Superscription. Like many Psalms, the book begins with background information. Song of Songs: Hebrew for “best song.” Which is Solomon's is more likely the editor's attempt to link the book with Solomon rather than proof of its authorship.
The woman speaks of love. Ancient Near Eastern cultures used many sweet, strong scents on the body as well as in religious ceremonies. Throughout the
book, such aromas are compared to the scent of the lovers' bodies.
The king: The lovers call each other royal names, indicating their majesty in one another's eyes.
Black and beautiful: The woman maintains that her sun-darkened skin is beautiful. The verses imply an expectation that women have fair skin, perhaps
reflecting an urban perspective. Kedar: A mountain range, the name of which means “black.” Mother's sons: Mothers rather than fathers are mentioned in the book, suggesting a strong female perspective. Vineyards throughout the book are connected with sexuality. The first mention is literal: Her brothers required her to work outside.
The second reference is metaphorical:
She has not been chaste.
Veiled: Veiling practices in ancient Israel are difficult to reconstruct. In Gen 38
, a prostitute wears a veil, and Gen 29.21–25
may imply that brides wore face coverings. The reference here may be metaphorical: Why should she have difficulty seeing
Another voice, the male or a chorus, tells her to follow the sheep to find her lover.
The man and the woman speak of love.
He uses a wide array of images to describe the woman. Mare: Egyptian sources report the military strategy of sending a mare out to excite and disturb the enemy's stallions.
The woman likens her own bodily smells and the delight of her lover between her breasts to nard, myrrh and henna: aromatic, precious scents. En-gedi: A lush oasis close to the Dead Sea.
The male speaks.
The woman's speech portrays their trysting place as outdoors.
The woman sees herself as one of many common flowers; but her lover sees her as outstanding in beauty.
Fruit is used as erotic imagery. She compares their trysting place to a banqueting house or “winehouse,” where they are to take their fill of delicacies.
This statement, issued as a lesson for others, either suggests the danger of love or requests that the lovers' intimacy not
be interrupted. Daughters of Jerusalem refers to the young women of the city. In the book, their participation advances the dialogue.
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