David A. Bosworth, «The Tears of God in the Book of Jeremiah», Vol. 94 (2013) 24-46
The article analyzes several passages in Jeremiah in which God weeps in order to understand the function of divine weeping in the book. Attention to the distribution of weeping in the book finds that God’s weeping (8,23; 9,9.17; 13,17; 14,17) gives way to divine anger and refusal to hear the petitions of the people (15,1; 16,5-7). LXX and many modern commentators have attempted to deny that God weeps in these passages. However, several texts clearly depict God weeping, and weeping deities are common in ancient Near Eastern literature.
THE TEARS OF GOD IN THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH
miah indicate a weeping deity. I will return to the theological dis-
cussion and its impact on the interpretation of Jeremiah at the end
of this essay, but first I will examine the frequently denied presence
of divine tears in Jeremiah. I will argue that these texts have been
misread, most likely due to theological convictions.
II. Weeping Deity in the Book of Jeremiah and in Ancient Near East
The grief and lament heard early in the book (3,21; 4,19; 6,26;
7,29) achieve their height in â€œthe weeping poemsâ€ (Jeremiah 8â€“9).
K. Oâ€™Connor identifies Jer 8,23â€“9,10 as â€œthe weeping poemsâ€, al-
though she includes 9,16-21 in her discussion 8. Elsewhere, she iden-
tifies 8,18â€“9,21 as a unit concerning â€œthe weeping Godâ€ 9. Since the
lament beginning in 8,18 is grounded in the suffering described in
8,10-17, which is a result of the sin condemned in 8,4-9, it might be
desirable to refer to Jeremiah 8â€“9 (or 8,4â€“9,21) as the weeping
poems. Discussion of these chapters has often centered around who
the speakers are, and in particular whether YHWH speaks in 8,23; 9,9
or 9,16-17. If God speaks in any of these verses, then God weeps (or
at least wants to weep in 8,23 and 9,17). Broadly speaking, there ap-
pear to be two schools of thought: those who see God weeping in
one or more of these verses, and those who deny that God weeps in
any of them 10. K. Oâ€™Connor suspects that those who prefer that God
not weep in any text are wed to an image of an invulnerable Almighty
K. Oâ€™CONNOR, Jeremiah. Pain and Promise (Minneapolis, MN 2011)
60. Note that some English translations diverge from the MT versification of
Jeremiah 9 (MT 8,23 is numbered as 9,1 and MT 9,1-25 as 9,2-26). All ref-
erences in the present work are to the MT.
K. Oâ€™CONNOR, â€œThe Tears of God and Divine Character in Jeremiah 2â€“
9â€, God in the Fray. A Tribute to Walter Brueggemann (eds. T. LINAFELT â€“
T.K. BEAL) (Minneapolis, MN 1998) 172-195, here 179.
Commentators who think YHWH does not weep in the weeping poems
include: W. RUDOLPH, Jeremia (HAT 12; TÃ¼bingen 1968); J.A. THOMPSON,
The Book of Jeremiah (NICNT; Grand Rapids, MI 1980); W. MCKANE, Jer-
emiah. 2 vols. (ICC; Edinburgh 1986); R.P. CARROLL, Jeremiah (OTL;
Philadelphia, PA 1986); J.R. LUNDBOM, Jeremiah. 3 vols. (AB 21A-C; New
York 1999-2004); W.H. SCHMIDT, Das Buch Jeremia. Kapitel 1â€“20 (ATD 20;
GÃ¶ttingen 2008); L.C. ALLEN, Jeremiah (OTL; Louisville, KY 2008). Most
admit that YHWH weeps in Jer 48,32.
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