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Put Thou My Tears Into Thy Bottle - Psalms 56:8

Written by Dr. John L. Lund

2014-01-29

It is true that the Roman emperors collected their tears in these beautiful Roman glass vases. Seal them with wax and delivered them to the grieving loved ones. Collecting tears in a cup was a practice common to the entire Mediterranean area and certainly not limited to the Caesars. However to have the tears of Caesar was a special honor.  Roman glass provided a beautiful and delegate vessel for fragrant oils and perfumes and for the collecting of tears. 

Long before the founding of Rome in 753 BC there were tear cups, sometimes they were referred to as tear bottles or vases but they shared a common tradition, they were used to collect the tears of the mourners at the death of the loved ones. The tear shaped cups had a flaring rim which was placed under the eye to catch the tears as they were shed.  The cup was then corked or waxed and stored as a reminder of the life of the one who passed away.  The shedding of tears was a significant part of showing grief.  Professional mourners were hired at funerals. Jeremiah 9:17-22, Amos 5:16, in the Mishnah, Rabbi Judah ruled that “even the poorest in Israel should hire not less than two flutes and not one waiting woman".  

King David was inspired to prophesy about the coming Messiah and many of the Psalms.  One of the most touching references to the Saviors supernal atonement and his suffering for the sins of the world was recorded in these words put though my tears into thy bottle Psalms 56:8. The moving and tender request that Heavenly Father not forget the tears of the Savior is consistent with Jesus acting as the great advocate for mankind in the Garden of Gethsemane. 

“Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him—Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified; Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren." D&C 45:3-5. 

Later in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus made reference to removing this cup, Luke 22:42.  The Greek word used here was vessel or figuratively “my lot” or “mission” Isaiah calls it “a cup of trembling” Isaiah 51:17&22 or “a bitter cup” D&C 19:18.  Because of the pain and the sorrow and the tears of water and blood that will be shed.  The Shepherd of Israel, even Jesus had warned his sheep that they would have “tears to drink in great measure" as a consequence for their sins Psalms 80:5. Jesus would also drink from that cup, not because he sinned but to conquer sin and provide a way for the return of the children of God.  The cup that Jesus would drink may be identified in different ways “And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father’s house, the offspring and the issue, all vessels of small quantity, from the vessels of cups, even to all the vessels of flagons." Isaiah 22:24.

Flagons were large goat skins filled with water or wine, the cup could represent a flagon of tears so great that no mortal stomach could accommodate it.  Or it could represent a tear cup full of tears a symbol of sorrow so great that only one who is possessed with divine power could drink it.  The meaning may have been the amount of grief and sorrow you're asking me to carry is a tear cup larger than I can bear.  There was no other way for God's will; the cup could not pass from him. He drank from the cup of trembling in tears even the dregs of the sinful tears of all humanity and fulfilled his divine mission. In a very literal way Jesus both drank the cup of trembling’s and filled the cup with his tears for the sins of all of God's creations, truly a bittersweet cup.  Put though my tears into thy bottle. Psalms 56:8.