(586 destruction of Jerusalem ‭-‬ 539‭ ‬bc‭)

1 By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.

2 We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.

To "hang the harp upon the willows," indicates great tribulation and distress; as in the present state of Israel, whose

"harp is turned to mourning, and their organ into the voice of them that weep."

So when torment and sorrow come upon Babylon, and she is found no more,

"the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers and trumpeters shall be heard no more at all in her."

The absence of music shows that all joy has departed from a people; while its presence indicates the reverse.

Eureka 14.3.

3 For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.

Conquerors taunt Israel - Your Elohim failed to protect you.

4 How shall we sing Yahweh's song in a strange land?

5 If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.

The Psalmist longs to play tehillim in the holy land

6 If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.

The Psalmist longs to sing tehillim in Jerusalem

7 Remember, O Yahweh, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof.

5 If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.

The Psalmist longs to play tehillim in the holy land

Guarding their songs of praise

"If I forget thee, 0 Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy." (Psalm 137:5,6)

Their words were quite deliberate, for they vowed against the tokens of their office. "Let my right hand forget." "Let my tongue cleave." Who would pledge by the skill of hand and tongue but the singers on instruments? 18

These stirring words were the vow of loyalty which the House of Asaph uttered. They would remember Jerusalem by continuing to practise the songs of Zion in the blazing conviction that one day they would return there. Now, finally, the purpose of their burdens was made clear. Their instruments of music had been taken into exile, not just to be guarded, but to be used; and, once settled in their new abodes, the rhythm of spiritual life was begun anew by this household, albeit in secret and in private.

Just as Daniel offered prayer alone in his home, 19 and just as Ezekiel sat alone in his to enquire before Yahweh, 20 so their song was offered in the privacy of their own houses, but in its very ascent they kept faith with their God, and remembered Him every day. Each evening and morning, when the daily lamb would have ascended, and when the incense of daily prayer would have risen, the matching song of daily praise was also sent aloft to heaven. 21

As they sang before Him, others were brought through their praise into the presence of God, to the place where all the answers of life lie. Once again, their unswerving devotion would be an anchor of the soul to others who had lost their way on this journey into the unknown. Every generation has needed the strong stability of a few whose commitment to the Truth is so complete and so certain that others rest upon it and find a place for their own return to settled conviction.

The House of Asaph was not the cause of this calamity, and it was not their apostasy that had brought about this long march. They suffered for the sin of others, and walked with their brethren into the land of Shinar. But God would use this family to purify the nation, and help to instil within them an aversion to idolatry so strong, that never again would they succumb to the national worship of other gods. This greatest of lessons they would learn among the Gentiles, and the House of Asaph would help to lead them back to the worship of God in spirit and in truth. 22

Their fingers were numb to begin with, as they plucked their harps for the first time in exile. Their voices were at the first forlorn, and wavering with grief at the loneliness of their station. They had always known some measure of being separate from others, and this family had stood alone many times in their vow of faithfulness to guard their sacred song of praise.

They were alone again now, these singers of spiritual things. But sing they did, and, as the old and familiar psalm arose, their hearts were comforted concerning the everlasting and unchanging purpose of Almighty God.

"0 give thanks unto Yahweh; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever."

God heard their hymn, and they would find His blessing hidden somewhere here in their current state. Their task was to believe it, and to rest upon Him who had always guided their family.

18 1 Chronicles 15:16.

19 Daniel 6:10.

20 EzekieI8:1; 20:1.

21 Note that Daniel in captivity offered his prayer at the time of the evening oblation and the evening incense that would have risen back in the sanctuary (Daniel 9:21). The singers likewise would guard this time for the offering of their song, since it was part of the same daily temple service.

22 Psalms 50:23; 73:26; 75:7; 76:7; 77:13; 78:7; 80:18; 83:18.

Bro Roger Lewis - The House of Asaph Ch 9

7 Remember, O Yahweh, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof.

Making their vows of dedication

How easy it would have been simply to assimilate into the daily life of all that Babylon offered. Some of the captivity no doubt used their relocation to drift away from the Truth and merge into the society of the day. Their lack of a spiritual centre and the absence of spiritual routines became the cause of their departure. But not for this family.

