Jeremiah 16:7
Neither shall men tear themselves for them in mourning, to comfort them for the dead; neither shall men give them the cup of consolation to drink for their father or for their mother.
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(7) Neither shall men tear themselves.—The marginal reading, “Neither shall men break bread for them,” as in Isaiah 58:7; Lamentations 4:4, gives the true meaning. We are entering upon another region of funeral customs, reminding us of some of the practices connected with the “wakes” of old English life. After the first burst of sorrow and of fasting, as the sign of sorrow (2Samuel 1:12; 2Samuel 3:35; 2Samuel 12:16-17), friends came to the mourner to comfort him. A feast was prepared for them, consisting of “the bread of mourners” (Hosea 9:4; Ezekiel 24:17) and the “cup of consolation,” as for those of a heavy heart (Proverbs 31:6). It is probable that some reference to this practice was implied in our Lord’s solemn benediction of the bread and of the cup at the Last Supper. As His body had been “anointed for the burial” (Matthew 26:12), so, in giving the symbols of His death, He was, as it were, keeping with His disciples His own funeral feast. The thought of the dead lying unburied, or buried without honour, is contemplated in all its horrors.

Jeremiah 16:7. Neither shall men tear themselves for them — According to this translation the phrase alludes to another expression of immoderate grief, which consisted in tearing their flesh with their nails. But according to the marginal reading, the sense is, Neither shall men break bread for them; alluding to the mourning-feast, mentioned Jeremiah 16:5. So the LXX., ου μη κλασθη αρτος εν πενθει αυτων εις παρακλησιν επι τεθνηκοτι, “bread shall by no means be broken in their mourning, for consolation concerning the dead.” So also the Vulgate. As to the custom alluded to, Jerome informs us, in his commentary on this place, that “it was usual to carry provisions to mourners, and to make an entertainment, which sort of feasts the Greeks call περιδειπνα, and the Latins parentalia.” The origin of which custom undoubtedly was, that the friends of the mourner, who came to comfort him, (which they often did in great numbers, as we learn from John 11:19,) easily concluding, that a person so far swallowed up of grief, as even to forget his own bread could hardly attend to the entertainment of so many guests, each sent in his proportion of meat and drink, in hopes to prevail upon the mourner, by their example and persuasions, to partake of such refreshment as might tend to recruit both his bodily strength and his spirits. To this custom Tobit is thought to refer when, among other exhortations to his son, he directs him to pour out his bread on the burial of the just. See Blaney. It must be observed, that among the Hebrews all things eaten were called bread. Neither shall men give them the cup of consolation for their father, &c. — They were also wont, on these occasions, to send wine, or some other cheering liquor to drink, that they might forget their sorrows. This is called here the cup of consolation. Sir John Chardin, in one of his MSS. tells us, that “the oriental Christians still make banquets of the same kind, by a custom derived from the Jews; and that the provisions spoken of in this verse were such as were wont to be sent to the house of the deceased, where healths were also drunk to the survivers of the family.” God here tells the Jews by his prophet, that the time should come when so many should die, and so fast, and the rest should be so much upon the brink of the grave, that they should have neither leisure nor heart for using these ceremonies.

16:1-9 The prophet must conduct himself as one who expected to see his country ruined very shortly. In the prospect of sad times, he is to abstain from marriage, mourning for the dead, and pleasure. Those who would convince others of the truths of God, must make it appear by their self-denial, that they believe it themselves. Peace, inward and outward, family and public, is wholly the work of God, and from his loving-kindness and mercy. When He takes his peace from any people, distress must follow. There may be times when it is proper to avoid things otherwise our duty; and we should always sit loose to the pleasures and concerns of this life.Tear themselves - Better as in the margin; "break broad for them." It was customary upon the death of a relative to fast, and for the friends and neighbors after a decent delay to come and comfort the mourner, and urge food upon him 2 Samuel 12:17; food was also distributed at funerals to the mourners, and to the poor.

Cup of consolation - Marginal reference note.

7. tear themselves—rather, "break bread," namely, that eaten at the funeral-feast (De 26:14; Job 42:11; Eze 24:17; Ho 9:4). "Bread" is to be supplied, as in La 4:4; compare "take" (food) (Ge 42:33).

give … cup of consolation … for … father—It was the Oriental custom for friends to send viands and wine (the "cup of consolation") to console relatives in mourning-feasts, for example, to children upon the death of a "father" or "mother."

Neither shall men tear themselves for them in mourning to comfort them for the dead: if we allow our translation here of the word odp with the word supplied, themselves, it will be hard to give a tolerable sense of these words, for then tearing is the same with the cutting themselves mentioned in the former verse, which though it might be as a passionate expression of the person’s sorrow that did it, yet how it should comfort the friends of the deceased will be very hard to conceive. But the truth is, the word hath but two significations, and we have here given it what doth worst suit this text. It signifies to divide, and to tear, or rend. Both in kal the first conjugation, and in pihel the third conjugation, it is used to signify dividing: in the former, Isaiah 58:7, where we interpret it deal; to deal, that is, divide thy bread to the hungry; which is the only text (excepting this) where it is used in this conjugation. In the ether conjugation it is so used in many texts, Leviticus 11:4,5 &c.; Deu 14:7; so certainly it ought to have been translated here, Neither shall men deal out bread for them in mourning, to comfort them for the dead, and seemeth to hint to us a custom in use amongst them, when they had any friend that had lost his or her relations, to send them some meat or victuals, (for amongst the Hebrews all things that they ate were called bread,) and then to go and dine or sup with them, to have opportunity to speak comfortably to them. This doubtless is the sense of the words, and so it is plain enough, and this is confirmed by the next phrase.

