made me desolate,
faint all the day long.

14 My sins have been bound into a yoke;
by his hands they were woven together.
They have come upon my neck
and the Lord has sapped my strength.
He has handed me over
to those I cannot withstand.

15 The Lord has rejected
all the warriors in my midst;
he has summoned an army against me
to crush my young men.
In his winepress the Lord has trampled
the Virgin Daughter of Judah.

16 This is why I weep
and my eyes overflow with tears.
No one is near to comfort me,
no one to restore my spirit.
My children are destitute
because the enemy has prevailed.

17 Zion stretches out her hands,
but there is no one to comfort her.
The LORD has decreed for Jacob
that his neighbors become his foes;
Jerusalem has become
an unclean thing among them.

18 The LORD is righteous,
yet I rebelled against his command.
Listen, all you peoples;
look upon my suffering.
My young men and maidens
have gone into exile.

19 I called to my allies
but they betrayed me.
My priests and my elders
perished in the city
while they searched for food
to keep themselves alive.

20 See, O LORD, how distressed I am!
I am in torment within,
and in my heart I am disturbed,
for I have been most rebellious.
Outside, the sword bereaves;
inside, there is only death.

21 People have heard my groaning,
but there is no one to comfort me.
All my enemies have heard of my distress;
they rejoice at what you have done.
May you bring the day you have announced
so they may become like me.

22 Let all their wickedness come before you;
deal with them
as you have dealt with me
because of all my sins.
My groans are many
and my heart is faint.


God's Anger Towards Israel

1 How hath the Lord covered the daughter of Zion
with a cloud in his anger,
and cast down from heaven unto the earth
the beauty of Israel,
and remembered not his footstool
in the day of his anger!

2 The Lord hath swallowed up
all the habitations of Jacob,
and hath not pitied:
he hath thrown down in his wrath
the strong holds of the daughter of Judah;
he hath brought them down to the ground:
he hath polluted the kingdom and the princes thereof.

3 He hath cut off in his fierce anger
all the horn of Israel:
he hath drawn back his right hand
from before the enemy,
and he burned against Jacob like a flaming fire,
which devoureth round about.

4 He hath bent his bow like an enemy:
he stood with his right hand as an adversary,
and slew all that were pleasant to the eye
in the tabernacle of the daughter of Zion:
he poured out his fury like fire.

5 The Lord was as an enemy:
he hath swallowed up Israel,
he hath swallowed up all her palaces:
he hath destroyed his strong holds,
and hath increased in the daughter of Judah
mourning and lamentation.

6 And he hath violently taken away his tabernacle,
as if it were of a garden:
he hath destroyed his places of the assembly:
the Lord hath caused the solemn feasts
and sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion,
and hath despised in the indignation of his anger
the king and the priest.

7 The Lord hath cast off his altar,
he hath abhorred his sanctuary,
he hath given up into the hand of the enemy
the walls of her palaces;
they have made a noise in the house of the Lord,
as in the day of a solemn feast.

8 The Lord hath purposed to destroy
the wall of the daughter of Zion:
he hath stretched out a line,
he hath not withdrawn his hand from destroying:
therefore he made the rampart and the wall to lament;
they languished together.

9 Her gates are sunk into the ground;
he hath destroyed and broken her bars:
her king and her princes are among the Gentiles:
the law is no more;
her prophets also find no vision from the Lord.

10 The elders of the daughter of Zion
sit upon the ground, and keep silence:
they have cast up dust upon their heads;
they have girded themselves with sackcloth:
the virgins of Jerusalem hang down their heads to the ground.

11 Mine eyes do fail with tears,
my [heart] is troubled,
my liver is poured upon the earth,
for the destruction of the daughter of my people;
because the children and the sucklings
swoon in the streets of the city.

12 They say to their mothers,
Where is corn and wine?
when they swooned as the wounded
in the streets of the city,
when their soul was poured out
into their mothers’ bosom.

13 What thing shall I take to witness for thee?
what thing shall I liken to thee,
O daughter of Jerusalem?
what shall I equal to thee, that I may comfort thee,
O virgin daughter of Zion?
for thy breach is great like the sea:
who can heal thee?

14 Thy prophets have seen vain and foolish things for thee:
and they have not discovered thine iniquity,
to turn away thy captivity;
but have seen for thee false burdens
and causes of banishment.

15 All that pass by clap their hands at thee;
they hiss and wag their head
at the daughter of Jerusalem,
saying, Is this the city
that men call the perfection of beauty,
The joy of the whole earth?

16 All thine enemies have opened their mouth against thee:
they hiss and gnash the teeth:
they say, We have swallowed her up:
certainly this is the day that we looked for;
we have found, we have seen it.

17 The Lord hath done that which he had devised;
he hath fulfilled his word
that he had commanded in the days of old:
he hath thrown down, and hath not pitied:
and he hath caused thine enemy to rejoice over thee,
he hath set up the horn of thine adversaries.

