Bless Those Who Seize Infants and Dash them Against Rocks? – Psalm 137:9

Reading Time: 6 minutes

@FlyingFree333 from Twitter deeply relishes Psalm 137:9. @FlyingFree333 so delights in Psalm 137:9 that he creates false re-tweets (RT) from me about Psalm 137:9 and tweets them like they came from me.

Yes, I wrote that he creates and tweets “false RTs from me” because @FlyingFree333 is an atheist who practices relative morality i.e., it’s okay for him to lie when he feels like it suites his purposes; supports his atheism; makes him feel better about being an atheist and hopefully recruits someone to become an atheist. Yet I digress; I’m going to address @FlyingFree333’s relative morality in another article/video… so I’ll get back to Psalm 137:9 and @FlyingFree333’s misrepresentation of it.

@FlyingFree333 insinuates that in Psalm 137:9 God gives blessings to people who seize and bash babies heads against rocks. Yet upon reading all of Psalm 137, it’s easily understood what is actually written; a victim’s request for justice. And upon reading the rest of the Bible, it’s easily understood why Psalm 137:9 is in the Bible; it is a reminder for each of us to forgive.

Psalm 137 is a very small chapter in the book of Psalms; it’s only 9 short verses long. So anyone (including @FlyingFree333) who can read simple words in simple sentence structures can read and understand the situation that the author of Psalm 137 describes and expresses if the reader so choses to read and understand the context of what the author wrote. Now, I don’t think that @FlyingFree333 is illiterate and thus cannot read in context Psalm 137 but merely that he personally has chosen to not read it in context. And not only do I believe that he has he personally chosen to not read it in context, I believe that @FlyingFree333 wants everyone else to not read it in context either because @FlyingFree333 wants to lead people away from God and God’s love for them.

Psalm 137 in whole from the Good News Translation of the Bible which is easily read:

Psalm 137 (Good News Translation)

1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat down; there we wept when we remembered Zion.

2 On the willows nearby we hung up our harps.

3 Those who captured us told us to sing; they told us to entertain them: “Sing us a song about Zion.”

4 How can we sing a song to the Lord in a foreign land?

5 May I never be able to play the harp again if I forget you, Jerusalem!

6 May I never be able to sing again if I do not remember you, if I do not think of you as my greatest joy!

7 Remember, Lord, what the Edomites did the day Jerusalem was captured. Remember how they kept saying, “Tear it down to the ground!”

8 Babylon, you will be destroyed.  Happy are those who pay you back for what you have done to us –

9 who take your babies and smash them against a rock.

Psalm 137 does at first seem too bitter and harsh to belong in the Bible because aren’t Christians supposed to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them? Jesus did command us to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Even Old Testament enemies were not to be treated unkindly; for example it was the law that items enemies had lost, if found by the Israelites, were to be returned to their enemies (Exodus 23:4).

So how does Psalm 137 fit into God’s Word?

Think of a current day courtroom with a modern day judge allowing the mother and father who lost their child to a murderer who viciously tortured and dismembered their baby girl and burned her body while she was alive. The mother and father of this baby girl may spout wild and vindictive emotional outbursts as they stand at the podium before the judge, demanding the death sentence for perpetrator of this heinous crime. Yet as emotional and charged their statements may be the court needs to hear this little girl’s parents declarations fully because only the little girl’s parents alone know what was lost; only they alone feel the full outrage of the crime.

Psalm 137 is such “victim testimony” such as what modern judges are allowing the victims of a crime to testify during sentencing that we see on television today. Psalm 137 was written out of similar anguish as what was described in the example given of the parents whose baby girl was dismembered, burned alive and murdered.

The Bible teaches that God hears the cries of the innocent and that He promises to punish those who have hurt them. The Israelites always assume that the punishment they asked for is deserved. As a nation Babylon had callously murdered the Israelites; young and old and all ages in between. Psalm 137:9 is victim testimony written out of anguish to God, The Judge and is requesting a harsh punishment be given to the Babylonians who had callously murdered and put into slavery thousands of Israelites of all ages.

Unlike what @FlyingFree333 is implying, what is actually being written by the author of Psalm 137 is a request for justice and severe punishment against the Babylonians. You see, the Israelites knew that baby Babylonians grew up to be grown up Babylonians and that gown up Babylonians go out and commit heinous crimes against Israelites and put Israelites into captivity. The Israelites during Old Testament time only had a vague idea about after death. For them, justice had to be carried out in this life and before their eyes. And the Israelites asked God for justice and severe punishment for all Babylonians in Psalms like Psalm 137.

Now one who takes the Bible out of context will jump in now and say; “What about what Jesus taught about forgiving enemies? This Old Testament Psalm 137:9 is a contradiction to the New Testament!” No, Psalm 137:9 isn’t a contradiction to the New Testament. Even today people find it difficult to accept Christ Jesus’ teaching on forgiving enemies because it includes forgiving rapists, child molesters, mass murderers, etc. We can only forgive them because Christ Jesus paid the price for their crimes. The psalmists lived before Christ Jesus paid that payment.

You and I can only be genuinely merciful if we start with a full appreciation of guilt. Any judge who carelessly lets a criminal off on a technicality is not showing mercy. Maybe he or she just lacks sympathy for the crime’s victim. True mercy comes when victims themselves turn and forgive the people who have hurt them, releasing them to liberty.

Psalms like Psalm 137 express the repulsiveness of violence and injustice. Unless you and I feel the depth of the repulsiveness of violence and injustice, we cannot understand the depth of God’s forgiveness, offered freely to anyone who pleads for mercy. God is not merely letting people off on a legal technicality, He hears the cry of their victims, and more: He shares it. In Christ Jesus, God was the victim; beaten, cursed, killed.

Jesus did not change the Old Testament idea of justice. Jesus taught that justice will be meted out by God after death, not before death (for example Matthew 25:31-46). Psalms like Psalm 137 are not for a Christian to borrow from and use today because of Christ Jesus’ completed work on the cross and resurrection from death. We understand now that justice will come to everyone after death and thus we are to follow as Christ Jesus taught in Matthew 5:44.

Psalms like Psalm 137 are there to remind us of the bitter suffering many experience, and reading them can impel us to fight for justice. Moreover, they remind us not be like those who have wronged us. The remind us to forgive. For God, hearing such cries from the victim, having suffered as they suffer, forgives. So you and I can forgive.

What is the worst injustice you have ever experienced? Did you feel some of the anger expressed by the author in Psalm 137? Were you able to forgive?

 

Resource – Zondervan Student Bible

 

 

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