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Will the REAL Author of Lamentations Please Stand Up!

Word Count – 2,263


Grace Kemp
www.scriptureseries.com

I had decided to teach the book of Lamentations to my weekly Bible class for the
simple reason that its brief, five chapters fit the allotted time slot.

From the outset, however, I faced the problem of authorship. The internal
evidence did not seem to support the popular belief that it was written by
Jeremiah. Although entitled, The Lamentations of Jeremiah by the Septuagint
scholars around 250 BC, there seemed little evidence to support this conclusion.
Lamentations, written from Babylon sometime after the fall of Jerusalem in 586
BC, is an autobiographical account of the fall of Jerusalem by someone with first
hand knowledge. Certainly Jeremiah was an eyewitness to the unfolding events
of those troubled times but there is no evidence that he was ever in Babylon.

James 1:5 tells us, “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God who giveth to all
men liberally and upbraideth not.”

So, lacking wisdom, I asked God, “Who wrote Lamentations?” An inaudible


answer popped into my head immediately.

“It was Zedekiah.”

Imagination? Maybe, but because I knew nothing of Zedekiah other than that he
was the last king of Judah, this sudden revelation at least gave me a place to
start. Would Biblical evidence confirm that the author of Lamentations was
Zedekiah?
The Search Begins

My goal was to examine all the clues of authorship within Lamentations itself and
compare them with all available information about King Zedekiah. Copying the
clues as to authorship within Lamentations and the clues concerning Zedekiah
spread across 4 Bible books, I cut them up into separate verses or paragraphs
and attempted to match them. To my amazement, numerous quotes from
Lamentations not only matched King Zedekiah but contradicted facts about
Jeremiah.

Consider the Following Similarities:

1. Lamentations is Autobiographical

The personal pronouns, I, me, my, mine, us, and we, occur 151 times in the 154
verses of Lamentations, strongly suggesting the book is an autobiography.

Since there is no record that Jeremiah was ever in Babylon, how could he have
written a first hand account?

2. Lamentations’ Author Appears to be a King

Note the following references to “king…anointed...crown.”

Lam. 1:14; 2:6; 4:20; 5:16 – The Lord hath delivered me into their hands..the
Lord hath despised the King..the anointed of the Lord was taken in their pits..we
shall live among the heathen..the crown is fallen from our head.”

11 Ki, 25:6,7; Jer. 21:7; 34:3; 39:7; Ezek. 12:13; 17:12; 19:9
“they took the king…to the king of Babylon…I will deliver Zedekiah..into the hand
of Nebuchadnezzar..”

The author of Lamentations and the captured King Zedekiah appear to be one
and the same.
3. Lamentations’ Author Uses Possessive Pronouns

5 times the possessive pronoun, my, is used in reference to:


• “my mighty men…
• my young men…
• my city…
• my priests…
• my virgins..
• my lovers.”
Consulting an ancient concordance which listed 2 letter words, I checked the use
of the pronoun, my, in Jeremiah. Not once in its 52 chapters does Jeremiah use
“my” in a similar context. Such possessiveness is the prerogative of kings.
Jeremiah was merely a persecuted prophet who would never claim ownership of
such persons and places.

4. Lamentations’ Author is Pursued

He states, “Our persecutors…pursued us upon the mountains;


they laid wait for us in the wilderness..” (Lams. 4:19)

Jer. 39:5; 52:8 - “the Chaldeans’ army pursued after them and overtook Zedekiah
in the plains of Jericho.”

Since the first person Lamentations’ account of pursuit matches the account of
the pursuit of Zedekiah, it seems safe to assume that both passages refer to King
Zedekiah.

By contrast, the Chaldean army never pursued Jeremiah having been instructed
by Nebuchadnezzar to “take him.. look well to him..do him no harm..do unto him
even as he shall say unto thee” (Jer. 39:11, 12).
5. Lamentations’ Author is Ensnared

Lam. 1:13; 3:47 – “He hath spread a net for my feet…a snare is come upon us..”

Ezek.12:10-13; 17:20 - “…this…concerneth the prince (Zedekiah) in Jerusalem


.. my net..will I spread upon him and he shall be taken in my snare and I will
bring him to Babylon..”

Clearly, Ezekiel’s prophesies concerning the future fate of King Zedekiah match
those of the author of Lamentations, strongly suggesting that they are the same
person.

6. Lamentations’ Author is Chained

Lam. 3:7 -“He hath made my chain heavy.”

Similarly, King Zedekiah is chained.

11 Kings 25:7; Jer. 39:6, 7; 52:11; Ezek. 19:9 - “..Zedekiah..the king of Babylon
bound him in chains...they put him in ward in chains..(they) bound him with
fetters of brass..”

