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
Another lament over Eridu identifies the tears of another goddess:
Nammu, the mother of Enki, went out from the city. Her hands have
become heavy through wailing. She cries bitter tears. She beats her
chest like a holy drum. She cries bitter tears 15.
Although weeping deities appear regularly in Mesopotamian city
laments, the motif is found outside this genre. The goddess Tashmetu
weeps for her divine lover Nabu, and Ishtar weeps for Tammuz 16.
Deities also weep in Mesopotamian narratives. In Gilgamesh, the
goddess Ishtar weeps over the death of the bull of heaven (VI.168).
Belet-ili and the Annunaki weep over the flood both in Gilgamesh
(XI.115) and Atraá¸«asÄ«s (III.iii.32; iv.10, 15-18), and Enlil weeps
over the misery of the gods and then makes humans to do their
work (Atraá¸«asÄ«s, I.iii.167). In the Descent of Ishtar, Papsukkal,
vizier of the gods, weeps before Sin as he describes the lack of fer-
tility following Ishtarâ€™s descent (83-84). In Nergal and Ereshkigal,
Ereshkigal the goddess of the Underworld weeps because she
misses her lover Nergal (IV.53).
Divine tears are not limited to Mesopotamian literature. In Egyp-
tian literature, Isis weeps for her son Horus and her husband Osiris 17.
In Ugaritic poetry, Anat weeps over the dead god Baal (KTU 1.5 IV
25â€“1.6 I 7). In Greek epic, Homer depicts Artemis crying in humili-
ation after being beaten and chased off the battlefield by Hera (Iliad,
21.493-496), and Thetis when she begs Hephaistos to make new
armor for her son (18.428). Given the abundant tears shed by ancient
deities in the literatures of several cultures surrounding Israel, there
is no reason in principle why OT texts may not depict YHWH as weep-
ing. YHWH, like other deities, is presented as angry, repentant, loving,
and possessing eyes and face, among other body parts. It should not
be surprising if YHWH, like other deities, is also shown to weep.
COHEN, Canonical Lamentations, 85.
See Context of Scripture. Canonical Compositions from the Biblical
World (ed. W.W. HALLO) (Leiden 2003) 445 and 419, respectively.
W.K. SIMPSON (ed.), The Literature of Ancient Egypt. An Anthology of
Stories, Instructions, Stelae, Autobiographies, and Poetry (New Haven, CT
2003) 97 and 263.
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