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Solomon’s Song of Songs Chapter 7 Notes, Part 1

Posted by lehunt on June 23, 2015

Song of Solomon Vineyards // larryhuntbiblecommentary.wordpress.com

Chapter 7

v. 1: Murphy says that, while it “is reasonable to attribute” 7:1-5 to the Beloved, “it is possible to ascribe [those verses]…to the onlookers or to their spokesperson” (185).  Gordis ascribes them to the onlookers (68).  Barnes also ascribes them to the onlookers, writing, “They sing in further commendation of her beauty…” (134).  To me it seems most likely that these verses are spoken by the onlookers, Solomon and his friends, since they are the speakers in 6:13.  There appears to be a natural continuity between that verse and this one.  There they call upon her to dance for them, and here they begin to praise her beauty as she dances.

What is strange to me is that this is approved of.  Her dance is sexually suggestive, as evidenced by the sensual description of her body (vs. 1-5) and by the fact that the dance awakens Solomon’s immediate, strong desire to sleep with her (vs. 6-9).  Had the dance been for Solomon alone, that would have been one thing, but the dance is for the company to enjoy.  I am reminded of Vashti (Esther 1:11) and the daughter of Herodias (Mark 6:22).  It cannot be ideally approved of by God that a man’s wife should dance before other men in this way.  The fact that the poet (under the inspiration of God) exults in the episode must mean that God did not want to address that moral issue in this particular poem, but rather that he wanted simply to dwell on the delights of sexual love.[1] He (God), therefore, does not correct the poet’s cultural predispositions, which are inclined to expect a wife to dance in this way before a company of men.

I think it goes against the spirit of these verses to believe that the company appreciates the Shulamite’s beauty in a disinterested way, like one might appreciate the shape and color of beautifully made pastry after one is already full of food.  The description reveals aesthetic appreciation as well as sexual desire, as evidenced by Solomon’s desire to sleep with the girl in vs. 6-9.  The description begins at her feet and moves upward, lingering on the particularly attractive elements.

v. 2: This seems to be universally translated as “navel,” but Murphy unreservedly writes that the word “is meant as a euphemism for the pudenda” (185).  To support his claim, he notes that the poet’s description of the woman’s body moves from the feet to the head and that this word appears between the description of the thighs and the waist.  Such an argument would convince me if it were not for the fact that the poet later describes the woman’s neck, then her eyes, then her nose, which must mean that, while the poet’s description does generally move from the feet to the head, he does not strictly adhere to this order in every particular.  Thus, an argument based solely on the order of the description is not completely trustworthy.  Still, I am inclined to agree with Murphy simply because his interpretation is in keeping with the erotic spirit of these verses.  Also, one would expect a reference of this nature to be euphemistic.  The poem is full of metaphor and simile, and few things in it identify themselves by their prosaic, clinical terminology.  Just imagine how disjointed and crude the English words “vagina” or “vulva” would be in this place.  Perhaps the Hebrew equivalents of these words would have produced a similarly unpoetic effect.  But the problem with euphemisms and other indirect or symbolic references is that they may not always be clear, especially to people who are not living in the culture that actively uses them.  For instance, how many euphemistic sexual references in pop songs are lost on parents?  And parents are only one generation removed from these songs.  How difficult, then, is it to pin down Hebrew euphemisms intended for an audience centuries ago?  Difficult indeed, at least for me.

 


[1] This same theory could explain why other moral issues (Solomon’s polygamy and the couple’s possible premarital sex) are not addressed in the song.

[2] See notes there.

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