The Voice of a Suffering Individual*
1I am one who has known affliction
under the rod of God’s anger,a
2One whom he has driven and forced to walk
in darkness, not in light;
3Against me alone he turns his hand—
again and again all day long.
4He has worn away my flesh and my skin,
he has broken my bones;b
5He has besieged me all around
with poverty and hardship;
6He has left me to dwell in dark places
like those long dead.c
7He has hemmed me in with no escape,
weighed me down with chains;
8Even when I cry for help,
he stops my prayer;d
9He has hemmed in my ways with fitted stones,
and made my paths crooked.
10He has been a bear lying in wait for me,
a lion in hiding!e
11He turned me aside and tore me apart,
leaving me ravaged.f
12He bent his bow, and set me up
as a target for his arrow.g
13He pierced my kidneys
with shafts from his quiver.h
14I have become a laughingstock to all my people,
their taunt all day long;i
15He has sated me with bitterness,
filled me with wormwood.j
16He has made me eat gravel,
trampled me into the dust;
17My life is deprived of peace,
I have forgotten what happiness is;
18My enduring hope, I said,
has perished before the LORD.
19The thought of my wretched homelessness
is wormwood and poison;
20Remembering it over and over,
my soul is downcast.
21But this I will call to mind;*
therefore I will hope:
22The LORD’s acts of mercy are not exhausted,
his compassion is not spent;k
23They are renewed each morning—
great is your faithfulness!
24The LORD is my portion, I tell myself,
therefore I will hope in him.l
25The LORD is good to those who trust in him,
to the one that seeks him;m
26It is good to hope in silence
for the LORD’s deliverance.
27It is good for a person, when young,
to bear the yoke,
28To sit alone and in silence,
when its weight lies heavy,
29To put one’s mouth in the dust—*
there may yet be hope—
30To offer one’s cheek to be struck,
to be filled with disgrace.n
31For the Lord does not
32Though he brings grief, he takes pity,
according to the abundance of his mercy;p
33He does not willingly afflict
or bring grief to human beings.q
34That someone tramples underfoot
all the prisoners in the land,
35Or denies justice to anyone
in the very sight of the Most High,
36Or subverts a person’s lawsuit—
does the Lord not see?
37Who speaks so that it comes to pass,
unless the Lord commands it?
38Is it not at the word of the Most High
that both good and bad take place?r
39What should the living complain about?
about their sins!
40* Let us search and examine our ways,
and return to the LORD!s
41Let us lift up our hearts as well as our hands
toward God in heaven!
42We have rebelled and been obstinate;
you have not forgiven us.
43You wrapped yourself in wrath and pursued us,
killing without pity;t
44You wrapped yourself in a cloud,
which no prayer could pierce.
45You have made us filth and rubbish
among the peoples.u
46They have opened their mouths against us,
all our enemies;
47Panic and the pit have been our lot,
desolation and destruction;v
48* My eyes stream with tears over the destruction
of the daughter of my people.w
49My eyes will flow without ceasing,
50Until the LORD from heaven
looks down and sees.
51I am tormented by the sight
of all the daughters of my city.
52Without cause, my enemies snared me
as though I were a bird;
53They tried to end my life in the pit,
pelting me with stones.
54The waters flowed over my head:
and I said, “I am lost!”x
55I have called upon your name, O LORD,y
from the bottom of the pit;
56You heard me call, “Do not let your ear be deaf
to my cry for help.”
57You drew near on the day I called you;
you said, “Do not fear!”
58You pleaded my case, Lord,
you redeemed my life.
59You see, LORD, how I am wronged;
do me justice!z
60You see all their vindictiveness,
all their plots against me.
61You hear their reproach, LORD,
all their plots against me,
62The whispered murmurings of my adversaries,
against me all day long;
63Look! Whether they sit or stand,
I am the butt of their taunt.
64Give them what they deserve, LORD,
according to their deeds;
65Give them hardness of heart;
your curse be upon them;a
66Pursue them in wrath and destroy them
from under the LORD’s heaven!
* [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.
* [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.
* [3:48–51] 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.