Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Psalm 136 verses 3-4

Eduard Bendemann: Die trauernden Juden im Exil.
Verses 3&4 of Psalm 136 have the Babylonians demanding a song: is this genuine interest, or just mockery?

Quia illic interrogavérunt nos, qui captívos duxérunt nos, * verba cantiónum.
Quoniam ibi interrogauerunt nos qui captiuos duxerunt nos uerba carminis,

ὅτι ἐκεῖ ἐπηρώτησαν ἡμᾶς οἱ αἰχμαλωτεύσαντες ἡμᾶς λόγους 

quia (for) illic (there) interrogaverunt (they asked/demanded) nos (us), qui (who) captivos (captured) duxerunt (they had led) nos (us), verba (the words) cantionum (of songs)

interrogo, avi, atum, are, (1) to ask, to question. (2) to request, demand (3) to examine, try, test
captivus a um captured, taken
cantio ionis f a song

For there they that led us into captivity required of us the words of songs.
For they that led us away captive required of us then a song, and melody, in our heaviness:
For there they that had taken us captive asked of us the words of a song

Et qui abduxérunt nos: * hymnum cantáte nobis de cánticis sion.
et, qui affligebant nos, laetitiam: “ Cantate nobis de canticis Sion ”.
et qui adfligebant nos laeti, Canite nobis de canticis Sion.

ᾠδῶν καὶ οἱ ἀπαγαγόντες ἡμᾶς ὕμνον ᾄσατε ἡμῖν ἐκ τῶν ᾠδῶν Σιων

et (and) qui (who) abduxerunt (they lead/took away) nos (us): Hymnum (a hymn) cantate (sing) nobis (to us) de (from) canticis (of the songs) Sion.

What is being demanded is not just a folk song, but a liturgical piece or psalm in praise of God.  

abduco duxi ductum ere 3 to lead or take away
hymnus, i, m.  a hymn, a song of praise to God.
canto, avi, atum, are to sing, to praise in song
canticum, i, n. a song, canticle.

And they that carried us away, said: Sing to us a hymn of the songs of Sion.
Sing us one of the songs of Sion.
and they that had carried us away asked a hymn, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Sion.

The most obvious interpretation of these verses is that their captors are taunting the exiles: sing to us the songs about how your city is so perfectly protected by your God, when we have in fact reduced it to rubble.

Yet there is a possible positive interpretation as well, namely that mixed amongst those who wish to mock the people of God are some who are genuinely curious, who are genuinely seeking the truth.  Pope Benedict XVI commented:

"Let us entrust ourselves to St Augustine for a further meditation on our Psalm. The great Father of the Church introduces a surprising and very timely note:  he knows that there are also people among the inhabitants of Babylon who are committed to peace and to the good of the community, although they do not share the biblical faith; the hope of the Eternal City to which we aspire is unknown to them. Within them they have a spark of desire for the unknown, for the greater, for the transcendent:  for true redemption. And Augustine says that even among the persecutors, among the non-believers, there are people who possess this spark, with a sort of faith or hope, as far as is possible for them in the circumstances in which they live. With this faith, even in an unknown reality, they are truly on their way towards the true Jerusalem, towards Christ. And with this openness of hope, Augustine also warns the "Babylonians" - as he calls them -, those who do not know Christ or even God and yet desire the unknown, the eternal, and he warns us too, not to focus merely on the material things of the present but to persevere on the journey to God."

Psalm 136 – Super flumina
Psalmus David, Jeremiæ

1 Super flúmina Babylónis, illic sédimus et flévimus: * cum recordarémur Sion:
Upon the rivers of Babylon, there we sat and wept: when we remembered Sion:
2  In salícibus in médio ejus, * suspéndimus órgana nostra.
2 On the willows in the midst thereof we hung up our instruments.
3  Quia illic interrogavérunt nos, qui captívos duxérunt nos, * verba cantiónum.
3 For there they that led us into captivity required of us the words of songs.
4  Et qui abduxérunt nos: * Hymnum cantáte nobis de cánticis Sion.
And they that carried us away, said: Sing to us a hymn of the songs of Sion.
5  Quómodo cantábimus cánticum Dómini * in terra aliéna?
4 How shall we sing the song of the Lord in a strange land?
6  Si oblítus fúero tui, Jerúsalem, * oblivióni detur déxtera mea.
5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand be forgotten.
7  Adhæreat lingua mea fáucibus meis, * si non memínero tui.
6 Let my tongue cleave to my jaws, if I do not remember you:
8  Si non proposúero Jerúsalem, * in princípio lætítiæ meæ.
If I make not Jerusalem the beginning of my joy.

9  Memor esto, Dómine, filiórum Edom, * in die Jerúsalem.
7 Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom, in the day of Jerusalem:
10  Qui dicunt: Exinaníte, exinaníte * usque ad fundaméntum in ea.
Who say: Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof.
11  Fília Babylónis mísera: * beátus, qui retríbuet tibi retributiónem tuam, quam retribuísti nobis.
8 O daughter of Babylon, miserable: blessed shall he be who shall repay you your payment which you have paid us.
12  Beátus qui tenébit, * et allídet párvulos tuos ad petram.
9 Blessed be he that shall take and dash your little ones against the rock.

And for the next set of notes on this psalm click here.

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