Does Psalm 137:9 support infanticide (abortion)?

Critics of the Bible (especially pro-abortionists) attempt to discredit the Bible with Psalm 137:9, which they believe supports infanticide (or abortion).

“Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!” 

Psalm 137:9

We know that the Bible repeatedly forbids murder. (Mt. 15:19; 19:18; Mk. 10:19; Lk. 18:20; Jn. 8:44; Acts 3:14; Rom. 1:28-29; 13:9) We also know that the Bible values children (Matt 18:10; Psalm 127:3; Mark 9:42; Luke 17:2; Eph. 6:4; Mark 9:37, Colossians 3:21). The destruction of human life is a serious crime before God. Genesis 9:6 makes this very clear. According to the Bible, human life should be protected and preserved since we are made in the image of God. Preserving and protecting life is not a small matter in Scripture.

The question is, how can it be that the same Bible that commands for the preservation and protection of human life also contains a passage like Psalm 137:9? Does this go-to abortionist verse suddenly trump the passages that value children and human life in general? Isolating this verse by itself may cause one to think so, but simply considering the context of the passage as a whole will shed better light on what’s being communicated. Unfortunately, it is rare to have a Bible critic care enough to learn the immediate context or meaning of a verse before attempting to use it against a Christian; however, the intellectually honest will desire to know the truth behind this passage.

Let’s take a look at the context.

First, we must understand that the Psalmist is writing this in light of the Babylonian captivity – a time of war. He begins with the Babylonians tormenting Israel in verses 1-3. (That’s important to know.) Second, we must understand that this psalm is a mournful prayer to God. He is expressing his deep emotions to his God, which include anger, fear, and weariness. This psalm is not about God condoning or disapproving of anything. Thirdly, we must understand that he’s hopeful that God will execute his justice against their captors. In verses 5-7, he’s speaking of a promise to remember Jerusalem. Lastly, he follows everything up with praying against his captors, in some detail, in verses 8-9.

This is a prayer that the Babylonians, who had killed many Israelites, including their infants, should be punished appropriately. It never endorses the act of murder in and of itself. In a time of war, one defends and secures his own land and people. That’s part of the preservation of life. However, this may require the fall of another nation. In this case, the Babylonians killed many of the Israelites in such an awful way that the Psalmist was wanting the same thing to happen to them, which is consistent with the Talion – the principle that punishment should match the crime. “O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed, blessed shall he be who repays you with what you have done to us!” (vv. 8) This passage never condones or endorses infanticide or abortion, but it’s a plea for justice in a time of war. Considering the context of this passage, it can in no way endorse abortion or infanticide.

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