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The Song of Songs

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image of Vetus Testamentum

The theme of this fascinating monument of ancient Hebrew poetry is the celebration of the love between a damsel and her swain. It is undoubtedly a lawful love to be sanctioned by marriage. The damsel speaks of their bed and their home (i 16-17), and of the mandrakes which married women used to help them in getting children (vii 14; cf. Gen. xxx 14-15), but the consummation of their love is still in the future (vii 13). The damsel is still in the home of her mother (iii 4, viii 2). They are indeed already in a somewhat intimate personal relationship, as is apparent from their detailed description of the beauty of each other's body (iv 1-5, vii 2-6, v 10-16), but the damsel is still in her virginity, "a garden inclosed, a fountain sealed" as described by the swain (iv 12). The damsel repeatedly warns against stirring up the love to too high a degree (ii 7, iii 5, viii 4). They are evidently a betrothed couple very near their marriage. But in one poem, not at the end of the Song, there is a description of the consummation of their love under the figure of a garden with its delicious fruits and a reference to the banquetting of the marriage feast. It is in that poem alone that the swain calls the damsel 'bride', 'my sister the bride' (iv 8-v 1).

Affiliations: 1: Kefar Sava, Israel


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