“Who is this coming up from the wilderness Leaning on her beloved?” “Beneath the apple tree I awakened you; There your mother was in labor with you, There she was in labor and gave you birth. “Put me like a seal over your heart, Like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, Jealousy is as severe as Sheol; Its flashes are flashes of fire, The very flame of the Lord. “Many waters cannot quench love, Nor will rivers overflow it; If a man were to give all the riches of his house for love, It would be utterly despised.”
In verse 5 we see some themes that have appeared before with the apple tree (2:3, 5) and the mother as conceiver (3:4; 8:2). While we have some recurring ideas, the meaning of them is so obscure as it was before. One scholar mentioned that the family line from which you were born played a large part in the decisions of others to put their seal of approval on any marriage. With all the mention of the birthing and family details about these two young people, perhaps they are showing from which tribe, clan, or family they are a part of individually so that hopefully they will be acceptable to all. In mythology, the gods were said to give birth underneath the apple tree. The girl is said to have awakened her lover underneath the same tree, where also his birthing took place. It seems that the tree here serves not as a literal tree but as a sexual symbol leaning toward a fertile fruit producer. The act of giving birth is too grotesque to fit here. We would do better to think of the actual pains of love that keep them from entering the sexual intercourse through which conception and child birthing takes place. Another concept that is seen from the ancients, was the superstition of the day, in that where you were born could determine the stock under which you would be classified. For an example see Genesis 30:31-43, where sheep and goats were to breed near oaks, and only the strong with the strong, so that the stock would be a certain type. If indeed he was born under the apple tree, when she says he is her shade tree and has all kinds of apple characteristics, this could have some relevance. We must realize though that birth and reproduction are a blessing that only comes along with the sexual union of one flesh. What is the reason that Genesis tells us that God originally made a woman? The man was alone and had no mate or companion. Perhaps we should mention how this would be proof that contraceptives are not wrong since the union of the man and women was not solely made for a mechanical child reproduction process but was foremost created for the fulfillment of companionship in sexual pleasure. In verses 6-7, the concept of sealing the relationship of love is revealed. It seems that the girl is talking here, but near the end of this text (the 3rd line), the author of the Song may have taken the liberty to write his or her own personal feelings about what love is all about. This section also reveals some new concepts: death, grave, jealousy, and many waters. One commentator described this section as the “climax in praise of the unconquerability of love in the face of all its foes.” To be set as a seal on the heart and arm, give us some neat images to consider. It is interesting to note, in light of westernized marriage traditions with rings on fingers, that the arm here is probably better rendered as a finger (Do you remember the cylinders or rods of gold from 5:14). Gledhill describes, instead of seeing a bracelet on his arm it would be better to see a ring on his finger (a symbol of security and togetherness). Either rendering allows for a token of love to be shared, whether literal or symbolic. In either case, she wants to be the seal set on his person so that there is no doubt about their relationship. Since she mentions his heart this could be symbolic of their oneness or it could also represent another style of seal that would be worn around the neck which would hang close to the heart. She could simply be saying, “I want the relationship to be intimately close to your heart and publicly made known and accepted.” In 8:5 she is leaning on his arm as a sign of their closeness and perhaps she wants that to be a sign to others. But between her and her lover, they are hooked together in heart. The seal could be described as a keepsake, but here, she is that seal. (Consider Deut. 6: 6, 8) She may be demonstrating some insecure qualities here as she knew that she already captured the king of her life (7:5), but she wasn’t sure if he would forget, lose interest, and escape from her. The love mentioned in verses 6-7 is a type of love much like "agape" love in Greek, where it seeks the best in others and is a self-giving dedicated type of love. We are not talking about sexually lustful kinds of love, for they do not last apart from a dedicated secure relationship, founded on true care for the other partner. You can quench a shallow lustful passion, but you cannot extinguish the desire that two people have, who are truly in love with one another. When love is described here, the Song uses great