Psalm 137:3
For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.
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(3) A song.—See margin. The expression is generally regarded as pleonastic, but may be explained as in Psalm 105:27, where see Note. Perhaps “some lyric thing” would express the original. No doubt it is a Levite who is requested to sing.

They that wasted us.—A peculiar Hebrew word which the LXX. and Vulg. take as synonymous with the verb in the first clause. The modern explanation, “they that make us howl,” is far preferable. Those whose oppression had raised the wild Oriental scream of lamentation, now asked for mirth.

Songs of Zion—or, as in the next verse, songs of Jehovah, were of course the liturgical hymns. Nothing is more characteristic than this of the Hebrew feeling. The captors asked for a national song, as the Philistines asked for sport from Samson, to amuse them. The Hebrew can think only of one kind of song, that to which the genius of the race was dedicated.

Psalm 137:3. There they that carried us away — Our new masters, who had made us their slaves, and carried us captives out of our own land; required of us a song — דברי שׁיר, the words of a song: in the LXX., λογους ωδων, words of songs. They required us to entertain them with our music and singing. And they that wasted us — Hebrew, ותוללינו, contumulatores nostri, they that laid us on heaps, namely, that laid Jerusalem and the temple in ruins, required of us mirth, שׁמחה, joy, or gladness; saying, Sing us of the songs (so it is in the Hebrew) of Zion — Sing us some of those songs which were wont to be sung in the temple on occasions of public joy. This they required, probably partly out of curiosity, and partly by way of scoffing and insult over them and their temple and worship, not without “a tacit reflection on their God, who could not protect his favoured people against their enemies. Thus the faithful have been, and thus they will be insulted over in the day of their calamity.”137:1-4 Their enemies had carried the Jews captive from their own land. To complete their woes, they insulted over them; they required of them mirth and a song. This was very barbarous; also profane, for no songs would serve but the songs of Zion. Scoffers are not to be compiled with. They do not say, How shall we sing, when we are so much in sorrow? but, It is the Lord's song, therefore we dare not sing it among idolaters.For there they that carried us away captive - The Babylonians.

Required of us a song - Asked of us a song. The word does not express the idea of compulsion or force. Margin, as in Hebrew, words of a song. Perhaps the idea is that they did not merely ask music, but they wished to hear the words - the songs themselves - in which they were accustomed to praise God. This may have been a taunt, and the request may have been in derision; or it may have been seriously, and with no desire to reproach them, or to add to their sorrows. We are not to impute bad motives to others where there is no evidence that there are any, and where the supposition of good motives will answer just as well; and the expression here may have been a kind and natural wish to hear the songs of these foreigners - songs of which they might have heard much by report; perhaps songs which they had overheard them singing when they were in a less desponding state of mind, and when they sought to comfort themselves by these ancient national melodies. As the only reason assigned for not complying with this request was that they could not "sing the Lord's song in a strange land" Psalm 137:3, we are rather led to infer that there was no bad motive - no disposition to taunt and ridicule them by the request that was made.

And they that wasted us - Margin, laid us on heaps. The Hebrew word means a tormentor; properly, one who extorts lamentation from others, or who causes them to howl - to wit, under oppression or wrong. The Septuagint and Latin Vulgate render it, "They who led us away." The general idea is, those under whom they were then suffering; or, who had caused these trials to come upon them.

Required of us mirth - literally, "Our tormentors, joy." The Hebrew word means joy; and the sense is, that they asked them to give the usual indications of joy and happiness - to wit, a song. The language means, "Cheer up; be happy; give us one of the beautiful songs which you were accustomed to sing in your own land." It may, indeed, have been in derision; but there is no proof that it was.

Saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion - The songs - the sacred hymns - which you were accustomed to sing in worship in your own land.

3, 4. Whether the request was in curiosity or derision, the answer intimates that a compliance was incongruous with their mournful feelings (Pr 25:20). Such songs as you used to sing in the temple at Zion; which they required either out of curiosity, or to delight their ears, or rather by way of scoffing and insultation over them, and their temple and religion. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song,.... Or, "words of a song" (z). To repeat the words of one of the songs of Zion, as it is afterwards expressed: this the Babylonians did, as the Targum; who were they that carried the Jews into captivity; and this is given as a reason why they hung their harps on willows, and were so sorrowful, because such a request as this was made;

and they that wasted us required of us mirth: the Chaldeans, who plundered them of their substance, and reduced their city and temple to heaps of rubbish, as the word (a) used signifies; or who heaped reproaches upon them, as Jarchi: these insisted not only on having the words of a song repeated to them, but that they should be set to some tune and sung in a manner expressing mirth, or would provoke unto it: or "our lamentations", according to Kimchi; that is, the authors of them (b), so barbarous were they;

saying, sing us one of the songs of Zion; which used to be sung in Zion in the temple, called the songs of the temple, Amos 8:3; this demand they made either out of curiosity, that they might know something of the temple songs and music they had heard of; or rather as jeering at and insulting the poor Jews in their miserable and melancholy circumstances; as if they had said, now sing your songs if you can: or in order to make themselves sport and diversion with them, as the Philistines with Samson. The spiritual songs of Zion are the songs of electing, redeeming, calling, pardoning, and justifying grace; which natural men neither understand, nor can learn, but scoff at and despise.

