THE CELEBRATION OF ROMANTIC LOVE REACHES ITS CLIMAX IN PASSIONATE SEXUAL UNION
Duane Garrett / Paul House: The garden in this canto is the woman’s body. Since Song 4:16b speaks of “my garden” but 4:16c speaks of “his garden,” it appears that the man sings 4:16ab and the woman sings 4:16c. In 5:1 the man speaks of “my wine,” “my balsam,” and “my myrrh,” all in reference to the delights of the woman’s body and affection. Thus, the man also sings of her as “my garden.” Of course, it is possible that the woman sings all of v 16, first speaking of her body as “my garden” and then as “his garden,” but it is not possible that the man sings 4:16c.
Similarly, it is clear that the man sings lines 3A–D in Song 5:1, but it seems that the chorus sings 4A–B at the end of 5:1; this final pair of lines addresses “friends” and exhorts them to drink deeply of love. That is, it appears that the chorus in 5:1c is telling the two lovers to enjoy their time together. . .
In the structure of Song of Songs, this piece is the center of a large chiasmus that spans the whole of the work. Often, in a biblical chiasmus, the central text governs and provides the hermeneutical key to the whole text. In this case, the centerpiece is the sexual union of the man and woman. This moment is the pivot point for the whole book, and this commentary suggests that the bridal event, the movement from virgin to wife, is the theme of Song of Songs.
Tom Gledhill: The verse is full of the first person: I have come . . . I have gathered. . . I have eaten. . . I have drunk; four very deliberate and incisive verbal actions. Eight times the strongly possessive ‘my’ occurs: My garden, my sister bride, my myrrh, my spice, my honeycomb, my honey, my wine, my milk. It seems on the surface of it to indicate a strong male triumphalism. ‘I came, I saw, I conquered.’ But the whole tenor of the Song is against any such interpretation. She has invited him in eagerly, their passion is mutual. Most of the Song is concerned with the girl’s feelings; it is only occasionally that the passion of the man is described.
Daniel Akin: In beautiful and enticing poetry Shulammite invites Solomon to make love to her. She who has twice said not to “stir up or awaken love until the appropriate time” (cf. 2:7; 3:5) now says, in effect, “The time is right. I am yours. Come and take me.” North winds are strong and south winds more gentle. In lovemaking Shulammite wants and needs both.
She has been listening to every word spoken by her husband, for she picks up on the imagery of the Garden of Eden. She is now that garden for him, and here “love” as she calls him is welcome to come in and enjoy. She invites him and she guides him. She tells him what she is feeling and what she wants. Great sex is the result of good communication. All the physical parts fit when a man and woman come together, but sex is no mere mechanical union. It is a personal and spiritual union nurtured by careful communication. We cannot be certain of all that is meant by the imagery of coming to the garden and tasting the choice fruits, but it is not difficult to imagine all sorts of good things that this couple will share!
Iain Duguid: In this poem, the man and the woman discover the true meaning of marriage as a union of heart, soul and flesh. The long period of waiting comes to an end, and their sexual union is a moment of great delight and joy, not merely for them but for the wider community. The garden that was once carefully sealed and locked is now open so that the pleasures of its paradise can be explored and enjoyed. The Song joyfully affirms that the context for the richest of human relationships is within God’s design for marriage, which is between a man and a woman.
John Schultz: The Tyndale Commentary says about these verses: “The third major division of the song comes to a climax with these two verses. They form the exact middle of the Hebrew text with 111 lines (60 verses, plus the title, 1:1) from 1:2 to 4:15, and 111 lines (55 verses) from 5:2 to 8:14. These two verses contain five lines of text, but they also contain the climax of the thought of the poem. Everything thus far has been moving towards the consolidation and confirmation of what has been pledged here. The sister/bride now becomes the ‘consummated one’ … as lover and beloved extend to each other the fullness of themselves.”
I. (4:16a) STIRRING UP SEXUAL PASSIONS (Male)
A. Sexual Passions Involve Powerful Forces
“Awake, O north wind,
And come, wind of the south;”
Duane Garrett / Paul House: The blowing of powerful winds on a garden conveys the idea that the garden has been seized by an external power, such that the trees seem to move of their own accord and the resins and oils of the plants are released. It is an appropriate metaphor for sexual passion in the woman.
John Schultz: Some commentators are confused as to who the speaker is in 4:16. Some divide the verse in two and assign the first part “Awake, north wind, and come, south wind! Blow on my garden, that its fragrance may spread abroad” to the boy and “Let my lover come into his garden and taste its choice fruits” to the girl. There can be little doubt but that the girl is speaking in the last sentence. But I see no reason why the first part should not attributed to her also.
B. Sexual Passions Involve Strong Attraction
“Make my garden breathe out fragrance,
Let its spices be wafted abroad.”
II. (4:16b) INVITING SEXUAL UNION (Female)
“May my beloved come into his garden
And eat its choice fruits!”
Duane Garrett / Paul House: The woman responds that the man should come into his garden and eat his choice fruit. In the language of the Song of Songs, this is a straightforward invitation for him to enter her sexually. In the structure of the Song of Songs, this is the centerpiece and crescendo. All of the Song focuses on this, the union of the new husband and wife.
