Psalm 137


In this psalm, the psalmist reflects upon the time when they are in Babylonian captivity. The psalmist speaks very strongly about what they would like God to do to their captors because of the suffering they were enduring.


‘The constancy of the Jews in captivity.’

Although the headings aren’t inspired by God, they are important because they give us some understanding of the Psalm and they help us to see why it was written. The headings usually tell us four things.

1. Who wrote them, probably wrote them or possibly wrote them.

2. Information about the historical background to the Psalm. Why it was written.

3. They tell us of the tune the Psalm was written to.

4. How it was used.

Although the NIV offers no heading, the KJV tells us that this psalm speaks of the faithfulness of the Jews when they were in captivity.

‘By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land? If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy. Remember, LORD, what the Edomites did on the day Jerusalem fell. “Tear it down,” they cried, “tear it down to its foundations!” Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is the one who repays you according to what you have done to us. Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.’ Psalm 137:1-9

The psalmist begins by reflecting upon the time they were by the rivers of Babylon, which would be the Euphrates and the Tigris.

It was there when in captivity, they sat and wept as they remembered Zion, that is, Jerusalem. This must have been the first generation of captives because they remembered Jerusalem from which they had been taken.

The suffering they endured is seen in that they hung their harps on the poplars, that is, willow trees, Isaiah 15:7, they had no reason to sing any joyful songs with their harps, Ezra 2:41.

hey were being tormented by their captors to sing songs of joy about Jerusalem but because they had been taken captive, they didn’t have any songs of joy to sing. They couldn’t sing joyful songs of Jerusalem whilst being captive in a foreign land.

The psalmist declares they will not forget Jerusalem, and even pronounced a curse upon themselves if they did. The psalmist says if they forget Jerusalem, then their right hand would forget the skill of playing the harp, if they forgot Jerusalem, their tongue would lose the ability to sing and speak, Ezekiel 3:26.

The psalmist now speaks to the LORD and asks Him to remember what the Edomites did on the day Jerusalem fell, Jeremiah 12:6 / Jeremiah 25:14 / Lamentations 4:21-22 / Ezekiel 25:12.

It’s important to remember that the Edomites didn’t take part in the destruction of Jerusalem but they did rejoice when it happened, Obadiah 10-16. In 586 B.C. Jerusalem fell to the Babylonian army of King Nebuchadnezzar, they destroyed the temple and the city, tearing down the stone buildings to the ground.

The psalmist now turns their attention to the future generation of Babylon, they tell the daughter of Babylon, that they are doomed to destruction, In other words, God was going to judge and destroy the Babylonian empire, Isaiah 1:8 / Isaiah 13:19-22.

The psalmist declares a blessing upon the one, who brings judgment upon the Babylonians, they will be happy, Isaiah 13:16. Babylon was repaid that which she had done to Jerusalem, the Babylonians would reap what they had sowed, 2 Kings 8:12 / 2 Kings 25:7 / Nahum 3:10 / Hosea 13:16.

It appears the psalmist remembers what the Babylonians had done to their children but declares a blessing upon the one who would do the same to the Babylonian children, Isaiah 13:16.

We must remember that these words are used metaphorically to describe the eventual extinction of the Babylonians.


The psalmist is clearly homesick, they desired to be back in Jerusalem, where they would be safe and free from bondage. As Christians, we often feel homesick for heaven, we long to be with the Lord in the safety and security of heaven.

The apostle Paul says, ‘I desire to depart and be with Christ which is better by far.’ Philippians 1:23. What is a tent? A tent is not your home, a tent is a place you sleep in because you’re going somewhere else. Then you fold up that tent, and you pack it up so that you can go where you are going too.

That’s what Paul says, he said, ‘this isn’t my home; this isn’t where I belong, because I’m ready to go home’. Our tents, that is, our bodies are getting older and breaking down, they aren’t meant to last a long time, it’s not meant to be permanent, 2 Corinthians 5:1-2.

Why did Paul want to die and go to Jesus? Maybe part of it was to get some release from the kingdom pressure, maybe part of it, was the burden of the churches.

But the main reason Paul wanted to go was simple, Paul wanted the company of Christ. Paul says, ‘when he goes, he’s going to have Christ-like he’s never had him before.’ He’s going to have union with Christ.

Let me ask you something, do you ever get homesick for heaven? Do you ever just hurt inside to get to heaven? Do you know how sometimes we don’t? Because we need to improve our personal relationship with Jesus.

We need to get to the point, where we’re so obsessed with Christ and so in love with Christ that the thought of having more Christ just makes your heartache.

Go To Psalm 138


"Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted."