What Does Lament Mean In The Bible

What Does Lament Mean In The Bible

The Bible mentions lament often, yet deciphering the meaning can be difficult. To understand what the Bible means when it talks about mourning, wailing and lamenting, it helps to consider its original meaning in both Hebrew and Greek. Ultimately, the Bible’s use of the term lament in both languages points to a sentiment of deep sorrow and mourning that lingers throughout the Scripture.


The Hebrew Bible mentions lament at least forty times. Lament is defined in the Hebrew language as “to make a loud noise, to wail”, suggesting the original meaning refers to a person or group of people, who loudly vocalize their sorrow in a public way. This public display reflects the fact that biblical lament was an emotive and outspoken expression of grief.

More specifically, the Hebrew concept of ‘bakah’ is closely tied to lament. This term is used to refer to a prayer of intercession uttered as a response to tragedy. A bakah is when a person bends or kneels in a humble, lamenting posture as they make their petition to God. The goal of this petition is often to plead for divine help in some way.

The ancient Hebrews believed that the practice of kneeling in sorrowful supplication could help to turn the tide of suffering and bring about the comfort and deliverance of God. This term is particularly associated with the book of Psalms, which contains a collection of Hebrew laments prayed to God.


The Greek New Testament also makes several references to lament. Six of these references are tied to the noun ‘olothreutēs’ which means “mourners” in English. This noun points to a group of people whose primary function is to weep, wail and lament loudly.

The practice ofusing professional mourners extended to the example of Jesus himself. According to the gospel accounts, Jesus was arrived in Bethany to find a professional mourner weeping and lamenting in a loud, public way even as Jesus was raising his friend Lazarus back to life.

The Greek Old Testament also makes use of the noun ‘olothreutēs’, along with other related terms like ‘pentheō’ (which means to mourn) and ‘pentheōsis’ (which means lamentation).

Final Thoughts

The Bible is crystal clear in how it defines lament. It suggests that lament is an emotional display of sorrow, regardless of whether it is taking place in private or in a public space. It is also a humble act of petition to God, asking for relief from deep grief and suffering.

Finally, the Bible’s use of lament is complemented by its extensive use of grief counseling and bereavement. This further points to God’s ultimate goal of comforting and delivering his people from deep-seated pain and sorrow.

Examples of Lament in Scripture

Psalm 44 is an example of a lament composed of prayers to God. This psalm of mourning outlines both a public appeal for mercy and deliverance, and an assertion of God’s power and justice. Throughout the psalm, the psalmist expresses his sorrow over his own suffering and remembrance of God’s promises. The psalmist also pleads for deliverance from God in the midst of pain and suffering.

Another example of biblical lament comes from Nehemiah 1. In this passage, Nehemiah exposes his sorrow to God and asks for deliverance. He also refers to past times when the people of Israel have suffered, imploring God to be mindful of this history. Nehemiah expresses his sorrow over the suffering of his people and goes on to petition God for mercy and deliverance.

Finally, the prophet Jeremiah is an example of a lamenting prophet. Throughout his prophetic books, Jeremiah often laments to God over the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. He expresses his grief over the situation and makes a request for mercy and deliverance. This again reinforces the idea that the act of lament to God is a humble expression of sorrow and plea for help.

Judges Place Lament in Context

In their personal writings and sermons, Christian theologians often place the concept of lament in its Scripture context. These Christian judges suggest that lament should be viewed as a personal act of grief, intercession and prayer that seeks to bring comfort and deliverance from God.

In his book The Groaning of Creation: God’s Purpose for Human Pain, Dr. Paul Brand encourages us to view mourning as a meaningful act of supplication that brings us closer to God. He argues that by engaging with the “groan”, the act of lamenting to God, we can be comforted and guided by his Holy Spirit; helping us to see our sorrow and grief in a meaningful way.

In conclusion, while the Bible’s use of the term lament is often interpreted in modern contexts as a personal declaration of mourning, we can learn much more by considering both its original meaning in Hebrew and Greek, and its context within the biblical narrative. This context teaches us that lament is a humble act of prayer and petition to God asking for mercy, comfort and deliverance. This concept is embodied by characters throughout the Bible, particularly in the book of Psalms, and has been noted by Christian scholars and theologians.

Examples of Lament Today

Lament continues to be practiced in the modern Christian community. The modern form of lament typically involves individual or collective prayer and petition to God, asking for mercy and deliverance in the midst of suffering.

These prayers often echo expressions of lament from the Bible, such as in Psalm 44. Typically, these laments are composed to offer comfort and support to those who are suffering in addition to expressing sorrow and grief. In recent years, many Christian churches have incorporated lament into their weekly worship, as a way to connect to the tradition of lament found in the Bible.

Due to its frequent use in the Bible, lament has developed into an integral practice in the Christian faith. Many Christian theologians point to this practice as one of the most valuable spiritual practices available to Christians today. It serves as a reminder that faith is ultimately a journey and a practice focused on bringing comfort and deliverance in the midst of suffering.

The Power of Lament in the Modern World

Lament remains a powerful practice in today’s world, as it can be practiced in times of great sorrow or distress. It serves to acknowledge the pain of loss, displacement and injustice while also serving as an act of piety and supplication to God.

Additionally, the concept of lament can provide a tangible example of resilience in the face of suffering. This is because it provides an outlet for sadness, grief, and despair and encourages us to use these feelings as a chance to rely on our faith in God.

Ultimately, lament serves as an integral part of the Christian faith, connecting us to the tradition of sorrow found in the Bible. It is the practice of invoking God’s mercy and deliverance in the midst of painful events, and serves as an outlet for grief, sorrow and despair.

Laments Place in Devotional Practices

In addition to lament being a spiritual practice, there are also many devotional practices that can be done to cultivate a heart of lament in our own prayer lives. For example, one can write a lament to express their sadness and sorrow to God. Such an act helps to invoke empathy and understanding while providing a tangible opportunity to express one’s heart before God.

Another practice is to do an art lament. This involves creating visual representations of sorrow and grief. Participants often use mixed media, such as paint, fabric and paper, to create a tangible testimony of suffering and hope. This practice helps to bring mourning and lament into a tangible form, and is a tangible way to honor those who have died or suffered in some way.

Finally, the practice of lament can also include spiritual reading. This involves reading or listening to Scriptures or stories that invoke the practice of lament. This helps to anchor our own grief and sorrow into a larger spiritual context, as we reflect on stories of suffering and redemption.


The Bible’s use of the word “lament” is a powerful example of the power of mourning and grief. It reminds us that God recognizes our suffering and is available for us in our times of lament. Ultimately, the practice of lament provides an opportunity to bring our deepest sorrows and suffering to God. In doing so, we open ourselves up to His love, comfort and mercy.

Marcos Reyna is a Christian author and speaker. He is dedicated to helping create disciples of Christ through spreading the power of the gospel to others. He has written several books and articles on a variety of theological topics, including matters of faith, worship, biblical studies, practical ethics, and social justice. A trained theologian and devotee of spiritual writing, Marcos has a mission to spread Christian love everywhere. He lives with his family in Nashville, TN where he spends his days encouraging others to seek Christ's grace in all things.

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