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Old 09-17-2016, 11:30 AM
 
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The Song of Songs is one of the world's most famous erotic songs extolling the joys of love - especially the physical act of lovemaking. The lovers in the Song are definitely not married, and this has caused problems. Later tradition attempted to mute the character of the book, to make it more acceptable as a religious work. The first step in this process is evident in the authorship.

The Unlikelihood of Solomonic Authorship
As usual with various Biblical books that have certain themes, authorship is attributed to King Solomon in v. 1:
The Song of Songs, which is by Solomon.
(Song of Songs 1:1 Fox)
because he is said to have written many songs:
He spoke three thousand proverbs,
and his songs were five and a thousand.
(I Kings 5:12 SB Fox)
You can see how Solomon's name was attached to the collection of Proverbs as well (see here: http://www.city-data.com/forum/relig...obscurred.html).
Despite this tradition, several factors argue against Solomonic authorship:
  • the language of the book is definitely too late to be from anyone living near the time of Solomon,
  • the contents of the book reference Solomon in the third person (in the very few mentions), even though the work is in the 1st person,
  • and the work even pokes fun at Solomon - the purpose of this thread.

How does this work poke a little fun at Solomon? Song of Songs 8:11-12
Solomon's Harem
Another reason that Solomon's name was associated with this work was his reputation as a lover. Most people remember how Solomon was led to worshiping gods other than the Israelite god because of his 1,000 "wives":
Now King Shelomo [Solomon] loved many foreign women, along with Pharaoh's daughter:
Moavites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites,
from the nations of which YHWH had said to the Children of Israel:
You are not to come among them and they are not to come among you -
surely, they will incline away your heart after their gods.

To them Shelomo clung in love. [Probably the women, but the verb "clung" is also used of adherence to a deity]
He had princess wives, seven hundred,
and concubines, three hundred,
and his wives inclined away from his heart.
(I Kings 11:1-3)
Essentially, Solomon is said to have had a harem of a thousand women. Harems in the Near East are a sign of a king's wealth and power. I am sure most people are familiar with the roles eunuchs play in "keeping" a harem for the King. This helps us understand the references in Songs 8:11-12.

Solomon and his wives (Jacopo Amigoni, 1682-1752)



Song of Songs 8:11-12 - The Problem With Harems
This passage is full of sexual metaphors and imagery. A quick summary is that Solomon has trouble keeping others out of his harem, while the male beloved of the Song limits his love to only one girl:
Solomon had a vineyard in Baal Hamon.
He gave the vineyard to keepers;
each would bring in for his fruit
a thousand pieces of silver.

But my vineyard is before me.
You can have the thousand, Solomon,
but two hundred go to those who keep its fruit.
(Songs 8:11-12)
The passage mixes real and figurative images of gardens, which have very well-known sexual connotations in the ancient Near East and the Bible - especially in the Song.
"vineyard", kerem, כֶּרֶם and "fruit", pĕrî(y), פְּרִי :
In addition to the standard meaning of a vineyard, the figurative sense alludes to several possible interpretations:
  • a female's body as an object of love/sex
  • female genitalia specifically
  • one's own sexuality overall
"Vineyard", "Garden" and "Field" are agricultural terms used frequently in the figurative sense to denote a lover's body (or various parts of their body) as well as popular meeting spots for lovers.

Songs alludes to lovers as "gardens" and the "fruits" available several times:
A garden locked is my sister, my bride,
a (garden) locked, a spring sealed.
Your watered fields are an orchard:
pomegranates with luscious fruits,
henna with spikenards,
spikenard and saffron, cane and cinnamon,
with frankincense trees of all kinds,
myrrh and aloes,
with all the best spices.
A garden spring,
a well of living water,
liquids from Lebanon
(Songs 4:12)

My beloved has gone down to his garden,
to the beds of spices,
to graze in the gardens,
and to gather lilies.
(Songs 6:2)
The "vineyard" is a running theme in Songs where the Shulammite (the term used by many commentators and translators to refer to the female beloved of the Song) is initially not in control of her own "vineyard" due to her position under her patriarchal family, but finally achieves control of her own "vineyard" throughout the course of the Song.
Pay no mind that I am swarthy,
that the sun has gazed upon me.
My mother's sons were mean to me,
made me keeper of the vineyards.
My vineyard I could not keep.
(Songs 1:6)
The Shulammite is dark-complexioned, probably not due to ethnicity, because she must work in the fields (in contrast to upper-class women whose complexion were praised for being pale) under her family. She complains that this Patriarchsim has not given her the time or freedom to attend to her own "vineyard". Another possible interpretation is that despite her brothers' attempts to retain her virginity, she was able to thwart them and says "MY vineyard I could not keep".
A Reading of Songs 8:11-12
A reading of the passage suggest double-meanings everywhere, a popular feature of the Songs. It would be nice to see some interpretations from anyone reading. Perhaps the hints above can help you into a reading.

