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.
28 DAVID A. BOSWORTH
God 11. Such commentators may not be well read in the literatures of
the cultures surrounding Israel. Extra-biblical ancient literatures pro-
vide numerous examples of deities who weep. J.J.M. Roberts has ad-
duced several examples from Mesopotamian city laments depicting
deities weeping over their beloved cities and persuasively argues that
YHWH also weeps 12. These laments frequently depict the city deity
weeping over the suffering of the community and their own aban-
donment of the city. The Eridu Lament, for example, describes the
weeping of the god Enki of the city Eridu:
[Eriduâ€™s] lord stayed outside his city as (if it were) an alien city.
He wept bitter tears. Father Enki stayed outside his city (as if it
were) an alien city. He wept bitter tears. For the sake of his harmed
city, he wept bitter tears 13.
The text explicitly identifies Enki as â€œfatherâ€ and thereby situ-
ates Enkiâ€™s tears within the context of the attachment relationship
in which Enki is depicted as a father weeping over his absent and
afflicted child. A lament from a later era speaks of the tears of the
goddess Damgalnunna, the consort of Enki:
She walks about stooped over in her house. She cries bitterly. She walks
about (aimlessly) in her defiled cella. She cries bitterly. She walks about
(aimlessly) in her leveled treasure house. She cries bitterly 14.
Oâ€™CONNOR, Jeremiah, 65. See also Oâ€™CONNOR, â€œTears of Godâ€, 183.
Similarly, T. FRETHEIM, Jeremiah (Smith & Helwys Bible Commentary;
Macon, GA 2002) 148. Other scholars who acknowledge divine weeping in
some passages in Jeremiah include W.L. HOLLADAY, Jeremiah (Hermeneia;
Philadelphia, PA 1986) I-II; P.C. CRAIGIE et al., Jeremiah 1â€“25 (WBC 26;
Waco, TX 1991); J.J.M. ROBERTS, â€œThe Motif of the Weeping God in Jere-
miah and Its Background in the Lament Tradition of the Ancient Near Eastâ€,
The Bible in the Ancient Near East. Collected Essays (Winona Lake, IN 2002)
132-142, reprinted from Old Testament Essays 5 (1992) 361-174.
ROBERTS, â€œMotif of the Weeping Godâ€. See also F.W. DOBBS-ALLSOPP,
Weep, O Daughter of Zion. A Study of the City-Lament Genre in the Hebrew
Bible (BibOr 44; Rome 1993) esp. 75-90 and 178.
M.W. GREEN, â€œThe Eridu Lamentâ€, Journal of Cuneiform Studies 30
(1978) 127-167, here 133.
M.E. COHEN, The Canonical Lamentations of Ancient Mesopotamia
(Potomac, MD 1988) 59.
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