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Bible Encyclopedias

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia


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tērz ( דּמעה , dim‛āh ; δάκρυα , dákrua ): In the instances recorded in Scripture weeping is more frequently associated with mental distress than with physical pain. Eastern peoples show none of the restraint of emotion in lamentation which is characteristic of modern Occidentals, and there are many records of this manifestation of woe, even among men accustomed to hardships and warfare, such as David and his soldiers. The flow of tears is the evidence of sorrow in prospect of approaching death in Psalm 39:12 ; 2 Kings 20:5 ; Isaiah 38:5 , and of the suffering consequent on oppression (Ecclesiastes 4:1 ), or defeat in battle (Isaiah 16:9 ), or hopeless remorse, as with Esau (Hebrews 12:17 , probably referring to Genesis 27:34 ). The Psalmist describes his condition of distress metaphorically as feeding on the bread of tears and having tears to drink ( Psalm 80:5 ; Psalm 42:3 ). Tears in the figurative sense of anxiety for the future are referred to in Psalm 126:5 ; Mark 9:24 the King James Version, and the tears accompanying penitence in Luke 7:38 (44 the Revised Version margin). Jeremiah is sometimes called the "weeping prophet" on account of his expressive hyperbole in Jeremiah 9:1 , Jeremiah 9:18 (see also Jeremiah 14:7 ; Jeremiah 31:16 ; Lamentations 1:2 ; Lamentations 2:11 , Lamentations 2:18 and ten other passages). Conversely the deliverance from grief or anxiety is described as the wiping away of tears ( Psalm 116:8 ; Isaiah 25:8 ; Revelation 7:17 ; Revelation 21:4 ).

The expression in Psalm 56:8 in which the Psalmist desires that God should remember his wanderings and his tears has given rise to a curious mistake. There is a paronomasia in the passage as he pleads that God should record his wanderings (Hebrew, nōdh ) and that his tears should be put into God's nō'dh (receptacle or bottle). Nō'dh literally means a leathern or skin bottle, as is evident from Psalm 119:83 and Joshua 9:4-13 . The request is obviously figurative , as there is no evidence that there was even a symbolical collection of tears into a bottle in any Semitic funeral ritual, and there is no foundation whatever for the modern identification of the long, narrow perfume jars so frequently found in late Jewish and Greek-Jewish graves, as "lachrymatories" or tear bottles. See BOTTLE .

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Tears'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 1915.

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