Sages and scholars are of two opinions as to the interpretation of this chapter. Some believe it is the author expressing his own anguish over the bitterness of his life and the fall of Jerusalem. Others think it is meant to be Jerusalem’s own distressed words, as voiced by the author. I believe that it is a such an anguished plea that the author combines his own misery with that of his beloved city, Jerusalem. In other words, he is suffering so much that he moves from one mode to the next without his noticing, intermingling his personal devastation with that of the city. The transition seems to occur in the vicinity of vss. 42 to 45. First, after consistent complaints about his horrible predicament, the author begins in v. 22 to describe his optimism for the Lord’s future salvation. Then he lapses into an advice-givng mode in v. 40. Then finally in v. 42 he begins to assume the identity of the city and its residents.
אֲנִי הַגֶּבֶר רָאָה עֳנִי בְּשֵׁבֶט עֶבְרָתוֹ׃ 3:1
Lame. 3:1 I am the man,
he has seen misery by the rod of His “wrath.”
אוֹתִי נָהַג וַיֹּלַךְ חֹשֶׁךְ וְלֹא־אוֹר׃ 3:2
Lame. 3:2 He led and made me walk darkness
and not light.
אַךְ בִּי יָשֻׁב יַהֲפֹךְ יָדוֹ כָּל־הַיּוֹם׃ 3:3
Lame. 3:3 Surely He must have turned on me;
He can reverse His “hand” all the time.
בִּלָּה בְשָׂרִי וְעוֹרִי שִׁבַּר עַצְמוֹתָי׃ 3:4
Lame. 3:4 My flesh is worn out, and my skin;
He had broken my bones.
בָּנָה עָלַי וַיַּקַּף רֹאשׁ וּתְלָאָה׃ 3:5
Lame. 3:5 He built against me,
and He struck bitterly and distressfully.
בְּמַחֲשַׁכִּים הוֹשִׁיבַנִי כְּמֵתֵי עוֹלָם׃ 3:6
Lame. 3:6 He made me dwell in dark places
like the dead of long ago.
גָּדַר בַּעֲדִי וְלֹא אֵצֵא הִכְבִּיד נְחָשְׁתִּי׃ 3:7
Lame. 3:7 He closed off around me
that I could not come out;
He made my chain heavy.
גַּם כִּי אֶזְעַק וַאֲשַׁוֵּעַ שָׂתַם תְּפִלָּתִי׃ 3:8
Lame. 3:8 Also whenever I would cry for help that I would call out,
He shut out my prayer.
גָּדַר דְּרָכַי בְּגָזִית נְתִיבֹתַי עִוָּה׃ 3:9
Lame. 3:9 He walled off my ways with hewn stone,
twisted my paths.
דֹּב אֹרֵב הוּא לִי (אַרְיֵה) [אֲרִי] בְּמִסְתָּרִים׃ 3:10
Lame. 3:10 He was a Bear lying in wait to me,
a Lion in hiding places.
Both spellings of the word translated as Lion, that in the parentheses and that in the brackets, are correct and appropriate.
דְּרָכַי סֹורֵר וַיְפַשְּׁחֵנִי שָׂמַנִי שֹׁםֵם׃ 3:11
Lame. 3:11 He turned aside my ways
and tore me in pieces;
He made me desolate.
דָּרַךְ קַשְׁתֹּו וַיַּצִּיבֵנִי כַּמַּטָּרָא לַחֵץ׃ 3:12
Lame. 3:12 He directed His “bow” and set me up,
like a target for an arrow.
הֵבִיא בְּכִלְיֹותָי בְּנֵי אַשְׁפָּתֹו׃ 3:13
Lame. 3:13 He caused the “arrows” of His” quiver”
to enter into my organs.
הָיִיתִי שְּׂחֹק לְכָל־עַמִּי נְגִינָתָם כָּל־הַיֹּום׃ 3:14
Lame. 3:14 I am a derision for all my people,
their mocking song, all the time.
הִשְׂבִּיעַנִי בַמְּרוֹרִים הִרְוַנִי לַעֲנָה׃ 3:15
Lame. 3:15 He has sated me with bitter things,
made me full of wormwood.
