Michael Goulder on the Song of Solomon

English: "Presents to King Solomon."...
English: “Presents to King Solomon.” A miniature from the Georgian “Jruchi Gospels”. 15th century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For those of you who don’t know about the late Dr. Michael Goulder, he is the one who well defined Rev. Dr. Austin Farrer’s theory, giving rise to a solid and substantial challenge to the Q hypothesis. His expertise was not limited to the Gospels, but as you can see, was expanded to both Testaments — and even somewhat beyond. This is his take on the Song of Solomon:

The following, then, as I understand it, is the ‘plot’ of the Song. The young woman is an Arabian princess from Nadiv, and in Song 1 she has arrived at Solomon’s palace: ‘the king has brought me into his chambers’. She expresses passionate love for her royal fiancé, ‘let him kiss me …’, and ends by asking the way to the Audience Chamber, which the Chorus, the ladies of the harem, tell her. Song 2 is in the Audience Hall, where the King greets her with enthusiasm. They embrace (‘My beloved is unto me a sachet of myrrh lying between my breasts’), and she begins to speak with a proprietorial tone of the furnishings—‘our couch, our house, our rafters’. Thereafter things move quickly. She sits down beside him and kisses him, ‘I delight in his shadow and sit down, and his fruit is sweet to my taste’; and the scene ends with his left hand under her head, and his right hand enfolding her. With Song 3 he comes running to court her, and invite her into the country; and she bids him to her bed for the night—not of course to sleep with her, for they are not yet married, but he is to be as a hart on the cloven hills of her breast. In Song 4 she awakes to find the King has gone; she goes after him through the streets and ways of the city, that is the corridors and rooms of the palace. She meets the watchmen, the eunuchs, and the King himself, and takes him back to bed with her. In Song 5 the ladies are watching the Princess in the royal palanquin (mî zō’t) being carried in procession to her wedding, where the King awaits her on his special new throne (’appiriōn) in the crown Bathsheba has given him for the occasion. In Song 6 the King admires her in her wedding veil, praising all the loveliness that he can see, from her eyes and hair down to her breasts. Song 7 is the consummation of their marriage: he bids her to come down from the mountains—that is from her breast—to the garden of her womb, to the sealed spring full of the aromas of desire. She welcomes him into her garden, and he says, ‘I have come into my garden, my sister-bride’. It is not until this Song that he calls her his bride, as he now does repeatedly. Song 7 marks the half-way point of the fourteen Songs, and the Consummation is the first of the two high points of the book.

In the second half, from 5:2, the Princess moves from being Solomon’s new wife to being his Queen. In Song 8 he knocks on her door, but she is slow in responding, and he goes. She follows but cannot find him, and in Song 9 asks help of the ladies, who are conveniently about in the middle of the night: she describes her love in detail. With Song 10 he returns to her—she cries ‘I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine!’ He then tells her that she is his only love, and has captivated him: even his queens and women salute her. They make love the second time: ‘I went down to the garden of nuts …’ We might think her victory rather easy, so in Song 11 the ladies call for the return of Abishag the Shunamite: but the Princess is not having that, and dances for the King herself. This time the praises move up from her feet, beautiful in their sandals, to her arms waving like a palm-tree; not much between is omitted, so she is probably dancing naked. Having now further aroused her husband, she takes him off to the country in Song 12, where she ‘awakens’ him under the apple-tree. In this way she can be hailed in public in Song 13, ‘Who is this coming up from the desert?’, now her beloved’s open favourite; and she makes the famous and beautiful appeal to him, ‘set me as the seal upon your heart, for love is strong as death, and jealousy hard as Sheol’. She can only be satisfied to be permanently with him, and in Song 14 this is put to the test. He is with his nobles administering his vineyard: she calls to him from the garden, and he comes.

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3 Replies to “Michael Goulder on the Song of Solomon”

    1. “I went down to the garden of nuts …”
      Are you sure it wasn’t the Marx Brothers? Either “The Cocoanuts”, or “Monkey Business”.

  1. Humor, or comedy, is merely an exaggeration of life within the context of a culture. Frequently, it is how the characters are portrayed rather than what is actually said.

    Words on a script are relatively neutral. It is only when interpreted by direction and acting that they begin to take on a life of their own.

    Although I’ve never seen it done, I suspect, in the right hands, a Jonathan Edwards sermon could have audiences rolling in the aisles.

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