Passionate Preggers Song of Songs 6:13-7:6

I am jumping ahead to chapter 7 of the Song of Songs and using the NET for the English translation. This is the series so far. It’s not a perfect translation, they don’t exist, and in fact I will disagree with a translation choice in the first verse here, but I really like their honest translation notes which reveal their limitations and the choices they had to pick from. I also appreciate their attempt to update the language to the more current vernacular. They consider their translation open source and appreciate input from other translators and interpreters.

Not unlike a few commentators I see the progression of this epic poem as a lifetime of love with snapshots from different periods in the relationship. I don’t believe this is one week or month of passion but glimpses at the courtship, the wedding, the honeymoon, the fights and starting here at 7 and finishing in 8, the natural outcome of such passion. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage. I readily accept any charge that I read too much into the poem but a poet only gives clues. The author of prose can paint a picture of words, but a poet is an impressionist. This poet, Solomon, writes like an impressionist, like most of the Bible’s writers, who writes in layers. The reader of the Bible is always peeling back another layer and finding another nuance. The book is intended to be read again and again over a lifetime. At this stage in my life I’m finding some layers I never saw before. My context is a marriage of nearly 14 years with three children approaching adolescence. My other intentional bias is to acknowledge that I want to see myself as the hero in all the stories therefore I need to look for myself in the villain and seek Jesus in the righteous characters, which is why I frequently see Jesus in the woman in this poem. Historically, the church has seen Jesus as Solomon and the church or the individual believer as Beloved. In this chapter, I tend to agree with the historical views.

The Lover to His Beloved:
6:13 (7:1) Turn, turn, O Perfect One! Turn, turn, that I may stare at you! The Beloved to Her Lover: Why do you gaze upon the Perfect One like the dance of the Mahanaim?

As the NET notes, the Hebrew Bible starts chapter 7 at this verse. So will I. I prefer that the translation “Perfect One” had been left Shulammite from which all the different layers to the name could be unpacked. “Perfect” or “Unblemished” are possible. But so is “Peaceful” as well as my favorite “Solomoness.” The consonants of the Hebrew are almost identical with Solomon’s name. His name is related to Shalom, which brings us full circle back to peace. In his eyes she is perfect, unblemished, peaceful, and one with him. He has given her his name. When we believe in Jesus we are covered by his sacrifice, all our sins are washed away, and we wear his perfection and righteousness. One of my favorite Luther analogies is that we are like dung piles covered in fresh snow. The dung is there but it is covered. When we are covered by Jesus, we are at peace with the Father and are no longer condemned to an eternity in hell. We can call ourselves Christians, Christ-ones. Peter tells us to rejoice when we suffer for having this name (1 Peter 4:16). Jesus enjoys fellowship with us. When we turn our backs on him he only desires that we turn back to him. Like Beloved we ask, why do you want to gaze on me? Which brings me back to the marital advice level. Husbands tend to forget that they used to ogle their wives. Familiarity replaces novelty and what came so natural is now neglected. When husbands make the effort to once again gaze at their wives, who are self-conscious of what time and age have done to her he affirms to her that she is still a source of his pleasure and delight. Therefore men, do not neglect to gaze on your wife and affirm her beauty. Calling her “Perfect One” might be too much, but “hot stuff” might not.

Of course, she responds, blushing, with an analogy that makes no sense. Mahanaim literally means “like the dance of the two armies/camps.” In the same verse, the NET decided to make a translation choice and not make one. Do Solomon’s eyes light up when he sees two camps of armies? We know that he is someone who always wanted a little more. He found it impossible to deny himself (see Ecclesiastes 2:10). Perhaps he has the same glint in his eye for her that he gets when he sees a new toy to add to his collection. But, he already has her, yet she still lights a fire in his heart. I also think she is insecure for another reason in addition to competition from the latest maidens in the harem and maybe some aging. I think there is a clue in verse 2 of chapter 7. Before I proceed I want to toss out one possibility for applying this typology to Christ and the church. The church is the bride of Christ. The Apocalypse of John describes a wedding feast in heaven for the union of the bride and the bridegroom. Jesus uses a metaphor of the bridegroom coming in the middle of the night to snatch his bride away in the parable of the ten virgins. We also know that the church is the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham that all nations will be blessed through him. The saga of the nations of Israel and Judah were preparation for Jesus and his church. We know from Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ezekiel the metaphors God used for Israel as a bride also who rejected him but that he would bring back. I don’t feel this conjecture is worth much but the insecure bride that Jesus smiles on recognizes the smile he had for the twin camps of Israel and Judah, when they were in exile or about to head there. He loved them enough to warn them repeatedly. We know, as a church, we are so imperfect. We are supposed to be characterized by our love for each other yet we are also known for our sniping at each other too. We are so imperfect, yet he loves us and is coming back for us.

