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Deeper Commentary


Song of Solomon 8:1

Oh that you were like my brother, who nursed from the breasts of my mother! If I found you outside, I would kiss you; yes, and no one would despise me-
She deeply wished  that  Solomon was her brother, i.e. an Egyptian, because in  that  case  their relationship could be much more open, they would  not  be despised because of their love, and Solomon could come  and live in her mother's house back in Egypt (:1,2). The courtship was held in lonely, secluded places, with the fear of being seen and mocked (Song 5:6; 8:1,14; 7:11,12). Clearly she was attracted to Solomon rather than to the God of Israel. Solomon describes her in terms of the geographical features of Israel, he wished her to be as one of the founding mothers of Israel (Song 6:9 = Gen. 30:13). But in the end, she was an Egyptian girl, and her heart was always going to be there. She hates the way she's not accepted in Israelite society, and their relationship has been a series of clandestine meetings in the open air, with her having nightmares in Song 3,5 about the Israelite soldiers and watchmen finding her.

Sin never satisfies. The daughters of Jerusalem and the watchmen (i.e. the prophets? Gad, Nathan? Whoever wrote Ps. 127 as a warning to Solomon?) were constantly watching them and being  critical  of  her (Song 5:7,16; 8:1), they despised her. See on :6. Contrary to what Solomon had tried to kid her, the daughters of Jerusalem did not love and adore her (Song 6:9). They despised her, and the girl now sees things as they really are- straight after having sex at the end of Song 7.

She speaks of her taking the initiative and grabbing hold of and kissing Solomon in the street. This is exactly the picture of the wicked Gentile woman of Prov. 7:13. Again the point is made that Solomon was blind to his own wisdom, it took no personal lodgment in his own heart. And so it can be with those who hold and teach God's truth today.

Song of Solomon 8:2 I would lead you, bringing you into my mother’s house, who would instruct me-
Her desire is still as it was at the start of the Song, as noted on Song 1:4. She wanted to be instructed by her Egyptian mother, not by Solomon; who was in the business of writing his Proverbs at this time to instruct in God's ways. And she wants to be the one who would "lead you" [Solomon], or guide him. She didn't want his instruction, but wanted to instruct him in the ways of Egypt. It is the intended reversal of how Isaac brought and lead Rebecca into his mother's tent (Gen. 24:67).

I would have you drink spiced wine, of the juice of my pomegranate-
This could be an offer of conditional sex, if Solomon were to agree to her returning to Egypt and being under the instruction of her mother. I take Song 8:1-8 to be her fantasy, her desperate dream, for Solomon's return to her and for them to have an open, legitimate, public relationship but on her terms- in Egypt. She dreams of asking him to commit to her ("set me as a seal upon your heart", Song 8:6), but concludes by telling him to flee far away from her, although she still calls him "my beloved" (Song 8:14). It's a tragic, unfulfilled ending.

Song of Solomon 8:3 His left hand would be under my head. His right hand would embrace me-
The conditional tense of "would" is significant. As suggested on :2, it could be part of her fantasy. Or it could also be her attempted manipulation. She seems to be saying ‘I’ll have sex with you, as you offered in Song 7:12, if you agree to be an Egyptian’ (and Song 4:16; 5:1,4-6 would imply they did have intercourse). But throughout the Song, Solomon describes her in Jewish terms,  he  likens  her  to many well-known places in Israel: the Heshbon  fishpools,  the tower of Lebanon etc., seeing the way her hair draped over her breasts as reminiscent of how Mount Gilead looked (Song of Solomon 4:1,4). He wanted to see her as an Israelite girl, and  so that was how she appeared to him. 

Song of Solomon 8:4 I adjure you, daughters of Jerusalem, that you not stir up, nor stimulate my love, until he so desires-
Again she tries to stop the daughters of Jerusalem, the Jewish candidates as Solomon's wives, from being attractive to him. But her bitter adjuration of them is mere words, it has no power. 

Daughters of Jerusalem

Song of Solomon 8:5 Who is this who comes up from the wilderness, leaning on her beloved?-
The answer of the daughters of Jerusalem is said as a final triumph. They bid her watch an engagement procession coming into Jerusalem from the wilderness outside the city, with a young woman or girl (see on :8) leaning on her beloved, Solomon [for so his name means in Hebrew].  

Under the apple tree I aroused you. There your mother conceived you. There she was in labour and bore you-
The Egyptian girl watches in shock at the engagement procession coming from the desert, realizing with shock that she has been trounced, and all Solomon's words of unique affection were proved untrue as he arrived with his latest girl. Her angry response is totally imaginable. It is, effectively, "But you and me, we had sex together! And now... you're marrying another woman! And she's only a kid, she's not even got developed breasts!". It's the stuff of movies. She even claims they had slept together at the very spot where his own mother both conceived and gave birth to him, as if this was intended to be a defining moment in cementing their relationship. She has likened him to a hind deer, and hinds were known to return to their own birthplace beneath a tree to give birth to their own fawns. She considers therefore that their sex together at that spot was really a unique bond which precluded him from now marrying another woman.  


