This is the final chapter of the Song of Solomon. Here, the lovers are finally allowed to engage in the intimacy they have been longing for throughout the entire work. In this chapter, they reveal that they are fiercely in love with one another, and that love is revealed as a representation of God’s fierce and jealous love for people.
Song of Solomon Chapter 8 Analysis
At the beginning of this chapter in the Song of Solomon, the woman expresses the way she longs to show her lover affection in public. This is not appropriate in their culture and time period. However, the non-romantic familial kiss was accepted as an appropriate gesture for the public. This is why she says,
Oh that you were like a brother to me who nursed at my mother’s breast! If I found you outside, I would kiss you.
Readers must understand that this is expressed in a very brief moment for which she wishes she might find him outside, kiss him in public, and not be despised. This verse must not be taken out of context. It does not mean that she wishes her lover were her brother. She has made this very clear, that she desires to have her lover in a sexual way. This verse is merely in reference to a single moment in time in which she wished that it was appropriate for her to show him affection.
This is her final request to the daughters of Jerusalem not to arouse or awaken love until the time is right.
Biblical scholars believe that verses five through fourteen is the actual consummation of the lovers’ marriage. This is the hour that has been looked forward to from the very beginning of the song. The word “leaning” in this verse is the act of intimacy. Scholars reveal that “the Hebrew term for leaning points to an intimate connection and thus implies that the pair are now wed”. The latter part of this verse also implies that the long-awaited wedding night is finally occurring. She says, “Under the apple tree I awaken you”. In the previous chapter, the woman expresses her desire to give her virginity to him in the garden, and this verse is the actualization of that dream.
“Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm” now that the marriage has been consummated, she wants the world to know that she is taken, by an outward symbol, a seal. Scholars suggest that in this culture, the seal of marriage could be worn around the neck or on the arm and was later moved to the finger and worn as a ring.
In the next part of this verse, she claims that her love for him is as strong as death. Just like one cannot fight off death when it approaches, so she could not fight off love. She then exclaims that jealousy is fierce as the grave. In this form of the word jealousy, it means that it is a “resolute devotion rather than a selfish ambition”.
Biblical scholars reveal that this form of the word is only used to describe the kind of jealousy (or resolute devotion) that God has for people and that one ought to have for his or her spouse.
The last part of this verse says that this jealousy resembles “flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord” suggesting that “both love and jealousy to protect marriage are given by God”. The feeling of jealousy a spouse feels when cheated on symbolizes the way that God feels when the people He created worship things other than Him.
This verse uses fire as a symbol of consuming love and proclaims that “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it”. Given the previous use of the word “jealousy” and the common feeling of devotion that spouses feel for one another and that God feels for His people, it is not too far-fetched to apply these verses to God in His love for people. His love for people is like an all-consuming fire that cannot be quenched, which is why he is filled with righteous jealousy when people give their hearts and lives to things other than to Him.
Here there is a shift in speaker, and the audience begins to speak. The chorus speaks of wanting their little sister to take after this woman in her chaste and propriety. This little sister is symbolic of all the young daughters of Jerusalem. They ask, “what shall we do for our sister on the day she is spoken for?” This is a rhetorical question, for they already know what they will do for her depending upon her actions. They claim,
“If she is a wall, we will build on her a battlement of silver”. The wall represents her chastity. Like a wall, she has not let anyone in.
“but if she is a door we will enclose her with boards of cedar”. The door in this case represents promiscuity and suggests that she has opened her door to people before her marriage.
This reveals the people of Jerusalem and their vow to support the young women in their marriage, be they chaste, but to shut them out if they are promiscuous.
This is the second time Solomon is mentioned by name. He is always a distant figure, which is why most scholars have concluded that Solomon is not the central figure of the piece, but rather a symbol. In this case, the woman compares her own vineyard to that of Solomon. As a vineyard often was used as a symbol of a woman’s sexuality, these verses are simply a metaphor. She compares the two, implying that she would rather have her own vineyard to share with her lover than all of Solomon’s vineyards.
These last two verses reveal the man and the woman experiencing enjoyment in one another. He basks in the sound of her voice, and she relishes in the beauty and fragrance of her beloved.