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Song of Solomon 5

Chapter 5

v. 1: The Beloved says he has enjoyed his garden, which means he has enjoyed the company of the girl.  The exhortation to his friends at the end of the verse must be an enthusiastic recommendation of the joys of love.  Benedick does something like it at the end of Much Ado about Nothing when he says, “Get thee a wife” to Don Pedro.

v. 2: I suspect that 2:8-3:5 and 5:2-6:3 describe the same event.  Note the parallels:

In the night, while in her home, the girl hears her Beloved approach.

2:8 “There is the voice of my friend…”

5:2 “There is the voice of my friend…”

From outside the house, the Beloved invites her to be with him.

2:10 “Get up my friend, my beautiful one, and come here…”

5:2 “Open up for me, dear friend, my sister…”

He tries to establish some contact with her beyond speaking.

In 2:9, he looks through the window

In 5:4, he puts his hand by the latch of the door.

But the girl does not grant his request.

In 2:17, she sends him away until morning.[1]

In 5:3, she (coyly?) does not immediately open the door for him, saying things like “I’ve already washed my feet; how shall I make them dirty again [by going out with you]?”

The Beloved leaves, which is very distressing to the girl, and she begins to search for him.

3:1  “By night on my bed I sought the one I love; I sought him, but I did not find him.”

5:6  “But my beloved had turned away and was gone.  I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer.”

In her distress, she leaves the house and enters the city streets by night where she encounters the night watchmen and asks them if they have seen her beloved.  They mistake her for a harlot, beat her, and take her veil from her.

3:3  “The watchmen who go about the city found me, to whom I said, ‘Have you seen the one I love?’”

5:7  “The watchmen who went about the city found me.  They struck me, they wounded me; the keepers of the walls took my veil away from me.

Finally, she finds him.

3:4  “Scarcely had I passed by them [the watchmen] when I found the one I love.”

6:2  “My beloved has gone to his garden, to the beds of spices.”

There are a few differences in these two narratives, and some interpreters might take this fact to mean that 2:8-3:5 and 5:2-6:3 describe two separate events, but I believe the differences may be harmonized.  For instance, one difference is the involvement of the daughters of Jerusalem in the second narrative.  In my reconstruction of the first narrative (2:8-3:5) the Shulamite has not married Solomon yet, and the city she wanders in at night is one in her native area, not Jerusalem.  Yet one might assume that these “daughters of Jerusalem” are in Jerusalem, and one could reasonably expect that the Shulamite would only be in Jerusalem after marrying the king.  However, I would explain this difference by seeing her call to the daughters of Jerusalem as a rhetorical/poetic device added by the poet, not a literal account of a historical moment when the poor girl actually asked a group of women in Jerusalem for help.  Viewing these daughters of Jerusalem as a kind of chorus compliments this idea.[2] Other differences are fairly easily harmonized.  For instance, in the first narrative the poet may simply have omitted the fact that the watch beats her.

The two narratives seem so similar that I believe they should be viewed as describing the same occasion.  In any case, I am fairly convinced that they do not describe the events of 4:1-5:1.  If 2:8-3:5 and 5:2-6:3 do describe separate events, then perhaps the first is a dream that foretells the events of the second, or perhaps both are separate dreams inspired by the same fear: separation from the beloved.


[1] 2:15 also seems like a denial of his invitation.  See notes there.

[2] See note on 1:4.

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4 Responses to “Song of Solomon 5”

  1. […] [4] See notes on 5:2. […]

  2. […] [4] See notes on 5:2. […]

  3. […] In 2:17, she sends him away until morning.[1] […]

  4. […] In 2:17, she sends him away until morning.[1] […]

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