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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Song of Solomon 8

 

 

Verses 1-3

The YOUNG WIFE continues, but now there is a desire to enter more deeply into what her beloved can offer her, for she is aware of his great wisdom. She still wants to kiss him and bring him to her mother’s house, but now she also wants to be instructed by him as she lies in his arms.

“Oh that you were as my brother, Who sucked the breasts of my mother! Then should I find you outside I would kiss you, Yes, and none would despise me. I would lead you, and bring you into my mother’s house, You would instruct me, I would cause you to drink of spiced wine, Of the juice of my pomegranate. His left hand would be under my head, And his right hand would embrace me.”

Her love for Solomon is so great that she cannot stand the limitations put on her as a wife. If only he was her blood brother, she says, then she could boldly kiss him outdoors in front of people without anyone despising her, and he would take her into her mother’s house and teach her his wisdom, and no one would think it strange. And she could give him pomegranate wine, and he could embrace her publicly.

These were things that she could do as his sister without anyone frowning, but no one would expect him to do that publicly with his wife (although he had done it to her at the beginning (Song of Solomon 2:6) in his courting). Behavior towards a wife was more restricted in public. If only he was her brother it would give her so much more freedom to enjoy him to the full.

There is a reminder here that God had so much more for Israel than her just being His wife. He wanted Israel also to be strong and firm and to learn from Him, to be instructed in His Law, and to be priests and instructors to the world (Exodus 19:5-6). She was called not only to love Him but to serve. This hint that Israel has to be taught by her Lord may be preparing for the introduction of the new Temple with its new significance.

We should also see as emphasized here that we must not see our Lord, Jesus Christ, only as the One we love, as a wife loves her husband, but also as our brother and teacher Whom we are proud to acknowledge openly, and learn from continually. He is far more than just our Bridegroom. He is our Elder Brother.

This was recognized in the Jewish Aramaic paraphrase in the Targum which refers it to the Messiah and amplifies it to “I would conduct you, O King Messiah, and bring you into the house of my sanctuary, and you would teach me to fear God and to walk in His ways.” So while the idea of reciprocated love continues it is now embellished with the idea of learning of Him, and being instructed by Him, so that we might walk in His ways.

We may also call to mind here that in Hebrews 2:11-18 Jesus is depicted as our Elder Brother Who is the trek leader of our salvation, made perfect through suffering, and Who, as the One Who was set apart by God through His death and resurrection, has also Himself set us apart to God in order that we too might have a part in the same. Because He became a man like ourselves He is not ashamed to call us brothers. And it then goes on to add that He became our brother, so that, by partaking of human nature like ours, He might by dying destroy the power of the Devil and deliver us from the fear of death, becoming at the same time our faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God. While this is to go beyond the song where the emphasis is on His being our teacher in wisdom and knowledge, it is central to what His wisdom and knowledge is all about. ‘In Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ (Colossians 2:3).


Verse 4

“I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, That you stir not up, nor awake my love, Until he please.”

Once more the bride adjures the daughters of Jerusalem not to stir up her love until it please her beloved (compare Song of Solomon 2:7; Song of Solomon 3:5). But the roe-deer and the hinds are not mentioned now, possibly a reminder of the more serious nature of what they would from now on be doing. She does not want her instruction to be interrupted.

SECTION 7.

The Return To Jerusalem.

The couple return to Jerusalem in total harmony, and in view of her powerful love for him she asks him to set her as a seal on his heart and hand. Once this has been settled the uniqueness and divine nature of love is then emphasized followed by an example of how she is taught by his wisdom. An illustration is given of how such love can be preserved in its pristine purity, using her younger sister as an example, at which point she is able to confirm to him that her love at least is full and true.

This is followed by a vivid illustration of the efforts that the young wife will now make to ensure that she keeps herself ‘perfect’ for her beloved. In Song of Solomon 1:6 b she had failed to ‘keep’ her personal vineyard and had allowed her complexion to be spoiled by the sun. Now she assures her beloved that she will make every effort to ensure that her beauty is fully maintained for his benefit.

