Psalm 137:7
Remember, O LORD, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said, Raze it, raze it, even to the foundation thereof.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(7) Remember . . .—Remember, Jehovah, for the children of Edom the day of Jerusalem. The prophecy of Obadiah gives the best comment on this verse: “For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever. In the day that thou stoodest on the other side, in the day that the strangers carried away captive his forces, and foreigners entered into his gates and cast lots upon Jerusalem, even thou wast as one of them. But thou shouldest not have looked on the day of thy brother in the day that he became a stranger; neither shouldest thou have rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction; neither shouldest thou have spoken proudly in the day of distress” (Obadiah 1:10-12.) (See Excursus on the date and authorship of that book.)

Rase . . .—Literally, make naked or bare. (Comp. a similar use of another verb, Micah 1:6.) The LXX. and Vulg. have “empty out, empty out.”

Thereof.—Literally, in it.

Psalm 137:7. Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom — Their constant and inveterate enemies, who had no regard either to consanguinity or humanity, but, instead of pitying Jerusalem, as became kind neighbours and relations, were glad to see the day of its desolations; and encouraged their destroyers with their acclamations, saying, Rase it, rase it, &c. Hebrew, ערו ערו, make it bare, empty it, or lay it flat, even to the foundation thereof, or the ground on which it stands. Edom is charged with this unnatural behaviour, and threatened for it by God himself in the prophecy of Obadiah, Obadiah 1:10, and for it God’s judgments came upon them, as it was here foretold they should do.137:5-9 What we love, we love to think of. Those that rejoice in God, for his sake make Jerusalem their joy. They stedfastly resolved to keep up this affection. When suffering, we should recollect with godly sorrow our forfeited mercies, and our sins by which we lost them. If temporal advantages ever render a profession, the worst calamity has befallen him. Far be it from us to avenge ourselves; we will leave it to Him who has said, Vengeance is mine. Those that are glad at calamities, especially at the calamities of Jerusalem, shall not go unpunished. We cannot pray for promised success to the church of God without looking to, though we do not utter a prayer for, the ruin of her enemies. But let us call to mind to whose grace and finished salvation alone it is, that we have any hopes of being brought home to the heavenly Jerusalem.Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom - The Edomites; the people of Idumea. On the situation of Edom or Idumea, see introductory notes to Isaiah 34.

In the day of Jerusalem - In the day when Jerusalem shall be restored; in the day when punishment shall be inflicted on the nations that destroyed it; then, do not forget the Edomites, who took so large and so active a part in its overthrow. This is to be understood as a continued "remembrance" of Zion; as a purpose not to "forget" Jerusalem. The psalmist, representing the feelings of the captives in Babylon, says, that so far from doing anything which would imply a forgetfulness of their native land - as singing cheerful songs there might be understood to be, they would do everything to call Jerusalem to remembrance. They would remember her former splendor; they would remember her desolations; they would go further - they would not forget those who had brought these calamities upon her; those who had done most for her overthrow. As among the most prominent, they would remember particularly the ancient; enemies of their nation - the Edomites - who had been among the most active in its destruction, and who had united with the Babylonians in the work of ruin. They would remember all this; and they prayed God that he also would remember the desolation itself, and all the actors in that work of desolation.

Who said - Implying that they had been associated with the Babylonians in the destruction of the city. On the hostility of that people to the Hebrews, and the grounds of their hostility - and on their agency as united with the Babylonians in destroying Jerusalem, and the divine vengeance threatened them on that account - see, as above, the introduction to Isaiah 34.

Rase it, rase it - Margin, as in Hebrew, make bare. That is, Strip it of everything - temple, houses, ornaments, fountains - and leave it a bare and naked rock. Let nothing remain but the rocks - the foundations - on which it is built. In the history of the Edomites, as stated in the introduction to Isaiah 34, there were abundant facts to show that they were particularly zealous and active in seeking the destruction of the hated city. This verse and the one following constitute a portion of the "imprecatory" Psalms; of those which seem to cry for vengeance, and to manifest a revengeful and unforgiving spirit; the portion of the Psalms which has been regarded as so difficult to be reconciled with the forgiving spirit enjoined in the gospel. On this subject, see the General Introduction, Section 6.

