The fourth in a series of ten chronicling the internet sensation’s “Worst Ten Bible Passages” will attempt to address the end of Psalm 137; ” Happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us – he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.” (Psalm 137:9) As stated in previous posts, we must know the pretext and post-text of what we are reading. Taking anything out of context or not understanding why or when it was written will do nothing to further our understanding.
The Psalms are comprised of songs, prayers, and lamentations to the writer’s God. Consider the book of Psalms to be a journal of sorts where one would write down their deepest and most personal thoughts. A place to write down our joys and thankfulness but also our failures and outrage. Psalm 137 falls into this latter category. The writer of Psalm 137 is lamenting the torture his people had endured by the Babylonians. The Babylonians throughout both secular and religious history were known to be the most ruthless and reprobate hoard that ever existed. Where the writer is simply fantasizing that they would be repaid in kind, the Babylonians were in fact sacrificing their children and burning them alive. This was common practice by many of the nations surrounding Israel at this time. It was an evil far surpassing the likes of Hitler or Stalin.
The writer is outraged and he is screaming out his heartfelt plea and supplication to his creator God. If you can’t reveal your most personal and heart wrenching problems to your Creator, who can you share them with? It’s not like God is bashing any infants. Mankind, the Babylonians, are bashing, raping, pillaging, and murdering in the most grotesque of ways. This is a passionate hymn to God that these evil people would be wiped from the face of the earth forever. And in so doing, their baby sacrifices to Moloch would also end.
All scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit and is useful for teaching and reproof, but not all events in the Bible were done by God, requested or demanded by God, or approved by God. The Bible, as in the case of Psalm 137, is a record of history; what happened and how the people of the time felt about it. The following link will take you to an interesting article on the pagan gods worshiped by the nations that battled Israel. There are, unfortunately, strong parallels to our own society’s adeptness at murder and disregard for life (warning, it is graphic):