Who are the wailing women (mourners for hire) spoken of in Jeremiah 9: 17? Did they have male equivalents?
The mourning (or wailing) women were a group of women that were professional mourners hired to lament for particular occasions. In the context of Jeremiah 9:17, it is God that calls these women to come and mourn for Israel considering the Babylonian captivity that would overtake Jerusalem due to their failure to repent.
This custom of professional mourning was widespread throughout the ancient Near East and virtually, throughout all human history, women were the only professional mourners in almost every case.
Hebrew history shows us that the practice of women mourners has always been accomplished by women. Even within extra-biblical material, such as the Mishnah, this work of professional mourning is, more than not, found in the feminine sense and accomplished by women in whom would eventually train their daughters in the same line of work.
Therefore, history provides us with no evidence of male-equivalents for the mourning profession, but rather lends us to understand the position of mourning to be a more maternal response versus that of paternal.