Song of Songs [14/15]; Under the apple-tree

page: 1
2

log in

join

posted on Aug, 25 2013 @ 05:07 PM
link   
I’m still exploring the intended meaning of the Song of Songs.
The next passage I’m considering is a part of the eighth chapter, ch8 vv5-10.
(The translation being used is the RSV)

I need to explain my naming of the “speakers” in these passages.
The two main characters of the Song are frequently called “the Lover” and “the Beloved”, giving the first name to the male.
Those labels make the male the active pursuer, following the conventions of romance.
They mask the reality of this poem, that the woman is patently doing most of the pursuing.
That should be one of the clues that this is not a conventional romance.
So I’m calling these characters “the Woman” and “the Loved One” in that order.

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.

v5 This question is the same question that was asked in ch2 v6, and it should have the same answer.
In the second chapter, it was called a column of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense.
In the Exodus account, God was guiding his people through the wilderness in the form of “a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night” (Exodus ch.13 v23).
So the natural conclusion was that a column of smoke arriving from the wilderness was depicting the continuation and the conclusion of the Exodus journey.
God and his people were entering the land in each other’s company.

This image must surely be another version of the same picture.
The Woman, “leaning upon her beloved” and “coming up from the wilderness”- what else could that be but God’s people leaning upon their God?

Then the Loved One tells the Woman how he wakened her under the apple tree, in the same place where her mother had given birth to her, and perhaps immediately afterwards.
This is the equivalent of the Lord God’s declaration in Ezekiel, that he had seen the orphan child Jerusalem “on the day that you were born”, that he had seen her neglected and “weltering in your blood”, and had taken pity on her, telling her to “Live, and grow up like a plant of the field”- Ezekiel ch16 vv4-6
This accords with my earlier suggestion, that the allegory in the Song of Songs is a more benign version of the allegory in Ezekiel.
The Woman has already given “sitting under an apple tree” as an image for living under the Loved One’s shadow- ch2 v3.
So this verse implies that she was under his protection even in the circumstances of her birth.

vv6-7 There is now a short poem on the strength of love, presumably the Woman’s love.
She would want to be a seal on the Loved One’s arm, or attached to his chest, so that she should not be separated from him.
Love is a fire that is more powerful than death or flood, and is even more powerful than the call of wealth.
So love, and therefore the Woman’s love for the Loved One, is more powerful than anything under God that can be imagined.
This looks like an autonomous poem, so what place does it have in the present context?
If the writer is following through Ezekiel’s analogy, then the next stage in the story is the “plighting of troth” for the forthcoming marriage (Ezekiel ch16 v8).
This poem could be suitably attached to that moment.

vv8-9 Who are the speakers in these verses?
On the face of it, the most obvious candidates are the Woman’s brothers.
When the Woman married, it would presumably be the family’s duty to provide a dowry, which might come in the form of ornament.

But I think a better approach is to follow through the allegory in Ezekiel.
In Ezekiel, the Lord God, in his double capacity as father-figure and prospective husband, provided his bride with elaborate and costly clothing and ornaments in preparation for her marriage to himself- Ezekiel ch16 vv9-13
It seems to me that the same thing is happening here.
The speaker is the Loved One, in his double capacity as brother-figure and prospective husband.

In Ezekiel, the Lord God waited until “you grew up and became tall and arrived at full maidenhood, and your breasts were formed”- Ezekiel ch16 v7
But these verses tell us that the Woman “has no breasts”, even though she was fully matured in the earlier chapters.
So there must be a sense in which she has retrogressed, in her spiritual maturity.
She is no longer as ready for the enjoyment of the Covenant relationship as she had been previously.
He needs to repeat his protective guidance, so that she can “grow up and become tall”.

But when she reaches (once again) a state of readiness for marriage, what should be done?
If she was a wall, then “we” would ornament the wall with silver battlements.
If she was a door, then the door would be enclosed in fine cedar.
No cost would be spared, in short, in giving her a glorious appearance.
But since she is neither a wall nor a door, but a bride, the implication is that no cost would be spared in giving her the glorious appearance appropriate for a bride.
If this is the Loved One speaking, then he means, like the Lord God in Ezekiel, to cover her with embroidered cloth and deck her with ornaments in preparation for her marriage to himself.

v10 In what looks like an echo of the previous verses, the Woman calls herself a wall, with breasts like towers.
This leads on to the claim that she was “in his eyes” (perhaps in the sense of “under his eye”) and brought into a state of Peace.
This can be equated with the climax of the story in Ezekiel;
“Your renown went forth among the nations, because of your beauty, for it was perfect because of the splendour which I had bestowed upon you, says the Lord God”- Ezekiel ch16 v14

The Hebrew seems to be ambiguous between “I used to be” and “I have become”.
The first would mean that she was still expressing her regret for the past, when her city and her kingdom and her Peace with her God were still intact.
But the Loved One’s promise about her wedding ornamentation is forward-looking, by definition, and seems to point towards a renewal of her “married” status.
So this may be an argument for “I have become”.
The Woman would be looking forward with a renewed self-confidence.

The portions of text in this passage combine together to bring a message of hope.
They express the assurance that the Loved One has loved the Woman from the beginning, from the time of her “birth”.
He continues to love her and protect her, and she is moving towards the time when her restoration will be complete.
She will know herself, once again, as the Loved One’s honoured bride.
These passages, therefore, after the sense of loss which has been dominating the Woman’s experience since the middle of this poem, now offer the first glimpses of more hopeful prospects in the future.




posted on Aug, 27 2013 @ 04:57 PM
link   
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 Aug, 28 2013 @ 05:22 PM
link   
For information;

The next thread in this series will reach the end of the poem.
However, there will also be a further Index thread to act as a reference for the whole series.



posted on Sep, 13 2013 @ 12:22 PM
link   
This whole series is now indexed at the following location;

The Unseen Husband





 
2

log in

join