Song of Solomon 8:6
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.
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(6) Seal.—See Jeremiah 22:24; Haggai 2:23, &c. A symbol of something especially dear and precious.

Jealousy.Strong passion, from a word meaning to be red with flame; not in a bad sense, as the parallelism shows:—

“Strong as death is love,

Inexorable as Sheol is ardent passion.”

Grave.—Heb. sheôl. Perhaps, as in the LXX., Hades, with its figurative gates and bars (Psalm 6:5, Note).

Coals.—Heb. resheph; in Psalm 78:48, hot thunderbolts (comp. Habakkuk 3:5); in Job 5:7, sparks; Marg., sons of the burning; Deuteronomy 32:24, burning heat of the burning fever of the plague.

A most vehement flame.—Literally, a flame of Jah, the only place where a sacred name occurs in the book, and here, as in the Authorised Version, adverbially, to express something superlatively great and strong. Southey’s lines are a faint echo of this:—

“But love is indestructible,

Its holy flame for ever burneth,

From heaven it came, to heaven returneth.”

Song of Solomon 8:6-7. Set me as a seal upon thy heart — These are undoubtedly the words of the bride. The sense is, Let thy mind and heart be constantly set upon me. Solomon seems to allude to the engraven tablets which were frequently worn upon the breast, and to the signet on a man’s arm or hand, which they prized at a more than ordinary rate, and which were continually in their sight. For love — My love to thee, whence this desire proceeds, is strong as death — Which conquers every living thing, and cannot be resisted or vanquished. Jealousy — Or, zeal: my ardent love to thee, is cruel as the grave — Hebrew, קשׁה, is hard, grievous, and terrible, and sometimes ready to overwhelm me, and swallow me up; therefore have pity upon me, and do not leave me. The coals thereof are coals of fire. It burns and melts my heart like fire. Many waters cannot quench love — My love to thee cannot be taken off, either by terrors and afflictions, which are commonly signified in Scripture by waters and floods, or by temptations and allurements. Therefore, give me thyself, without whom, and in comparison of whom, I despise all other persons and things.

8:5-7 The Jewish church came up from the wilderness, supported by Divine power and favour. The Christian church was raised from a low, desolate condition, by the grace of Christ relied on. Believers, by the power of grace, are brought up from the wilderness. A sinful state is a wilderness in which there is no true comfort; it is a wandering, wanting state: There is no coming out of this wilderness, but leaning on Christ as our Beloved, by faith; not leaning to our own understanding, nor trusting in any righteousness of our own; but in the strength of him, who is the Lord our Righteousness. The words of the church to Christ which follow, entreat an abiding place in his love, and protection by his power. Set me as a seal upon thine heart; let me always have a place in thine heart; let me have an impression of love upon thine heart. Of this the soul would be assured, and without a sense thereof no rest is to be found. Those who truly love Christ, are jealous of every thing that would draw them from him; especially of themselves, lest they should do any thing to provoke him to withdraw from them. If we love Christ, the fear of coming short of his love, or the temptations to forsake him, will be most painful to us. No waters can quench Christ's love to us, nor any floods drown it. Let nothing abate our love to him. Nor will life, and all its comforts, entice a believer from loving Christ. Love of Christ, will enable us to repel and triumph over temptations from the smiles of the world, as well as from its frowns.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.

Songs 8:6

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.

6. Implying approaching absence of the Bridegroom.

seal—having her name and likeness engraven on it. His Holy Priesthood also in heaven (Ex 28:6-12, 15-30; Heb 4:14); "his heart" there answering to "thine heart" here, and "two shoulders" to "arm." (Compare Jer 22:24, with Hag 2:23). But the Holy Ghost (Eph 1:13, 14). As in So 8:5, she was "leaning" on Him, that is, her arm on His arm, her head on His bosom; so she prays now that before they part, her impression may be engraven both on His heart and His arm, answering to His love and His power (Ps 77:15; see Ge 38:18; Isa 62:3).

love is strong as death—(Ac 21:13; Ro 8:35-39; Re 12:11). This their love unto death flows from His (Joh 10:15; 15:13).

jealousy … the grave—Zealous love, jealous of all that would come between the soul and Jesus Christ (1Ki 19:10; Ps 106:30, 31; Lu 9:60; 14:26; 1Co 16:22).

cruel—rather, "unyielding" hard, as the grave will not let go those whom it once holds (Joh 10:28).

a most vehement flame—literally, "the fire-flame of Jehovah" (Ps 80:16; Isa 6:6). Nowhere else is God's name found in the Song. The zeal that burnt in Jesus Christ (Ps 69:9; Lu 12:49, 50) kindled in His followers (Ac 2:3; Ro 15:30; Php 2:17).

Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: these are undoubtedly the words of the bride. The sense is, Let thy mind and thy heart be constantly set upon me, let me be engraven upon the tables of thine heart. He seems to allude to the engraven tablets which are frequently worn upon the breast, and to the signet on a man’s arm or hand, which men prize at a more than ordinary rate, as appears from Jeremiah 22:24 Haggai 2:23, and which are continually in their sight.

For love, my love to thee, from whence this desire proceeds,

is strong as death; which conquers every living thing, and cannot be resisted nor vanquished.

Jealousy, or zeal; my ardent love to thee, which also fills me with fears and jealousies, lest thou shouldst bestow thine affections upon others, and cool in thy love to me, or withdraw thy love from me; for true believers are subject to these passions.

Cruel, Heb. hard; grievous and terrible, and sometimes ready to overwhelm me, and swallow me up; and therefore have pity upon me, and do not leave me.

Are coals of fire; it burns and melts my heart like fire.

Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm,.... These are still the words of the church, speaking to Christ as she walked along with him, as the affixes in the Hebrew text show; in which she desires to have a fixed abiding place in his heart; to continue firmly in his love, and to have further manifestations of it; to be always remembered and supported by him; to be ever on his mind, and constantly under his care and protection; and to have a full assurance of interest in his love, and in his power, which is the sealing work of his Spirit, Ephesians 1:13. The allusion seems to be to the high: priest, a type of Christ, who had the names of the children of Israel engraved on precious stones, and bore by him on his shoulders, and on his heart, for a memorial before the Lord continually; or to the names of persons, engraved on jewels, wore by lovers on their arms or breasts, or to their pictures put there; not to signets or seals wore on those parts, but to the names and images of persons impressed on them: the Ethiopians (p) understand it of something bound upon the arm, by which persons might be known, as was used in their country. The church's desire is, that she might be affectionately loved by Christ, be deeply fixed in his heart, be ever in his view, owned and acknowledged by him, and protected by the arm of his power. Her reasons follow:

for love is strong as death; that is, the love or the church to Christ, which caused her to make the above requests: death conquers all; against it there is no standing; such was the love of the church, it surmounted all difficulties that lay in the way of enjoying Christ; nothing could separate from it; she was conquered by it herself (q); and could not live without him; a frown, an angry look from him, was as death unto her; yea, she could readily part with life and suffer death for his sake; death itself could not part her from him, or separate him from her love (r); so that her love was stronger than death;

jealousy is cruel as the grave: the jealousy she had of Christ's love to her which was her weakness; and yet it was very torturing and afflicting, though at the same time it showed the greatness of her love to Christ: or "envy", that is of wicked men, she was the object of, which exceeds cruel wrath and outrageous anger, Proverbs 27:4; or rather her "zeal" (s), which is no other than ardent love for Christ his Gospel, cause, and interest; which ate up and consumed her spirits, as the grave does what is cast into it. Psalm 119:139. Virgil (t) gives the epithet of "cruel" to love;

the coals thereof are coals of fire; which expresses the fervency of her love to Christ, and zeal for the honour of his name: which, though sometimes cold and languid, is rekindled, and becomes hot and flaming; and is, like fire, insatiable, one of the four things that say, "It is not enough", Proverbs 30:16;

which hath a most vehement flame; nothing is, nor, common with other writers (u), than to attribute flame to love, and to call it a fire; here a most vehement flame. Or, "the flame of Jah" or "Jehovah" (w); an exceeding great one: the Hebrews use one or other of the names of God, as a superlative; so the mountains of God, and cedars of God, mean exceeding great ones; and here it expresses the church's love in the highest degree, in such a flame as not to be quenched, as follows: or it signifies, that the flame of love in her breast was kindled by the Lord himself (x), by his Spirit, compared to fire; or by his love, shed abroad in her heart by him, Hence it appears to be false, what is sometimes said, that the name of God is not used in this Song; since the greatest of all his names, Jab or Jehovah, is here expressed.

