By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down
If by Babylon is meant the country, then the rivers of it are Chebar, Ulai, Tigris, Euphrates, and others; see ( Ezekiel 1:1 ) ( Daniel 8:2 ) ; but if the city itself, then only Euphrates, which ran through it; and is expressed by rivers, because of the largeness of it, and because of the several canals cut out of it, for the service of the city; hence Babylon is said to dwell upon many waters, ( Jeremiah 51:13 ) ; upon the banks whereof the captive Jews were; either through choice, where they could be alone, and mourn their fate, indulge their sorrows, and give vent to their grief; or by the order of these who carried them captive, there to be employed, either in taking goods from ships here unloaded, or to repair and maintain the banks of the rivers, or to do some servile work or another; see ( Ezekiel 1:1 ) ; and where they would sometimes "sit down" pensive, as mourners used to do, and lament their case, ( Job 2:8 Job 2:13 ) . Or this phrase may express their residence here, and the continuance and length of their captivity, which was seventy years: yea, Babylon itself may be meant by the waters of it; just as Thebes, in Pindar F23 is called the Dircaean waters, near to which it was;
yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion;
they imitated the flowing stream by which they sat, and swelled it with their tears; they wept for their sins, which brought them thither; and it increased their sorrow, when they called to mind what privileges they had enjoyed in Zion, the city of their solemnities; where they had often seen the tribes of Israel bowing before and worshipping the God of Israel; the daily sacrifices and others offered up; the solemn feasts kept; the songs of Zion, sung by the Levites in delightful harmony; and, above all, the beauty of the Lord their God, his power and glory, while they were inquiring in his sanctuary: and also when they reflected upon the sad condition and melancholy circumstances in which Zion now was; the city, temple, and altar, lying in heaps of rubbish; no worship and service performed; no sacrifices offered, nor songs sung; nor any that came to her solemn feasts; see ( Lamentations 1:2 Lamentations 1:4 Lamentations 1:7 Lamentations 1:16 ) ( Psalms 42:3 Psalms 42:4 ) .
F23 Pythia, Ode 9. d. v. 6.