Suffering and Sin: Interpretations of Illness in the Individual Complaint Psalms

Research output: Book/ReportBook


The intention of this study is to question the supposed self-evident connection between sickness and sin in the individual complaint psalms. On the basis of a careful analysis of the psalms which contain the three motifs divine absence, divine wrath, and man’s guilt, the author problematizes this aspect of the exegetical literature’s widespread interpretation of the theological dimension of illness. As an alternative, the understanding of life which characterizes these psalms is brought to the fore. The individual’s relationship to God is not understood in light of the categories guilt and innocence, but rather in relation to YHWH’s freely given gifts of existence by which the threatened person is received into the saving presence of God. Like life itself, this foundational divine presence is something which cannot be claimed, impossible for man to appropriate by his own attitude or achievements. For that reason, the theory of individual retribution does not function as an interpretation of YHWH’s role in situations of acute suffering. Rather, the sudden loss of the presence of God and the life-threatening situation which thereby arises remains for the individual a something uncalculated and irrational. The divine presence is continually threatened, but neither from its Giver nor its receiver. This threat comes from a realm competing with God and life. The God of the psalms is the giver of life, not its destroyer.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Religious Studies


  • Temple theology, Zion tradition, Jerusalem cult, Divine wrath, Divine presence, God, Personal piety, Individual retribution, Sickness, Death, Sin, Evil, Suffering, Prayer, Individual complaint psalms, Psalter, Book of Psalms, Bible, Old Testament
Original languageEnglish
PublisherAlmqvist & Wiksell
ISBN (Print)91-22-01580-9
Publication statusPublished - 1994
Publication categoryResearch

Publication series

NameConiectanea Biblica: Old Testament Series

Bibliographic note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: Centre for Theology and Religious Studies (015017000)