Thursday, May 25, 2017

Jesus the Sage: The Pilgrimage of Wisdom, Ben Witherington III, #1

WitheringtonThe latest book I am reading for my New Testament devotions and study is by Ben Witherington III, Jesus the Sage: The Pilgrimage of Wisdom.  In this book Witherington looks at the influence of Jewish wisdom on the teachings of Jesus and how He develops and expands the wisdom tradition. I am posting from my reading in New Testament theologies and devotionals on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book.

Witherington sees Jesus as a sage who operates, not only in the Jewish wisdom tradition, but who is an innovator who develops wisdom thinking into what will become the wisdom of the New Testament. To fully understand what Jesus is saying we need to be familiar with the Jewish wisdom tradition.

This book then is not only about the pilgrimage of Wisdom but also about Jesus the sage as one who contributed to the growth and development of Jewish Wisdom and, for the community of his own followers, charted a course that they would follow in further developing Wisdom ideas and forms. xi

Chapter 1 looks at the wisdom tradition in the Old Testament. This tradition is more international in scope (borrowed proverbs from Egypt for example) and relies a great deal on tradition and human observation, although both must be interpreted through the revelation of God in the Torah.

The sage reflected on what the world and ordinary human and animal affairs can reveal about God but especially about how as a human being one ought to live in order to rightly express reverence for God in accord with the moral structure of the universe God set up in the first place. 11–12

Proverbs provides an earlier example of the wisdom tradition. The proverbs tend to be general observations about the way God has set up creation and gives advice about how to function most successfully within it. Generally the way one acts has consequences that follow and wisdom knows and does those acts that bring success. This tends to work because God has set up the universe according to wisdom.

Rather than trying to offer Truth with a capital T, perhaps in some cases the function of a proverb was either to provide a general rule of thumb, not an exclusive rule, or the maxims were meant to aid the listener to discern the proper context in which to illuminate the human situation. 23

Wisdom, which begins with the idea of reverence for Yahweh, is seen as the key to the good life. Wisdom teaches the art of steering through life’s difficulties and how to live long, live well, and live in an upright fashion. 49

Ecclesiastes and Job provide the later counter-wisdom to the conventional, conservative wisdom of Proverbs. Sometimes things don't work out according to conventional wisdom. We don't always know the wise thing to do because we don't have God's perspective on proper timing or on the foolish actions of others. We don't always know what God is up to, so wisdom does not always bring success.

Qoheleth was still seen as a sage who stood within the Wisdom tradition, even if as the “loyal opposition” he offered a fundamental rethinking of various Wisdom generalizations about life. 52

Qoheleth has provided a great service by showing the hopelessness of such a view of life. Qoheleth stands at the ragged edge of a world gone wrong and sees it for what it is. A Wisdom philosophy under such circumstances, especially if there is suffering, persecution, oppression, and poverty is frankly inadequate and this book proves it, however accurate certain maxims may be under certain limited good circumstances. 57–58

In chapter 2 Witherington looks at intertestamental Jewish wisdom literature, in particular The Wisdom of Ben Sira and The Wisdom of Solomon. Ben Sira lived during the Hellenistic period in Israel under the Seleucids. He presents a more traditional, back to Torah and Proverbs type, view of wisdom while updating and applying it to the new situation in which the Jews found themselves. He also recognized that, while wisdom goes back to creation and is international in scope, it has taken up particular residence in Jerusalem in the Torah, prophets and temple priesthood and ritual.

Ben Sira first identifies Wisdom with God’s oral word, which spoke the universe into being and ordered it, and then suggests that God’s Wisdom has taken up particular location in Zion in the form of the Book of the Covenant, God’s written word. This means that while Torah expresses Wisdom for Israel, it does not exhaust it. 86

Ben Sira regards wisdom as belonging to the divine world and available to humankind only as a gift. There is therefore a close parallelism between wisdom and the Spirit, and correspondingly, between one endowed with wisdom and the prophet. 89

Ben Sira’s work represents the apex of the development of the Hebrew Wisdom tradition prior to the time of Jesus. But it is well to say in closing that Ben Sira was no Gnostic; he did not affirm that knowledge was the way to salvation...he stressed that obeying the Lord and living in a way that pleases God is the most critical thing of all. 99

Witherington concludes the section on intertestamental development of wisdom literature by looking at the Wisdom of Solomon. This book was probably written during the late Greek or early Roman period by an unknown sage taking on the persona” of Solomon. Some important developments would include the inclusion of Greek ideas, especially Platonic, into the Jewish idea of wisdom, development of a view of the soul pre-existent and separate from the body, a doctrine of after-life where injustice would be made right, and further personification of wisdom into a "hypostasis," an actual entity, emanating from God.