Song of Solomon 8:6 Set me as a seal on your heart, as a seal on your arm; for love is strong as death. Jealousy is as cruel as Sheol. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a very flame of Yahweh-
These would appear to be Solomon's words to his new bride with whom he has just arrived, a marriage vow demanding her total loyalty to him. His mention of jealousy was made in the hearing of the Egyptian girl. There was indeed a jealousy as cruel as the grave between the Jewish girls and Solomon’s Egyptian lover. And so the Song ends on a most unhappy  note; Solomon is unfaithful and the two separate, rather than there being the  consummation we might expect. As noted on :21, he is alluding to the language of covenant with God (Dt. 11:18) and applying it to his wife's covenant with himself. He is warning that just as Yahweh is jealous if His covenant is broken, so he will be. And yet he felt free to flout the covenant himself, as he had just demonstrated by doing all this in view of the Egyptian girl he had been so infatuated with.  

Solomon made the classic mistake of assuming that his will and word were effectively equivalent to the word of God. In Prov. 6:21 he speaks of the need to bind the law about your heart and neck; but in Song 8:6 he asks his lover to “set me as a seal upon thine heart” and arm. And often in Proverbs he uses the language of the blessings for keeping God’s law and turns them into the blessings for keeping his law; e.g.  “My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee. Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye. Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart” (Prov. 7:1,2). And we all do the same in essence, whenever we assume that our consciences are effectively the will of God; when we ‘play God’ by allowing our words and will to count as if they are His word.

It is God’s word that is to be the seal upon our heart. It is that which is to be bound in our hearts and or a sign upon our hearts (Dt. 11:18). That was the real sign of the covenant with God. But Solomon considers that the covenant with Yahweh could be subverted into a binding covenant between his wife and himself. Even though he himself had two timed her and had multiple partners.


Song of Solomon 8:7 Many waters can’t quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man would give all the wealth of his house for love, he would be utterly scorned-
Solomon had taught that the sexually unfaithful man will pay all the wealth of his house because of it, and still will not make things right (Prov. 6:31). Solomon claims in this hasty marriage vow that although he is wealthy, he now has found true love with his next wife, which cannot be purchased for money. And yet in the end, he did give all the wealth and glory of his house for his sins, because his wives turned away his heart from Yahweh and his kingdom / house suffered because of it, as he so often laments in Ecclesiastes. And he was indeed utterly scorned after his death (1 Kings 12:11), as he foresaw coming at the end of his life in several passages in Ecclesiastes.

Daughters of Jerusalem
Song of Solomon 8:8 We have a little sister. She has no breasts. What shall we do for our sister in the day when she is to be spoken for?-
The girl has arrived leaning upon Solomon. But she is still a minor and her breasts not developed yet (Ez. 16:7,8). Before her day of being spoken for, the day of actual marriage, the daughters of Jerusalem vow they will prepare her to be a replacement for the Egyptian woman (see on :9).

Song of Solomon 8:9 If she is a wall, we will build on her a turret of silver. If she is a door, we will enclose her with boards of cedar-
This is the language with which Solomon once described the Egyptian girl. The daughters of Jerusalem vow to turn this young girl into a woman just as good as the Egyptian. The idea of enclosing her and keeping her as a wall may mean that they promise to keep her chaste until the wedding, unlike the Egyptian woman whom they all knew would not have been a virgin at any wedding with Solomon (Song 5:1; 6:12).


Song of Solomon 8:10 I was a wall, and my breasts were like towers, then I found acceptance in his eyes-
She is very confident of her own beauty, as in Song 1:5; 8:10. She comes over as bold and ever on the initiative; she goes out looking for him (Song 3:1-5; 5:6,7). She is the very fulfilment of Solomon's 'bad woman' of the Proverbs. She hears how the new queen for Solomon is still a minor and her breasts not developed yet (Ez. 16:7,8). And so she bitterly reflects about her own sexual adequacy and how "I was a wall [with turrets]", and her breasts which she speaks of were "in his eyes as one that found favour" (Song 8:10). For Solomon had repeatedly praised her breasts  (Song 2:7; 3:5; 4:9; 8:14). But now she sees that was all surface level; he is going to marry a young girl from the daughters of Jerusalem, once her breasts have grown. And she has had to endure watching the engagement ceremony.

