A Brief Chapter Summary from Books At a Glance
by Steve West
Many interpreters have been shocked by the words in Psalm 137, “Happy shall he be that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Happy shall he be that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the rock.” It seems to many that these sentiments fail when judged against the standard of the love of God. How can it be anything less than immoral to wish such violence upon the heads of innocent babies? If these verses are stripped out of context—and if the historical background is not understood—they will not be interpreted properly. This psalm is not a psalm written by idolaters who fail to understand the nature of God: if it was, it would be the only example of such a song in all of Psalms.
Psalm 137 is a highly poetic psalm, the work of a skilled poet. When the author talks of the destruction of the Babylonians, he puts into his poem the theological truth that God sometimes judges and brings wrath down upon a whole nation and group of people. The world was judged in the Flood; Sodom was burned in fire. Judah, however, had higher experiences of God than any other nation. They had God’s revelation and the temple of his presence. Nevertheless, they filled the city and temple with idols and false gods. When God brought judgment against them, it affected all of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, male and female, from youngest to oldest. The nadir point of the covenant curses involved the death of the children. This was not because of an irrational anger on the part of God, but rather because there are times when the world is so filled with evil that God must wash it clean. There are times when wickedness is so entrenched in a group of people that their line must not continue. . . .[To continue reading this summary, please see below....]
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THE PRINCETON THEOLOGICAL REVIEW, VOLUME 1