It is also not clear that our author affirms the idea of bodily resurrection, though 5:1ff suggests this. Especially crucial is Wis. 8:19–20 where one not only sees the idea of body-soul dualism enunciated but probably also the idea of the pre-existence of the soul...Fundamentally the kind of immortality he is commending to his audience is “Immortality … not rooted in the human makeup, but in one’s relationship to God.”  105

For the sake of clarity, I will call what is being expressed in the Wisdom of Solomon an hypostasis, not merely a personification of an attribute, because it now entails the new element of Wisdom emanating from God. This idea is closely linked with the idea of Wisdom as light or even more radiant than mere light (cf. Wis. 7:10). 109

It may be that in the Wisdom of Solomon there is a hypostasis of Wisdom. It is striking that what happens to personified Wisdom is what happens in general in Ben Sira’s book and the Wisdom of Solomon, for in both these books one sees a drawing on the particularistic traditions of Israel’s history and a focus on God’s elect people and their future direction. This trend of particularization takes a further and dramatic step in the New Testament Wisdom material. 116

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

10 Positive Things About Having Cancer

20170522_141628 (960x1280)This has been running through my head lately. Beware: There is some sarcasm and maybe some silliness here.

There are 10 things about cancer that are surprising, yea 11 that are a blessing. The So-Called Wisdom of Dave 3.16

  1. Not having hair to comb saves me a lot of time every day.
  2. I have more time to read and study.
  3. I have made many new friends in the medical profession.
  4. I get to spend more time with Joyce. She really is an amazing person… AND since my right foot has been numb for the last 6 months she has had to drive me wherever I needed to go. I have always wanted a chauffeur.
  5. If the zombie apocalypse happens tomorrow, the zombies will stay away from me. (See the movie World War Z for the reason why – Really you should watch it. After all Brad Pitt is in it)
  6. I think I may have got my limp. (This comes from a Tim Keller Youtube sermon illustration from Genesis 32 where Jacob and God wrestle. His point was that God must "give you a limp" - something that is so far beyond you that it beats the @$#^&*@ out of you (my definition not his) - that raises your relationship with God and ministry to a whole new level because now you realize it was all about God, not you, all along anyway.
  7. This island boy got to enjoy the "coldest winter we can ever remember in this county." Actually I mostly watched it from inside a comfy heated house with everything I need provided for me. Wait, was I complaining about something?
  8. My digestive system is no longer boring. I will not go all Martin Luther on you here with a graphic description. You are welcome.
  9. I have learned more about the lymphatic system than I ever cared to know.
  10. I have been able to experience the tremendous creative power of prednisone in my brain and body. I am not on prednisone as I write this. I will need to come up with another excuse for what I am writing here.
  11. and….. (this number wisdom saying genre is designed to focus the attention on the real point which is…) I am blessed and overwhelmed by the very real outpouring of love, help, gifts, prayers from friends all over the world. Thank you!

Reading Through the Book of Ecclesiastes

JobThis week I am reading through Ecclesiastes accompanied by , The Cornerstone Biblical Commentary – Ecclesiastes, by Tremper Longman III. Ecclesiastes, along with Job, provides an alternative view to Proverbs. Wisdom does not always bring success. It has limitations. Something more is needed to give ultimate meaning to life. I have been posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

The main theme of Ecclesiastes is that life lived without God is futile. Longman thinks the Book of Ecclesiastes containing two voices. One is the voice of an anonymous wise man. That voice is heard in the prologue and epilogue of the book. The second voice is the teacher who is being refuted, or sometimes clarified, by the wise man. The "teacher" is portrayed in terms of Solomon, a very unsuccessful wise man, whose investigation of "life under the sun" finds that it is meaningless, difficult, and futile. But the anonymous wise man, in the end, returns to the basic idea of Proverbs that meaning in life is found in the fear of the Lord and keeping His Commandments.

