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Question:  Why does Psalms 137:9 say what it says?

Answer:

Psalm 137:8-9  O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us- 9he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.

This is why proper interpretation is needed in understanding the Bible. Also the situation where we need to recognize the fact that the Bible contains different form of literature. Psalm 137:9 is an example of a literature form called idiom. Idiom is a good example where the meaning is not determined by what the word(s) generally mean. Remember, how the word "bad" can now mean "good". That's what we have here in Psalm 137:9. Other example are "I have love Jacob, Esau I have hated." "As numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand of the seashore".

Psalm 137:9, if interpreted without recognizing the idiom is very repulsive, uncivilized and unChristian. But such scenario is not uncommon during the OT time (2 King 8:12; Isa. 13:16,18, Hosea 10:14, Nah. 3:10). The Psalmist desires God justice upon Babylon and uses an idiom describing a defeat or an overthrow of a nation. What we have here is not exactly a detail desire of a Psalmist to massacre the infants but for God justice to destroy an evil empire. Simply put, the idiom is a description of a kingdom that was defeated or overthrown, and that's what the Psalmist wanted upon Babylon.

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