(p) Apud Ludolph. Lexic. Ethiopic. p. 341. (q) "Omnia vincit amor, et nos cedamus amori", Virgil. (r) "Nostros non rumpit funus amorea", Lucan. Pharsal. l. 5. v. 761, 762. (s) "zelus", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius, Marckius. (t) "Crudelis amor", Bucolic. Eclog. 10. v. 29. (u) Vid. Barthii Animadv. ad Claudian. de Nutpt. Honor. v. 16. & Laude Stilico, v. 74. So love is said to kindle a more vehement flame than at Vulcan's forge, Theocrit. Idyll. 2. prope finem. (w) "flamma Domini", Montauus, Mercerus; "Dei", Tigurine version, Cocceius; "Jah", Vatablus, to Marckius. (x) So the Tigurine version, Castalio.

{d} Set me as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon thy arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals of it are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame.

(d) The spouse desires Christ to be joined in perpetual love with him.

6. As seals are not impressed upon the heart, nor upon the arm, we must understand here the ring seals which were bound round the neck with a cord (Genesis 38:18) and carried in the bosom, or which were worn on the finger (Jeremiah 22:24). This last passage interprets the bride’s request. She wishes to be united in the closest way with her lover, and to be valued as his most precious possessions were valued. Cp. Haggai 2:23. Budde, perhaps rightly, would put for the second châthôm=‘seal,’ some word like tsâmîdh, signifying a bracelet. Cp. Tennyson’s Miller’s Daughter, where the lover longs to be a jewel in his lady’s ear:

“It is the miller’s daughter,

And she is grown so dear, so dear,

That I would be the jewel,

That trembles in her ear.”

strong as death] Love is as irresistible as death, which none can escape.

jealousy is cruel as the grave] Jealousy is as unrelenting as Sheol, the place of the dead, from which none can ever escape; cp. Proverbs 27:20. The meaning is that love and jealousy have irresistible power over those whom they bring under their sway. Her reference to jealousy would seem to shew that she fears the effect of her love upon herself, if he should not join himself indissolubly with her.

the coals thereof are coals of fire] R.V. The flashes thereof are flashes of fire. Love glows and burns in the heart like flame.

a most vehement flame] Heb. shalhebheth yâh, a flame of Jah, i.e. a flame of supernatural power, one that is kindled and cherished by God. Ewald with fair probability suggests that we should read, its flames are flames of Jah. For the thought compare Browning’s Any Wife to any Husband,

“It would not be because my eye grew dim

Thou couldst not find the love there, thanks to Him

Who never is dishonoured in the spark

He gave us from his fire of fires, and bade

Remember whence it sprang, nor be afraid

While that burns on, though all the rest grow dark.”

