For the Love of God, Volume 2/May 3
From Gospel Translations
Numbers 10; Psalms 46—47; Song of Songs 8; Hebrews 8
SONG 7:9B—8:4 PICTURES RENEWED CONSUMMATION. The Song of Songs depicts several cycles of estrangement, pursuit, consummation. But in the closing verses (Song 8:5-14) the cycles are no longer in view. All the participants in the book— the woman (the beloved), her lover, the daughters of Jerusalem, King Solomon, the mother, the brothers—reappear, as the joy and commitments of the lovers are reaffirmed.
The “friends,” apparently the daughters of Jerusalem, ask the question, “Who is this coming up from the desert leaning on her lover?” (8:5a) The “leaning” is not because she is weak or ill, but is an index of intimacy. Probably there is a glance back at the theme of the country girl who has become the happy bride.
The Hebrew pronouns show that in the second half of verse 5 the bride herself, the beloved, speaks, addressing her lover. I know of no completely satisfactory explanation of 8:5b. Perhaps the woman is looking back to her first meeting with the one who would become her lover, and perhaps it was on the same spot where his mother conceived him and bore him. If so she is signaling a kind of familial link, an inter-generational connection. Couples may think they are the first to fall in love, but this woman is shrewd enough to grasp the cohesiveness of human love and life. For her, “love is as strong as death” (8:6). When death calls, none can stop it; when love calls, the same is true. In this light, “jealousy” (8:6) is not the green-eyed monster, but passionate, righteous claims of possession (as in Ex. 20:5). Genuine love can be neither quenched nor bought (8:7).
Commentators dispute who is speaking in 8:8-9, but it sounds like the brothers (cf. 1:6). The “little sister” of whom they speak is either the beloved herself, whom they do not consider ready for marriage, and to whom she gives a robust reply (8:10); or, more probably, the younger sister of the beloved and her brothers, who is not yet quite sexually mature. The point of their comment is then twofold: to hint at yet another oncoming generation that will fall in love, repeating the cycle all over again; and to serve as a foil to the maturity and delight of the beloved in her consummated relationship with her lover.
If the metaphorical value of “vineyard” persists (8:11-12; cf. 2:15), the beloved insists that Solomon may have a large harem, but the only one who can give away the beloved’s “vineyard” is the beloved herself. He cannot command her love, whether for himself (the thousand shekels) or for others (the two hundred shekels—the percentage of the profit of a vineyard shared by the laborers); she gives it. The closing verses are a reprise of consummated love.