Lament (represented by numerous Heb. and several Gr. words, of which the principal are אָבִל, abal', to mourn; אָנָה, anah', to sigh; נָהָה, nahuh', to wail; סָפִד; saphad', to smite the breast in token of violent grief; קוּן, kun, to strike a mournful tune; בָּכָה, bakah',to weep; θρηνέω, to wail aloud; κόπτω, to cut, i.e., beat the bosom, etc., in violent bursts of grief; with their derivatives). The Orientals are accustomed to bewail the dead in the most passionate manner, and even hire professional mourners, usually women, to perform this ceremony more effectually at funerals. SEE BURIAL; SEE GRIEF, etc.
The קַינָה, kinah', elegy, or dirge, is not mentioned in the earliest Hebrew writings. The first example of it which we meet with, and also one of the most beautiful and pathetic, is the lament of David over Saul and Jonathan (2Sa 1:17-27). Notwithstanding, it is natural to suppose that, from an early period, and not on rare occasions, the Hebrew poetic spirit found utterance in this class of compositions. The kinah is mentioned as a frequent accompaniment of mourning in Am 8:10: "I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation" (קַינָה). Jeremiah wrote a lament on the death of Josiah, which, as we are informed, was added to the collection of kinoth or dirges existing at that time (2
Chronicles 35:25; compare also Jer 7:29; Jer 9:9,16,19). In 2Sa 3:33-34, is preserved the brief but touching lament of David over Abner (q.v.).
The kinah was of two sorts, historical and prophetical. The laments of David and Jeremiah already mentioned are of the former sort. In the prophetic writings, and especially in Ezekiel, we meet with the prophetic lament, which had reference to some calamity yet future, but vividly anticipated and realized. Thus Eze 27:2, "Son of man, take up a lamentation for Tyrus," etc. In this case the prophet himself is told to raise his lament, as if the city had already been overthrown. In others he gives to his prophecy the form of a lament, to be used when the predicted calamity has actually taken place. The calamity is so inevitable that the preparations for bewailing it may be now begun. (Comp. Eze 19:1,14; Eze 26:17; Eze 27:32; Eze 28:12; Eze 32:2,16. So Am 5:1.)
The only other passage in which קַינָה, or its cognate verb קוֹנֵן (hkonen), is found, is Eze 2:10 where we read of a "roll of a book, מגַלִּת סֵפֶר (megillath sepher), being spread out before the prophet; " and there was written therein lamentations, קַינַים (kinim), and mourning, and woe." It is a remarkable coincidence, but probably nothing more, that immediately before the book of Ezekiel there stands in most of the versions of the Hebrew Scriptures a מגַלָּה, or roll, which answers quite to this description. Those who regard the book of Lamentations as belonging to the class of prophetic laments might probably find in this coincidence a confirmation of their views.
The opinion just mentioned, that the book of Lamentations was written proleptically in view of the destruction of Jerusalem, and belongs to the class of prophetic kinoth, as intended to describe that event prophetically, is an ancient opinion, held and defended by critics of no mean reputation, is not now so generally entertained as formerly. The prophetic laments are usually very brief; or, if they include more than a few verses, always tend to pass into distinct prophecy, and rarely keep up to the close their character as laments (Eze 27:27, etc.). Perhaps the most perfect example is the lament in Eze 28:12-19; but even there we meet with a "Thus saith the Lord" (verse 12). It is therefore, prima facie, improbable that an elegiac composition so lengthened and elaborate as the book of Lamentations should bear a distinctively prophetic character; though, on the other hand, its assumed prophetical character might be said to justify this extended wail. Moreover, in the book itself there is not the slightest indication that it does bear such a character; and the most ancient tradition — that contained in the Sept. — gives to it a historical foundation. It is, indeed, an old conjecture, that the book of Lamentations is identical with the lament which Jeremiah composed on the death of Josiah (2Ch 35:25); but this, if its main or only purpose, is quite inconsistent with the fact that throughout the entire book there is not a single allusion to the death of Josiah. Only once is mention made of the king, "the anointed of the Lord" (Jer 4:20), and the reference is evidently not to Josiah. SEE LAMENTATIONS, BOOK OF.