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God’s Word for You

Song of Solomon 1:6 My mother’s sons

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Sunday, September 10, 2023

  6 Do not stare at me because I am dark,
  for the sun caught sight of me.
  My mother’s sons were angry with me!
  They made me take care of the vineyards,
  so I could not take care of my own vineyard.

The wife is still speaking here, and when she talks about being scorched by the sun, there is a play on words with the brothers who are “scorching mad” (Hebrew nichru) with her. Angered by whatever offense (perhaps looking after her husband’s needs rather than theirs?) they have somehow forced her to work for them.

We should explain the members of her family. The bride is going to mention her mother many times in the Song, but never her father. When she talks about her brothers, she calls them her mother’s sons. Where this term stands by itself, in any version (mother’s son, mother’s daughter, father’s son, father’s daughter) it means that the person shares only one parent with the speaker. This is the case in Leviticus 18:9. Abraham also uses this term to explain his relationship to Sarah, his half-sister, who is “the daughter of my father though not of my mother, and she became my wife” (Genesis 20:12, about five hundred years before God gave the law forbidding such marriages to Moses on Mount Sinai).

It would appear that the wife’s father had died, and her mother remarried. Now the sons of this second marriage have grown, the step-father has also died or is senile, and the house is now ruled by those sons of the second marriage.

These things aren’t really vital to understanding the Song. If it has a spiritual application, and the bride stands for the church, who would the half-brothers stand for? Are they leaders of the secular government, or of a fallen away, apostate church? Since they have some authority over what the bride does even though they are not her husband, they would probably stand for the secular government and not the leadership of other churches. But there is another possibility, much closer to the language of the Song, that also rings true in life. The half-brothers may stand for actual relatives, the sort of relatives who are not very faithful in their worship. But another valid argument is that they have no spiritual meaning at all, since almost all comparisons, including the parables of Jesus, have elements that carry along the story or the comparison but do not have a spiritual meaning.

Whatever the bride has had to do, working for others, she has not had time to do any tending to her own vineyard. That language is clear and simple in the Song’s literal sense. But what might it mean spiritually? In the Song, when the woman talks about “my own vineyard,” she is talking about herself; her own body. “My own vineyard is mine to give,” she says to the king (Song 8:12). Her brothers’ demands have kept her from making herself attractive for her husband.

The unbelieving world hates Christ because the devil hates and fears Christ. Therefore the worldly attitude about anyone who wants to serve God is either, on one end of the spectrum, that the Christian is wasting his time, or on the other end of things, that the Christian is acting suspiciously and should be stopped or even killed. But the Church, the bride of Christ, will strive to be presentable.

Be comforted, O Christian. While you have been living your life, worried about being presentable to Christ, you have been serving him, living a life of repentance, bringing your children to faith through baptism and Christian education. You have been doing your best in all situations, and even though you have stumbled along the way into temptations, you have not let them take over your life. Will you be holy enough for Jesus? Will you be radiant? Will you be perfect? He is the one who has made you perfect. While you have been fretting and repenting, he has been cleansing you “by the washing with water through the word, to present her (his church) to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:26-27). Your Lord has already done what you cannot do by yourself.

This is the joy of being a part of his church! You are made holy in his blood. He is the one who has tended the vineyard, and he is the one who will bring you safely home to paradise.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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