Apart from God, life is meaningless. This warning serves to undermine the tendency of all God’s human creatures to create their own meaning for their lives. Wisdom, relationships, power, money, influence, and other areas are all put under a microscope, and the conclusion is that “all is meaningless” without God. Ecclesiastes, 255

At this point, Jesus experienced the meaninglessness of this world in a way that Qoheleth could not imagine. Jesus did this in order to break the curse of that meaninglessness in our life. His resurrection infuses life with new meaning. In short, Jesus, the Messiah, is the answer to the problem expressed by the Teacher’s cry, “meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless.”  Ecclesiastes, 260

In the prologue (1.2-11) the anonymous wise man refutes the idea that any meaning and purpose in life can be found apart from God. He uses the wind and the evaporation cycle as examples of how things in this world just go round and round and never get anywhere. If we are trying to create our own meaning in life we will find none.

The tone is somber and expresses the conclusion that while there is a lot of activity in the world, it is tedious. To use a modern image, we are like rats on a wheel, running constantly but getting nowhere. Ecclesiastes 1.2-11, 264

1.12 begins the section in which the teacher begins his search for meaning "under the sun." He wants to investigate a way to find meaning apart from God. In chapter 2 he investigates pleasure, work projects, and wisdom as things that could give his life meaning. He finds that pleasure-seeking only complicates life. Wisdom and work are good things, but all their benefits are negated by death. They may create good outcomes in life, but there is no guarantee that they will continue to the next generation. His advice to enjoy life and work are thin consolation to the meaninglessness that death brings.

Modern pleasure seekers need to listen closely as the Teacher announces his intention to investigate pleasure for possible meaning and then tells us his sad conclusion: the “good things” in life turned out to be meaningless. In the final analysis, they are useless. While there may be a momentary thrill in pleasure, there is no lasting significance. Therefore, pleasure is not ultimately satisfying. Ecclesiastes 2.1-11, 268

The unit ends with a strong expression of the Teacher’s exasperation (2:17). It says that he came to “hate life” because it is full of trouble and ultimately meaningless. Not only will death come to both wise and foolish, but both will be ultimately forgotten (2:16), a fate that is equally tragic to the Teacher. Ecclesiastes 2.12-17, 271

He reaches his negative verdict for a reason similar to that of the previous section. Death renders one’s work worthless. In the light of death, there is no ultimate meaning to one’s work...He cannot control his wealth beyond the grave. Ecclesiastes 2.18-26, 271

In chapter 3 the teacher bemoans the fact that, though God has given us a glimpse of eternity, we do not have enough of a glimpse of it to make it meaningful in our lives. Wisdom depends on knowing the right time to do something, but we don't have sufficient knowledge to be able to understand the times and act on them. He continues on that lack of justice in this world removes meaning from life. Even if one tries to set things right, who knows if that will be continued after one's death? Thus, in chapter 4, he despairs that it would probably be better to never have been born. He consoled himself that relationships make life better. It's better to have many friends, but even that does not make life meaningful. One can gain power in order to try to change the world, but even that will be forgotten.

This is why the Teacher refers to the “burden” that God has placed on humanity. Having a sense of something beyond us, but no ability to get at it, is exasperating to the TeacherEcclesiastes 3.1-15, 276

When the Teacher sees the oppressed, it does not prompt him to action; rather, he concludes that death is better than life. As a matter of fact, he says that it would be best not to have been born. Non-existence is preferable because one wouldn’t have to experience life at all. Ecclesiastes 4, 279

In chapters 5-6 the Teacher makes several observations about the hopelessness of finding real meaning "under the sun." To him, even God is distant and dangerous, and not much help. Oppression is everywhere and makes this difficult life even harder. One could live life for money, but money creates worry, extra responsibility, and parasites who try to live off of the one who has it. Ultimately we all die and can't take it with us anyway. His conclusion about life seems to be, "Life is hard and then you die."

