Song of Solomon 8
1"Oh that you were like a brother to me
Who nursed at my mother's breasts.
If I found you outdoors, I would kiss you;
No one would despise me, either.
2"I would lead you and bring you
Into the house of my mother, who used to instruct me;
I would give you spiced wine to drink from the juice of my pomegranates.
3"Let his left hand be under my head
And his right hand embrace me."
Likely what is going on here is that she is once again missing Solomon as he must attend to all of his kingly duties. If he was like a brother and if they lived in the same small unknown house, then they would probably have more time together. Right now, she is probably feeling despised given that, not only is Solomon busy with the things pertaining to running a kingdom, but he also has many other queens and concubines to satisfy. Thus, he is really damaging this relationship, and she misses him. She longs for the times where they can be intimate. She wants him to focus on her.
4"I want you to swear, O daughters of Jerusalem,
Do not arouse or awaken my love
Until she pleases."
The general theme of the book is repeated. Here, however, the context is different. She is longing for sexual intimacy when there is no reason to believe that it is going to occur in the near future. There is nothing wrong with desiring intimacy with one’s spouse, but she is putting herself in a risky position by letting sexual thoughts and desires overwhelm her to where she is wishing for an alternate life and reality. The warning is that we should not get carried away with sexual thoughts if even for our own partner when we are apart from one another as spouses. Even in marriage, there are unhealthy times, ways, and places to arouse and awaken love, particularly when it will be some time before we are alone with our spouse. Certainly, we shouldn’t begin fantasizing about what we cannot and do not have. This awakens sexual desire at a time when it cannot be rightfully satisfied. We need to be content with the reality of our circumstances and be grateful that we have the time and intimacy that we do have with our spouse. That said, we need to be sure that we are not neglecting our marital “duties” to our spouse (1 Corinthians 7:3-5).
5"Who is this coming up from the wilderness
Leaning on her beloved?"
This is likely Solomon and the Shulammite as observed from a third party, perhaps the daughters of Jerusalem. She is seen leaning on her beloved, taking comfort in him as she did back in 2:3 when she spoke of being in the shade of him, her “apple tree.”
"Beneath the apple tree I awakened you;
There your mother was in labor with you,
There she was in labor and gave you birth.
It was only after she had given her heart over to him and found security and comfort with him that they got married and then expressed themselves to one another sexually (cf. 2:3 as to what being under the apple tree means). It was only after they committed themselves to one another in marriage that he awakened her sexual desire. This is not a literal apple tree where they had their first sexual encounter. Their first sexual awakening was after their marriage, probably in some bridal chamber, not under a tree out in the public as night came on. Furthermore, it would have been a horrible choice of romance to consummate their marriage in the same place that her mother gave birth to her. The apple tree must be understood to be metaphorical as in 2:3 describing being in the security of one’s beloved (in this instance, spouse) with utter trust. Thus, it follows that in the same way as she feels secure in his love, so too was this the condition for her mother with her husband when she bore her daughter, the Shulammite. Sex, intimacy, and children are only meant for after marriage and an established confidence and commitment. Only once one’s heart has been totally given over and a vow has been made should these things happen. This idea naturally leads into the commitment, loyalty, and belonging themes of v. 6-7.
6"Put me like a seal over your heart,
Like a seal on your arm
For love is as strong as death,
Jealousy is as severe as Sheol;
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
The very flame of the LORD.
7"Many waters cannot quench love,
Nor will rivers overflow it;
If a man were to give all the riches of his house for love,
It would be utterly despised."
Solomon emphasizes, continuing in the same train of thought, that love must be permanent and with complete trust for one another. Without permanency and trust, a marriage cannot stand. Thus, he wants her to know that his love toward her is as good as a seal over her heart and on her arm. He is symbolically explaining that his love is to be etched on her heart and arm so that she knows that his love is sure. If she is not sure of his love, her heart and desire might be prone to wander and find its fulfillment elsewhere. Indeed, Solomon understands the pull of love, being as strong as death itself, which is rather strong given that all humans eventually succumb to its power. Jealousy for what others have is as serious and as consuming as the place of the dead. When one partner is not being faithful to the other in terms of time, affection, and commitment, it is easy for the other to become jealous and look for love elsewhere. As a fire consumes, so, too, do the flames of jealousy. When one gives into jealousy, he or she will be metaphorically burned, suffering hurt, harm, and loss. Sin is always a stealer of joy. Yet love is at least the equal of jealousy in terms of its power and sway. No amount of water flowing could quench the fire of true love that is looked after and held in commitment and faithfulness. No amount of temptation can put it out, for the marriage satisfies. This kind of love is priceless, something which no amount of money can buy and that which no amount of money could persuade someone to surrender or sell. Even if an incredible sum of money were offered, it would be turned down because those who have a great and God-honoring marriage wouldn’t give it up for anything. But this kind of marriage isn’t possible if God’s principles are not followed or if a commitment isn’t made and maintained. Yet no marriage bond is worth giving up for anything as God is not honored by divorce (Malachi 2:16).