18 Their heart cried unto the Lord,
O wall of the daughter of Zion,
let tears run down like a river day and night:
give thyself no rest;
let not the apple of thine eye cease.

19 Arise, cry out in the night:
in the beginning of the watches
pour out thine heart like water
before the face of the Lord:
lift up thy hands toward him
for the life of thy young children,
that faint for hunger in the top of every street.

20 Behold, O Lord, and consider
to whom thou hast done this.
Shall the women eat their fruit,
and children of a span long?
shall the priest and the prophet
be slain in the sanctuary of the Lord?

21 The young and the old
lie on the ground in the streets:
my virgins and my young men are fallen by the sword;
thou hast slain them in the day of thine anger;
thou hast killed, and not pitied.

22 Thou hast called as in a solemn day
my terrors round about,
so that in the day of the Lord’s anger
none escaped nor remained:
those that I have swaddled and brought up
hath mine enemy consumed.


Jeremiah Shares the Affliction of Israel

1 I am the man that hath seen affliction
by the rod of his wrath.
2 He hath led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into light.
3 Surely against me is he turned;
he turneth his hand against me all the day.

4 My flesh and my skin hath he made old;
he hath broken my bones.
5 He hath builded against me,
and compassed me with gall and travail.
6 He hath set me in dark places,
as they that be dead of old.

7 He hath hedged me about, that I cannot get out:
he hath made my chain heavy.
8 Also when I cry and shout,
he shutteth out my prayer.
9 He hath inclosed my ways with hewn stone,
he hath made my paths crooked.

10 He was unto me as a bear lying in wait,
and as a lion in secret places.
11 He hath turned aside my ways, and pulled me in pieces:
he hath made me desolate.
12 He hath bent his bow,
and set me as a mark for the arrow.

13 He hath caused the arrows of his quiver
to enter into my reins.
14 I was a derision to all my people;
and their song all the day.
15 He hath filled me with bitterness,
he hath made me drunken with wormwood.

16 He hath also broken my teeth with gravel stones,
he hath covered me with ashes.
17 And thou hast removed my soul far off from peace:
I forgat prosperity.
18 And I said, My strength and my hope
is perished from the Lord:

19 remembering mine affliction and my misery,
the wormwood and the gall.
20 My soul hath them still in remembrance,
and is humbled in me.
21 This I recall to my mind,
therefore have I hope.

22 It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed,
because his compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning:
great is thy faithfulness.
24 The Lord is my portion, saith my soul;
therefore will I hope in him.

25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
27 It is good for a man
that he bear the yoke in his youth.

28 He sitteth alone and keepeth silence,
because he hath borne it upon him.
29 He putteth his mouth in the dust;
if so be there may be hope.
30 He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth him:
he is filled full with reproach.

31 For the Lord will not cast off for ever:
32 but though he cause grief,
yet will he have compassion
according to the multitude of his mercies.
33 For he doth not afflict willingly
nor grieve the children of men.

34 To crush under his feet
all the prisoners of the earth,
35 to turn aside the right of a man
before the face of the most High,
36 to subvert a man in his cause,
the Lord approveth not.

37 Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass,
when the Lord commandeth it not?
38 Out of the mouth of the most High
proceedeth not evil and good?
39 Wherefore doth a living man complain,
a man for the punishment of his sins?

40 Let us search and try our ways,
and turn again to the Lord.
41 Let us lift up our heart with our hands
unto God in the heavens.
42 We have transgressed and have rebelled:
thou hast not pardoned.

43 Thou hast covered with anger, and persecuted us:
thou hast slain, thou hast not pitied.
44 Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud,
that our prayer should not pass through.
45 Thou hast made us as the offscouring
and refuse in the midst of the people.

46 All our enemies
have opened their mouths against us.
47 Fear and a snare is come upon us,
desolation and destruction.
48 Mine eye runneth down with rivers of water
for the destruction of the daughter of my people.

49 Mine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not,
without any intermission,
50 till the Lord look down,
and behold from heaven.
51 Mine eye affecteth mine heart
because of all the daughters of my city.

52 Mine enemies chased me sore,
like a bird, without cause.
53 They have cut off my life in the dungeon,
and cast a stone upon me.
54 Waters flowed over mine head;
then I said, I am cut off.

55 I called upon thy name, O Lord,
out of the low dungeon.
56 Thou hast heard my voice:
hide not thine ear at my breathing, at my cry.
57 Thou drewest near in the day that I called upon thee:
thou saidst, Fear not.

58 O Lord, thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul;
thou hast redeemed my life.
59 O Lord, thou hast seen my wrong:
judge thou my cause.
60 Thou hast seen all their vengeance
and all their imaginations against me.

