1 By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.

2 We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.

3 For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.

4 How shall we sing the LORD's song in a strange land?

5 If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.

6 If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.

7 Remember, O LORD, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof.

8 O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.

9 Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.

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This is one of my favorite Tehillim, until I get to Verse 7 and beyond.

A while back, a devout Episcopalian friend asked me how I respond to these hatemongering passages in Tanach. "Do you try to ignore them?" My response: "No, I actively despise them!"

To encounter one of these passages in one's own religious tradition is to be like Jacob wrestling with the angel. We have to struggle against them if we are to derive any blessing.


Here's the Metsudah Tehillim version:

"By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat and also wept, when we remembered Zion.
Upon the willows in its midst, we hung our harps.
For there our captors demanded of us words of song, and our tormentors asked of us (with) mirth;
'Sing to us from the song(s) of Zion.'
How shall we sing the song of Adonoy on alien soil?
If I ever forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget (its movement).
May my tongue cleave to my palate, if I set not Jerusalem above my highest joy.
Remember, Adonoy, to the sons of Edom the day of Jerusalem, (it was they) who said,
'Raze it, raze it to its very foundation!'
Daughter of Babylon, it is you who are the annihilated one;
fortunate is he who will repay you for all you have done to us.
Fortunate is he who will take and dash your little ones against the rock."

[Editor's note (Gz), 12/8/2002: Consolidated two writeups here.]

By the rivers of Babylon - there we sat and also wept when we remembered Zion.
On the willows within it we hung our lyres.
For there our captors requested words of song, from us, with our lyres (playing) joyous (music), "Sing for us from Zion's song!"
How can we sing the song of HaShem upon the alien's soil?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill.
Let my tongue adhere to my palate if I fail to recall you, if I fail to elevate Jerusalem above my foremost joy.
Remember, HaShem, for the offspring of Edom, the day of Jerusalem - for those who say "Destroy! Destroy to its very foundation."
O violated daughter of Babylon - praiseworthy is he who repays you in accordance with the manner that you have treated us.
Praiseworthy is he who will clutch and dash your infants against the rock.
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible
back to: Psalms
Book: Psalms
Chapter: 137

Overview:
The psalmist praises God for answering Prayer. (1-5) The
Lord's dealing with the humble and the proud. (6-8)

1-5 When we can praise God with our whole Heart, we need not be
unwilling for the whole world to Witness our gratitude and joy
in him. Those who rely On his loving-kindness and Truth through
Jesus Christ, will ever find him Faithful to his Word. If he
spared not his own Son, how shall he not with him freely give us
all things? If God gives us strength in our souls, to Bear the
burdens, resist the temptations, and to do the duties of an
afflicted state, if he strengthens us to keep Hold of himself By
Faith, and to wait with patience for the event, we are bound to
be thankful.

6-8 Though the Lord is high, yet he has respect to every lowly,
humbled sinner; but the proud and unbelieving will be banished
far from his blissful presence. Divine consolations have enough
in them to revive us, even when we walk in the midst of
troubles. And God will save his own people that they may be
revived By the Holy Spirit, the Giver of Life and Holiness. If
we give to God the Glory of his Mercy, we may take to ourselves
the comfort. This confidence will not do away, but quicken
Prayer. Whatever good there is in us, it is God Works in us both
to will and to do. The Lord will perfect the Salvation of every
true believer, and he will never forsake those whom he has
created anew in Christ Jesus unto good Works.

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