Verses 6, 7. - 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 flashes thereof are flashes of fire, a very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it; if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, he would be utterly contemned. Is this to be regarded as the reply of the bride to the tender allusion of her husband to their first love; or is it, as some think, only the first words which belong to the bride, while the rest of the two verses are a kind of chorus echoing her loving appeal, and bringing the general action of the poem to a conclusion? It is difficult to decide this, and the meaning is not affected either way. Perhaps, however, it is best to take it as spoken by the bride, who continues her address to the end of the eighth verse. She is full of joy in the return of perfect confidence; she prays that the full tide of affection may never cease to flow, that there be no ebbing of that happy feeling in which she now delights; and then sings the praise of love itself, as though a prelude of praise to a long and eternal peace. The seal is the signet ring, chotham, from a root "to impress" It was sometimes carried by a string on the breast, and would, therefore, be near the heart (see Genesis 38:18). It was sometimes worn on the hand (see Jeremiah 22:24; and cf. Genesis 41:42; Esther 3:12). It was not worn on the arm like a bracelet (2 Samuel 1:10). Probably it was not the signet ring which is referred to in the second clause: "Set me as a seal on thine heart, and as a bracelet on thine arm." The same simile is not infrequent in the prophets. The desire of Shulamith was to escape all possibility of those declensions of which she had spoken before. "Let me never be out of thy thoughts; let me never go back from my fulness of joy in thy love." The true believer understands well such language. He knows that the maintenance of devout affection is not a matter of mere desire and will. The Lord himself must help us with his blessed gifts, the influence of his gracious Spirit to overcome the feebleness and fickleness of a fallen heart. We want to be close to the heart of the Saviour; we want to be constantly in his eye, and so diligently employed in his service, so closely associated with the work of his mighty arm, that we shall be ever receiving from him the signs and evidences of his approval and affection. The purity and perfection of true love are the theme of every sincere believer. The priceless value of such love is described in the Book of Proverbs (Proverbs 6:30), in Numbers 22:18, and 1 Corinthians 13:3. It is an unquenchable flame - nothing can resist it. We cannot but recall the rapturous language of one who himself was an example of the highest devotedness to the Saviour, who rejoiced over death and the grave in the consciousness of victory through him from whose love nothing can separate us (Romans 8:38; 1 Corinthians 15:54). Certainly the history of the sufferings and trials of the true Church form a most striking commentary upon these words. Floods of persecution have swept over it, but they have not quenched love. The flame has burst forth again and again when it seemed to be extinguished, and it has become a very "flame of the Lord." The bush has been burning, but has not been consumed. By jealousy is intended love in its intensity not bearing arival. The "flame of the Lord" may be compared with "the voice of the Lord," which is described in Hebrew poetry as connected with the fury of the storm. The flame, therefore, would be lightning and the voice thunder. The whole of this passage, which forms a kind of keynote of the poem, is more like a distinct strain introduced to give climax to the succession of songs than the natural expression of the bride's feelings. It has been always regarded as one of the sublimest apostrophes to love to be found anywhere. The enemies of God and of humanity are represented as falling before it, death and the grave. Its vehemence and force of manifestation are brought vividly before us by the comparison of the flash of lightning. It is remarkable that this exaltation of love should be included in the Old Testament, thus proving that the Mosaic Law, with its formal prescriptions, by no means fulfils the whole purpose of God in his revelation to the world. As the New Testament would not have been complete without the message of the beloved disciple, so this Old Testament must have its song of love. Nor is it only the ideal and the heavenly love which is celebrated, but human affection itself is placed very high, because it is associated with that which is Divine. It is a more precious thing than mere wealth or worldly honour, and he that trifles with it deserves the utmost scorn and contempt of his fellows. It is well to remark how consistently the poetic framework is maintained. There is no attempt to leave the lines of human relations even at this point, whets evidently the sentiment rises above them. The love which is apostrophized is not removed from earth in order to be seen apart from all earthly imperfections and impurities. We are invited rather to look through the human to the Divine which embraces it and glorifies it. That. is the method of the Divine revelation throughout. "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." We do not need to take Solomon's Song as an allegory. It is a song of human love, but as such it is a symbol of that which is Divine. Song of Solomon 8:6After Solomon has thus called to remembrance the commencement of their love-relation, which receives again a special consecration by the reference to Shulamith's parental home, and to her mother, Shulamith answers with a request to preserve for her this love.

6 Place me as a signet-ring on thy heart,

   As a signet-ring on thine arm!

   For strong as death is love;

   Inexorable as hell is jealousy:

   Its flames are flames of fire,

   A flame of Jah.

7 Mighty waters are unable to quench such love,

   And rivers cannot overflow it.

   If a man would give

   All the wealth of his house for love, -

   He would only be contemned.

The signet-ring, which is called חותם (חתם, to impress), was carried either by a string on the breast, Genesis 38:18, or also, as that which is called טבּעת denotes (from טבע, to sink into), on the hand, Jeremiah 22:24, cf. Genesis 41:42; Esther 3:12, but not on the arm, like a bracelet, 2 Samuel 1:10; and since it is certainly permissible to say "hand" for "finger," but not "arm" for "hand," so we may not refer "on thine arm" to the figure if the signet-ring, as if Shulamith had said, as the poet might also introduce her as saying: Make me like a signet-ring (כּחותם) on thy breast; make me like a signet-ring "on thy hand," or "on thy right hand." The words, "set me on thy heart," and "(set me) on thine arm," must thus also, without regard to "as a signet-ring," express independent thoughts, although שׂימני is chosen (vid., Haggai 2:23) instead of קחני, in view of the comparison.

(Note: Of the copy of the Tra, which was to be the king's vade-mecum, it is said, Sanhedrin 21b: עושה אותה כמין קמיע ותולה בזרוע, but also there the amulet is thought of not as fastened to the finger, but as wound round the arm.)


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