61 Thou hast heard their reproach, O Lord,
and all their imaginations against me;
62 the lips of those that rose up against me,
and their device against me all the day.
63 Behold their sitting down, and their rising up;
I am their music.

64 Render unto them a recompence, O Lord,
according to the work of their hands.
65 Give them sorrow of heart,
thy curse unto them.
66 Persecute and destroy them in anger
from under the heavens of the Lord.


Description of the Siege

1 How is the gold become dim!
how is the most fine gold changed!
the stones of the sanctuary are poured out
in the top of every street.
2 The precious sons of Zion,
comparable to fine gold,
how are they esteemed as earthen pitchers,
the work of the hands of the potter!
3 Even the sea monsters draw out the breast,
they give suck to their young ones:
the daughter of my people is become cruel,
like the ostriches in the wilderness.

4 The tongue of the sucking child
cleaveth to the roof of his mouth for thirst:
the young children ask bread,
and no man breaketh it unto them.
5 They that did feed delicately are desolate in the streets:
they that were brought up in scarlet embrace dunghills.
6 For the punishment of the iniquity of the daughter of my people
is greater than the punishment of the sin of Sodom,
that was overthrown as in a moment,
and no hands stayed on her.

7 Her Nazarites were purer than snow,
they were whiter than milk,
they were more ruddy in body than rubies,
their polishing was of sapphire:
8 their visage is blacker than a coal;
they are not known in the streets:
their skin cleaveth to their bones;
it is withered, it is become like a stick.
9 They that be slain with the sword are better
than they that be slain with hunger:
for these pine away,
stricken through for want of the fruits of the field.

10 The hands of the pitiful women have sodden their own children:
they were their meat in the destruction of the daughter of my people.
11 The Lord hath accomplished his fury;
he hath poured out his fierce anger,
and hath kindled a fire in Zion,
and it hath devoured the foundations thereof.
12 The kings of the earth, and all the inhabitants of the world,
would not have believed that the adversary and the enemy
should have entered into the gates of Jerusalem.

13 For the sins of her prophets,
and the iniquities of her priests,
that have shed the blood of the just in the midst of her,
14 they have wandered as blind men in the streets,
they have polluted themselves with blood,
so that men could not touch their garments.
15 They cried unto them, Depart ye; it is unclean;
depart, depart, touch not:
when they fled away and wandered,
they said among the heathen,
They shall no more sojourn there.

16 The anger of the Lord hath divided them;
he will no more regard them:
they respected not the persons of the priests,
they favoured not the elders.
17 As for us, our eyes as yet failed for our vain help:
in our watching we have watched
for a nation that could not save us.
18 They hunt our steps, that we cannot go in our streets:
our end is near, our days are fulfilled;
for our end is come.

19 Our persecutors are swifter than the eagles of the heaven:
they pursued us upon the mountains,
they laid wait for us in the wilderness.
20 The breath of our nostrils,
the anointed of the Lord,
was taken in their pits, of whom we said,
Under his shadow we shall live among the heathen.
21 Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom,
that dwellest in the land of Uz;
the cup also shall pass through unto thee:
thou shalt be drunken, and shalt make thyself naked.
22 The punishment of thine iniquity is accomplished,
O daughter of Zion;
he will no more carry thee away into captivity:
he will visit thine iniquity,
O daughter of Edom;
he will discover thy sins.


A Prayer for Mercy

1 Remember, O Lord, what is come upon us:
consider, and behold our reproach.
2 Our inheritance is turned to strangers,
our houses to aliens.
3 We are orphans and fatherless,
our mothers are as widows.
4 We have drunken our water for money;
our wood is sold unto us.
5 Our necks are under persecution:
we labour, and have no rest.
6 We have given the hand to the Egyptians,
and to the Assyrians, to be satisfied with bread.
7 Our fathers have sinned, and are not;
and we have borne their iniquities.
8 Servants have ruled over us:
there is none that doth deliver us out of their hand.
9 We gat our bread with the peril of our lives
because of the sword of the wilderness.
10 Our skin was black like an oven
because of the terrible famine.
11 They ravished the women in Zion,
and the maids in the cities of Judah.
12 Princes are hanged up by their hand:
the faces of elders were not honoured.
13 They took the young men to grind,
and the children fell under the wood.
14 The elders have ceased from the gate,
the young men from their musick.
15 The joy of our heart is ceased;
our dance is turned into mourning.
16 The crown is fallen from our head:
woe unto us, that we have sinned!
17 For this our heart is faint;
for these things our eyes are dim.
18 Because of the mountain of Zion, which is desolate,
the foxes walk upon it.

19 You, Lord, reign forever;
your throne endures from generation to generation.
20 Why do you always forget us?
Why do you forsake us so long?
21 Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return;
renew our days as of old
22 unless you have utterly rejected us
and are angry with us beyond measure.