Study Guide – Psalm 137


1 Beside the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept
    as we thought of Jerusalem.
2 We put away our harps,
    hanging them on the branches of poplar trees.
3 For our captors demanded a song from us.
    Our tormentors insisted on a joyful hymn:
    “Sing us one of those songs of Jerusalem!”
4 But how can we sing the songs of the Lord
    while in a pagan land?

5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
    let my right hand forget how to play the harp.
6 May my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth
    if I fail to remember you,
    if I don’t make Jerusalem my greatest joy.

7 O Lord, remember what the Edomites did
    on the day the armies of Babylon captured Jerusalem.
“Destroy it!” they yelled.
    “Level it to the ground!”
8 O Babylon, you will be destroyed.
    Happy is the one who pays you back
    for what you have done to us.
9 Happy is the one who takes your babies
    and smashes them against the rocks! NLT


Have you ever been homesick? Describe how you felt and what it was that you missed.


Psalm 137 was written when many Israelites had been conquered and forced into exile to Babylon. With this in mind, and from what you know of Israel and Jerusalem, look at verse 1. What might the people of Israel have been missing?


Read verse 2-4. Explain the reasons they would have put away their musical instruments? Was it a protest? Depression? Something else?


Describe the ultimatums in verses 5-6.



Verses 7-9 are one of the most controversial comments in the Bible.

  • Is it okay for this comment to be in the Bible? Why or why not?
  • Does God want people to think like this? Why or why not?
  • What does this tell you about God’s willingness to let the Bible show authentic human feelings?
  • Because this was included in the Psalter, what does this teach you about prayer and faith?
Ken Castor

Ken Castor is a husband, dad, pastor, writer and teacher. He serves as a professor at Crown College, Minnesota, where he equips students to pursue Jesus-Centered Faith and Next Generation Ministry. For 20+ years he's focused on equipping the next generations in places like the U.S., Canada, and Northern Ireland. He's the author of Grow Down (Simply Youth Ministry, 2014), Make a Difference (Broadstreet, 2016), the Blue-Letters Editor of the Jesus-Centered Bible (Group, 2015) and numerous other articles and Bible Study guides. But, whenever possible, he gets down on the floor and builds Lego with his kids. Connect with him @kencastor.

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