posted on Jul, 7 2013 @ 05:03 PM
I’m still exploring the intended meaning of the Song of Songs.
The next passage I’m considering is part of the fourth chapter, ch.4 vv1-8.
(The translation being used is the RSV)
This poem has been describing the relationship between the Woman and her Loved One.
I’ve already proposed that this is the relationship between God and his people.
In the previous chapter, the king was presented as a bridegroom, and the natural assumption (confirmed later in the chapter) is that he’s praising
We know her to be a bride, in any case, from the fact that she wears a veil.
The custom is illustrated in the story of Isaac and Rebekah.
The first time that Rebekah sees Isaac, she covers herself with her veil (Genesis ch24 vv64-5).
This is not because she wants to hide her face from Isaac himself.
It’s because she regards herself as a new bride, from that moment.
As an unmarried girl, of course, she had left her face visible for all to see.
v1 In his opening words, he repeats ch.1 v15, confirming that he was the speaker on the first occasion.
Her eyes are like doves, perhaps because of their whiteness (though I’m aware that doves can come in different colours).
Her hair is like a flock of goats, moving down the slopes of Gilead.
I once referenced this passage when writing to a Christian girl, who picked out that line and seemed to think the comparison was unflattering.
But the writer’s intentions must have been complimentary (at least that would be my excuse).
The comparison may be about the picture seen from a distance, like the “purple of Carmel” at the same point in a later description (ch7 v5).
I can also see this line as an example of what I call the “equal excellence” comparison.
That is to say, the Woman’s hair is excellent, as hair, to the same degree that a flock of goats is excellent as a flock of goats. Rather
than in the same way.
To the owner of the goats, the sight of the flock would be a welcome sign of wealth.
Gilead, on the eastern side of the Jordan, would be good pasture ground, so the goats would be well-fed and profitable.
(And who is to say that the hair on a prize goat would not be sleek and well-combed? Rather than “lank and straggly”?)
v2 Her teeth are like shorn ewes which have just been washed, perhaps because of their whiteness.
The sheep are all bearing twins (or each one is “twinned” with a lamb).
The allusion to twins is normally taken to mean that none of the teeth are missing.
But I think this could be another “equal excellence” comparison, once again regarding the flock as a form of wealth.
The best kind of sheep is the fertile sheep, because the owner sees the lambs or the promise of lambs.
If all the sheep are bearing twins, and there aren’t any miscarriages, that’s even better. The expected increase of wealth would be enormous.
So the Woman’s teeth are excellent to the same degree that a fast-breeding flock of sheep is excellent.
v3 These are straightforward comparisons of appearance- her lips like a scarlet thread, her cheeks in colour like the outer skins of two halves of a
pomegranate. It seems that translators hesitate between “cheeks” and “forehead”. I would stay with “cheeks”, because the gaze is clearly
v4 Her neck resembles the tower of David.
This might be because the tower of David is tall, with a smooth surface, built with strength and grace.
Edith Swan-neck, the wife of King Harold, was another woman famed for the same feature.
And the ornaments around the Woman’s neck might remind him the shields (of defeated warriors?)which hang on the walls of the tower.
v5 Moving further down, her breasts have the grace and delicacy of twin fawns, twins of a gazelle.
This allusion to gazelles prompts the writer to repeat, almost automatically, what was said about the Loved One himself, the gazelle, in the second
chapter (ch2 vv16-17).
There is a straight repetition of “feeding among the lilies” and “until the day breathes”.
v6 The declaration that the Loved One will spend his time at “the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense” is the equivalent of the second
chapter description of the gazelle turning “like a young stag” upon the mountains.
But this also connects with the description of the “column of smoke”, which was perfumed with myrrh and frankincense (ch3 v6), and which
represents the divine king’s first arrival.
This verse, and the phrase about “feeding among the lilies”, are pointing towards the pleasure he finds in the woman.
v7, He winds up the description, repeating the statement that the Woman is fair, and finding her flawless.
v8 Then he gives her another invitation.
He invites her to “come away” from Lebanon.
The common understanding is that he’s calling her away from a dangerous region, “the haunt of lions and leopards”.
But that conflicts with the valuation of Lebanon which we find in the rest of the poem, as the source of good things, fine woods and sweet
Nor do we find it explained how the Woman got into the “dangerous” region in the first place.
He also invites her to “depart from” or “look down from” (depending on the translator) the other peaks in the area, like Amana, Senir, and
The latter phrase would seem to make more sense, because one person could not “depart” from all four peaks without climbing them first.
In other words, he’s not really calling her to leave the mountain area at all.
On the contrary, the invitation is that they should wander together from one range to another, enjoying the mountain area like the “gazelle” at
the end of the second chapter.
In which case the point of referring to lions and leopards would be that these are living things, beautiful things, which enjoy the use of the same
Their presence is to be celebrated, not feared.
They are as much part of the Life of the land as the living things praised in the second chapter- the gazelle and the stag, the turtledove, the
flower, the fig, and the vine.
In the first chapter of this poem, there was a reference to En-gedi, in the extreme south.
The next chapter mentioned the Plain of Sharon, in the west.
This passage has brought in Gilead, in the east, and Lebanon, to the north.
All these geographical references, taken together ,mark out the boundaries of that greater kingdom of Israel which was attributed to David and
So this is the kingdom in its ideal form.
In this passage, the Loved One is expressing his love for the Woman, and also inviting her, as in the second chapter, to a shared enjoyment of the