Song of Songs 2 – “The Lover’s Call”

800px-LiliumBulbiferumCroceumBolognaHebrew-English Text
I. Summary
After partaking in a dialogue with her lover, the woman describes her lovesickness. She then describes the way in which her lover calls her and how she responds.

II. Photo
The male praises his lover in v. 2: “Like a lily among thorns, So is my darling among the maidens.”

III. Important Verses
v. 2:Like a lily among thorns, So is my darling among the maidens.
v. 3: Like an apple tree among trees of the forest, So is my beloved among the youths. I delight to sit in his shade, And his fruit is sweet to my mouth.
v. 5: Sustain me with raisin cakes, Refresh me with apples, For I am faint with love.
v. 8: The voice of my beloved! There he comes, Leaping over mountains, Bounding over hills.
v. 13: The green figs form on the fig tree, The vines in blossom give off fragrance. Arise, my darling; My fair one, come away!

IV. Outline
1-3. Descriptive dialogue
4-7. Female lovesickness
8-17. The female describes how the male calls her, and how she responds

V. Comment
Chapter 2 begins with a brief dialogue between the male and female (vv. 1-3). The woman speaks about her lovesickness (vv. 4-7), quotes the way which her lover calls her (vv. 8-14), and relates how she responds to him (vv. 15-17). In terms of literary form, the chapter contains many descriptive metaphors (cf. vv. 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 12, 14, 15, 17).

In v. 1 the woman describes herself: “I am a rose (chavatzelet) of Sharon, A lily (shoshannat) of the valleys.” Like every metaphor, one might ask, “What does this mean?” It seems that scholars debate the issue. Some feel that she is being humble: since the lily is a common plant she is saying, “I am just one of many girls.” Yet, Garret points out that “it is not likely that she would make such a self-effacing statement in a song where the man and woman are extravagantly praising each other” (p. 148). Others feel that she is describing her importance. Indeed, the capitals of Solomon’s pillars had the (presumably important) lily design: “The capitals upon the columns of the portico were of lily design (ma’aseh shushan), 4 cubits high” (1 Kings 7:19, also see vv. 22, 26). Also, when Isaiah describes a state of rejuvenation he says: “The arid desert shall be glad, The wilderness shall rejoice And shall blossom like a rose (chavatzelet)” (Isa. 35:1). Which interpretation is correct? Garret thinks there is a kernel of truth in both: “On the one hand, she is saying, ‘I am one among many girls.’ But she does not mean by this that ‘I am nobody special.’ She is a flower, a thing of beauty and life. She emphasizes this when she declares that she is the ‘lotus of the valleys’ and invokes traditional notions of the power of the lotus. She does not claim that she is unique in all the world, but she does claim that her role as woman is beautiful and powerful.”

Having spoken about about love and lilies, it is important to point out that four psalms (45, 60, 69, 80) are introduced by the term lamenatzeach ‘al shoshannim “For the leader; on shoshannim.” While Ps. 60, 69, and 80 happen to be laments, it is interesting that Ps. 45 is the only “Wedding Psalm.” It is possible that the instrument called the shoshan was used because its name (“lily”) is associated with love poetry.

V. 15, which immediately follows the woman’s description of how her lover calls her, is enigmatic: “Catch us the foxes, The little foxes That ruin the vineyards — For our vineyard is in blossom.” The major questions are, “Who is speaking?” and “What is he/she/they saying?” The reason that the speaker’s identity is a mystery is that the verse speaks in the plural first person (in Biblical Hebrew there is no masculine/female marker for the first person). While some feel that this verse is a continuation of the male’s speech, and others feel that it is a chorus, many feel that it is the woman replying to her lover. If that is the case, what is she saying? Hakham thinks that she is teasing him (p. 24, translation my own): “The male sang her a second song about a dove (a symbol of simplicity), and she replies with a song about foxes (a symbol of trickery).” Yet, Hakham writes that “she does not reject him wholeheartedly; rather she ‘pushes him away with the left hand but pulls him close with the right hand.’ This is why she finishes with a song of commitment, comparing her lover to a gazelle on the hills of spice.”

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Murphy, Wisdom Literature (Forms of Old Testament Literature)
Garrett, Song of Songs (Word Biblical Commentary)
Hakham, Chamesh Megillot (Daat Mikra [Hebrew])

Photo taken from  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:LiliumBulbiferumCroceumBologna.jpg

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