Lamentations 5


The first four poems, chapters, are acrostics, each verse begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet taken in order, Psalm 25 / Psalm 34 / Psalm 37 / Psalm 119. The first, second, and fourth have each twenty-two verses, the number of the letters in the Hebrew alphabet. The third has sixty-six verses, in which each three successive verses begin with the same letter.

The fifth poem or chapter isn’t acrostic, in this prayer, Jeremiah reflects on the past disasters of the people in order to move God to compassion and so with more confessions of sins they committed in the past, they are pleading with God to be merciful towards them.

‘Remember, LORD, what has happened to us; look, and see our disgrace. Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers, our homes to foreigners. We have become fatherless, our mothers are widows. We must buy the water we drink; our wood can be had only at a price. Those who pursue us are at our heels; we are weary and find no rest. We submitted to Egypt and Assyria to get enough bread.’ Lamentations 5:1-6

The word ‘remember’ is used not in the sense that God forgets but in the sense of a plea towards God, 2 Kings 19:14. Here we read of God’s children pleading with Him to keep His promise to deliver them from captivity, whilst they are in captivity they were like helpless orphans and widows who had to buy water and wood in order to survive.

The Babylonians only wanted the best of the best and so when they had finished ransacking Jerusalem, they simply left the poorest parts of the lands alone, the people who were left here are so desperate to survive they have no choice but to buy back the very things which once belonged to them from the Babylonians.

What a sad state this is, prisoners in their own land. We can almost feel the humiliation here as they have to buy food from the Egyptians and the Assyrians in order to survive.

‘Our ancestors sinned and are no more, and we bear their punishment. Slaves rule over us, and there is no one to free us from their hands. We get our bread at the risk of our lives because of the sword in the desert. Our skin is hot as an oven, feverish from hunger. Women have been violated in Zion, and virgins in the towns of Judah. Princes have been hung up by their hands; elders are shown no respect. Young men toil at the millstones; boys stagger under loads of wood. The elders are gone from the city gate; the young men have stopped their music. Joy is gone from our hearts; our dancing has turned to mourning. The crown has fallen from our head. Woe to us, for we have sinned! Because of this our hearts are faint, because of these things our eyes grow dim for Mount Zion, which lies desolate, with jackals prowling over it.’ Lamentations 5:7-18

Like so many things in life, people often have to deal with the consequences of other people’s sins. Maybe a drunk driver runs over your child and your child dies and for the rest of your life, you have to deal with the consequences of someone else’s drunken stupidity.

Here the text tells us that the fathers had gone far away from God and His Word and as a result of their stupidity, their children would have to deal with the consequences they find themselves in whilst in captivity. In other words, the children were reaping what their fathers had sown, but the good news was that God knew this and would show mercy on the children, although the fathers would die in captivity.

The ‘sword of the wilderness’, simply means that there were thieves and murderers who lived in the desert and every time those who were hungry were desperate for food, they would go to the desert to find something which meant they put their lives in danger.

These poor people were suffering from starvation, but they were the remnant people who were left behind in a devastated land. They were the survivors of a disaster that was the result of the sins of the fathers. No wonder they felt helpless and hopeless, they must have felt like there was no hope for the future. In all of this Jeremiah is pleading for God to show them mercy.

‘You, LORD, reign forever; your throne endures from generation to generation. Why do you always forget us? Why do you forsake us so long? Restore us to yourself, LORD, that we may return; renew our days as of old unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry with us beyond measure.’ Lamentations 5:19-22

Jeremiah’s last words here are a reflection of how the people are feeling and, in their despair, they do what they should have done in the beginning, they cry out to God for help, 1 Corinthians 3:6.

Like many of us, it’s not until we reach the lowest of lows when we seem like we just can’t go on, when there seems like there is no hope and we end up doing almost anything to survive, we turn to God.

These Jews were at that point in their lives, and although they didn’t see it, God was working in the background, He was working among another nation, He was about to raise up the Medo-Persian Empire who would eventually wipe out the Babylonians, Daniel 2:39 / Daniel 5:31.

When the Medo-Persian Empire took over, the Jews would once again enjoy the relief that would come when their brothers would return from their captivity in the east to help in the building of the land and the temple, Isaiah 44:28 / 2 Chronicles 36:22-23 / Ezra 1. It was during this time they came to realise that God hadn’t completely rejected His people, He very much still loved them and cared for them.


In the Old Testament, fathers were usually held responsible and when they sinned the whole household was held responsible and ended up reaping the consequences of their father’s actions, Joshua 7:24-25. Thankfully God doesn’t work that way anymore, each person is accountable for their own actions, Ezekiel 18:20.

As Christians, we may end up in a dark place because life does that to us at times, but we must never forget that God is still in control and He sees it all. Even though we may feel lost and helpless, we must trust that He is working in the background, working for our good according to His will, Romans 8:28.

Like Jeremiah, if we listen and look closely enough, we may see and hear that amongst all our hurt, pain and sorrow, there is hope.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
His mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning,
New every morning,
Great is Thy faithfulness, O Lord.
Great is Thy faithfulness!