5 April 2017

Song of Solomon 5:2-8

“Making their rounds of the city the sentinels found me; they beat me, they wounded me, they took away my mantle, those sentinels of the walls.” (v. 7)

Psalm: Psalm 134


These verses are full of drama and terror. The lovers have an encounter, there is misunderstanding, the beloved leaves and the woman goes out to search for him and as she searches she is brutally attacked and raped by the city guards (verse 7).

The Bible contains several stories of women who are treated badly by men, and the first readers of the Song of Solomon would have heard echoes of these stories clearly and noticed a strong link, for example, between the woman in the poem and the woman of Judges 19 (Judges 19:22-30): both are spirited and independent women, both are left to look after themselves, both are raped and abused, both are left dying at the door and both are searching for their lovers. The one difference is the silence of the woman in Judges compared with the eloquence of the woman in the Song of Solomon.

Sadly these stories of silenced and abused women of the Bible, speak eloquently into today's world where too many women are subjected to terror and violence, and where rape is often used as a weapon of war. The battered and abused women of the Bible challenge us to wonder why their stories are told. Texts that speak so powerfully into the experience of so many women today must not be ignored.

Perhaps it is too much to lay the weight of violence against women on this one verse? In its own context, it carries a clear message: that with deep and passionate love comes suffering and disappointment. These are emotions which lie at the heart of Jesus' love and which are laid bare on the cross.

To Ponder

  • What are we to do with the biblical stories of terror against Hagar (Genesis 16), Jephthah's daughter (Judges 11:30-39), the Levite's concubine (Judges 19:22-30), Gomer (Hosea 1:2-8) and the woman of the Song of Solomon? Why do you think they are there?
  • Where is the God of love in the violence?

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.