Add parallel Print Page Options

Chapter 3

The Voice of a Suffering Individual[a]

I am one who has known affliction
    under the rod of God’s anger,(A)
One whom he has driven and forced to walk
    in darkness, not in light;
Against me alone he turns his hand—
    again and again all day long.

He has worn away my flesh and my skin,
    he has broken my bones;(B)
He has besieged me all around
    with poverty and hardship;
He has left me to dwell in dark places
    like those long dead.(C)

He has hemmed me in with no escape,
    weighed me down with chains;
Even when I cry for help,
    he stops my prayer;(D)
He has hemmed in my ways with fitted stones,
    and made my paths crooked.

10 He has been a bear lying in wait for me,
    a lion in hiding!(E)
11 He turned me aside and tore me apart,
    leaving me ravaged.(F)
12 He bent his bow, and set me up
    as a target for his arrow.(G)

13 He pierced my kidneys
    with shafts from his quiver.(H)
14 I have become a laughingstock to all my people,
    their taunt all day long;(I)
15 He has sated me with bitterness,
    filled me with wormwood.(J)

16 He has made me eat gravel,
    trampled me into the dust;
17 My life is deprived of peace,
    I have forgotten what happiness is;
18 My enduring hope, I said,
    has perished before the Lord.

19 The thought of my wretched homelessness
    is wormwood and poison;
20 Remembering it over and over,
    my soul is downcast.
21 But this I will call to mind;[b]
    therefore I will hope:

22 The Lord’s acts of mercy are not exhausted,
    his compassion is not spent;(K)
23 They are renewed each morning—
    great is your faithfulness!
24 The Lord is my portion, I tell myself,
    therefore I will hope in him.(L)

25 The Lord is good to those who trust in him,
    to the one that seeks him;(M)
26 It is good to hope in silence
    for the Lord’s deliverance.
27 It is good for a person, when young,
    to bear the yoke,

28 To sit alone and in silence,
    when its weight lies heavy,
29 To put one’s mouth in the dust—[c]
    there may yet be hope—
30 To offer one’s cheek to be struck,
    to be filled with disgrace.(N)

31 For the Lord does not
    reject forever;(O)
32 Though he brings grief, he takes pity,
    according to the abundance of his mercy;(P)
33 He does not willingly afflict
    or bring grief to human beings.(Q)

34 That someone tramples underfoot
    all the prisoners in the land,
35 Or denies justice to anyone
    in the very sight of the Most High,
36 Or subverts a person’s lawsuit—
    does the Lord not see?

37 Who speaks so that it comes to pass,
    unless the Lord commands it?
38 Is it not at the word of the Most High
    that both good and bad take place?(R)
39 What should the living complain about?
    about their sins!

40 [d]Let us search and examine our ways,
    and return to the Lord!(S)
41 Let us lift up our hearts as well as our hands
    toward God in heaven!
42 We have rebelled and been obstinate;
    you have not forgiven us.

43 You wrapped yourself in wrath and pursued us,
    killing without pity;(T)
44 You wrapped yourself in a cloud,
    which no prayer could pierce.
45 You have made us filth and rubbish
    among the peoples.(U)

46 They have opened their mouths against us,
    all our enemies;
47 Panic and the pit have been our lot,
    desolation and destruction;(V)
48 [e]My eyes stream with tears over the destruction
    of the daughter of my people.(W)

49 My eyes will flow without ceasing,
    without rest,
50 Until the Lord from heaven
    looks down and sees.
51 I am tormented by the sight
    of all the daughters of my city.

52 Without cause, my enemies snared me
    as though I were a bird;
53 They tried to end my life in the pit,
    pelting me with stones.
54 The waters flowed over my head:
    and I said, “I am lost!”(X)

55 I have called upon your name, O Lord,(Y)
    from the bottom of the pit;
56 You heard me call, “Do not let your ear be deaf
    to my cry for help.”
57 You drew near on the day I called you;
    you said, “Do not fear!”

58 You pleaded my case, Lord,
    you redeemed my life.
59 You see, Lord, how I am wronged;
    do me justice!(Z)
60 You see all their vindictiveness,
    all their plots against me.

61 You hear their reproach, Lord,
    all their plots against me,
62 The whispered murmurings of my adversaries,
    against me all day long;
63 Look! Whether they sit or stand,
    I am the butt of their taunt.

64 Give them what they deserve, Lord,
    according to their deeds;
65 Give them hardness of heart;
    your curse be upon them;(AA)
66 Pursue them in wrath and destroy them
    from under the Lord’s heaven!


  1. 3:1–66 This chapter is focused less on the destruction of Jerusalem than are chaps. 1 and 2 and more on the suffering of an individual. The identity of the individual is never given, and one probably should not search for a specific identification of the speaker. The figure of the representative sufferer makes concrete the pain of the people in a way similar to the personification of Zion as a woman in chaps. 1 and 2. Indeed, in vv. 40–48 the individual voice gives way to a communal voice, returning in vv. 49–66 to the individual sufferer.
  2. 3:21–24 In the midst of a description of suffering, the speaker offers this brief but compelling statement of hope in God’s ultimate mercy. It is a hard-won and precarious hope, nearly submerged by the volume and intensity of the surrounding lament, but it is hope nonetheless.
  3. 3:29 To put one’s mouth in the dust: a sign of humiliation and submission; cf. v. 16; Ps 72:9.
  4. 3:40–66 The plural voice in this lament suggests that a communal lament begins here; it then continues in the singular voice in vv. 55–66.
  5. 3:48–51 These verses are more appropriate on the lips of the poet, who speaks of “my city” (v. 51). Daughters of my city: here as elsewhere “daughter” may refer to villages dependent on a larger city.