Psalm 137: Hung our harps on the Willows - Jesus Singing Hymns

Did Jesus sing: "There on the poplars (willows) we hung our harps?" Psalm 137 is the story of a nation having tried to save their nation by music after they lost the Word of God is repeated in many accounts among other nations. It is very possible that Jesus sang Psalm 137 as the clergy tried to force Him into the choral dance and song of Dionysus worship as they played their musical instruments.


See our information on the Babylon "passover" of four cups of intoxicating wine. Everyone MUST get drunk: even little children. However, Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper with the fifth cup which was a sign that John had come and announced Messiah. When this fifth cup was instuted as the Lord's Supper, they sang about 'Hanging up their harps."

Musical instruments were added to the Law of Moses only after Israel "fired" God and demanded a king like the nations so that they could worship like the nations. Psalm 137 is the result of God carrying out the sentence for Israel's musical idolatry at Mount Sinai and for rejecting His rule in favor of the worship just like the Babylonians and other nations.

The instruments were never for "congregational worship" but were associated with the like the nations temple which was the capital of this new kingdom walking in their own ways. The instruments of David were added to enhance the crashing sound only during secular play or animal sacrifices and then only in or around Jerusalem and later the temple.

When the Jews lost the land and the temple the use of instruments was simply not allowed because they were not in the land. Again, when the Jews lost Jerusalem and left, instrumental music ceased until about 1815 in a liberal synagogue and this created division.

Psalm 137 tells the story of turning the instruments back over to the poplars or willows:

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. Psalm 137:1

There on the poplars (willows) we hung our harps, Psalm 137:2 for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!" Psalm 137:3

How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land? Psalm 137:4

"Willows are unfruitful trees, and here so placed, that no good whatever can be understood of them: elsewhere perhaps there may. Here understand barren trees, growing by the waters of Babylon. These trees are watered by the waters of Babylon, and bring forth no fruit; just as there are men greedy, covetous, barren in good works, citizens of Babylon in such wise, that they are even trees of that region; they are fed there by these pleasures of transitory things, as though watered by "the waters of Babylon." Thou seekest fruit of them, and nowhere findest it. ...

During their captivity the Jews were really "going home." Remember that it was Jubal, Jabal, Tubal-Cain and Naamah who introduced the Babylonian form of magic and music.

Naamah 'Lilith' is usually derived from the Babylonian-Assyrian word 'lilitu,' 'a female demon, or wind-spirit' -- one of a triad mentioned in Babylonian spells. But she appears earlier as 'Lillake' on a 2000 BC Sumerian tablet from

Ur containing the tale of Gilgamesh and the Willow Tree.
There she is a
demoness dwelling in the trunk of a willow tree
tended by the Goddess
Inanna (Anath) on the banks of the Euphrates.

Popular Hebrew etymology seems to have derived 'Lilith' from 'layil,' 'night'; and she therefore often appears as a hairy night-monster, as she also does in Arabian folklore. Solomon suspected the Queen of Sheba of being Lilith, because she had hairy legs. His judgement on the two harlots is recorded in 1 Kings III:16. According to Isaiah XXXIV:14-15, Lilith dwells among the desolate ruins in the Edomite Desert where satyrs ("se'ir"), reems {2}, pelicans, owls {3}, jackals, ostriches, arrow-snakes and kites keep her company.

"Some say the God created man and woman in His own image on the Sixth Day, giving them charge over the world, but that Eve did not yet exist. Now, God had set Adam to name every beast, bird and other living thing. When they passed before him in pairs, male and female, Adam --being already like a twenty-year-old man-- felt jealous of their loves, and though he tried coupling with each female creature in turn, found no satisfaction in the act. He therefore cried: "Every creature but I has a proper mate!" and prayed God would remedy this injustice.

"God then formed Lilith, the first woman, just as He had formed Adam, except that he used filth and sediment instead of pure dust. From Adam's union with this demoness, and with another like her named Naamah, Tubal Cain's sister, sprang Asmodeus and innumerable demons that still plague mankind. Many generations later, Lilith and Naamah came to Solomon's judgement seat, disguised as harlots of Jerusalem.

