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Jeremiah 9:10-19 – The Lament of God


The pathos of God over the suffering of the people of Israel is once again expressed in intense terms.


In this section, readers are initially confronted with an issue of translation, evident in the differences between NRSV ("Take up weeping and wailing") and NIV ("I will take up weeping and wailing"). The latter is a translation of the Hebrew text; the former is based on Septuagint and Syriac translations. There is no good reason not to follow the Hebrew text here; the idea that God would weep and wail certainly has parallels elsewhere in Jeremiah as we have seen. So, God weeps and wails over what has happened to the environment, including land, livestock, birds, and animals. This is an effect of the Babylonian invasion, which Jeremiah 9:11 makes clear is due to the judgment of God. This combination of divine weeping and judgment is common in Jeremiah; again and again, God's wrath is accompanied by God's tears. Anger and tears flow together for God, as for human beings who have suffered the brokenness of close relationships.

After a repetition of indictment against the people and an announcement of judgment (9:13-16), divine weeping once again fills the scene over the devastation experienced by the people of Israel (9:17-22). In 9:17, God calls on the audience to gather the mourning/skilled women to participate in a wake. These women are professional mourners who represent the entire community at the death of an individual or the destruction of a city. They are called to raise a dirge over "us," so that "our" eyes may flow with tears and "our" eyelids flow with water (see 14:17-18). Inasmuch as God is speaking, God is included among the "us" and "our," both as one who mourns and is mourned for. In some sense, God has died the death of this people; God, too, goes into exile.

Jeremiah 9:10-19

10 Take up* weeping and wailing for the mountains,
   and a lamentation for the pastures of the wilderness,
because they are laid waste so that no one passes through,
   and the lowing of cattle is not heard;
both the birds of the air and the animals
   have fled and are gone.
11 I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins,
   a lair of jackals;
and I will make the towns of Judah a desolation
   without inhabitant.

12 Who is wise enough to understand this? To whom has the mouth of the Lord spoken, so that they may declare it? Why is the land ruined and laid waste like a wilderness, so that no one passes through? 13And the Lord says: Because they have forsaken my law that I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice, or walked in accordance with it, 14but have stubbornly followed their own hearts and have gone after the Baals, as their ancestors taught them. 15Therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I am feeding this people with wormwood, and giving them poisonous water to drink. 16I will scatter them among nations that neither they nor their ancestors have known; and I will send the sword after them, until I have consumed them.

The People Mourn in Judgement

17 Thus says the Lord of hosts:
Consider, and call for the mourning-women to come;
   send for the skilled women to come;
18 let them quickly raise a dirge over us,
   so that our eyes may run down with tears,
   and our eyelids flow with water.
19 For a sound of wailing is heard from Zion:
   ‘How we are ruined!
   We are utterly shamed,
because we have left the land,
   because they have cast down our dwellings.’

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