The Agora
Bible Commentary
Song of Songs

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Song of Songs 8

Song 8:1

Vv 1-3: The Shulammite's desire for her husband's love continues to increase throughout their marriage.

IF ONLY YOU WERE TO ME LIKE A BROTHER: A desire for common parentage and origin (as she refers to him as her "brother", so he had called her his "sister" in Song 4:9). The sibling relationship is of course one of blood -- and this is highly suggestive in this connection: we ARE the brothers and sisters of Christ only because of the blood -- his blood shed for us! The wine we drink represents that blood, the blood of the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world -- OUR sin!

Obviously "Shulamith" does not really want her bridegroom to be her brother. Instead, she desires the close and intimate relation only brothers and sisters know. The fact that her ancestry and family was much humbler than that of "Solomon" may form the natural background of this statement (cf Song 1:5,6).

NURSED AT MY MOTHER'S BREASTS: Her desire that the King would be reduced to the common level of the Bride.

On the NT application, this implies the fact that Christ was "born of a woman, under the Law" (Gal 4:4; cp Isa 7:14; 9:6), and being a babe in his mother's arms did in fact nurse at her breasts (cp Psa 22:9). In all things, therefore, he was made like his brethren, being of the same nature (eg, Heb 2:11,14,17; 4:15,16; 5:7,8). And then, of course, those who do his will become his very real family (Mat 12:50)!

THEN, IF I FOUND YOU OUTSIDE, I WOULD KISS YOU, AND NO ONE WOULD DESPISE ME: "She expresses her desire for greater freedom to display her affection for him. In ANE cultures the public display of affection between a man and woman was frowned upon -- sometimes even punished. On the other hand, public displays of affection between children and family members were allowed. Accordingly, she hyperbolically wished that she and he were children from the same family so she could kiss him anytime she wished without fear of punishment or censure" (NETn).

This statement need not mean that she is afraid of being "despised" because of her love for the shepherd/king; indeed, she had already, earlier, been beaten by the "watchmen" because of it (Song 5:7). No, she is not afraid of such a thing (Luk 9:26)! But nevertheless, how wonderful it would be if all artificial restrictions were removed out of the way... and she could behave to him in the fullest expressions of intimacy, with no thought of what others might say or think!

In a like vein, the prophet speaks to the city of Jerusalem (as we already have seen and know, symbolic of the saints of God, and the Bride of the Lamb): "The sons of your oppressors will come bowing before you; all who despise you will bow down at your feet and will call you the City of the LORD, Zion of the Holy One of Israel. Although you have been forsaken and hated, with no one traveling through, I will make you the everlasting pride and the joy of all generations. You will drink the milk of nations and be nursed at royal breasts. Then you will know that I, the LORD, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob" (Isa 60:14-16).

Song 8:2

I WOULD LEAD YOU AND BRING YOU TO MY MOTHER'S HOUSE: "Here the wife pictures herself playfully leading her husband as an older sister or mother would lead a younger brother or son. Solomon and the Shulammite were close friends as well as lovers (cf Song 5:1,16)" (Const). The intimate fellowship in the family circle is referred to here (see also Song 3:4n).

Beyond this, which seems a pleasant and relaxed scene of domestic bliss, there is to be found -- by this point, we should expect no less! -- a most lovely and elevated spiritual counterpart. Even as the young woman was brought into the king's palace (Song 1:4; etc), so in Christ we have been made to sit, figuratively, in "heavenly places" (Eph 1:3,20; 2:6,13). And even as she now brings him, in delightful companionship, into the humble dwelling of her mother, so Christ has -- and will -- make his abode with us, in whatever lowly place we be (John 14:17,23).

SHE WHO HAS TAUGHT ME: An alternative is proposed by the RV mg: "that thou [ie, the lover/husband, or Christ] mightest instruct me." Also, the LXX follows a variant reading (basically, with a difference of one letter): "she who bore me" (as does the RSV and the NEB) -- which then matches Song 3:4 more closely.

As to "that thou mightest instruct me", consider the example of Mary, who sat at Jesus' feet, never leaving, and so was instructed by him (Luk 10:38-42). This was surely the "better part", and the greatest gift she could give her Savior -- her loving devotion and absolute attention!

As to "she who taught me", Gill writes, "The allusion may be to a grave and prudent woman, who, taking her newly married daughter apart, teaches her how to behave towards her husband, that she may have his affections, and live happily with him." Wise words indeed, and reminiscent of 1Ti 5. Gill then goes on to the further spiritual lesson: "The house of God is a school of instruction, where [believers] are taught the ways of Christ, the doctrines of the Gospel, and the duties of religion; nor are the greatest believers above instruction, and the means of it."

I WOULD GIVE YOU SPICED WINE TO DRINK: Continuing the little brother/older sister imagery of Song 8:1, the Beloved suggests that if she had been an older sister and he had been her little brother, she would have been able to nurse him. This is a euphemism for her sensual desire to offer her breasts to him in marital lovemaking.

SPICED WINE: "The term 'reqach' refers to ground herbs that were tasty additives to wine (HAL)" (NETn). This was the wine dispensed by the woman named "Wisdom": Pro 9:2,5.

As to spiritual application, Henry writes, "The exercise of grace and the performance of duty are spiced wine to the Lord Jesus, very acceptable to him, as expressive of a grateful sense of his favours. Those that are pleased with Christ must study to be pleasing to him; and they will not find him hard to be pleased. He reckons hearty welcome his best entertainment; and, if he have that, he will bring his entertainment along with him."

