The Biblical phrase, "put thou tears into a bottle", is thought be a reference to lachrymatories or tear bottles that were an important part of the burial ceremony among the ancients. Such bottles were used to collect and preserve the tears of those who mourned. Also, records were often kept so as to remember or verify who actually came, participated and contributed in this grieving ritual.
From James Morier: "In some of the mournful assemblies, it is the custom for a priest to go about to each person, at the height of their grief, and with a swab (cloth or cotton wad) in hand, carefully collect the falling tears and then squeeze the liquid into the bottle. These tears are preserved, and sometimes recorded, with the greatest of care.
Some Persians believe that in the agony of death, when all medicines have failed, a drop of tears so collected and put into the mouth of a dying person will revive them. Thus the reason for collecting and bottling tears. ("Second Journey through Persia", p. 179: Published 1818.)
The Greeks and Roman also performed this funeral ritual. Some scholars believe that Tacitus was referring to the tear-collecting when he said: "At my funeral let no tokens of sorrow be seen, no pompous mockery of woe. “
Modern archaeologists have found a number of these tear bottles in ancient tombs. They are made from a variety of materials that include glass, pottery, agate, sardonyx, sometimes skin and occasionally crude baked clay. Most are broad at the bottom with long slender necks and funnel-shaped mouths
From Johannes Van Cotovicus: “The grave of M. Tullius Cicero was dug up in the island of Zacynthus, A. D. 1544, in which were found two glass urns; the larger had ashes in it, the lesser water: the one was supposed to contain his ashes, the other the tears of his friends: and as this was a custom with the Romans.” (Itinerarium Hiersolymitanum et Syriacum. Published1596)
There is less evidence that the Jews collected tears. However, there is a saying in their language that indicates is they had a knowledge or some relationship to the practice. The translated Hebrew phrase "tears into thy bottle" refers to "crying" and a "skin bottle".
The introductory text is symbolic. Here, David is reminding God that He has been a witness to David's exile (wanderings), that David is grief stricken (tears in bottle) over that exile, and that his grief is verifiable and real (book).
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