June 2010

The Song of Songs (part three)

The time scale of The Song of Songs is unclear. If the language is taken as pure metaphor the romance between the two speakers could be a very fast one, but if only a portion of the imagery is allegorical then Dodi and Rayati would have to spend potentially months apart. Whether their separation is brief or lengthy, the two lovers definitely demonstrate a shift in their language in the second chapter of the poem. There is an intensity in the words where in Chapter 1 there was only allure and curiosity. Their desire for one another escalates to the breaking point, but in Chapter 2 the lovers have not yet consummated their relationship.

The Song of Songs (part two)

The secular reading of The Song of Songs identifies it not only as a great love poem, but indeed as an erotic poem. From its first passages it uses both frank and euphemistic language to describe the attraction between the two enamored speakers. This, of course, presents a problem for the allegorical religious reading. The sages and many scholars since have attempted to coax a more chaste meaning from the poem and they have done so by noting The Song's frequent references to the natural beauty of the land of Israel. If Shir Ha'Shirim is indeed a metaphor for the love between God and Israel, that love is depicted as no less intimate, exclusive and sacred than the love between a husband and wife.

The Song of Songs (part one)

In the supplementary texts of the Torah called Ketuvim, "Writings", there is a standout scroll called Shir Ha'Shirim, The Song of Songs. It is poem, likely meant to be set to music, that seems a bit odd among all the other clearly religious documents of the Bible. It is not a psalm or the story of any named figures doing something related to Judaism or the kingdom of Israel. Instead, it is a simple love story from the perspective of two common people. Many scholars have attempted to explain its inclusion in the Torah by reading it as an allegory for the sacred bond between God and Israel. It may very well be such a metaphorical piece, but the explanation may be a bit simpler than that.

David the King: The Last Words of David

There's something jumbled and not quite clear about the last days of King David. The narrative of the Books of Samuel textually ends with Chapter 24, but David's story doesn't conclude until the beginning of the Book of Kings, which is itself a similar and likely contemporary chronicle of the reign of David's successor Solomon. Second Samuel ends at a strange point with David's purchase of a threshing floor in which he plans to build a sacrificial altar just prior to another war with the northern people in Israel. This comes somewhat confusingly a full chapter after the mention of the last words of David. Why is this? Why is David's story divided in such a strange way and why do his last words precede his death so far back in the narrative?

David the King: The Sons of Goliath

In the final chapters of Second Samuel a lot of energy is spent simply putting David's house in order, both to sweep up after the decades of civil discord and to prepare for David's fast approaching exit. It becomes especially clear in Chapter 21 that, despite David's successes, his country is still a mess. There are so many problems, so many improprieties accrued over the years that David and his ever-shifting cadre of advisors seem to just lose track. The fatigue in David that begins around the time of his scandalous relationship with Bath-Sheba comes to full fruition in the last few chapters of his story.