וַיַּגְרֵס בֶּחָצָץ שִׁנָּי הִכְפִּישַׁנִי בָּאֵפֶר׃ 3:16
Lame. 3:16 And He crushed my teeth into gravel,
trampled me into ashes.
וַתִּזְנַח מִשָּׁלוֹם נַפְשִׁי נָשִׁיתִי טוֹבָה׃ 3:17
Lame. 3:17 So is my soul cast far from peace;
I have forgotten goodness,
וָאֹמַר אָבַד נִצְחִי וְתוֹחַלְתִּי מֵיְהוָה׃ 3:18
Lame. 3:18 and I say, “My eminence is vanished,
as is my hope from the Lord.”
זְכָר־עָנְיִי וּמְרוּדִי לַעֲנָה וָרֹאשׁ׃ 3:19
Lame. 3:19 Remember my affliction and my wretchedness,
the wormwood and the gall.
זָכֹור תִּזְכֹּור (וְתָשִׁיחַ) [וְתָשֹׁוחַ] עָלַי נַפְשִׁי׃ 3:20
Lame. 3:20 Calling to mind, it can remember,
and my soul becomes depressed for my sake.
I believe the word in the parentheses is spelled correctly and in the appropriate form. The “correction” in the brackets is unnecessary.
זֹאת אָשִׁיב אֶל־לִבִּי עַל־כֵּן אוֹחִיל׃ 3:21
Lame. 3:21 This I can refuse to my mind;
therefore I can still hope.
חַסְדֵי יְהוָה כִּי לֹא־תָמְנוּ כִּי לֹא־כָלוּ רַחֲמָיו׃ 3:22
Lame. 3:22 The mercies of the Lord are surely not ended;
surely His compassions have not ceased.
At this point the author seems to transition from complaining, and remembers his sense of hope.
חֲדָשִׁים לַבְּקָרִים רַבָּה אֱמוּנָתֶךָ׃ 3:23
Lame. 3:23 They must be renewed every morning.
Your faithfulness must be abundant.
חֶלְקִי יְהוָה אָמְרָה נַפְשִׁי עַל־כֵּן אוֹחִיל לוֹ׃ 3:24
Lame. 3:24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul.
Therefore I will wait for Him.
טֹוב יְהוָה לְקֹוָוק לְנֶפֶשׁ תִּדְרְשֶׁנּוּ׃ 3:25
Lame. 3:25 The Lord is good to he who waits for Him,
to the soul would seek Him.
טוֹב וְיָחִיל וְדוּמָם לִתְשׁוּעַת יְהוָה׃ 3:26
Lame. 3:26 Better that one waits, and silently,
for the salvation of the Lord!
טוֹב לַגֶּבֶר כִּי־יִשָּׂא עֹל בִּנְעוּרָיו׃ 3:27
Lame. 3:27 Better for a man
if he can bear the yoke in his youth!
Here I believe the author digresses temporarily (vss. 3:27 to 3:30) into a complaining mood again, by imagining it would be better for hardships to come in youth rather than in old age -- they would be easier to bear.
יֵשֵׁב בָּדָד וְיִדֹּם כִּי נָטַל עָלָיו׃ 3:28
Lame. 3:28 He can remain self-contained and keep silent,
because He put on him.
יִתֵּן בֶּעָפָר פִּיהוּ אוּלַי יֵשׁ תִּקְוָה׃ 3:29
Lame. 3:29 He can put his mouth in the dust,
supposing hope exists.
יִתֵּן לְמַכֵּהוּ לֶחִי יִשְׂבַּע בְּחֶרְפָּה׃ 3:30
Lame. 3:30 He can give to the One smiting him the cheek;
he would be filled with reproach.
כִּי לֹא יִזְנַח לְעוֹלָם אֲדֹנָי׃ 3:31
Lame. 3:31 For the Master will not cast off forever.
כִּי אִם־הֹוגָה וְרִחַם כְּרֹב (חַסְדֹּו) [חֲסָדָיו]׃ 3:32
Lame. 3:32 For whenever He causes grief,
then He will have compassion
according to the greatness of His mercy.
