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About Psalm 137

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  • About Psalm 137

    In particular I am hoping Jesse will clear up what verse 9 actually means:

    Psalm 137: 9 How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones
    Against the rock.
    Of course, that is in English, and apparently not at all accurate, however, the Hebrew can be seen here:

    http://biblehub.com/text/psalms/137-9.htm

    I am just an ignorant atheist, but to me the Bible is saying that God blesses people who smash kids against rocks. Not just any kids, of course - there is a right time and a wrong time for everything. But sometimes it is right to smash kids on rocks. I have to confess to being ignorant of ANE languages, and the true meaning of this Psalm eludes me - or so Jesse assures me. Thankfully Jesse is rather more knowledgeable about these things (as he points out here), so I am sure he will be able to explain this for me.
    My Blog: http://oncreationism.blogspot.co.uk/

  • #2
    Originally posted by The Pixie View Post
    In particular I am hoping Jesse will clear up what verse 9 actually means:



    Of course, that is in English, and apparently not at all accurate, however, the Hebrew can be seen here:

    http://biblehub.com/text/psalms/137-9.htm

    I am just an ignorant atheist, but to me the Bible is saying that God blesses people who smash kids against rocks. Not just any kids, of course - there is a right time and a wrong time for everything. But sometimes it is right to smash kids on rocks. I have to confess to being ignorant of ANE languages, and the true meaning of this Psalm eludes me - or so Jesse assures me. Thankfully Jesse is rather more knowledgeable about these things (as he points out here), so I am sure he will be able to explain this for me.
    This is the sort of verse you quietly skip over when reading Psalms to your son or daughter. It's just as brutish and animalistic whether it happened in ancient Israel or My Lai.

    Comment


    • #3
      Why was it written?

      Perhaps a bit of historical context is in order. When the Psalm was written, the Jews were in exile in Babylon. Clearly they were not happy about it, and what we read in Psalm 137 is the glee one of the captives feels at the thought of the Babylonian children getting bashed against rocks.

      However, as this page makes clear, a lot of good actually came of the exile.

      If Christianity is true, then it was God's decision to allow the captivity to happen. Judaism adopted the idea of an afterlife from the Babylonians during the exile, and a lot of Judaism actually dates from that time or just after. Modern Judaism and therefore modern Christianity would be very different if the exile never happened.


      An eye for an eye

      One explanation is that the Psalmist was just wanting for the Babylonians what they had suffered. This would fit with the eye-for-an-eye motif of the OT, but the problem is that there is no evidence the Babylonians actually did this.


      Just how bad was the captivity?

      Probably not that bad, as these pages make clear:

      http://www.bible-history.com/map_bab...n_babylon.html
      http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/ar...4012-captivity

      That is not to say the Israelites would have been happy about it, I am sure they were not, but things could have been much worse. They could have been treated in the manner they had themselves treated conquered nations.

      Joshua 6:20-21
      Deuteronomy 2:32-35
      Deuteronomy 3:3-7
      Numbers 31:7-18
      1 Samuel 15:1-9


      It was not God's word

      Of course, someone might argument that the Psalm is just some guy's opinion; it does not reflect what God wants or thinks at all. Well, yes, I agree. That is exactly what I believe. The whole Bible is just people's opinions. It in no way reflects God's word, because there is no God. From an atheist perspective, this makes perfect sense.

      However this is a big problem for anyone claiming the Bible is special, or is God's word. As soon as you say this verse is not really God's word, you loose all authority in the Bible. How many of the other 31,101 verses are you going to decide are inconvenient, and not really God's word? Why not all 31,102 all of them?

