PSALMS 137      Other translations  -  previous  -  next  -  meaning  -  Psalms  -  BM Home  -  Full Page


  1. By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down; yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion!
  2. Upon the willows, in the midst thereof, we hanged our harps.
  3. For, there did those who held us captive, require of us a song; yea, those who had laid us on heaps, required of us mirth, saying, Sing to us one of the songs of Zion.
  4. How could we sing the song of jehovah in the land of the stranger?
  5. If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill!
  6. May my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you,—if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my highest joy!
  7. Remember, O jehovah, the day of Jerusalem, against the children of Edom, who said: Lay it bare, Lay it bare even to the foundation thereof!
  8. O daughter of Babylon, who is to be destroyed! Blessed is he, who deals with you, as you have dealt with us!
  9. Blessed is he, who seizes your little ones, and dashes them against the rock!

The Internal Sense

A lamentation by the gentiles, who are in falses from ignorance, because they have not the Word, verses 1 to 4; that a church will be formed of them by the lord, which he will love, verses 5, 6; that they will perish who have devastated the church, verses 7 to 9.


Verse 1. By the rivers of Babylon, etc. By Babylon, or Babel, is denoted worship grounded in self-love, the externals of which appear holy, but the internals are profane. From self-love, or proprium, flow all evils, as hatred, revenge, cruelty, adultery, deceit, hypocrisy, impiety; wherefore when self-love, or proprium, is within man's worship, those evils are within it also, but with a difference and degree as to measure and quality, proportioned to the influence of that love; hence comes all profanation of worship. The truth of the case therefore is this; in proportion to the measure of self-love or proprium that intrudes itself into man's worship, internal worship recedes, or is annihilated. Internal worship consists in the affection of goodness and the acknowledgement of truth; but in proportion as self-love or proprium comes in, or enters, the affection of goodness and the acknowledgement of truth recede or go out. What is holy can by no means abide with what is profane, any more than heaven can abide with hell, but one must needs retire from the other. Such is the state and order which prevail in the lord's kingdom. This is the reason that with such, whose worship is called Babel, there cannot exist any internal worship, but what they inwardly worship is somewhat dead, and, indeed, like a dead carcase: hence it is evident of what quality their external worship is, when its inward principle is thus corrupt. That Babel is such worship, appears from every part of the Word where Babel is described: as in Daniel, where the image which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babel, or Babylon, saw in a dream, the head of which was of gold, its breast and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of brass, its legs of iron, and its feet partly of iron and partly of clay, signifies that true worship at length became such worship as is called Babel; wherefore also a stone cut out of a rock break in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold, Daniel 2:31, 32, 44, 45. The image of gold, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babel set up to worship had a like signification, Daniel 3:1 to end. The like is signified also by the king of Babel with his lords drinking wine out of the vessels of gold, which were brought from the temple at Jerusalem, and praising the gods of gold, of silver, of brass, of iron, and of stone; on which account appeared the writing on the wall, Daniel 5:1 to end. The like also is signified by Darius the Mede requiring to be worshiped as a god, Daniel 6:1 to end; and likewise by the four beasts appearing in a dream to Daniel 7:1 to end; and also, by the beast and by Babylon in the Revelation. That such worship was signified and represented, appears plainly, not only from Daniel and John, but likewise from the prophets: as in Isaiah, "Their faces shall be faces of the flames—The stars of the heavens and the constellations thereof shall not give their light; the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. The wild beasts of the desert (ziim) shall lie there, and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures (ochim;) and the daughters of the owl shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there, and wild beasts of the islands (iim) shall cry in her palaces, and dragons in the pleasant houses," Isaiah 13:8, 10, 21, 22; speaking of Babel; where the internal of such worship is described by faces of flames, which are evil lusts, and by the stars not shining, which are the truths of faith, and by the sun being darkened, which is holy love, and by the moon not shining, which is the truth of faith, and by ziim, ochim, the daughters of the owl, satyrs, iim, and dragons, which are the interior principles of such worship, inasmuch as such things appertain to self-love or proprium; wherefore also, in the Revelation, Babylon is called "the mother of whoredoms and abominations," Rev 17:5; and again, "a habitation of dragons, and a cage of every unclean spirit, and of every unclean and hateful bird," Rev 18:2; whence it is evident, and when such things dwell within, nothing of goodness and truth can abide there, and, that in proportion as such things enter, in the same proportion the good principles of affection, and the truths of faith, recede. Such things are also called the graven images of the gods of Babel, Isaiah 21:9. That Babel is self-love or proprium when contained in worship, or that it is self-worship, appears evidently in Isaiah, "Take up this parable against the king of Babel:—You have said in your heart, I will ascend into the heavens, I will exalt my throne above the stars of god; I will sit also on the mount of meeting together, in the sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High,—yet you shall be brought down to hell," Isaiah 14:4, 13, 14, 15; where it is evident that Babel is that which wishes to be worshiped as a god, that is, that it is self-worship. Again in the same prophet, "Come down and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babel; sit on the earth, there is no throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans. — For you have trusted in your wickedness; you have said, None sees me: your wisdom and your knowledge it has averted you; you have said in your heart, I am, and there is none beside as I," 47:1, 10; so in Jeremiah, "Behold I am against you, O destroying mountain, that destroyest all the earth, and I will stretch out my hand upon you, and roll you down from the rocks, and I will make you a mountain of burning — Though Babel should mount up to the heavens, and though she should fortify the height of her strength, from me shall spoilers come upon her," Jer 51:25, 53; hence also it appears that Babel is self-worship. That such self-worshipers have no light of truth, but mere darkness, that is, that they have not the truth of faith, is thus described in Jeremiah: "The word that jehovah spoke against Babel, against the land of the Chaldeans: — O ut of the north there comes up a nation against her, which shall make her land desolate, and none shall dwell therein: they shall remove, they shall depart, both man and beast," Jer 50:1, 3: the north signifies darkness, or what is not true; the departure of man and of beast denotes the deprivation of good. AC 1326.

