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The Song of Songs 8:8-9

Context
The Brother’s Plan and the Sister’s Reward

The Beloved’s Brothers:

8:8 We have a little sister,

and as yet she has no breasts.

What shall we do for our sister

on the day when she is spoken for? 1 

8:9 If she is a wall, 2 

we will build on her a battlement 3  of silver;

but if she is a door,

we will barricade 4  her with boards 5  of cedar. 6 

1 sn The Beloved’s brothers knew that once a couple is betrothed, sexual temptations would be at their greatest. Thus, in v. 9 they devise a plan to protect the purity of their sister: If she is a virtuous young woman, they would reward her; however, if she is prone to temptation, they will restrain her and guard her from promiscuity.

2 sn The simile if she is a wall draws a comparison between the impregnability of a city fortified with a strong outer wall and a virtuous young woman who successfully resists any assaults against her virginity. The term חוֹמָה (khomah, “wall”) often refers to an outside fortress wall that protects the city from enemy military attacks (e.g., Lev 25:29-30; Josh 6:5; 1 Kgs 3:1; Neh 2:8; 12:27; Jer 1:8; 15:20).

3 sn The term טִירָה (tirah, “battlement, turret”) refers to the row of stones along the top of a fortress wall, set for the defense and stability of the wall (Ezek 46:23; cf. HALOT 374 s.v. טִירָה). This structure is connected with military operations set in defense of a siege.

4 sn The verb צוּר (tsur, “to surround, encircle, enclose”) is often used in military contexts in reference to the siege or defense of a fortress city: (1) setting up military positions (siege walls) to surround a besieged city (e.g., Isa 29:3); (2) encircling and laying siege to a city (e.g., Deut 20:12, 19; 2 Sam 11:1; 1 Kgs 15:27; 16:17; 20:1; 2 Kgs 6:24-25; 17:5; 19:9; 24:11; 1 Chr 20:1; Isa 21:2; 29:3; Jer 21:4, 9; 32:2; 37:5; 39:1; Ezek 4:3; Dan 1:1); (3) enclosing a city with sentries (e.g., Isa 29:3); (4) shutting a person within a city (1 Sam 23:8; 2 Sam 20:15; 2 Kgs 16:5); and (5) barricading a city door shut to prevent the city from being broken into and conquered (e.g., Song 8:7) (HALOT 1015 s.v. I צור).

5 tn Heb “a board.” The singular noun לוּחַ (lukha, “board, plank”) may denote a singular of number or a collective.

6 sn An interesting semantic parallel involving the “door/bar” motif in ancient Near Eastern texts comes from an Assyrian charm against an enemy: “If he is a door, I will open your mouth; but if he is a bar, I will open your tongue.” Obviously, the line in the Song is not an incantation; the formula is used in a love motif. Cited by J. Ebeling, “Aus dem Tagewerk eines assyrischen Zauberpriesters,” MAOG 5 (1931): 19.



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