      Here is an example:
      Nowhere does it say that God approves of the Psalmist’s request or that he fulfilled it. Just because it is recorded that the Psalmist wrote the imprecation, doesn’t mean it was approved by God.
      And here:
      The psalmist, not God, is speaking in Psalm 137:9.
      Where in the Bible does it say God approved the letters of St Paul? Nowhere, so we can disregard them, right?
      My Blog: http://oncreationism.blogspot.co.uk/

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by The Pixie View Post
        In particular I am hoping Jesse will clear up what verse 9 actually means:



        Of course, that is in English, and apparently not at all accurate, however, the Hebrew can be seen here:

        http://biblehub.com/text/psalms/137-9.htm

        I am just an ignorant atheist, but to me the Bible is saying that God blesses people who smash kids against rocks. Not just any kids, of course - there is a right time and a wrong time for everything. But sometimes it is right to smash kids on rocks. I have to confess to being ignorant of ANE languages, and the true meaning of this Psalm eludes me - or so Jesse assures me. Thankfully Jesse is rather more knowledgeable about these things (as he points out here), so I am sure he will be able to explain this for me.
        Just to start you off on a light note. I was always amused in school chapel when Psalm 137 was chanted, ending with:

        "Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks."

        Followed immediately by the resounding doxology (as is the Anglican custom with the psalms):

        "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen."

        Thus Christianising the brutal sentiments.
        Last edited by Tassman; 11-20-2014, 05:40 AM.
        “He felt that his whole life was a kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.” - Douglas Adams.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by The Pixie View Post
          In particular I am hoping Jesse will clear up what verse 9 actually means:



          Of course, that is in English, and apparently not at all accurate, however, the Hebrew can be seen here:

          http://biblehub.com/text/psalms/137-9.htm

          I am just an ignorant atheist, but to me the Bible is saying that God blesses people who smash kids against rocks. Not just any kids, of course - there is a right time and a wrong time for everything. But sometimes it is right to smash kids on rocks. I have to confess to being ignorant of ANE languages, and the true meaning of this Psalm eludes me - or so Jesse assures me. Thankfully Jesse is rather more knowledgeable about these things (as he points out here), so I am sure he will be able to explain this for me.
          Good to see that your google skills are in working order. I am not going to waste too much time on this because it's all fairly apparent. Psalm 137:9 is a imprecatory psalm. That is, it's a poematic curse on Edom:

          Source: Tehillim. A New Translation with a Commentary Anthologized from Talmudic, Midrashic and Rabbinic Sources


          The Psalmist tells Babylon that she will suffer in the same measure she caused Israel to suffer. Thus, her suffering will be, in a sense, self-inflicted. The conqueror of Babylon will hate her and torment her cruelly, exactly as she hated and tormented Israel.

          © Copyright Original Source



          There is, of course, no mention of "God blesses people who smash kids against rocks". This passage is the psalmist speaking in view of a future calamity in Babylon.

          You are indeed an ignorant Athiest. Instead of using the oh so unique method of taking a passage out of context, you might want to do some research. Using this in any post without context shows your lack of knowledge. Yes, you are welcome for the brief lesson in how the ANE uses language. Now you may go take this new found knowledge and spread it to other ignorant Atheists.
          "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." ― C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology (Making of Modern Theology)

          Comment


          • #6
            Thanks for weighing in with your opinion on this, Jesse.
            Originally posted by Jesse View Post
            Good to see that your google skills are in working order. I am not going to waste too much time on this because it's all fairly apparent.
            If you think putting the Christian position on this verse is "going to waste too much time", that is your choice.
            Psalm 137:9 is a imprecatory psalm. That is, it's a poematic curse on Edom:
            Ah, so labeling something as "imprecatory" and as a "poematic curse" suddenly makes it morally acceptable. At least in the Christian world. Is that right, Jesse?

            There have been a few incidents lately in the news (in the UK anyway) of internet trolls making posts where they hope someone gets raped. If we label then "imprecatory posts", do you think that makes them morally right? Suppose they did in verse, and we labelled them "poematic curses", would such posts be morally acceptable?

            I think not.

            Similarly, I think wishing to see someone's kids bashed against rocks is not morally acceptable. However you label it.

            Perhaps you think it is okay because they only want it to happen, they are not actually doing it, Jesse?

