Lamentations 3:38 King James Bible

Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good?

New International Version

Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?

הָרָע֖וֹת (hā·rā·‘ō·wṯ)
Article | Noun - feminine plural
Strong's Hebrew 7451: Bad, evil

The majority of the translations in https://biblehub.com/lamentations/3-38.htm use the word "evil".

For this verse, why did some translate it as a question and others as a statement?

2 Answers 2


The problem in Lam 3:38 is not how to translate just הָרָע֖וֹת (calamity/woe) but the pair of words הָרָע֖וֹת וְהַטּֽוֹב׃ - the trick is translate the force of the opposites without ruining the force of each word.

The meaning for each of these is (from BDB):

I. רַע226 adjective bad, evil (distinction from noun, and verb Perfect 3masculine singular, is sometimes not easy, and opinions differ); — masculine singular רַע Genesis 6:5 +; רָ֑ע Genesis 31:24 +; plural רָעַים Genesis 13:13 +; construct רָעֵי Ezekiel 7:24 (strike out Co); feminine singular רָעָה Genesis 37:2 37t. (this form usually noun), plural רָעוֺת Genesis 28:8 14t.; רָעֹת Genesis 41:27 (18 t. noun)

II. טוֺב adjective pleasant, agreeable, good (see LagBN 26; Aramaic טַב, Palmyrene טב VogNo. 81, טבא VogNo. 75) — masculine ׳ט Genesis 2:12 22t., טוֺבָם Micah 7:4; feminine טוֺבָה Esther 8:5 50t., טֹבָה Deuteronomy 6:18 2t.; construct טוֺבַת Genesis 26:7 6t., טֹבַת Genesis 24:16; plural טוֺבִים Jeremiah 44:17 28t.; טֹבִים Genesis 27:9 4t.; construct טוֺבֵי Daniel 1:4 2t.; plural טוֺבוֺת Esther 2:2, טֹבוֺת Jeremiah 24:2 6t., טֹבֹת Genesis 6:2 4t.

The central problem is to allow (as lam 3:38 say) to allow both these qualities to flow from God. If we translate the final phrase as "evil and good" (eg, KJV, etc) then we make God responsible for evil which is inconsistent with the testimony of the rest of Scripture.

As noted above, הָרָע֖וֹת (calamity/woe) does not have to be translated as 'evil" or "sinful". It is simply that which is (BDB) disagreeable, unpleasant, displeasing, distress, adversity, misery, etc.

Therefore, the best version rending the phrase as:

  • NIV: calamities and good things
  • NLT: calamity and good things
  • BSB: adversity and good
  • NKJV: woe and well-being
  • CSB: adversity and good
  • HCSB: adversity and good
  • NET: calamity and blessing

Such a rendering is consistent with:

  • Job 2:10 - “You speak as a foolish woman speaks,” he told her. “Should we accept from God only good and not adversity?”
  • Job 5:17 - Blessed indeed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.
  • Rev 3:19 - Those I love, I rebuke and discipline. Therefore be earnest and repent.
  • Heb 12:7 - Endure suffering as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?
  • Heb 12:8 - If you do not experience discipline like everyone else, then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.

מִפִּי עֶלְיֹון לֹא תֵצֵא הָרָעֹות וְהַטֹּֽוב׃

I notice that there are two different questions being asked; I'll respond to the title question, "What is the best translation for הָרָעוֹת in Lamentations 3:38?". It breaks down as follows:

הָ translates as the definite object, something like English "the". (ref)

רָעֹות is the feminine plural form of רָעֹ , "bad" or "evil". (ref, plus Strong's #7451)

So literally it's "the evils". Nineteenth century English included this word in some fairly common usage, for today's common communication I'll think most would add a word and say the meaning as "evil things" or "evil events".

It is at least somewhat noteworthy that the following word, וְהַטֹּֽוב , breaks down to "and the good", where "good" (טֹּֽוב) is singular.

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