Chapter Fourteen:


The Music of the Bible Revealed: Song of Songs 8:1-14 - YouTube
A. Song 8:1-2: The Dear One's Wish (pages 60, 61)

This chapter has the most complex thematic structure of all; it ties up a number of loose ends. Almost every verse has something to add to the overall structure and meaning of the Song.

Are the Lovers wending their way back to Shulamith's childhood home (stopping in villages alone the way) in Song 7:12-14?
1 (This of course assumes the context is unbroken from 7:12 into chapter 8, which is not the case.) No. Here we meet a new and frustrating situation, in Jerusalem, some time after the "getaway" in 7:12-14.

Mi yiTén...? This idiom (cf. 8:1, mi yiTénkha) is common in the Hebrew Bible. One sees it used in God's wish for Israel's obedience -- a wish that carries a poignant ta`am (pazér) of its own (Deuteronomy 5:26). The idiom appears earlier in the Israelites' wish that they had died by the hand of the LORD in Egypt rather than face starvation in the desert (Exodus 16:3). It retains much the same meaning in modern Hebrew; it expresses a wish for something ideal, yet unattainable -- even utopian.

"O that you were like a brother to me...!" (Haïk-Vantoura). The melody (Hypophrygian with the 4th degree augmented in verse 1) underlines the
fervency, the frustration in this wish. It seems that people in Solomon's day frowned upon public displays of affection by women. After all, the woman in question could be a prostitute -- or an adulteress (cf. Proverbs 7:10-20). Song 8:1-5 is actually parallel poetically to 2:3-7, but the social problem in verses 1-2 reminds us of that in Song 1:7-8. In both places, the Dear One tries to avoid public display.

In verse 2, the mode becomes pure Hypophrygian. There is great warmth in the description of the Dear One's fantasy: she would "lead"
2 him to her childhood home, this time to be "taught" by her husband.3 The "spiced wine" and "the juice of my pomegranates" that she offers may be literal -- but even if this be so, they point figuratively to the sensual pleasures her own body offers (cf. Song 7:1; 4:3, 10; 6:7; 7:9).

We certainly understand Shulamith's frustration. Since Solomon is king, she can't kiss him publicly (certainly not in Jerusalem). The next verse reveals a longing on Shulamith's part for a visit to Mahanaim -- again, not easy to pull off in private. This sets the stage for what follows.

In Song 2:3-7, the Lovers are in Jerusalem. Does Shulamith's wish here mean we are already back in Mahanaim? One might think so (from the bright, sweet tone of the melody); many commentators do, from the words alone. But we find in verse 4 the Dear One admonishing the Daughters (which adjuration, we hold, is literal, not figurative), then returning to Jerusalem with Solomon in verse 5 (where the Sons see them coming from the wilderness). The
melos, moreover, retains a sequential sense in this passage. Thus the Lovers are in Jerusalem in verses 1-4, go to Mahanaim4 between verse 4 and verse 5 (the ellipsis being consistent with their secrecy), then return to Jerusalem in verse 5.

B. Song 8:3: The Lovers' Intimacy (page 61)

This verse parallels Song 2:6 verbally and melodically. It is slightly shorter, and emotionally even more grave (thanks to the replacement of
leroschi in 2:6 with roschi).5 The slight alteration of the suspensive cadence on "my head" (taking Letteris at face value as Haïk-Vantoura does) gives a more conclusive sense to the hemistich than its parallel in 2:6 has (cf. page 12 of the score).6

We called Song 2:6 "The Lovers' Embrace". Here, the sense of intimacy is even more intense. The Lovers have managed to find the privacy heretofore lacking for an intimate (though not yet sexual) embrace.

Haïk-Vantoura puts verses 1-2 and 4 in quotes, apart from verse 3; the melody of verse 3 sets itself apart from its context, through its mode, tempo and melodic theme. This shows that the embrace is something currently happening, not something the Dear One is still waiting for (as the KJV and RSV imply).

C. Song 8:4: The Dear One's Fourth Admonition (pages 61, 62)

One last time, the Dear One gives the Daughters an admonition; she "makes them swear" or "imposes an oath" upon them (as the Hebrew
hischbaTi in the admonitions could be literally translated).

This admonition is the shortest of the four. Its opening
melos is the same as that of 5:8. Its concluding hemistich is almost identical melodically to that of 2:7. It substitutes the word ma, "what" (used in 5:8, "what will you tell him?") for 'im (an indication of adjuration used in all the other admonitions). The use of ma here (along with the tender, expressive melody) implies a different sense than the admonitions in 2:7 and 5:8: a sense of fulfillment in Love that is well worth waiting for.

One might render the verbal hemistich (if not the exact melodic-verbal sense) thus: "How can" -- or, as some put it, "
Why should" -- "you awaken or arouse Love until it pleases?"7 Why indeed?

But even Love like this needs an occasional getaway to be nourished -- to be "aroused" according to its own pleasure. Perhaps the wording, as well as the melodic and verbal context, is meant to imply this also -- and that the Lovers are about to slip away for some much-needed privacy.

D. Song 8:5a: The Sons' Astonishment (page 62)

Here we see the Lovers returning through the "wilderness" to Jerusalem: walking from the east, with Shulamith leaning on Solomon rather than being carried in by a litter. The Sons of Jerusalem who see them are astonished: who is this beautiful woman? (Perhaps the Dear One looks even more "sexy" in casual clothes than in formal ones? Very beautiful women often do.)

This is not a description of Shulamith's weariness from travel to her childhood home (nor is it sung by the female chorus).
8 The male chorus evidently plays the same quite literal role is has played throughout; it represents the Sons of Jerusalem, not of another city. This is why we believe (along with the above indications) that the Lovers are returning from Mahanaim, not arriving there.

The Sons use the same phrase (
mi zot `ola min-haMidbar), sung to the same melody, which the Daughters sang at the beginning of the wedding scene (3:6). Here mi zot means "Who is this...?", not "What is this...?". The mode in this verse is the same as in 3:6 (Hypophrygian with the 4th degree augmented). The melody on the words mitrapeqet 'al-DodaH ("leaning upon her beloved") is little different from that accenting ketimrot aschan ("like columns of smoke") in 3:6. This verse and 3:6 are also parallel in the overall poetic structure. Yet the second half of this verse is parallel to 2:3, with its reference to the "apple tree".

E. Song 8:5b: The Loved One's Awakening (page 62)

We have been deliberately ambiguous with our title here, for this verse poses a special problem. Is the Loved One being "awakened", or is he doing the "awakening"?

Virtually all translations (including the NIV) assign 8:5b to the Dear One. A few assign it to another man: a male relative, for example. Haïk-Vantoura (with a very few translators) assigns it to the Loved One, thanks to the melody she has deciphered.

The pronoun forms used here are all masculine, which would normally indicate a male subject. But would it be appropriate for the Dear One, heretofore the model of propriety, to "awaken" her husband? (It is obvious from the
melos that something more than arousal from sleep is meant.)

Shulamith associated the Loved One with the apple tree (which is also a symbol of romance) in a parallel passage (2:3-4). Should not Solomon associate his Dear One with the apple tree here? (Here the tree seems literal as well as symbolic, given the Lovers' need for privacy and their inability to go to Shulamith's childhood home.) Finally, the wedding scene (which also begins with
mi zot) ends with a mention of Solomon's mother. Should not this verse refer to Shulamith's mother, in order to complete the chiasmic poetic structure?

The melody alone can decide these questions. Though it spends considerable time on the 6th degree and above, the verse has a
warmth and vibrancy suitable to the masculine solo voice. Indeed, nowhere is the Loved One warmer in his praise than here! The unfulfilled desire provoked in Shulamith before marriage (symbolized by the apple tree) is virginal, demure. Here, the literal apple tree symbolizes fulfillment: the unreserved, sexual joy of a happily married man.

The use of masculine pronouns here to refer to a woman is unusual, but not unprecedented. For example, Naomi uses the masculine plural to refer formally to her daughters-in-law as the recipients of God's blessing in marriage (Ruth 1:9-10a). Shulamith herself, in her four adjurations of the Daughters, also uses the masculine plural -- again, in a formal context (that of adjuration) connected with God's blessing.

Where then is God's blessing involved here? Besides the typology involving the human and Divine Lovers, there is the obvious blessing (for the Dear One) of having a husband like Solomon. But there are also literary and musical considerations, involving melodic-verbal
euphony. Much of the warmth of the verse is supplied by the frequent use of the vowel a; to substitute -ikh (feminine pronoun suffix) for -kha (masculine pronoun suffix) would spoil the sonic beauty of the hemistich.9

Shulamith's mother gave birth to her under this very apple tree. We wonder: did Solomon impregnate Shulamith here? Does this explain in part why he refers back to the event, and in such warm terms? It would certainly add to Shulamith's need for Solomon's loving loyalty, expressed in the following section. (Other commentators, of course, see purely romantic implications in the reference to the "apple tree", which are certainly present in the melos.)10

F. Song 8:6-7: The Dear One's Prophecy (pages 62, 63, 64)

These are the most
highly charged verses in the Song, the pivotal ones for understanding its deeper spiritual meaning. They are sung by the Dear One, in minor mode (with the 4th degree augmented). Here the frequent ascents of the melody accent brighter vowels more often than not: a, i, e and o. It suits a woman's voice -- and here the masculine pronouns and verb forms refer to Solomon as the subject. The intensity of her plea is prophetic; hers is "inspired speech" in the fullest sense.

The Dear One pleads for loyalty from the Loved One, in intent (his heart) as well as in deed (his arm). The melody in this plea remains low in pitch, but fervent. Then it rises to an impassioned expression of the strength of
'ahava (love) and of "jealousy" (or passion):

For strong as Death is love,
Cruel as Sheol is passion;
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
The very flame of the Eternal.
(verse 6)

The flames of this "passion" then blazes still brighter, kindling a Love ('et - ha'ahava -- and also ba'ahava, "for Love") that cannot be overwhelmed:

Many waters cannot quench Love,
nor can floods drown it.
If a man would give all the wealth of his house for Love,
he would be utterly scorned.
(verse 7)11

Romantic love bears a two-edged sword: commitment in the outgoing sense, possessiveness in the self-directed sense. The words translated here "strong" (`aZa) and "cruel" (kascha) are parallel to each other elsewhere, where God warns the Egyptians of their coming conquest by Nebuchadnezzar (Isaiah 19:4). Here they underline the emotions of romantic betrayal.

Just as "zeal" and "jealousy" come from the same root in English, so the meaning of
kin'a ("passion") depends on its direction (concern for others or self-concern). This verse makes us think of El kaNa, the "jealous God" of Israel (Exodus 20:5), the God Who is both jealous over and zealous for those who are His.

In verse 7, by contrast, we see the distinction between
love and Love underlined: that of commitment in the face of severe trial ("many waters" and "floods"). The prophetic melos leaves us no doubt that Love (love in the emphatic sense) is total, mutual commitment. The "flame of Yah" that powers it cannot be quenched. Such Love can only be freely given; it cannot be bought (verse 7). It can, however, burn itself out if neglected. Fidelity is the key to its staying power.

Here is yet another type to consider. Death and the Grave are as much enemies of Divine Love as they are of human Love. The total commitment between God and His people will survive them both. Those who do not have such commitment to God will survive neither. The flame of God's passion will consume Death and the Grave with them (Isaiah 25:8; Daniel 12:2-3; Malachi 3:19-21 [4:1-3, English versification]; 1 Corinthians 15:54; Revelation 20:13-15).

Song 8:6-7, with its mention of a man's "house" and Love, is poetically parallel to 1:15-2:2, where the Lovers discover their mutual feelings while sitting in their "houses". There, too, the melody lingers on the 6th degree and above, giving the words a prophetic tone. There, however, the mode is "Dorian" rather than the minor with the 4th degree augmented which fuels the "flame of Yah" in 8:6-7. In 1:15-2:2, the Lovers' mutual commitment begins (which confirms our hunch that their engagement occurred between chapters 1 and 2); in 5:1, it finds its physical consummation; in 8:6-7, it reaches its spiritual fulfillment.

So just how "prophetic" is the Dear One's
melos? We think she foresees the Loved One's future temptations to polygamy, just as God foresaw the temptations to idolatry to which polygamy can lead (1 Kings 9:6ff; Deuteronomy 17:17).12 No wonder, then, that love and Love are linked so closely to the zeal of God Himself! For Solomon, marital and spiritual fidelity will go hand-in-hand. When he loses the one, he will lose the other -- making a type we would do well to heed in our own lives.

G. Song 8:8-9: The Dear One's Brothers' Discussion (pages 64, 65)

From this verse to the end of the Song, the melody remains in Hypophrygian mode (sometimes with the 4th degree variable). After the intensity of the Dear One's praise of Love, such a "happy ending" is a welcome relief. So complete is the musical break that Haïk-Vantoura adds a harp glissando before verse 8 to underline it.

For some unknown reason, the heading of Haïk-Vantoura's score indicates that
three singers should make up the male choir (the "Sons of Jerusalem"). On her recording, four singers make up the choir. In Song 8:9, the singers alternate, two by two. We infer from this alternation that Shulamith had four brothers; she was the youngest child, as this verse shows.

The Dear One's Brothers (portrayed by the same male choir that portrays the Sons) begin with the same melody, in the same mode, with the same rhythmic feet, that begins the Sons' "exclamation" in 6:8. There are syntactical parallels between
schiSchim heMa ("Sixty (are) they...", 6:8), ahat hi ("One (is) she...", 6:9) and ahot lanou ("A sister (is) to us...") in 8:8 -- all of which have the identical musical motive accenting them. Notice also the pun between ahat ("one") and ahot ("sister").

We are hearing a
flashback to Shulamith's youth. The sudden shift from the Dear One's prophecy about Love justifies the total change in the melody. The melody in verse 8 reminds one of a children's song, without the erotic over-tones of Song 4:12. It portrays the non-sexual innocence of childhood.

The Brothers' "little sister" (Shulamith as a child) is not old enough to have developed breasts; yet she is already very good-looking. No doubt she already has a strong mind of her own. Her brothers wonder as one (verse 8): what will we do with Shulamith when she's old enough to be "spoken for"?

The hemistichs of verse 9 begin with parallel verbal and melodic phrases, indicating antiphony (and a dicussion among the Brothers). If Shulamith is a "wall", some say -- if she puts up a proper resistance to improper advances -- the Brothers will honor and help her. If she is a "door", say others -- if she is open to anyone's advances -- they will restrict her contacts. As we have noted earlier, Shulamith's father is not around to make such decisions, nor is her mother expected to. These responsibilities fall to the men of the family, as they did to Jacob's sons, the brothers of Dinah (cf. Genesis 34).

H. Song 8:10: The Dear One's Resolution (pages 65, 66)

Song 8:8-10 is parallel poetically to 1:8-14. There Shulamith is experiencing her first real courtship. Here she is reminiscing about the choices that preserved her for Solomon. She is grateful that she stood firm against all suitors until the right man came along.

The Dear One was a "wall"; even her ample breasts were towers of defense rather than banners of invitation. Then, at the right time, she was in the Loved One's eyes "as one who finds peace". The melody resolves to peacefulness on these words, after underlining the firmness of her resolution and her gratitude for having waited.

I. Song 8:11: The Daughters' Song (page 66)

This verse makes us think of a
harvest song, even of song and dance. Its "meter" (as defined by the alternation of stressed and unstressed syllables) is alternately triple, then duple. The Daughters sing it giocoso (joyously), describing Solomon's lease of a vineyard at Baal-Hamon to tenants. Each of them were to pay "a thousand (pieces) of silver" for its fruit. Could this verse combine the words of a popular song with a suggestive sacred melody, as we speculated above?

Why is this event mentioned now? There is a progression in verbal state in the original Hebrew (backed by the original melody), which implies a progression in time. Verse 11 does not follow verses 8-9 in time order; and verse 11 has a specific order of state as well.

We think this is a flashback to the events which brought Solomon and Shulmith together. Just as the Brothers' comments point to how Shulamith was kept pure until she met Solomon, so ought the Daughters' comments point to how Solomon was kept pure until he met Shulamith.

In verse 11,
hayah ("to be") is in perfect state; Solomon was or became the owner of a vineyard. Natan is likewise in perfect state; Solomon leased the vineyard to tenants. Yavi' is in imperfect state; each tenant was to bring a thousand pieces of silver for its fruit. (The melodic "texture" affirms that all of this happens in the past tense; the verse is musically "self-contained".) This literal vineyard is parallel to "my vineyard, my very own" (sung by Shulamith) in the next verse; the melodic themes of the two verses (with their parallels and differences) set up a "comparison by contrast" between them, much as do their words.

Verses 11-12 are parallel poetically to 1:5-6, where Shulamith describes herself (and her complexion) as a vineyard she was unable to keep. The phrase "keepers of its fruit" in verse 12 is parallel to "keeper of the vineyards" in 1:6. This chiasmic parallelism, with the more direct parallel-by-contrast be-tween 8:11 and 8:12, is the key to the meaning of these two verses.

J. Song 8:12: The Dear One's Bride-Price (pages 66, 67)

Is this verse also a flashback? We think not. The sense of the present (grammatically
13 and musically speaking) is very strong here. Nor is the break of musical context as severe as that before verse 8. The action here is "present tense".

Shulamith's antiphonal response to the Daughters continues the dance-like rhythm and melodic lightness of verse 11 (just as Haïk-Vantoura's harp accompaniment dances along unchanged with the melody). Her tone is very sweet and affectionate, hardly the tone which the KJV's misleading translation ("Thou, O Solomon, must have a thousand...") implies to some commentators.

The Dear One answers literally: "My vineyard, my very own, (is) before me" (
karmi scheLi lefanay). Her melody shows that she is giving something freely to him -- not under obligation as are the keepers of Solomon's literal vineyard.

Who or what is Shulamith's "vineyard"? Song 8:11-12 is parallel to 1:5-7, where she describes "my vineyard, my very own" (
karmi scheLi) as herself. Here, her vineyard is before her (or as Haïk-Vantoura puts it, "before my eyes"). Solomon is now her vineyard.14 The melody supports this figurative sense simply and directly; it marks karmi scheLi lefanay with the 2nd, 3rd and 4th degrees in succession, on the accented syllables.

Since Shulamith now "owns" a vineyard (Solomon), she may expect payment for its "fruit", just as Solomon receives from his literal vineyard in Baal-hamon. What payment, and how?

The Law of Moses assumes the payment of a bride-price (in Hebrew,
mohar), not of a dowry (cf. Ex. 22:15-16, Hebrew versification), though the bride was expected to bring some property to the marriage.15 By analogy, the "thousand (pieces)" (one might think) are Solomon's bride-price (or perhaps what he can now afford to add to the original one), which Shulamith sweetly gives back to him. Since the "keepers of its fruit" would be Solomon's family and retainers, the "two hundred" pieces would be given by the bride's family to them. But is this the time to be discussing such matters, so late in the relationship, and well after the wedding itself?

Suppose for a moment that Shulamith herself were the "vineyard". Logically, the "keepers" would be her brothers; the "thousand pieces" would likely be a dowry. Many commentators think this is what is meant here. But could Shulamith's family afford a dowry of a thousand (or even two hundred) pieces of silver? Of course, Shulamith could be giving back Solomon's bride-price, but asking that he give something to her "keepers" in return. But this reads more into the
melos than it actually says. Shulamith is giving "two hundred pieces" to the "keepers", not asking Solomon to do so.

No, we think these sums of money are most likely
figurative. Shulamith cites them as symbols of her deep appreciation for Solomon's self-restraint before marriage. Just as her brothers made her keeper of a literal vineyard (making her unable to keep her figurative vineyard, her complexion), so Solomon owns a literal vineyard and is now owned as a figurative vineyard (which was kept before marriage by his family and retainers).

Yet Shulamite desires no "rent" from her property. She has (emotionally) everything she needs from him, with plenty of gratitude left over for those who helped guard him for her. Notice, the Loved One receives five times as much "silver" as his keepers; his "sterling" character, not theirs, was the key that kept his chastity safe (just as Shulamith's watchfulness, not her brothers', kept her own virtue impenetrable).

K. Song 8:13: The Loved One's Request (page 67)

Yet more time has passed, and the scene has changed (though, like as not, we are still in the environs of Jerusalem). The flute rejoins the harp in Haïk-Vantoura's score, underlining the romanticism of the melody.

This verse is parallel to 1:4b, where Shulamith (and with her the "maidens") admire Solomon. Here, Solomon (and with him the "companions") admire Shulamith. "O you who are sitting in the gardens," he says, "the companions are listening
17 for your voice; let me hear it" (Haïk-Vantoura). The Loved One's voice dips low, then rises to suggest the expectancy of the "companions" (and his own). Haïk-Vantoura's harp and flute accompaniment remind us of that given "the voice of the turtledove" in 2:12b. The word translated "let me hear it" (haschmi`ini) refers us back to 2:14; the Hypophrygian mode reminds us of 2:10-14 in toto, as does the reference to "gardens".

Interpreters have had many ideas as to what is being said here. Fructenbaum has one of the more creative ones: Solomon asks Shulamith to sing for her childhood friends (which she does, leading Solomon outside as she begins).
18 But this reads into the words (and indeed the whole melos) more than they actually say. The "companions" here are evidently Solomon's male friends, not Shulamith's childhood friends (and the poetic parallelism confirms this).

Let us examine the poetic links between this verse and its parallel passages. Solomon, in Song 2:10-14, invited Shulamith to share the outdoors with her. In 1:4b (in context), Shulamith's female "companions" (the "maidens" at the reception) admire Solomon in a formal indoor setting. Here, there seems to be a situation with elements related to those in both of the other passages. Perhaps Solomon's "companions" wait to admire Shulamith, who is in a formal, yet outdoor setting: in the "gardens", where she is sitting (not "dwelling" -- cf. Haïk-Vantoura's translation), and where Solomon meets her. Again, the "companions" wait for her "voice", while the "maidens" rejoiced in Solomon's physical "affections". But here again, this does not seem the simplest explanation of all the facts!

The above image of a "garden party" is not so very different from Fructenbaum's; only the identity of the "companions", the setting and some of the action differ significantly. But "garden(s)" in the Song has
figurative and erotic connotations as well as literal ones (see our discussions of Song 4:12-13, 16; 5:1; 6:2-3, 11).19 Surely, Solomon asks to hear Shulamith's literal voice -- but in what figurative sense?

The phrase
haYoschevet baGanim (literally "the one sitting in the gardens") is marked by the same two te`amim, defining a melody in the same mode, as that which marks berah Dodi ("Hurry, my Loved One") in the next verse. This last, "innocent" phrase (as we will see) has a hidden, yet explictly sexual connotation. In that light, we think the Loved One refers here to the Dear One's special brand of erotic attractiveness. She is a "natural woman", yet cultivated, as far above a "veiled woman" as a garden is above a field of thistles.

The Loved One, then, asks to hear the Dear One's voice privately -- in a context no other man can. This would include intimate conversation, but we think something more is meant as well. Surely there can be no sweeter "voice" or "sound" (
kol) to a husband's ears than the cries of a beautiful wife in sexual climax!20 Solomon's "companions" would no doubt love to hear the Dear One's "song" (to play on Fructenbaum's words), not just her "voice" -- but such music is for Solomon's ears alone!

L. Song 8:14: The Dear One's Urgency (pages 67, 68)

This final verse parallels 1:2-4a, where the Dear One asks "let us run" (or "make haste", RSV). It is in Hypophrygian, and accompanied by arpeggiated chords similar to those in Song 6:10 and 8:11.

Here the Dear One (in reply to verse 13) says, "Hurry, my Loved One" (
berah Dodi), and be like the gazelle or young stag upon the mountains of spices!" (Haïk-Vantoura). Many translations give something like "make haste" as the meaning of berah. No doubt Shulamith wants to "get away" as soon as possible -- but that is not the "thrust" of what she means here!21

We saw the Loved One likened to "a gazelle or a young stag" (
litsbi o le'ofer ha'aYalim) in 2:9, describing his athletic prowess. Here (thanks to "upon the mountains of spices") it refers to his sexual prowess (cf. Song 4:6, 13-16). The Dear One is eager, not just for lovemaking, but for the sexual union itself. And her choice of words is most interesting: barah, which may mean "flee", also means "go through" (cf. Appendix 1). It is used in this sense to describe the passage of a bar (beriah) through holes, joining the boards of the Tabernacle together (Exodus 36:33; cf. 26:28). And yet this goes by unremarked in most translations and commentaries!

The analogy with the Lovers' sexual organs (and their joining as "one flesh") is so obvious that we wonder why so few have seen it. Yet the melody of
berah Dodi hints at the action: the rise from an unaccented tonic note to an accented 5th on berah, then a suspended tone ending in a melismatic "retreat" on Dodi, ending the phrase on the 4th degree of "rest" -- all giving the subtle impression (with the words) of penetration.22 The melodic texture (sequence of intervals) thus expresses the Dear One's desire for coition -- in the sweetest, most delicate terms possible. The description of Solomon's virility which follows is drawn out deliberately, in a sweet, even playful tone (underlined by Haïk-Vantoura's harp accompaniment). Obviously, the Dear One wants to be joined with her Loved One as long and lovingly as possible. What a delightful image, described in terms (and in a "tone of voice") so very, very far from pornographic!

For the Dear One, sex is the ultimate personal intimacy, something to be enjoyed to the full -- but only in the context of
'et - ha'ahava. She rejoices in the Loved One's virility and encourages him with her compliments: "Be like a gazelle or a fawn of the stags upon the mountains of spices..." And with that, the melody (and Haïk-Vantoura's harp accompaniment) fades away, leaving the happy couple in their love play.

Note that
barah (in the sense of "going through") is used elsewhere only in a holy context: the joining of the boards of the Tabernacle. Did Shulamith (or Solomon as author) intend this implication to be understood? Certainly the holiness of marital love, throughout the Song, finds its consummation in this verse, just as the Lovers complete here the relationship which began in Song 1:2-4a. Shulamith, in effect, desires the joining of holy parts to form an even more holy whole (and the melody, conceived in a sacred musical system, supports this idea).

Finally, we note that two of the Dear One's four admonitions use parallel, feminine imagery: "I adjure the (female) gazelles or the hinds of the field" (
bitsva'ot o be'aylot haÇadê). These represent the female side of sexuality, as natural (and as God-given) as the male side. Why should women "stir up or awaken" Love before its time, when a relationship such as the Lovers have is possible? Such is the wisdom of Shulamith -- and that of Solomon, the human author of the Song of Songs!


1. As suggests Fruchtenbaum, op. cit., p. 59. This of course assumes Shulamith's home town is Shunem; there were no doubt few villages to speak of in the desert route to Mahanaim!
2. "The word translated 'lead' always referred to a superior leading an inferior: a general, his army; a king, his captain; a shepherd, his sheep. The king's wife is playfully assuming the role of older sister. She would lead her younger brother to their common home. Yet in irony, the one whom she would lead is the one who would teach her. The freedom in their relationship is thus displayed in her playful show of authority over him which quickly gives way to her recognition of his leadership over her" (S. Craig Glickman, A Song for Lovers, p. 90). Actually, the melos indicates more tenderness and warmth than playfulness (if by "play" one thinks of what children do).
3. Fructenbaum thinks that Shulamith refers here to her husband's already formidable wisdom, and seeks to improve herself as a wife through it. The "teaching" is (melodically) sweet and innocent; but we take it to be erotic rather than otherwise. What loving husband would refuse an offer from his wife to let him "teach" her about sex?
4. We say "Mahanaim" and not just any country location because the couple makes love under the very tree where Shulamith was born (cf. verse 5).
5. Haïk-Vantoura's score here says to sing this verse gravezza (gravely).
6. Even after correcting the typographical error in the accentuation of Song 2:6 (Letteris Edition), the shorter verbal text in 8:3 would make the Dear One's longing somewhat more urgent than in 2:6.
7. Ma may be rendered a number of ways: "what", "how", "aught" (and other meanings in combinations with other words and prepositions).
8. Cf. Fruchtenbaum, op. cit., p. 62. Of course, he thinks Shulamith and Solomon have just arrived in Shunem.
9. Haïk-Vantoura pointed out this last fact to me, in private communication. She also mentioned the propriety of the Dear One, the alternation of the melodic-verbal ideas, and the translation of French Hebraist E. Dhorme (supported here by the late Gerard E. Weil) as confirmation of her assignment of the Loved One to this verse.
10. Shulamith was a "love child" in the best sense, conceived in love and borne by a loving mother; this is one thing the "apple tree" makes us realize. Shulamith is just as dear to Solomon, who makes love to her in a place filled with memories of love for her.
11. We understand "he" rather than "it" here, contrary to many translators, because of the verbal syntax (which is reinforced by the simple, yet direct melodic syntax). Boz yavouzou lo can be paraphrased: "He would bring utter scorn to himself."
12. The connection between 1 Kings 9:6 and Deuteronomy 17:17ff is a prophetic one -- not a matter of pious fraud by "Deuteronomic Historians" as far too many have believed. God and Moses, understanding human nature as they did, foresaw what experience inevitably bore out.
13. Biblical Hebrew generally indicates a static state of being (and thus the present tense) by avoiding the use of the verb "to be" entirely, as it does in this verse.
14. Contrary to many commentators, who think that Shulamith (once again) is meant. This clarification, in combination with the original melody, makes understanding of the intent of this passage possible.
15. Cf. "Dowry", article in Encyclopedia Judaica, Vol. 6, col. 185, which cites Genesis 24:53, Exodus 22:15-16 (Hebrew versification) and Hosea 3:2 on the subject of bride-price.
16. If the reader will pardon the pun!
17. The word is kaschav, #7181 (Strong's): "incline, attend, of ears" (BDBG). "Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications" (Psalm 130:2). The "companions" are listening attentively for (or to) the Dear One's voice.
18. Fructenbaum, op. cit., p. 68. He assumes the Lovers are with the Dear One's childhood friends in her childhood home. But this does not square with the indications of words and melody in the preceding verses, which show the Lovers have returned to Jerusalem.
19. Note that "gardens" is plural, not singular: perhaps a hint that something other than a literal garden setting may be meant.
20. Unless it be the cries of his first child, just after its birth!
21. If verses 13-14 really are spoken at a garden party (or some other setting where "companions" are present), it is no surprise the Lovers speak in a "code" known only to themselves.
22. This simple melody, indicating the Loved One's sexual action here, indicates the Dear One's repose in Song 8:13. Its combination with different words makes the difference.


Previous Page

Next Page

Music of the Bible

Updated February 25, 2014