Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary, 1859 edition.

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Psalm 136

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Psalm cxxxvi. (Super flumina.)

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. For Jeremias. For the time of Jeremias, and the captivity of Babylon. (Challoner) --- Or "of" (JeremiŠ.; Haydock) Jeremias; on which subject he composed his Lamentations, as the Septuagint thus insinuate. (Worthington) --- The title may be a later insertion, and is not the same in all the Greek or Latin copies. It is wholly omitted in Hebrew, &c. Theodoret blames those who have written the name of Jeremias, as he was never at Babylon. (Calmet) --- He might send the psalm to the captives, (Grotius) though it were written by David, (Gerer.) who was a prophet. See Psalm lxxviii. (Berthier) --- The captives express their sentiments at Babylon, (Bossuet) or at their return; (Calmet) and thus, under the figure of the earthly Jerusalem, (Berthier) aspire to heaven. (St. Augustine) --- Rivers. Euphrates, &c. The Jews retired to such places to pray. (Philo, con. Flac.) (Acts xvi. 13.) (Haydock) --- Sion, and all the ceremonies of religion. (Worthington)

Ver. 2. Willow. With which the Euphrates was lined, Isaias xv. 7. It passed through the city, which was adored with trees, and contained extensive tracts of land for cultivation. (Calmet) --- Babylon may also include all the territory. (Berthier) --- Instruments. Hebrew Kinnor means properly the ancient lyre, but here it is put for all instruments of music. (Calmet) --- In grief, music was laid aside, Isaias xxiv. 8., Ezechiel xxvi. 13., and Apocalypse xviii. 21. Yet Christians may unite spiritual canticles with holy compunction, Colossians iii. 16. We must not expose the word of truth to the ridicule of infidels. (Berthier)

Ver. 3. Sion. The Levites were trained to singing from their infancy, at the expense of the nation. Under David, there were 288 masters, and 8,000 Levites who played on music, 1 Paralipomenon xv. The Babylonians wished to hear them, (Calmet) or (Worthington) spoke insultingly, (Theodoret) as the pagans asked what good Christ had done? (St. Augustine)

Ver. 4. Land. They were oppressed with grief, (Ecclesiasticus xxii. 6.) and unwilling to expose sacred things to profanation, though there was no prohibition for them to sing out of Judea, for their mutual comfort. (Calmet) --- They excuse themselves on both accounts.

Ver. 5. Forgotten. May all that is most dear to us perish, if we do not serve God, (Worthington) and seek to procure the welfare of Jerusalem. (Haydock) --- Yet they knew that the joy of their earthly abode in that city could not satisfy their desires. They allude, therefore, ultimately to heaven. (Berthier)

Ver. 7. Day. When Jerusalem was taken, or when it shall be re-established. (Haydock) --- The Idumeans incited the Babylonians to destroy it entirely, and even cut in pieces such as had escaped, Abdias v. 11., and Jeremias xii. 6. --- But Nabuchodonosor punished them five years afterwards, and Hircanus forced them to receive circumcision. (Josephus, [Antiquities?] x. 11., and xiii. 18.) (Calmet) --- Isaias (xxi. 11.) denounced their ruin, as the psalmist does here. (Worthington) --- St. Chrysostom thinks that the latter expresses the vindictive sentiments of the Jews: but he rather desires that God's cause should be maintained in the manner in which He should judge best. The illusions of our own imagination and vanity are most dangerous and domestic enemies, as the Edomites sprung from the same stock as Israel. (Berthier)

Ver. 8. Daughter. Citizens. --- Miserable "plunderer," (Symmachus) or "ruined," (Aquila) or "which shalt be given up to plunder." (Theodoret) --- Cyrus reduced the city to a state of abjection, and it has since experienced other miseries, (Calmet) so that its situation is now unknown. (Haydock) --- Isaias (xiii.) foretold this destruction. (Worthington)

Ver. 9. Dash thy little ones, &c. In the spiritual sense, we dash the little ones of Babylon against the rock, when we mortify our passions, and stifle the first motions of them, by a speedy recourse to the rock, which is Christ. (Challoner) (St. Augustine) (St. Gregory) (Psalm l.) (Worthington) --- We do not read that Cyrus treated Babylon with this rigour; but such practices were then customary, (Osee xiv. 1.; Homer, Iliad xxii.) and Darius cruelly punished the revolted city. (Herodotus iii. 159.) (Calmet) --- God will reward those who execute his decrees (Haydock) against Babylon. (Worthington) --- The psalmist contrasts the felicity of the conqueror, with the misery of the citizens, without approving of his conduct. (Berthier)


Bible Text & Cross-references:

The lamentation of the people of God, in their captivity, in Babylon.

1 A psalm of David, for Jeremias.

Upon the rivers of Babylon, there we sat and wept: when we remembered Sion:

2 On the willows in the midst thereof, we hung up our instruments. 3 For there they that led us into captivity required of us the words of songs.

And they that carried us away, said: Sing ye to us a hymn of the songs of Sion.

4 How shall we sing the song of the Lord in a strange land?

5 If I forget thee, O Jerusalem! let my right hand be forgotten.

6 Let my tongue cleave to my jaws, if I do not remember thee:

If I make not Jerusalem the beginning of my joy.

7 Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom, in the day of Jerusalem:

Who say: Rase it; rase it, even to the foundation thereof.

8 O daughter of Babylon, miserable: blessed shall he be who shall repay thee thy payment which thou hast paid us.

9 Blessed be he that shall take and dash thy little ones against the rock.