Tears- dimah דִּמְעָה (Strong’s 1832)
Sounds like: dee-mah
What are tears? Little droplets of water that come from the eyes and make a path down your face. That is the Hebrew pictographic (word picture) explanation for the word dimah (tears). The root of the word is made up of three letters: dalet (usually associated with a door or pathway), mem (meaning water), and ayin (meaning eyes). Each letter in tandem perfectly describes the physical dynamic of tears. But the emotion behind this bodily function goes much deeper.
Anyone who has read the Tanakh (Old Testament) knows that there are a lot of tears.
Many Biblical tears were written in response to the horrific destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BCE, when the Babylonians came in, decimated the city, took most of the people captive and dragged them away from their homeland:
This is what YHWH of armies says:
“Consider and call for the mourning women, that they may come; and send for the skillful women, that they may come!
Have them hurry and take up a wailing for us, so that our eyes may shed tears [**], and our eyelids flow with water.
For a voice of wailing is heard from Zion: ‘How devastated we are! We are put to great shame, for we have abandoned the land because they have torn down our homes.’”
For the Hebrew people everything was gone. There was death all around them, their walls had been torn down, the temple destroyed; there was nothing left except utter ruin.
Lamentations (often attributed to Jeremiah) was a book entirely book devoted to great sadness. The book, made up of five poems (four of them acrostic poems), outlined the overwhelming grief of the Hebrew people at the loss of their
My eyes do fail with tears [ba-dima-ot], my heart is troubled; My liver is poured on the earth, because of the destruction of the daughter of my people, Because the young children and the infants swoon in the streets of the city.
They tell their mothers, Where is grain and wine? When they swoon as the wounded in the streets of the city, When their soul is poured out into their mothers’ bosom.
What shall I testify to you? what shall I liken to you, daughter of Jerusalem? What shall I compare to you, that I may comfort you, virgin daughter of Zion? For your breach is great like the sea: who can heal you?
The book of Lamentations reads like a manual for grief. There was no glossing over the situation. No one said, “you’ll be fine. It’ll pass” or “time will heal” or “God never gives us more than we can handle.” These platitudes do nothing for grief. The book of Lamentations offered no happy ending, and the book ended with these words:
You, YHWH, reign forever; your throne endures from generation to generation.
Why do you always forget us? Why do you forsake us so long?
Restore us to yourself, YHWH, that we may return; renew our days as of old unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry with us beyond measure.
There was a request for a happy ending, but there was no promise of it.
Great, overwhelming, grief tends to redirect humans to God. Maybe, for the first time in a long time, grief would propel the griever to speak with YHWH openly and honestly, compelling them to ask the tough questions: Why are you letting me suffer? Why do you let horrific things happen to the innocent? Have you forgotten us? What kind of God are you to let this happen?
Some of the greatest Biblical prayers were earnest in their lament:
[David:] I am weary from groaning; all night I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears [ba-dima’ti].
My eyes fail from grief; they grow dim because of all my foes.
Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity, for YHWH has heard my weeping. YHWH has heard my cry for mercy; YHWH accepts my prayer.
There was an awful lot of death and destruction, wailing and tears, great sadness and overwhelming loss in the Bible. Why? Because it was part of our human condition. The Tanakh does not shy away from highlighting all the emotions facing humanity. There were a lot of ugly truths in the Bible… depravity, scandal, rape, war, murder, sexism, greed. It was a sad reflection of humanity but it did not gloss over these painful aspects of life. If the Bible only showed the happy and glorious moments of history how could we come to a full understanding of the human condition? How could we understand our need for a powerful, loving, God? Tears have always been a part of human life. But the Bible does not just give a play by play account of the failures of humanity, it also offers great hope:
Those who sow in tears [b’dimah] will reap with shouts of joy.
He who goes out weeping, bearing a trail of seed, will surely return with shouts of joy, carrying sheaves of grain.
God takes account… for those who love YHWH, our great sadness is the hard birth pangs that will lead to great joy. From the depths of despair YHWH becomes our Deliverer:
The ropes of death entangled me, and the anguish of Sheol overcame me; I was confronted by trouble and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of YHWH: “O YHWH, deliver my soul!”
YHWH is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. YHWH preserves the simplehearted; I was helpless, and He saved me.
Return to your rest, O my soul, for YHWH has been good to you. For You have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears [dimah], my feet from stumbling.
