Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the fields (v. 11a)

Song of Solomon 7:10-13 Thursday 2 April 2020

Psalm: Psalm 105:4-9


After the passages of the last two days, in which the narrator (a Shulamite woman) sought out the man her soul loves with varying degrees of success, it is a relief to find the two lovers reunited and journeying together into the fields and vineyards. The pastoral setting seems entirely fitting, given that he appears to be a shepherd (1:7) and she was made “keeper of the vineyards” (1:6). It also acts as a metaphor for their developing relationship, as they go together to see “whether the grape blossoms have opened and the pomegranates are in bloom” (v. 12).

The Song of Solomon is famous for its natural imagery, some of which (like the rural setting of this passage) seems entirely fitting, but much of which seems utterly bizarre to 21st-century British readers. Earlier, her lover has compared the Shulamite woman’s breasts to twin gazelles (7:3), her nose to a tower (7:4) and her belly to “a heap of wheat” (7:2) – comparisons that are yet to find their way onto a Hallmark Valentine’s Day card! Modern readers are accustomed to metaphor being predominantly visual – but for the ancient poets, imagery usually suggested a certain quality or value (such as fruitfulness, liveliness, or excellence) that did not have to be connected to the way something looked.

The strangeness of some of the imagery in the Song of Solomon is a stark reminder that the original audience of the books that make up the Bible will have understood many of their words and images in a different way to modern readers. Context is something to consider seriously when it comes to the Biblical precepts that we allow to shape our lives – and when it comes to writing Valentine’s Day cards to your beloved.


To Ponder:

  • Read through the rest of chapter 7 of the Song of Solomon. Which image strikes you most powerfully? Why?
  • How important is it to know how the original audience of books in the Bible would have understood their words? Why? Can God speak to us through their words regardless?
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