Sunday, March 22, 2009

Psalm 137: Matisyahu, "Jerusalem"

Click to Play Music Video

My psalms class recently spent an hour studying Psalm 137. One of the students in the class, Mike Angell, drew our attention to this contemporary rendering of Psalm 137 by Matisyahu (a fascinating Jewish artist who combines Reggae, Rap, and catchy beats).

Do check out the song (and the video) on YouTube by clicking here.

The class was quite taken by the song, and spent some time thinking about the lyrics. One striking feature is the theological focus: the psalm's focus on Jerusalem is not about the political entity but about the dwelling place of God's majesty. Another striking feature is that unlike many musical presentations of Psalm 137, this one does not shy away from a rendering of the final imprecatory stanza. Babylon is presented burning, chopped down for dirty ways, "not ok, oh no way, not ok." Take a look at the lyrics below: observations and comments welcome.

"Jerusalem" lyrics

[Chorus] Jerusalem, if I forget you,
fire not gonna come from me tongue.
Jerusalem, if I forget you,
let my right hand forget what it's supposed to do.

In the ancient days, we will return with no delay
Picking up the bounty and the spoils on our way
We've been traveling from state to state
And them don't understand what they say
3,000 years with no place to be
And they want me to give up my milk and honey
Don't you see, it's not about the land or the sea
Not the country but the dwelling of his majesty

Rebuild the temple and the crown of glory
Years gone by, about sixty
Burn in the oven in this century
And the gas tried to choke, but it couldn't choke me
I will not lie down, I will not fall asleep
They come overseas, yes they're trying to be free
Erase the demons out of our memory
Change your name and your identity
Afraid of the truth and our dark history
Why is everybody always chasing we
Cut off the roots of your family tree
Don't you know that's not the way to be

Caught up in these ways, and the worlds gone craze
Don't you know it's just a phase
Case of the Simon says
If I forget the truth then my words won't penetrate
Babylon burning in the place, can't see through the haze
Chop down all of them dirty ways,
That's the price that you pay for selling lies to the youth
No way, not ok, oh no way, not ok, hey
Aint no one gonna break my stride
Aint no one gonna hold me down
Oh no, I got to keep on moving
Stay alive


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. I had not heard that Matisyahu song.

Also, check out the traditional reggae (rastafarian) version called "Rivers of Babylon"(

Mon Mar 23, 06:06:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger KWBoyd said...

I found this song on a CD called Israel-Home of Hope. The chorus brings me to tears, I can imagine that many psalms were originally sung this way.
Remember too that Jeremiah Wright applies the end of the Psalm to the USA, as part of his racist heresies.

Mon Oct 05, 02:10:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger KWBoyd said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Mon Oct 05, 02:12:00 PM GMT-5  

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