Psalms 137 Commentary

Psalm 137 Against the Babylonians

The Israelites who first sang this song were captives in Babylon, working in a slave camp beside one of Babylon’s rivers. The Babylonian slave-masters tried to create some amusement for themselves (and some torment for their victims) by asking the downcast slaves to sing some of the merry songs of glorious Jerusalem (1-3). The cruel insults of the slave-masters pierce the hearts of the Israelites, because their beloved Jerusalem is in ruins. How can they forget all that Jerusalem means to them by singing songs that would now be a mockery? And all this just to amuse the slave-masters! They would rather be struck dumb than do such a thing (4-6).

At the time of Jerusalem’s destruction, the Edomites had encouraged the Babylonians (7), but the Babylonians were the ones who were mainly responsible for the merciless slaughter of the people of Jerusalem. The psalmist announces a curse on the Babylonians, so that they might be punished by suffering the sort of butchery that they inflicted on others (8-9).

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