Song of Songs Bible Study (Instructions For Romantic Love)

Song of Songs 8: Set Me As A Seal On Your Heart

The eighth chapter can be seen as a continuation of the events of chapter 7 or as a new scene that is separate from the seventh chapter. The Song continues to praise the joy of love and affection that they have toward one another in marriage.

Desiring Affection (8:1-4)

We see the wife continuing to express her desire for affection from her husband. We saw that she desired affection from him when they were dating/betrothed (1:2-4). But this is not supposed to change in marriage. She still wants to receive his affection. Notice that she wishes that she were like a brother to her. The reason for this is that it was acceptable to show affection to your family in public. But it was not acceptable to show affection to your spouse or betrothed. So her desire is that there was a way for her to receive affection from him at all times, even in public. She desires to be with him and wants to show him affection and receive affection as much as possible. Also remember that we saw that the “brother/sister” terms were used as terms of endearment in their time (Song 4:9-12; 5:1-2).

There is an interesting statement in verse 2. In speaking about her mother, she says, “She who used to teach me.” It seems that her mother taught her about love, affection, and having a relationship with a man. I believe she is saying that her mother taught her how to behave in a relationship. We have seen in this Song her ability to know how to handle herself with this man that she loves. She has done things the right way. They had desires for each other but did not sin with lust or sexual contact. She gave the charge to “not stir up or awaken love until it pleases” (2:7; 3:5). Desires are to held in marriage and these things should not be stirred up early. We mentioned previously in our studies how we must be careful to not accelerate the relationship because there is a limit of what a couple can do toward each other before marriage. Her mother taught her how to behave properly toward a man before marriage and how to behave when married. Our daughters need these instructions. They should not have to go blindly into marriage not knowing these principles that have been studied in this book. If a daughter is old enough to get married, then she is old enough for a mother to sit down and have a discussion about the marriage relationship. She says that her mother taught her about these things and this is right training according to God.

She also describes their love for each other as intoxicating. We have seen this theme throughout the Song as well (1:2; 5:1; 7:9). This is the same message that Solomon taught his son in the Proverbs:

Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. 16 Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? 17 Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. 18 Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, 19 a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. 20 Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress? 21 For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the LORD, and he ponders all his paths. (Proverbs 5:15–21 ESV)

Solomon tells his son to always be intoxicated by her love. Do not be intoxicated by another woman. Looking outside of marriage for this love is the path to destruction and ruin. So the man is told to look to his wife for this intoxicating love. The Song tells the woman that you need to allow your husband to be intoxicated by your love. You must be intoxicating to him. He must look to the wife and find satisfaction in marital love. She must be willing to show her love to him in the marriage relationship. In verse 2 she is expressing her desire to continue to show her love to him.

Verse 3 pictures the affection and intimacy they have for each other. The joy of the embrace of one another is praised. They want to be together. This is a good reminder to husbands that our wives want affection. They want us to show them that we care for them. There is a tenderness in the words we read in verse 3. We saw the same tender affection when they were dating in 2:6. This is another reminder to both husband and wife that we must continue to do for each other the things we did when we were dating and first married to keep the joy and love in the relationship going.

The fourth verse is a declaration to the daughters of Jerusalem what she has said in this Song in 2:7 and 3:5. Do not rush into love, marriage, and intimacy. These things have a proper place and a proper time. There is great joy and pleasure found in the marriage relationship that waits for the proper time to enjoy the fruit of the relationship. So now that she is married, she gives counsel to the other women of Jerusalem to wait for intimacy until it is the right person and the right time, which is the one to whom you are married. Intimacy before marriage ruins marriages and there is a loss of the fruit that is to be greatly enjoyed in the marriage covenant.

Set Me As A Seal (8:5-7)

As we come to the conclusion of the Song we see that the Song takes a step back and reflects on the nature of love. The chorus begins with a question: “Who is that coming up from the wilderness, leaning on her beloved?” Here is a picture of this couple that we have been reading about, walking side by side, arm in arm, with her leaning her head on him. They have found a special place under the apple tree where she awakened him. She awakened his love and excitement for her in the place where his mother awakened the love of her husband (his father). This is clearly a special family location that is given as the place to be together in love.

“Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm” speaks to the exclusivity of the relationship. The seal here is indicating a metaphor of ownership and personal identification. They are taking ownership of each other. This is a glorious picture of love. They are willingly giving themselves to each other and to each other only. There is a picture of permanence for this relationship. Their hearts are sealed for each other. They possess each other’s hearts. Therefore, their love is strong and unbreakable.

Notice this language of their unbreakable love for one another in these verses. “For love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave.” Consider that nothing can stop death. Death is an irresistible and inevitable force. She speaks of their love for each other with this kind of strength. They have a love for each other that tolerates no rivals. This is not describing a bad jealousy but a proper jealousy. We are sealed for one another and will not share you with another. God speaks of himself as a jealous God which carries the same idea. God will not share our hearts with another idol or another love. In the same way, we will not share our hearts with another person. This is why God declares sexual immorality as the only thing that severs the bond of marriage (Matthew 19:9). Jealousy is a proper emotion to any threat to the relationship.

Listen to the heat and passion of the relationship. “Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord.” It is burning hot. The flame of the Lord is the hottest of all flames. Their marriage relationship, love, and intimacy is burning with intense passion. Even today we will describe love as the “flames of love.” Love is a powerful thing. We must ask ourselves if our marriages have this passion and intensity. If not, we need to recognize that there is a problem. This is a warning because it is easy for our eyes and hearts to be caught by another when we do not maintain the passion in the marriage. Love is to be as strong as death and has intense and passionate as the hottest of flames. If this is missing, then the marriage needs our attention and we must do the things that this Song has taught us to do for the marriage. This also teaches us the power of this thing called love. This is how affairs happen. We underestimate the power of passion. We neglect our marriage failing to recognize that we are putting ourselves in great danger because when one’s heart is captured by another, it is very powerful.

