This book in Greek, Latin, and English hath its name from the subject matter of it, which is lamentation; so also amongst the Hebrew writers; but in the Hebrew it hath its name from the first word of the book, as also the five books of Moses have.
That it was wrote by Jeremiah none can reasonably question, because in the Hebrew it is styled, The Book of Jeremiah.
There is little controversy about the time or occasion of the writing of it. That the occasion was the miseries of the people, by reason of the famine, sword, and captivity, is evident to those that read any part of it; but whether they were those miseries which began with the death of Josiah, and held on till the city was taken, which was two and twenty or three and twenty years after, or those only which began with the siege and followed on many years, hath been doubted by some. That Jeremiah lamented for Josiah, and all the singing men and singing women spake of Josiah in their lamentations, is plain from 2Ch_35:25. But that these were the forms they used, or that they were composed upon that sad account, appeareth not; and the miseries which the prophet mentioneth befell not the people in the time of Josiah, but during the siege, more than twenty years after Josiah's death. Nor is there any thing which looks like a lamentation for Josiah through the whole book, unless Jer_4:20, which (as we shall show) may also be fairly interpreted of Zedekiah. Some think that Jeremiah began to write them upon the death of Josiah, and continued his style to the time of the captivity, setting down all the miseries the people suffered all along that time.
The scope of the writing as to those whom it immediately concerned is plain and obvious, viz. to affect the people with those judgments which came upon them for their sins: as to us, (upon whom the ends of the world are come,) to mind us to take heed of their sins, lest we be sharers in their plagues.
The book is made up of complaints of their lamentable condition, petitions unto God for mercy, and prophecies both of their better estate and the ruin of their enemies.
In the four first chapters are several alphabets of letters beginning the several verses, each verse beginning with a new letter, only La 3, every three verses begin with a new letter; the mystery of which we do not understand, nor possibly was there any mystery intended in it, only the chapters were so composed for the advantage of our memories.
The whole book lets us see from what a height of dignity to what a depth of misery sin may bring nations, how much soever interested in God; and likewise directs us to our duty in such states of affliction and misery if we would obtain mercy.