"Love would GIVE to the beloved... The kisses, the spiced wine, and the pomegranate juice which the bride would offer to her spouse may suggest to us that Christ looks for the affection, the holy service, the consecrated devotion, of those for whom he died. What can we give him? If we cannot bathe his feet with tears or anoint his head with precious and fragrant unguents, we can at all events offer to him the sincere affection of the heart, a constant place in our thoughts, the tribute of our praise, and, to crown all, the service which, being rendered to his people, he will accept as given to himself" (Pulpit).

POMEGRANATES: This is probably another euphemism for her breasts. For the Scriptural symbolism of pomegranates, see Song 4:3n.

Song 8:3

HIS LEFT ARM IS UNDER MY HEAD AND HIS RIGHT ARM EMBRACES ME: See Song 2:6n. Now that the story itself has progressed, seemingly, as far as the Millennium, Atwell writes: "In that day the mutual love of the Beloved and his Chosen will be apparent to all, and nothing shall ever mar the perfect bliss of their union. His love will always encircle her, and she will find perfect peace in him."

"Both thine arms are clasped around me,
And my head is on thy breast;
And my weary soul hath found thee
Such a perfect, perfect rest!"

Song 8:4

This section (Song 5:2 -- Song 8:4) that began with estrangement ends with the lovers entwined in each other's arms.

DAUGHTERS OF JERUSALEM, I CHARGE YOU: DO NOT AROUSE OR AWAKEN LOVE UNTIL IT SO DESIRES: Again, this refrain seems to serve to divide one section of the Song of Songs from another (cp Song 2:7; 3:5). Following the translation as given, it appears that "Solomon" again urged his wife's friends not to try to awaken her love for him artificially but to let love take its natural course. But textual scholars tell us that here there is a subtle difference. So, instead of "do not arouse or awaken love", we might read: "Why should you arouse or awaken love?" -- her love is now fully alive and needs no further stimulation. And her love is now known to the whole world; no one CAN interfere or hinder -- or even encourage -- any more! No outsider can influence the course of their communion and love, ever again!

Song 8:5

The companions speak, describing the scene they now witness. The angels in heaven, and all her friends on earth, are altogether the joyful spectators of the bride's joyful experience.

WHO IS THIS COMING UP FROM THE DESERT LEANING ON HER LOVER?: Cp Song 3:6n; and, more generally, but with the same theme, Song 6:10. The "wilderness" connoted to the Jewish mind Israel's 40 years of trials (cp, eg, Psa 107:2-8; Deu 32:9-12), as well as the tabernacle's 40-year sojourn. The couple had emerged from their trials successfully too (especially her seeming apathy: Song 5:2-7). The "wilderness" also symbolized God's curse (cf Jer 22:6; Joel 2:3). The couple had -- by their love for one another -- likewise overcome the curse of disharmony that God had placed on the first couple, Adam and Eve (cf Gen 3:16 and Song 7:10n).

At this point, the militant element of Song 3:7,8 and Song 6:10 seems to have disappeared; does this indicate that, in the Millennium, the rebellious tendencies of the mortal nations has now been completely suppressed?

At this point also, the country people, or the group of her relatives, are gazing at the pair of lovers, not coming in royal and majestic state (as in Song 3:6-11; 6:10), but in the sweet simplicity of true affection, the bride leaning with loving confidence on the arm of her husband, as they were seen before in the time of their "first love" (cp Phi 1:9; 1Th 4:9,10; ct Rev 2:4; Mat 24:12).

In Rev 12:6 a woman who appears to represent Israel -- having given birth to a special son -- flees INTO the desert or wilderness, to a place prepared for her by God; there He takes care of her for 1,260 days. Now, In Song 8:5, a woman comes OUT OF the wilderness, leaning upon her husband and master. Is there a Bible connection between these two passages? Possibly, although Rev 12 is susceptible of a myriad of different interpretations. This is a legitimate question, but perhaps too tangential to this study; the reader must be left to his own resources on the matter.

The word "raphaq" (leaning) occurs only this once in the OT. Special emphasis is placed on the bride's leaning upon her husband. This of course expresses closeness and intimacy and love. But it may also be intended to suggest her dependence upon him; this was and is ever true. If her beauty is praised, it is because HE has made her beautiful; if her devotion and love are praised, it is because HE has been such a wonderful object for such devotion and love. And if it ever be thought that her present state is the result of her own efforts and labors, let it be remembered that HIS own, infinitely more demanding labor has made it all possible; and that her "works" -- no matter how exhaustive -- can never approach to the point of "earning" what is hers truly and solely by HIS grace and mercy and love.

For, says he, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness... That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2Co 12:9,10). "My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me" (Psa 63:8). "The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms" (Deu 33:27). "Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved" (Joh 13:23). "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight" (Pro 3:5,6).

"As a skilled artist by two or three strokes brings some incident vividly and picturesquely before the eye, so does the poet here by a few words picture before us a scene harmonious with the whole composition, and depict the mutual relation of the two personages of this exquisite dramatic idyll. We see the bride returning to the home of her youth, quitting the familiar pastures, and approaching the dear abode; she is 'leaning upon her beloved'... Having given herself into his keeping, she knows that she is safe; that he will lead her aright, that he will never leave and never forsake her; that if she stumbles, she will not be allowed to fall; that if she is faint and weary, he will uphold her tottering steps; that if she is fearful, his words and his smile will banish her apprehensions and restore her peace" (Pulpit).