Psalm 137:7They seem to have resolved to take full vengeance for the fact that their nation had been so long subjected by David and his successors; to have cut off such of the Jews as attempted to escape; to have endeavored to level the whole city with the ground; to have rejoiced in the success of the Babylonians, and to have imbrued their hands in the blood of those whom the Chaldeans had left - and were thus held to be guilty of the crime of fratricide by God (see particularly Obadiah 1:10-12, Obadiah 1:18; Ezekiel 25:12-14; Ezekiel 35:3-15). It was for this especially that they were denounced and threatened by the prophets with heavy judgment, and with the utter destruction of the nation Isaiah 34:5, Isaiah 34:10-17; Jeremiah 49:7-10, Jeremiah 49:12-18; Ezekiel 25:12-15; Ezekiel 35:1-15; Joel 3:19; Amos 1:11; Obadiah 1:2-3, Obadiah 1:8, Obadiah 1:17-18; Malachi 1:3-4). This refusing to aid their brethren the Jews, and joining with the enemies of the people of God, and exulting in their success, was the great crime in their history which was to call down the divine vengeance, and terminate in their complete and utter ruin.

But their exultation does not long continue, and their cruelty to the Jews did not long remain unpunished. Five years after the taking of Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar humbled all the states around Judea, and particularly Idumea Jeremiah 25:15-26; Malachi 1:3-4.

During the Jewish exile, it would appear the Edomites pressed forward into the south of Palestine, of which they took possession as far as to Hebron. Here they were subsequently attacked and subdued by John Hyrcanus, and compelled to adopt the laws and customs of the Jews. The name Idumea was transferred to this part of the land of Judea which they occupied, arid this is the Idumea which is mentioned by Pliny, Ptolemy, Strabo, and other ancient writers. Indeed the name Idumea was sometimes given by the Roman writers to the whole of Palestine (Reland's Palestine). Idumea, including the southern part of Judea, was henceforth governed by a succession of Jewish prefects. One of these, Antipater, an Idumean by birth, by the favor of Caesar, was made procurator of all Judea. He was the father of Herod the Great, who become king of Judea, including Idumea. While the Edomites had been extending themselves to the northwest, they had in in turn been driven out from the southern portion of their own territory, and from their chief city itself, by the Nabatheans, an Arabian tribe, the descendants of Nebaioth, the oldest son of Ishmael. This nomadic people had spread themselves over the whole of desert Arabia, from the Euphrates to the borders of Palestine, and finally to the Elanitic gulf of the Red Sea. They thus grew up into the kingdom of Arabia Petrea, occupying very nearly the same territory which was comprised within the limits of ancient Edom. A king of this country, Aretas, is mentioned as cotemporary with Antiochus Epiphanes, about 166 b.c. From this time to the destruction of Jerusalem, the sovereigns of Arabia Petrea came into frequent contact with the Jews and Romans, both in war and peace.

continued...

7-9. Remember … the children of Edom—(Compare Ps 132:1), that is, to punish.

the day of Jerusalem—its downfall (La 4:21, 22; Ob 11-13).

7 Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof.

8 O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.

9 Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.

Psalm 137:7

"Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem." The case is left in Jehovah's hands. He is a God of recompenses, and will deal out justice with impartiality. The Edomites ought to have been friendly with the Israelites, from kinship; but there was a deep hatred and cruel spite displayed by them. The elder loved not to serve the younger, and so when Jacob's day of tribulation came, Esau was ready to take advantage of it. The captive Israelites being moved by grief to lodge their plaints with God, also added a prayer for his visitation of the nation which meanly sided with their enemies, and even urged the invaders to more than their usual cruelty. "Who said, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof." They wished to see the last of Jerusalem and the Jewish state; they would have no stone left standing, they desired to see a clean sweep of temple, palace, wall, and habitation. It is horrible for neighbours to be enemies, worse for them to show their enmity in times of great affliction, worst of all for neighbours to egg others on to malicious deeds. Those are responsible for other men's sins who would use them as the tools of their own enmity. It is a shame for men to incite the wicked to deeds which they are not able to perform themselves. The Chaldeans were ferocious enough without being excited to greater fury; but Edom's hate was insatiable. Those deserve to be remembered by vengeance who in evil times do not remember mercy; how much more those who take advantage of calamities to wreak revenge upon sufferers. When Jerusalem's day of restoration comes Edom will be remembered and wiped out of existence.

Psalm 137:8

"O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed." Or the destroyer, let us accept the word either way, or both ways: the destroyer would be destroyed, and the Psalmist in vision saw her as already destroyed. It is usual to speak of a city as a virgin daughter. Babylon was in her prime and beauty, but she was already doomed for her crimes. "Happy shall he be that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us." The avenger would be fulfilling an honourable calling in overthrowing a power so brutal, so inhuman. Assyrian and Chaldean armies had been boastfully brutal in their conquests; it was meet that their conduct should be measured back into their own bosoms. No awards of punishment can be more unanswerably just than those which closely follow the lex talionis, even to the letter. Babylon must fall, as she caused Jerusalem to fall; and her sack and slaughter must be such as she appointed for other cities. The patriot-poet sitting sorrowfully in his exile, finds a solace in the prospect of the overthrow of the empress city which holds him in bondage, and he accounts Cyrus right happy to be ordained to such a righteous work. The whole earth would bless the conqueror for ridding the nations of a tyrant; future generations would call him blessed for enabling men to breathe again, and for once more making liberty possible upon the earth.

