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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

 

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TEARS

terz (dim`ah; dakrua): 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 Ps 39:12; 2 Ki 20:5; Isa 38:5, and of the suffering consequent on oppression (Eccl 4:1), or defeat in battle (Isa 16:9), or hopeless remorse, as with Esau (Heb 12:17, probably referring to Gen 27:34). The Psalmist describes his condition of distress metaphorically as feeding on the bread of tears and having tears to drink (Ps 80:5; 42:3). Tears in the figurative sense of anxiety for the future are referred to in Ps 126:5; Mk 9:24 the King James Version, and the tears accompanying penitence in Lk 7:38 (44 the Revised Version margin). Jeremiah is sometimes called the "weeping prophet" on account of his expressive hyperbole in Jer 9:1,18 (see also 14:7; 31:16; Lam 1:2; 2:11,18 and ten other passages). Conversely the deliverance from grief or anxiety is described as the wiping away of tears (Ps 116:8; Isa 25:8; Rev 7:17; 21:4).
The expression in Ps 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, nodh) and that his tears should be put into God's no'-dh (receptacle or bottle). No'dh literally means a leathern or skin bottle, as is evident from Ps 119:83 and Josh 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.
Alexander Macalister

Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Definition for 'TEARS'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". bible-history.com - ISBE; 1915.

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