Psalms 135-139 (The Daily Walk Bible).

Psalm 139:13-16 reminds us of the sanctity of unborn life.

Many people struggle with Psalm 137. Here is an excerpt from Hard Sayings of the Bible regarding verse 9:

“The words ‘dashes [your infants] against the rocks’ are usually regarded as being so contrary to the teachings of the New Testament that here is little need to discuss the matter any further. Curiously enough, these very same words are repeated in the New Testament by no one less than our Lord (Lk 19:44). In fact, the verb in its Greek form is found only in Psalm 137:9 (in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew text) and in the lament of our Lord over Jerusalem in Luke 19:44. This is the clearest proof possible that our Lord was intentionally referring to this psalm. Moreover, our Lord found no more difficulty in quoting this psalm than he did in quoting the other two psalms most filled with prayers of imprecation, namely, Psalms 69 and 109.

God ‘shattered the enemy’ at the Red Sea (Ex 15:6) and will continue to do so through the triumph of his Son as he ‘will rule them with an iron scepter’ and ‘dash them to pieces like pottery’ (Rev 2:26–27; 12:5; 19:15).

The word translated ‘infant’ is somewhat misleading. The Hebrew word does not specify age, for it may mean a very young or a grown child. The word focuses on a relationship and not on age; as such, it points to the fact that the sins of the fathers were being repeated in the next generation.

That the psalmist has located the site of God’s judgment in Babylon appears to denote this psalm as being composed while Judah was in exile in Babylon and also that there are figurative elements included in the psalm. One thing Babylon was devoid of was rocks or rocky cliffs against which anything could be dashed. In fact there were not any stones available for building, contrary to the rocky terrain of most of Palestine. All building had to depend on the production of sun-dried mud bricks and the use of bituminous pitch for mortar. Therefore when the psalmist speaks of ‘dashing [infants] against the rocks,’ he is speaking figuratively and metaphorically. Close to this metaphorical use of the same phrase is that of Psalm 141:6, ‘Their rulers will be thrown down from the cliffs.’ But that same psalm adds, ‘And the wicked will learn that my words were well spoken [the literal rendering is “sweet”].’ If the rulers had literally been tossed over a cliff, they surely would have had a hard time hearing anything!

What, then, does ‘Happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us—he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks’ mean? It means that God will destroy Babylon and her progeny for her proud assault against God and his kingdom. But those who trust in God will be blessed and happy. For those who groaned under the terrifying hand of their captors in Babylon there was the prospect of a sweet, divine victory that they would share in as sons and daughters of the living God. As such, this is a prayer Christians may also pray, so long as it is realized that what is at stake is not our own reputation or our personal enemies, but the cause of our Lord’s great name and kingdom.”

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