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Song of Solomon 8

Chapter 8

v. 1: See note on 2:9.  I suspect that the fear of being despised or scolded is a reference to the way her brothers treat her.  See also 8:8-10.  Hence, she wishes that her Beloved could be one of her brothers;  if he were, then she and he could be together without drawing any attention from her other brothers.

v. 5a: See note on 3:6.

v. 5b: Gordis believes that the Shulamite is the speaker and that she “reminds him [the Beloved] that she woke him from his sleep under the apple-tree…the self-same spot that he had come into the world” (73).  Murphy says, “The words about love under the apple tree could be spoken by either party [the Shulamite or the Beloved]” (195).  For help in interpreting the passage, I think one should compare it with 2:3-7.

Note first the parallels:

2:3    “Like an apple tree among the wild trees is my friend among the other young men.  I sat down in his shade with great delight.”

8:5    “Under the apple tree I awoke you….”

2:6    “His left hand is under my head, and his right hand embraces me.”

8:3    “His left hand is under my head, and his right hand embraces me.”

2:7    “I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem…do not stir up nor awaken love until it pleases.”

8:4    “I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, do not stir up nor awaken love until it pleases.”

2:6 and 8:3, and 2:7 and 8:4 obviously link chapter two to chapter eight and justify interpreting this passage in chapter eight in light of its sibling passage in chapter two.  With this in mind, notice that the apple tree in chapter two is clearly a symbol for the man.  I believe this justifies associating the apple tree with the man in chapter eight.  Notice also that the woman describes herself as resting under the apple tree in chapter two. Therefore, I believe this justifies associating the “you” of “under the apple tree I awoke you[1]” (8:5) with the woman, which means the speaker is the man.  To further illustrate the point, consider 2:6 and 8:3.  These passages describe the woman as being under the man and in his embrace, a literal depiction of being “…in his shade with great delight” (2:3).  Here, then, is how I think this passage ought to be read.  The speaker is the man, and he is reminiscing with the woman about the time when they first made love and he awoke her sexually, giving her delight in the shade of his embrace.  Perhaps this sexual awakening happened in her mother’s house.  If so, this would explain why he says he awoke her in the place where her mother gave birth to her.  In 3:4, the Shulamite desires to bring him into her mother’s house, “into the chamber of her who conceived” her, and in 8:2 she desires to lead him into her mother’s house, where she would “cause [him] to drink of spiced wine, of the juice of [her] pomegranate.”[2]

vs. 8-10: Her brothers are trying to prevent her from being married, either because they are overprotective and feel she is too young or because they are spiteful and want her to continue being their servant.  (Given 1:6, I tend to favor the latter opinion.)  Either way, the Shulamite regards their interference in her life as oppressive and is glad to be free of their authority.  Note her words in v. 10 where she says, “My breasts [are] like towers” (in contradiction to their claim that she has no breasts) and “I became in [Solomon’s] eyes as one who found peace.”  I assume that this means she has found peace from her brothers’ stifling overlordship now that she is with Solomon.  See also 2:9,15; and 8:1.

Vs. 11-12: The words “my own vineyard” are the same as those spoken by the Shulamite in 1:6, but this does not necessarily mean that she is the speaker.  The man may be citing her words in a speech of his own.  In fact, the most natural way to interpret these words is to place them in the mouth of the Beloved.  He is saying, essentially, “King Solomon, you may keep your huge vineyard, which is worth thousands of silver pieces; my own vineyard (the Shulamite) is before me and is worth far more.”  I admit that this makes it more difficult to see Solomon himself as the Beloved, but I believe, based on other arguments,[3] that Solomon is probably the Beloved in the poem; therefore, I interpret these words as though they come from the mouth of Solomon himself.  If Solomon is the speaker, then he addresses himself in the third person in v. 11 and in the second person in v. 12, but this is not so very strange.  Referring to oneself in some person other than the grammatically correct first person singular is a frequent rhetorical device used in a variety of cultures and times.  The royal or editorial “we” instead of “I” is one example; if my English translation of the Koran can be trusted, God refers to himself quite often there as “we” in spite of the Koran’s frequent refrain that God is one.  And Christ often referred to himself in the third person.  Perhaps Solomon addresses himself in the second and third person because he wants to make a distinction between the Solomon who lived before meeting the Shulamite and the one who lives afterwards.  Perhaps he wishes to bid farewell (symbolically) to the former, with all his riches, in return for this new treasure he has found in the Shulamite.  Romeo does something like this when he too offers to renounce his former self for the sake of love.  In act two, scene two, Juliet says, “Romeo, doff thy name, and for that name which is no part of thee take all myself.”  To this, Romeo responds, “I take they at thy word: call me but love, and I’ll be new baptized; henceforth I never will be Romeo.”

v. 14: This verse makes a beautiful finish to the poem.  The words allude to her earlier refusal to come to her Beloved (2:17), which was the low point of their relationship, the moment of crisis, but now she uses similar wording to urge the Beloved to come hurriedly to her.

[1] Emphasis mine.

[2] One could also understand the place “where her mother brought her forth” to be some sort of reference to sex or conception, but I do not think this explanation is as likely.

[3] See Introduction.


2 Responses to “Song of Solomon 8”

  1. […] Therefore, I believe this justifies associating the “you” of “under the apple tree I awoke you[1]” (8:5) with the woman, which means the speaker is the man.  To further illustrate the point, […]

  2. […] Therefore, I believe this justifies associating the “you” of “under the apple tree I awoke you[1]” (8:5) with the woman, which means the speaker is the man.  To further illustrate the point, […]

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