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Song of Songs [8/15]; My sister, my bride

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posted on Jul, 14 2013 @ 05:04 PM
I’m still exploring the intended meaning of the Song of Songs.
The next passage I’m considering is the rest of the fourth chapter, ch.4 vv9-16, and also the first verse of the next chapter.
(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.

v9 In the previous passage, the Loved One was praising his bride.
This verse begins another poem of praise.
This is where he begins calling her a sister, so modern readers are puzzled, and modern scholars start talking about the practices of the Egyptian Pharaohs.
Yet I don’t know that “my sister, my bride” is an odder combination than “Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord, for I am married to you”- Jeremiah ch3 v14.
The names of Israelites in the Old Testament show that people could see their God in a number of different relations- “My father”, “My brother”, “My friend”.
If Jeremiah could combine “husband” with “father”, is it any more strange that this poem should combine the protective relations of “husband” and “big brother”?
All these relations, if they are between God and his people, are metaphorical, and can be combined to provide a fuller picture.
Only those who insist on seeing the poem as a sentimental human romance need have any problem with the phrase.

The previous poem was focussed on the Woman’s appearance.
This one is more about the effect she has on him.
He says she has stolen his heart, taken control of his love.
A single glance of her eyes, or a single flash of her jewellery, was enough to do the job.

vv10-11 He tells her that her love is sweet, while the remarks about “better than wine” and the fragrance of her oils are an echo of what the Woman herself said about him at the beginning of the Song.
He praises the sweetness of her lips and tongue and compares the fragrance of her garments with the scent of Lebanon.

vv12-15 Two important comparisons then follow.
At one and the same time, the woman is like a locked garden and like a sealed fountain.
In both respects, she is producing life.
As a garden, she is producing an abundance of sweet-tasting and sweet-smelling fruits and spices.
These include frankincense, which is one of the spices associated with the divine “column of smoke” in the third chapter.
As a fountain, she is providing a well of living water.
In addition, she has the flowing streams from Lebanon (which demonstrates what I’ve observed elsewhere, that this poem sees Lebanon as a source of good things, not a source of danger).

In both respects, at the same time, the Woman is enclosed and sealed.
As bride of the Loved One, she belongs to the Loved One and to nobody else.

v16 This verse interrupts the poem of praise.
Since the Woman is being compared with a garden, she responds to the comparison by inviting the Loved One to come to that garden.
She calls upon the winds to spread the scent of it far and wide, so that the Loved One might be tempted by the scents and come to enjoy the fruits.

Ch5 v1 This verse looks like the climax of the original poem of praise, a declaration of intent prompted by his contemplation of the bride.
In the present arrangement of the poem, it’s also a response to the Woman’s invitation in the previous verse.
He comes to enjoy all the sweet things which the garden offers, the myrrh and the honey, the wine and the milk.
His ownership of the garden is emphasised by the nine-fold repetition of “my”.
She can only offer the Loved One what already belongs to him.

The second part of the verse is an exchange very appropriate for a wedding feast;
Groom and Bride to Guests; “Eat, O friends, and drink”.
Guests to Groom and Bride; “Drink deeply, O lovers”.

That’s the natural conclusion of the portion of the poem (beginning as early as ch3 v5) which has been celebrating the relation of Woman and Loved One as husband and wife.
This passage has been expressing the desire of the Loved One to share the company of his bride, believing that the relationship will be productive and life-giving.
It expresses God’s desire to be with his people.

posted on Jul, 15 2013 @ 04:57 PM

posted on Jul, 16 2013 @ 05:16 PM
My interest in the Song of Songs was originally inspired by the reading of the sermons of Bernard of Clairvaux.
Especially by his comments on the words “I am black, but beautiful”, as applied to the spiritual state of the church or the individual soul. The idea of being sinful and imperfect, but still beloved by God.
Knowing the history of the church, I was very conscious of its imperfections, so it all rang very true.
However, my own interpretation obviously strikes out a very different line from Bernard, in all sorts of different ways.
Nor is there space for me to take the devotional approach.
But I would argue that gaining a good sense of the writer’s conscious intentions would provide the most sure foundation of any approach, including the devotional.

posted on Jul, 17 2013 @ 05:15 PM
For information;
The next thread in this series will move into the fifth chapter of the poem.

posted on Sep, 11 2013 @ 03:38 PM
This whole series is now indexed at the following location;

The Unseen Husband

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