Psalm 137

The Word Made Fresh

1Beside the waters of Babylon
we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion.
2We hung our harps on the tree limbs there
3because our captors demanded songs.
Our oppressors wanted us to celebrate.
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion,” they would say.
4But how could we sing the LORD’s songs in a foreign land?
5If I ever forget Jerusalem, let my right hand hang limp.
6Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth
if I don’t remember Jerusalem and claim it as my highest joy.
7LORD, remember the Edomites the day Jerusalem fell,
shouting, “Pull it down! Pull it down! Don’t leave anything standing!”
8Daughter of Babylon, you will be destroyed.
Those who repay you for the evil you’ve done to us shall rejoice.
9Those who take your little ones
and bash them on the rocks will celebrate!


1-3: Psalm 137 captures the anguish of the refugees from Jerusalem as they begin their time of exile in Babylon. The locals want the newcomers to entertain them, but the exiles are in no mood for singing.

4-6: They are determined to remember, determined to never allow their conquerors to conquer their spirit.

7-9: Revenge is uppermost in their minds, and can you blame them? They remember how the Babylonian army had ravaged their city and their neighbors. They had watched enemy soldiers slaughter their children in Jerusalem, and as they begin their time of captivity all they can think about is doing unto their enemies what their enemies have done unto them.


The sentiment is understandable. When we have been harmed by enemies, we want to see our enemies harmed. When you see your children slaughtered the Golden Rule goes out the window. Anger and hate and desire for revenge is a normal human response. But our hurts can never be healed until we learn to forgive. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”