Haggard from want and hunger, they roamed the parched land in desolate wastelands at night.
In the brush they gathered salt herbs, and their food was the root of the broom tree.
They were banished from their fellow men, shouted at as if they were thieves.
They were forced to live in the dry stream beds, among the rocks and in holes in the ground.
They brayed among the bushes and huddled in the undergrowth.
A base and nameless brood, they were driven out of the land.
"And now their sons mock me in song; I have become a byword among them.
They detest me and keep their distance; they do not hesitate to spit in my face.
Now that God has unstrung my bow and afflicted me, they throw off restraint in my presence.
On my right the tribe attacks; they lay snares for my feet, they build their siege ramps against me.
They break up my road; they succeed in destroying me-- without anyone's helping them.
They advance as through a gaping breach; amid the ruins they come rolling in.
Terrors overwhelm me; my dignity is driven away as by the wind, my safety vanishes like a cloud.
"And now my life ebbs away; days of suffering grip me.
Night pierces my bones; my gnawing pains never rest.
In his great power [God] becomes like clothing to me; he binds me like the neck of my garment.
He throws me into the mud, and I am reduced to dust and ashes.
"I cry out to you, O God, but you do not answer; I stand up, but you merely look at me.
You turn on me ruthlessly; with the might of your hand you attack me.
You snatch me up and drive me before the wind; you toss me about in the storm.
I know you will bring me down to death, to the place appointed for all the living.
"Surely no one lays a hand on a broken man when he cries for help in his distress.
Have I not wept for those in trouble? Has not my soul grieved for the poor?
Yet when I hoped for good, evil came; when I looked for light, then came darkness.
The churning inside me never stops; days of suffering confront me.
I go about blackened, but not by the sun; I stand up in the assembly and cry for help.
I have become a brother of jackals, a companion of owls.
My skin grows black and peels; my body burns with fever.
My harp is tuned to mourning, and my flute to the sound of wailing.
"I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl.
For what is man's lot from God above, his heritage from the Almighty on high?
Is it not ruin for the wicked, disaster for those who do wrong?
Does he not see my ways and count my every step?
"If I have walked in falsehood or my foot has hurried after deceit--
let God weigh me in honest scales and he will know that I am blameless--
if my steps have turned from the path, if my heart has been led by my eyes, or if my hands have been defiled,
then may others eat what I have sown, and may my crops be uprooted.
"If my heart has been enticed by a woman, or if I have lurked at my neighbor's door,
then may my wife grind another man's grain, and may other men sleep with her.
For that would have been shameful, a sin to be judged.
It is a fire that burns to Destruction; it would have uprooted my harvest.
"If I have denied justice to my menservants and maidservants when they had a grievance against me,
what will I do when God confronts me? What will I answer when called to account?
Did not he who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same one form us both within our mothers?
"If I have denied the desires of the poor or let the eyes of the widow grow weary,
if I have kept my bread to myself, not sharing it with the fatherless--
but from my youth I reared him as would a father, and from my birth I guided the widow--
if I have seen anyone perishing for lack of clothing, or a needy man without a garment,
and his heart did not bless me for warming him with the fleece from my sheep,
if I have raised my hand against the fatherless, knowing that I had influence in court,
then let my arm fall from the shoulder, let it be broken off at the joint.
For I dreaded destruction from God, and for fear of his splendor I could not do such things.
"If I have put my trust in gold or said to pure gold, 'You are my security,'
if I have rejoiced over my great wealth, the fortune my hands had gained,
if I have regarded the sun in its radiance or the moon moving in splendor,
so that my heart was secretly enticed and my hand offered them a kiss of homage,
then these also would be sins to be judged, for I would have been unfaithful to God on high.
"If I have rejoiced at my enemy's misfortune or gloated over the trouble that came to him--
I have not allowed my mouth to sin by invoking a curse against his life--
if the men of my household have never said, 'Who has not had his fill of Job's meat?'--
but no stranger had to spend the night in the street, for my door was always open to the traveler--
if I have concealed my sin as men do, by hiding my guilt in my heart
because I so feared the crowd and so dreaded the contempt of the clans that I kept silent and would not go outside--