The word in the parentheses, translated as His mercy, seems appropriately spelled for the context. The correction in the bracket makes the translation His mercies. I believe this to be an unnecessary correction.
כִּי לֹא עִנָּה מִלִּבֹּו וַיַּגֶּה בְּנֵי־אִישׁ׃ 3:33
Lame. 3:33 For He does not afflict from His “heart”
or grieve the children of humanity,
לְדַכֵּא תַּחַת רַגְלָיו כֹּל אֲסִירֵי אָרֶץ׃ 3:34
Lame. 3:34 crushing beneath His “feet”
all the prisoners of the earth,
לְהַטּוֹת מִשְׁפַּט־גָּבֶר נֶגֶד פְּנֵי עֶלְיוֹן׃ 3:35
Lame. 3:35 perverting the judgment of a man
before the face of the Most High.
לְעַוֵּת אָדָם בְּרִיבוֹ אֲדֹנָי לֹא רָאָה׃ 3:36
Lame. 3:36 The Master does not consider subverting a person in his cause.
מִי זֶה אָמַר וַתֶּהִי אֲדֹנָי לֹא צִוָּה׃ 3:37
Lame. 3:37 Who says thus and it happens,
the Master does not command?
The general consensus as to the interpretation of this verse is that all things that transpire in the world derive from the Lord. It echoes the observation of Isaiah 45:7.
מִפִּי עֶלְיוֹן לֹא תֵצֵא הָרָעוֹת וְהַטּוֹב׃ 3:38
Lame. 3:38 Will what is evil proceed not from the mouth of the Most High,
but what is good?
מַה־יִּתְאֹונִן אָדָם חָי גֶּבֶר עַל־(חֶטְאֹו) [חֲטָאָיו]׃ 3:39
Lame. 3:39 Of what should a living man, a strong man,
complain because of his sins?
The word in the parentheses, translated as his sins, is spelled in the singular and should be plural. The correction is in the brackets.
נַחְפְּשָׂה דְרָכֵינוּ וְנַחְקֹרָה וְנָשׁוּבָה עַד־יְהוָה׃ 3:40
Lame. 3:40 We should think about our ways and explore,
so we may turn back, even to the Lord.
נִשָּׂא לְבָבֵנוּ אֶל־כַּפָּיִם אֶל־אֵל בַּשָּׁמָיִם׃ 3:41
Lame. 3:41 We should lift up our heart in addition to the hands
to God in heaven.
נַחְנוּ פָשַׁעְנוּ וּמָרִינוּ אַתָּה לֹא סָלָחְתָּ׃ 3:42
Lame. 3:42 We transgressed and we rebelled;
You not did pardon.
Here the author seems to begin to assume the voice of the city and its inhabitants.
סַכֹּתָה בָאַף וַתִּרְדְּפֵנוּ הָרַגְתָּ לֹא חָמָלְתָּ׃ 3:43
Lame. 3:43 You shut off in “anger” and pursued us;
You slew; You had no pity.
סַכּוֹתָה בֶעָנָן לָךְ מֵעֲבוֹר תְּפִלָּה׃ 3:44
Lame. 3:44 You covered Yourself with a cloud
that no prayer could go passing beyond.
סְחִי וּמָאוֹס תְּשִׂימֵנוּ בְּקֶרֶב הָעַמִּים׃ 3:45
Lame. 3:45 You made us the offscouring
and the trash among the peoples.
פָּצוּ עָלֵינוּ פִּיהֶם כָּל־אֹיְבֵינוּ׃ 3:46
Lame. 3:46 All our enemies have opened their mouths against us.
פַּחַד וָפַחַת הָיָה לָנוּ הַשֵּׁאת וְהַשָּׁבֶר׃ 3:47
Lame. 3:47 Terror became ours, and the pit.
The devastation and destruction!
פַּלְגֵי־מַיִם תֵּרַד עֵינִי עַל־שֶׁבֶר בַּת־עַמִּי׃ 3:48
Lame. 3:48 My eye can send down rivers of water
over the destruction of the daughter of my people.
