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.
36 DAVID A. BOSWORTH
â€œourâ€, which acknowledges that YHWH is speaking, but not included
among those weeping. Jerome allows YHWH to speak, but admits the
speaker could be Jeremiah. He implicitly acknowledges the possibility
that divine and prophetic voices merge as in 8,23: â€œGod (or the
prophet) unites himself with them by adopting the manner of one shar-
ing in their suffering, so that whatever the people experience he says
that he experiences and feelsâ€ 36. YHWH speaks these words and weeps
in this verse, and the first-person language expresses divine solidarity
with the people. It includes Jeremiah, who cannot be imagined as dry-
eyed while YHWH and the people weep. As in 8,23, Jeremiah embod-
ies YHWHâ€™s weeping. YHWH expects the keening women to have the
effect that prophecy has not had. The women will move the people of
Israel to weep with YHWH and Jeremiah. Those commentators who
understand YHWH speaking these words have overlooked the force of
the first-person plural language with which YHWH calls the keening
women to make the people weep 37. But by saying â€œweâ€, YHWH in-
cludes the deity along with the people, and both weep together 38. Rit-
ual weeping â€œis an expression of attachment and affirmation of a
social bond, whether of individuals weeping over personal loss or of
societies over collective onesâ€ 39. Throughout the book, the word of
YHWH as expressed through Jeremiah generates anger, resistance, and
disbelief rather than grief and repentance. In this passage, YHWH hopes
that the keening women can bring the people together with their God
and prophet and that their shared tears may serve to recreate and re-
inforce their relationship.
4. Jeremiah 13,17
Since tears have a social function, the reactions people have to
tears are at least as important as the motives for crying. However,
people often conceal their tears from others. This behavior may
seem paradoxical or counter-productive, but people are sometimes
embarrassed by their tears, especially when they weep outside so-
JEROME, Jeremiah, 63-64.
CARROLL, Jeremiah, 246; CRAIGIE, Jeremiah, I, 150.
Oâ€™CONNOR, Jeremiah, 67; FRETHEIM, Suffering of God, 134; FRETHEIM,
Jeremiah, 162; A. BAUER, Gender in the Book of Jeremiah. A Feminist-Lit-
erary Reading (Studies in Biblical Literature 5; New York 1999) 85.
NELSON, Seeing through Tears, 202.
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