Neither shall men give them the cup of consolation to drink for their father or for their mother; neither shall men drink the cup of consolation for their father, &c.; as in such cases they were wont to have something to eat, so they were also wont to send bottles of wine, or other cheering liquor, to drink, that they might forget their sorrows; this is called the cup of consolation, from the end for which the sending and drinking of it was intended. God tells them that the time should come that so many should die, and so fast, and the rest should be so much upon the brink of the grave, that they should have no leisure for or heart to these ceremonies.

Neither shall men tear themselves,.... Either their flesh, or their clothes: or, "stretch out" (y); that is, their hands, and clap them together, and wring them, as persons in great distress do: or "divide", or "break", or "deal unto them" (z); that is, bread, as at their funeral feasts. Thus the Septuagint version, neither shall bread be broken in their mourning; and to the same sense the Targum; so the word is used in Isaiah 63:7, a practice that obtained among the Heathens; see Deuteronomy 26:14 and now with the Jews, as it seems: which they did

for them in mourning, to comfort them for the dead; they used to carry or send food to the surviving relations, and went and ate with them, in order to comfort them for the loss of their friends; but this now would not be done, not because an Heathenish custom, but because they would have no heart nor leisure for it: see Ezekiel 24:17.

Neither shall men give them the cup of consolation to drink for their father or for their mother: not give them a cup of good liquor to comfort and cheer their spirits, overwhelmed with sorrow, on account of the death of a father or mother; which was wont to be done, but now should be omitted; the calamity would be so great, and so universal, that there would be none to do such offices as these; see Proverbs 31:6.

(y) "et non expandent, sub. manus suas", Vatablus, Montanus; "extendent", Pagninus, Calvin. So Kimchi and Ben Melech. (z) "Non divident", Tigurine version; "neque impertientur, sub. cibum", Junius & Tremellius; "partientur panem", Piscator; "neque cibum dabunt", Schmidt. So Jarchi, Joseph Kimchi, and Abarbinel.

Neither shall men tear themselves for them in mourning, to comfort them for the dead; neither shall men give them the {d} cup of consolation to drink for their father or for their mother.

(d) For in these great extremities all consolation and comfort will be in vain.

7. break bread for them] The same verb as in Isaiah 58:7 (“deal”). There the word for bread (leḥem) stands in MT., and a very slight change here would convert “for them” (Heb. lahem) into the same word. If on the other hand we keep lahem, leḥem must have dropped out after it. The reference is to the custom for mourners to fast (cp. 2 Samuel 3:35), whereupon their sympathetic friends brought them bread and wine to console them.

the cup of consolation] on the principle stated Proverbs 31:6.

Verse 7. - Tear themselves for them. The verb is used in Isaiah 58:7 of breaking bread (the accusative is there expressed), and there is no doubt that this is the meaning here. The only question is whether lahem, for them, should not rather be lekhem, bread (this was read by the Septuagint, Peshito, Vulgate, Targnm). St. Jerome sees here an allusion to the funeral feasts (comp. the parentalia), and surely he is right. The Jews had a conception of the nature of the life of the other world only less distinct than that of their Egyptian neighbors. The funeral feast was not merely for the living, but for the dead. Indeed, it was primarily intended for the spiritual nourish-merit of those who had gone before to the unseen world (comp. Bonwick, 'Egyptian Belief and Modern Thought,' p. 48). Chardin, the old traveler, asserts that "the Oriental Christians still make banquets of this kind by a custom derived from the Jews." The cup of consolation. It would seem as if the funeral feasts had dwindled among the Jews into little more than a refection for the benefit of the mourners. Jeremiah 16:7פּרס, as in Isaiah 58:7, for פּרשׂ, Lamentations 4:4, break, sc. the bread (cf. Isa. l.c.) for mourning, and to give to drink the cup of comfort, does not refer to the meals which were held in the house of mourning upon occasion of a death after the interment, for this custom cannot be proved of the Israelites in Old Testament times, and is not strictly demanded by the words of the verse. To break bread to any one does not mean to hold a feast with him, but to bestow a gift of bread upon him; cf. Isaiah 58:7. Correspondingly, to give to drink, does not here mean to drink to one's health at a feast, but only to present with wine to drink. The words refer to the custom of sending bread and wine for refreshment into the house of the surviving relatives of one dead, to comfort them in their sorrow; cf. 2 Samuel 3:35; 2 Samuel 12:16., and the remarks on Ezekiel 24:17. The singular suffixes on לנחמו, אביו, and אמּו, alongside of the plurals להם and אותם, are to be taken distributively of every one who is to be comforted upon occasion of a death in his house; and להם is not to be changed, as by J. D. Mich. and Hitz., into לחם.
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