UNDER THE APPLE TREE I ROUSED YOU: "Who is this coming up from the desert leaning on her beloved?" The king answers this question, but he addresses his answer, not to the companions and observers who ask it, but to his bride alone. He reminds his bride of the time she had been sitting with him, under his shade -- as though he were the apple tree (Song 2:3,5) -- the "tree of life". It was there, he recalls, that he kindled within her the flame of her first love, and now that love has been fully realized in their union and life together. How far they have come!

"The Masoretic pointing of the Hebrew text (the most ancient traditional interpretation to which we can appeal) assigns the words to the bride, but the majority of the Christian fathers, to the king. The whole passage gains in clearness and dramatic expression by the latter arrangement... first the king, reminding the bride of the happy past, and then the bride, taking occasion from his words to ask for an assurance of his enduring affection" (Spk).

The verb form here points to the bride being the speaker, rather than the king. And it may be possible to make the same general sense out of this passage even if she were speaking to him. But the allusions to the previous incident -- the one described in Song 2:3,5 -- would seem to call for the king to be speaking to her in a sort of reverie or reminiscence. Therefore, textual evidence to the contrary, we lean in that direction. (Or perhaps the correct view, more precisely, is that SHE is speaking after all, but that she is simply recalling the words that HE had spoken to her.)

THE APPLE TREE: See Song 2:3n.

THERE YOUR MOTHER CONCEIVED YOU, THERE SHE WHO WAS IN LABOR GAVE YOU BIRTH: Childbirth in the open air was not uncommon and the Shulamite might well have been born in such circumstances. (This lends extra weight to the idea that he is speaking to her, and not she to him, for the words could hardly apply to the birth of the king.) Cp Song 3:4n; Song 8:2n. Spiritually, she had been begotten by the Spirit-word (1Pe 1:23; 2:2; Joh 3:3-5).

Burrowes weaves together a beautiful tapestry of "wilderness" reminiscences illustrative of this verse: "Before Jesus found us, our condition was truly forlorn. Like a poor, way-worn pilgrim in an oriental desert, under the withering heat, we had with Hagar sat down to die (Gen 21:16); but we saw one who was as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land; [Isa 32:2] to him we turned, and under his shadow we sat down with great delight; there one touched us, greater than the angel who was sent to the disheartened prophet (1Ki 19:5); there God called on us to arise from our despondency; there he opened our eyes, and caused us to see a well of living water, [Gen 21:19; cp Num 21:16-18] and made us go in the strength of that food onward to the mount of God, where he had appeared, not in the terrible darkness of Sinai, but in the mercy of Calvary and gentleness of Zion. There, beneath the dropping of his blood, were we given away to him in covenant relation... and with a tenderness infinitely surpassing that with which the beloved disciple fostered the mother of Jesus, committed to his care by the dying Saviour on the cross, [John 19:25-27] did our precious Redeemer from that hour take us into his own fortune, his own bosom, his own home."

Song 8:6

These verses 6,7 can easily be seen as the climax of the entire book. Though a few other matters are dealt with in the remaining seven verses, this portion expresses, in the most elevated and absolute language, the primacy of love in all of God's relations. It is the motivating force in His actions toward men, and especially toward Israel; it is the motivating force in all of Christ's life; and it is the tenderest and sublimest quality drawn forth from the breast of the Beloved Bride, by which she endears herself to her Husband. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (Joh 3:16). "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom 5:8). "Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions -- it is by grace you have been saved" (Eph 2:4,5). "But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy" (Tit 3:4,5). "For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again" (2Co 5:14,15). "Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him... We love because he first loved us" (1Jo 4:11-13,16,19).

PLACE ME LIKE A SEAL: As is often the case in human affairs, profound thoughts can center upon simple things, and something of little intrinsic value can sustain a rich bounty of meaning. The seal (Heb "chowtham") was a cylinder seal or a signet ring, as well as the impression made by it. In the ANE, such a seal was used to authenticate a document or to denote ownership of property (and exclusive right to the use thereof: cp Song 4:12). The sealing cylinder or ring was thus very valuable (Jer 22:24; Hag 2:23), and an emblem of authority (Gen 41:42; Est 3:12; 1Ki 21:8). Such a "chowtham" was used to make a stamp impression to identify the object as the property of the seal's owner (cp also Rev 7:3-8; 9:4; 14:1; Eze 9:4,6). Seals were made of semi-precious stone upon which was engraved a unique design and an inscription, eg, "l' mlk" = "belonging to king" The impression could be placed upon wet clay of a jar or on a writing tablet by rolling the seal across the clay. Because it was a valuable possession its owner would take careful precautions not to lose it, keeping it close to him at all times. Seals were often hung from bracelets, armbands (2Sa 1:10), or necklaces (Gen 38:18); or worn as rings (Jer 22:24; Gen 41:42; Est 3:12).

This whole picture is, also, very similar to the Jewish concept of phylacteries, or tephillim, and mezuzim -- little boxes or containers bound to arms or foreheads, or affixed to doorposts, on which important Scripture verses were inscribed, as aids to remembrance (cp Deu 6:8,9; 11:18; Exo 13:9,16; Pro 3:3; 6:21; 7:3; Mat 23:5). Such is what Christ should be to us, and what we are to Christ -- remembrances attached to the person, or kept close at hand, which are never lost or misplaced or left behind. Like the band of blue sewn or dyed upon the Jewish garments, which reminded them of heavenly things and of God (Num 15:38,39), or like the wedding rings worn by many couples today -- these are other reminders of solemn and holy obligations, obligations of love and devotion.

The Bride's figurative request draws on two actions associated with the seal. First, just as a seal was rolled on wet clay in order to leave its impression to identify the person to whom the object belonged, so she wanted to be impressed on his heart. Second, just as a seal was attached around one's neck or tied to one's arm in order to keep it safe, she was asking that Solomon keep her in a close relationship, which would never be lost.

