What Is a Tear Bottle in the Bible: Psalm 56:8

As part of the Bible, there is a passage where it mentions that God collects someone’s tears in a bottle. This is rather peculiar because people do not normally do this today. It is an uncommon practice to collect tears in a bottle, so interpreting this passage can be challenging. Without the proper context of the verse, we might be confused as to what the writer is trying to communicate. So, what is a tear bottle in the Bible?

There are people in history who have used tear bottles, but we have to figure out if it is used in a similar way by God. Does God use the tear bottles the same way as people, or is it different?

Furthermore, what does God collecting our tears mean for us as people? What does it mean for our view of God? Before we analyze the passage, we should first look at the context of the passage.

Context of Psalm 56

In the Old Testament of the Bible, there is a book entitled: Psalm. Psalm is a collection of prayers and songs that were written by people to God. These prayers and songs are supposed to reflect on the nature of God and show how we can relate to God. The book of Psalms, called Psalm, is supposed to help people have a better concept of God and to understand who He is. 

Psalm 56 specifically was written by a man named King David. David was a king of Israel and was known for slaying a giant Philistine named Goliath. According to historical evidence, Psalm 56 is a response to a difficult time in David’s life. David had been captured by the Philistines in a place called Gath. 

As David is in captivity, he talks to God with mourning, because he is distressed that he has been captured. 

Psalm 56

1 O God, have mercy on me,

    for people are hounding me.

    My foes attack me all day long.

2 I am constantly hounded by those who slander me,

    and many are boldly attacking me.

3 But when I am afraid,

    I will put my trust in you.

4 I praise God for what he has promised.

    I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?

    What can mere mortals do to me?

5 They are always twisting what I say;

    they spend their days plotting to harm me.

6 They come together to spy on me—

    watching my every step, eager to kill me.

7 Don’t let them get away with their wickedness;

    in your anger, O God, bring them down.

8 You keep track of all my sorrows. 

    You have collected all my tears in your bottle.

    You have recorded each one in your book.

9 My enemies will retreat when I call to you for help.

    This I know: God is on my side!

10 I praise God for what he has promised;

    yes, I praise the Lord for what he has promised.

11 I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?

    What can mere mortals do to me?

12 I will fulfill my vows to you, O God,

    and will offer a sacrifice of thanks for your help.

13 For you have rescued me from death;

    you have kept my feet from slipping.

So now I can walk in your presence, O God,

    in your life-giving light.

Psalm 56:1-13 in the New Living Translation

The Tear Bottle

A peculiar part of these verses is found in verse 8, where King David mentions that God collects his tears in a bottle. King David said, “Psalm 56:8 when David prays to God, “Thou tellest my wanderings, put thou my tears in Thy bottle; are they not in Thy Book?” What is the significance of that? Why does God collect our tears in a bottle, and do other cultures do this as well?

History of the Tear Bottle

Tear bottles have been used throughout history. Although some tear bottles might be used to collect tears of joy, it is more common that tear bottles were used as a tool for people to mourn.

Ancient Roman Times

Within the context of history, tear bottles were used in ancient Rome, and they symbolized mourning for a person. In ancient times, tear bottles were simply small glass vials in which people would collect their tears in to show respect for the person they were mourning for. 

Many times people would even place these tear catchers with the deceased person at their burial tombs. In this way, tear bottles were one of the symbols of love that were being poured out for the past loved one. 

The Victorian Era

Tear jars also were around during the 19th century, and were used for mourning as well. They would be used to collect the tears of someone who was morning. It even acted as a timer, so that whenever all the tears had evaporated, the person knew that their time of mourning was over. 

The Middle Eastern Societies

In middle eastern societies, small bottles are also used for tear collection. For thousands of years, middle eastern societies have used a tear cup to place at burial tombs as a sign of love. 

Ultimately, the tear bottle tradition has been around for centuries and continues to be popular in certain regions of the globe. Tear bottles today are not very prominent in the United States but they can still be used as a symbol for people. 

Are there tear bottles in the New Testament?

There is no mention in the New Testament of tear bottles, but this verse can be applied to New Testament Christians and their relationship with God. They can believe, just like King David did, that God cares when we are in a hard time in life. 

The fact that God cares about the difficult season of life that we might be in is reflected in the fact that He sent Jesus to forgive the sins of the world.

What is the Verse actually talking about

Although Psalm 56:8 is not literally talking about God having small glass bottles where he collects your tears, it is saying that God cares about the times when we cry. The verse is using poetic language to communicate something about God. 

Sometimes we are in a mourning period, and it can feel like no one cares. What Psalm 56:8 is reminding us of is that even in our mourning period, God still cares and is near to us. 

The verse teaches us something about God. The Lord God cannot collect the tears into tear vials without being close to us, so the verse is communicating that even in difficult times, God can be close to us. 

It also teaches us something about our own identity. Psalm 56:8 is teaching us that we are cared for by God. God is not someone who doesn’t care about our feelings, but instead, we learn that our feelings and pain are valid. When we mourn, God doesn’t tell us to suck it up, but instead, God encourages us and collects our tears.

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