Lamentation and Lament in the Hebrew Bible

Edward L. Greenstein

in The Oxford Handbook of the Elegy

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780199228133
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

Lamentation and Lament in the Hebrew Bible

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This article provides a discussion on lamentation and lament within the Hebrew Bible. It also reviews the necessary fluidity of elegiac forms that virtually all the historical essays elaborate. The two categories of lament — lamentation over death or destruction and complaint over distress — are treated both separately and in relation to one another. Acts of mourning and lamentation are intermeshed in the Hebrew Bible, and it is unsurprising that the tropes and images employed in biblical laments — falling, sitting in dust, and weeping are the most obvious — will often correspond to gestures of mourning. The lamentation over a city and temple in Ancient Israel and in Mesopotamia are elaborated upon. In the book of Lamentations, it may be suggested that amid the outpouring of grief, shared by a desolate community, there is both explicit and implicit protest against the God who would wreak such devastation — 'eikha, ‘How can it be?’.

Keywords: lamentation; biblical laments; Hebrew Bible; distress; mourning; Ancient Israel; Mesopotamia

Article.  8892 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)

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