The song then finishes with her calling on her beloved, as she had at the beginning (Song of Solomon 1:2-4), and telling him that ‘the companions’ (the young male courtiers and shepherds - Song of Solomon 1:7) are listening for his voice, (contrast ‘the virgins love you -- we will run after you’ - Song of Solomon 1:3-4 a) but that she expects him to call her in such a way that she hears him (compare ‘draw me’ - Song of Solomon 1:4 a). His reward will be that he will be able to behave like a roe deer or young hart (which are eager for mating) on the mountain of spices (their royal bed - compare Song of Solomon 4:6).


Verse 5

The Happy Couple Return To Jerusalem In Full Harmony.

General question.

“Who is this who comes up from the wilderness, Leaning on her beloved?”

The Beloved speaks to his bride.

“Under the apple-tree I aroused you, There your mother was in birth pains with you, There she was in birth pains who brought you forth.”

By comparison with Song of Solomon 3:6 which similarly opens with the words ‘Who is this who comes up from the wilderness?’, verse 5 would seem to indicate a return to Jerusalem. But now she comes, not as his new bride, but as one who has been taught. Nevertheless she still leans on her beloved. For however much instruction she has received, her dependence is still totally on Him.

And as they return her beloved reminds her that he had ‘aroused her’ under the apple tree. It was from that that she was to gain her strength. It was under that apple tree that her mother had first begun to experience the birth pains that would result in her being born. The idea is that being under the apple tree had a special significance and there is therefore a sense in which by his act of love he has brought her to a new birth (compare Isaiah 55:10-11).

In Song of Solomon 2:3 we were told that the apple tree was in fact her beloved under whose shadow she took great delight, and whose fruit was sweet to her taste. Thus the apple tree is the source of all her blessings from her beloved. It is from him that she receives all.

We too as we return to face the world after being alone with Him must recognize that we must constantly lean upon His arm, and must look to the strength and life gained from Him while we were ‘under the apple tree’, the place of new birth and renewal, to enable us in what lies ahead. We too are His beloved wife and can be sure of His care and provision for us.

His New Wife Asks Him To Mark Her As A Seal On His Heart And Arm.

The new WIFE now calls on her beloved to mark her as a seal on his heart and on his arm. She wants him to have a permanent reminder that she is his. For the seal is a stamp of ownership, and she wants the stamp of his ownership of her to be in his heart, and in everything that he does. She wants nothing ever to come between them again. We are then told why she wants to be sealed on his heart and arm. It is because of the strength and power of love, which is the very flame of God (Yah) Himself. Thus it must be preserved at all costs.

This reference to God, the only such reference in the song, may well be seen as drawing attention to the whole significance of the song. In the end the love that has been described throughout the song is to be seen as revealing the very flame that is in the heart of God as He too looks with love and jealousy on His people (Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:14) a love that cannot be destroyed or bought. In this way the writer himself parallels the love of God with this love between bridegroom and bride.


Verse 6-7

“Set me as a seal on your heart, As a seal on your arm, For love is strong as death, Jealousy is cruel as Sheol, Its flashes are flashes of fire, A very flame of Yah. Many waters cannot quench love, Nor can floods drown it If a man would give all the substance of his house for love, He would utterly be condemned.”

Solomon’s new wife now calls on him to set her as a seal on his heart and arm in order to demonstrate that both his love and his strength belong to her, and she cites as her reason the extraordinary, unquenchable and intense power of love and its counterpart jealousy. Her love is so great that she cannot bear the thought of being separated from him again.

Her first reasoning is that she demands it because her love is as strong as death. Once death has its claws into a victim he has no hope. Nothing can rescue him from the grip of death. In the same way she sees her love as being equally as strong, so strong that even Solomon is to be bound by it. Her second reasoning is that she demands it because jealousy is as cruel as the grave (Sheol). To the victim who is gripped by it, it is like Sheol, heartless and unyielding. It never lets anyone go. And she knows that she does not want to be consumed by a jealousy like that. Thus to ensure this she wants a firm seal on his heart guaranteeing that he is hers.