            Matthew 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
            Source: Tehillim. A New Translation with a Commentary Anthologized from Talmudic, Midrashic and Rabbinic Sources


            The Psalmist tells Babylon that she will suffer in the same measure she caused Israel to suffer. Thus, her suffering will be, in a sense, self-inflicted. The conqueror of Babylon will hate her and torment her cruelly, exactly as she hated and tormented Israel.

            © Copyright Original Source

            Bad on so many counts.

            Justice: So God will punish the children for what their parents (grandparents, whatever) did? This is your perfectly just God?

            Morality: This is what you consider to be morally right? You are actually saying it would be morally right to bash children's brains out in this scenario? Are you sure about this, Jesse?

            God's will: Israel suffered at the hands of Babylon because God allowed it to happen.

            Israel deserved worse: Israel wiped out entire nations. Men, women, children, babies. Even livestock. By this reasoning Israel deserved all that hatred and torment. Israel's suffering was, in exactly the same sense, self-inflicted. How then can you justify bashing kids against rocks?
            There is, of course, no mention of "God blesses people who smash kids against rocks"....
            Read the passage. It says God will bless people who smash kids against rocks. I will quote it again, as you seem unclear on this. In bold, so you can find it.

            Psalm 137: 9 How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones
            Against the rock.

            ... This passage is the psalmist speaking in view of a future calamity in Babylon.
            That is right and that is what I said in post #3. It still says God will bless those people who smash the kids against rocks.

            In my atheist ignorance, I think that smashing kids against rocks is morally wrong.
            You are indeed an ignorant Athiest. Instead of using the oh so unique method of taking a passage out of context, you might want to do some research.
            The whole chapter is 9 verses long, and stands on its own. I assure you I read all nine verses. How much context do you imagine there is, Jesse?
            Using this in any post without context shows your lack of knowledge.
            And of course you are unable to actually explain why context changes it in any way. No surprise there. When all you have is bluster, all you have is bluster.
            Yes, you are welcome for the brief lesson in how the ANE uses language. Now you may go take this new found knowledge and spread it to other ignorant Atheists.
            Oh, yes, ANE languages. You mentioned that in the other thread. When are you going to give us you great wisdom on that subject? I will not hold my breath.
            My Blog: http://oncreationism.blogspot.co.uk/

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by The Pixie View Post
              Emotional outburst incoming.
              I have no desire to get into a debate on what you consider moral or immoral Pixie. For one, that was not what you asked me. And two, I just really don't care. You asked me to give you the context of the passage. This I did. But yet, you still seem confused by it for some reason.

              Originally posted by The Pixie
              Read the passage. It says God will bless people who smash kids against rocks. I will quote it again, as you seem unclear on this. In bold, so you can find it.

              Psalm 137: 9 How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones
              Against the rock.
              I don't think you actually read the passage. For if you had, you would see there is nothing of the sort:

              Source: Psalm 137


              1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.

              2 There on the poplars we hung our harps,

              3 for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

              4 How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?

              5 If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.

              6 May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy.

              7 Remember, Lord, what the Edomites did on the day Jerusalem fell. “Tear it down,” they cried, “tear it down to its foundations!”

              8 Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is the one who repays you according to what you have done to us.

              9 Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.

              © Copyright Original Source



              I did what you asked and gave you it's context. You may now go into another screed, or learn something by doing a little homework.
              Last edited by Jesse; 11-20-2014, 09:18 AM.
              "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." ― C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology (Making of Modern Theology)

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Jesse View Post
                I have no desire to get into a debate on what you consider moral or immoral Pixie.
                What?

                You think it is debatable whether bashing kids on rocks is immoral? Really?

