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Seeds of Comfort

April 20, 2015Filed under Theology#quotesMarkdown source

No matter that Deuteronomy had envisioned it and the prophets had foretold it; nothing could prepare one for the ruel reality and the apparently finality of the situation. The burden of Lamentations is not to question why this happened, but to give expression to the fact that it did. At certain moments the book seems to look beyond the destruction, to hold out hope for the future, but in the end despair overcomes hope. Past and future have little place in the book. It centers on the “present”—the moment of trauma, the interminable suffering. The book is not an explanation of suffering but a re-creation of it and a commemoration of it.

Why immortalize this moment of destruction? Because in its own way it signals the truth of the Bible’s theology, and it points to the continuation of the covenant between God and Israel….

This explains why the poet can cry out to God and expect a response, why can vent his anger at God, why he can declare that God continues to exist even though his temple does not (Lam 5:18–19), why God is portrayed as so strong and the enemy gets no credit for the destruction. The suffering is, as it were, an affirmation that God is still there and still concerned with the fate of Israel. He may hide his face, but he has not ceased to be Israel’s God. Lamentations contains the seeds of comfort and religious rebuilding that the exilic prophets (especially Second Isaiah) developed more fully in the aftermath of the destruction.

—Adele Berlin, Lamentations: A Commentary, 18–19.