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Analyzing the Last Chapter of Song of Songs
The Song of Songs series closes with chapter 8. This final section circles back to many of the same themes found in other songs in the collection. The book is made up of ancient wedding songs from Jewish culture. King Solomon possibly wrote the book, but scholars argue some of the book's wording and or linguistics is ambiguous. Some sections appear anachronistic to 10th century BCE when Solomon would have reigned. Historians agree that King Solomon was a real person, but to what degree is the information about him truth or myth is hard to discern.
The final chapter of the book brings a woman and man together in the garden. Their love is ultimately unified.
- The beloved speaks the most in this chapter. The beloved has more lines overall in the book.
- The friends also have speaking parts in song 8.
- Spring and garden like imagery is used again from gazelles, pomegranates, to vineyards.
- The name "Solomon" is used.
- There are natal images in this song from birth to nursing.
- The original text was written in Hebrew.
- Verse 5 opens the last section of the book. Verses 5-14 can be considered an epilogue.
What Did She Say?
In the first part of the song, the beloved wishes her partner was her brother so they could be in the same house. She doesn't literally want him to be her brother as that would create some serious problems. She wishes he had some of the privileges of a sibling so he could be closer to her without question.
The beloved desires to be close to him, but they are not part of the same household -- at least yet. They could be betrothed to each other, so they have a close bond but don't live in the same place. The woman uses natal imagery to indicate the early stages of their romance and intimacy. She compares their love to a young mother nursing her child.
The beloved repeats symbols from other songs. She would give her partner spiced wine, which we can take as kisses if we refer to song 7. Pomegranates have been used to describe the roundness and flush of cheeks. The fruit has also been used as a symbol for beauty and symmetry. Pomegranates were highly prized and favored fruits. She also mentions she would offer her partner nectar -- the Hebrew word for this refers to intoxicating juices.
The lovers embrace and then the beloved charges the daughter of Jerusalem to not arouse or awaken love until it so desires, this is a popular refrain throughout the book. The beloved warns her friends not to artificially create love but to wait for its time. She describes love as destined, not necessarily that you have a soul mate, but that love comes in its own time. It is better to be patient about love rather than force it. It's better to wait for love until you have matured.
Beloved Comments on the Strength of Their Love
When the friends say, "Who is this coming up from the desert" it is a reprise to Song of Songs 3:6 when King Solomon appeared for his wedding day.
This is the first time the man's mother has been mentioned. The woman's mother was mentioned 5 times throughout the book. There is one mention of King Solomon's mother in Song of Songs 3:11.
Again, natal imagery is used. The beloved is comparing her partner's birth to their own passionate union. In ancient Israel, intimacy between two partners and birth were often associated with fruit trees. The beloved is commenting on their close relations when near the apple tree.
Seals were precious to their owners, as personal as their names. Placing a seal is like giving vows or holding to a commitment. She wants their relationship to last like in marriage. She wants their love to be as strong as death -- its jealously is strong because the grave will not surrender those who have passed. She describes their love as a strong, unyielding flame that cannot be easily extinguished. The Hebrew expression conveys the idea of an intense flame, hinting that it has been kindled by God.
The reference to waters is more in depth than it might seem on a first read. The waters suggest the ocean depths -- but it more importantly suggests the primeval waters that the people of the ancient Near East regarded as a constant threat to the world -- consider how many cultures and religions along the Mediterranean have a major flood story.
The waters were associated with the realm of the dead -- navigating waters wasn't as easy as it is today. She is declaring that their fire cannot be washed out by the threatening and disturbing waters nor death.
The Friends as Brothers
The closing lines of this song suggest a return to the beginning of Song 1. The lines recall the beloved's developments into the age for love and marriage and the blossoming of her relationship with her partner.
In the ancient Near East, brothers were guardians of their sisters. They protected their sisters from bad suitors. The friends are looking for ways to protect the young girls from falling in love too soon or too young. They'll build walls around the sisters so they can wait for marriage at a proper time. The brothers want to protect the sisters until they can be properly adorned for marriage.
The beloved comments on how she is now mature and an adult. She doesn't need the protection of her siblings or friends like she previously did. She now rejoices in her maturity.
Baal Hamon is an unknown location. The Hebrew hamon can be interpreted to mean wealth or abundance, hence Baal as lord and Hamon could mean lord of wealth, bringing to mind Solomon's great fortune.
The beloved invites the lover to the countryside and the vineyards. The song ends with a verse that is referenced in other parts of the book: "come away, my lover, and be like a gazelle or like a young stag on the spice-laden mountains."
She is calling her partner to go to their happy ending, their never-never land. She is calling him to go somewhere that their love can be timeless and maintain the freshness of spring.