poetic parallelism where love is paralleled with jealousy, death is paralleled with the grave (Sheol), and strong is paralleled with severe. Since death is an active power that always claims its victim and cannot be escaped, then the power of love should do likewise. Jealousy is not to be seen in comparison with love but is to be noticed alongside love. Jealousy is as harsh or severe as the grave (a place for the dead to lie). The jealousy here does not describe the desire of another love, but rather the desire within a relationship to have all those things that fulfill love. Since death and Sheol are often lumped together with similarities, we should see the same parallelism between love and jealousy. When the text mentions its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. One phrase was used to describe this by Gledhill that is worthy of our consideration. He said, “Those who are smitten are engulfed in its conflagration, helpless in the baptism of love” Since flashes of light (lightning) hits us unexpectedly and overtakes us without warning, so love with its various desires captures us with its overwhelming wave of feelings that make us envious of fulfillment. In the literal Hebrew, the passage says, “a flame of Yah”, which tells us that love and its desires were intended by God to be shared by mankind. The “yah” ending on this Hebrew word has been translated “Lord” as a derivative from Yahweh, yet this could just be describing the almighty nature of love as well. For example, the name Jeremiah (Yirmeyah), means Yahweh is exalted. In most OT passages, the “yah” ending only adds to the greatness of the item under consideration (See Psalm 80:10). Whether or not the name of the Lord was intended to be explicitly a part of this text, the meaning of any word or name with the “yah” ending was to be accredited with greatness associated with God. As a matter of fact, some have called these fires a “fierce and holy blaze”. God is associated with the love between a man and a woman, no matter how you translate this text (Eccl. 9:9; Gen 2:24). The flashes of fire cannot be quenched even by many waters, nor can it be flooded out by rivers of water. The usage of fire and water in describing how powerful love is in its ability to penetrate the heart and not be quenched should tell us the main point of this text. Love is extremely powerful. Even though water can quench any flame. No force of this element can touch the flame of love. Those who love one another in the Lord can build their love and stand against any adversity as long as they both are fully devoted to one another. The last thing that is mentioned about love in this section is that it cannot be purchased with money nor can it be deserved with gifts. These are despised when it comes to love in a trade situation. This reminds me of when Simon wanted to buy the gift of the Holy Spirit with money (Acts 8:18-20). Our money can perish with us if we think love is able to be bought at any physical price. Love must be sincere and deeply rooted in the heart. SPIRITUAL APPLICATION: It is not hard to apply this to our spiritual relationship with the Lord. We know that our love for the Lord must be unquenchable, undying. He loves us in this way and is jealous of our love. The sole love of our soul must be our Lord, for any interaction of love with the world creates enmity between us and the Lord. The Lord who created marriage is keenly aware of the commitment required to remain true. Spiritual adultery is the highest act of unfaithfulness for it stands in the face of the Maker of love and shows utter disregard for His care, passion, and fervor for an intimate relationship with us. As a seal, the Lord gives us of the Holy Spirit as a sign of love which obligates, as in an engagement or betrothal, that He will follow through with giving us all of Himself for all eternity. We are to also be in Him through abiding in His love, by keeping His word and honoring Him with our holy conduct. We do not earn love by the purchase price of our obedient devotion, because the love of Christ was demonstrated in His death before we were in love with Him. Once we were aware of this story of love and were constrained to accept His gift of salvation, we were then sealed and secured in His love. QUESTIONS: 1. Compare and contrast the sealing of love between a husband and wife with a ring on earth with the relationship that we share with Christ and His gift of the Holy Spirit that He places in us as a seal. What ideas did you come up with in this exercise? (See Acts 2:38; Acts 5:32; Gal. 4:6)
2. Why can't we purchase love with money or any other external monetary gift? What is the fault in trying to buy love and what will be the outcome?
3. In your view, how is love as strong as death?
4. How is jealousy as strong as the grave?
5. How is it that many waters cannot quench love?
I hope you have enjoyed today’s show. If you want to hear the concluding episode of this series called Love Awakening, please join me next time in Song of Songs 8:8-14 in a message titled, “Keeping Love Pure”.