Lilith typifies the Anath-worshipping Canaanite women, who were permitted pre-nuptial promiscuity. Time after time the prophets denounced Israelite women for following Canaanite practices; at first, apparently, with the priests' approval --

since their habit of dedicating to God the fees thus earned is expressly forbidden in Deuteronomy XXIII:18.

Lilith's flight to the Red Sea recalls the ancient Hebrew view that water attracts demons. Tortured and rebellious demons" also found safe harbourage in Egypt. Thus Asmodeus, who had strangled Sarah's first six husbands, fled "to the uttermost parts of Egypt" (Tobit VIII:3), when Tobias burned the heart and liver of a fish on their wedding nigh. Click for More

From Adam's Helpmeet

(c) God then formed Lilith, the first woman, just as He had formed Adam, except that he used filth and sediment instead of pure dust.

From Adam's union with this demoness, and with another like her named Naamah, Tubal Cain's sister,

sprang Asmodeus and innumerable demons that still plague mankind. Many generations later, Lilith and Naamah came to Solomon's judgement seat, disguised as harlots of Jerusalem. [Yalqut Reubeni ad. Gen. II. 21; IV. 8]

See the Punishment of the Fallen Angels

Naamah, "the lovely," earned her name from the sweet sounds which she drew from her cymbals when she called the worshippers to pay homage to idols. Legend of Cain

Isa 5; Amos 5; 6; Ezek 33 and others implicate instrumental music in the idolatry which destroyed Israel.

The Jews would have their noses rubbed in music to force the worship of the phallic idols in Babylon. The temple tradition demanded the rituals of animal sacrifice be in Jerusalem during animal sacrifices. This was the highest joy a Jew could know. This did not permit worship "in Spirit and in Truth." Therefore, away from the temple it would have been unlawful for them to be involved even in imitation worship for which they were noted.

It is possible that Jesus sang Psalm 137 which spoke of hanging up the harps on the willows. This makes sense because Jesus was sending the new disciples into all the world. Outside of Jerusalem, the Temple and animal sacrifices it would no longer be suitable to make the great noise while the animals were being slaughtered and burned:

How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land? Psalm 137:4

Edersheim, Chapter 12 notes of the Passover: "Exceptionally a fifth cup was drunk, and over it 'the great Hallel' was said, comprising Psalm 120-137."

Therefore, when the Passover was over and the Lord's Supper was instituted, it is probable that Psalm 137 was sung. If so, we have Jesus again saying, "Hang up the harps because animal sacrifices have ceased and the earth-bound temple will be taken down stone by stone." And is a fact that the early church which often met in the synagogue had no harps or flutes by which they would repudiate the last Great Sacrifice.

The river (or canal) and the willow are symbolic of worship like that of Orpheus who leaned upon the willow and played. his harp We believe that this is a message which says that Israel will not be involved with necromancy and enchantment for which the Chaldeans and others were noted.

"The very name Orpheus is just a synonym for Bel, the name of the great Babylonian god, which, while originally given to Cush, became hereditary in the line of his deified descendants. Bel signifies 'to mix,' as well as to confound,' and 'Orv' in Hebrew, which in Chaldee becomes Orph signifies also 'to mix.'

But 'Orv,' or 'Orph,' signifies besides 'a willow-tree;' and therefore, in exact accordance with the mystic system, we find the symbol of Orpheus among the Greeks to have been a willow tree.

Thus Pausanias, after referring to a representation of Actaeon, says, 'If again you look to the lower parts of the picture, you will see after Patroclus, Orpheus sitting on a hill, with a harp in his left hand, and in his right hand the leaves of a willow tree.' He is represented leaning on the trunk of this tree.' The willow leaves in the right hand of Orpheus, and the willow tree on which he leans, sufficiently show the meaning of the name." (Hislop, Alexander, The Two Babylons, p. 124, Loizeaux Brothers)

"Since the Babylonian Jews were unable to participate in the worship of the cultus as in former days, the exile marked an important turning-point in their religious developmemt. Open-air meetings by the Kabar irrigation-canal replaced gatherings in the Temple and its precincts,

Kabar or Chebar is derived from:

Chabar (h2266) khaw-bar'; a prim. root; to join (lit. or fig.); spec. (by means of spells) to fascinate: - charm (-er), be compact, couple (together), have fellowship with, heap up, join (self, together), league.

Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone. Ho.4:17

a non-sacrificial worship emphasized confession, fasting, prayer, and the reading of the Law, and initial improvisations were developed to the point where the faithful community aimed at

as great a spiritual differentation from the pagan Babylonians as was possible.

The "like the nations" worship which God permitted when Israel rejected His direct rule added instrumental sounds. This was not for "congregational worship" but to force the people to the ground because they had lost (with musical worship at Mount Sinai) their right to come boldly before the throne of God. The difference the synagogue wanted to illustrate was:

That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: Da.3:5

With the development of house-gatherings and the increased importance attached to the knowledge and observance of the Torah, there was laid the basis for subsequent synagogue-worship, an institution that owes its origin to the diligence of Ezekiel." (Harrison, R. K., Introduction to the Old Testament, Eerdmans, p.414).

The music in Ezekiel 8 is lamenting for Tammuz who is represented by different names in different countries. The comments of Ezekiel can be found by clicking here and clicking here.

The names of the musical worship guilds for the temple (but not for the people) all had foreign names from Canaanites or Ugarit. Pausanias reads:

[10.30.6] Turning our gaze again to the lower part of the picture we see, next after Patroclus, Orpheus sitting on what seems to be a sort of hill; he grasps with his left hand a harp, and with his right he touches a willow. It is the branches that he touches, and he is leaning against the tree. The grove seems to be that of Persephone, where grow, as Homer thought, black poplars and willows. The appearance of Orpheus is Greek, and neither his garb nor his head-gear is Thracian. [10.30.7] On the other side of the willow-tree Promedon is leaning against it. Some there are who think that the name Promedon is as it were a poetic invention of Polygnotus; others have said that

Promedon was a Greek who was fond of listening to all kinds of music, especially to the singing of Orpheus. [10.30.8] In this part of the painting is Schedius, who led the Phocians to Troy, and after him is Pelias, sitting on a chair, with grey hair and grey beard, and looking at Orpheus.

Schedius holds a dagger and is crowned with grass.

Jesus told the Jews that they didn't have a clue because God always talked to the people in parables to keep the professionals from using the truth for commercial purposes. It is interesting that in preparing for Babylonian captivity:

Then he put out the eyes of Zedekiah; and the king of Babylon bound him in chains, and carried him to Babylon, and put him in prison till the day of his death. Je.52:11

Psalm 137 therefore sounds like the common theme of trusting musical instruments as the actual idols or gods.

Thamyris is sitting near Pelias. He has lost the sight of his eyes;

his attitude is one of utter dejection; his hair and beard are long; at his feet lies thrown a lyre with its horns and strings broken. [10.30.9] Above him is Marsyas, sitting on a rock,

and by his side is Olympus, with the appearance of a boy in the bloom of youth learning to play the flute.
The Phrygians in Celaenae hold that the
river passing through the city was once this great flute-player,
and they also hold that the
Song of the Mother, an air for the flute, was composed by Marsyas. They say too that they repelled the army of the Gauls by the aid of Marsyas,

who defended them against the barbarians by the water from the river
by the music of his flute.

Using singing and music in the praise of God was not a part of the Law of Moses. It is first seen before the Law given on Sinai. Then it came into use during the time of Saul through the prophets and was developed to it maximum in the reigns of David and Solomon. It declined as Israel lost the heart for true worship and was lost entirely while Israel was captive. They restored it to a shadow of it former greatness in the second temple and in the Temple of Herod in the days of Jesus.

The Jews having lost their place with God believed that they could keep out the Barbarians by playing their flutes. Amos 5, 6 and 8 tell this same story.

Modern churches having lost their way often turn to music as "the shawms of a dying civilization." Sooner or later those who become sectarian and divide the churches as they replace body worship for spiritual worship will have to sing Psalm 137.

Kenneth Sublett

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