Ok this is it; how is this story going to end? Will “He” and “She” get together, will they get married, and will they ever even be in the same room? We are about to find out.
If only you were to me like a brother,
who was nursed at my mother’s breasts!
Then, if I found you outside,
I would kiss you,
and no one would despise me.
I would lead you
and bring you to my mother’s house—
she who has taught me.
I would give you spiced wine to drink,
the nectar of my pomegranates.
His left arm is under my head
and his right arm embraces me.
Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you:
Do not arouse or awaken love
until it so desires.
Song of Songs 8:1-4
“She” hasn’t spoken quite like this before, has she? Did you catch that; did it sink in? She’s wishing that her beloved was her brother so she could kiss him and not be despised for it! She wants them to be together as brother and sister, apparently because they cannot be together any other way. Then in verse 3 “She” switches from first to second person and describes how they could be in a sort of embrace if they were brother and sister. Then in verse 4 she repeats her warning to the daughters of Jerusalem for the third time, that they should not awaken love until the time is right, and now for the first time it is starting to be clear why “She” is saying this: There is some kind of an impediment to their coming together, at least it is suddenly beginning to look that way.
The friends give an interesting reply that reminds us of an image of her beloved in chapter 1, then “She” seems to remember his response to her in the trees; she wants him to respond to her love. She continues in verses 6-7 talking of the strength of love, even likening it to the strength of death: once you have it, it isn’t going away seems to be the message.
Additionally, there seems to be a developing contrast between the idea of real and earnest love, and those who see “love” as a commodity that can be bought, sold and or traded. In this vein, we come to verses 8-12:
We have a little sister,
and her breasts are not yet grown.
What shall we do for our sister
on the day she is spoken for?
If she is a wall,
we will build towers of silver on her.
If she is a door,
we will enclose her with panels of cedar.
I am a wall,
and my breasts are like towers.
Thus I have become in his eyes
like one bringing contentment.
Solomon had a vineyard in Baal Hamon;
he let out his vineyard to tenants.
Each was to bring for its fruit
a thousand shekels of silver.
But my own vineyard is mine to give;
the thousand shekels are for you, Solomon,
and two hundred are for those who tend its fruit.
Do you recall this from chapter 1?
Do not stare at me because I am dark,
because I am darkened by the sun.
My mother’s sons were angry with me
and made me take care of the vineyards;
my own vineyard I had to neglect (1:6)
“She” has mentioned brothers, and her mother, but has she mentioned her father up to this point?
No, she hasn’t. If there was no father in the picture for whatever reason, who would make the arrangements for her to marry when she came of age? Yep, that’s right: Her older brothers. Now take another look at 8:8-9 and the arranged marriage (or something else more sinister) becomes clearer, particularly if you look at what “She” says right after that beginning with verse 10. Holy heart attack,
“She” can never marry “He” because she’s promised to someone else… in some capacity.
Now enter Solomon: this isn’t the first time that he has entered the picture in a way that keeps the lovebirds apart; remember 3:6 ff. ? Didn’t he come up out of the wilderness and come between the two? Why yes, that’s exactly what happened in her dream. It seems that Solomon has a very special vineyard in Baal Hamon, which means “multitudes.” It represents his household here, in which live not only his many wives but his thousand concubines. As we continue, we see that this vineyard is where “She” has been promised to Solomon for a cash settlement from Solomon to her brothers. Again, recall 1:6 and the role that vineyards play… In both references to vineyards, we see that her “vineyard” has been neglected in favor of those of the men; now “She” asserts that only she can dispose of her “vineyard”, and essentially tells Solomon he can keep his money.
“He” calls out to her; “She” urges him to take her away from this, and the story ends.
Well dear reader, that’s the end of the text, but we still have a lot to talk about. See you next time!