For love is such that it strikes like lightning, like the very flame of God, as it has done with her. It is so powerful that many waters cannot quench it. Floods cannot drown it. And for a man to think that he could buy it, even though he gave all that he possessed for it, would simply bring him under condemnation. For true love is so important and of such a nature that it cannot be bought even for the sum total of a man’s wealth. Thus it is important that it be preserved at all costs.

The introduction of the name of God here might well be seen as emphasizing the divine significance of the song. It is about love which comes from Yah (God’s covenant Name), which strikes like lightning and is irresistible, unquenchable and not available to be bought, and about His jealousy over His own which threatens judgment on all who turn from His love (Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:14). So in the end this song is not only about love that comes from God, but about the covenant love of Yah Himself. (As in Isaiah 5:1-7 the punch line comes at the end).

The setting of the seal on the heart and on the arm possibly has in mind the way in which the names of the tribes of Israel were set in the breastpouch and on the shoulder of the High Priest (Exodus 28:7-10; Exodus 28:29-30) thus likening Solomon’s wife to Israel in its relationship to God. It can also be compared with Isaiah 49:16 where God tells Zion that He has engraved her upon the palm of His hand, as a token that she was not forsaken or forgotten.

In the New Testament the idea is reversed because there is no doubt about the constancy of the love of Christ and of God (1 Corinthians 1:8-9). No seal has to be set on that. It is God therefore Who sets His seal on those who are His by giving them the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 4:30; 2 Corinthians 1:22; 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27). But the result of the seal is equally as secure. Once we have received the Holy Spirit we are His for ever. This is a reminder that those who would be part of the bride of Christ must ensure that they are possessed by His Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9).

An Example Of How A True And Chaste Love Can Be Preserved.

The importance of preserving such true love as has been described in verses 6-7 is now illustrated in terms of someone who has not yet known such love, his wife’s little sister. The question is put as to how her true love can be preserved for the one who will have the right to it, her prospective husband. The reply is basically that it is the responsibility of the family to protect her by any means. The importance of this illustration lies in the fact that it enables Solomon’s new wife to stress her total purity and reliability.

There may also be an indication in this incident that God’s love reaches out beyond Israel. The little half-sister possibly represents the subject nations whom Solomon is seeking to bring into subjection to the God of Israel. With their propensities they will have to be kept on a tighter rein than Israel.

Some see a parallel between these verses and Song of Solomon 1:6. In Song of Solomon 1:6 the brothers had sent the young maiden to work in their vine gardens, regardless of her purity, which had resulted in the marring of her complexion. Here the very opposite situation arises. The younger sister is to be kept under lock and key in order to preserve her purity, probably as a result of the exaltation of her elder sister. Everything is changed as a result of her having met her exalted beloved.


Verses 8-10

Solomon’s new WIFE speaking on behalf of her family and looking to Solomon’s wisdom (verse 2).

“We have a little sister, And she has no breasts, What shall we do for our sister, In the day when she shall be spoken for?”

Her BELOVED gives his judgment as a new member of the family.

“If she be a wall, We will build on her a turret of silver, And if she be a door, We will enclose her with boards of cedar. I am a wall, and my breasts like its towers, Then was I in his eyes as one who found peace.”

These verses have to be carefully divided up in order to determine who is speaking. In our view it varies between the young wife and her beloved, as she comes to his wisdom to learn from him in accordance with verse 2. (Others see the ‘we’ as indicating the brothers, although they are nowhere mentioned in the context. However, regardless of whom we see as the speakers the basic message is the same).