The "chowtham" was something highly precious to the owner and could be used symbolically for a person whom one valued [cf Jer 22:24; Hag 2:23]; and so the bride was asking Solomon that he treasure her, that he regard her as a cylinder seal or prized ring.

In the NT, the sepulchre that was "sealed" shut by men (Mat 27:66, sw in LXX) was "sealed" open by an angel (Mat 28:2)! This is the seal of our salvation, and the seal of our Beloved's love for us! Also, the wounds our Saviour received, in hands and feet and side, may serve him too -- even now in heaven -- as the "seals" by which he remembers us, whom he loved even unto death. They are like the twelve stones upon the breastpiece of the High Priest (Exo 28:15-21), which represented the twelve tribes of Israel, and which he took with him into the Most Holy Place, into the very presence of God. Zion, or Jerusalem, said about her God, "The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me" (Isa 49:14). But the LORD responded, "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands" (Isa 49:15,16). And the glorified Son of God so speaks to us, the "New Jerusalem": 'Never think that I have forgotten you. I have indelible seals, upon my hands and in my side. Though healed now, they are ever with me -- and it is as though your names, each and every one of you, are engraved upon my very person. My love for you is stronger than death, my passion more unyielding than the grave! Never fear: you are mine. I WILL REMEMBER YOU!' Cp also 2Ti 2:19: "Nevertheless, God's solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: 'The Lord knows those who are his'."

In the NT, the Holy Spirit of promise (or the promised Holy Spirit) is called a "seal" ["sphragis" = the stamp of a signet ring], or a deposit ["arrhabon" = a pledge, ie, down-payment, or part of the purchase price] guaranteeing our inheritance (Eph 1:13,14; cp Eph 4:30; Rom 4:11; 1Co 9:2; 2Co 1:22; 2Ti 2:19; Rev 9:4).

OVER YOUR HEART: This seal could be suspended by a cord around the neck (and thus over the heart) as in Gen 38:18. The seal upon his heart recalls Christ's pierced side (Joh 19:34). Cp the gems on the breastplate -- each engraved like a signet ring with the name of one of the twelve tribes (Exo 28:21,30):

"The names of all the saints he bears,
Engraven on his heart.
Nor shall the humblest saint complain
That he has lost his part."

LIKE A SEAL ON YOUR ARM: A cylinder seal or ring might be tied to one's arm, or a more conventional ring worn on one's hand (ie, finger). Cp also Isa 49:13-16a: the "seal" upon Christ's hand or arm.

FOR LOVE IS AS STRONG AS DEATH: The Heb ("haz") for "strong" suggests an irresistible assailant or an immovable defender (Jdg 14:18; Num 13:28). What can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus? "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: 'For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.' [Psa 44:22] No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor heavenly rulers, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom 8:35-39). Not even death can separate us from the love of God in Christ -- as both Peter (John 21:15-19) and Paul learned (Acts 20:24). Love, divine love, stands as the only creative and constructive force which throws down the gauntlet and defies all destructive and degenerative forces.

"Death in its own sphere is strong and seems omnipotent; but it cannot conquer love. Death, with all its terrors, was set before the Lord Jesus Christ, as the price of his love for men, but it did not deter him. He loved us and gave himself for us, enduring the cross and despising the shame. [Heb 12:2] Death, too, has been ten thousand times set before the Bride of the Lamb; and she, too, loveth not life unto the death, for neither death nor life is able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus [Rom 8:38,39]" (Stuart, cited by Ask).

ITS JEALOUSY UNYIELDING AS THE GRAVE: The Hebrew "qinah" has a wide range of meanings: "jealousy" (Pro 6:34; 14:30; 27:4), "competitiveness" (Ecc 4:4; 9:6), "anger" (Num 5:14,30), "zeal" (2Ki 10:16; Psa 69:9; 119:139; Job 5:2), and "passion" (Song 8:6). "Jealousy" here should not be understood so much as the rather negative "green-eyed monster", but as the positive and reasonable assertion of a rightful ownership claim (cp 2Co 11:2). So it is with Christ and his precious lambs: "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand" (Joh 10:28).

UNYIELDING AS THE GRAVE: The KJV has "cruel as the grave", but the word may be translated "unyielding" (NIV) or "relentless" (JB). The grave is relentless, and never satisfied, in seeking others to consume (Pro 30:15,16), as it is unyielding once it has them in its grasp. But the zeal/jealousy/passion of God for His children (as that of Christ for his bride) can overcome the power of the grave (Heb "sheol"): "I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades" (Rev 1:18; cp 1Co 15:54-57; Hos 13:14). Cp also Exo 20:5; 34:14; and -- of Christ -- Psa 69:9. The zeal that burned in Jesus Christ (Psa 69:9; Luk 12:49,50) was kindled also in his followers (Act 2:3; Rom 15:30; Phi 2:17) -- so that "they overcame him [the accuser] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death" (Rev 12:11). And so they sing:
"I need thy presence every passing hour:
What but thy grace can foil the tempter's power?
Who like thyself my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
¶ "I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
Where is death's sting? where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if thou abide with me."

IT BURNS LIKE BLAZING FIRE: "Burns" and "blazing" both represent the same Hebrew word, "resheph", derived from the primary word "saraph" (cp our English "seraph" and "seraphim", as in Isa 6:2). It literally means to be set on fire, as a live coal -- but it is also used for the lightning (Psa 78:48), which flashes across the sky, or sparks springing from a campfire (Job 5:7), and sometimes figuratively (ie, Psa 76:3) for an arrow -- and maybe a flaming arrow -- as it too flashes across the sky. (Cupid's arrow of love is the rough approximation, in Greek mythology, of this concept.)

