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Psalms 137:1-6

Context
Psalm 137 1 

137:1 By the rivers of Babylon

we sit down and weep 2 

when we remember Zion.

137:2 On the poplars in her midst

we hang our harps,

137:3 for there our captors ask us to compose songs; 3 

those who mock us demand that we be happy, saying: 4 

“Sing for us a song about Zion!” 5 

137:4 How can we sing a song to the Lord

in a foreign land?

137:5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem,

may my right hand be crippled! 6 

137:6 May my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth,

if I do not remember you,

and do not give Jerusalem priority

over whatever gives me the most joy. 7 

1 sn Psalm 137. The Babylonian exiles lament their condition, vow to remain loyal to Jerusalem, and appeal to God for revenge on their enemies.

2 tn Heb “there we sit down, also we weep.”

3 tn Heb “ask us [for] the words of a song.”

4 tn Heb “our [?] joy.” The derivation and meaning of the Hebrew phrase תוֹלָלֵינוּ (tolalenu, “our [?]”) are uncertain. A derivation from תָּלַל (talal, “to mock”) fits contextually, but this root occurs only in the Hiphil stem. For a discussion of various proposals, see L. C. Allen, Psalms 101-150 (WBC), 236.

5 tn Heb “from a song of Zion.” Most modern translations read, “one of the songs of Zion,” taking the preposition מִן (min, “from”) as partitive and “song” as collective. The present translation assumes the mem (ם) is enclitic, being misunderstood later as the prefixed preposition.

6 tn Heb “may my right hand forget.” In this case one must supply an object, such as “how to move.” The elliptical nature of the text has prompted emendations (see L. C. Allen, Psalms 101-150 [WBC], 236). The translation assumes an emendation to תִּכְשַׁח (tikhshakh), from an otherwise unattested root כשׁח, meaning “to be crippled; to be lame.” See HALOT 502 s.v. כשׁח, which cites Arabic cognate evidence in support of the proposal. The corruption of the MT can be explained as an error of transposition facilitated by the use of שָׁכַח (shakhakh, “forget”) just before this.

7 tn Heb “if I do not lift up Jerusalem over the top of my joy.”



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