Initially the young wife asks her wise beloved for advice on behalf of her family,“We have a little sister, and she has no breasts. What shall we do for our sister, in the day when she shall be spoken for?”Speaking as a new member of the family, and as one with them, her beloved replies on their behalf,“If she be a wall, we will build on her a turret of silver, and if she be a door, we will enclose her with boards of cedar.”His young wife then replies,“I am a wall, and my breasts like its towers.”Then we have her final comment resulting from this which contains a play on words,“Then was I in his eyes (the eyes of Shelomoh) as one who found peace (shalom).”

The questions are asked and the words are spoken in order to emphasize the importance of love, and to bring out how the new wife’s exalted position has altered everything. Here is an example of one who has not yet loved, for her breasts have not yet been formed. She is too young for love. In contrast with her sister (Song of Solomon 1:6), how can she be protected so as to ensure that her love is kept true for the one who will be her husband once she has been spoken for?

The decision is given. If she is assessed as being like a wall, strong and sturdy, and resistant to the appeal of impurity, then they can build on her a tower of silver (a symbol of strength and purity). She is totally trustworthy. But if she is assessed from her behavior as being like a door that opens itself to all who call, then she must be protected from herself and ‘enclosed in boards of cedar’ (kept under lock and key), ensuring that no one can take advantage of her. (She thus cannot be trusted under the cedars as the elder sister was in Song of Solomon 1:17). This would fit in well with the idea that she represents ‘the subject nations’.

As a result the new wife then assures her beloved that in her case her love has been true, for she is a wall with her breasts fully fortified against attack. She then sees that as having finally settled any doubt that might have been in his heart. In the eyes of Shelomoh she had found ‘shalom’ (peace, wellbeing, spiritual prosperity). He is fully satisfied and should know that he can trust her utterly.

The general lesson that comes from this story is that for true love to be preserved the necessary remedial action must be taken. Temptation must be dealt with in whatever way is appropriate in order that purity may be preserved. This applies not only to the young girl, but also to all Israel, and to His church. All have to ensure that their love is protected and maintained. But we also have to consider whether Solomon had in mind the surrounding subject nations in their response to Israel’s God. Sexual impropriety was a mark of the nations, but the exaltation of Israel is to lead on to blessing for the nations (Genesis 12:3).

However, the final stress resulting from this is that the young wife of the beloved can assure him that in her case her purity has been preserved totally for him. It is made clear that her life has been pure from the start, confirming that he can safely set her as a seal on his heart.

In the same way was Israel supposed to maintain its purity for God, although the prophet’s made quite clear that she had failed. She had not used the boards of cedar. Christ’s church are similarly to preserve their purity for Him by also taking suitable precautions against sin. Then they will be to Him as those who have found peace and well being in His eyes.


Verse 11-12

The Young Wife Will Keep The Fruits Of Her Vineyard Wholly For Her Beloved.

The song of songs now approaches its close with a vivid illustration of the efforts that the young wife will now make to ensure that she is ‘perfect’ for her beloved. In Song of Solomon 1:6 b she had failed to ‘keep’ her personal vineyard and had allowed her complexion to be spoiled by the sun. Now she assures her beloved that she will make every effort to ensure that her beauty is fully maintained for his benefit.

Solomon’s new WIFE speaks.

“Solomon had a vineyard at Baal-hamon, He let out the vineyard to keepers, Every one for its fruit, Was to bring a thousand pieces of silver. My vineyard, which is mine, is before me, You, O Solomon, shall have the thousand, And those who keep its fruit two hundred.”

The young wife now tells us that Solomon let out his vineyard at Baal Hamon with the expectancy of receiving its benefits from the keepers. Each of them would bring a thousand pieces of silver for its fruit. Meanwhile she is keeping her own vineyard, which in terms of Song of Solomon 1:6 b is herself, and she assures her beloved that in her case she will preserve all its benefits for him alone, apart from what she has to pay to those who ‘keep its fruit’ (her hairdressers, beauticians, perfumiers, and so on). She is doing all that she can to be pleasing to him.