(z) "verba cantici", Pagninus, Montanus, Musculus, Piscator, Gejerus, Michaelis; "verba earminis", Cocceius. (a) "qui veluti in acervos nos redegerunt", Tigurine version, Grotius. (b) Vid. Stockium, p. 447.

For there they that carried us away captive {c} required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.

(c) The Babylonians speak thus in mocking us, as though by our silence we should signify that we hoped no more in God.

3. For there &c.] The reason why their harps were silent. It might have been expected that they would soothe their sorrow with plaintive music; but the heartless demand of their captors made it impossible.

asked of us songs] Lit. words of song.

they that wasted us] The exact meaning is doubtful. The A.V. marg. ‘Heb. laid us on heaps’ rests on an impossible derivation, and the R.V. marg. our tormentors on an improbable one. Perhaps with the change of a single letter shôlelçnu, ‘our spoilers,’should be read instead of the obscure tôlâlçnu.

Coverdale’s rendering in the P.B.V., and melody in our heaviness, comes from Luther, ‘und in unserm Heulen ein fröhlich Gesang.’

one of the songs of Zion] Or, some of the songs. As these songs are called in the next verse Jehovah’s songs, it is clear that it is not secular songs that are meant, but the sacred hymns of the Temple worship (2 Chronicles 29:27). To sing these for the amusement of their conquerors would have been the grossest profanation of all that they held most dear; an act comparable to Belshazzar’s use of the consecrated vessels at his feast (Daniel 5:2). Cp. Matthew 7:6.Verse 3. - For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; literally, words of song. The oppressors break into the retired gathering of their captives, and "require of them a song" - demand roughly and rudely to be entertained with the foreign music, which is perhaps sweeter than their own, or at any rate more of a novelty. And they that wasted us required us mirth. Not only was "a song" wanted but a joyous song - one that would wake feelings of mirth and gladness in those who heard it. Saying, sing us one of the songs of Zion; literally, sing us frown a song of Zion. The captives had, no doubt, spoken of the joyous strains which they had been wont to pour forth in their own city upon festive occasions. Their conquerors demand a specimen, but are repulsed with the words of the next verse. Up to this point it is God the absolute in general, the Creator of all things, to the celebration of whose praise they are summoned; and from this point onwards the God of the history of salvation. In Psalm 136:13 גּזר (instead of בּקע, Psalm 78:13; Exodus 14:21; Nehemiah 9:11) of the dividing of the Red Sea is peculiar; גּזרים (Genesis 15:17, side by side with בּתרים) are the pieces or parts of a thing that is cut up into pieces. נער is a favourite word taken from Exodus 14:27. With reference to the name of the Egyptian ruler Pharaoh (Herodotus also, ii. 111, calls the Pharaoh of the Exodus the son of Sesostris-Rameses Miumun, not Μενόφθας, as he is properly called, but absolutely Φερῶν), vid., on Psalm 73:22. After the God to whom the praise is to be ascribed has been introduced with ל by always fresh attributes, the ל before the names of Sihon and of Og is perplexing. The words are taken over, as are the six lines of Psalm 136:17-22 in the main, from Psalm 135:10-12, with only a slight alteration in the expression. In Psalm 136:23 the continued influence of the construction הודוּ ל is at an end. The connection by means of שׁ (cf. Psalm 135:8, Psalm 135:10) therefore has reference to the preceding "for His goodness endureth for ever." The language here has the stamp of the latest period. It is true זכר with Lamed of the object is used even in the earliest Hebrew, but שׁפל is only authenticated by Ecclesiastes 10:6, and פּרק, to break loose equals to rescue (the customary Aramaic word for redemption), by Lamentations 5:8, just as in the closing verse, which recurs to the beginning, "God of heaven" is a name for God belonging to the latest literature, Nehemiah 1:4; Nehemiah 2:4. In Psalm 136:23 the praise changes suddenly to that which has been experienced very recently. The attribute in Psalm 136:25 (cf. Psalm 147:9; Psalm 145:15) leads one to look back to a time in which famine befell them together with slavery.
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