It should be a matter of deep interest for the child of God, in any dispensation, to know that there is One above who notes with compassion all of his sorrows, and is afflicted in all his afflictions. Nothing could demonstrate this more clearly than the incorporation, as a part of the Holy Scriptures, of the expressions of the heart-sorrows of Jeremiah as he beheld the overwhelming woes of his people, and the desolations of the Holy City . These feelings were right and proper – nay, produced by the Spirit of God in the heart of His servant Jeremiah. He, the God of Israel, was no cold, indifferent spectator of the anguish, humiliation and pains of the people of His choice. His holiness demanded that He chasten them for their iniquities; and He had used the king of Babylon to that end, but His heart was grieved for them still, as a loving father is sorely pained in his own correction of a wayward son. He greatly valued, therefore, the soul-exercises of His grief-stricken prophet, and has seen fit to place his lamentations on record for our instruction and comfort. In a certain sense Jeremiah speaks for the godly ones left in the land – their mouthpiece, as it were.
The peculiar structure of this elegiac poem is worthy of note. In their original form, the first four chapters are acrostic, after the pattern of a number of the psalms. Chapters 1, 2 and 4 consist of twenty-two verses each; every verse commencing with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet, in regular order. Chapter 3, in which the fullest confession of their sin and grief is found, consists of sixty-six verses; and here three verses are given to each letter. That is, each of the first three verses begins with Aleph , the first letter of the alphabet; and the next three verses, each begins with Beth , the second letter; and so on to the end of the alphabet.
In Psalm 119 we have twenty-two divisions of eight verses each, similarly arranged, as even the ordinary English Bible shows. There, every letter of the alphabet (which represents the whole compass of man's speech) is used in the praise of the perfect law of the Lord. In Lamentations every letter is required to express the sorrows following upon the neglect and breaking of that law.
Chapter 5 is an exception to the acrostic style, though containing the same number of verses as the first, second, and fourth.