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date: 19 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Lament is pervasive in the Hebrew Bible, both as a practice and as a literary theme. As a genre, biblical lamentation appears within a variety of literary contexts, from prophetic to narrative and liturgical collections. The canonical book of Psalms comprises approximately forty-two psalms of lament, about thirty of which are individual psalms of lament and the rest are communal. Most lament psalms have the following typical features: invocation, complaint, request, expression of confidence, and vow of praise. Owing to its contextual variety, lament literature is difficult to define. In the Psalter, the laments, both individual and communal, are better understood as crisis language. This article examines the language of lament psalms, first by discussing the similarities and differences that exist between them and the lament literature of Israel’s neighbors. It then compares lamentation in Greece and ancient Near East and looks at three pervasive themes in the Psalms of lament, namely, justice, enemies, and death. Finally, the article analyzes the theology of lament language.

Keywords: lament, Hebrew Bible, biblical lamentation, Psalms, lament literature, Psalter, Greece, ancient Near East, justice, theology

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