Friday, May 04, 2007

Song of Songs Chapter 5

Bonnard, Peaches and Grapes, 1943

The Song of Songs Chapter 5

5:1 Here, at the poem’s center, sexual consummation is equated with eating and drinking. It is not certain who is speaking here, though it is presumably the lover, now the bridegroom. This is perhaps an earthy call to friends to head the call from Ecclesiastes 8:15 to eat, drink and be merry, but most of all, to become drunk on the intoxication of lovemaking.

5:2 This seems to begin a new section. Some believe it introduces a dream (or, another dream). She hears her lover knock and ask for her. His hair is described as wet from the dew by way of parallelism.

5:3 The woman, in what seems to be a folkloric song, responds to the lover’s (bridegroom’s) entreaties with mock protestations.

5:4 Keyholes in the Ancient Near East were large enough for a man to put his hand through. Some interpret this as a double-entendre sexual reference, with the hole of the door equivalent to her vagina, though other scholars claim the reference does not work since only later (5:6) she opens the door to him.

5:5 She has perfumed herself in anticipation of his arrival.

5:6 Her lover is gone, perhaps because of the night watchmen.

5:7 As she searches for her lover the watchmen find her and beat her up, removing her veil, which outrages her. They represent the patriarchy, a world outside that of the Song.

5:8 Here the Shulamite speaks to the daughters, as in 2:7, 3:5, and 8:4. It is possible that the lovesickness she complains of here refers to her beating by the watchmen, but that seems a bit far-fetched.

The Song of Songs Chapter 5

5:9 Here the daughters of Jerusalem respond by asking what is so special about her lover?

5:10 In response, she praises him from here to 5:16. The wasf was traditionally sung by the bridegroom, not the woman. The reversal of roles here may emphasize the equality of man and woman.

The white and red evoke milk and wine, which suggest strength, youth, health, and fertility. In other places in the Song they evoke sensuality, 1:2, 4:10, 11, 5:1, 12, 7:10.

5:11 The lover is described with images that connote both sculptural solidity and sweetness and tenderness.

5:12 The suggestion here of bathing in milk is about as sensuous as you can get.

5:13 His cheeks smell like a bed of spice.

5:14 When he praises her belly, by contrast, he compares it to a pile of wheat.

5:15 The cedars of Lebanon have long been renowned for their fragrance and strength.

5:16 The sweetness of his mouth may indicate both the intoxicating quality of his kisses and his fine voice as well as its fair appearance.