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
tion serves an important function 62. It maintains a seemingly broken
relationship and offers hope that YHWH will heal the pain.
IV. Conclusion: divine pathos in Jeremiah
I have argued that many scholars mistakenly deny the tears of
YHWH and make Jeremiah alone the one who weeps in Jer 8,23;
9,9.17; 13,17; 14,17. Similarly, LXX modifies the language of MT
in order to avoid referring to YHWH weeping in every example ex-
cept 8,23 where LXX seems to assume that Jeremiah speaks, but
not God. Most modern interpreters have attempted to obfuscate the
divine tears without modifying the MT by arguing that Jeremiah
rather than YHWH speaks. Given the clarity of the Hebrew text
about divine weeping in certain places (Jer 9,9; 14,17; 48,32) and
the general overlap of prophetic and divine voices elsewhere (Jer
8,23; 9,17; 13,17), the denial that YHWH weeps seems motivated
by theological concerns rather than exegesis. However, these con-
cerns are not made explicit. Interpreters from LXX to modern
scholars appear to be motivated by the assumption that God is im-
passive and therefore YHWH may not be said to weep.
The OT includes considerable language of divine pathos that
scholars freely acknowledge, but weeping is a particularly powerful
bodily manifestation of emotional disturbance that many Western
cultures regard as unmasculine. Consequently, divine weeping may
appear less â€œacceptableâ€ than, for example, divine anger. Tradition-
ally, anthropomorphic language about God has been understood in
a metaphorical or analogical sense rather than as literal truth about
the bodily or emotional life of God. Over the past century or more,
however, this traditional understanding has been sharply chal-
lenged. Many theologians now speak of the pathos or suffering of
God, and argue that God experiences emotional states including
grief and sorrow. Consequently, the biblical language of Godâ€™s
pathos has been read more literally 63. Those who deny any divine
weeping in Jeremiah may be reacting against this modern develop-
ment. Jerome, by contrast, could acknowledge the weeping of
FRETHEIM, Jeremiah, 155-156.
FRETHEIM, Suffering of God; A.J. HESCHEL, The Prophets (Jewish Pub-
lication Society of America; New York 1962) esp. 221-278.
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