19 January 2013

Song of Solomon 8:5-7

"For love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a ranging flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If one offered for love all the wealth of one’s house, it would be utterly scorned." (vv. 6-7)


In our final passage this week, it's not entirely clear who might be speaking. Perhaps it is the maiden's friends or family; watching her approach with her beloved and reminiscing about her birth and childhood ("I remember when she was knee-high to a grasshopper, look at her now!").

But in verse 6 we appear to be hearing the maiden's voice once again as she speaks of the strength of her love for her husband: "Set me as a seal upon your heart...". The act of placing a seal on something was a sign of ownership: she wants to own his heart as he already owns hers. As with yesterday's passage, perhaps there is a sense of insecurity over her place in his affections, but the text gives no other reason to suppose that they are not totally and equally devoted to one another.

The final, beautiful verses give a stunning picture of the sheer force of the couple's passion. The force of their love appears to go beyond mere emotion to something much more decisive and powerful: it is "strong as death" and "fierce as the grave". It is hard to imagine any suitor that might want to compete for their affections for fear of being burned!

Although it is perhaps difficult to find anything explicitly spiritual in the Song of Solomon, time and again we have had the opportunity to learn from the text concerning with our godly relationships, as well as our own human ones. But perhaps no lesson from Song of Solomon can be as striking as the one we see in today's passage. If anything can convince us that love is as strong as death, it is the empty cross of Christ crucified and risen, sacrificed to redeem humanity and overcome the grave.

To Ponder

  • Do you believe that love can be "as strong as death" and "as fierce as the grave"? What might that mean for you in your life today?
  • Have you ever experienced the priceless love of which the author of today's passage speaks? What was it like?
  • Read John chapter 19 and consider the true meaning of a love "as strong as death".

Bible notes author

Anna Drew

Anna Drew is Director of Communications for the Diocese of Canterbury. She is a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4's Daily Service and Prayer for the Day and a freelance writer on faith issues.