Scene One: Verses 8:5-7

Scene Two: Verses 8:8-14

Scene One: The arrival home

The scene opens with the two lovers still in the chariot, and now riding in a country setting, with a large apple tree off to the side. The chorus announces their arrival UP FROM the wilderness, which suggests that they are now in their local environment.

(CHORUS) Song 8:5a.

Who is this coming up from the wilderness, Leaning on her beloved?

(SW) Song 8:5b,

Beneath the apple tree I awakened you; There your mother was in labor with you, There she was in labor {and} gave you birth.

As they pass by the apple tree, the Shulamite woman recalls the familiarity of the tree, and mentions a time of intimacy there.

The word awakened is key because it determines whether the woman has wakened the shepherd from sleep, or has stirred up his emotions. The word is UR, and it occurs as a poel perfect - the same form we saw at verses 2:7 and 3:5. There I observed -

The words, arouse and awaken, are the same in the Hebrew (ur),
but occur in different stems. Arouse, is a hiphil imperfect and
awaken, is a poel imperfect. Hiphil communicates a causative idea
and indicates a stirring to activity. The poel is intensive, and
is used in the same way. However, when they both occur together,
then the poel goes deeper than the action and indicates a
stirring of the soul and the emotions.


But here, it occurs alone and the force of the poel stem focuses more on a stirring to action rather than on waking someone from sleep. Of the 12 other occurrences of this verb in the poel stem, none of them can be viewed as waking from sleep. Although I would certainly prefer to see this as a rousing from sleep, it seems best to go with what context and usage dictates, and to see in this recollection, a time when the Shulamite woman first STIRRED UP the emotions of love in the shepherd.

It seems likely then, that the Shulamite and the shepherd were visiting under the "family" apple tree - where the shepherd had been birthed so many years earlier - and it is there that the first inklings of romantic love were stirred in the soul of the shepherd.

To make this a physical stirring would carry their relationship to a level that is not warranted in the context. There would probably have been a strong physical attraction to the woman, but the real issue here is the stirrings of the soul.

And from this reminder of their first ROMANTIC encounter, the pledge of love is solicited from the shepherd so that the Shulamite might be completely engulfed by his affections.

(SW) Song 8:6a
Put me like a seal over your heart, Like a seal on your arm.

We know that the Shulamite woman is speaking because of the 2nd masculine personal pronoun, your. The word for seal is chothAm, and refers to a seal or inscription that is engraved into an item. Sometimes it refers to the actual ring that makes the seal, which was carried on a string around the neck. Both images, then, communicate the closest of intimacy between two objects, for if I am placed upon the one I love as a seal would be engraved upon them, or like the signet ring that hangs around their neck, then we would be forever close and together. She is thus asking him to take her to himself as his wife so that they might be forever united by their love.

There is controversy over the next lines concerning who might be the speaker or speakers. Some have suggested that it is the chorus giving a brief discourse on the profundity of love. It seems to me that the words can easily be ascribed to the present speaker, the Shulamite, who is making certain observations about love - their love - and thus, giving the reason why they should be united in marriage.

1. For: this word of explanation (kiy, because), introduces a mini discourse on the glories of love - not only love in general, but her love for the shepherd and his love for her. Given in this manner, it serves as the reason why she should be so intimately embraced by the shepherd.

2. love is as strong as death: This refers to love in the context of strong romantic love that is devoted and faithful in the face of all pressures. Such a love the Shulamite manifested as she remained faithful to the shepherd and resisted the very intense and humanly attractive advances of Solomon. To the same degree that physical death claims an irresistible demand upon the life of man, so also does romantic love seize the heart and wraps it in unbreakable chains. I think that it is safe to suggest that the kind of love that is in view here is reciprocal. That is, a DUAL love, shared by one man and one woman. It should be known by the readers that romantic love - no matter how intense - can be destroyed if it is not cultivated. The Shulamite is not talking about a one-sided love, but of love that is equally shared by both.

3. Jealousy is as severe as Sheol: This is poetic repetition to emphasize the quality of true romantic love. The word translated jealousy is qinAh, and it means passion, zeal and then jealousy.

Thus, it further describes the intensity of romantic love. Death and sheol are parallel, which sets up the parallel between love and passion.

