The Jews bewail their captivity. (1-4) Their affection for Jerusalem. (5-9)
Verses 1-4 Their enemies had carried the Jews captive from their own land. To complete their woes, they insulted over them; they required of them mirth and a song. This was very barbarous; also profane, for no songs would serve but the songs of Zion. Scoffers are not to be compiled with. They do not say, How shall we sing, when we are so much in sorrow? but, It is the Lord's song, therefore we dare not sing it among idolaters.
Verses 5-9 What we love, we love to think of. Those that rejoice in God, for his sake make Jerusalem their joy. They stedfastly resolved to keep up this affection. When suffering, we should recollect with godly sorrow our forfeited mercies, and our sins by which we lost them. If temporal advantages ever render a profession, the worst calamity has befallen him. Far be it from us to avenge ourselves; we will leave it to Him who has said, Vengeance is mine. Those that are glad at calamities, especially at the calamities of Jerusalem, shall not go unpunished. We cannot pray for promised success to the church of God without looking to, though we do not utter a prayer for, the ruin of her enemies. But let us call to mind to whose grace and finished salvation alone it is, that we have any hopes of being brought home to the heavenly Jerusalem.
The occasion of this psalm was the captivity of the Jews in Babylon, and the treatment they met with there; either as foreseen, or as now endured. Aben Ezra ascribes this psalm to David; and so the Syriac version, which calls it,
``a psalm of David; the words of the saints, who were carried captive into Babylon.''
The Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, and Ethiopic versions, make it to be David's, and yet add the name of Jeremiah; and the Arabic version calls it David's, concerning Jeremiah: but, as Theodoret observes, Jeremiah was not carried into Babylon, but, after some short stay in or near Jerusalem, was forced away into Egypt; and could neither be the writer nor subject of this psalm: and though it might be written by David under a spirit of prophecy; who thereby might foresee and foretell the Babylonish captivity, and what the Jews would suffer in it; as the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah did, many years before it came to pass; yet it seems rather to have been written by one of the captivity, either while in it, or immediately after it.