עֵינִי נִגְּרָה וְלֹא תִדְמֶה מֵאֵין הֲפֻגוֹת׃ 3:49
Lame. 3:49 My eye is poured out,
yet it will not cease;
it is without intermission
עַד־יַשְׁקִיף וְיֵרֶא יְהוָה מִשָּׁמָיִם׃ 3:50
Lame. 3:50 until the Lord will look down
and beholds from the heavens.
עֵינִי עוֹלְלָה לְנַפְשִׁי מִכֹּל בְּנוֹת עִירִי׃ 3:51
Lame. 3:51 My eye thrusts into my soul
because of all the daughters of my city.
צוֹד צָדוּנִי כַּצִּפּוֹר אֹיְבַי חִנָּם׃ 3:52
Lame. 3:52 My enemies single-mindedly stalked me without cause,
like a bird.
צָמְתוּ בַבּוֹר חַיָּי וַיַּדּוּ־אֶבֶן בִּי׃ 3:53
Lame. 3:53 They destroyed my life in a pit,
and cast a stone on me.
צָפוּ־מַיִם עַל־רֹאשִׁי אָמַרְתִּי נִגְזָרְתִּי׃ 3:54
Lame. 3:54 Water flowed over my head.
I said, “I am cut down.”
קָרָאתִי שִׁמְךָ יְהוָה מִבּוֹר תַּחְתִּיּוֹת׃ 3:55
Lame. 3:55 I called Your name, Lord,
from the lower parts of the pit.
קוֹלִי שָׁמָעְתָּ אַל־תַּעְלֵם אָזְנְךָ לְרַוְחָתִי לְשַׁוְעָתִי׃ 3:56
Lame. 3:56 You heard my voice;
You could not hide Your “ear” to my comfort,
to my cry for help.
קָרַבְתָּ בְּיוֹם אֶקְרָאֶךָּ אָמַרְתָּ אַל־תִּירָא׃ 3:57
Lame. 3:57 You come near at any time I would call you;
You said, “You must not be afraid.”
רַבְתָּ אֲדֹנָי רִיבֵי נַפְשִׁי גָּאַלְתָּ חַיָּי׃ 3:58
Lame. 3:58 Master, You plead the causes of my soul;
You redeem my life.
רָאִיתָה יְהוָה עַוָּתָתִי שָׁפְטָה מִשְׁפָּטִי׃ 3:59
Lame. 3:59 Lord, You see my crookedness;
judge my cause.
רָאִיתָה כָּל־נִקְמָתָם כָּל־מַחְשְׁבֹתָם לִי׃ 3:60
Lame. 3:60 You see all their vengeance,
all their purposes for me.
שָׁמַעְתָּ חֶרְפָּתָם יְהוָה כָּל־מַחְשְׁבֹתָם עָלָי׃ 3:61
Lame. 3:61 You hear their taunt, Lord,
all their devices against me,
שִׂפְתֵי קָמַי וְהֶגְיוֹנָם עָלַי כָּל־הַיּוֹם׃ 3:62
Lame. 3:62 the lips of those rising up against me,
with their plotting against me all the time.
שִׁבְתָּם וְקִימָתָם הַבִּיטָה אֲנִי מַנְגִּינָתָם׃ 3:63
Lame. 3:63 Look upon their sitting down
and their rising up.
I am their derisive song.
תָּשִׁיב לָהֶם גְּמוּל יְהוָה כְּמַעֲשֵׂה יְדֵיהֶם׃ 3:64
Lame. 3:64 Lord, may You return recompense to them
according to the work of their hands.
תִּתֵּן לָהֶם מְגִנַּת־לֵב תַּאֲלָתְךָ לָהֶם׃ 3:65
Lame. 3:65 May You extend to them a hardened “heart,”
Your “curse,” to them.
תִּרְדֹּף בְּאַף וְתַשְׁמִידֵם מִתַּחַת שְׁמֵי יְהוָה׃ 3:66
Lame. 3:66 May You pursue In “anger,”
and annihilate them from beneath the heavens of the Lord.
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