Furthermore, a blazing fire may connote a branding iron -- with which the arm or hand might be branded, with the mark of a slave (cp Isa 44:5; 49:16; Rev 13:16; Exo 13:9); in this case, a "slave of love"!

LIKE A MIGHTY FLAME: Like a burning fever. "A most vehement flame" (RSV); "the very flame of Yah" (RV), an abbreviated form of the divine name (Yah) being used to express the superlative. "The abbreviated form 'Yah' is used only in poetic texts as a variation of 'Yahweh' (eg, Exo 15:2; 17:16; Psa 68:5, 19; 77:12; 89:9; 94:7,12; 102:19; 104:35; 105:45; 106:1,48; 111:1; 112:1; 113:1,9; 115:17,18; 116:19; 117:2; 118:5,14,17–19; 122:4; 130:3; 135:1,3,4,21; 146:1,10; 147:1,20; 148:1,14; 149:1,9; 150:1,6; Isa 12:2; 26:4; 38:11)" (NETn).

The flame that never dies may be a reference to the fire on the altar of God, which was to be kept burning, and not allowed to go out (Lev 6:12,13); thus it symbolized the burning and unquenchable love of God for His people Israel.

This phrase is the single reference in the text to the Name of the LORD God. Still, it does not seem necessary to struggle to find the Divine Name in the Song of Songs. The picture of human love found here is consistent with the noblest Bible teaching on human sexuality; and the parable it presents -- pointing unfailingly to Christ and his perfect Bride -- is one of the loftiest themes in all the Bible. The purity of the human relationship pictured is one of the strong arguments for the fact of divine revelation. So the Book hardly demands one rather secretive reference to the name Yahweh to sanctify it; it is sanctified by its own revelation and teachings -- it may be said to have the "seal" of God on it already!

Song 8:7

MANY WATERS CANNOT QUENCH LOVE; RIVERS CANNOT WASH IT AWAY: Cp 1Th 5:19: "Quench not (do not put out) the Spirit's fire." So brightly burns the flame of their love, that even a great flood, and a mighty river could not quench it! Defiantly, against all that may be dark or threatening in life, this girl throws into the balance the inextinguishable flame of love.

This expression of fervent and irresistible love from the lips of the bride points to the monogamous character of marriage. True marriage is the union in love of one man and one woman, and any intrusion by a third party violates the unique relationship between the two. The desire of one who truly loves is so strong that he gives himself completely to the other and desires the same strong, exclusive affection in return. Such a love for another is from the LORD ("like the very flame of the LORD": v 6), and it cannot be extinguished. The many waters of trouble, suffering, and old age, cannot stifle love; it lives on still. There were such "many waters" which tried, in the beautiful human story of this Song of Songs, but they could not quench the maiden's love for her beloved.

Likewise, our Lord Jesus Christ was inundated by "many waters" of trials and troubles: "All your waves and breakers have swept over me" (Psa 42:7; cp Psa 69:1,2,14,15; 88:7,15-17; Lam 3:53-55). And he was brought even to death, at the "altar of God" (Psa 43:4; 118:27). Yet his love for his God and for his "children" and "bride" were never diminished.

And again, for the saints, if their faith -- and their love for their Master -- be built on the rocks, and not on the sand, then the rains, the winds, and the floods of waters cannot overwhelm them (Mat 7:24-27).

IF ONE WERE TO GIVE ALL THE WEALTH OF HIS HOUSE FOR LOVE, IT WOULD BE UTTERLY SCORNED: As such love cannot be extinguished, neither can it be bought. No price tag can be put on love! It is not for sale, at any price (cp Psa 49:7,8; Isa 55:1,2; 1Pe 1:18,19). Not even a blank check from a Rockefeller or a Carnegie can purchase it! Cp Peter's response to Simon's attempt to buy the gift of God: "May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money!" (Act 8:20; cp Num 22:18).

Such absolute and priceless love is likewise the spiritual ideal between God and His people. We are warned not to serve two masters (Mat 6:24) and to love the LORD our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mar 12:30). The surpassing greatness of knowing Christ is far greater than all of this world's prosperity and power and prestige and pomp (Phi 3:8).

It would almost seem that Paul had this verse in mind when he wrote: "If I give all I possess to the poor... but have not love, I gain nothing" (1Co 13:3).

Song 8:8

WE HAVE A LITTLE SISTER, AND HER BREASTS ARE NOT YET GROWN: Among the commentators there is no real consensus on the section which commences here. Is this a reminiscence by the Bride's older brothers (or the female companions), of her earlier childhood, during which they watched her and protected her chastity (ie v 9) until she was full-grown (Song 1:6)? [Brothers seem to have played a major part in a sister's courtship and marriage (Gen 24:29,50,55,60) and in the protection of her chastity (Gen 34:6-17; 2Sa 13:20,32).] Or, alternatively, the brothers (or the companions) speak (or perhaps even the Bride herself speaks) of a younger sister. She is not physically mature (in ct Bride herself: Song 4:5; 7:3; cp also Eze 16:7).

