What is the true meaning? Why would the psalmist say such a thing?
ESV - 9 Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!
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First, we need to take a look at the context of the verse. The author is a captive of the Babylonians who caused so much destruction in Israel, killing and enslaving so many of them. According to the author, there would be those coming who would do to the Babylonians what the Babylonians did to Israel, except the Babylonian punishment would be on an even greater scale of cruelty. The nation that would destroy the Babylonians would repay the Babylonians for the evil they had done and would go so far as to dash the heads of the Babylonian babies against the stones. Babylon also inflicted such treatment against other nations, including Israel. (2 Kings 8:12; Isa 13:16; Hosea 10:14). In view of the horrible treatment of the Babylonians (Jer 51:24), the psalmist is simply articulating a law of life - "As you have done, it shall be done to you" (Obadiah 15; Matt. 7:2)
I would agree that the cited verse is exceptionally graphic and violent in nature. I would also agree that the sentiment expressed is not in accord with the higher standard to which Jesus called His followers in passages such as Matthew 5:38-48. However, as Jesus also said, "You have heard that it was said to the men of old...", indicating that a different ethic was practiced at the time that the words of the psalm were written. In addition, as harsh and explicit as the psalmist's words might have been, they were an honest expression of the anger and outrage that he was experiencing at the similar atrocities that the Babylonians had perpetrated against Judah (even though the Babylonian captivity was itself a judgment from God against Judah's persistent sin and idolatry). Finally, I would also say that the psalmist is not speaking of taking personal vengeance, but leaving the judgment of the Babylonians to others who would be acting in accordance with God's decretive or permissive will, as expressed, for example, in Deuteronomy 32:35.
The writer of this Psalm 137 seems to be glad that babies would be injured. How could such a righteous writer rejoice over such a happening so tragic and cruel? I think the answer lies in that the writer is not rejoicing over what will happen to the babies. Instead, he's glad that God would cause His retributive justice to avenge the Babylonian method of cruelty that they had inflicted on their foes, the Jews, before.
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