This psalm is one that is often misunderstood. It is also one that skeptics and critics like to quote to “prove” that the Bible, of all things, is somehow evil (he says, rolling eyes toward heaven). Verses 1-3 make it clear – psalm 137 is obviously written either during the time of Babylonian captivity or just afterward, making it some time between 587 BC and 537 BC.
It is a lament for the destruction of Jerusalem, and for all that was lost in human life, in heritage, in freedom, and in dignity. It is lament of a people who were taken off forcibly and with certain ferocity, while others they knew – and loved – were killed violently.
What causes the misunderstanding – even among some of those scholars who are genuinely faithful – is verse 9. First it should be pointed out that the word that is translated “blessed” in some versions (here and in other parts of the Bible) is more accurately translated as “happy.” Secondly, verses 8-9 are not recounting what has happened, but they are a prediction of what will be.
“Happy shall he be who repays you with what you have done to us! Happy shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!” The third thing to remember is that the prediction in this passage is of what the Medes and the Persians are going to do to the Babylonians. God is not instructing them to do so (nor does He condone it), but His word accurately predicts what will happen – the same atrocities the Babylonians committed. And the invading soldiers in this prediction will be just as joyful in their cruel conquest as the Babylonians were.
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog. All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility. When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.