                It is. Everyone knows it is.* We do not need to debate that.
                For one, that was not what you asked me. And two, I just really don't care.
                You do not care whether it is moral in Christianity to bash kids against rocks? Wow. Well, thanks for making that clear, I suppose. Apart from anything else, this came from a discussion on morality, which you joined to comment on that verse, so I find that surprising. But now we know.
                You asked me to give you the context of the passage. This I did. But yet, you still seem confused by it for some reason.
                I asked you to explain what the passage meant. To me, it is saying that God will bless those who bash kids against rocks in some situations (specifically the children of the Babylonians). I have yet to see anything that suggests another reading of it from you.
                I don't think you actually read the passage.
                I assure you I did. Look at post #3. I did a fair bit of research of this on the internet. Why would you imagine I did not bother to read all nine verses of the Psalm?
                For if you had, you would see there is nothing of the sort there:

                Source: Psalm 137


                1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.

                2 There on the poplars we hung our harps,

                3 for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

                4 How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?

                5 If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.

                6 May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy.

                7 Remember, Lord, what the Edomites did on the day Jerusalem fell. “Tear it down,” they cried, “tear it down to its foundations!”

                8 Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is the one who repays you according to what you have done to us.

                9 Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.

                © Copyright Original Source

                It is that last verse. Did you see it? I put it in bold for you. The version I had said blessed rather than happy. The Hebrew word here is "esher", which seems to be translated as blessed more often than happy (blessed 41 times, happy 4 times in the NASB).
                http://biblehub.com/hebrew/835.htm

                Is this your wondrous incite into ANE languages? they meant happy, not blessed?
                I did what you asked and gave you it's context. You may now go into another screed, or learn something by doing a little homework.
                What I asked is that you "clear up what verse 9 actually means", that you "explain why context changes it in any way". When you planning to do that?

                I have researched this. I have done the homework, and looked on the internet how Christians try to excuse this verse. I think what we are seeing here is your bluster failing to convince.


                * Everyone not actively trying to defend Psalm 137:9.
                My Blog: http://oncreationism.blogspot.co.uk/

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by The Pixie View Post
                  However this is a big problem for anyone claiming the Bible is special, or is God's word. As soon as you say this verse is not really God's word, you loose all authority in the Bible. How many of the other 31,101 verses are you going to decide are inconvenient, and not really God's word? Why not all 31,102 all of them?
                  In practice, you treat it just like any text by reading it carefully and mindfully. Things that might actually be from God are those that accord to reason and morality.

                  Originally posted by The Pixie View Post
                  Where in the Bible does it say God approved the letters of St Paul? Nowhere, so we can disregard them, right?
                  No, we treat them discerningly.
                  O Gladsome Light of the Holy Glory of the Immortal Father, Heavenly, Holy, Blessed Jesus Christ! Now that we have come to the setting of the sun and behold the light of evening, we praise God Father, Son and Holy Spirit. For meet it is at all times to worship Thee with voices of praise. O Son of God and Giver of Life, therefore all the world doth glorify Thee.

                  A neat video of dead languages!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by The Pixie View Post

                    Where in the Bible does it say God approved the letters of St Paul? Nowhere, so we can disregard them, right?
                    It is admittedly a bit circular to use the Bible as the standard, but you did ask...

                    2 Peter 3:16
                    "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by The Pixie View Post
                      More crazy talk.
                      Originally posted by The Pixie
                      this came from a discussion on morality, which you joined to comment on that verse, so I find that surprising. But now we know.
                      Correct. You used this passage in a morality thread. That is why I commented. You might as well of posted musical lyrics with harsh themes. I bet you find those morally wrong too.

                      Originally posted by The Pixie
                      I asked you to explain what the passage meant. To me, it is saying that God will bless those who bash kids against rocks in some situations (specifically the children of the Babylonians). I have yet to see anything that suggests another reading of it from you.
                      I explained what it meant. But you still pretend it wasn't. I can't help you there. I still have yet to see where God is blessing anyone in that passage. The only thing I can think of here, is that you think the psalmist and God are the same person. Nothing else makes any sense.