A summation would be that one's own beloved is much more valuable than a harem of a thousand women. For after all:
Place me as a seal upon your heart,
as a seal upon your arm,
for love is as strong as death,
jealousy as hard as Sheol.
Its darts are darts of fire -
lightning itself!
Mighty waters cannot extinguish love,
nor rivers wash it away.
Should one offer all his estate for love,
it would be utterly scorned.
(Songs 8:6-7)
I'm all out of energy now. I hope you enjoyed.
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Old 09-23-2016, 08:57 AM
 
3,483 posts, read 3,851,791 times
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Welp, my rather unpopular thread has made it an entire week without a single guess as to what is The Trouble With Harems! I don't blame anyone - it's not as if poetry is the most popular thing (especially Biblical poetry).

Surely some enterprising exegete with a dirty mind (helpful, but not required) out there can find the extremely funny double-meaning in the passage, which is quite insulting to Solomon! (A rather damning evidence that Solomon did not pen the Song of Songs)

Here's the passage again:
Solomon had a vineyard in Baal Hamon.
He gave the vineyard to keepers;
each would bring in for his fruit
a thousand pieces of silver.

But my vineyard is before me.
You can have the thousand, Solomon,
but two hundred go to those who keep its fruit.
(Songs 8:11-12)
Somebody make me proud!
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Old 09-23-2016, 11:26 AM
 
19,943 posts, read 16,216,586 times
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What makes you believe it was not written for his relationship with a wife?
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Old 09-23-2016, 03:35 PM
 
Location: minnesota
14,007 posts, read 4,915,326 times
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I enjoyed your post. I didn't feel I had anything to add though.

How about this?

Ezekiel 23:19-21The Message (MSG)

18-21 “I turned my back on her just as I had on her sister. But that didn’t slow her down. She went at her whoring harder than ever. She remembered when she was young, just starting out as a ***** in Egypt. That whetted her appetite for more virile, vulgar, and violent lovers—stallions obsessive in their lust. She longed for the sexual prowess of her youth back in Egypt, where her firm young breasts were caressed and fondled.
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Old 09-23-2016, 03:46 PM
 
Location: Sugarmill Woods , FL
6,232 posts, read 7,777,745 times
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFIRw68OhBs
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Old 09-23-2016, 04:13 PM
 
28,433 posts, read 10,219,065 times
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the only trouble I see is giving children the proper programming to be normal adults. I mean it can happen, but most times it won't.
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Old 09-24-2016, 06:14 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vizio View Post
What makes you believe it was not written for his relationship with a wife?
I think the converse question should be asked and answered first: What leads one to see the lovers of the Song as King Solomon and one of his wives in the first place? Tradition itself is not a sufficient warrant to stake this claim, methinks.

The ascription of authorship (even if dubious) is not a reason to identify the male lover as Solomon - plenty of authors put their names to works that involve third parties. Likewise, the references to Solomon in 3:7-10 and 8:11-12 appear to be comparing and contrasting (respectively) Solomon to the lovers, rather than indicating the identity of the lovers. Nowhere in the Song does Solomon play an active role. 8:11-12 (the subject of this thread) is the most positive evidence that Solomon is not the male lover.

But Who are The Lovers?
The lovers in the Song appear to be lower-class and their relationship is - at first - best with difficulty from social pressures, especially from the family of the girl. Throughout the Song, there are wishes that others would see the love they had for each other and accept it - rather than attempt to hinder it. A married couple (or even one betrothed) would not have had as many difficulties as this couple did! The male is a shepherd and the female is at least lower-class and still under the authority of her family.

  • The Girl
She is of sufficiently lower-class where she has to work outside in the sun, which has "blackened" or sunburned her.
Pale skin was both a sign of beauty and the upper-class. It indicated a life not spent outside laboring. Thus, her declaration that:
Black I am - but lovely -
O girls of Jerusalem,
like tents of Kedar,
curtains of Salmah.
Pay no mind that I am swarthy,
that the sun has gazed upon me.
My mother's sons were mean to me ["heated" - a wonderful wordplay on the sun's gaze],
made me keeper of the vineyards.
My vineyard I could not keep.
(Song of Songs 1:5-6 Fox)
The girl's "blackness" is not an indication of ethnicity, so it does not point to the Queen of Sheba (as some interpreters have claimed) - that it is not a mark of ethnicity is clear from the passage itself where she spends time detailing exactly why she isn't like those snobby Jerusalem girls. While I appreciate this passage's historical use by members of the black rights movement, I do not think the famous phrase "Black I am - but lovely", or "Black I am AND lovely" has been correctly understood.

