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
women (Jer 9,19) 33. The women learn a lament tradition which
they actualize to fit the particular circumstances of a given perform-
ance. In this text, the primary purpose for summoning the keening
women is to motivate weeping:
that our eyes may run with tears (h[md wnyny[ hndrtw)
and our pupils flow with water (~ym-wlzy wnyp[p[w).
The speech of YHWH is introduced in v. 16 and continues through-
out the passage except for the marked quotation of the keening
women in v. 18. The text speaks of weeping using two forms of the
poetic idiom for weeping that reads literally â€œour eyes go down with
tearsâ€. The idiom appears in its typical form in the first line (cf. Jer
13,17; 14,17), but with lexical substitutions and disrupted word order
in the second line. Other examples also substitute ~ym (â€œwaterâ€) for
h[md (â€œtearsâ€; Ps 119,136; Lam 1,16; 3,48), and several verbs may
be substituted for dry (â€œto go downâ€; cf. Lam 3,49; Job 16,20), al-
though only this text uses lzn (â€œto trickleâ€). Only here does ~ymp[p[
(â€œpupilsâ€) replace !y[ (â€œeyeâ€) in the idiom. The use of the same poetic
idiom twice without repetition of lexical items or word order creates
a colorful innovation of a distinctively poetic expression for weeping
to spotlight the tears of the community.
In 9,17, the speaker expects to weep when the keening women ap-
pear, but does not indicate that weeping has been previously absent 34.
What changes in 9,17 is the expectation that â€œourâ€ eyes will weep.
Commentators typically understand Jeremiah rather than YHWH as the
speaker of vv. 16-21 despite the opening â€œthus says YHWH of hostsâ€
in v. 16 and â€œspeak, thus the oracle of YHWHâ€ in v. 20. They see the
plural language as Jeremiah speaking and including the people in his
â€œourâ€ 35. LXX reads Î¿á¼± á½€Ï†Î¸Î±Î»ÂµÎ¿á½¶ á½‘Âµá¿¶Î½ (â€œyour [pl.] eyesâ€) instead of
L.J.M. CLASSENS, â€œCalling the Keeners: The Image of the Wailing
Women as a Symbol of Survival in a Traumatized Worldâ€, JFSR 26 (2010)
63-77, esp. 66-67.
Pace Oâ€™CONNOR, Jeremiah, 66, who thinks the speaker is unable to
weep due to shock and despair.
RUDOLPH, Jeremia, 67-68; MCKANE, Jeremiah, I, 208; HOLLADAY, Jere-
miah, I, 309; ALLEN, Jeremiah, 119; SCHMIDT, Jeremia, 209; FISCHER, Jeremia,
364. LUNDBOM (Jeremiah, 1.559) takes v. 16 to be the speech of YHWH, but
thinks that Jeremiah abruptly takes over the speech in v. 17, which saves YHWH
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