YHWH showed incredible amounts of empathy and compassion when He viewed the honest, heartfelt, tears of His beloved people. When King Hezekiah was close to death he cried out to YHWH:
2 Kings 20:3
“Please, O YHWH, remember how I have walked before You faithfully and wholeheartedly, and have done what was good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
YHWH’s response to Hezekiah was revealing:
2 Kings 20:4-6
Before Isaiah had left the middle courtyard, the word of YHWH came to him, saying, “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of My people, ‘This is what YHWH, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears [dim’ateka]. I will surely heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the house of YHWH. I will add fifteen years to your life, and I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for My sake and for the sake of My servant David.’”
God did not want to see his image bearers suffer… but humanity made poor choices, and as a result of those choices we face terrible hardship. But God created a loophole so that our suffering would not be forever.
Each time we are in pain, YHWH feels it. Yeshua died on the cross for the sins of humanity so He is hyper-aware of human pain. YHWH takes account of it. He collects those moments and watches over you. The Psalmist describes it beautifully:
You have taken account of my wanderings; You have put my tears [dima-ti] in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book?
Then my enemies will retreat on the day I cry for help.
By this I will know that God is on my side. In God, whose word I praise, in YHWH, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?
YHWH loves His people so much, and reacts so strongly to our tears, that the Psalmist said that when we cry to YHWH for help, our enemies would run in the opposite direction. You don’t mess with YHWH’s children, just as you don’t mess with the cub when the mother bear is around.
But our greatest suffering is not personal persecution, but personal loss. Losing a loved one, and the overwhelming grief that comes with it, is gut-wrenchingly painful. YHWH understood our grief because He, too, lost his Son. Yeshua’s death, made our earthly death merely a passing to a greater life; a life where the tears would be wiped from our face and we can live eternally and peacefully with our Creator.
He [YHWH] will swallow up death forever.
The Lord YHWH will wipe away tears [dimah] from every face and remove the disgrace of His people from the whole earth.
For YHWH has spoken. And in that day it will be said, “Surely this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He has saved us.
This is YHWH for whom we have waited. Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”
YHWH has such a soft heart for the tears of His people that it is no wonder that He chose tears to play a significant part in the Anointing of His own Son, Yeshua the Messiah:
When one of the Pharisees [Simon] invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears [Greek: dakrysin]. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
Even though Simon said these words in his head, to himself, Yeshua knew Simon’s thoughts. He took a moment to tell Simon a story about moneylenders, debt forgiveness and appreciation. At the conclusion of the story He drove the point home:
…And turning to the woman, He [Yeshua] said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give Me water for My feet, but she wet My feet with her tears [Greek: dakrysin] and wiped them with her hair. You did not greet Me with a kiss, but she has not stopped kissing My feet since I arrived. You did not anoint My head with oil, but she has anointed My feet with perfume. Therefore I tell you, because her many sins have been forgiven, she has loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Yeshua understood the power of this woman’s tears. She had suffered much in life, making her the right vessel to play the priestly role of anointing Yeshua for his death. She anointed Him with her tears so He could hang, as the Servant King, upon the cross. Her tears anointed Him, so we could be free from the chains of death, and rewarded as suffering servants to our Servant King.
John’s vision of the beautiful ending of the epic Biblical adventure has God eliminating death and wiping our tears away:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among the people, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear [**] from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give water to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life, without cost.”
YHWH found a way to freely give us life everlasting… a forever existence in the presence of our Creator! What a beautiful ending after such a long wandering in the wilderness of this world.
The end is waiting, but we’re not there yet. We’re still wandering in the wilderness, but the Prophet Jeremiah, also known as the Weeping Prophet, offered these words of hope:
Thus says YHWH: Refrain your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears [mi-dimah]; for your work shall be rewarded, says YHWH.
Never forget that YHWH takes account of every tear you shed. Whatever pain, or grief, you are experiencing, God is watching. He sees your tears, and He feels your pain. He collect your tears in His bottle, He records them in His book. Yeshua promised, in His sermon on the mount (Matthew 5), that the reward in heaven would be great for those who mourn, for those who go hungry, for those who are persecuted and for those who are poor in spirit. Those who love God and suffer the most, God remembers and, ultimately, rewards. In your own suffering, may that be a comfort to you.
Next week: Comfort