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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 137

Scott's Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations on the book PsalmsScott on the Psalms

Verses 1-9

Psalms 137:1-9:

V. 1-6. It is not known by whom this Psalm was written: but the occasion is evident; and the pathetick abruptness, so suited to that occasion with which it opens, is admirably beautiful. The captive Jews, by the rivers of Babylon, sat down and wept, while they recollected their former prosperity ; and especially, they remembered with tears the desolate state of the holy city and the temple of God, their own destitution of sacred ordinances, and the apparently ruined state of the church and people of Israel : for these calamities were brought on them by their national transgressions, to which they had all contributed. No longer able therefore to divert their melancholy, by singing songs of praise, they hanged their harps upon the willows, growing in abundance in that moistened soil, which perhaps they were employed in cultivating. But their insulting victors and oppressors required them to gratify their curiosity, or administer to their entertainment, by singing " one of the songs of " Zion : " by which they also meant to deride their confidence in JEHOVAH, and to express their triumph over the religion, as well as over the city and country, of the poor captives. (Note, Psalms 123:3-4.) But they were not only indisposed (probably too much,) for joyful praise ; but thf y would not, they could not, profane their sacred songs, to increase the insolence of their idolatrous masters : and therefore they said one to another, or to those who demanded this of them, " How shall we sing the LORD’S " song in a strange land ? " ’ Neither fear nor favour could extort this service from our Levites, but they resolutely answered ; As those songs were not made for pastime or sport, but in honour of the great Lord of the world ; so how can you imagine that miserable slaves are disposed to sing ? and to sing those songs in the land where we ’ are exiles, which recount the mercies of God to us, in our ’ once most flourishing country.’ Bp. Patrick. Yet Jerusalem and the interests of religion, were still uppermost in their thoughts and affections : and the Psalmist, in the name of his brethren, declared that he would rather be deprived of his skill in musick, and have " his tongue " cleave to the roof of his mouth," than forget the songs of Zion ; or do otherwise than prefer the interests of Jerusalem and of the church to every personal advantage or pleasure. (Marg. Ref. Notes,Psalms 84:1-2. Psalms 102:13-22. Psalms 122:6-9.) The persons immediately concerned seem to have been Levites, who had been singers at the temple, and who had brought their instruments along with them. ’ I have followed a conjecture of St. Chrysostom’s, that the captives ’ were not suffered (at their first coming thither) to dwell ’ within any of their towns or cities, but were dispersed all ’ along several rivers of the country ; where they built ... ’ cottages for themselves : and perhaps were forced to ’ drain those moist places, to make them wholesome.’ Bp. Patrick.

V. 7- 9. The Edomites, though of the same stock with the Jews, were inveterate in their hatred of them, and excited the Chaldeans utterly to destroy their city and temple : and for this and other injuries their ruin had repeatedly been predicted. (Notes, Is. 34: Is 63. 1- 6. Jeremiah 49:7-23. Lamentations 4:21-22. Ezekiel 25:12-14; Ezekiel 35:1-15: Obadiah 1:10-14.) The destruction of Babylon, with every circumstance of terror and misery, had also been foretold. (Notes, Is. 13: 14: 47: Jeremiah 50:-46:) This was therefore a prayer of the church for deliverance, in the predicted manner, with the extermination of her implacable enemies, root and branch, as Israel had been commissioned to destroy the Canaanites : and a declaration, that the persons employed in executing this vengeance on Babylon, and effecting this deliverance of his people, would be peculiarly favoured and prospered by Providence ; though the work should be accompanied with the retaliation of those cruel ties, which had been committed upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Babylon was a type of the antichristian corrupters and oppressors of the New-Testament church, which are likewise to be destroyed in the most dreadful manner. (Marg. Ref. Notes, Revelation 18:19:)


When we are suffering the effects of our personal or national transgressions; we should recollect, with godly sorrow, our forfeited mercies, and our sins by which we have lost them ; that by repentance and prayer we may seek deliverance, and the restoration of our privileges and comforts. Whilst worldly men grieve for the loss of their outward prosperity ; the believer mourns over his banishment from the ordinances of God, and for the despised and desolate state of religion : especially when he hears the insults and blasphemies of infidels, and profane scoffers ; who, being employed to correct the offending people of God, triumph, as if he could not, or would not, plead their cause. (Notes, Psalms 42:9-10. Psalms 44:9-16; Psalms 74:18-23; Psalms 79:8-13.) In such circumstances, it is hard to preserve the mind in tranquillity, and to be duly thankful for remaining unmerited mercies. Sacred things, however, must on no consideration be profaned to please ungodly men ; nor the songs of Zion sung to gratify their humour, or embolden their insolence. (Note, Matthew 7:6.) In such an evil day it is best to keep silence, or to complain unto God and among his people. Yet no calamity, no strange land, no prevalence of ungodliness, no despised and oppressed state of the church, should induce us to forget Jerusalem. If personal advantages and prosperity ever render a professor of the gospel satisfied at a distance from the ordinances of God, ashamed of his despised cause, or indifferent about the interests of the church, so as not to " prefer them to his chief joy ;" a far worse calamity has befallen him, than if his " right hand withered," or his " tongue cleaved to the roof of his mouth." For the Lord will not forsake his church in her low estate ; he will execute predicted vengeance on all her persecutors, principals and accessaries ; and if professed Christians unite with them in their prosperity, they will be joined with them in the day of wrath. We cannot pray for promised success to the church of God, without implying a prayer for the ruin of her implacable enemies : and the instruments of good to the people of God, will, in one way or other, concur in the condemnation and punishment of impenitent sinners. It is, however, far more agreeable to be instruments of good to the people of God, or to our fellow sinners, than executioners of vengeance on his enemies : though the latter may be accepted and blessed, if men act in obedience to his command, and out of zeal for his glory. (Note, Psalms 149:7-9.) Let us, however, be decidedly on the Lord’s part, for his cause will at length prevail, and destruction will be to the workers of iniquity: but though his true people are here, as in a strange land, often insulted, despised, hated, and grieved, and put out of frame for singing the Lord’s song ; yet they shall soon come to Zion, and resume their harps, and rejoice in their God for ever(Note, Is. Psalms 35:8-10, Psalms 5:10.)

Bibliographical Information
Scott, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 137". Scott's Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations on the book Psalms. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tsp/psalms-137.html. 1804.
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