Friday, June 29, 2012

Song of Songs 2:8-3:5: Separation


8The voice of my beloved! Look, he comes, leaping upon the mountains, bounding over the hills. 9My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Look, there he stands behind our wall, gazing in at the windows, looking through the lattice. 10My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; 11for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. 12The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. 13The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.
14O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the covert of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely. 15Catch us the foxes, the little foxes, that ruin the vineyards— for our vineyards are in blossom.” 16My beloved is mine and I am his; he pastures his flock among the lilies. 17Until the day breathes and the shadows flee, turn, my beloved, be like a gazelle or a young stag on the cleft mountains.
1Upon my bed at night I sought him whom my soul loves; I sought him, but found him not; I called him, but he gave no answer. 2“I will rise now and go about the city, in the streets and in the squares; I will seek him whom my soul loves.” I sought him, but found him not. 3The sentinels found me, as they went about in the city. “Have you seen him whom my soul loves?” 4Scarcely had I passed them, when I found him whom my soul loves. I held him, and would not let him go until I brought him into my mother’s house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me. 5I 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)
After a clean break with 2:7, we are thrust right back into the action! The man has burst upon the scene in search of his beloved. The man is young and vivacious. The woman so loves the man that she can't even relay his message without praising him. We now hear his voice. It's an invitation to the woman to enjoy the sights and smells of newness of life. As Longman puts it, he 'evokes a scene of newness, vigor, freshness, joy, expectation - a context for joyous lovemaking' (122). Spring is the time for love to blossom and to be fully experienced. An experience the man is calling the woman to join him in.[1]

The man is asking the woman to come join him, to leave her inaccessible station and to let him be exposed to her beauty more intimately. The desire that brought him to her mother's house with such rapidity drives him to beg that even at this moment he can have a small, first-hand experience.

The woman responds to the man, calling him a fox that roams freely. She can't allow him to roam freely for long. She must catch him and make him hers for good.[2] Mutual possession is what she's after. A possession that is permanent, unhindered. For now, though, she must bid him adeau, until the night comes when they can meet and enjoy each other without reserve.

In 3:1 we shift to a nocturnal scene. The man is not where he is desired, in bed with the woman. As seems to be the pattern night after night. She can't take it anymore, so she goes out in search of the man, throwing off all social restraint. Who knows where he is? She can't even wait long enough to hear the response of the watchmen. Finally she catches her fox![3]

I will discuss 3:5 in a separate post.

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[1] So Bergant p. 30.
[2] Verse 15 is one of the toughest to crack in the whole Song, though I do believe that Exum has satisfactorily elucidated this enigmatic sentence.
[3] The sexual overtones of verse 4 are strong, between the parallelism in vs. 4 and the bed/bedchamber parallelism between vs. 1 and 4.

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