Song Of Songs 8:12a: Who Said It? -- By: Robert L. Alden

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 31:3 (Sep 1988)
Article: Song Of Songs 8:12a: Who Said It?
Author: Robert L. Alden


Song Of Songs 8:12a: Who Said It?

Robert L. Alden*

Samuel Sandmel once said that where the evidence is maximal the theories are minimal and that where the evidence is minimal the theories are maximal. Relative to the Song of Songs the theories are maximal. Stage directions, gender indicators, contextual clues and other hints given us to answer our questions are minimal. Therefore the theories are many and varied, sensible and bizarre, persuasive and capricious.

Song 8:12 reads as follows in the NIV: “But my own vineyard is mine to give; the thousand shekels are for you, O Solomon, and two hundred are for those who tend its fruit.” My primary question: Who speaks these words? Secondary questions are: To whom are the words spoken? What is the vineyard? And what is the force of lĕpānāy (literally “[is] before me”)? Before listing the options let us examine the background.

I. Context

Virtually all agree that vv 11 and 12 form a unit. The words and motifs that bind them together are far more obvious than anything that binds this pericope with what precedes or follows.

“Vineyard” occurs three times in these two verses. While “vineyard” (along with “garden,” “orchard” and “field”) constitutes one of the major themes in the Song, “vineyard” does not occur in the immediate vicinity of 8:11–12 (“gardens,” however, is in v 13).

“Solomon” occurs in each of these two verses. That name is five times elsewhere in the book but, again, not nearby.

The verb nṭr, “keep,” is in each verse. The only other occurrence of that root in the book is in 1:6, but more on that later. The word “thousand” also ties these two verses together. It appears elsewhere only in 4:4, a totally unrelated passage.

Chapter 8 is the most difficult to integrate into the book. Those who perceive a story line or a dramatic plot through the book must work hard to make the disparate parts of chap. 8 fit. If it were not for the repetition of key words and terms, some of which occur in the verse under consideration, most commentators would be willing simply to write off the two or more scenes of chap. 8 as totally unrelated appendices. But it is the very presence of these recurring motifs that makes chap. 8 one with the rest of the book. One mind—call him or her ...

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