Psalm 137 is a lament written either during or shortly after the exile. It provides a vivid image of what life in exile must have been like.
1 By the rivers of Babylon,
we sat and wept
when we thought of Zion, our home, so far away.
2 On the branches of the willow trees,
we hung our harps and hid our hearts from the enemy.
3 And the men that surrounded us
made demands that we clap our hands and sing—
Songs of joy from days gone by,
songs from Zion, our home.
Such cruel men taunted us—haunted our memories.
4 How could we sing a song about the Eternal
in a land so foreign, while still tormented, brokenhearted, homesick?
Please don’t make us sing this song.
5-6 O Jerusalem, even still, don’t escape my memory.
I treasure you and your songs, even as I hide my harp from the enemy.
And if I can’t remember,
may I never sing a song again—
may my hands never play well again—
For what use would it be if I don’t remember Jerusalem
as my source of joy?
7 Remember, Eternal One, how the Edomites, our brothers, the descendants of Esau,
stood by and watched as Jerusalem fell.
Gloating, they said, “Destroy it;
tear it down to the ground,” when Jerusalem was being demolished.
8 O daughter of Babylon, you are destined for destruction!
Happy are those who pay you back for how you treated us
so you will no longer walk so proud.
9 Happy are those who dash your children against the rocks
so you will know how it feels.
New International Version
1 By the rivers of Babylon(A) we sat and wept(B)
when we remembered Zion.(C)
2 There on the poplars(D)
we hung our harps,(E)
3 for there our captors(F) asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded(G) songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”(H)
4 How can we sing the songs of the Lord(I)
while in a foreign land?
5 If I forget you,(J) Jerusalem,
may my right hand forget its skill.
6 May my tongue cling to the roof(K) of my mouth
if I do not remember(L) you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem(M)
my highest joy.
7 Remember, Lord, what the Edomites(N) did
on the day Jerusalem fell.(O)
“Tear it down,” they cried,
“tear it down to its foundations!”(P)
8 Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,(Q)
happy is the one who repays you
according to what you have done to us.
9 Happy is the one who seizes your infants
and dashes them(R) against the rocks.