Sunday, May 22, 2016

On the Song of songs

OUP has a post on this today. My comment may not be accepted, or may get lost when I post it, so here it is.

The greater the good, the greater the potential for distortion of the good. With respect to the song and its explicit joy in the gift of sex, there is a warning repeated. The arousal (the same word as naked or skin) is not to be until the one who is aroused is delighted in it. Within the warning the name of God is encoded. Read in Hebrew, God is hidden in the animals of the Song: Tsava'ot, roe or gazelle, sounds like hosts as in Lord of Hosts. Ayyilot hasadeh sounds like El Shaddai- a name for God traditionally rendered as 'the Almighty' but perhaps better read as 'the Sufficient'. This name is derived from shd, meaning breast.

This song is a key to Torah. So are the Psalms in which such love is not absent. Psalm 45 is a song of love. This is evident from the keywords that are used for the first time.

Peter Craigie (The Word Commentary on Psalms 1 to 50), when he deals with this psalm under ‘explanation’, points to the last chapter of C.S. Lewis Reflections on the Psalms as an example of a psalm with ‘a second meaning’. Lewis (p. 101 ff) commends the understanding within Judaism of the allegory of God as Bridegroom. "Thus the allegory which at first seemed so arbitrary – the ingenuity of some prudish commentator who was determined to force flat edifications upon the most unpromising texts – turned out, when you seriously tugged at it, to have roots in the whole history of religion, to be loaded with poetry, to yield insights."

The king, the groom, he is your Lord, has made us kings and priests to God and his Father (Revelation 1:6). If I come to this intellectually, I fail. It is ‘flat’ as Lewis comments. But if I come at it in obedience, the unplugged ear, the prepared body, of Psalm 40, that is, in the obedience of faith, I find that more than I asked or imagined arises out of the text.

The power in the mother is to make the children rule. This is the role of the tradition of the congregation. The rule will be consistent with the mercy shown. This theme will continue in the psalms through to Psalm 149.  (From MacDonald, Seeing the Psalter, 2013)

That intellect and institution fail in this role is not surprising. For both disobey the warning of the Song and attempt to usurp all power for themselves.