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The godly remnant in Israel faithful in heart to Zion, though in captivity.
Historically, the psalm sets forth the sorrows of Israel in captivity: prophetically, it expresses the sorrows of the godly in Israel in a latter day.
(vv. 1-3) The psalm opens with the captives of Israel at Babylon in the day of its prosperity and earthly joy, as set forth by its rivers, its mirth, and its songs.
The captives belong to another city - Zion, a city that has its own joy, its song of the Lord, and its “day” yet to come (v. 7). Nevertheless, Jerusalem is razed to the ground; praise is silent in Zion, and the godly, strangers in a foreign land. They can only weep when they remember Zion. The glory and joy of Babylon are as nothing in their eyes compared with the blessedness of their own city. The world that had wasted the people of God, and ruined their city, would fain hear one of the beautiful songs of Zion.
(vv. 4-6) How can the godly sing the Lord's song in a strange land? What can the world know of the joy of the Lord, or of the sorrows of Jerusalem? To join with the world in its songs and its mirth would be to forget Jerusalem and its sorrows. The godly man would rather forget his skill in playing the harp, than forget Jerusalem; he would rather his tongue be silent altogether, if Jerusalem is not remembered and preferred above all worldly joys.
(vv. 7-9) The psalm closes with an appeal to the Lord to remember the enemies of Jerusalem when the day of Jerusalem comes. In the time of Jerusalem's sorrow, Edom had expressed its implacable hatred of Jerusalem. Without mercy Edom had said, “Rase it, rase it, even to the foundations thereof.”
Babylon may be in prosperity, demanding songs and mirth, but the godly are assured that its day of judgment is coming. It is devoted to destruction, for one will arise to deal with Babylon - or the world system of which it is the figure - as it had dealt with God's people.
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Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Psalms 137". "Hamilton Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30