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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)It would utterly be contemned.—Better, he would be, &c, and literally, to despise, they would despise him; infinitive absolute before finite verb expressing intensity. (Comp. 1Samuel 20:6; Amos 9:8, &c)
This fine passage, with its reference to the invincible might and untempted constancy of true love, hardly leaves a doubt that the poem, while an ideal picture of the passion, is also a reminiscence of an actual history of two hearts that had been tried and proved true both against difficulties and seductions.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.
if … give all the substance … contemned—Nothing short of Jesus Christ Himself, not even heaven without Him, can satisfy the saint (Php 3:8). Satan offers the world, as to Jesus Christ (Mt 4:8), so to the saint, in vain (1Jo 2:15-17; 5:4). Nothing but our love in turn can satisfy Him (1Co 13:1-3).waters and floods, Psalm 32:6 52:7, and elsewhere; not by temptations and allurements. Nothing but the presences and favour of the beloved person can quiet and satisy it. And therefore do not put me off with other things, but give me thyself, without whom, and in comparison of whom, I despise all other persons and things. Isaiah 59:19; nor by the terrors of the law, and the apprehensions of divine wrath, they are sometimes pressed with, signified by waves and floods, Psalm 88:6; nor by all the hardships and difficulties, scoffs and reproaches, which attend believers in their Christian race; which are so far from alienating their affections from Christ, that they rather endear him the more unto them, and make heaven, and the enjoyment of him there, the more desirable;
if a man would give, all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned; it is true of the love of Christ to his people, as also what is said before; but is rather to be understood of the love of the church to Christ; which is a grace so valuable, as not to be purchased with money: if this, or any other grace, is to be bought, it is to be bought without money and without price; it is to be had freely of Christ; and, where possessed, will not be parted with for anything that may be offered; if a rich man's whole estate was offered for it, to a lover of Christ; yea, the riches of the Indies, or the vast treasures of the whole globe, on condition of his parting with him, and deserting his cause and interest, and dropping or neglecting his love to him, it would be treated by him with the, almost disdain and contempt; see Philippians 3:8. Now all this is used by the church as an argument to gain her request, "set me as a seal", &c. Sol 8:6; since my soul is all in flames of love to thee, which cannot be quenched by all I suffer on thy account; nor will be parted with for all that the world can give me. This love of the church reaches to Christ, and to all that belong to him, even to a little sister, as in Sol 8:8.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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)7. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it] Better, neither can rivers drown it. The word translated drown may also mean sweep away (cp. Isaiah 28:17): but as love has just been compared to a fire, and the waters in the first clause are said not to be able to quench it, it seems necessary to give to the verb in this clause the similar meaning of drown which it also has. Cp. Psalm 69:2. All this she has felt, and she beseeches her lover never to let her go, since otherwise she would be utterly forlorn and given up to the fury of unrelenting jealousy. In these verses we have the climax of the book. Even Budde says Song of Solomon 8:6-7 undoubtedly contain the deepest thing said of love in the book. The sensuous aspect of love falls entirely into the background, the whole nature is irresistibly seized and indissolubly bound to the beloved one. But that is not enough. It is towards this declaration that the author has been making from the first. Consequently this ethical conception of love should be regarded as underlying all that goes before, and the book thought of as a unity. The writer of these words must have had an ideal of love, with which the coarseness, inevitably found even in the most simple and deeply felt descriptions of natural scenery by those who regard the book as a collection of professional laudations of the more sensuous side of marriage, is totally incompatible. And this ideal must have been an elevating influence of very great importance for the moral life of a people among whom marriage was a mere matter of contract, and the price given for the bride a subject of pride, as it still is among Orientals. Immediately and inevitably this statement of the nature of love leads on to a condemnation of the common point of view in an arrow-like phrase, which having first transfixed the gorgeous and voluptuous Solomon, goes straight to the heart of the ordinary practice of the time.
if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned] Better, he would be utterly despised. Literally, the words are ‘men would utterly despise him,’ or, ‘it.’ In this Budde sees only an ordinary commonplace of popular poetry. But surely its connexion with the previous verses raises it far above that level. It is the practical application of the deepest thing said in the book. But in any case it could not have been a commonplace at marriages such as have been described. To sing words like these at an ordinary Oriental wedding would have been little short of unseemly.
