Friday 03 April 2020

Bible Book:
Song of Solomon

… do not stir up or awaken love until it is ready! (v. 4b)

Song of Solomon 8:1-4 Friday 3 April 2020

Psalm: Psalm 126


On three occasions, the narrator in the Song of Solomon implores the “daughters of Jerusalem” not to “stir up or awaken love until it is ready” (2:7, 3:5 and 8:4). Each time, the verse begins with a Hebrew verb used in taking oaths, suggesting the seriousness of the woman’s request to her female companions. In some ways, this request for patience and self-control seems at odds with the desperate longing we find elsewhere in her narrative – and not least her willingness to brave the streets of Jerusalem at night in search of her beloved (see notes from Tuesday and Wednesday).

Unsurprisingly, the Song of Solomon has been drawn into conversations in the Christian Church around marriage, relationships and human sexuality. Some argue that it supports a belief in chastity outside of marriage and fidelity within (suggesting, for instance, that the violence of 5:7 is punishment meted out by the guards of Jerusalem, acting as ‘moral guardians’, to women who break the sexual code of conduct). Others argue that the woman and her lover are clearly not married (hence the desire in verse 1 for a more ‘official footing’ to their relationship) but that the text delights in their sexual relationship, and that friends (the “daughters of Jerusalem”) and family (particularly her mother, in whose chamber the lovers appear to meet in 3:4) encourage and facilitate their physical relationship.

King Solomon’s wedding procession is mentioned in 3:11; however, modern readings tend to assume that Solomon is not one of the lovers in the song. On this basis, his wedding forms part of the backdrop to the romance between a Shulamite woman and her lover, a humble shepherd (1:7) and the status of their relationship remains ambiguous. Perhaps this is because the Song is poetry (and not a chronological account of a relationship); perhaps the text simply does not consider the question of whether the lovers were married to be of paramount importance.


To Ponder:

  • The Song of Solomon speaks clearly and confidently of the Shulamite woman’s longing for her lover. Can you think of other texts in the Bible that speak with a woman’s voice?
  • The text’s association with King Solomon is likely to be one of the reasons it was included in the Bible. Given that many commentators now believe that Solomon was not its author or one of the lovers described in the book, what difference does it make that the text bears his name?
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