Verse 2. Upon the willows. By the willows of the brook are signified the lowest goods and truths of the natural man, which appertain to the sensual externals. AE 458.

Verse 2. We hanged our harps. For the signification of harp, see Psalm 43:4, Exposition.

Verse 4. The land of the stranger. The land of the stranger signifies where the church is not, and where there is nothing genuine. AC 850.

Verse 5. If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. Jerusalem signifies the church, as to the doctrine of Divine truth, and the right hand of jehovah, Divine truth in light, inasmuch as they are at the right of the lord in heaven, who are in light and in wisdom from Divine truth, as was said above; hence it is manifest why it is said, "If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill." AE 298.

Verse 8. O daughter of Babylon. Mention is made of daughters in many passages of the Word, and every one may see that in those passages are not meant daughters, as where mention is made of the daughter of Zion, of the daughter of Jerusalem, of the daughter of Tarshish, of the daughter of my people, denoting affections of good and of truth, as has been shown in the passages above adduced; and whereas they denote the affections of good and of truth, they denote also churches, for churches are churches by reason of those affections; hence it is that by the daughter of Zion is signified the celestial church, and this from the affection of good, whereas by the daughter of Jerusalem is signified the spiritual church, and this from the affection of truth, AC 2362; hence it is evident what is signified by the daughters of the nations, as by the daughters of the Philistines, the daughters of Egypt, the daughters of Tyre and Sidon, the daughters of Edom, the daughters of Moab, the daughters of the Chaldeans and of Babel, and the daughters of Sodom, namely the affections of what is evil and false, in which their religious principles were grounded, consequently the religious principles themselves; that this is the signification of daughter may appear from the following passages: "A people shall come from the north, put in array like a man to the battle, upon you O daughter of Babel," Jer 50:41, 42; so in Zechariah, "Deliver yourself O Zion, that dwell with the daughter of Babel," Zech 2:7; and in David, "The daughter of Babylon who are to be destroyed," Psalm 137:8; that in these passages, by daughters are not meant daughters, but affections which disagree with the truth, consequently reli-gious principles which are thence derived, every one may plainly see. AC 3024.

Verse 8. Blessed is he who deals with you, or recompenses you, as you have dealt with us. It is according to the literal sense that the whom they had seduced and destroyed were to recompense them, whereas according to the spiritual sense, they were to recompense themselves, because every evil carries along with it its own punishment; the case herein is similar to what is said in many parts of the Word, that god will recompense and take vengeance upon the injustice and injuries done to him, and will destroy the unjust out of anger and wrath, when nevertheless the evils themselves, which they have committed against god, do this, consequently they do it to themselves. AE 762.

Verse 9. Blessed is he who seizes your little ones, and dashes then against the rock. By little ones, or infants here are not understood infants, but falses springing up, for the subject there treated of is concerning Babylon, whereby are signified the falses of evil destroying the truths of good belonging to the church; the destruction thereof is signified by dashing them against the rock, the rock denoting the ruling false of evil, and to dash against denoting to destroy. They who abide in the literal sense of the Word, and think no further, may easily he induced to believe that he is called blessed who does thus with the children of his enemies, when, notwithstanding, this is an enormous crime; whereas it is hereby meant, that he is blessed who disperses the falses of evil springing up in the church, which are here signified by the infants of Babylon. AE 411.

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