Did God command Israel to “dash the heads of babies on the rocks”?

In a conversation recently, someone brought up Psalm 137:9.

Psalm 137:9 (NKJV)

9 Happy the one who takes and dashes

Your little ones against the rock!

This verse does indeed create a disturbing visual.

People have been brutal throughout history, however, we should not attribute that evil to God, even in the cases where his punishment on such evil is proportionately severe. Wicked nations of that time period were known to kill the babies of their conquests. In fact, it seems Babylon had done this very thing to the nation of Israel (see vs. 8). The whole Psalm is a community song by the people of Israel. As they recollect the terrors wrought on them they are hopeful for the Lord’s justice. There is a legal principle that the punishment should fit the crime, so it is natural that these people (whose own infants had been murdered in horrific ways) would sing a song about the same thing happening to their enemies.

A related question though, is “why does God command Israel to destroy women and children as in 1 Sam 15:2-3?” The answer is two-fold 1) these nations were so exceedingly wicked and totally under the control of demonic forces that only complete eradication would protect God’s people from falling again into demon worship. 2) God has a much wider view of life and death, and it’s possible that ending the infants lives actually mercifully spared them from the much greater punishment they would endure by growing up into full blown demon worship. This is part of a greater study for which I recommend two books “God at War” and “Satan and the Problem of Evil” both by Gregory Boyd. Mr. Boyd has extensively researched Near Eastern history and mythology and sheds a ton of light on the historical context in which much of the OT was written. I’d be happy to let you borrow them. Comment below or email me.

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