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Psalm 137[a]

137 By the rivers of Babylon
we sit down and weep[b]
when we remember Zion.
On the poplars in her midst
we hang our harps,
for there our captors ask us to compose songs;[c]
those who mock us demand that we be happy, saying:[d]
“Sing for us a song about Zion!”[e]
How can we sing a song to the Lord
in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
may my right hand be crippled.[f]
May my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
and do not give Jerusalem priority
over whatever gives me the most joy.[g]
Remember, O Lord, what the Edomites did
on the day Jerusalem fell.[h]
They said, “Tear it down, tear it down,[i]
right to its very foundation!”
O daughter Babylon, soon to be devastated,[j]
how blessed will be the one who repays you
for what you dished out to us.[k]
How blessed will be the one who grabs your babies
and smashes them on a rock.[l]


  1. Psalm 137:1 sn Psalm 137. The Babylonian exiles lament their condition, vow to remain loyal to Jerusalem, and appeal to God for revenge on their enemies.
  2. Psalm 137:1 tn Heb “there we sit down, also we weep.”
  3. Psalm 137:3 tn Heb “ask us [for] the words of a song.”
  4. Psalm 137:3 tn Heb “our [?] joy.” The derivation and meaning of the Hebrew phrase תוֹלָלֵינוּ (tolalenu, “our [?]”) are uncertain. A derivation from תָּלַל (talal, “to mock”) fits contextually, but this root occurs only in the Hiphil stem. For a discussion of various proposals, see L. C. Allen, Psalms 101-150 (WBC), 236.
  5. Psalm 137:3 tn Heb “from a song of Zion.” Most modern translations read, “one of the songs of Zion,” taking the preposition מִן (min, “from”) as partitive and “song” as collective. The present translation assumes the mem (ם) is enclitic, being misunderstood later as the prefixed preposition.
  6. Psalm 137:5 tn Heb “may my right hand forget.” In this case one must supply an object, such as “how to move” or “its skill.” The elliptical nature of the text has prompted emendations (see L. C. Allen, Psalms 101-150 [WBC], 236). The translation assumes an emendation to תִּכְשַׁח (tikhshakh), from an otherwise unattested root כָּשַׁח (kashakh), meaning “to be crippled; to be lame.” See HALOT 502 s.v. כשׁח, which cites Arabic cognate evidence in support of the proposal. The difficulty of the MT can be explained as an error of transposition facilitated by the use of שָׁכַח (shakhakh, “forget”) just before this.
  7. Psalm 137:6 tn Heb “if I do not lift up Jerusalem over the top of my joy.”
  8. Psalm 137:7 tn Heb “remember, O Lord, against the sons of Edom, the day of Jerusalem.”
  9. Psalm 137:7 tn Heb “lay [it] bare, lay [it] bare.”
  10. Psalm 137:8 tn Heb “O devastated daughter of Babylon.” The psalmist dramatically anticipates Babylon’s demise.
  11. Psalm 137:8 tn Heb “O the happiness of the one who repays you your wage which you paid to us.”
  12. Psalm 137:9 sn For other references to the wholesale slaughter of babies in the context of ancient Near Eastern warfare, see 2 Kgs 8:12; Isa 13:16; Hos 13:16; Nah 3:10.