When a hierarchical society like Israel’s goes haywire, the consequences can be more than frustrating. Everybody, from lower functionaries to the king himself, seeks their own good, and the common person gets the short end of the stick. The Teacher brought up this issue to remind us again just how difficult life is. Ecclesiastes 5.1-10, 287

Even if someone dies with lots of money, they can’t take it with them to the grave (5:15). It will do them no good there. In 5:16–17 the Teacher comes to the conclusion that hard work for the purpose of earning money or amassing wealth is pretty much a hopeless endeavor. People end up with nothing one way or the other. Ecclesiastes 5.10-6.9, 290

It is a sad tragedy when, after nine long months of expectation, a baby is born dead; but the Teacher says that that loss is nothing compared to the plight of the person who lives without finding meaning. The stillborn would have no consciousness of its loss, but the struggling long-lived person would not only ultimately die but also have to experience the sadness of life. Ecclesiastes 6, 292

In chapters 7-8 "a confused and struggling Qoheleth" (308) strings together some proverbs about how to navigate through this meaningless and difficult life "under the sun." He urges a realistic look at life that recognizes that death is coming, we all act foolishly, the world is not fair and we cannot control the outcome of our actions. He advocates not getting overly committed to anything, including goodness and wisdom, because you can't do it well enough and it does not guarantee success anyway. When one eliminates relationship with God from the equation the best we can do is distract ourselves.

Exactly what would constitute a good reputation for Qoheleth is not clearly stated, but we might imply from his own behavior that it means, at least in part, taking a long, hard look at reality and living in the light of the fact that everything is meaningless under the sun.  Ecclesiastes 7, 295

Wisdom is indeed hard to find, indeed impossible for unaided humans. However, wisdom can be found if one finds God. Qoheleth’s frustration does not lead him to recognize and express such a sublime truth. Qoheleth remains a confused wise man. Ecclesiastes 7, 302

The search is intense, but the discovery is disappointing. No matter how much wisdom one has, that person does not know everything. This limitation is a great disappointment to Qoheleth. Ecclesiastes 8.16-17, 308

In 9-10 Qoholeth observes that death comes to all no matter how they live life. He sees life, and maybe God, as being unfair because the same end comes to all and good deeds and wise actions are not always rewarded. Accidents and the foolish actions of others can negate wise plans and actions. Nevertheless, it is better to be wise and not make life unnecessarily hard on oneself. Qoholeth does point out here than any worldview that cannot provide ultimate meaning in the face of death is worthless.

Qoheleth describes death as the ultimate end for everyone, an end that renders every accomplishment in life without value. In addition, he talks again about human inability to control one’s fate and determine the right time for an action...Why do the righteous, those who follow God, get no better treatment than sinners who ignore him? Ecclesiastes 9, 310

No matter how much good or benefit can be achieved by the wise, it can all be undone by the presence of just a pinch of sin. Ecclesiastes 10.1, 314

Qoheleth has repeatedly acknowledged the providence of God. God knows the times (3:1–15). He is in charge of how events work themselves out. On the human side, however, we are ignorant. Time and chance rule all (9:11). We do not know what God has in store for us now or in the future (9:1). In such a world (“under the sun”), our good, constructive intentions can turn disastrous, and wisdom is of limited value as we struggle with the “accidents” of life. Ecclesiastes 9-10, 317

In light of death and the unfairness of life, Qoholeth advises us to diversify our actions, work hard and make our wise investments while young. He recognizes that God will judge all our actions, but does not seem to see anything beyond death. He concludes, sadly, that life has no ultimate meaning.

The Teacher is skeptical about life to be sure. From a human perspective, all of life is random and uncontrollable, but that should not lead to passivity; it should lead to action. Ecclesiastes 11, 324

While a person ages and grows near death, the world still goes on. The most catastrophic event of our lives—its end—will, Qoheleth imagines, have virtually no effect on the world. Ecclesiastes 12.1-7, 329

Fortunately, this is not the conclusion of the book. The narrator takes us back "above the sun" to the revelation of the Torah and prophets. Real wisdom is found in relationship with God. He will provide the "tree of life" to those who trust Him in His coming kingdom. Death will be defeated.