Tom Gledhill: There it was a call to avoid premature awakening. But now the time is ripe. There is to be no restraint. What has for so long been held back, can now with great abandon be allowed its full expression. With great eagerness the two lovers come together. She is freely giving herself to him, with seductive invitation. She is enticing her lover and making herself so alluring, that he becomes mad with desire. She is not merely passive, but ardent and eager. She wants him to feel her attractiveness, her desirability. She wants him to enter her garden and taste its exquisite fruits. The use of the verb ‘to enter’ or to come into is a standard Hebrew metaphor for sexual intercourse. He is ‘entering’ his garden, which is my garden (i.e. the girl’s and also his). The garden is their mutual possession.
III. (5:1a) REVELING IN SEXUAL SATISFACTION (Male)
“I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride;
I have gathered my myrrh along with my balsam.
I have eaten my honeycomb and my honey;
I have drunk my wine and my milk.”
Tremper Longman: Metaphorically he describes how he follows up on her invitation for sexual union. He enters the garden and enjoys all of its delights. He has gathered, eaten and drunk in the garden. The verbs all speak of his partaking of the good things in the woman’s garden. The delights are represented by the myrrh, spices, honeycomb, honey, wine, and milk. The double objects of each of the final three cola indicate the totality of his experience. He hasn’t just had her wine, but also her milk, not only her honey but also her comb. He has possessed her completely, a fitting image of sexual intercourse.
Bruce Hurt: Paige Patterson notes the following about Solomon’s three expressions:
(1) The gathering of myrrh and spices refers to the fragrant and enriching result of their union.
(2) The eating of honey and honeycomb suggests the sweetness of their relationship.
(3) The drinking of wine and milk focuses on the satisfaction derived from the relationship and the complete fulfillment of their sexual thirsts and appetites.
IV. (5:1b) AFFIRMATION OF SEXUAL UNION (Chorus)
Drink and imbibe deeply, O lovers.”
Richard Hess: Again, it is not clear who is being addressed or even who is doing the talking. It may be that the male and female address young men and women who are their companions. The couple exhorts them to join in the joy of their love with food and drink. On the other hand it is possible that a group such as the daughters of Jerusalem forms a chorus here and addresses the couple. They encourage the pair in their expressions of love and in finding love. This is even more likely if the final word is translated “lovers” rather than “with lovemaking.” However, it is true even in the latter case. . .
The wine of love has reached its full potency, and the couple is ready to share in its giddy pleasures. The chorus encourages the lovers to partake of their feast. The image here of lovemaking suggests that the eating and drinking involve more than a marriage feast or other special event with foods and drinks. The picture of lovemaking in the context of the preceding use of verbs of consumption implies feasting upon one another’s bodies in the satisfaction of sexual desire. As the male lover declares (5:1a), so the chorus also recognizes no limit to the joys that the lovers may find in one another (5:1b). To the contrary, they command indulgence in the fullness of these pleasures.
Daniel Akin: [Identifies the speaker as God who speaks approvingly of the union]
Iain Duguid: It is more likely that this speech represents the daughters of Jerusalem (Hess 2005: 156–157), or even God himself giving his sanction on their union, as it were, declaring their marriage to be ‘very good’ (Estes 2010: 362). The distinction between the last two choices is perhaps more apparent than real, since in either case it reflects the author’s evaluation of the consummation of their marriage. However, this corporate benediction once again reminds us that sex and marriage are not simply individual appetites and pleasures that may be indulged as a private matter between any two consenting adults, but always exist in the larger context of the covenant community.
Jack Deere: A more plausible suggestion is that the speaker was God Himself. Only their Creator would have been a “guest” on that occasion. Since their love was from Him it was fitting that He approve it. He invited them to enjoy sexual love in marriage as if it were a banquet (“eat . . . and drink”). This clearly indicates God’s approval of marriage, which He designed in the Garden of Eden (cf. Gen. 2:24).
Tremper Longman: The chorus is the voice of those outside the relationship who put their imprimatur, as it were, on the relationship. They encourage them in their union. They command them to eat and drink, indeed drink so much that they get intoxicated because of their union. Love, and the act of love, sometimes acts like a little too much alcohol, making the head reel and causing one to lose touch with reality.
Tom Gledhill: The last line of 5:1 is an affirmation of the lovers’ activity. What they are doing is good, wholesome, right and proper. It is the natural physical consummation of their love. Their abandonment in self-giving is thoroughly approved and endorsed. There is to be no reserve, no restraint, but a complete and happy enjoyment of each other in their mutual love. They are to become ‘drunk’ with lovemaking, they are to be inebriated, on a physical and emotional high. The last word could be interpreted either as ‘with love-making, with caresses’ or as ‘O lovers’, referring to the lovers themselves. These words are spoken by the author of the poems. He intrudes on to the stage, as it were, to pass a comment on the action of the characters whom he has created. It is a literary device to indicate an external approval of the closing scene of intimacy.