The major translations which insist on jealousy, only confuse the beauty of this mini discourse. Jealousy is not in view as a selfish, constricting ownership, but as a protective passion that functions as the "energy of love" (Keil and Delitzsch). Both of these, love and its passionate energy, are seen to be as powerful and compelling as physical death. None can withstand the grasp of death; none can escape the clutches of the grave. So also, is true romantic love of such an intensity when it grabs hold of one's soul, that there is no resistance and no sone escape from its call.

4. Its flashes are flashes of fire:

Shulamite's mini discourse continues by referencing the piercing, burning of love's claim upon the soul. Love is all consuming just as fire consumes its fuel so completely. This might even be a reference to the intense physical desires awakened by love, that is called BURNING at 1 Corinthians 7:9.

5. The flame of Yahweh:

I see in this reference, the truth that the whole pattern of romantic love is designed by God as a reflection of His own impartial, sacrificial and beneficent love for the human race. It is in fact, God's design that romantic love operates the way it does, melding the intensity of the soul with the pleasure of the body to bring about that unique sharing of both that results in new life.

6. Many waters cannot quench love: This follows upon the "fire" image of the previous point to indicate that true DUAL romantic love will endure the most severe hardship and remain ever alit with the flame of its passion.

7. Nor will rivers overflow it: Nor can it be flooded out so as to lose its moorings - its stability, for true romantic love remains attached to its reciprocal object with a cement that is non-physical, and thus, unaffected by the various adversities of this physical environment.

8. If a man were to give all the riches of his house for love, It would be utterly despised:

This seems to be a comment concerning the advances of Solomon. Money and various other material things cannot buy true romantic love. It can buy companionship and physical pleasure, but it cannot produce what can only be produced in the soul. Nor can money sustain love, for if the romantic love is not reciprocal it has no substance - no reality. One-sided romantic love does not have the power that is described in this discourse.

Any such attempt to buy the romantic affections of another produces instead a negative attitude of disdain.

The scene thus ends with this glorious exaltation of romantic love - the quality of love shared by the Shulamite and the shepherd, and a subtle rebuke to Solomon for the benefit of the audience. You may recall that the suggested reason for writing this play is to serve as a public remonstrance of Solomon's fleshly pursuits and to praise the opposite, which is the true romantic love and passion of the Shulamite for the shepherd.


Scene Two
Verses 8:8-14

Scene two opens in a village with the Shulamite and the shepherd standing before her brothers.

(bro)Song 8:8

1. We have a little sister: One of the brothers speak.
The reference is to the Shulamite, whom they have been watching over, since it seems that the parents are not in the alive. It has been suggested by some that this is a reference to another sister, and that the brothers here express their concern for her. This is so far out of the context of the story that it needs little rebuke. The "little sister" in view is the Shulamite who has come home and is now requesting from her brothers that she be given adult privileges, responsibility and accountability.

2. And she has no breasts: This is idiomatic for immaturity.
They have thought of her as too young to have romantic interests, or to make her own romantic decisions. This is probably why they had her sent off to the palace - obviously unaware of the sexual temptations she would be drawn into. They see her still as that young adolescent who was barely out of puberty and still had physical growth before her.

3. What shall we do for our sister on the day when she is spoken for?

But now, she is standing before them with her beloved requesting approval from them for the marriage. Their question reflects the situation and indicates that some kind of accounting needs to be given. As we will see, they will deny her request and express concern only for the family reputation.

(bro)Song 8:9 It appears that a second brother answers the question.

1. If she is a wall: This is an idiom for virginity.

2. We shall build on her a battlement of silver:

The word battlement is tiyrAh, and means an encampment or an encirclement of nomad people making camp. Silver symbolizes purity and indicates an honor shown to her virtue. But the word indicates that they intend to further protect her from the shepherd by keeping her secluded.

3. But if she is a door: This is the opposite image and indicates the loss of virginity, and thus, the loss of her feminine virtue.

4. We shall barricade her with planks of cedar:
If such is the case, then she has dishonored herself and her family, and she will guarded from further immorality by the same kind of seclusion, but without the praise of the SILVER enclosure.