On a spiritual plane, this last possibility suggests prospective believers -- those who come to accept Christ during the Millennium. Identifying the "young sister" with new, mortal believers in the Kingdom Age is, for all practical purposes, a uniquely Christadelphian position. Nothing else would make nearly so much sense as this. Accordingly, (1) Atwell writes: " 'A little sister' [is] one who is still in a state of poorness and imperfection in the day when the Chosen One of the Beloved has come to the fulness of perfection and beauty. The desire for the little sister is that she, 'the residue of the heathen', [Eze 36:3-5] shall flourish and mature and come to a like state of perfection." (2) Ask writes of this "Song whose scene is laid in the Kingdom of God", that "a vast multitude of those living in that age are striving to perfect themselves in God's sight, and longing for the day when the thousand years will end and they too will become constituents of the Lamb's Wife. The Bride, with fellow-feeling for their position, shares her Husband's earnest desire for their complete redemption." And (3) HPM writes, "Who is the sister? First, it should be noted that she is related; she is a sister. Next, she is not only her sister, but his as well, for she [he assumes the Bride is speaking here] uses the plural, personal pronoun, 'we'. Third, being a sister, she is a daughter of the mother: the covenant of God. Finally, the sister is 'little', she is undeveloped. As the whole setting of this section of the Song is in the millennium, it is necessary to look to the future, to discern who is here referred to. During the millennium, the equivalent of the Bride will be developed from among the sons of men, to be granted immortality and union with Christ at the end of his thousand years' reign. That community is the 'little one' of this verse, answering to the four points enumerated above."

Such insights into these verses, it must be emphasized, will not be found among the other expositors of the Song of Songs. Their conclusions? Generally, that the current "bride" represents the Jewish church, and the "young (undeveloped) sister" the Gentile church -- with whom the hope of the gospel must be graciously shared: the "other sheep that are not of this fold" (Joh 10:16; cp Act 15:14-17; 18:10; Rom 15:9-12; Eph 2:12-14). Or that the "bride" is the current church, earnestly desiring along with Christ that its newest and youngest members may grow up into the "fullness of Christ" as well (Eph 4:13-16). These are quite reasonable interpretations, as far as they go, but they fall short of dealing with the evident Kingdom application of this section of the Song of Songs.

WHAT SHALL WE DO FOR OUR SISTER FOR THE DAY SHE IS SPOKEN FOR?: The speaker or speakers, whoever they are (see note above), reveal their desire to prepare the young sister (whoever she might be!) for a proper marriage when the time is ripe.

Or alternatively, again, the saints in the kingdom, along with Christ, ponder the spiritual welfare of those mortals who have newly turned to the Lord. What will they do for the "little sister"? Like the Levites, the glorified saints will act as "priests" in the kingdom age; they will teach and instruct and guide, as well as govern, the mortal peoples -- patiently helping them to grow spiritually, preparing them to become, themselves, parts of the Bride of Christ: "O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although [now!] the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, [then... at that time!] your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it' " (Isa 30:19-21). " I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them" (Isa 42:16). "This is what the LORD says -- your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: 'I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea. Your descendants would have been like the sand, your children like its numberless grains; their name would never be cut off nor destroyed from before me' " (Isa 48:17-19; cp also Isa 58:11-14; Psa 25:8,9).

Song 8:9

Perhaps the best alternative is to see these verses as coming from the Bride. She has now consummated her relationship with her beloved, finding the greatest joy in his company. She is looking back with thankfulness that she came to those sacred moments as a virgin. She thinks of her younger sister and longs for her to know the same joys that she now experiences. So she expresses her concern for the care and protection of her sibling. She, along with her husband, undertakes to guard her sister from the loss of something precious. (Of course, this scenario fits best with the "new believers in the Kingdom" viewpoint.)

IF SHE IS A WALL: Implying virginity (ie Song 4:12). An outside fortress wall that protects the city from enemy military attacks (eg, Lev 25:29,30; Jos 6:5; 1Ki 3:1; Neh 2:8; 12:27; Jer 1:18; 15:20). A comparison between the impregnability of a city fortified with a strong outer wall and a virtuous and self-restrained young woman, who successfully resists any assaults against her virginity.

WE WILL BUILD TOWERS OF SILVER ON HER: "Turrets" or "battlements". The row of stones along the top of a fortress wall (Eze 46:23), set for the defense and stability of the wall. That is, we will protect her.

SILVER: The metal that signifies redemption (Song 3:10n; Exo 30:12,13).

IF SHE IS A DOOR: In this instance, the opposite of the wall -- suggesting that she is sexually promiscuous.

Or possibly, rather than suggesting promiscuity, this may be read this way: as the "wall" is for protection, and signifies purity and protection against any immoral advances... so the "door" may permit entrance of that which is legitimate and beneficial -- ie, the teaching of the KIng and would-be Husband (cp Act 14:27).

WE WILL ENCLOSE HER WITH PANELS OF CEDAR: Literally, "enclose" = "barricade" (NET). Such panels may have been used in military contexts in reference to the siege or defense of a fortress city, by setting up military positions (siege-walls) to surround a besieged city (eg, Isa 29:3).

Song 8:10

"This she speaks, not as upbraiding her little sister that had no breasts, but comforting her... that he who had made her what she was, who had built her up upon himself and made her to grow up to maturity, could and would do the same kindness for those whose case she bore upon her heart" (Henry). Shulamith reflects back on her own pilgrimage of faith and how far her Lord has brought her. It was only yesterday that she was the poor country maiden with nothing to bring to the shepherd-king, except of course her seeking and loving heart. Now she stands at the side of her "Solomon", having the stature of a queen.

I AM A WALL: Meanwhile, the bride Shulamith affirms vigorously that she kept herself chaste for her husband. Now full-grown (possibly in contrast to vv 8,9), the Bride proclaims her chastity ("I am a wall").

