I use the ESV translation but adapt to whatever version you prefer. The first half of the Psalm describes the Hebrews sorrow as exiles in Babylon and their captors taunts.
By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion.
- Where? BY Also note each of the first three verses has THERE.
- Where ? WATERS of BABYLON ZION
- Verbs: WEPT, SAT, REMEMBERED . Imagine this sequence as body positions
2 On the willows there
we hung up our lyres.
- Where ? ON
- Where? the WILLOWS
- Verb? HUNG up
- What ? our LYRES
4 3 For there our captors
required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
- Imagine a Cat called Tomas hissing around their legs
- CAT- CHOIR SONGS- TOM- SONGS this is an ABAB pattern
- CAT – captors
- CHOIR SONGS – requires songs
- TOM – tormentors mirth
- SING SONGS ZION – SSZ sounds like hissing
- Where? ZION
How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?
- Note the rhetorical question
- VERB SING
- Where? FOREIGN LAND
5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand forget its skill!
6 Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
- IF, LET, LET, IF this is an ABBA pattern
- ‘If I’ followed by Verb: FORGET, DON’T REMEMBER
- Where ? JERUSALEM YOU x2
- What? RIGHT HAND, TONGUE
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy!
- Think of this as an additional 5th line.
- Where ? JERUSALEM above
- Verb is SET
The Psalm now describes the Hebrews relatives, the Edomites, and their treachery in not supporting them when the Babylonians invaded and took Jerusalem.
Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites the day of Jerusalem,
how they said, “Lay it bare, lay it bare,
down to its foundations!”
- verb REMEMBER
- Who? EDOMITES
- When Day
- where? JERUSALEM
- Repetition of LAY It BARE x2
- Sequence is DAY , Lay it bare, Lay it bare, DOWN So the two D’s frame it
8 O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed,
blessed shall he be who repays you
with what you have done to us!
9 Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones
and dashes them against the rock!
- WHO? DAUGHTER of BABYLON
- what ? doomed to be destroyed – D TB D ( tuberculosis?)
- BLESSED SHALL HE BE verb : repays
- BLESSED SHALL HE BE verbs : takes, dashes
Now here is an example of how to hang this psalm on a story line moving chronologically from left to right as in a cartoon or film.
A WILLOW tree
On a Willow tree nail the HARE painting on the trunk and some hooks to hang your lyres. Hare rhymes with There.
Beyond the Willow tree in the woods
FOUR HARES with Caps ( captors) Singing CHOIR SONGS
And so on. e.g.
HOW rhymes with COW so on your journey come across a cow to remind you of the question HOW? It could even be singing in a moo type way. The more bizarre and imaginative the image the better you will remember it.
For the IF LET LET IF sequence : Imagine a mobile phone mast type of aerial in the shape of IF.
It has a LETTER pointing right with a hand on it. It points to a LETTER pointing left on the opposite side of a valley with a tongue on it. This letter is also on an IF shaped aerial.
Walk up a mountain and set another mobile phone IF aerial at the top – This is the line, ‘If I do not set Jerusalem as my highest joy’.
Remember O Lord – makes the word ROLL so roll down the other side of the mountain and roll into and against a huge Edam Cheese. This is ‘ the Edomites’.
Behind the Cheese is a very big Jammy Dojer biscuit. This is DOJ = Day of Jerusalem
You walk past another COW = How. The Cow LAYS DOWN. this represents the line sequence Lay it bare, Lay it bare, Down to it’s foundations
Next you pass a farm with DOBBIN the horse. DOB = Daughter of Babylon. Unfortunately it has TB. This represents Doomed To BE Destroyed
At a BANK you pass a BABY in a pram outside in the sun sleeping – this represents BLESSED SHALL HE BE the baby’s name is HARVEY. Someone rushes out to repay you.
There is another BABY in a pram outside a CAKE Shop – this represents the line BLESSED SHALL HE BE WHO TAKES
You pass some ROCKS,.
The desire for revenge at the end of this psalm is terrible. The psalms are an author’s thoughts and sometimes anguish at the terrible injustice of human behaviour. It does not mean murder is condoned! The author expresses a wish for vengeance. But he does so to God. God is the person we should go to when assaulted by terrible events and naturally desire revenge. Vengeance is left to God.