The Shulamite protests and defends herself against their words; both the claim that she is still immature and the suggestion that she might have lost her feminine virtue.


(sw)Song 8:10

1. I was a wall (I AM a wall):

There is no verb in the next two statements. The past tense is supplied and perhaps assumed by the translators. The context must be what determines a past or present perspective. The verb in the third clause (became) suggests a past tense focus but as we will see, has a present focus.

This first clause says simply, I - a wall. It is a personal statement that claims virtue and virginity. It can just as well be rendered, I AM a wall (NIV).

2. and my breasts were (are) like towers: Again, there is no verb, so the statement can read, "and my breasts ARE like towers."
Here the Shulamite asserts herself as having maturity and virtue enough to speak for herself, and to be responsible for her own decisions.

3. Then I became in his eyes as one who finds peace:
The word, then, is Az, and is a connective adverb that continues the flow of context from one thought to the next. The verb translated, became, is hAyAh as a qal perfect. It can be rendered as, "I became (NASB)," or "I have become (NIV)."
The translation, "I have become," preserves the present tense context which began at verse 8. It can be rendered, "Thus, consequently, I have become to him (in his eyes).
The one she refers to is the shepherd - the one who places great value upon her and who recognizes her to be "one who finds peace."
The verb mAtzA is a qal participle, and means to find peace, contentment, harmony.

Because of her personal integrity and moral virtue, she has demonstrated consistently a life of tranquility - relaxation and peace with herself. This is attractive to a man, and she acknowledges that the shepherd has ever been impressed as he is now, with that quality of life seen in her.
She thus, announces to her brothers, that the shepherd has truly come to value her and has genuinely, in his own integrity, come to request the support of her family.

(SW)Song 8:11 Final orientation to Solomon.

Solomon had a vineyard at Baal-hamon; He entrusted the vineyard to caretakers; Each one was to bring a thousond {shekels} of silver for its fruit.

This seems to suggest that Solomon had leased a vineyard to the Shulamite's family for the 1000 units of silver. Then, as suggested earlier in this study, he may have invited the Shulamite to visit him in the palace - in fact, he may have offered to remove the lease payment in order for the opportunity to woo the Shulamite.
She has now returned and makes reference to this arrangement, but also refuses to accept the cancellation of the lease payment and tells her family to let Solomon keep his money.

(SW)Song 8:12

1. My very own vineyard is at my disposal: Here the Shulamite returns to the symbolism used earlier (the garden at verse 4:16) to refer to her body and the personal control and responsibility she has for it. That is, she determines who will receive her romantic affections and no matter how great the man or how great the materialistic bribe, she will not yield and compromise either her integrity or her love for the shepherd.

2. The thousond {shekels} are for you, Solomon:
This suggests that Solomon had offered to rebate the lease payment in exchange for the opportunity to woo the Shulamite. But she tells him via her protest to her brothers, for Solomon is not present, to keep the money because she never agreed to the plan and of course, did not yield to his advances.

3. And two hundred are for those who take care of its fruit.
This seems to indicate that part of the offer was a payment to the laborers (perhaps some hired hands). Perhaps Solomon had offered to pay these wages along with the rebate of the lease payment, but the entire offer from Solomon is rejected by the Shulamite.


(SH)Song 8:13
O you who sit in the gardens, {My} companions are listening for your voice - Let me hear it!

At this point the shepherd speaks and addresses the Shulamite and asks for her formal reply to his marriage proposal. His friends (companions) are waiting to hear her acceptance - and of course, he is to hear it first. We know that this is the shepherd because of the feminine possessive pronoun (your) with the noun voice, as well as the feminine form of the qal participle of the verb yAshabh (to sit).

The command, "let me hear it," is also the feminine form of the hiphil stem of the verb shAma.

(SW)Song 8:14
Hurry, my beloved, And be like a gazelle or a young stag On the mountains of spices.

Here the Shulamite tells the shepherd to hurry up and claim her as his wife. In the same way that these animals are quick and graceful as they traverse the mountains, so shall the shepherd be in claiming the Shulamite (the mountain of spices) as his own.

The story thus ends with the Shulamite and the shepherd standing together announcing to the audience and to the whole nation of Israel, the glories of their love.

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