Jeremiah was briefly chained but quickly released on orders of Nebuchadnezzar.


(Jer. 40:1-5).

7. Lamentations’ Author’s Men are Killed with Swords

It was prophesied that while most of King Zedekiah’s men would die by the
sword, the king himself would be spared.

Lam. 2:21; 4:19 - “My young men are fallen by the sword”

Jer.24:10; 34:4,5; 52:8; Ezek.12:14; 17 - “I will deliver Zedekiah and his


servants..into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar..and he shall smite them with the
sword and shall not spare them..I will draw out the sword after them...
Zedekiah…thou shalt not die by the sword but thou shalt die in peace…”

Jeremiah had no “young men” to be slaughtered “by the sword,” and his
treatment at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar was downright hospitable.
Following the destruction of Jerusalem, Jeremiah was taken to Riblah where he
was released, given a reward, and returned to Jerusalem.

8. Lamentations’ Author is Scorned

Zedekiah dreaded being mocked by his people, the Jews, and Jeremiah assured
him that their scorn would indeed be his lot.

Jer. 24:8,9 - “Zedekiah..will be a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse.”

The author of Lamentations was similarly scorned.


Lam. 3:14, 30, 63 - “I was a derision to…my people and their song all the day….”

9. Lamentations’ Author is Bereaved

11 Ki. 25:7; Jer. 34:19, 20; 39:6; 52:10 - “The king of Babylon slew the sons of
Zedekiah before his eyes. (He) slew the princes of Judah”

From his dark dungeon in Babylon, the author mourns his devastating loss
saying, “my children are desolate because the enemy has prevailed. Those that I
have swaddled and brought up hath mine enemy consume” (Lam. 1:6,16; 2:22).

The murder of the sons of Zedekiah strongly points to Zedekiah as the author of
Lamentations and away from Jeremiah whom God had forbidden to marry.
Jeremiah had no children (Jer.16:2).

10. Lamentations’ Author is Blinded

Lam. 3:2, 6, 11 – “He led me and made me go in darkness and not light... he…
pulled (tore) me in pieces and made me desolate..he hath set me in dark places
as they that be dead of old..”

It was prophesied that Zedekiah would be “taken by the hand of the king of
Babylon” and “led to Babylon..yet shall he not see it, though he shall die there.”
(11 Ki.25:7; Jer. 32:5; 38:23; 39:7; 52:11; Ezek.12:13).

Doubtless, the worst, personal tragedy suffered by King Zedekiah following his
capture was the gouging out of his eyes by a furious Nebuchadnezzar.
11. Lamentations’ Author Languishes in a “low dungeon”

Lam. 3:53-55; 4:20 - “They have cut off my life in the dungeon and cast a stone
upon me... the anointed (king) was taken in their pits..he hedged me about that I
cannot get out..he..enclosed my way with hewn stone..I called upon thy name…
out of the low dungeon..”

Jer. 52:11; Ezek. 19:8,9 - “,,put..Zedekiah..in prison till the day of his death..he
was taken in their pit..they put him in ward..into holds”

Clearly, Zedekiah fulfills the prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel.


Jeremiah was imprisoned in a pit in Jerusalem but note the following differences:

Jeremiah’s pit - “in the dungeon there was no water but mire” (Jer. 38:6)
Zedekiah’s pit - “Water flowed over my head..I said..I am cut off” (Lam. 3:54)

12. Lamentations’ Author had Wives and Lovers


Jeremiah prophesied that “all..the women..in the king of Judah’s house shall be
brought..to the king of Babylon’s princes…all the wives and thy children to the
Chaldeans..” (Jer. 38:22,23).

This proved to be true for the author of Lamentations who mourned the fact that
the women who had formerly comforted him are now “gone into captivity” and are
“afflicted” (Lam.1:4-19) thus indicating that he is a king who had had both wives
and a harem.

This could hardly be said of Jeremiah who had neither.

13. Lamentations’ Author was Rebellious

Lam. 1:18, 20; 3:42 – “ I have rebelled against his commandment..,I have
grievously rebelled ..we have transgressed and rebelled”

Jer. 52:3; 11 Ki. 24:20; 11 Chr. 36:13 – “Zedekiah rebelled against the King of
Babylon”
While rebellion was the hallmark of Zedekiah, it was not true of Jeremiah.

14. Lamentations’ Author Has Hope!

Lam. 3:57, 58 – “Thou drew near in the day that I called upon thee;
thou said, Fear not. O Lord, thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul;
thou hast redeemed my life.”