We may rest assured that every unrighteous power is doomed to destruction, and that from the throne of God justice will be measured out to all whose law is force, whose rule is selfishness, and whose policy is oppression. Happy is the man who shall help in the overthrow of the spiritual Babylon, which, despite its riches and power, is "to be destroyed." Happier still shall he be who shall see it sink like a millstone in the flood, never to rise again. What that spiritual Babylon is none need enquire. There is but one city upon earth which can answer to the name.

Psalm 137:9

"Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones." Fierce was the heart of the Jew who had seen his beloved city the scene of such terrific butchery. His heart pronounced like sentence upon Babylon. She should be scourged with her own whip of wire. The desire for righteous retribution is rather the spirit of the law than of the gospel; and yet in moments of righteous wrath the old fire will burn; and while justice survives in the human breast it will not lack for fuel among the various tyrannies which still survive. We shall be wise to view this passage as a prophecy. History informs us that it was literally fulfilled: the Babylonian people in their terror agreed to destroy their own offspring, and men thought themselves happy when they had put their own wives and children to the sword. Horrible as was the whole transaction, it is a thing to be glad of if we take a broad view of the world's welfare; for Babylon, the gigantic robber, had for many a year slaughtered nations without mercy, and her fall was the rising of many people to a freer and safer state. The murder of innocent infants can never be sufficiently deplored, but it was an incident of ancient warfare which the Babylonians had not omitted in their massacres, and, therefore, they were not spared it themselves. The revenges of providence may be slow, but they are ever sure; neither can they be received with regret by those who see God's righteous hand in them. It is a wretched thing that a nation should need an executioner; but yet if men will commit murder tears are more fitly shed over their victims than over the assassins themselves. A feeling of universal love is admirable, but it must not be divorced from a keen sense of justice.

The captives in Babylon did not make music, but they poured forth their righteous maledictions, and these were far more in harmony with their surroundings than songs and laughter could have been. Those who mock the Lord's people will receive more than they desire, to their own confusion: they shall have little enough to make mirth for them, and more than enough to fill them with misery. The execrations of good men are terrible things, for they are not lightly uttered, and they are heard in heaven. "The curse causeless shall not come;" but is there not a cause? Shall despots crush virtue beneath their iron heel and never be punished? Time will show.

Remember, O Lord, so as to punish them,

the children of Edom, our constant and inveterate enemies, who had no regard either to consanguinity or humanity.

In the day; in the time of its calamity or destruction, which is oft called a day, as Job 18:20 Psalm 37:13 Ezekiel 30:9 Hosea 1:11 Ob 12.

Who said to the Babylonians, whom they assisted and provoked against Jerusalem; of which see Lamentations 4:21 Ezekiel 25:12 Ob 11-14. Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem,.... Of her visitation, calamity, and destruction, how they behaved then, and them for it; who, though the children of Esau and brethren of the Jews, as well as their neighbours, yet hated them; the old grudge of their father, because of the birthright and blessing, as well as the old enmity of the serpent, continuing in them; and who rejoiced at their ruin, helped forward their affliction, and were assistants to the Babylonians in the plunder and destruction of them, Obadiah 1:11. The Targum is,

"Michael, the prince of Jerusalem, said, remember, O Lord, the people of Edom who destroyed Jerusalem.''

Many Jewish writers, as Aben Ezra observes, interpret this of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans:

who said, rase it, rase it even to the foundation thereof: or "make it naked" or "bare (i) to the foundation"; pull down its walls, lay them level with the ground; root up the very foundation of them, and let nothing be left or seen but the bare naked ground; so spiteful and malicious were they.

(i) "nudate", Vatablus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius, Schmidt.

Remember, O LORD, the children of {f} Edom in the {g} day of Jerusalem; who said, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof.

(f) As was prophesied in Eze 25:13,Jer 49:7,Ob 1:10, showing that the Edomites who came from Esau, conspired with the Babylonians against their brethren and kinsfolk.

