Psalm 137:6
If I do not remember you, let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
137:5-9 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.If I do not remember thee - Equivalent to, "If I forget thee." If I ever fail to remember thee; if I shall ever act as if I had forgotten thee. Singing in a strange land, among those who had perpetrated such wrongs in thee - appearing to be happy, cheerful, joyous, happy, merry there - would be understood to imply that I had ceased to remember thee, and cared nothing for thee.

Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth - Compare Ezekiel 3:26. Let me be unable to speak; let my tongue be as it were attached to the upper part of the mouth, so that it could not be used. If I employ it in an unworthy purpose - in any way whereby it can be inferred that I have ceased to remember my native land, and the city of our solemnities, let my tongue be ever after useless. This language is often employed by Virgil: Vox faucibus haesit.

If I prefer not Jerusalem - literally, "If I do not cause to ascend." That is, If I do not exalt Jerusalem in my estimation above everything that gives me pleasure; if I do not find my supreme happiness in that.

Above my chief joy - Margin, as in Hebrew, the head of my joy. The chief thing which gives me joy; as the head is the chief, or is supreme over the body. This is expressive of a great truth in regard to religion. Anything else - everything else - is to be sooner sacrificed than that. The happiness which is found in religion is superior to that found in every other source of enjoyment, and is preferred to every other. If either is to be sacrificed - the joy of religion, or the pleasure derived from society, from the frivolous world, from literature, from music, from dancing, from works of art - it will be the latter and not the former. There are other sources of joy which are not in any way inconsistent with religion: the joy of friendship; of domestic life; of honorable pursuits of the esteem of people. So of music, the arts, gardens, literature, science. But when one interferes with the other, or is inconsistent with the other, the joy of the world is to be sacrificed to the joy of religion. When the joy of religion is sacrificed for the joy of the world, it proves that there is no true piety in the soul. Religion, if it exists at all, will always be supreme.

5, 6. For joyful songs would imply forgetfulness of their desolated homes and fallen Church. The solemn imprecations on the hand and tongue, if thus forgetful, relate to the cunning or skill in playing, and the power of singing. Remember thee with affection and sympathy, so as to damp my joys.

Cleave to the roof of my mouth; be made uncapable of singing, or speaking, or moving, as it is in some diseases. Compare Job 29:10 Psalm 22:15. If I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy; if I do not value and desire Jerusalem’s prosperity more than all other delights, and consequently if Jerusalem’s misery doth not so deeply affect me as to hinder my delight in all other things. If I do not remember thee,.... In prayer, in discourse, in conversation; this is the same as before, to forget, repeated for the confirmation of it;

let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; as is the case of a person in a fever, or in a violent thirst, which is to be in great distress, Psalm 18:6; the sense is, let me have no use of my tongue; let me be dumb and speechless, and never sing a song or speak a word more, should I be so forgetful of the deplorable state of Jerusalem as to sing songs at such a season, and in an enemy's country;

if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy; meaning not God his exceeding joy, Psalm 43:4; as his Creator, preserver, and benefactor, and much less as his covenant God and Father; as having loved him with an everlasting love; as the God of all grace unto him, and as his portion and exceeding great reward: nor Christ, the object of joy unspeakable and full of glory; joy in the greatness, glory, and fulness of his person; in the blessings and promises of his grace; in what he has done and suffered; as risen, ascended, exalted, and who will come a second time: nor the joy of the Holy Ghost in a way of believing, and in hope of the glory of God; but all worldly joy, or matter of it; and this not in things sinful, nor merely such as worldlings have in the increase of their substance; but a lawful joy, such as in the health, happiness, and prosperity of a man's family, wife, and children, and his own; which is the greatest outward joy a man can have; and yet the church of God and interest of Christ are preferred by a good man to these; see 1 Samuel 4:19; which appears when all a man has that is matter of joy is sacrificed for the public good and interest of religion; when he can take no comfort in any outward enjoyment because of the sad case of Zion, Malachi 2:3; when joy for its good is uppermost, and is first in his thoughts and words; when this is the "head" or "beginning" (g) of his joy, as it may be rendered. So Pindar (h) calls the chief, principal, and greatest part of joy, , the beginning of joy, the top and perfection of it.

(g) "caput laetitiae meae", Musculus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Gejerus. (h) Pythia, Ode 1. v. 4.

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

(e) The decay of God's religion in their country was so grievous that no joy could make them glad, unless it was restored.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
6. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth,

If I remember thee not (R.V.).

Let all power of speech and song desert me. Cp. Job 29:10.

if I prefer not &c.] Lit. if I exalt not Jerusalem above my chiefest joy: i.e. if I do not regard J. as dearer to me than aught else.Verse 6. - If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth. Let me be deprived of the power of song. What was wished in the preceding verso with respect to the power of instrumental performance is here wished with respect to the vocal organs. If I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy. This seems to be the true sense, and is equivalent to "If I prefer not Jerusalem above aught else." Up to this point it is God the absolute in general, the Creator of all things, to the celebration of whose praise they are summoned; and from this point onwards the God of the history of salvation. In Psalm 136:13 גּזר (instead of בּקע, Psalm 78:13; Exodus 14:21; Nehemiah 9:11) of the dividing of the Red Sea is peculiar; גּזרים (Genesis 15:17, side by side with בּתרים) are the pieces or parts of a thing that is cut up into pieces. נער is a favourite word taken from Exodus 14:27. With reference to the name of the Egyptian ruler Pharaoh (Herodotus also, ii. 111, calls the Pharaoh of the Exodus the son of Sesostris-Rameses Miumun, not Μενόφθας, as he is properly called, but absolutely Φερῶν), vid., on Psalm 73:22. After the God to whom the praise is to be ascribed has been introduced with ל by always fresh attributes, the ל before the names of Sihon and of Og is perplexing. The words are taken over, as are the six lines of Psalm 136:17-22 in the main, from Psalm 135:10-12, with only a slight alteration in the expression. In Psalm 136:23 the continued influence of the construction הודוּ ל is at an end. The connection by means of שׁ (cf. Psalm 135:8, Psalm 135:10) therefore has reference to the preceding "for His goodness endureth for ever." The language here has the stamp of the latest period. It is true זכר with Lamed of the object is used even in the earliest Hebrew, but שׁפל is only authenticated by Ecclesiastes 10:6, and פּרק, to break loose equals to rescue (the customary Aramaic word for redemption), by Lamentations 5:8, just as in the closing verse, which recurs to the beginning, "God of heaven" is a name for God belonging to the latest literature, Nehemiah 1:4; Nehemiah 2:4. In Psalm 136:23 the praise changes suddenly to that which has been experienced very recently. The attribute in Psalm 136:25 (cf. Psalm 147:9; Psalm 145:15) leads one to look back to a time in which famine befell them together with slavery.
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