From his dark dungeon, Lamentations’ author cried out to the Lord God of Israel.
And God, in his infinite mercy, not only heard him but paid him a visit!
Along with their warnings of coming judgment, both Jeremiah and Ezekiel
prophesied that some time after his incarceration, the Lord would visit Zedekiah.
“plead with him there (in Babylon) for his trespass that he hath trespassed
against me..and there shall he be until I visit him.. “ (Ezek. 17:20; Jer. 32:5)

15. Lamentations’ Author is Honored in Death

It was prophesied that Zedekiah would be honored at his death.

“Thou shalt die in peace..they shall lament thee saying, “Ah, Lord”
(Ezek. 17:12-21; Jer. 32:5).

The fact that Lamentations records no details of Zedekiah’s death gives further
evidence that Zedekiah is the author.

However, Josephus, the 1st century Jewish historian, provides the following
comment:- “the king..kept Zedekiah in prison until he died and buried him
magnificently…”

A Puzzle Piece That Didn’t Fit

Having identified the clues in Lamentations as belonging to Zedekiah, I was left


with one piece, the explanation of which eluded me. It was

Lam. 1:14 – “The yoke of my trangressions is bound by his hand..”


Careful investigation, however, revealed this verse as the most important clue of
all, the one bearing the DNA of Zedekiah, the true author of Lamentations. It not
only confirms Zedekiah as the author but eliminates every other possibility.

On his second successful invasion of Judah in 597 BC, Nebuchadnezzar of


Babylon appointed Zedekiah to be King of Israel and offered him terms of peace.
Ezek. 17:14; 37:1)

Nebuchadnezzar had Zedekiah sware an oath in the name of the God of Israel
and the two kings shook hands to seal the deal.

The terms of the oath included:


• Zedekiah’s promise to submit himself and his kingdom under the “yoke” of
Babylon, implying Judah;s submission and servitude to Babylon.
• Zedekiah’s promise “that the kingdom of Judah might be base (humble), that
it might not lift itself up” against Babylon
In spite of Jeremiah’s impassioned warnings, Zedekiah broke his oath and defied
King Nebuchadnezzar, attempting to solicit help from Egypt.
Ezek. 17:12-21 – “the king of Babylon is come to Jerusalem..and
hath..made a covenant with him (Zedekiah) and..taken an oath of him…but
he rebelled (and)..break the covenant and..oath…He despised the oath..he
had given his hand…thus saith the Lord GOD..surely mine oath that he
hath despised
and my covenant that he hath broken, even it will I recompense upon his
own head..”

2 Chronicles 36:11-14 - Zedekiah..did..evil in the sight of the Lord his God


and…rebelled against king Nebuchadnezzar who had made him swear by
God...he stiffened his neck and hardened his heart from turning to the Lord God
of Israel.”

No other king of Judah ever swore such an oath with King Nebuchadnezzar of
Babylon. Zedekiah is the only person in the entire Bible who could have truthfully
made the statement, “The yoke of my trangressions is bound by his hand..” He
alone had sworn an oath to Nebuchadnezzar and sealed it with a handshake.

The final, devastating invasion of Judea by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian


army came as a result of Zedekiah’s failure to keep his promise.

“How did blind and imprisoned Zedekiah write Lamentations?”


One of my students voiced the above question.

I found the answer in Ekek.19:1. Ezekiel is instructed to “take thou up a


lamentation for the princes of Israel.. this is a lamentation and shall be for a
lamentation..”

This was nothing new for Ezekiel. At the outset of his ministry, God required that
he “eat..a roll of a book..written therein, lamentations and mourning and woe”
(Ezek.2:8-10). Thereafter, Ezekiel recorded laments for Tyrus and Egypt
(Ezek.27:2; 32:2). It seems only fitting that he would record Zedekiah’s sad
lament for his own city, Jerusalem.

Conclusion

Who is the author of Lamentations? The Scriptures point exclusively to Zedekiah.


Lamentations is his autobiographical account of the horrific suffering resulting
from his stubborn rebellion against God. Ignoring years of impassioned warnings
from Jeremiah and others, Zedekiah experienced firsthand some of the agony to
which he had subjected his subjects for over a decade.

Incarcerated in his dark dungeon in far off Babylon, he finally repented. God
forgave the man responsible for the unspeakable suffering of the Jews and the
bloody destruction of Jerusalem.
How reassuring that, in spite of Zedekiah’s cowardice, treachery, and rebellion,
God not only heard his cries of confession, but visited him with his message of
hope and his presence of peace.
Gut wrenching repentance still results in forgiveness and restoration.
This is the hope-filled message of Lamentations.