Shit My Bible Says: By the Rivers of Babylon

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!”

Huh. Actually, that’s quite beautiful. A song of grief and loss, and trying to carry on in desperate circumstances.

Some of you may be old enough to remember Boney M’s version. Admit it, you started singing along with the text, above:

(And for those who aren’t old enough to remember: um, there once was this thing called disco and, er, we’re not terribly proud of that.)

Update: Hold on. Alert reader me has just pointed out that I left off a bit off at the end:

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.

Huh. I wonder why this part never made it into the Boney M song.

4 thoughts on “Shit My Bible Says: By the Rivers of Babylon”

    1. You might, but from a quick glance, it seems like a generic call to genocide and religious intolerance. Am I missing something that makes this one stand out from all the others?


      1. Ooh, you’re looking for really special material. Well, you could always contrast that message with the one of Exodus 22:21, which says not to mistreat foreigners. So yes, first God tells you not to mistreat foreigners, then commands you wipe them out instead. Mistreatment != Genocide, apparently.

        Or Exodus 22:22-24, which says in a nutshell, “If you mistreat widowers or orphans, I’ll kill you so your wife will be a widow and your kids will be orphans!”

        Or Exodus 5:2-5, where Moses-via-Aaron argues (with Pharaoh) that God will smite the slaves for not escaping their slavery, rather than Pharaoh for keeping them as slaves? In fact, you could use much of the early Exodus book as an example of misdirected punishment. Several of the ten plagues are afflicted upon the Hebrews as well as the Egyptians, but even if we take it for granted that they were somehow completely exempt from the plagues, why were Pharaoh’s people punished, but not Pharaoh himself? And this is apparently what God actually wanted, considering Exodus 7:3-5 pretty much spells it out. “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart so that I can send the plagues upon his people.” In the end, isn’t not clear whether Pharaoh was EVER directly punished for his deeds, but a heck of a lot of other people were because of them.


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