The very role to which they had been called as custodians of Yahweh's songs still demanded the spirit of separation from the world and the spirit of dedication to their God. If anything, this experience of the captivity only sharpened the point of difference. These singers of holy things sang pure and true, precisely because they kept aloof and apart from that which surrounded them.

They would not be found singing the songs of Babylon, even though it boasted music and instruments aplenty. 23 Their strict separation from the spirit of the Chaldeans was to be vindicated, for eleven years after they had left the land the city of Jerusalem fell.

The temple itself had been torched into a smoking ruin, until the timbers and stones of Yahweh's house lay twisted and charred in the fire, devoured in the pitiless flame that spared nothing. The walls of the city were pulled down, and a final cohort of grief-stricken survivors was put in chains and expelled from the city to begin the long march to Babylon. 24

For those already in exile, the news that the temple was destroyed was heartbreaking. This holy place, the symbol of God's presence, the token of God's power, had seemed so constant, so immutable, that its destruction was inconceivable. And yet the unthinkable had happened, and those who had trusted that the temple would stand forever were shocked to find that Yahweh Himself had permitted strangers to pollute His secret place. 25

It was no wonder that the psalmist cried out for Yahweh to bring recompense against the daughter of Babylon, who had perpetrated such evil against His people and His house.

24 2 Chronicles 36:20; Jeremiah 40:1.

25 Ezekie 17:20-22.

Bro Roger Lewis - The House of Asaph Ch 9

8 O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.

Babylon was a lover of idols, the central great promenade and the great high walls were dedicated to Bel and Ashteroth, as was the Ishtar gateway, with idols on the enamalled marble tiles, and of course the temple of Babylon on top of a Ziggurat (stepped pyramid).

Cyrus and the Persians abominated idols, being Zoroastrians, and smashed the lot of them when they took Babylon in a night, though it boasted it could stand a twenty year seige.

The Apocalyptic Messenger, Nov 2017

9 Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones. 

From v8 "happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us" it appears the Babylonian victors slaughtered the Hebrew infants during the taking of Jerusalem. The Psalmist cries out for vengeance in like for like manner

When Zerubbabel led the return

Date: Circa 535 BC - Since Asaph's appointment: 465 years

THE psalm of the singers in captivity closed with a fearsome imprecation against Babylon, for its hostile spirit towards the people, the city and the sanctuary of God. They entreated Yahweh to visit the same punishments upon the head of their persecutors, as Babylon had perpetrated against them. But their prayer was consistent with the perspective of God Himself, who had already promised such retribution from the mouth of His prophet. 1

What the singers prayed for was that God would give effect to His own declaration of righteous judgments to come. 2 The dramatic overthrow of Babylon, however, led Daniel to an earnest examination of the books, that he might discern the significance of the "seventy years".

His study led to the startling conclusion that the prophecies of Jeremiah suggested two distinct yet related periods. The one concerned the overthrow of Babylon, but the other involved the restoration of Israel. 3

Daniel's discovery led to his magnificent prayer of confession on behalf of the whole nation, as the basis for his appeal to God that He might once more "cause [his] face to shine upon [his] sanctuary that is desolate".4

The House of Asaph, devoted to their cause, and stirred by Ezekiel, must have felt that same rising excitement that Daniel felt, sharing with him the conviction that they stood on the eve of a divine upheaval that would return Israel to their land.

1 God declared that He would render to Babylon as they had done to Israel (Jeremiah 51:11,24,35,49).

2 The passage "0 daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us" (Psalm 137:8) echoed Jeremiah. The key words "destroyed" (shadad), "rewardeth" (shalam), "served" (gamaf), were all drawn from Jeremiah 51:56, in calling upon God to fulfil what He had already promised. This link supports an exilic background to the psalm.

3 Although both periods were for seventy years, the overthrow of Babylon (Jeremiah 25:11-14) was an earlier cycle than the restoration of Israel (29:10-14). The former covered 606-536 BC, and the latter 586-516 BC. Note the term "accomplished" in both passages, and its corresponding use in Daniel 9:2.

4 Daniel 9:17.

Bro Roger Lewis - The House of Asaph Ch 10