The frame narrator, who is the controlling voice of the book of Ecclesiastes, concludes the book. He has exposed his son to the “under the sun” thinking of a confused wise man in Israel. He has not written him off by any stretch of the imagination. Qoheleth rightly understood the frustration of a world under the effects of the Fall. Life is hard, and then we die. However, the frame narrator has not let the story conclude with an affirmation of the meaninglessness of the world—he has rather reaffirmed the need for a good relationship with God and in so doing has reaffirmed the entire body of authoritative literature that we today know as the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament.  Ecclesiastes 12.8-14, 334

Ecclesiastes forces us to take a realistic look at the things that we use in life to give us meaning. Anything that passes away with death cannot provide meaning. We have a better look at what is beyond death than Qoholeth did because Christ has won the victory over death. Ultimate meaning is found in relationship with God through Jesus Christ. This, only, gives meaning to our lives "under the sun."

Because of his death and resurrection, we may indeed find meaning in life in this world, even though we experience its hard knocks. Even though death still affects our lives, we know that Jesus has defeated death so it no longer holds us forever. He died so that we may live. 334

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Follow Up with the Oncologist

This week I had my follow up appointment with the oncologist to discuss the PET scan and go over the next steps in my treatment. He was quite pleased with the results of the scan, but cautioned that there is still a long road of treatment ahead. To use an NBA draft lottery analogy, my team’s first ball has come out of the hopper and dropped into the hole, but we need several more balls to do the same thing before we can pronounce me cured. This type of cancer is normally quite persistent, and usually recurs, necessitating multiple rounds of chemo and other procedures. So the next step will be to finish the first round of chemotherapy, which will be done by the end of June. Then I take 6-8 weeks of rest for my body to recover. In early to mid-August I will get another PET scan and a bone marrow biopsy. If these are clear the plan would then be to harvest some of my bone marrow for storage in case there is a recurrence of the lymphoma.  This would allow for a more intense second round of chemo, after which they would do a “bone marrow transplant” if needed. I will be monitored regularly through the Fall here so that any recurrence could be dealt with quickly. Honestly, this was not what I was hoping to hear, but was not surprised since the Stanford doctors told me we would not be leaving here until at least next January. 20170509_142756 (1024x768)I am thankful that my future is all in God’s hands. I hope to go back to Guam next year, but if that does not happen, I know He has something for me and for Joyce. I am hoping that I will be feeling well enough in the Fall to teach some on-line PIU courses, travel to see our supporting churches and friends, and do some Bible teaching seminars in the Stateside Micronesian communities. We appreciate your prayers as we move forward.

The picture is of me working on my computer with my new computer platform. Thank you Frances! It makes my life a little easier.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Weekend at Stanford

20170512_153748 (1024x768)20170512_155718 (768x1024)Here a few pictures of our weekend at Stanford. The drive from El Dorado took us about 2 hours and we managed to not get lost! I had my PET scan appointment at 2pm last Friday, so we got my blood-boosting shot in Cameron Park at 9AM and then headed down to Palo Alto. I laid in the back seat to try and keep my edema from swelling me up too much. We got there about 1 1/2 hours early and just hung out in the waiting area until the appointment. We couldn’t get lunch since I had to fast for the test.

20170512_141851 (1024x768)The test itself took about two hours. 20170512_141823 (768x1024)After the nuclear substance was injected into me, I had to wait about 45 minutes to an hour on a recliner in a quiet room for it to work its way through my body. I was radioactive for about 2 hours so Joyce could not wait with me. I spent about 20 minutes in the scan machine wrapped up in warm blankets like a mummy.. It was not painful and I didn’t feel claustrophobic at all. The scan made me feel kind of warm and tingly – I guess because I was radioactive. Then I was done and we fought the Friday afternoon traffic down to Scotts Valley.