Song of Solomon 8:11 Solomon had a vineyard at Baal Hamon. He leased out the vineyard to keepers. Each was to bring a thousand shekels of silver for its fruit-
This is another parable of a vineyard, of which there are at least two in scripture. The vineyard may refer to virginity or sexuality (as in Song 6:11; 7:13). His 1000 shekels received for it may refer to his 1000 wives. The Songs have likened the Shulamite and her sexuality to a vineyard (Song 2:13,15), and her romantic meetings with Solomon appear to have sometimes been in a vineyard. Solomon spoke of her breasts as grapes (Song 7:7). But Solomon's vineyard was associated with Baal-Hamon- Lord / husband of a multitude. She finally realized that he was a womanizer, who would go on to have over 1000 women in his life... Lord [or husband] of a multitude.

Song of Solomon 8:12 My own vineyard is mine alone-
Perhaps his 1000 wives and concubines lay behind her reference to the 1000 shekels that Solomon can have for his vineyard (8:12). But now she was splitting up with him, her vineyard was hers alone, her grapes were now solely at her disposal and were not his any more.

The thousand are for you, Solomon; two hundred for those who tend its fruit-
I suggested on :8 that this talk of vineyards forms an inclusion with Song 1:6, where the girl's vineyard is her virginity, which she had given Solomon, much to her brothers' anger. Now she insists her vineyard is hers alone and not his. And he can let his 1000 wives (:11) have his own vineyard. Those who tend the fruit may refer to the daughters of Jerusalem, whom she saw as being responsible for getting the young girl of :8 to get engaged to Solomon, and who were the servants of his 1000 wives.


Song of Solomon 8:13 You who dwell in the gardens, with friends in attendance, let me hear your voice!-
This is very hard to interpret, but the idea seems to be that he addresses the Shulamite ["you" is singular feminine in the original]. He sees her as still there "in the gardens", where they used to have their trysts. And he addresses also the listening daughters of Jerusalem, the "friends in attendance" upon the young girl of :8 whom he has just gotten betrothed to. "Let me heart your voice" is the very phrase he has used to the Shulamite in Song 2:14. I take this to mean that he is asking the Shulamite, in the presence and audience of the daughters of Jerusalem, not to forsake him. He still wants to hear her voice. She responds negatively by telling him to go away (:14), and yet still calls him her beloved. This leads me to the suggestion offered on :14 that this ill-fated relationship only ends for a time; and Solomon does in fact marry Pharaoh's daughter.


Song of Solomon 8:14 Go away, my beloved. Be like a gazelle or a young stag on the mountains of spices
The Song ends abruptly, with the relationship at an end. The entire book has no particular plot or storyline. It begins with her talking about sex, and after various breakups and tensions, they abruptly leave each other. And this is the path of so many who live their lives without God in their relationships. There is no real plot, it's all about present pleasure, and so it ends. We are left feeling this, and seeing how this sad, vain, pointless, painful experience of "love" falsely so call will play its part in the disillusion and depression of Solomon in later life. We have the record of that in Ecclesiastes, and it is a picture of our postmodern, immoral age.

The final couplet of the Song is one of bitter sarcasm, typical of the worst order of romantic breakup. Solomon says that his "companions"- the daughters of Jerusalem whom she had so hated- are listening carefully to her, as he is. And she responds by telling him to run away, whilst still calling him her "beloved"- for although jealousy is cruel as the grave, her love for him was unquenchable by many waters. Or perhaps this too is sarcasm. So the Song ends with Solomon in rather a bad light- off to his next women, whilst the Egyptian girl walks off the scene bitterly protesting her love for him and how she's a victim of circumstance and Israelite jealousy. Yet Solomon, presumably, authored the Song. I read it therefore in the same way as I do Ecclesiastes- his jaded statement of how life has been for him, how he sought fulfilment of his human lusts but it never worked out, leaving him with a tragic sense of unfulfilment because he had not gone God's way.

We may well enquire why the Song was written and preserved. For who wants to keep such a record of a failed relationship, of passion which turned to pain? It is here that Divine inspiration comes into play. For the recording of it was inspired, as was the record of the nihilism of Solomon in Ecclesiastes, for our learning. That we might see the end of sin, of thinking that mere possession of God's truth is enough, and not personalizing it. Another take is that the girl was indeed the daughter of Pharaoh (Song 7:1), and despite this stormy start to their relationship, the break up of Song 8 was only temporary and they did in fact marry; see on Song 3:4. And yet the Song of Songs is preserved as a record of how unspiritual relationships don't ultimately work. For she turned away his heart from Yahweh to the idols of Egypt. In the end, despite the apparent victory of Solomon's lust and power at the end of the Song, it is she who wins. For she turns his heart away from Yahweh and Israel, and to her idols and Egypt.