The dating of Psalm 137

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Ordinary Guy (TM)
When was Psalm 137 written? We usually speak of the Psalms of David, yet some psalms appeared to be written during or after the days of the Bablyonian Captivity.
Captivity and exile are general themes throughout the Psalms, even in those that are distinctly recognised as David's. Likewise, place names are often used in a poetical way to symbolise some socio-religious identity. Hence I consider it somewhat superficial to conclude from these references in Ps. 137 that the Psalm must be exilic.

The evidence in the Old Testament suggests the Psalms were composed by David and Asaph. Subsequent reforming movements draw attention to the revival of singing these words, but not to the addition of them.

The idea of "development" which pervaded the nineteenth century also influenced Psalm studies and established the idea that the Psalter was a progressive compilation.
From John Gill;

Concerning the penman or amanuensis, employed by the Spirit of God in writing it, there are different opinions. The Jews make mention of ten, which are differently reckoned by them. According to Jarchi {d}, they were Adam, Melchizedek, Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Asaph, and the three sons of Korah. According to Kimchi {e}, they were Adam, the first, Melchizedek, Abraham, Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, Moses, and the three sons of Korah; Asir, Elkanah, and Abiasaph. Some ascribe all the Psalms to David {f}, and think that those which are said to be a psalm of Asaph, or of Heman, &c. and only signify that they were psalms delivered to them, to be sung in a public manner. But the truest opinion seems to be, that the greater part of them were written by David, and for the most part those that have no title; and the rest by those whose names they bear. Some were written at and after the Babylonish captivity, as Ps 126:1-6 and Ps 137:1-9.
If I believed that Psalm 137 was penned during the Babylonian Captivity, how would that impact my view of divine inspiration?
The Syriac version of Psalm 137 ascribed it to David. We are happy for prophetic words to be written prior to the exile, even long before it.
If I believed that Psalm 137 was penned during the Babylonian Captivity, how would that impact my view of divine inspiration?

It wouldn't impact it. E.g. Daniel and Ezekiel were penned then. The pause in revelation happened between Malachi and the time of Christ.

The Psalms are called the Psalms of David because he was the most notable psalmist and penned about half of them.

I think there may be heavy irony in Ps. 137:9. It may be an ironic way of saying, "This is what the Babylonians did to our children". :2cents:
One view is that it was Jeremiah, not David's Psalm.
See James L. Kugel, "Psalm 137," in In Potiphar's House:

Rabbinical sources attributed the poem to the prophet Jeremiah
The Septuagint version of the psalm bears the superscription: "For David. By Jeremias, in the Captivity.
If I believed that Psalm 137 was penned during the Babylonian Captivity, how would that impact my view of divine inspiration?

It shouldn't, but there can be a gradual decline once "internal evidence" becomes a determining factor. An example -- some suppose "captivity" rules out Davidic authorship in those Psalms that are attributed to David in the titles. This leads to the conclusion that the titles are not authentic. Another example -- building the walls of Jerusalem at the close of Ps. 51 is supposed to be an addition. A more extreme example would be the attribution of Psalms to the Maccabean period.
In neither the AV or the ESV is there a title to Psalm 137, so these translators didn't believe any title associated with this particular Psalm was inspired or should be indicated in their translations.

This is what Adam Clarke says in his commentary:
The Vulgate, Septuagint, Ethiopic, and Arabic, say, ridiculously enough, a Psalm of David for Jeremiah. Anachronisms with those who wrote the titles to the Psalms were matters of no importance. Jeremiah never was at Babylon; and therefore could have no part in a Psalm that was sung on the banks of its rivers by the Israelitish captives. Neither the Hebrew nor Chaldee has any title; the Syriac attributes it to David. Some think it was sung when they returned from Babylon; others, while they were there. It is a matter of little importance. It was evidently composed during or at the close of the captivity.

Matthew Poole:

The penman of this Psalm is uncertain; the occasion of it was unquestionably the consideration of the Babylonish captivity; and it seems to have been composed either during the time of that captivity, or presently after their deliverance out of it.

Matthew Henry
There are divers psalms which are thought to have been penned in the latter days of the Jewish church, when prophecy was near expiring and the canon of the Old Testament ready to be closed up, but none of them appears so plainly to be of a late date as this, which was penned when the people of God were captives in Babylon, and there insulted over by these proud oppressors; probably it was towards the latter end of their captivity; for now they saw the destruction of Babylon hastening on apace (v. 8), which would be their discharge.
According to the Bible, exactly 75 psalms (half the Book of Psalms) are attributed to David: 73 in the Book of Psalms itself, plus Psalm 2 (per Acts 4.25-26) and Psalm 95 (per Hebrews 4.7). All the rest are either attributed to someone else or are anonymous.
David wrote about half the Psalms.

Book 4 starts with a Psalm of Moses, Ps 90, the oldest
Book 5 ends with a Psalm from the captivity, Ps 137, the newest, then a string of David Psalms and marked as so (Ps 138 refered to by Mary in Luke 1), then the big finish Hallelujah Psalms as the last 5

The Psalm you refer to, in a way is part of the concluding stretch of Psalms. The most recently written Psalm, then followed by a handful of Psalms of David (where the lead of those shows up in Luke 1 regarding Gabriel's announcement of Jesus) and the Praise/Hallal last 5 Psalms.
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Hi Perg,

I was practicing summarizing Psalms and so ... Here's part of a short summary of the five books of Ps I wrote last week. Note the characters writing in Book 2 and 3. Soloman, Asaph, Sons of Korah, Book 4 has one from Moses. There is one from Jeduthan....

