Summary: A lament for fallen Jerusalem - either prophetic or written in captivity. The psalmist grieves deeply for Zion and pledges to never forget.
For Sermon Central researchers: I have posted a series of 15 sermons on the Psalms. In recent personal studies I have found the psalms to be richer and more thought-provoking than I had fully appreciated. I had too often swept swiftly through psalms without slowing down to inquire as thoroughly as I might have into the depths of meaning and feeling that are expressed by the psalmists. Upon deeper examination and reflection, I find the psalms to be highly relevant to Christians in every age. My most recent foray into the psalms led me to present a series of studies of selected psalms in a class environment.
In my classes I did not examine every psalm, or every verse of the ones I did. Rather, I presented selected psalms that I believe to be representative of the collection in the book of Psalms. The studies were held in a class environment suitable for pauses for questions and discussion, and to pose “thought questions” where the meanings are not readily apparent, as is often the case in poetry. My notes include suggested points for such pauses, and I have not removed them in Sermon Central posts.
I developed the material with the view in mind that the series may be well used as sermons. There is an introductory sermon that describes what psalms are (whether they are in the 150-chapter book or elsewhere) and explains my approach to the series. The psalms I selected were presented in no particular order in the classes; however, I suggest that anyone using this material as a series begin with the introductory sermon and follow it with Psalms 1 and 2 in that order, as the first two psalms function as a pair. Beyond that, the selected psalms may be presented in any order.
To get as much enjoyment as we could from our study, I did some of the reading from the KJV, which I believe is the most beautiful of the English bible translations. For clarity we also used other versions, mainly ESV, which I have used for several years and the one I have come to prefer.
This is a psalm where there is reason to doubt the ancient title, which is in the Hebrew but not in most modern translations.
John Gill: The Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, and Ethiopic versions, make it to be David's, and yet add the name of Jeremiah; and the Arabic version calls it David's, “concerning” Jeremiah: but Jeremiah was not carried into Babylon. After a stay in or near Jerusalem, Jeremiah was forced into Egypt.
I don’t know who wrote this psalm.
Read Psalm 137
By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. (2) On the willows there we hung up our lyres. (3) For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” (4) How shall we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land? (5) If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill! (6) Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy! (7) Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites the day of Jerusalem, how they said, “Lay it bare, lay it bare, down to its foundations!” (8) O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed, blessed shall he be who repays you with what you have done to us! (9) Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!
The writer of this psalm was in profound sorrow.
In 587 BC Jerusalem fell to the army of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and many Jews were deport-ed and exiled.
Only the old, lame, and sick were left behind, and Jeremiah stayed behind.
The gold and precious articles in the temple were carried away, and Jerusalem was left in ruins.
This psalm was either written very late - during the captivity - or it was written earlier as a prophecy, looking forward as much as 500 years, much like Psalm 22 looked forward 1000 years as though the events were happening in the psalmist’s life.
So which side of the fall of Jerusalem was this written? During the exile or long before it?
Again, there’s no way to know.
In either case, we live on this side of the fall of Jerusalem, so the question doesn’t matter very much now.
This grief was the end result of unfaithfulness.
On the whole, the Jews in Judah were largely faithful in keeping the formal worship specified in the Law, but unfaithful when it came to combining it with worship of the false gods of the pagans.
Religiously, Judah followed the lead of the kings – some good and some bad. After king Josiah, with some exceptions, Judah grew progressively more decadent, until eventual Jerusalem fell, and the Baby-lonians “owned” Judah. Jeremiah saw it coming and answered before and even while it was happening: