Love Awakened (Song 8)
The conclusion of the poetic saga that is Song of Songs calls the reader back to several key themes introduced previously in the poem:
- Frustrated Longing (8:1-4) – Throughout the Song, the young woman has expressed a deep desire to be united with her beloved, and at the same time frustration at their current state of separation.
- Thus far, the lovers have proclaimed undying devotion toward one another, yet only brief moments of blissful union. The woman groans, “Oh that you were like a brother to me! who nursed at my mother’s breasts. If I found you outside, I would kiss you (8:1). This is obviously metaphorical language. She is bemoaning the fact that social convention allows for her family relationships and obligations to be on display, while the true object of her affection seems to be ever absent. In other words, the young woman is longing for the day when her and her beloved’s relationship will be ‘awakened’, and they will be free to express their love publicly.
- Reuniting (8:5-7a) – The exclamation, “Who is that?” (or, “Who is she?) mirrors verse 3:6. It draws the reader back to the wedding ceremony scene wherein the woman approaches her beloved from the wilderness – an image that I have previously argued represents Israel’s blissful reunion with the Lord.
- In verse 5 the moment finally arrives when the young woman is united with her beloved in sexual union: “Under the apple tree I awakened you . . .” (8:5). The word “awakened” comes from the same root verb (‘ur) as in 2:7, 3:5, 8:4, and 8:5. Verse 5 is a resolution to the woman’s refrain: “[Do] not stir up or awaken love until it pleases” (2:7; 3:5; 8:4).
- Verses 6-7 speak to the finality and permanence of the union. The man and woman are altogether inseparable. It’s stunningly beautiful poetry:
- “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. It’s flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised” (Song 8:6-7).
- Wealth (8:7b-14) – Verse 8 opens with a curious chorus verse where the speakers (the woman’s brothers?) describe their obligation to protect their sister’s purity until “the day she is spoken for” (marriage). The woman’s reply may be my favorite passage in this whole book:
- I was a wall, and my breasts were like towers; then I was in his eyes as one who finds peace. Solomon had a vineyard at Baal-hamon; he let out the vineyard to keepers; each one was to bring for its fruit a thousand pieces of silver. My vineyard, my very own, is before me; you, O Solomon, may have the thousand, and the keepers of the fruit two hundred (8:10-12)
- The woman understands that her value is greater than all the wealth that Solomon obtained (one could even argue that the “vineyard” is a euphemism for Solomon’s 700 concubines). Solomon can keep the cash and the harem; this young woman has discovered love, which is wealth beyond measure.
- In verse 14, the lovers finally run off with one another “on the mountains of spices” – the poet’s preferred euphemism for all the sensual pleasures of being in love.