AND MY BREASTS ARE LIKE TOWERS: The noun "migdal" can refer to the watchtowers of a fortified city (2Ki 17:9; 18:8; 2Ch 26:9), projecting towers along the fortified city wall which were crucial to the defense of the city (2Ch 14:6; 26:15; 32:5), or fortress towers in the countryside set for the defense of the land (Jdg 9:52; 2Ch 27:4; Eze 27:11). The Bride mixes metaphors by describing her well-developed breasts (Song 4:5; 7:3,4,7,8; cp Eze 16:7) with a comparison of sense and a comparison of sight: (1) In a comparison of sense: she successfully defended her virginity and sexual purity from seduction, as fortress towers defended the city; and (2) in a comparison of sight: as the fortress towers along a city wall projected out at the corners of the wall, the Bride's breasts finally developed into beautiful "towers" (cp Song 8:8: where either she as a young girl, or her younger sister, did not as yet have developed breasts).

THUS I HAVE BECOME IN HIS EYES LIKE ONE BRINGING CONTENTMENT: This can be read "Thus I have become" or "Then I was"; either is suitable. Likewise, "one bringing contentment" might as easily be "one finding peace, or favor". Therefore, she expresses her desire to be "peace" ("shalom") FOR her beloved husband -- and to continue in peace or oneness WITH him. Her purity and love -- amply described earlier in this Song -- have now resulted in this peace. "Shalom" carries with it the nuances of completion, fulfillment, harmony, contentment (NIV), rest, and -- especially -- oneness with the Divine. Each shade of meaning carries its own witness to the richness of the experience here.

The term "shalom" also brings instant association with the typical "Solomon" and "Shulamith", as well as the capital and temple city of "Jerusalem" -- since all four words share the same Hebrew root. As the Kingdom begins, all three -- man, woman, and city -- are brought together for the first time in human history, when the Glory of the LORD will fill the earth. A time of unexcelled "shalom" will have come to the world: the King of peace will find peace with his lovely Bride in the city of peace, whilst all the world will be at peace as well.

Song 8:11

Vv 11,12: Another very difficult passage, and susceptible of various interpretations: Is there one "vineyard" or two? Is (are) the "vineyard(s)" literal or figurative? Who owns it (them) -- "Solomon" or "Shulamith", or both? The view expressed here assumes that the king owned the one vineyard first (which was leased out to tenants: Song 1:6) and that -- after his marriage -- he gave it outright as a wedding gift to his bride. But this scenario is by no means a certainty.

SOLOMON HAD A VINEYARD IN BAAL HAMON: The opening phrase is reminiscent of the "Song of the vineyard" in Isa 5:1-7. The site of "Baal Hamon" is unknown. "It has been supposed to be identical with Baal-gad, and also with Hammon in the tribe of Asher (Jos 19:28)" (Easton). In the story/parable, evidently, "Solomon" had an extensive vineyard there, which he leased to the Shulammite's brothers; they in turn put her to work in it (Song 1:6). It was there that she met and fell in love with the young shepherd who turned out, also, to be the king.

BAAL HAMON: The name "Baal Hamon" signifies "the lord of a multitude". Cp the significance of the name of Abraham, with the same root: "father of a multitude" (Gen 17:4,5). It is easy to make this name out as a prophetic allusion to the Lord Jesus Christ: Abraham is the father of a great multitude, Jew and Gentile alike, who are his spiritual seed, because they have the same faith as their "father" (Rom 4:12,16; Gal 3:7,9; Joh 8:39); likewise, Christ himself is the "Lord" of the same great multitude.

HE LET OUT HIS VINEYARD TO TENANTS: "Keepers" (AV, RSV), "guardians" (NEB), "overseers" (JB). Cp the parables of Mat 21:31-41; Mar 12:1-9; Luk 20:9-16 (tenants renting a vineyard), as well as the parable of Mat 20:1-16 (workers hired to work in a vineyard); each of the two parables seem to borrow from this brief picture in vv 11,12.

EACH WAS TO BRING FOR ITS FRUIT A THOUSAND SHEKELS OF SILVER: The lease payment for each tenant was 1,000 shekels of silver. This passage seems to be echoed in Isa 7:23, where "a thousand vines" was "worth a thousand silver shekels"; the context there suggests that this would be a very good price... but is it a purchase price or a lease price? It is hard to tell.

Song 8:12

BUT MY OWN VINEYARD IS MINE TO GIVE: Had "Solomon" given her a wedding gift of the great vineyard at Baal Hamon -- the place where she had previously labored for nothing?

THE THOUSAND SHEKELS ARE FOR YOU, O SOLOMON: It appears she is turning the rent payments (cp v 11) over to "Solomon". While the KJV reads, "Though, O Solomon, MUST have...", the RSV has "MAY have..." and the RV and ASV have "shalt have..." It is her voluntary, free-will gift to him; it is not given by compulsion. Even though he has given her a wonderful gift, she surrenders not only herself to the king but all her possessions as well. (Cp the servants in Christ's parables of talents and pounds, who having received gifts from their master, return them to him at the end, along with whatever their labor and foresight and investment may have "earned": Mat 25:14-30; Luk 19:11-27.)

AND TWO HUNDRED ARE FOR THOSE WHO TEND ITS FRUIT: Meanwhile, the actual workers in the vineyard are to be suitably rewarded (Mat 20:1-16; 1Co 9:7; Mat 10:41; 1Ti 5:17,18). Is she harking back to the time when she had previously worked in this same vineyard, and not been properly compensated (see Song 1:6)? Such an early experience makes her all the more solicitous of the welfare of the latest laborers in the vineyard (who could well be the brothers who had once treated her so harshly). Hers, then, is a trait to be commended: she turns the other cheek, and does good to those who did ill to her (Mat 5:39,44). And so her Lord could say to her, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Mat 25:40).

