We hung our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.
Read Chapter 137
Augustine of Hippo
5. "On the willows in the midst thereof we hung up our instruments of music" (ver. 2). The citizens of Jerusalem have their "instruments of music," God's Scriptures, God's commands, God's promises, meditation on the life to come; but while they are dwelling "in Babylon," they "hang up their instruments." 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. ...Therefore by deferring to apply the Scriptures to them, "we hang up our instruments of music upon the willows." For we hold them not worthy to carry our instruments. We do not therefore insert our instruments into them and bind them to them, but defer to use them, and so hang them up. For the willows are the unfruitful trees of Babylon, fed by temporal pleasures, as by the "waters of Babylon."