The line "like tents of Kedar, curtains of Salmah" is an example of Hebrew parallelism ("tents/curtains" + "Kedar/Salmah"). "Solomon" is a mistake in the Masoretic Text - the better vocalization is given above and better meets the Hebrew parallelism. Here's why the examples are used in the first place:



  • The Boy
That the male lover is a shepherd becomes clear from the immediately following passage as spoken by the girl:
Tell me, my soul's beloved:
where do you graze,
where do you rest your flocks at noon? -
lest I be like "one who wraps herself up"
by your companions' flocks!
(1:7)
The passage has a literal and figurative meaning here - like most passages in this poetry. The literal meaning is clear, the figurative meaning is a petulant lovers fear that her lover is not being faithful. She warns that if she has to go spying on him, she will look like a prostitute who sells her wares among the shepherds ("one who wraps herself up" is the additional step needed, beyond a simple veil, to indicate a prostitute - see Tamar's story, etc.).

The male replies and indicates that she is being jealous without cause, and that she darn well knows where he "grazes" (her) - if she's that worried about his love for her, fine - go and make a scene:
If you don't know,
most beautiful of women,
go on out in the tracks of the flock,
and graze your kids
by the shepherds' camps.
(1:8)
The point of the above is that the lovers are lower-class, must work for a living and are beset with difficulties when it comes to meeting with one another. The girl is still under the patriarchal rule of her family. The girl declares that she is not like the pale-skinned upper-class women because she must work in "the vineyards". She has not had time to attend to "her own vineyard" - which could mean her own sexual needs, or less plausibly her genitalia specifically. Despite her ability to tend to her own needs, she tells the snooty Jerusalem girls that she is still beautiful.

So Why is Solomon Mentioned?
Besides the ascription, Solomon appears several times in the Song - but is never identified as the boy. His reputation as a lover of many women may account for his inclusion. The reason for his inclusion, however, appears to be in order to compare the stark simplicity of the lovers to the grandiose Solomon and his lovers.
  • Songs 8:11-12
I have already discussed the comparison of the simple love between the boy and girl and Solomon's harem in the first post. The harem has it's own difficulties, which I'm still waiting anxiously for someone to elucidate!

  • Songs 3:7-11
This passage is not an answer to 3:6 ("Look who's coming up from the wilderness"), which is a rhetorical question. It uses typical terms of ancient Near Eastern love poetry where the lovers are given honorific titles such as "king", "queen", "lord", "mistress" etc. I can easily understand how one could interpret this passage as indicating Solomon as the boy, however. In this passage, the boy is called "the king" and surrounded by typical poetic imagery of the glory and majesty of lovers. The Girl speaks the next passage:
Look! Solomon's own couch!
Around it threescore warriors,
from the warriors of Israel,
all of them swordsmen,
skilled in warfare,
each with his sword along his thigh,
because of nocturnal fear.

King Solomon made himself a canopied bed
of the trees of Lebanon.
Its pillars he made of silver,
its carpets of gold,
its cushions of purple,
its interior inlaid with (stones).

Girls of Jerusalem, go forth,
and behold, girls of Zion,
Solomon the king
in the crown his mother set upon him
on the day of his wedding,
on the day of his heart's joy!
(Songs 3:7-11)
This passage seemingly comes out of nowhere in the "narrative" of the Song. Despite it's language of marriage, it does not change anything in the Song narratively. The overall theme of the majesty of love is found also in other passages in the Song, where the simplicity of the lovers is contrasted to the pomp and circumstances of royalty:
Should one offer all his estate for love,
it would be utterly scorned.
(8:7b)
The Song scoffs at the traditional idea that love could be purchased, especially by Kings. See the passage of this thread for further critiques of the King: 8:11-12.