(g) When you visited Jerusalem.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
7. Remember, Jehovah, against the children of Edom the day of Jerusalem] Remember and punish the conduct of the Edomites in the fatal day of Jerusalem’s fall. For this sense of ‘remember’ cp. Nehemiah 6:14; Nehemiah 13:29; and for ‘day’ cp. Obadiah 1:12; Psalm 37:13. The hostility of the Edomites to Israel was of long standing, and it was aggravated by the fact of their relationship through their descent from Esau and Jacob. They are repeatedly denounced for it by the prophets, and threatened with vengeance. See Amos 1:11; Obadiah 1:10 ff.; Joel 3:19; Jeremiah 49:7 ff.; Lamentations 4:21 f.; Ezekiel 25:12 ff; Ezekiel 35:2 ff.; Isaiah 34; Isaiah 63:1 ff. Rase it] Lit. lay (it) bare.

7–9. The Psalmist’s love for Jerusalem leads him to invoke vengeance on her enemies: upon Edom for the unbrotherly spite which rejoiced at her destruction; upon Babylon, for having accomplished that destructionVerse 7. - Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; rather, remember, O Lord, to the children of Edom the day of Jerusalem. "The day of Jerusalem" is the day of her fall, when Edom took part with her enemies, and rejoiced at her destruction (see Lamentations 4:21, 22; Ezekiel 25:12; Ezekiel 35:5; Obadiah 1:10-14). The psalmist prays God to "remember" this to Edom, and requite it upon her (comp. Psalm 132:1, where the same expression is used in a good sense). Who said, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof; i.e. "destroy the city utterly - leave not one stone upon another." The enmity between Edom and Israel was of the intensest character (see 1 Kings 11:15, 16; 1 Chronicles 18:12; Jeremiah 49:7-22; Amos 1:11, 12; Malachi 1:3-5). Beginning with perfects, the Psalm has the appearance of being a Psalm not belonging to the Exile, but written in memory of the Exile. The bank of a river, like the seashore, is a favourite place of sojourn of those whom deep grief drives forth from the bustle of men into solitude. The boundary line of the river gives to solitude a safe back; the monotonous splashing of the waves keeps up the dull, melancholy alternation of thoughts and feelings; and at the same time the sight of the cool, fresh water exercises a soothing influence upon the consuming fever within the heart. The rivers of Babylon are here those of the Babylonian empire: not merely the Euphrates with its canals, and the Tigris, but also the Chaboras (Chebar) and Eulaeos ('Ulai), on whose lonesome banks Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:3) and Daniel (ch. Daniel 8:2) beheld divine visions. The שׁם is important: there, in a strange land, as captives under the dominion of the power of the world. And גּם is purposely chosen instead of ו: with the sitting down in the solitude of the river's banks weeping immediately came on; when the natural scenery around contrasted so strongly with that of their native land, the remembrance of Zion only forced itself upon them all the more powerfully, and the pain at the isolation from their home would have all the freer course where no hostilely observant eyes were present to suppress it. The willow (צפצפה) and viburnum, those trees which are associated with flowing water in hot low-lying districts, are indigenous in the richly watered lowlands of Babylonia. ערב (ערבה), if one and the same with Arab. grb, is not the willow, least of all the weeping-willow, which is called ṣafsâf mustahı̂ in Arabic, "the bending-down willow," but the viburnum with dentate leaves, described by Wetzstein on Isaiah 44:4. The Talmud even distinguishes between tsaph-tsapha and ‛araba, but without our being able to obtain any sure botanic picture from it. The ערבה, whose branches belong to the constituents of the lulab of the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:40), is understood of the crack-willow [Salix fragilis], and even in the passage before us is surely not distinguished with such botanical precision but that the gharab and willow together with the weeping-willow (Salix Babylonica) might be comprehended under the word ערבה. On these trees of the country abounding in streams the exiles hung their citherns. The time to take delight in music was past, for μουσικὰ ἐν πένθει ἄκαιρος διήγησις, Sir. 22:6. Joyous songs, as the word שׁיר designates them, were ill suited to their situation.