20170514_180132 (1024x768)20170515_094536 (768x1024)On Sunday afternoon we headed back up to San Jose. We spent Sunday evening with Joyce’s niece, Randie Miller. (Pictured on left) She manages an apartment building near Levi Stadium. It was a very nice place. Monday morning we headed to the Stanford Cancer Clinic for our doctor’s appointment. We went over the scan and the ongoing and future treatment program. We have a long way to go with our treatment, but are happy that the first part has gone well. We are still in need of lots of prayer. This is a very persistent cancer and we need to be patient and make sure that we completely kill it. Thank you for praying. .

Friday, May 19, 2017

Weekend at Scotts Valley

20170513_175627 (1024x768)Last weekend Joyce and I were able to spend Saturday and Sunday in Scotts Valley, in between appointments at the Stanford Cancer Center. We were able to see several old friends. Joyce saw more than me since she attended Sunday services at Gateway Bible Church. I am still unable to go because of my compromised immune situation and edema. 20170513_140257 (1024x768)We enjoyed spending time with Eric Kvamme and family. Eric and I were able to do a little work on the church’s missionary web page (Right). I also appreciated the church elders coming over Saturday afternoon and praying, visiting and anointing with oil. We had dinner with Jo and Chuck Romaniello Friday night and Janet and Naomi brought over Togo’s for dinner on Saturday (Left). We are hoping to go back later in the summer when I am finished with chemotherapy.

Reading Through the Song of Songs

JobThis week I am reading through the Song of Songs accompanied by the commentary, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary – Song of Songs, by Tremper Longman III. This is a very difficult book to interpret. I wrote my dissertation on this book, but have changed my mind on several issues since then. One thing has not changed, and that is my opinion that the Song provides wisdom about human love. It is a wonderful gift from God but very dangerous and damaging when when not lived out as God intended. I have been posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

The Song of Songs is about love (23 love poems acc. to Longman) between a man and a woman and needs to be read in context with Genesis 2-3, Ephesians 5.21-33, 1 Corinthians 7 along with other relevant passages. Married love, both physical and spiritual, is a beautiful thing created by God for a man and woman to enjoy within the marriage relationship. Love is a very powerful thing and must be treated with care and wisdom. Misuse of this powerful gift can cause great pain and damage and has destroyed many lives. 

The Song makes a statement about the redemption of sexuality. A good relationship is possible, even this side of heaven. However, the negative passages remind us that it cannot be a perfect relationship. 344

Chapter 1 is a series of 6 short intimate poems in which the lovers express physical and romantic desire for one another. 

Love in the Song has a very physical side; it is expressed unabashedly through the union of two bodies. Song of Songs 1, 348

Chapter 2 consists of two love poems. In verses 1-7 she compares herself to a common flower, but he counters that she is a "flower among thorns." She then compares him to a fruit tree with especially sweet fruit. In 8-17 the lovers remind one another that it is springtime, a time for love. However, she does have concern about the "little foxes" that complicate love and she has warned her friends (6-7) not to indulge in love before the proper time.

They have just heard her speak of a beautiful, wonderful relationship filled with sensuality. She warns them not to jump into this type of relationship. As we will see elsewhere in the Song (2:15; 5:2ff), love is beautiful, but painful as well. It is not to be treated lightly. Song of Songs 2, 355

The first part of chapter 3 (1-5) is a dream sequence in which the girl expresses her loneliness and fear in finding her lover gone. She takes the initiative to go out and find him and takes firm hold on him. The second part (6-11) describes the wedding procession of Solomon and his carriage. Marriage is to be celebrated, but again there is some hesitancy and danger expressed. Marriage is never to be entered into lightly.

The mood is ebullient; the talk is about a wedding. This is indicated by 3:11, which refers to Solomon’s wedding day. Reading this reference back, the entire poem seems to be a happy remembrance of Solomon’s wedding. The opulence and grandeur of the occasion reflect the honor and glory of the institution of marriage. Song of Songs 3.6-11, 360

I call 4.1-5.1 the "honeymoon section" of the book. In this poem the man praises the beauty of the woman in a very intimate way, not just visually, but including the smells of her perfumes and taste of her lips. He invites her to come closer for lovemaking and she opens herself to him completely. 5.1 comments on the beauty and rightness of married love.

