After the captivity
After the destruction
The prophet Jeremiah
Most of the conjecture about the author of this book comes from this introductory title to the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible. It clearly states that this work takes place after the captivity of Israel and the destruction of Jerusalem. It explicitly says that Jeremiah was the one crying as he offered this lamentation over Jerusalem. Although this introduction was not in the original Hebrew text, the Greek translators believed that Jeremiah was the author. However, the style is not like Jeremiah. The style is a Hebrew acrostic poem that has each verse starts with a different sequential consonant of the 22 letter Hebrew alphabet. There were other acrostic works, especially the psalms, with the most prominent being Psalm 119.
“Let my cry come before you!
Give me understanding
According to your word!
Let my supplication come before you!
According to your word!
My lips will pour forth praise.
Because you teach me your statutes.
My tongue will sing of your promise.
All your commandments are right.
Let your hand be ready to help me!
I have chosen your precepts.
I long for your salvation.
Your law is my delight!
Let me live!
Thus I may praise you.
Let your ordinances help me!
I have gone astray
Like a lost sheep.
Seek out your servant!
I do not forget your commandments.”
This long psalm concludes with the last or twenty-second consonant letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Tav. This psalmist wanted to live and be saved. He, on his part, would not forget the commandments of Yahweh. He wanted his cry to come before Yahweh. He wanted to understand the word and law of Yahweh. He, on his part, would give praise to Yahweh with his lips and tongue. He will sing of his praises because Yahweh has taught him his statutes and commandments. All he wanted was help in salvation. He delighted in the law. Thus his ordinances would help him. However, the psalmist admitted that even though he had gone astray like a lost sheep, he still had not forgotten Yahweh’s commandments. Thus we have a fitting end to this long psalm about the importance and beauty of the law.
“Princes persecute me without cause.
But my heart stands in awe of your words.
I rejoice at your word,
Like one who finds great spoil.
I hate falsehood.
I abhor falsehood.
But I love your law.
Seven times a day,
I praise you
For your righteous ordinances.
Those who love your law have great peace.
Nothing can make them stumble.
I hope for your salvation.
I fulfill your commandments.
My soul keeps your decrees.
I love them exceedingly.
I keep your precepts.
I keep your decrees.
All my ways are before you.”
Princes persecute the psalmist without cause, but his heart is in awe of Yahweh. He rejoiced at the word of Yahweh like one who had found great spoil after a victory. He loved the law. He hated and abhorred falsehood. He prayed 7 times a day, much like the later Christian choral prayers. He praised God for his righteous ordinances. He wanted peace for those who loved the law because nothing could make them stumble. He fulfilled the commandments of Yahweh. He kept his commandments, decrees, and precepts. Everything was laid out for Yahweh to see. So ends this section on the twenty-first consonant letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Shin.
“Look on my misery!
I do not forget your law.
Plead my cause!
Give me life
According to your promise!
Salvation is far from the wicked.
They do not seek your statutes.
Great is your mercy!
Give me life
According to your justice!
Many are my persecutors.
Many are my adversaries.
Yet I do not swerve from your decrees.
I look at the faithless with disgust.
Because they do not keep your commands.
Consider how I love your precepts!
Preserve my life
According to your steadfast love!
The sum of your word is truth.
Every one of your righteous ordinances endures forever.”
This psalmist wanted to be rescued from his misery because he had not forgotten the law. He wanted a defense attorney and a redeemer. He wanted his life as Yahweh had promised. The wicked would not be saved because they did not seek Yahweh’s statutes. Yahweh’s mercy was great so that his justice would also help him. Although he had many persecutors and adversaries the psalmist did not swerve from Yahweh’s decrees. He looked at the unfaithful in disgust because they did not keep Yahweh’s commands. He, on the other hand, loved Yahweh’s precepts. He wanted his life preserved because of Yahweh’s love. The word of Yahweh is truth so that every one of his just ordinances would endure forever. So ends this section on the twentieth consonant letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Resh.
“With my whole heart
I will keep your statutes.
I cry to you.
Thus I may observe your decrees.
I rise before dawn.
I cry for help.
I put my hope in your words.
My eyes are awake before each watch of the night.
Thus I may meditate on your promise.
In your steadfast love,
Hear my voice!
In your justice,
Preserve my life!
Those who persecute me with evil purpose,
They are far from your law.
You are near.
All your commandments are true.
I learned from your decrees.
You have established them forever.”
This psalmist cried for help to Yahweh from his heart. He wanted to be saved because he kept the statutes of Yahweh. He rose before dawn with his crying prayer to Yahweh. In the middle of the night, he would get up and meditate on the promises of Yahweh. He wanted the steadfast love of Yahweh in his justice to preserve his life. He was being persecuted with an evil purpose by those who were far from Yahweh’s law. He wanted Yahweh near him because his commandments were true. He had long ago learned from Yahweh’s decrees that had been established forever. So ends this section on the nineteenth consonant letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Qoph.
“You are righteous!
Your judgments are right.
You have appointed your decrees in righteousness.
You have appointed your decrees in all faithfulness.
My zeal consumes me.
Because my foes forget your words.
Your promise is well tried.
Your servant loves it.
I am small.
I am despised.
Yet I do not forget your precepts.
Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness.
Your law is the truth.
Trouble has come upon me.
Anguish has come upon me,
However your commandments are my delight.
Your decrees are righteous forever.
Give me understanding!
Thus I may live.”
The psalmist declared that Yahweh was righteous. His judgments and decrees were righteous and faithful. The zeal of the psalmist consumed him when he found out that his foes had forgotten the words of Yahweh. He, the servant of Yahweh, loved the decrees. Although he was small and despised, he never forgot the precepts of Yahweh. Yahweh’s righteousness was everlasting because his law was the truth. Even though he was in trouble and anguish, the psalmist delighted in Yahweh’s commandments. All he asked for was understanding, so that he might live. So ends this section on the eighteenth consonant letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Cade.
“Your decrees are wonderful.
Therefore my soul keeps them.
The unfolding of your words gives light.
It imparts understanding to the simple.
With open mouth I pant.
Because I long for your commandments.
Turn to me!
Be gracious to me!
It is your custom toward those who love your name.
Keep my steps steady
According to your promise!
Never let iniquity have dominion over me!
Redeem me from human oppression!
Thus I may keep your precepts.
Make your face shine upon your servant.
Teach me your statutes!
My eyes shed streams of tears.
Because your law is not kept.”
The psalmist wanted to remain steady in his steps that were following the law, since Yahweh’s decrees are wonderful. The unfolding of his words gives light so that he has a simple understanding. He longed and panted for Yahweh’s commandments. He wanted Yahweh to be gracious to him because Yahweh loved him. He wanted his steps kept steady just as Yahweh had promised. He did not want iniquity to have dominion over him. He wanted to be redeemed from human oppression. He would then be able to keep the precepts of Yahweh because his face shines on him. He wanted to learn the statutes. He cried when he learned that some people did not keep the law. So ends this section on the seventeenth consonant letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Phe.