In order to understand the כּי in Psalm 137:3, Psalm 137:3 and Psalm 137:4 must be taken together. They hung up their citherns; for though their lords called upon them to sing in order that they might divert themselves with their national songs, they did not feel themselves in the mind for singing songs as they once resounded at the divine services of their native land. The lxx, Targum, and Syriac take תּוללינוּ as a synonym of שׁובינוּ, synonymous with שׁוללינוּ, and so, in fact, that it signifies not, like שׁולל, the spoiled and captive one, but the spoiler and he who takes other prisoners. But there is no Aramaic תּלל equals שׁלל. It might more readily be referred back to a Poel תּולל ( equals התל), to disappoint, deride (Hitzig); but the usage of the language does not favour this, and a stronger meaning for the word would be welcome. Either תּולל equals תּהולל, like מהולל, Psalm 102:9, signifies the raving one, i.e., a bloodthirsty man or a tyrant, or from ילל, ejulare, one who causes the cry of woe or a tormentor, - a signification which commends itself in view of the words תּושׁב and תּלמיד, which are likewise formed with the preformative ת. According to the sense the word ranks itself with an Hiph. הוליל, like תּועלת, תּוכחה, with הועיל and הוכיח, in a mainly abstract signification (Dietrich, Abhandlungen, S. 160f.). The דּברי beside שׁיר is used as in Psalm 35:20; Psalm 65:4; Psalm 105:27; Psalm 145:5, viz., partitively, dividing up the genitival notion of the species: words of songs as being parts or fragments of the national treasury of song, similar to משּׁיר a little further on, on which Rosenmller correctly says: sacrum aliquod carmen ex veteribus illis suis Sionicis. With the expression "song of Zion" alternates in Psalm 137:4 "song of Jahve," which, as in 2 Chronicles 29:27, cf. 1 Chronicles 25:7, denotes sacred or liturgical songs, that is to say, songs belonging to Psalm poesy (including the Cantica).

Before Psalm 137:4 we have to imagine that they answered the request of the Babylonians at that time in the language that follows, or thought thus within themselves when they withdrew themselves from them. The meaning of the interrogatory exclamation is not that the singing of sacred songs in a foreign land (חוצה לארץ) is contrary to the law, for the Psalms continued to be sung even during the Exile, and were also enriched by new ones. But the shir had an end during the Exile, in so far as that it was obliged to retire from publicity into the quiet of the family worship and of the houses of prayer, in order that that which is holy might not be profaned; and since it was not, as at home, accompanied by the trumpets of the priests and the music of the Levites, it became more recitative than singing properly so called, and therefore could not afford any idea of the singing of their native land in connection with the worship of God on Zion. From the striking contrast between the present and the former times the people of the Exile had in fact to come to the knowledge of their sins, in order that they might get back by the way of penitence and earnest longing to that which they had lost Penitence and home-sickness were at that time inseparable; for all those in whom the remembrance of Zion was lost gave themselves over to heathenism and were excluded from the redemption. The poet, translated into the situation of the exiles, and arming himself against the temptation to apostasy and the danger of denying God, therefore says: If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, ימיני תּשׁכּח. תּשׁכּח has been taken as an address to Jahve: obliviscaris dexterae meae (e.g., Wolfgang Dachstein in his song "An Wasserflssen Babylon"), but it is far from natural that Jerusalem and Jahve should be addressed in one clause. Others take ימיני as the subject and תּשׁכּח transitively: obliviscatur dextera mea, scil. artem psallendi (Aben-Ezra, Kimchi, Pagninus, Grotius, Hengstenberg, and others); but this ellipsis is arbitrary, and the interpolation of מנּי after ימיני (von Ortenberg, following Olshausen) produces an inelegant cadence. Others again assign a passive sense to תשׁכח: oblivioni detur (lxx, Italic, Vulgate, and Luther), or a half-passive sense, in oblivione sit (Jerome); but the thought: let my right hand be forgotten, is awkward and tame. Obliviscatur me (Syriac, Saadia, and the Psalterium Romanum) comes nearer to the true meaning. תּשׁכּח is to be taken reflexively: obliviscatur sui ipsius, let it forget itself, or its service (Amyraldus, Schultens, Ewald, and Hitzig), which is equivalent to let it refuse or fail, become lame, become benumbed, much the same as we say of the arms of legs that they "go to sleep," and just as the Arabic nasiya signifies both to forget and to become lame (cf. Gesenius, Thesaurus, p. 921b). La Harpe correctly renders: O Jerusalem! si je t'oublie jamais, que ma main oublie aussi le mouvement! Thus there is a correspondence between Psalm 137:5 and Psalm 137:6 : My tongue shall cleave to my palate if I do not remember thee, if I do not raise Jerusalem above the sum of my joy. אזכּרכי has the affixed Chirek, with which these later Psalms are so fond of adorning themselves. ראשׁ is apparently used as in Psalm 119:160 : supra summam (the totality) laetitiae meae, as Coccejus explains, h.e. supra omnem laetitiam meam. But why not then more simply על כּל, above the totality? ראשׁ here signifies not κεφάλαιον, but κεφαλή: if I do not place Jerusalem upon the summit of my joy, i.e., my highest joy; therefore, if I do not cause Jerusalem to be my very highest joy. His spiritual joy over the city of God is to soar above all earthly joys.

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