Verse 9. "Happy-that taketh and dasheth thy little ones " - That is, So oppressive hast thou been to all under thy domination, as to become universally hated and detested; so that those who may have the last hand in thy destruction, and the total extermination of thy inhabitants, shall be reputed happy- shall be celebrated and extolled as those who have rid the world of a curse so grievous. These prophetic declarations contain no excitement to any person or persons to commit acts of cruelty and barbarity; but are simply declarative of what would take place in the order of the retributive providence and justice of God, and the general opinion that should in consequence be expressed on the subject; therefore praying for the destruction of our enemies is totally out of the question. It should not be omitted that the Chaldee considers this Psalm a dialogue, which it thus divides: - The three first verses are supposed to have been spoken by the psalmist, By the rivers, &c. The Levites answer from the porch of the temple, in ver. 4, How shall we sing, &c. The voice of the Holy Spirit responds in ver. 5, 6, If I forget thee, &c. Michael, the prince of Jerusalem, answers in ver. 7, Remember, O Lord, &c. Gabriel, the prince of Zion, then addresses the destroyer of the Babylonish nation, in ver. 8, 9, Happy shall be he that rewardeth thee, &c. To slay all when a city was sacked, both male and female, old and young, was a common practice in ancient times. Homer describes this in words almost similar to those of the psalmist: - uias t∆ ollumenouv, elkusqeisav te qugatrav, kai qalamouv keraizomenouv, kai nhpia tekna ballomena proti gaih en ainh dhiothti, ∆elkomenav te nuouv olohv upo cersin acaiwn.
Il. lib. xxii., ver. 62.
My heroes slain, my bridal bed o'erturned; My daughters ravished, and my city burned: My bleeding infants dashed against the floor; These I have yet to see; perhaps yet more. POPE.
These excesses were common in all barbarous nations, and are only prophetically declared here. He shall be reputed happy, prosperous, and highly commendable, who shall destroy Babylon.
ANALYSIS OF THE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-SEVENTH PSALM
When this Psalm was composed, the Jews were in captivity in Babylon, far from their own country, the temple, and the public exercises of religion; and the scoff and scorn of their enemies; and they contrast what they were with what they are. This Psalm has two parts: - I. The complaint of Israel. Because of the insults of the Babylonians, they deplore their sad condition, long for the temple, and their return to Jerusalem, ver. 1-7.
II. An imprecation or prayer for vengeance, on their persecutors, ver. 7-9.
I. Their complaint arises from their captivity, and it is aggravated.
1. From the place, Babylon: "By the rivers of Babylon." A place far from their country; who were aliens from the covenant made by God with Abraham, scorners of their religion, had laid waste their city and forced them to base and servile labour.
2. From the continuance of their captivity and misery: "There we sat down," &c. Took up the seats allotted to us, and that for seventy years.
3. From the effects it produced: "Yea, we wept," &c.
4. From the cause which drew these tears. The remembrance of what they had enjoyed, (now lost,) the services of religion: "We wept when we remembered Zion," &c.
5. From the intenseness of their grief, which was so great that they could not even tune their harps: "We hung our harps," &c.
That which increased their grief was the joy their enemies manifested at it.
1. THERE, in a strange land, the place of our captivity.
2. "THEY that carried us away captive." 3. "They required of us a song." They quired of us mirth, saying, 4. O thou Jew or captive, come now, "sing us one of the songs of Zion." To this sarcasm the captive Jews return a double answer.
"How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?" You are aliens, and this is a strange land; we cannot sing God's service there, which is destined to his honour, to you, or in this place without offending our God.
They reply by a protestation of their hope and constancy in religion, and accurse themselves if they do not continue in it.
1. "If I forget thee," &c. Forget the worship and feasts I kept there.
2. "If I do not remember thee," &c. If I do not prefer and make mention of Jerusalem, then "let my tongue cleave," &c. Let me no more have the use of that excellent organ of God's glory. It would be unworthy of my religion, and a dishonour to my God to sing the songs of Zion thus circumstanced, and to scoffers and aliens.
II. This seems to be the sense of the first part of the Psalm. The second part has reference to the imprecations poured out against Edom and Babylon, both persecutors of God's people. The Babylonians carried them away captive, and the Edomites persecuted their brethren with the sword, Amos i. 12.
1. Against Edom.
(1) "Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom,'' &c. How they carried themselves towards thy people on that day when thy anger smote against them, and the Babylonians carried us away.
(2) Remember how they added to our affliction, saying, "Rase it," &c.
2. Against Babylon. To her he turns his speech by an apostrophe; but at the same time foretells her ruin: "O daughter of Babylon," &c.
Thou seemest to thyself to be most happy; but thy ruin approaches. Shortly after, the Medes, led by Cyrus destroyed them.
(1) "Happy shall he be that rewardeth," &c. [See the notes.] (2) "Happy shall he be that taketh and dasheth thy little ones," &c. [See the notes.]