Passionate Preggers Song of Songs 7:7-13

I have jumped ahead to chapter 7 of the Song of Songs and am still using the NET for the English translation. I have included their subsection headings in bold type.

See the series so far. In the previous blog post in this series I concluded that Beloved is now pregnant, but the passion hasn't ebbed between the two.

The Lover to His Beloved:

7:7 Your stature is like a palm tree,
and your breasts are like clusters of grapes.
7:8 I want to climb the palm tree,
and take hold of its fruit stalks.
May your breasts be like the clusters of grapes,
and may the fragrance of your breath be like apricots!
7:9 May your mouth be like the best wine,
flowing smoothly for my beloved,
gliding gently over our lips as we sleep together.

The background information provided in the NET notes are extremely helpful for those of us far removed from Ancient Near East culture. For example, even Homer compared a beautiful woman to a palm tree. In my interpretive slant, that of assuming she is pregnant, he has sensitively affirmed her beauty as her figure changes. Despite the mound of wheat growing on her belly, (7:2), he sees the slim beauty he married. The NET suggests in their notes that while grapes would be the normal translation choice for the end of v.7, dates would make more sense with the extended palm metaphor. Date palms were an essential part of their agriculture.

Nevertheless, those of us who don't eat dates can appreciate the sweet refreshment of grapes. He affirms her figure in verse 7 by description and by her effect on him in verse 8. When he sees her he wants to grab her in a way permitted and appreciated in the sexual communication of their marriage. His designs don't make her uncomfortable but aroused, as her response in verses 11-13 show. The date palm metaphor extends to the date palm farmer who climbs the trees for their fruit as well as hastening pollination, as there are male and female trees.

Over and over again I am impressed with the depth of their poetic metaphors. However, I consider verse 9 a home run. The RSV lets the poetry speak and translates it this way, and your kisses like the best wine that goes down smoothly, gliding over lips and teeth. Literally, "kisses" should be mouth or palate, but those don't compare to wine. But kisses intoxicate. The smoothness of a drink corresponds to the disguise of the alcohol content. Grape juice goes down smooth because no alcohol is decontaminating the throat concurrently. Dessert wines, on the other hand, have high alcohol content and, therefore, produce a burning sensation down the throat and a warmth in the belly. A smooth wine is more dangerous. Only a hint of the alcohol results in frequent refills of the glass and unexpected drunkenness. Her kisses seduce him so easily. He is putty in her hands. Her kisses melt his heart. In my opinion, the suggestion of alcohol makes sense of the optional translation of "sleep" in the NET (gliding gently over our lips as we sleep) instead of "teeth," in other translations such as the RSV.

Beloved responds with a modified refrain from earlier in the poem.

7:10 I am my beloved’s, and he desires me!

This is the refrain of security. It appears in varied forms a couple times in the poem. In 2:16 she owns him and in 6:3 they belong to each other. Here, she focuses on her lover. She belongs to him and is blessed with his affections. She is most vulnerable in her pregnancy. He is still marrying other maidens yet comes back to her. The progression of claims shows her increasing trust in him. First, he is her prize. Then she sees herself as his prize. Now she is at her most vulnerable with him. Bodies change with time as the years pass in a marriage, but this is more than compensated by the emotional entangling, the process of oneness, that gets stronger and stronger. Even with the ease of divorce in our culture, the security that the "piece of paper," the marriage certificate, brings makes the damage of insecurity so less fatal than co-habitating. (See excursus* below.)


She continues
7:11 Come, my beloved, let us go to the countryside;
let us spend the night in the villages.
7:12 Let us rise early to go to the vineyards,
to see if the vines have budded,
to see if their blossoms have opened,
if the pomegranates are in bloom –
there I will give you my love.
7:13 The mandrakes send out their fragrance;
over our door is every delicacy,
both new and old, which I have stored up for you, my lover.

She wants to return to their familiar locations with the new options that experience generates. They enjoy returning to nature. She wants him to leave Jerusalem and the official duties he must tend to. She wants him to come back to her roots, and ultimately his own. His father David tended sheep in good and bad conditions and fought off bears and lions. Solomon's experience was one of ease in a palace. He almost literally was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He knew his plants though. She knew he would unwind with her out in the country. She also enticed him with the promise of her love. Mandrakes were accepted as the default aphrodisiac in the ancient near East. The best NET note concerns the practice of drying fruit over the doorway. As the fruit dried its sweetness intensified. She has been preparing something for him. Her creativity has been directed to her Lover and only him.

The intensity of their passion is beyond anything Shakespeare can convey or imagine. But their relationship doesn't jump from mountain top to mountain top. Chapter 5 showed a dark valley. Intense pain goes hand in hand with intense love. In fact, God loved the world so intensely that he sent his only Son, to die a tragic, unjust death, so that anyone who would believe in Jesus would not die but have life abundant and eternal, see the Apostle John's Gospel chapter 3, verse 16. Our God models that intensity of love. Marriage can show it also. 

*Excursus
Co-habitating is not marriage preparation but rather divorce preparation. This interview in NRO should make any unmarried adult reconsider their unbiblical options. Two important paragraphs follow, thanks for the link to Joe Carter. Notice how vulnerability and emotional intimacy are diminished outside of marriage.

Kathryn Jean Lopez: What’s so bad about living together? 

Michael McManus: Couples who live together are gambling and losing in 85 percent of the cases. Many believe the myth that they are in a “trial marriage.” Actually it is more like a “trial divorce,” in which more than eight out of ten couples will break up either before the wedding or afterwards in divorce. First, about 45 percent of those who begin cohabiting, do not marry. Those who undergo “premarital divorce” often discover it is as painful as the real thing. Another 5-10 percent continue living together and do not marry. These two trends are the major reason the marriage rate has plunged 50 percent since 1970. Couples who cohabit are likely to find that it is a paultry substitute for the real thing, marriage.

Of the 45 percent or so who do marry after living together, they are 50 percent more likely to divorce than those who remained separate before the wedding. So instead of 22 of the 45 couples divorcing (the 50 percent divorce rate) about 33 will divorce. That leaves just 12 couples who have begun their relationship with cohabitation who end up with a marriage lasting 10 years. 
............
Lopez:
Isn’t it practical sometimes? 

McManus: No, never. A Penn State study reports that even a month’s cohabitation decreases the quality of the couple’s relationship. Cameras were placed in living rooms, which recorded that couples who began their relationship living together were more negative when they discussed an issue, more demeaning, more flippant, more likely to deride the other person. Couples who had never cohabited, by contrast, have much more respect for one another, and settled issues more amicably. Thus, negative patterns of behavior learned in cohabitation came into the marriages and destroyed a higher percentage of them.
......
Lopez: You’re against cohabitation. What about premarital sex? Is that inviting problems too?

McManus:Yes, even though most people see nothing wrong with premarital sex, research shows they are wrong. Those couples who married in the 1960s who were virgins were much less likely to divorce than the sexually active — only 30 percent of virgins divorced, while 50 percent of the sexually active divorced. The same pattern can be seen of those who married in the early 1980s. By 1988, 14 percent of virgins had divorced, but 24 percent of the sexually active. That’s 71 percent higher. 

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