Skip to main content

Song of Songs 1:5-2:7: In Love

5 I am black and beautiful, O daughters of Jerusalem, like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon. 6 Do not gaze at me because I am dark, because the sun has gazed on me. My mother’s sons were angry with me; they made me keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept! 7 Tell me, you whom my soul loves, where you pasture your flock,   where you make it lie down at noon; for why should I be like one who is veiled beside the flocks of your companions? 
8 If you do not know, O fairest among women, follow the tracks of the flock, and pasture your kids beside the shepherds’ tents. 
9 I compare you, my love, to a mare among Pharaoh’s chariots. 10 Your cheeks are comely with ornaments, your neck with strings of jewels. 11 We will make you ornaments of gold,   studded with silver. 
12 While the king was on his couch, my nard gave forth its fragrance. 13 My beloved is to me a bag of myrrh that lies between my breasts. 14 My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms   in the vineyards of En-gedi. 
15 Ah, you are beautiful, my love; ah, you are beautiful; your eyes are doves. 16 Ah, you are beautiful, my beloved, truly lovely.Our couch is green; 17 the beams of our house are cedar,   our rafters are pine. 
I am a rose of Sharon,
   a lily of the valleys. 
a lily of the valleys. 
2 As a lily among brambles, so is my love among maidens. 
3 As an apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among young men. With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste. 4 He brought me to the banqueting house, and his intention towards me was love. 5 Sustain me with raisins, refresh me with apples; for I am faint with love. 6 O that his left hand were under my head, and that his right hand embraced me! 7 I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the wild does: do not stir up or awaken love until it is ready! (NRSV)
This section of the Song begins with the woman being a bit defensive and defiant. In her culture, being tan was not beautiful. Perhaps it may have signaled that one was part of the lower classes. She feels the weight of her culture's definition of beauty. It will not define her. She is dark skinned and beautiful, wildly exotic and rare. Staring isn't welcome. She has been burned, both by the sun and by her brothers. However, in spite of her brothers' actions, she still has pursued her love and won him with her natural beauty. While she has won him, though, she is still under her brothers' control and not with her man as much as she desires. She wants to be with him but does not know where he will be pasturing his flock next. She asks him to tell her where he will be. Surely he doesn't want her going around tent to tent looking for him. The reply is that it is to these tents that she must go because that is where he will be, after all he is a shepherd. When she finds him her desire will be satisfied.[1] By taking her goats she would cover her tracks.[2]

Starting in verse 9, the man affirms her earlier self proclaimed beauty, and that's all that matters. Who cares what society thinks. While her beauty may be natural, she knows how to make herself look good (contradicting her earlier claim). The man will spare no expense to adorn her to maximize her elegance.[3]

In verse 12 the woman resumes. In addition to her jewels, she is adorned by something else. Her lover is as the finest of perfumes, but a scent that she alone indulges in their intimate moments. A pleasure that overwhelms her.

They continue trading compliments. They are enraptured with one another, totally in love, enjoying themselves in the beauty of nature.[4] We get a glimpse into the garden of Eden. They are two ordinary people, but there is great beauty in the ordinary. Great pleasure to be found in the common flower and on the branches of fruit trees.

They know why they are where they are. It is with a single purpose that they have come together. It is to explore the depth of their love for each other, and to enliven themselves on delicacies.[5] Pleasure is maximized, and it is exhausting! And it leaves her begging for more.[6]

When you are in love, your world completely changes. You are conquered. Nothing is more exhilarating or exhausting. It fills you up and leaves you unsatisfied. The woman would tell us to make sure we know what we're doing before we get involved. Love is the most wonderful thing one can experience but it is costly, and the woman of the song is probably just beginning to learn about the cost of love.

Love stories and poems like this one are so refreshing because one can tell that neither the man nor the woman are using their power for their on advantage. The man, in particular has great power over the woman, but we never get the feeling that he's taking advantage of her. Love will not wield power for its own purposes. Love is the perfect antidote to the abuse of power. Love enables us to experience Eden, if only on a small scale.

--------------------------
[1] As Exum points out, the double entendre is very heavy in these verses.

[2] As helpfully noted by Longman.

[3] The struggle of some, like Pope, to understand that the comparison to the horse is only to point to something highly ornamented and nothing else surprises me.

[4] I think that Bergant's tentative suggestion is correct - that the lovers are meeting in an outdoor setting, perhaps in the woods.

[5] The NRSV does not capture 2:5 well. These are raisin cakes not just raisins that she is asking for.

[6] This passage makes me want to write a fun post contrasting 2:1-6 with Business Time by Flight of the Conchords. I can't think of a more complete contrast. We shall see if I have the time.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Commentary Series Overview

When I write commentary reviews, one of my main goals is to assess how well the commentator hit the intended audience of the commentary and utilized the format of the commentary. This often necessitates cluttering up the post discussing issues of format. To eliminate that, I thought that I would make some general remarks about the format and audience of each of the series that appear in my reviews. Terms like liberal, conservative, etc. are not used pejoratively but simply as descriptors. Many of you are familiar with Jeremy Pierce's commentary series overview. If you don't see a particular series covered here, check out his post to see if it's reviewed there. I am making no attempt at covering every series, just the series that I use. Additionally, new series (such as the NCCS) have been started in the five years since he wrote his very helpful guide, so I thought that it might not be completely out of order to have another person tackle commentary series overviews. This…

Paul's Argument in Galatians 3:15-29

15 Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. 16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ. 17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18 For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise. 19 Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. 20 A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one. 21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! Fo…

Doctor Who: Rose Tyler - Traitor?

The end of season four was very, very controversial. When I first saw it, I felt cheated. I was angry. The more I think about it, the more I think I see what Russell Davies was doing. He is too good of a writer and the show is too carefully crafted for him to screw up Rose's character and the end of a four season storyline. So while the ending isn't strictly part of our series, it is tangentially related, and I've agonized over that scene in Bad Wolf Bay so much that I have to write about it. :)

To briefly set things up, near the end of the final episode of season four, there is a meta-crisis, that results in a part human. part Time Lord Doctor being generated. He has all of the Doctor's memories, and thinks and acts like the Doctor. However, importantly, he only has one heart and cannot regenerate. He only has one life to live. The meta-crisis Doctor brought full resolution to the battle fought against the Daleks, and in the process, wiped them out. Thus, the real Doc…