The book of Psalms starts with the blessed man
The book of Psalms ends with praise to the blessed God
Five exclamation marks at the end
The big finish moves from individual, to community, to anyone everything everywhere with breath.

Quick book run through. Psalms were written over 1000 years, with about half of Psalms directly attributed to David, and rolled out through the centuries in 5 stages marked as 5 books. Look for adjacent pairs of similar Psalms and groups of Psalms of the same topic when reading, book grouping and who write them while reading.

Book 1 (ends with Ps 41) - The original book of Psalms David made was Ps 1 – Ps 41. All 41 Psalms attributed to David . The first one, Ps 1 is about a man made fruitful by streams representing the word. The last one, Ps 41 is about a man who is blessed who considers the poor. ( The gospels ascribe Ps 41 to Jesus as it refers to Judas 'lifting up his heal against me') Ps 41 applies to Jesus, but also generalizes itself to all those who consider the poor are happy. The first eight Psalms may be read as a group with a high point at the start with the fruitfulness of Christ, lowering with the opposition to Christ and then going back up with the exultation in eight. ( All or almost all Psalms are Messianic, in some way portraying Christ. Additionally they can portray the life of a believer as well. )

Book 2 (ends with Ps 72) - the first book starts with a man planted by streams, this book starts with someone panting like a deer for the word in contrast. Perhaps book two was expanded on in the days of Solomon, Book 2 includes a wedding Psalm of a gentile to the King (the wedding psalm quoted in Hebrews 'thy throne oh God is forever and ever') , and ends with Psalm 72 saying this ends the prayers of David. We see some Psalms of the sons of Korah and Asaph as well here. Around this point in history the temple is dedicated. Davids most famous cry for mercy is here, Ps 51 where he appeals to God's character for mercy. The most imprecatory of the imprecatory Psalms, Ps 69 quoted in the book of Romans and at the death of Jesus. "Taste as see the Lord is good' oddly enough taken from a Psalm about David faking being a mad mad to avoid trouble the Philitine King and 'not one of his bones missing' quoted in the gospels from there regarding Jesus death and not a bone broken.

In Book 2 we see mention of some of the people David set apart for service. See Jeduthun in Ps 62. Asaph is in Book 2 and 3 in about 15 Ps and wrote more of the Bible than Peter, Jude or James. Heman in Book 3 in Ps 88. 1 Chronicles 25:1 [ David Organizes the Musicians ] "David and the chiefs of the service also set apart for the service the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who prophesied with lyres, with harps, and with cymbals...."

Book 3 (ends with Ps 89) - also called the dark book of the Psalms as it struggles with crisis of faith and written by Asaph (the depressed percussionist/cymbal player David had in charge of his music to sing before the ark on Mt Zion) who lived though times of crises of Saul, David and Solomon and after. Also written by the sons of Korah who were survivors of Korah who survived the rebellion of Korah against Moses . The ground opened up swallowing Korah but the Bible says ‘not all the sons of Korah died’ some became bouncers in the temple, protecting the holiness of God and writing Psalms about deliverance from the grave. The last Psalm is fro Ethan the wise completing this book. Ethan's one Psalm finishes this book with a reflection of God's promise to establish a kingdom that will last forever in David's line. ... hold that thought an angel named Gabriel will come back to it at the end of the book....

Book 4 (ending with the historical pair Ps 105/Ps 106). Starts with the oldest Psalm, written by Moses… yes they are not in order chronological : Ps 90 is from Moses Many of the Psalms in this book are 'enthronement Psalms' about how God is large and in charge, sovereign in the world, despite appearances at times. The last 2 Psalms in this group are historical and possibly written by Ezra, a pair of Psalms. 105 being a run down in the history of how God treated Israel, blessing them and 106 being a rundown of how Israel treated God, a penitential Psalm of the wrongs done to God and his mercy.

Book 5. (ends Ps 150 with five exclamation points of praise!!!!!) 'the Lord' is at the right hand of the poor in Ps 109 and 'the Lord' is at the right hand of God in Ps 110 and 'the Lord' is seen as Jesus in the gospels regarding Ps 110

This last book contains the shortest Psalm inviting all the nations to worship God in Ps 117 (and quoted in Romans) and then in Ps 118 His righteousness endures forever bookends ‘the stone the builder rejected has become the cornerstone’ and the longest Psalm 119, longest Psalm, longest chapter in the Bible, all about relentless prayer to God and relentless reception of the word of God in the covenant. Then… the Psalms of Assents Ps 120 - Ps 135 that pilgrims would recite as they traveled to Jerusalem.

And now we’re into the final stretch 137 is the last written Psalm And yes, they are not in order chronologically…. “by the rivers of Babylon we sat down and wept” written during the 70 year Babylonian captivity

And pushing toward the end of Book 5. there are 8 select psalms David wrote. Mary reflects on the Ps 138, the lead Ps of David in this group after hearing Gabriel's pronouncement. Then in 146-150, the five firework, praise Hallal (Hallelujah chorus) Psalms. Five exclamation marks at the end.
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