I’ve heard this discussed as those who are mourning in the traditional sense of the pain of mourning loss but I’ve also seen scholars argue that this is more of a mourning the state of the world & lack of Godliness. Is there any clarity to be had on the meaning of mourn in this context? Or is it a flexible concept on purpose?

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It is always helpful when studying the meaning of a Biblical word to consider the Biblical usages made of its original form. In this case, the word translated as "mourn" in Matthew 5:4 is a declension of the Greek "πενθέω", Strong's number G3996. As this word, in one form or another, only occurs nine (9) times in the New Testament, we can compare them at a glance.

Reference Text (KJV)
Mat 5:4 Blessed are they that mourn: G3996 for they shall be comforted.
Mat 9:15 And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, G3996 as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.
Mar 16:10 And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned G3996 and wept.
Luk 6:25 Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn G3996 and weep.
1Co 5:2 And ye are puffed up, and have G3996 not rather mourned, G3996 that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.
2Co 12:21 And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail G3996 many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.
Jas 4:9 Be afflicted, and mourn, G3996 and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.
Rev 18:11 And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn G3996 over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more:
Rev 18:15 The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, G3996
Rev 18:19 And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, G3996 saying, Alas, alas, that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate.

As the manner in which this word is used indicates, the word "mourn" here is fairly consistently applied to situations where one will be sorry or regretful about something, perhaps remorseful, almost to the point of pining. It is perhaps akin to "lament."

One possible understanding, knowing that to Jesus the spiritual aspect always outweighs the physical, is that those who "mourn" are doing so on account of their sin-guilt. They regret being sinful, and lament (repent?) on account of the knowledge of their guilt.

However, I believe God is sometimes deliberately broad in expressing truths, leaving room for the Holy Spirit to impress each reader with the application most needed by that individual. For some, this text will serve to comfort them in their time of bereavement; whereas, for others, it will have a deep spiritual meaning, giving them the promise that their sorrow over sin will later be comforted.

  • Thank you ! I found this really insightful
    – BG1
    Commented Nov 10, 2022 at 6:18

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