That the lovers suffer further difficulties (of one wishes to suggest that 3:7-11 indicates their literal marriage) can be seen in the rest of the Song, for example:
If only you were like a brother to me,
one who nursed at my mother's breasts!
When I met you in the street I would kiss you,
and no one would mock me.
I would take and lead you to my mother's house,
to the room of her who bore me.
I would give you spiced wine to drink,
the juice of my pomegranate.
(Songs 8:1-2)
The girl wishes that the boy was her brother - not literally, of course. This is so that the two would not have to make pretenses to be together. No one would bat an eye at their close proximity if her wish was granted, and they could make love whenever they wanted. They would not have to hide their love from the world. This problem is a frequent one in the Song - it is not the problem of a married couple, or even of a couple who were betrothed. It is the problem not only of a couple not married, but of a couple for whom marriage is not seemingly possible or planned. Similar problems abound in Egyptian and Mesopotamian love poetry, and among many young lovers today who are positive that they are ready for love long before their parents think they are!
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Old 09-24-2016, 06:52 AM
 
Location: S. Wales.
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I think because it iis an academic argument at best and not an argument at all. The literal vs. metaphorical question is better applied to Job, Jonah and Noah than to the song of songs. I should be happy for you if it had already run to 50 pages, but this does seem to attract less takers than the blood soaked battlefront of gay rights, evilooshun and gospel truth.
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Old 09-24-2016, 08:39 AM
 
3,483 posts, read 3,851,791 times
Reputation: 754
Quote:
Originally Posted by L8Gr8Apost8 View Post
I enjoyed your post. I didn't feel I had anything to add though.

How about this?

Ezekiel 23:19-21The Message (MSG)

18-21 “I turned my back on her just as I had on her sister. But that didn’t slow her down. She went at her whoring harder than ever. She remembered when she was young, just starting out as a ***** in Egypt. That whetted her appetite for more virile, vulgar, and violent lovers—stallions obsessive in their lust. She longed for the sexual prowess of her youth back in Egypt, where her firm young breasts were caressed and fondled.
I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Oh boy... Ezekiel the pervert! He sure was fond of sexualized imagery - especially when criticizing the people of Israel.

I must say, the Message translation is quite subdued with it's "obsessive stallions" compared to a more literal reading:
She lusted after concubinage to them, whose members were like those of asses and whose discharge was like that of horses.
You reverted to the depravity of your youth, when your nipples were pressed in Egypt on account of your young breasts.
(Ezekiel 23:20-21 AB Greenberg)
Any translation that minimizes the extremely graphic (but funny) comparison between human genitalia and seed and donkey dicks and horse semen really misses out on the bawdy character of Ezekiel's prophecies!

The Biblical authors certainly were no stranger to sexualized metaphors - even though many readers today prefer to see themselves in these authors: people wearing nice suits and dresses to Church on Sundays. I think they miss out on who these people really were.

The relationship between Israel and Yahweh frequently took on a sexualized nature in that Israel was seen as God's bride, and a very unfaithful bride at that!
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Old 09-24-2016, 09:08 AM
 
3,483 posts, read 3,851,791 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TRANSPONDER View Post
I think because it iis an academic argument at best and not an argument at all. The literal vs. metaphorical question is better applied to Job, Jonah and Noah than to the song of songs. I should be happy for you if it had already run to 50 pages, but this does seem to attract less takers than the blood soaked battlefront of gay rights, evilooshun and gospel truth.

Yes, if I was interested in page counts, I need more "clickbaity" threads I suppose! I'm not trying to make threads that are interesting to a bunch of people, I only make threads if something is interesting to me and it MIGHT be interesting to some people. Some of my threads are related to one another and build off one another, and are even inspired by some of the more popular threads going on. There are not always arguments to be made, but the hope that some will study this material a little more closely - whether they are affirming OR critiquing it, or just enjoying it.

For instance, a recent thread on morality and some of the protestations made within - especially suggested by the David/Jonathan discussion - prompted me to consider making a thread this weekend on whether the Bible forbids homosexuality (it does not, as we define it) and whether the Bible should even be used as an authority on modern ethical questions to begin with (it should not), but now I'm not so sure I want to wade through that "blood soaked battlefront" that frequently ends in locked and closed threads.


As for the "literal vs. metaphorical question" and the Song - I don't think there's any question about it to most people anymore. I'm not trying to make an academic argument for the Song's hidden metaphoric meaning - I'm trying to give an example of the Song's basic character. The poet didn't set out to write a religious metaphor to confound people - he set out to write erotic love poetry using the language and expressions of his day. The history of interpretation of the Song has already shown that people have tried to subdue the erotic character of the work into a lame metaphor of God and his bride Israel (to name just one famous example of how the Song was interpreted). It's included in the Biblical canon because at some point someone was able to convince some community that there was more meaning to the Song than there actually is. Like other love poetry of its day, it is concerned with the more physical aspects of human relationships. That is what I'm interested in highlighting.

I'm not interested in that added-on, secondary metaphorical meaning at all. I'm more interested in the base figurative language the poet was consciously using as part and parcel of his craft. His artistry in the Song is extremely interesting, at least to me. It is my hope that some will see past its status as "just one of the books of the Bible yawn" and find some usefulness for it as literature. Lovers, especially, can find this type of literature... inspiring.
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