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This is a song of memory. From the midst of the circumstances of restoration the singer looks back to days of captivity and sorrow. The picture is graphic. Babylon was far from their own land, and far removed in every way from the city of God and the temple of Jehovah. All its material splendour was noting to the captive souls who were yet faithful to Jehovah. There they sat, with harps hung, silent, upon the willows, and wept.
Their taunting captors asked them to sing. They sought to be amused by these people of a strange religion, and the request was in itself an insult of their faith. It was impossible, and they refused to sing the song of Jehovah. To have done so would have been to play traitor to their own lost city, and to all that their citizenship stood for. The prayer for vengeance must be interpreted by the first part of the song, with its revelation of the treatment they received. It must of course also be interpreted by the times in which they lived. Our times are different. We have more light. And yet it is well to remember that the deepest sense of justice still makes punishment a necessary thing in the economy of God. That conception of God which denies the equity of retribution is weak and false.
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Morgan, G. Campbell. "Commentary on Psalms 137". "Morgan's Exposition on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13