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Song of Songs [10/15]; One among ten thousand

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posted on Jul, 28 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 fifth chapter, ch5 vv9-16 (and also the next three verses).
(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.

The present passage illustrates to what extent this poem can be called a collection of poems.
In the previous passage, at the end of her “night search”, when she was unable to find the Loved One, the Woman urged the daughters of Jerusalem to speak to him and tell him that she was sick with love.

In response to this request, the daughters of Jerusalem ask two questions.
But these questions are really connecting links, which serve to introduce two other brief pieces.

v9 The first question is to ask what makes this Loved One greater than any other.

v10 This brings in a description of the Loved One, the counterpart of his own description of the Woman, in the fourth chapter.
One of the similarities is that the description begins at the top and works downwards.
However, there is one significant difference;
The Loved One was addressing the Woman directly- “You are”.
Whereas here the Woman is talking about the Loved One- “He is”.
She has no consciousness that she is in his presence.

The first point is the overall radiance of his figure.
There is praise by contrast; he is unique among ten thousand, presumably as a red-blooded warrior.

vv11-13 If his hair is black, it must be his face that is golden.
His eyes can be compared, for whiteness, with doves and milk.
His cheeks are fragrant with spice.
His lips can be compared, for softness, with lilies.
Once again, there is a reference to myrrh, one of the spices which accompanied the divine “column of smoke” (ch3 v6).

vv14-15 Commentators have suggested that the description of the Loved One was inspired by a statue.
The resemblance is most obvious in these verses, covering the body below the head.
This body is made of fine materials.
His body and arms are composed of ivory and gold, decorated with jewels.
His legs are alabaster columns on golden feet.
His overall figure has the sturdiness and magnificence of the forests of Mt. Lebanon.
The resemblance could be another example of “equal excellence”; the Loved One has all the qualities desirable for his own person, in the same way that such a statue has all the qualities desirable for an ideal statue.

But there is also an implied contrast.
Here is a living figure, while the similar statues of all the other gods are completely lifeless.

v16 The voice, indeed, is not the voice of a statue.
As Isaiah observed, the statues of the gods were unable to speak.
The voice is left to be the climax of the description, as the feature which she values most.
This is not just about the sweetness of the sound, but about the content of his words.
What he says is more important than anything in the way he looks.
That’s another reason to identify him with the God of Israel, who makes himself known by the way that he speaks to his people.

Finally, the Woman confirms that this description (in its present context) is her answer to the question posed by the daughters of Jerusalem.

ch6 vv1-3 The daughters of Jerusalem respond with a second question, offering to help her find him, if she will tell them where he has gone.
Strictly speaking, she could not have given this information, because the whole point of her appeal is that she does not know where he is.
However, she answers the question anyway.

Her statement that the Loved One has gone down to his garden of spices, echoes and follows on from the Loved One’s own declaration at the beginning of the previous chapter.
The second part of v2 combines and links this “garden” theme with the “feeding among the lilies” theme of the next verse.

The refrain found in ch2 v16 is repeated in v3, and acts as a conclusion to the Woman’s observations on her Loved One.
The RSV, of course, repeats the mistranslation “pastures his flock”.

This discussion is taking place because the Woman has lost contact with the Loved One.
It reveals, once again, how intensely the Woman values the relationship.
Despite the apparent separation, her love perseveres.

posted on Jul, 30 2013 @ 05:15 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, 31 2013 @ 05:18 PM
For information;
The next thread in this series will complete the sixth chapter

posted on Sep, 11 2013 @ 05:30 PM
This whole series is now indexed at the following location;

The Unseen Husband

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