Sex and Rape in Song of Solomon III
Bill Long 12/25/08
Learning the Hard Way in 5:2-8; 8:3-4 II
So, what does she do when he has called to her from outside the door? Verse 3 takes us there:
3 I had put off my garment;
how could I put it on again?
I had bathed my feet;
how could I soil them?
Her first thought is her "condition." She is naked in bed. She has "put off her garment" and doesn't feel like putting it on to open the door, just (probably) to take it off again. How much 'wasted time' there is in love! She is lying down. Her feet are "clean." How could she get up and answer the door when it would mean that she dirties them? Perhaps there is sexual imagery here. "Covering the feet" is also a Biblical phrase for covering the genitals, and perhaps she is trying to tell us that she has already "washed herself," so how could she get into an encounter where she would become "soiled" again? She is tremblingly wrestling with "options" here, perhaps because she knows that if he enters through that door, there will be fireworks. She is past the point of no return.
The one thing the text doesn't tell us (and which forms one of the bases of disagreement between my interpretation and that of the JB editors), is whether he actually enters into her room. Does he just stay knocking at the door, frustrated at being unable to enter the room, or does he actually enter her room and they have some kind of "encounter," an encounter apparently as shadowy as the dark night that "covers" this encounter? Would she have latched the door if she had an inkling he was coming over? Or, would she have "conveniently" left it unlatched? The JB interprets the following verses as suggesting that he can't get in. I think this interpretation belies their feelings at the moment and also cannot explain all the dripping stuff in v. 5, which I will get to shortly.
Song of Solomon 5:4
As we move to v. 4, however, I will be arguing that he is "miraculously" in the room with her. Love finds a way for doors to open. He is there in the room. The intensity of the following language only makes sense to me if the lovers are actually in each other's presence. I argue that there is no lightweight "teasing" going on here; in fact, there is heavy-duty lust and love and urgency...
4 My beloved thrust his hand into the opening,
and my inmost being yearned for him.
What can this mean? The JB interpreters say he is fiddling with the lock on the door and can't get in and they are having a delightful playful time. Nope. The Catholic interpreters are afraid of sex here, which may not be unusual seeing that the leading lights a generation ago in the Catholic biblical scholarship renaissance, which produced the JB, were priests. Would you imagine that a priest might "misread" sexual signals in a text and conform the words of the text to a view of life that he has chosen to adopt? Well, maybe...
I read it differently. In v. 4 the Beloved is "miraculously" in the room with her. It doesn't have to tell us everything--like how big or sturdy the door was, how he got in, how the mechanism of the lock worked, etc. The next "scene" is where he is just there with her. Love passes through walls, so to speak, and so he is there with her. She is still reclining on the bed. And, what does he do? He "thrusts" his hand "into the opening." Hm. What kinds of openings do we imagine? Her mouth? Nah. A more desirable opening for a man. He doesn't waste any time. And why should he? Both are so attuned to the desire that they feel, that he just "thrusts"..his hand, that is.
The Hebrew word for "opening" here is never elsewhere in the Bible translated as "keyhole" or "door opening," as far as I have been able to discover. Rather, it most normally relates to a cavern or hole in the earth--therefore an opening into the 'mother' of us all. Here are a few examples. From I Sam 14:11:
"So both of them showed themselves to the garrison of the Philistines; and the Philistines said, 'Look, Hebrews are coming out of the holes where they have hidden themselves."
Or, if you want a poetic passage, from Job 30:6:
"In the gullies of wadis they must live
in holes in the ground, and in the rocks."
Other examples can be given, but I won't bore you with them. The point is that the Hebrew word translated in S of S 5:4 "opening" and "hole" in the other passages (interestingly it is hor, long "o"), refers primarily to a hole in the earth--the living source of us all.
Back to Our Exposition
The lovers are together. Both are incredibly turned on. He thrusts his hand into "the opening." What is it? Of course, he is "fingering" her. He goes right for pay dirt, so to speak. He is drawn by as much his desire as she is giving off her own desire. So he touches her there, in her most private region. See why I warned you not to read the Bible with me? Well, confirming this as a solid interpretation is the rest of v. 4--her reaction. How does she react?
"my inmost being yearned for him."
No stronger words could be said in Hebrew for the power of her reaction. Indeed, the same verb for "yearning" here is used in Is. 16:11:
"Therefore my heart throbs [another translation has 'moans'] like a harp for Moab, and my very soul for Kir-heres."
The girl is moaning, purely and simply. She is throbbing, moaning, groaning, yearning, filled but yet unfilled, over the top but still on her bed. That is what is going on. Does that go on necessarily if he is just fiddling with the lock on the door? Maybe, but probably not. Does she simply want to play a game with him when she and he are in this condition? Probably not. Much more likely is the scenario I describe. We are in the most intimate recesses, literally, of the lovers' encounter. Or, rather, the encounter is just beginning. The next essay takes us further into this X-rated affair. Good thing this is in the Bible.
Copyright © 2004-2009 William R. Long