7 April 2017

Song of Solomon 8:1-4

“O that you were like a brother to me, who nursed at my mother’s breast!” (v. 1)

Psalm: Psalm 135:8-21


In the first verse of this section, we have the first hint of tension in the romance between the black woman and the shepherd. Their relationship seems to violate the cultural norms governing marriage at that time. The woman wishes her lover was her "brother" (by which she probably means a close relative) because that would be the ideal circumstance for their marriage in the culture in which they are living.

The woman has been brazen in her courtship of the shepherd, but when the time comes for the consummation of the relationship she slips back into her cultural norms. She would like to be able to express something of her intimate love for her beloved publically and if they were related she imagines she could do that and bring him into her mother's house.

Looking at these verses from the perspective of Jesus' relationship with the Church we are reminded of how Jesus kicked against cultural norms so that people who were excluded socially from all kinds of relationships - like with Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) and the woman at the well of Samaria (John 4:1-30) - were embraced by his love. He publically acknowledged and ate with "tax collectors and sinners" (Matthew 9:11), and redrew the cultural norms of religious society by appealing to the universal love of God. The measure of inclusion and exclusion is love such that no-one is excluded. When God took on human form and came to earth to live as a human being, God made plain that God's love is in every part of creation and all creation is united in love.

In the words of one of my favourite Passiontide hymns:

My Song is love unknown,
my Saviour's love for me,
love to the loveless shown,
that they might lovely be.
O who am I,
that for my sake
my Lord should take
frail flesh and die?

Who am I? I am the Lord's beloved, the Church.

To Ponder

  • What cultural norms are challenged by Christ today?
  • Who are today's "tax collectors and sinners"? What is Jesus' attitude to them? 

Bible notes author

The Revd Diane Clutterbuck

Diane is an ordained presbyter in the Methodist Church. She works as as a coach, supervisor and trainer mainly in the public and voluntary sectors with people and organisations who are committed to growth and development.