1Would that you were a brother to me,
nursed at my mother’s breasts!
If I met you out of doors, I would kiss you
and none would despise me.
2a I would lead you, bring you to my mother’s house,
where you would teach me,
Where I would give you to drink
spiced wine, my pomegranate* juice.
3b His left hand is under my head,
and his right arm embraces me.
4c I adjure you, Daughters of Jerusalem,
do not awaken or stir up love
until it is ready!
The Return from the Desert
5D?d Who is this coming up from the desert,
leaning upon her lover?
W Beneath the apple tree I awakened you;*
there your mother conceived you;
there she who bore you conceived.
6Set me as a seal* upon your heart,
as a seal upon your arm;
For Love is strong as Death,
longing is fierce as Sheol.
Its arrows are arrows of fire,
flames of the divine.
7e Deep waters* cannot quench love,
nor rivers sweep it away.
Were one to offer all the wealth of his house for love,
he would be utterly despised.
An Answer to the Brothers
8W “We have a little sister;*
she has no breasts as yet.
What shall we do for our sister
on the day she is spoken for?
9If she is a wall,
we will build upon her a silver turret;
But if she is a door,
we will board her up with cedar planks.”
10I am a wall,*
and my breasts are like towers.
I became in his eyes
as one who brings peace.
11M? Solomon had a vineyard at Baal-hamon;*
he gave over the vineyard to caretakers.
For its fruit one would have to pay
a thousand silver pieces.
12My vineyard is at my own disposal;
the thousand pieces are for you, Solomon,
and two hundred for the caretakers of its fruit.
The Lovers’ Yearnings
13M You who dwell in the gardens,*
my companions are listening for your voice—
let me hear it!
14Wf Swiftly, my lover,
be like a gazelle or a young stag
upon the mountains of spices.
* [8:2] Wine…pomegranate: sexual connotations are implied, since the root “drink” (shaqah) is a wordplay on “kiss” (nashaq) in v. 1; cf. 1:2.
* [8:5] Awakened you: the speakers in this verse are difficult to identify. Someone (the poet? Daughters?) hails the couple in v. 5a. According to the Masoretic vocalization, the woman is the speaker in v. 5b.
* [8:6] Seal: this could be worn bound to the arm, as here, or suspended at the neck, or as a ring (Jer 22:24). It was used for identification and signatures. Strong…fierce: in human experience, Death and Sheol are inevitable, unrelenting; in the end they always triumph. Love, which is just as certain of its victory, matches its strength against the natural enemies of life; waters cannot extinguish it nor floods carry it away. It is more priceless than all riches. Flames of the divine: the Hebrew is difficult: the short form (-Yah) of the divine name Yhwh found here may associate love with the Lord, or it may be acting as a superlative—i.e., god-sized flames.
* [8:7] Deep waters: often used to designate chaos (Ps 93:4; 144:7; Is 17:12–13; Hb 3:15). The fires of love cannot be extinguished, even by waters of chaos. Wealth: love cannot be bought.
* [8:8–9] The woman quotes the course of action her elder brothers had decided on. While she is yet immature, they will shelter her in view of eventual marriage. Wall…door: if she is virtuous, she will be honored; if she is not, she will be kept under strict vigilance. Silver turret: a precious ornament.
* [8:10] In reply to the officious and meddling attitude of the brothers, she answers with their terms: she is mature (“wall,” “towers”). Brings peace: or, “finds peace.”
* [8:11–12] These enigmatic verses have been variously interpreted, depending on who is taken to be the speaker. In v. 11, if the woman, she boasts that she is a vineyard of great value. If the man, he boasts over his possession of her.
* [8:13–14] As in 2:14, her lover asks for a word or a song and she replies in words similar to those found in 2:17.