O that thou wert as my brother, that sucked the breasts of my mother! when I should find thee without, I would kiss thee; yea, I should not be despised.
Royal rank and splendor are grown wearisome. The king once called her "sister" and "sister-bride." Would he were indeed as a "brother," her mother's own child whom she might meet, embrace, and welcome everywhere without restraint or shame. Her love for him is simple, sacred, pure, free from the unrest and the stains of mere earthly passion.
I would lead thee, and bring thee into my mother's house, who would instruct me: I would cause thee to drink of spiced wine of the juice of my pomegranate.
Who would instruct me - Or, thou shouldest teach me Isaiah 54:13. Some allegorists make the whole passage Cant. 7:11-8:2 a prayer of the synagogue for the Incarnation of the Word, like Sol 1:2((see note). Others, a prayer of the Church under both covenants for that complete union with the Incarnate Godhead which is still future.
His left hand should be under my head, and his right hand should embrace me.
The bride now turns to and addresses the chorus as before (marginal reference).
I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, until he please.
That ye stir not up - literally, as in the margin. For "my love" read as before love. The omission of "the roes and hinds" here is noticeable. Hebrew scholars regard this charge here and elsewhere Sol 2:7; Sol 3:5 as an admonition to Israel not to attempt obtaining a possession of, or restoration to, the promised land, and union or reunion there with the Holy One, before being inwardly prepared for it by the trials of the wilderness and the exile. This interpretation comes very near to what appears to be the genuine literal meaning (see Sol 2:7 note). They suppose the words here to be addressed by Messiah to Israel in "the wilderness of the people" Ezekiel 20:35, in the latter day, and the former words Sol 3:5 by Moses in the wilderness of Sinai.
Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved? I raised thee up under the apple tree: there thy mother brought thee forth: there she brought thee forth that bare thee.
The scene changes from Jerusalem to the birthplace of the bride, where she is seen coming up toward her mother's house, leaning on the arm of the great king her beloved.
Who is this - Compare and contrast with Sol 3:6. In the former scene all was splendor and exaltation, but here condescension, humility, and loving charm.
I raised thee up ... - Beneath this apple-tree I wakened thee. The king calls the bride's attention to a fruit-tree, which they pass, the trysting-spot of earliest vows in this her home and birthplace. The Masoretic pointing of the Hebrew text (the most ancient traditional interpretation) assigns these words to the bride, but the majority of Christian fathers to the king. The whole passage gains in clearness and dramatic expression by the latter arrangement.
Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame.
The bride says this as she clings to his arm and rests her head upon his bosom. Compare John 13:23; John 21:20. This brief dialogue corresponds to the longer one Cant. 4:7-5:1, on the day of their espousals. Allegorical interpreters find a fulfillment of this in the close of the present dispensation, the restoration of Israel to the land of promise, and the manifestation of Messiah to His ancient people there, or His Second Advent to the Church. The Targum makes Sol 8:6 a prayer of Israel restored to the holy land that they may never again be carried into captivity, and Sol 8:7 the Lord's answering assurance that Israel henceforth is safe. Compare Isaiah 65:24; Isaiah 62:3-4.
The key-note of the poem. It forms the Old Testament counterpart to Paul's panegyric 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 under the New.
(a) Love is here regarded as an universal power, an elemental principle of all true being, alone able to cope with the two eternal foes of God and man, Death and his kingdom.
"For strong as death is love,
Tenacious as Sheol is jealousy."
"Jealousy" is here another term for "love," expressing the inexorable force and ardor of this affection, which can neither yield nor share possession of its object, and is identified in the mind of the sacred writer with divine or true life.
(b) He goes on to describe it as an all-pervading Fire, kindled by the Eternal One, and partaking of His essence:
"Its brands are brands of fire,
A lightning-flash from Jah."
Compare Deuteronomy 4:24.
(c) This divine principle is next represented as overcoming in its might all opposing agencies whatsoever, symbolized by water.
(d) From all which it follows that love, even as a human affection, must be reverenced, and dealt with so as not to be bought by aught of different nature; the attempt to do this awakening only scorn.
Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.
We have a little sister, and she hath no breasts: what shall we do for our sister in the day when she shall be spoken for?
A brief dialogue commencing with a question and answer probably made by brothers of the bride concerning a younger sister who will soon be old enough to be asked in marriage. The answer is given in the form of a parable: "If she be a wall," i. e., stedfast in chastity and virtue, one on whom no light advances can be made, then let us honor and reward her. This fortress-wall shall be crowned as it were with a tower or battlement of silver. But "if she be a door," light-minded and accessible to seduction Proverbs 7:11-12, then let us provide against assailants the protection of a cedar bar or panel.
If she be a wall, we will build upon her a palace of silver: and if she be a door, we will inclose her with boards of cedar.
I am a wall, and my breasts like towers: then was I in his eyes as one that found favour.
The bride herself replies with the pride of innocence and virtue already crowned. She has shown herself to be such a fortress-wall as her brothers have alluded to, and her reward has been the royal favor.
Solomon had a vineyard at Baalhamon; he let out the vineyard unto keepers; every one for the fruit thereof was to bring a thousand pieces of silver.
She next turns to the king, and commends her brothers to his favorable regard by means of another parable. Solomon owns a vineyard in Baal-hamon (possibly Baalbak, or identical with Amana (Conder)), situated in the warm and fertile plains of Coele-Syria, overshadowed by the heights of Lebanon Sol 4:8. This vineyard he has let out to tenants etc.
The bride also has a vineyard of her own Sol 1:6, her beauty and virtue faithfully guarded by these same brothers in time past. This vineyard now belongs to Solomon. Let him have "the thousand" which is his due - she is indeed herself henceforth entirely his - but let the faithful keepers have their meed as well. At least two hundred silverlings should be theirs - a double tithe of royal praise and honor.
My vineyard, which is mine, is before me: thou, O Solomon, must have a thousand, and those that keep the fruit thereof two hundred.
Thou that dwellest in the gardens, the companions hearken to thy voice: cause me to hear it.
The poem having opened with the song of a chorus in praise of the king Sol 1:2-4, concludes with a versicle recited by the bride, repeating the last words of her former strain Sol 2:17, with one significant change. She no longer thinks of the possibility of separation. The "Mountains of Bether" (division) of Sol 2:17, are now "Mountains of Besamim" (spices). His haunts and hers are henceforth the same (compare Sol 4:6).
Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices.