Psalm 137 #137:0 The Jews lived in Judah. The country of Babylon was 1000 kilometres to the east. In 586 BC, the soldiers from Babylon destroyed the capital city of Judah, Jerusalem. BC means years Before Christ came to the earth. They took the people that lived there as prisoners to Babylon. A prisoner is someone in a prison. Or it is someone in a place that they cannot go away from. In 536 BC many of the prisoners and their sons and daughters came back to Jerusalem. In 516 BC, Persia (now Iran) destroyed Babylon. This means that we can say when the psalmist wrote Psalm 137. The psalmist is the person that wrote the psalm. If you look at verses 1-3 of the psalm, you will see that he (or she) was in Babylon. If you look at verse 8, you will see that Persia has not yet destroyed Babylon. This means that the psalmist probably wrote the psalm between 536 and 516 BC. We call the time that the Jews were prisoners in Babylon ‘the exile.’ There were two great rivers in Babylon, the Tigris and the Euphrates. There were also small rivers. But the people that lived in Babylon made them. They went between the Tigris River and the Euphrates River. We call them canals. By all these rivers and canals, there were trees. Today we would call them poplar or willow trees. The Jews in the exile met by these rivers. They probably talked about Jerusalem and Zion. Zion was one of the hills that they had built the city of Jerusalem on. The psalmist remembered this when he went home. He also remembered that they could not sing songs about the Lord in Babylon. Now he was home again. And he hoped that somebody would destroy Babylon as Babylon had destroyed Jerusalem.
By the Rivers in Babylon
1There we sat down, by the rivers in Babylon.
We cried when we remembered Zion.
2There we hung up our harps
on the willow trees special kind of tree.
3For there the people that made us prisoners were very unkind.
‘Sing us a song’ they shouted.
‘Make us laugh with a song from Zion!’ #137:3 Verses 1-3: The psalmist is probably home again in Jerusalem or one of the towns near it. He remembered how the people of Babylon made them sad. It made them sad when they asked them to sing. They made music on harps. ‘Unkind’ means the opposite of ‘kind.’
4We just cannot sing the LORD's song in a foreign land.
5Jerusalem, if I forget you my right hand will drop off!
6My tongue will stick to the top of my mouth
if I do not remember you, Jerusalem.
I think of you more than the things that I like best. #137:6 Verses 4-6: They could not sing to the LORD in a foreign land. The right hand played the harp, the tongue sang the words. Lord is a special name for God that only his people use. It is the covenant name. A covenant is when two people (or groups of people) agree. God agreed to love and send help to his people. They agreed to love and obey God. They were in Babylon because the Jews had not obeyed God.
7Lord, remember the people of Edom.
This is what they said in the Day of Jerusalem.
‘Knock it down, knock it down to its foundations!’
8Daughter of Babylon, someone will destroy you!
That person will do to you what you did to us.
He will be very happy then!
9He will catch your children and hit them with a rock.
He will be very happy then! #137:9 Verses 7-9: Edom was a country to the south-east of Judah. It was an enemy of Judah. When Babylon destroyed Jerusalem, Edom was very happy! Now the psalmist says that soon someone will destroy Babylon. He was right! ‘Foundations’ are the hard bit of ground that you build a house on.