1 O that thou wert like a brother to me,
Who sucked my mother's breasts!
If I found thee without, I would kiss thee;
They also could not despise me.
2 I would lead thee, bring thee into my mother's house;
Thou wouldest instruct me -
I would give thee to drink spiced wine,
The must of my pomegranates.
Solomon is not her brother, who, with her, hung upon the same mother's breast; but she wishes, carried away in her dream into the reality of that she wished for, that she had him as her brother, or rather, since she says, not אח, but כּאח (with כּ, which here has not, as at Psalm 35:14, the meaning of tanquam, but of instar, as at Job 24:14), that she had in him what a brother is to a sister. In that case, if she found him without, she would kiss him (hypoth. fut. in the protasis, and fut. without Vav in the apodosis, as at Job 20:24; Hosea 8:12; Psalm 139:18) - she could do this without putting any restraint on herself for the sake of propriety (cf. the kiss of the wanton harlot, Proverbs 7:13), and also (גּם) without needing to fear that they who saw it would treat it scornfully (ל בּוּז, as in the reminiscence, Proverbs 6:30). The close union which lies in the sisterly relationship thus appeared to her to be higher than the near connection established by the marriage relationship, and her childlike feeling deceived her not: the sisterly relationship is certainly purer, firmer, more enduring than that of marriage, so far as this does not deepen itself into an equality with the sisterly, and attain to friendship, yea, brotherhood (Proverbs 17:17), within. That Shulamith thus feels herself happy in the thought that Solomon was to her as a brother, shows, in a characteristic manner, that "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life," were foreign to her. If he were her brother, she would take him by the hand,
(Note: Ben-Asher punctuates אנהגך. Thus also P. rightly. Ben-Naphtali, on the contrary, punctuates אנהגך. Cf. Genesis (1869), p. 85, note 3.)
and bring him into her mother's house, and he would then, under the eye of their common mother, become her teacher, and she would become his scholar. The lxx adds, after the words "into my mother's house," the phrase, καὶ εἰς ταμεῖον τῆς συλλαβούσης με, cf. Sol 3:4. In the same manner also the Syr., which has not read the words διδάξεις με following, which are found in some Codd. of the lxx. Regarding the word telammedēne (thou wouldest instruct me) as incongruous, Hitzig asks: What should he then teach her? He refers it to her mother: "who would teach me," namely, from her own earlier experience, how I might do everything rightly for him. "Were the meaning," he adds, "he should do it, then also it is she who ought to be represented as led home by him into his house, the bride by the bridegroom." But, correctly, Jerome, the Venet., and Luther: "Thou wouldest (shouldest) instruct me;" also the Targ.: "I would conduct thee, O King Messiah, and bring Thee into the house of my sanctuary; and Thou wouldest teach me (וּתאלּף יתי) to fear God and to walk in His ways." Not her mother, but Solomon, is in possession of the wisdom which she covets; and if he were her brother, as she wishes, then she would constrain him to devote himself to her as her teacher. The view, favoured by Leo Hebraeus (Dialog. de amore, c. III), John Pordage (Metaphysik, III 617 ff.), and Rosenmller, and which commends itself, after the analogy of the Gtagovinda, Boethius, and Dante, and appears also to show itself in the Syr. title of the book, "Wisdom of the Wise," that Shulamith is wisdom personified (cf. also Sol 8:2 with Proverbs 9:2, and Proverbs 8:3; Proverbs 2:6 with Proverbs 4:8), shatters itself against this תלמדני; the fact is rather the reverse: Solomon is wisdom in person, and Shulamith is the wisdom-loving soul,
(Note: Cf. my Das Hohelied unter. u. ausg. (1851), pp. 65-73.)
- for Shulamith wishes to participate in Solomon's wisdom. What a deep view the "Thou wouldest teach me" affords into Shulamith's heart! She knew how much she yet came short of being to him all that a wife should be. But in Jerusalem the bustle of court life and the burden of his regal duties did not permit him to devote himself to her; but in her mother's house, if he were once there, he would instruct her, and she would requite him with her spiced wine and with the juice of the pomegranates.
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