Luke 16:24

So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'

His whole body is in agony, yet he wants his tongue to be cooled. What's the point here?

  • It illustrates the extreme form of Hebrew hyperbole and metaphor used in this story.
    – Dottard
    Sep 26 '20 at 22:10

Pause for a moment to consider the indescribable condition of this man, which Jesus yet conveys in imaginative terms that we might be able to grasp and comprehend a little of his ghastly plight.

Deceased, his body now on earth and he, in spirit, in a disembodied state, he is full of remorse as to how he spent his brief uncertain time on terra firma. His remorse is immense, but it is also quite pointless. For it is too late.

The time for remorse was when he sailed past the beggar at his gates in his carriage, busy with his riches, busy with his privileged life (he had gates, he was isolated from the general public) busy with his business which made him rich.

And to what profit ? What is the point of riches if they are not to the benefit of those in need ?

Now, he lifts up his 'eyes'. But he has no 'eyes' - he is disembodied, for now, until the time when he shall be raised from the dead (in what kind of ghastly state is not yet revealed in scripture).

So this is all going on within himself, for there is no physical state . It is a spirit world in hades.

He 'sees' Abraham. He 'sees' Lazarus. He desires that it were possible for Lazarus to go and tell his brothers (yet on earth ; yet alive in the physical realm) to prevent them coming to this awful, fearful, ghastly place.

But it is not possible. 'Abraham' (or that which, within himself, apprehends a being called 'Abraham') says, no, it cannot be.

There is a great gulf. Of this he is conscious. But he has no eyes to see and it is not a physical, three-dimensional gulf. It is a spiritual gulf and more real, more gulf-like, more a barrier than could any physical gulf on earth be. It is an absolute barrier. A total prohibition.

And the thirst ! Oh, the burning within of 'thirst' !

It is internal. It is within. It is within his spirit, in a disembodied state that is far more intense than if the body were, actually present. (If one shuts one's eyes in pain to shut out the outside world, the pain is more intense.)

There is a fire within. He calls it a flame. No fuel, just a flame. A burning. In the resurrection there shall be a physical lake of fire and an external flame and real bodies raised from the dead.

But for him, prior to that state, the fire, for now, is only internal.

So he cries out - to a person who is far, far, far removed from him and he wishes - oh how he craves ! - that, just for a moment, it could be possible for that one-time beggar to touch his tongue (an internal organ) with just a drop of cool water.

But it cannot be.

For in life, he never once thought to even sling a few coins from his carriage as he whizzed past the beggar whose family were so poor they had to leave him at the the rich man's gates, while they went to work - were unable to earn enough for the whole family to eat, so they left him all day to see if he could beg something for the evening meal.

(This is the better likelihood. The worse is that his family - or his landlord - were cruel and merely dumped him at the gate to 'earn' his keep.)

Just the dogs to lick his sores. Drops of saliva were all the medication he got as he lay, defenceless, while they licked off the pus as their 'treat'.

Oh that Lazarus could now just touch his tongue with a drop of liquor ! Ironic, that in his present, awful state, he, like one of the dogs, would just have a lick of something damp from the beggar Lazarus !

But it cannot be.

And there he still is, two thousand years later. He is still there.

He knows nothing of the history that has passed. He has been there every hour for the past two thousand years. Craving, gasping, burning inside.

The only change to his condition will be a resurrection in which his resurrected body joins company with his disembodied spirit - only for both to be cast into a lake of fire that can never be quenched and the burning shall - then - be inside and outside, all at once.

They shall, said Jesus, gnaw their tongues (real, resurrected tongues) for pain.

Oh pause, for just a moment, and consider this rich man, who still exists in this very second of our own time.

  • 2
    Strange that your answer should have been down-voted, and why? Because people don't like to contemplate the absolute truth of the warning given to us by Christ Jesus?
    – Lesley
    Sep 28 '20 at 12:49

What's the significance of “cool my tongue” in the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus?

Luke 16:24

So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.

Lazarus and the rich man is a metaphor,it is a short, usually fictitious, narrative from which a moral or spiritual truth is drawn.


What did Jesus listeners believe about “Hades” Greek scriptures and “Sheol” Hebrew scriptures.

Do dead men feel agony in Hades/Sheol? The scriptures say that the dead know nothing, feel nothing, have no thoughts or wisdom in the grave.

Ecclesiates 9:5,10 (NRSV) reads:

" 5The living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no more reward, and even the memory of them is lost.” 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do with your might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.”

Jesus listeners were aware that Abraham is dead, in the grave and could not speak (Eccl.9:5,6,10) and that Lazarus could not possibly be whisked to the bosom of Abraham, whilst Jesus was still here telling the story. Jesus said:

Since Lazarus and the rich man represent classes of people, their death is symbolic. The rich man now lost his privileges and favored position {bosom} with God and Lazarus took his place, having Divine favor- being in the bosom of God and given privileges, such as:

1/ Heavenly dwelling: John 14:2-3 and kingdom: Luke 12:32. 2/ Rule as priests and kings over the earth: Revelation 5:9-10.

The "rich man" represents a class people, the Pharisees, Seduces, scribes, priests and chief priests, this is indicated by the expensive clothing they wore, and the lavish lifestyle they enjoyed." (Leviticus 6:10, Daniel 5:7)

Lazarus represents another class “the common people”, despised by the rich class and referred to as "amhaarets”, or people of the earth." Being covered with sores, means being spiritually sick, and that he longed to satisfy his hunger ,means he was denied spiritual nourishment and fit only to be friends with the dogs. Under the law, dogs were an unclean animal (Leviticus11:27).

Cool my tongue.

NRSV 16: 24” He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.”

Certainly, a drop of water will not bring relief to someone being tormented in flames; the rich man is figuratively being tormented by the fiery proclamations of John the Baptist, who spoke plainly: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (Matthew 3:7)

Jesus' zeal and fiery proclamations and that of his apostles also angered and tormented them. For example, after telling them the parable of the murderous tenant, realizing that he was referring to them, the chief priests and the Pharisees wanted to arrest him. Matthew 21:33-46, 6:2, Acts 4:18, 5:17-21

They ask for mercy, they want relief from the fiery messages of Jesus and his apostles, the chief priests and the Pharisees refuse to accept Jesus, but the humble Lazarus class do and is now being fed spiritually.


"His whole body is in agony, yet he wants his tongue to be cooled. What's the point here?"

I see the point as an explanation of the rich man's pain being so excruciating, (and he understanding that he is deserving of his situation) that even something as small and insignificant as a drop of water to cool a tiny part of his mouth seemed enormous to him.

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