In the same way was Israel to preserve herself for her God, but sadly she failed to do so, even when it was made clear to her how she could cleanse herself and make herself ready (Isaiah 1:15-18). Instead she went after false lovers (see Ezekiel 16).

And the same call now goes out to Christ’s church from their Master, to maintain their vineyard. ‘Be holy, for I am holy’ (1 Peter 1:16) ‘This is the will of God, even your sanctification’ (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4). The question is therefore as to whether, because of our love for our Beloved, we too are prepared to ensure that we preserve our spiritual beauty so as to be pleasing to Him, by learning from ‘the keepers of the fruit’ (godly teachers), by the study of His word, by close personal communion with Him, and by opening our live and hearts wide to Him so that He might live through us.


Verse 13-14

The Song Ends As It Began With The Young Woman, Now His Wife, Offering Herself To Him To Be His Completely.

The song now finishes with the young woman, who is now his beloved wife, calling on her beloved, (as she had at the beginning - Song of Solomon 1:2-4), and telling him that ‘the companions’ (the young shepherds - Song of Solomon 1:7) are listening for his voice, (compare ‘the virgins love you -- we will run after you’ in Song of Solomon 1:3-4 a) but that she expects him to call her in such a way that she alone hears him (compare ‘draw me’ - Song of Solomon 1:4 a). His reward will be that he will be able to behave like a roe-deer or young hart (which are eager for love - Song of Solomon 2:8-9; compare Proverbs 5:19) on the mountains of spices (their royal bed with its cushions - compare Song of Solomon 4:6; Song of Solomon 4:16).

“You who dwell in the gardens, The companions listen for your voice, Cause me to hear it. Make haste, my beloved, And be you like a roe deer or a young hart, On the mountains of spices.”

As a result of what we have already seen we can here solve the clues that enable us to interpret these words. ‘The gardens’ represent the sphere of the king’s activities (compare Song of Solomon 6:2), the ‘companions’ are the young shepherds/courtiers who attend him (Song of Solomon 1:7). Their ‘listening to his voice’ parallels the situation in Song of Solomon 1:3-4 a where the young women were responsive to his charms. These companions are always alert for the king’s call. The young wife’s words ‘cause me to hear it’ parallel her call in Song of Solomon 1:4 a, ‘draw me’. She is still concerned that he demonstrate that to him she is unique, and that he wants her above all else, because she is his woman. And she tells him to hurry, because she does not want to have to wait. For she wants him to reveal his prowess, like a young roe-deer or hart eager for love (compare Proverbs 5:19), ‘on the mountains of spices’. Compare how in Song of Solomon 4:16 the spices represent her sexual attractions, while in Song of Solomon 4:6 ‘the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense’ may well indicate his bed. Thus one significance of the mountains of spices here is probably the royal bed with its perfumed cushions.

So while the young Solomon before his marriage (in Song of Solomon 1:1-4) was surrounded by, and taken up with young women (the daughters of Jerusalem), now that he is married and satisfied, he is taken up with his male courtiers and shepherds. For now his true ‘love’ is the only love in his life. And she does not want it to be long before they are once again enjoying each other to the full.

However, as we have seen throughout, the song has dual application, and in the second application, the application to Israel, ‘the mountains of spices’ can be seen as indicating the mountains on which Jerusalem was built, and especially as indicating the Temple Mount on which incense was offered, with the idea that God is awaiting all Israel on the Temple Mount in order to reveal His love if only they will respond to Him truly.

Its final application is, however, for us who are His people today. Our cry to Him must be that He will summon us (cause us to hear) so that we may be able to come alone with Him and spend time in His presence with Him in the new Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:22-23), and enjoy our glorious position as those who are seated with Christ in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6), in the heavenly mountains of spices, prior to that final call when we will share for ever with our Beloved in His glory (Colossians 3:4; Revelation 21:23; Revelation 22:5).

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 8:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/song-of-solomon-8.html. 2013.

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