R. Meynet, Comment? Les Lamentations de Jérémie, RBSem 34, Peeters, Leuven 2021 ( 195 p.)
In July 587 BC, the hurricane Nebuchadnezzar swept through Israel, leaving nothing but death in its wake. Everything that makes up a nation is destroyed, right down to the foundations: economic, political, military and religious institutions. The country is devastated and the elite is deported to Babylon, King Zedekiah is captured, his eyes are gouged out, the army is destroyed, the walls are razed, the temple is plundered and burnt down along with the whole city of Jerusalem. The book begins with “How?”, which heads three of its five poems. How could such a disaster happen? How did God allow it and even cause it?
Only one institution survives, and it is on this that Lamentations is built: the language with its alphabet of twenty-two letters. The alphabetic acrostic marks the first four poems: each unit, verse or group of verses, begins with a letter of the alphabet, from Aleph to Taw, from Alpha to Omega, we would say: from A to Z. Everything, even misfortune and lamentation need to be organised in an order that has always been established and that the enemy cannot destroy.
At the centre of the book, the third lament is the summit. It is marked by a tripling of the acrostic. Above all, the centre of this centre is the eye of the cyclone, that short time of silence and appeasement where the oracle of salvation is heard. After that, the last two poems are shorter and, in the last one, the alphabetical acrostic disappears, as if it no longer had a reason to exist. The pain is as strong as ever, but the promise of life has been heard.