                      Originally posted by The Pixie
                      It is that last verse. Did you see it? I put it in bold for you. The version I had said blessed rather than happy. The Hebrew word here is "esher", which seems to be translated as blessed more often than happy (blessed 41 times, happy 4 times in the NASB).
                      http://biblehub.com/hebrew/835.htm
                      And this proves what? That you still can't read the passage correctly?
                      Last edited by Jesse; 11-20-2014, 10:39 AM.
                      "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." ― C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology (Making of Modern Theology)

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Jesse View Post
                        I have no desire to get into a debate on what you consider moral or immoral Pixie. For one, that was not what you asked me. And two, I just really don't care. You asked me to give you the context of the passage. This I did. But yet, you still seem confused by it for some reason.



                        I don't think you actually read the passage. For if you had, you would see there is nothing of the sort:

                        Source: Psalm 137


                        1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.

                        2 There on the poplars we hung our harps,

                        3 for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

                        4 How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?

                        5 If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.

                        6 May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy.

                        7 Remember, Lord, what the Edomites did on the day Jerusalem fell. “Tear it down,” they cried, “tear it down to its foundations!”

                        8 Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is the one who repays you according to what you have done to us.

                        9 Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.

                        © Copyright Original Source



                        I did what you asked and gave you it's context. You may now go into another screed, or learn something by doing a little homework.
                        John Goldingay makes an interesting point about that passage in his commentary on Psalms,

                        Source: Psalms: Psalms 90-150 by John Goldingay, Baker Academic, 2008

                        Yet we should not press the psalm’s metaphorical language. None of the passages that refer to smashing children are simple reports of someone’s action; all come in the words of the prophets, apart from this psalm that appeals to the words of prophets. Zedekiah’s sons were not actually smashed on a crag and neither are the children of Iraq, and it is unlikely that this is what the psalm literally envisages. Middle Eastern writings like to express things concretely rather than abstractly in terms,

                        which frequently signify a reality far larger than their concrete meaning. . . . We need to consider . . . whether these "little ones" ought not to be understood just as symbolically as "Mother Babylon." The inhabitants of the oppressor-city or the children of the ruling dynasty concretize the continuation of the unrighteous empire. . . . . One might translate: "Happy is he who puts an end to your self-renewing domination!" Stated thus, the sentence would presumably offend no one, though it too implies brutal consequences. Its brutality, however, is cloaked in the broad mantle of abstract formulation. Such an (often dangerous) dissociation of concrete reality from idea is foreign to the ancient Near Eastern mode of perception as the dissociation of body and spirit. Ancient Near Eastern perception usually preserves the continuity between the concretum and its related abstract.*
                        *Keel, symbolism, 9.

                        © Copyright Original Source

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          For the sarcastically impaired the following is said in jest


                          The passage was planted there to cause unbelievers to reveal their jackassery

                          "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Adrift View Post
                            John Goldingay makes an interesting point about that passage in his commentary on Psalms,

                            Source: Psalms: Psalms 90-150 by John Goldingay, Baker Academic, 2008

                            Yet we should not press the psalm’s metaphorical language. None of the passages that refer to smashing children are simple reports of someone’s action; all come in the words of the prophets, apart from this psalm that appeals to the words of prophets. Zedekiah’s sons were not actually smashed on a crag and neither are the children of Iraq, and it is unlikely that this is what the psalm literally envisages. Middle Eastern writings like to express things concretely rather than abstractly in terms,



                            *Keel, symbolism, 9.

                            © Copyright Original Source

                            Thank you for that Adrift. Even if the psalmist really meant children, I do not see a problem. It's a simple poetic curse on Babylon. Not sure what an Atheist could possibly see in that passage that would help their argument in any way.
                            "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." ― C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology (Making of Modern Theology)

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Jesse View Post
                              Thank you for that Adrift. Even if the psalmist really meant children, I do not see a problem. It's a simple poetic curse on Babylon. Not sure what an Atheist could possibly see in that passage that would help their argument in any way.
                              They're "lookin' for loopholes, my boy, lookin' for loopholes".
                              "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

                              Comment

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