The Beloved to Her Lover:
the little foxes, 3
that ruin the vineyards 4 –
for our vineyard is in bloom.
The Song of Songs 5:1Context
The Lover to His Beloved:
5:1 I have entered my garden, O my sister, my bride;
I have gathered my myrrh with my balsam spice.
I have eaten my honeycomb and my honey;
I have drunk my wine and my milk!
The Poet to the Couple: 5
Eat, friends, and drink! 6
Drink freely, O lovers!
1 tn The imperative אֶחֱזוּ (’ekhezu, “catch”) is plural in form (Qal imperative 2nd person masculine plural from אָחַז, ’akhaz). Some commentators suggest that the woman is speaking to a large audience, perhaps the maidens of Jerusalem mentioned in 2:7. However, the Hebrew plural can function in an intensive sense when used in reference to a single individual (IBHS 122 §7.4.3a). As noted previously, the bride often uses the plural in reference to herself or to her bridegroom in Sumerian love literature. Thus, the woman simply may be speaking to her beloved, as in 2:16-17, but with particularly intense passion.
2 sn The term “foxes” is used metaphorically. Foxes are always spoken of in a negative light in the OT and in the ancient world were particularly associated with their destructive tendencies with regard to vineyards (Judg 15:4; Neh 4:3; Ps 63:10; Lam 5:18; Ezek 13:4). The description of these foxes as being destructive here seems to confirm that this is the point of comparison in mind.
3 sn In ancient Near Eastern love literature it was common to use wild animals to symbolize potential problems which could separate lovers and destroy their love. For instance, in Egyptian love songs it is the crocodile, rather than the foxes, which were used as figures for obstacles which might threaten a couple’s love. Here the “foxes” are probably used figuratively to represent potentially destructive problems which could destroy their romantic relationship and which could hinder it from ripening into marriage.
4 sn The term “vineyard” is also a figure. In 1:6 she used the vineyard motif as a metaphor for her physical appearance, but here it is “our vineyards” which is probably a figure for their romantic relationship. The phrase “in bloom” makes the metaphor more specific, so that the phrase “our vineyards are in bloom” means that their romantic love relationship was in its initial stages, that is, before it had ripened into marriage.
5 sn There is no little debate about the identity of the speaker(s) and the audience addressed in 5:1b. There are five options: (1) He is addressing his bride. (2) The bride is addressing him. (3) The wedding guests are addressing him and his bride. (4) He and his bride are addressing the wedding guests. (5) The poet is addressing him and his bride. When dealing with this issue, the following factors should be considered: (1) the form of both the exhortations and the addressees are plural. This makes it unlikely that he is addressing his bride or that his bride is addressing him. (2) The exhortation has an implicitly sexual connotation because the motif of “eating” and “drinking” refers to sexual consummation in 5:1a. This makes it unlikely that he or his bride are addressing the wedding guests – an orgy is quite out of the question! (3) The poet could be in view because as the writer who created the Song, only he could have been with them – in a poetic sense – in the bridal chamber as a “guest” on their wedding night. (4) The wedding guests could be in view through the figurative use of apostrophe (addressing an audience that is not in the physical presence of the speaker). While the couple was alone in their wedding chambers, the wedding guests wished them all the joys and marital bliss of the honeymoon. This is supported by several factors: (a) Wedding feasts in the ancient Near East frequently lasted several days and after the couple had consummated their marriage, they would appear again to celebrate a feast with their wedding guests. (b) The structure of the Song is composed of paired-dialogues which either begin or conclude with the words of the friends or daughters of Jerusalem (1:2-4, 5-11; 3:6-11; 5:9-16; 6:1-3, 4-13; 7:1-10) or which conclude with an exhortation addressed to them (2:1-7; 3:1-5; 8:1-4). In this case, the poetic unit of 4:1-5:1 would conclude with an exhortation by the friends in 5:1b.
6 sn The physical love between the couple is compared to eating and drinking at a wedding feast. This is an appropriate figure of comparison because it would have been issued during the feast which followed the wedding and the consummation. The term “drink” refers to intoxication, that is, it compares becoming drunk on wine with enjoying the physical love of one’s spouse (e.g., Prov 5:19-20).