The poem encourages us to utter our own poetry of love. We may not be as articulate or as powerful in our imagery, but that is not what is important. What is important—and it is something that most of us need to be reminded of—is to find those points of beauty in the one we love and to express them. Song of Songs 4.1-5.1, 365

The next poem is another dream sequence reflecting the increasing insecurity of the bride. In her dream her lover comes to her bed, but she responds too slowly causing him to leave. She searches for him in the city but is abused by the city guards. She then enlists the female chorus to help her find him and gives a very intimate description of her lover.

This fourteenth poem tells a story of misread signals. However, it also attests to the power of love to break through obstacles and achieve a desired relationship. Love is hard; but in the end, at least in this poem, the lovers are victorious. Song of Songs 5.2-6.3, 370

What is the poem saying? It is saying that not even social custom and the culture’s idea of what is “right” will stand in the way of her pursuit of love. Song of Songs 6.3-12, 372

This poem is another intimate descriptive praise of the bride. There is a lot of repeat from chapter 4, but this poem adds the idea of being "overcome" by her beauty and sexual attractiveness. This could be positive or negative depending on how the woman responds to it. It is difficult to interpret this section and depends on how much the reader wants to bring the Solomon back-story into it. This kind of "overcoming" love can make a man vulnerable to the woman, just as male power can make a woman very vulnerable to the man in this sinful world.

As Adam felt Eve looking at him, he became aware of his imperfections and sought to hide them from her. Perhaps as the poem reflects the common human experience of being uncomfortable in another person’s gaze, it picks up on this idea. However, we should not miss the main, positive point the man is making: her beauty is so great that he needs a break from it so that he does not faint from overexposure! Song of Songs 6.1-12, 375

6.13 begins with the chorus asking the bride to dance. Her dance elicits another round of praise from the man, even more intimate, proceeding from the feet to the head. He ends the praise with another invitation to love which the woman responds with enthusiastic consent (7.10-13) and wishes she had more freedom to publicly express her love to him (8.1-4)

Both Solomon and Shulammite are names derived from the Hebrew root shalom, meaning “wholeness” or “peace.” It is no accident that these names contain the meaning of the word that expresses the consequence of the union between the man and the woman. In their intimacy, they achieve a wholeness that brings great peace or contentment. Song of Songs 6.13-7.9, 381

8.5-7 express the conclusion to the Song. Marriage is a matter of committed love in which each partner submits to the mutual ownership of the other (the seal). This kind of love overcomes the chaos (stronger than death) of this evil world and must be protected by a holy "jealousy" to protect the relationship. Love is the "flame of YHWH," a fire of passion which is amazingly good when used as God intended, but very dangerous when misused.

Modern men and women sometimes find this image of “ownership” objectionable because it treats a man or a woman as an object. This is not the woman’s perspective. She rejoices in the thought that she might belong to the man, most likely because she understands that his desire is to be equally owned by her. That the seal would be pressed on heart and arm is surely a way of saying on his whole person, both inner and outer—thoughts and actions. Song of Songs 8.6-7, 387

The epilogue begins with a humorous exchange between the wife and her brothers (8.8-12). The brothers are concerned about protecting the honor and purity of their little sister, but she responds that she is a woman now and has protected her own honor. She now has "shalom," wholeness with her husband. The Song ends with the woman's assertion that love, "her vineyard," cannot be bought. It must be freely given and she responds to his request to "come away with me" by doing just that. She is willing to take the risk of this love commitment and she becomes the example of how to love wisely in this world. 

The final poem makes a very important point about love. It is never satiated, never completely fulfilled. If the Song wanted to say otherwise, it would end with a final love scene where the man and the woman would melt into each other’s arms and feel perfect contentment and satisfaction. But that would not be honest or true to reality. Nowhere this side of heaven do men and women reach the point of ultimate and complete fulfillment in relationship. Song of Songs 8.13-14, 390

Love is a powerful emotion, a potent physical act. At first, we are surprised that God has guided his people to acknowledge such a book—one that celebrates the joys of the flesh—as worthy to be included in Holy Scripture. On further reflection, however, we find we must rejoice and thank God for the good gifts he has given us on earth, which, in a shadowy manner, anticipate the utter bliss that we will have in heaven. Song of Songs 8.13-14, 391