The Lover to His Beloved:
7:1 (7:2) How beautiful are your sandaled feet, O nobleman’s daughter! The curves of your thighs are like jewels, the work of the hands of a master craftsman.

Lover’s travels of affection usually start at the top of her head and work down. This time he starts from the ground up. According to the NET notes, sandals were the privilege of the wealthy. Now that she is part of his royal court she has access to sandals.
Believers are also shod with the gospel of peace. Without belief we are paupers without good news that prepares us for any situation by protecting us with peaceful assurance.

I don’t know how to clarify the concept of curvy thighs in a classy way. I think there is something new about her that he is describing, and he is not complaining of recent weight gain. Neither is he saying her thighs are hard as rocks or shiny like gems. A master craftsmen has done something to her thighs. We can gather the most important clue in the next verse.

7:2 Your navel is a round mixing bowl – may it never lack mixed wine! Your belly is a mound of wheat, encircled by lilies.

Something is being mixed up in her navel. Two wines are being blended and something is growing in her belly which is not unlike a mound of harvested wheat. She is pregnant. Her body is changing and she might be insecure. Yet Solomon affirms her by asking to turn so he may stare at her. Her thighs have grown as well as her belly. Their sowing has produced fruit that will soon come to harvest. Lilies serve as a metaphor for the passion of their marriage. Her enlarged belly is not a negative but actually a stimulant to his passion. Their lovemaking will not suffer because of her pregnancy but is enhanced by it.


7:3 Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle.

As he moves up her body he hearkens back to a metaphor from earlier in their marriage (4:5). She still has what it takes to awaken his passion as far as he is concerned. He is surrounded by many other options for his passion, who aren’t pregnant, yet he returns to her.

7:4 Your neck is like a tower made of ivory. Your eyes are the pools in Heshbon by the gate of Bath-Rabbim. Your nose is like the tower of Lebanon overlooking Damascus.

I find it curious that she acknowledges her darkness (1:5) yet he compares her neck to ivory. I understand it as a Christian that Christ only sees me as cleansed when I acknowledge my filthiness. When I falsely claim my purity, he sees my hubris, a very serious sin. A tower of ivory is impossible. His throne was made with ivory and gold. But a tower of ivory is fantastical. Likewise her neck is unlike any known in the universe and her eyes are like famous twin pools in the city of Heshbon. Heshbon was made famous in Hebrew poetry after the Israelites defeated its king, Sihon, before their entrance to the promised land (Numbers 21:23-30). Her eyes alone are as significant as that famous city with some famous pools. Her nose’s size is not his concern but rather like the lush and fertile Damascus area is the view down her body.
7:5 Your head crowns you like Mount Carmel. The locks of your hair are like royal tapestries – the king is held captive in its tresses!

Likewise, Mount Carmel has a view to the Mediterranean. It overlooks a fertile plain. Her head is like the majestic mountain that oversees so much beauty and produces fruit.

Her hair is literally, "like purple fabric", something only royalty can afford. She is wealthy in her endowment from her skilled craftsmen, the Creator. Solomon is smitten and outdid anything Shakespeare could attempt poetically 3000 years later. All us budding romantic men can only carry Solomon’s water. The most powerful king in the world considers himself captive to her.

The nails didn’t hold Jesus to the cross. His love for us, his church, kept him there. We look at ourselves and cry, “Unclean! Unworthy!” He answers, “Forgive them.” Solomon can only carry Christ’s water. His love is only a puddle on the asphalt in July compared to the Christ’s ocean of love for us. Jesus is passionate for us. He’s not waiting at every temptation to catch us and discipline us, but strengthening us and helping us through the agency of his Holy Spirit.

7:6 How beautiful you are! How lovely, O love, with your delights!

He sums up his delight in her. He restates a line from 4:10, “How delightful is your love…” He enjoys her.

Comments

Popular Posts