Saturday, February 24, 2018

You Collected All My Tears

"You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book." Psalm 56:8  

The Amman Citadel is an important historical and Biblical site located in the heart of the city of Amman, Jordan. The rich history and ruins date back to well before the time of Christ, and excavation  has uncovered artifacts from as early as the Middle Bronze Age (1650-1550 BC). Amman is mentioned multiple times in the scriptures as “Rabbath Amman,” a Kingdom of the ancient Ammonites (Deuteronomy 3:11, Joshua 13:25). The prophets Ezekiel and Jeremiah had strong warnings against this Ammonite kingdom found in Jeremiah 49 and Ezekiel 21. Most notably, the Amman Citadel is also known to be the place King David sieged in a campaign led by Joab and where Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband was killed. (2 Samuel 12:29-30, 2 Samuel 11:28)

When Amman was captured by the Greeks in 331 BC, the city was renamed Philadelphia and became one of the cities of the ten Decapolis, mentioned in the New Testament three times (Matthew 4:25, Mark 5:20, 7:31). Christ spent a great deal of his ministry traveling and preaching in these Decapolis cities.

Today, if you visit the Amman Citadel, you will be impressed at the preservation and layers of ancient ruins to be explored.  Also impressive, is the Jordan Archaeological Museum located at the Citadel which houses several 

collections of artifacts excavated from different sites in Jordan. It formerly housed some of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but today you can see collections ranging from ancient coins and jewelry, pottery, glass and metals, statues and a copy of the Mesha Stone. 
You can visit this museum multiple times and still not take in all it has to offer. On a recent trip to the Amman Citadel, I came across these ancient tear bottles dating back to the Roman period, found in Amman and Jerash. Immediately scripture from the Old Testament came to mind when David said, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle…”Psalm 56:8   As I studied the bottles, I was overcome with the presence of God in my life and a deep sense of His love and faithfulness. This wasn’t simply an allegory David was referring to. As it turns out, tear bottles actually existed and were a ceremonial aspect to funerals in the ancient world. Mourners often filled these small glass vials with tears and placed them in burial tombs as symbols of love and respect for the dead. Legend has it, the more tear bottles at a tomb would make the deceased more important in the after-life.   
Tear Bottles Found in Amman and Jerash. Roman Period.
Often as Westerners, we read the Bible through our own eyes and not through the eyes of the Middle Eastern culture in which it was written to. The idea of a tear bottle is not something common or used in our culture, and might not have a lot of meaning for us. But tear bottles were obviously real and symbolic to the ancient world, holding deep significance for those suffering great grief. Real glass ancient tear bottles were filled with the tears of death, sadness, lost dreams, and lost hope on earth; David said God keeps each of our tears in these bottles and records them in His book.

I don't know about you, but at different times of my life I could have filled 100's of these bottles with my tears, often wondering if God was really there, if He really understood the deep anguish I felt. I was reminded, simply, that God had seen everything. He knew every pain I had walked through and He had kept track of every tear I shed in a tear bottle. He remembers each suffering and has promised to compensate us for them someday (Matthew 19:29).
You can see these tear bottles and other ancient artifacts when you book a tour to Jordan with Beyond Bethany.

Nannette Cropsey