California-based artist Michele Myers was inspired by Psalm 137:1–6 to create this striking picture. The vivid colours and unguarded expressions of the three figures in 'By The Rivers of Babylon—Psalm 137' bring to life the raw emotion of the psalm. The raised right hand of the central figure, so clearly outlined against the bold green of the trees, recalls the defiant cry of verse 5: “If I forget you, Jerusalem, let my right hand forget [its skill]!”
Myers is by no means the first interpreter to be moved by the earlier parts of Psalm 137 rather than the latter. The end of the psalm calls for violent retribution, pronouncing “Happy is the one who seizes and smashes your children against the rock!” The threat has caused theological quandaries for Jewish and Christian readers alike. It is important to understand these words in their historical context. In the aftermath of exile, Psalm 137 was an honest response to the trauma of destruction and displacement, which had shaken the core of the exiles’ understanding of their relationship with their God, Yhwh.
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