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
by a human (â€œthe wine was in your vatsâ€). Within MT, the issue of
speaker is complicated by the third-person hghy in v. 31. Most com-
mentators read hkba with one MS and the eastern Qere 53. A final
textual problem concerns â€œmore than weeping for Jazerâ€ (ykbm). The
parallel text in Isa 16,9 reads ykbb (â€œwith the weeping of Jazerâ€) and
LXX reads á½¡Ï‚ ÎºÎ»Î±Î¸ÂµÏŒÎ½ (â€œas the weeping of Jazerâ€) 54. MT renders
the sense that the weeping over the vine of Sibmah will exceed that
over Jazer, whereas the other readings suggest the two weepings will
be the same.
The language of YHWHâ€™s weeping may indicate insincere tears,
and this show of weeping and lamenting is part of mocking Moab and
an expression of Schadenfreude. The view that YHWHâ€™s weeping is
sarcastic assumes that the text is ironic because it is part of the â€œoracles
against the nationsâ€. As this genre label indicates, these texts are un-
derstood as mocking or taunt-songs in which no genuine lament may
occur. J.B. Geyer, however, argues persuasively that these texts should
be called â€œoracles about the nationsâ€ 55. These passages include ma-
terial that is clearly positive concerning the nations (e.g., Jer 48,47;
49,6.39). Geyer further argues that these texts derive from liturgical
use and employ mythological motifs and therefore traditional attempts
to coordinate the oracles with specific historical events are misguided.
The genre includes lament as a basic element, and these laments may
be read as sincere since there is no reason to suspect sarcasm 56. I am
inclined to concur with Geyer and most commentators that the divine
tears in Jer 48,32 are sincere 57. Interestingly, many commentators
See MCKANE, Jeremiah II, 1184, who notes creative attempts to make
sense of MT and argues for reading the first person.
For analysis of the relationship between Isaiah 15â€“16 and Jeremiah 48,
see WOODS, Jeremiah 48, 67-98.
J.B. GEYER, Mythology and Lament. Studies in the Oracles about the
Nations (SOTS Monographs; Hants, UK 2004) 3-7.
B.C. JONES, Howling over Moab. Irony and Rhetoric in Isaiah 15â€“16
(SBLDS 157; Atlanta, GA 1996) makes the most detailed case for reading Isaiah
15â€“16 as ironic, but see the critique of GEYER, Mythology and Lament, 151-154.
Similarly, WOODS, Jeremiah 48, 265-269; STULMAN, Jeremiah, 364;
FRETHEIM, Jeremiah, 602, 604-605; FRETHEIM, Suffering of God, 143; HOL-
LADAY, Jeremiah II, 354-355; FISCHER, Jeremia, 503-504.527. RUDOLPH, Jer-
emia, 261, sees the lament as ironic; and MCKANE, Jeremiah, II, 1192-1193;
LUNDBOM, Jeremiah, III, 291, and ALLEN, Jeremiah, 478, remain cautiously
uncommitted. Of these scholars, only Allen thinks these tears are Jeremiahâ€™s
and not YHWHâ€™s.
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