Awakening love

Awakening love August 30, 2012

Working from the Vulgate text, Paul Griffiths ( Song of Songs (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible) , 59) has this helpful comment on the adjuration of the daughters of Jerusalem in Song of Songs 2:7:

The “charge to [the daughters] can be read simply as an adjuration not to wake her up. She sleeps, and it is (by implication) his task to wake her, not theirs. But there are further layers of meaning: they are not to encourage her to watchfulness or vigilance; they are not to arouse or awaken her sexually; and they are not to bring her to life from death, to inspire her, that is, with the breath of life. All those actions too are for him rather than fro them, and there is a deep claim to exclusivity here: he is for her and she for him, without intermediaries or obstructions . . . . . As the deer imagery in the adjuration also suggests, they thirst for one another, and it is their mutual task to slake this thirst, a task in which the daughters have no part. Her further responsiveness to him must wait ‘until she wishes,’ until she is again prepared for him.”

Griffith goes on to point to this pattern in the history of Israel:

“The people of Israel and the church share this thirst, and the Lord, their lover, makes the same exclusive claim upon his beloved that all lovers make. They sleep, however: they are not always in his arms, returning his kiss open-mouthed, breathing him in, opening themselves to him. They sleep in the sense that, often – usually, almost always – they cannot see him, cannot find him, wander lost without him in regions of desolation. It is interesting and remarkable that this first adjuration comes abruptly after an intense exchange of endearments and caresses, the usual culmination of which for human lovers is sexual intercourse, the unity of the flesh. Instead, she sleeps; he acknowledges her sleep and waits for her to wake, waits for her to want him. Their endearments and caresses rise almost to a peak of passion and then, stammeringly, fall away into quite separation.”

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