8"We have a little sister,
And she has no breasts;
What shall we do for our sister
On the day when she is spoken for?
9"If she is a wall,
We will build on her a battlement of silver;
But if she is a door,
We will barricade her with planks of cedar."
Some people in the kingdom, perhaps some of the daughters of Jerusalem, come and ask for advice from the Shulammite. Clearly, they see that she has a marriage worth envying, and they want to know what they should do to help lead their younger sister in a path that could lead to a fulfilling marriage for her. She is still young, having not gone through puberty, but they are aware that someday some man will show interest in her and pursue marriage with her. They are wise to think through things before the time arrives. If we don’t think through standards, principles, and boundaries beforehand, we won’t likely make wise choices when decision time arrives. What they hope to do is protect her from danger so that her purity is maintained.
10"I was a wall, and my breasts were like towers;
Then I became in his eyes as one who finds peace.
The Shulammite follows their analogy and says that she herself was like a wall. And if she was like a wall with her standards, she made sure that she was not going to give away her sexual purity and dignity in saying that her breasts were like towers. The tower was the place of ultimate security, the last resort. It was the stronghold of strongholds (cf. Judges 9:51, Proverbs 18:10). There was no way she was going to let any man be seduced into sin because of immodesty on her part. Nor was she going to be weak in judgment and restraint, letting herself be taken advantage of sexually. She was going to be sure to keep herself pure until marriage, and it is important that Solomon’s resolution was the same. Her breasts were going to stay untouched until the wedding night. The word for peace could also mean favor. Because of her stand for morality and purity, she found that Solomon really appreciated her even more. She found a man who had a joy in honoring her and God, and he found a woman who had dignity and honor as well. Both benefited by her guarding what should be kept for marriage. He never spoke once of his attraction and desire for her breasts until the wedding night. They were not going to come between their love and commitment to each other and to God. They were barricaded in a stronghold. Thus, they both had peace and welfare in their relationship. Not even a hint of immorality was going to be named regarding their relationship (cf. Ephesians 5:3).
11"Solomon had a vineyard at Baal-hamon;
He entrusted the vineyard to caretakers
Each one was to bring a thousand shekels of silver for its fruit.
Solomon had an actual vineyard which he entrusted to caretakers who were to bring a thousand shekels of silver for its fruit. They could make money off of the fruit, but they had to pay a leasing amount in the sum of one thousand pieces of silver.
12"My very own vineyard is at my disposal;
The thousand shekels are for you, Solomon,
And two hundred are for those who take care of its fruit."
Referring to her own body as a vineyard, she explains that she has given her entire being to Solomon. Solomon alone reaps the entire benefit of her vineyard, i.e. her purity and devotion to him. Two hundred of the shekels are allotted by Solomon’s approval to maintain her appearance and beauty. In other words, though he has a right by her permission to have her and be with her whenever he wants, he is sure to give her time to herself and a chance to be refreshed inwardly and outwardly. She is able to care for her appearance and state of mind (cf. how the word “fruit” is used in 2:3; 4:13, 16; 7:8, 13)
13"O you who sit in the gardens,
My companions are listening for your voice--
Let me hear it!"
14"Hurry, my beloved,
And be like a gazelle or a young stag
On the mountains of spices."
Solomon spent a fair amount of time in the gardens, perhaps carrying on official business in a place of beauty. Her friends were listening for his voice, and she desperately wanted to hear it. Even some time into their marriage, the flame is still hot. The overriding theme of the book (in addition to the theme of purity) is that sexual expression in marriage is good, normal, desirable, and healthy. In fact, it appears that it is even a sign of a healthy marriage. This woman couldn’t wait to hear her husband’s voice. She wanted him to hurry on home so that he could get back to making love to her, visiting his favorite “mountains” (cf. 4:5-6, 8). She loved intimacy with her husband because she loved her husband and knew that he loved her. She invited the sexual touching because he was so good and loving toward her. This is a picture of how marriage should be.