In verse 7 she continues to describe this love. “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can flood drown it.” A passionate love can endure anything. We see this idea captured in works like Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. Nothing can stop love and, when aflame, nothing can quench it. Further, love is not able to be purchased. To even try to buy love only brings shame. Love is priceless. Therefore, we need to treat our relationships as priceless. Love is too important to neglect and too valuable to ignore. It is critical that we maintain our marriages because they are important and must never be taken for granted.

Preparing For Marriage (8:8-12)

In verse 8 we read a question from some brother. We do not know if they are her brothers or another audience who is asking the question. Either way, they want to know what they should do to prepare their young sister for the day of marriage (“on the day when she is spoken for”). She is clearly a young girl. So they are asking what they should follow in order to prepare her for her future marriage. It is not a last minute idea. It is preparing young girls for this time. I think this is so important for us to consider what the Song is teaching. We do not let our daughters or sisters go into dating and marriage blindly. Further, we do not wait until they are already dating. The Song pictures that at an age when they are starting to become a young woman like the junior high age, we will train and teach our girls about these things. So what are the instructions to prepare her for the day of her wedding?

The answer is given in verse 9. Her behavior will dictate how we will go about helping her be ready for marriage and stay pure. “If she is a wall” then she is choosing to protect her sexuality. She is a virgin. She understands why this is important. She has been taught to keep herself pure and is prepared to do so. If she is a wall, then we will honor her for that decision. We will build her up and praise her so that she will continue to be a wall as God wants her to do. However, “If she is a door” pictures that she is inclined to yield to a man’s advances. If she is a door, then they will be protective of her. They will enclose her with boards of cedar. They will increase the security around her to keep her from doing this. One can assume that if she is a door, then there will be less independence. She is not going to be available for men to get to know her until she matures to the point that she is a wall. These conversations start early, teaching the girl the necessity of being a wall, not a door.

In verse 10 we see the main character speak again. She says that she was a wall. The Song is praising her decision. This is how to live. Maintain your purity and look at how blessed she is. She has found a wonderful man and they have a passionate love and marriage. You do not have to be a door to find a man. In fact, the Song is teaching against being a door and the damage that is caused to you and to your relationship when you are a door. Be a wall. She was a wall and her body was off limits until they were married (“my breasts were like towers”). She protected her body and she was not accessible physically. By being this, “Then I was in his eyes as one who finds peace” (8:10). She is what a good, godly man is looking for and brings peace to him. Her decision to be a wall brings fulfillment, satisfaction, and contentment to him.

Verses 11-12 continues this important message. Some quickly see the term “vineyard” and suppose that the Song is saying that Solomon has been with hundreds of women but she has kept herself pure. But the imagery falls apart upon closer examination of verse 11. Solomon has a vineyard that he lets out to the keepers. The keepers tend the vineyard and bring from the vineyard its fruit which is very valuable (“a thousand pieces of silver”). The keepers pay one thousand pieces of silver for the fruit from this vineyard. One can see that the imagery does not work sexually. The imagery does not fit Solomon having a harem because there is no explanation for the keepers and money they pay for the fruit from his vineyard.

What we need to see is the Song is moving from the literal to the figurative. The picture is that Solomon has a luxurious vineyard. The proceeds of the fruit brings him 1000 pieces of silver. The owner of the vineyard gets his share of the vineyard because it belongs to him. He receives the benefits of that vineyard because it is his. Now she uses this analogy for herself in verse 12. Verse 11 is the set up using a literal image that was common in that day and time for what she is going to talk about concerning herself. Her “vineyard” (which she is speaking about her body) is at her disposal. Now notice: who gets to reap the profit from her vineyard? Solomon does. “You, O Solomon, may have the thousand.” It is all is going to him. He reaps the benefits of her vineyard. She also gets something in return (“and the keepers of the fruit two hundred”). But it is not about her. Yes, she enjoys this and yes, there is benefit to her. But the point is that the fruit of the vineyard belongs to her husband. What she gives is for him. What she does is for him. Marriage is not a pursuit of selfishness. Marriage is not a pursuit of what I get out the relationship. Marriage is giving yourself completely and fully to your spouse. She wants to give him the fruit of her body. Daniel Estes summed this well, “Intimacy is not reluctant or calculating, but freely and willingly gives itself without reserve. It gives heart, soul, and body to the one it loves. Anything less is unworthy to be called true love” (Apollos Commentary, 415). Your purity before marriage is an investment you are making for marriage, the fruit of which will be enjoyed then. She was a wall and protected her vineyard. Then she gave her vineyard to her husband to enjoy the full benefits.

Epilogue (8:13-14)

The Song then ends with them calling for each other and going off together, joined in marriage (8:13-14). He wants to hear her voice and be in her company. She wants him to come to her and enjoy being with her. She encourages him to be like a gazelle or a young stag on the mountains. She invites him to be joined with her in love and intimacy. When both husband and wife give themselves completely to one another, the marriage becomes what God wanted it to be. Both are enthralled and enjoy the benefits of marriage. Marriage becomes beautiful and fulfilling, rather than what the world portrays marriage, as if it is some antiquated concept. Marriage is the pinnacle of love that carries the couple to new joys and heights.

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