There is a possible symbolic link between this verse and Song 1:6, etc; but to develop it requires reading this section in a somewhat different way. The Bride proclaims that her "vineyard" (by which she may mean herself or her body: cp the like imagery in Song 4:12; 5:1; 6:2, for examples) belongs to her alone. In contrast to the other vineyard of "Solomon", at Baal Hamon (v 11), which could be leased out, and its fruit, which could be bought or sold, her "vineyard" (cp the idea in Song 1:6) is not for sale. Her love must and is to be freely given. In this view, "Baal Hamon" ("lord, or master, or owner of a multitude") may refer to the real Solomon (not the prototypical and symbolic "Solomon" of this Song of Songs), and his "harem" of a 1,000 wives and concubines (1Ki 11:1-3) -- which may also be alluded to in the reference to a "thousand shekels" (here) and its connection with a "thousand vines" (Isa 7:23). In this way the virtuous and devoted young woman, and the likewise virtuous and devoted shepherd-king "Solomon", are set in stark contrast to the huge harem and the self-indulgent, real-life Solomon -- who could scarcely if ever have known the exalted love of a purely monogamous relationship that the Song of Songs portrays. (The same sort of contrast may be the point of Song 6:8 as well. The "great" Solomon, with his unimaginable number of wives and concubines, yet also with a heart which was turned away by them, simply cannot be the shepherd-king-lover "Solomon" of this Song of Songs!)

Song 8:13

Vv 13,14: The final scene of the Song of Songs takes us back to the beginning -- which is in fact the true ending (see Song 1:2-6n).

The king/shepherd speaks, for the final time.

YOU WHO DWELL IN THE GARDENS WITH FRIENDS IN ATTENDANCE, LET ME HEAR YOUR VOICE: The king seeks his beloved bride in the gardens, even as he had done at the beginning of their relationship (cp Song 2:14). He desires to hear her voice, "so sweet and charming to him... her voice in prayer and praise; in speaking of him, his person, offices, and grace, to others, and confessing his name before men" (Gill). "[Christ] would like to hear an expression of love from us that is purely for himself. This is the message of the whole book, and the point that we have laboured from the commencement, that of the personal touch, and intimacies between the bridal pair... Shall we not make the most of the time available to us in making personal intimate contact with our Beloved, at least in our thoughts, and sanctify these moments as anticipating the eternal union?" (Hall).

WITH FRIENDS IN ATTENDANCE: Cp Song 1:7. Probably not just the bride's original companions, but all those who have attended the wedding celebration (Song 6:13 -- 7:5). But are they with the bride, as the NIV implies, or with the bridegroom, as the AV ("The companions hearken to thy voice") implies? The most reasonable answer, based on v 14, is that he is accompanied by the friends and guests, and that she calls him away from them to be with her alone: "Come away, my lover!"

"The companions hearken to thy voice" (AV). "Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name. 'They will be mine,' says the LORD Almighty, 'in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him' " (Mal 3:16,17).

"Jesus remembers well the garden of Gethsemane, and although he has left that garden, he now dwells in the garden of his church: there he unbosoms himself to those who keep his blessed company. That voice of love with which he speaks to his beloved is more musical than the harps of heaven. There is a depth of melodious love within it which leaves all human music far behind" (CHS). Even as he desires to hear her voice, so she delights to hear his.

Song 8:14

The bride speaks, for the final time. She responds immediately in words which echo many of the pictures of love that have appeared earlier in the Song of Songs.

COME AWAY, MY LOVER: As he had previously invited her, so now she invites him (cp Song 2:10; 4:8). "Make haste" (AV). Surely this means, 'Come to me quickly, and we may go away together!' "The Spirit and the Bride say, 'Come'. Even so, come, Lord Jesus" (Rev 22:17,20). The servants of God should long and earnestly plead for the return of Christ in the same way. And, as the "new creation" aborning, they do that very thing: "The [new] creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God" (Rom 8:19-21).

AND BE LIKE A GAZELLE OR LIKE A YOUNG STAG: Cp Song 2:9n; 2:17; 4:5: this is her favorite description for her lover.

ON THE SPICE-LADEN MOUNTAINS: Since the gazelle is on these mountains, just as he is on the hills in Song 2:17, it would seem that the breasts of the young woman are being alluded to here again (cp also Song 4:6).

"Spice-laden" is the same word as the holy anointing oil (Psa 133). The mountains of division (Bithron), mentioned earlier in the Song, become now the mountains of unity ("Besamin" = balsam and spices, the symbols of unity and peace) (cp Song 2:17n). The mountains of balsam, or spices, could also refer to the Temple Mount, where priests offer the incense of prayer and praise to God. The lovers, who were previously separated in time, are now joined together in eternity, to be the true "temple" of God -- that God might be "all in all" (1Co 15:28).


In the final scene of the Song of Songs, the two lovers call out to one another; they meet and embrace, lingering a while in each other's arms. Then, side by side, the king and his lovely bride pass through a garden paradise on their way into a glorious palace. Birds sing sweetly in the trees, and somewhere a spring murmurs softly. The breeze is cool and refreshing, and the very air is infused with the subtle fragrance of the most exotic spices. Around them and all about lies a new world of peace. It may never have been true before, not really, in ten thousand works of fiction, and fairy tales without number... but it is finally true now: "And they lived happily ever after!"
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