Monday, 22 September 2014

(266) September 23: Song of Songs 6-8 & Galatians 1

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­
As you read consider what we are learning about physical attractiveness.

To ponder:
With the husband gone and the opportunity missed, the friends ask where he might be so they can look for him. The second reference to the wife as the “most beautiful of women” perhaps implies a certain jealousy of her marriage. In the context of the book, the wife’s reply is that her husband has now come to her, as she is “his garden” and the “lily” he browses (6v1-2, see 21v1-2, 16-17, 4v15-16). So she declares that they now belong to one-another (6v3) and, as if in response, he praises her beauty once more: She is compared to the two most glorious cities in Israel, and as majestic or regal, inspiring awe in him as troops would. Her eyes overwhelm, and her hair, teeth and temples are described as before (see notes on 4v1-3). He (most likely Solomon) sees her as superior to his (so far?) sixty queens, eighty concubines, and the innumerable virgins who served him. She is beautiful like the dove, perfect, unique, her mother’s favourite, and the one praised not just by women in general, but by the queens and concubines too (6v4-9).
            After this exalted description of the wife, the friends see her, asking who it is who is glorious like the dawn, fair like the moon, radiant like the sun, majestic like the stars. The superlative language does make us wonder whether the Lord intends the book to look beyond this human marriage to his union with the church. Jesus beautifies his bride to present her to himself as radiant, without wrinkle or blemish (Eph 5v25-28). Whatever our outward appearance, God sees us in Christ with this beauty, and will beautify us in soul and in body too.
            6v11-12 are probably spoken by the woman rather than her husband. The language may metaphorically describe her as having gone to see if she could enjoy a sexual encounter with her husband. The meaning of verse 12 is unclear, but no doubt understood by the original audience. It may allude to her desire for him, meaning that in her marriage she will be leaving the people. They call her back, to gaze on her beauty. (“Shulammite” may mean “perfect one” or “Solomoness”). Her husband asks why people should want to keep her there and gaze on her, then describing her physique (as she did him, 5v10-16) as worthy of royalty: Her feet are beautiful, her legs glorious and precious like jewels, and shapely as if crafted. Her navel is rounded, with wine to be enjoyed. Her waist has the hourglass figure of wheat bound by lilies. Her breasts are gentle, her neck like an ivory tower (so perhaps it was he face that was so tanned), her eyes clear and blue like pools, her nose elegant like towers, her head crowning her beauty like a majestic mountain, and her hair captivating like a tapestry. In short, she is beautiful, pleasing and delightful (7v1-6). She is tall like the palm tree with breasts like fruit. And her husband wants to climb and take hold of that fruit, enjoying the fragrance of her breath and her mouth in kisses like wine (7v7-9). And contrasting 5v3 she now expresses that she is more than willing, desiring that her wine go to him, stressing that she belongs to him and he desires her, and asking that they go to the countryside to make love during the night, as previously (7v9-13, see 1v16-17, 2v11-13). (“Mandrakes” were regarded as an aphrodisiac, affirming a double-entendre in 7v12-13). The proposal shows how confident the wife has become in marriage to now be approaching her husband. Indeed, the offer of both “new and old” delicacies suggests a willingness to develop the nature of their lovemaking.
            In the ancient world showing public affection even for one’s husband was frowned on, so she wishes he were her brother, so she could kiss him openly. She desires also to lead him to her “mother’s house” and give him wine and fruit. This may refer to her previous home, or be a euphemism for female parts (also 3v4). Whatever the case, she contemplates him caressing her and warning others against the danger of such powerful desire (8v1-4).
            Here the friends note not the groom coming to his wedding (as 3v6), but the woman leaning on him. They are now together. And she speaks of “rousing” him at the same place that he mother conceived and gave birth (3v5). As it is extremely unlikely his mother did both under an apple tree, she is most likely referring to her female parts, where conception and childbirth take place, and perhaps also to the male genitals as the “apple tree.” In the light of their sexual union, she asks him to make her a “seal” over his heart and on his arm – a visible sign that she belongs to him and he is devoted to her. This is the nature of marital faithfulness, and she notes it is needed because love and jealousy can be a strong, irresistible and destructive as death and the grave, or a blazing fire that cannot be quenched. This is why she has warned her friends. And this is why sexual love must be expressed within marriage. It is too powerful and dangerous if given then spurned, to be unleashed without such lifelong commitment. Moreover, such love cannot be bought (8v6-7). We might consider the love of God for us in Christ, that burnt with such intensity that even death couldn’t snuff it out.
            In response to the woman’s description of the power and danger of love, her friends ask what they can do to protect their young sister who is not yet developed, committing to using the best materials so that she cannot be scaled or opened (8v8-9). This concern to protect the virginity of the young (and, no doubt, of oneself) until sexual maturity and marriage is being commended. The woman, however, responds that her breasts are like towers. In other words, now she is developed, she has become to her husband one bringing contentment. And whereas Solomon charged people to enjoy the fruit of his vineyard, and pay towards it being tended, she tends her own (ie. her body) and gives it freely (8v10-11). In the light of that her lover (Solomon?) responds by asking to hear her voice, and she call him, again, to come, and be like the gazelle or young stag enjoying her “spice-laden mountains” (8v13-14).

Praying it home:       
Praise God for his love for his people and commitment to beautifying them in Christ. Pray that young people you know would be able to resist the temptation to sexual immorality.

Thinking further:
None today.

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