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God’s Word for You

Song of Solomon 2:8-9 Our house, our wall

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, October 21, 2023


The Wife

8 Listen! My lover!
  Look! Here he comes,
  leaping on the mountains,
  bounding over the hills.
9 My lover is like a gazelle or a young stag.
  Look! There he stands behind our wall,
  gazing through the windows,
  peering through the lattice.

This second part of the song (2:8-3:5) shows the couple seeking one another and finding one another. In these verses, the wife speaks with atypical words and language. Many couples speak in a different way when they are in private as opposed to when others are listening. The wife’s language here is flowery, never crude, and her sentences flow with rare and exotic terms. The word “stag,” opher, only occurs in the Song (2:9,17; 8:14). It doesn’t matter to us that it isn’t a white-tailed deer (not in Israel!); readers will simply think of some local buck without losing any of the woman’s meaning.

The word “lattice,” harach, only occurs here, instead of the more ordinary Hebrew word eshnab (Judges 5:28; Proverbs 7:6). The couple knows what her word means; that is enough for them. It reminds me of the specific terms my family (a family of house painters) uses for elements of architecture that only carpenters or painters would usually know: the difference between a banister, baluster, balustrade, and newel post; errors of painting such as a skip (or ‘skipper’), drip, sag, or lace, and things like that. I am also reminded of the way my wife and I used to speak to each other using snatches of old songs, or even plays that we appeared in togther: “Lady, I have received a hurt” (King Lear, III:6), “Here comes your father,” and of course, “You have witchcraft in your lips, Kate” (Henry V, V:2).

Another rare word is her use of “peer,” tsuts, which would usually mean “blossom.” The association suggests that his peering is not voyeuristic, but overtly making himself known (“blossoming”) by showing his face clearly as he looks into their window from outside.

The wife is first aware of her approaching husband by a sound; she says, “Listen!” before she says, “Look!” Her man is not sluggish as he returns home. He is leaping and bounding, delighted to be returning to the woman who is the only woman for him. His work has kept him away—perhaps in the fields, or in the forest, or on a ladder painting the trim on their barn. But now he is home again, standing behind “our wall,” a clear indication that he is her husband and not anyone else. It is their home and nowhere else. Even if they were so poor that they only had a blanket under the sky, and he were standing next to three or four stones on the ridge, that would be their wall; that would be their home, because they are together.

In marriage, the Sixth Commandment stands as the wall and fortress of everything inside. Whatever a husband and wife wish to explore sexually and intimately when they are alone together falls within the protection and even the blessing of the Sixth Commandment, for it is all, as we say in the Small Cattechism: “a pure and decent life in words and actions…, that husband and wife love and honor each other.” Anything intimate outside of the marriage of the two of them is adultery and forbidden. There are many forms of unchastity. A woman who sells or offers even the image of her body for the purpose of sexual arousal is a prostitute and a whore. A man or woman who uses the image of a person’s body for arousal is guilty of using a prostitute or a common whore, whether there was a payment or not, since God’s will is that we will lead “a chaste and decent life in words and actions” and reserve sexual arousal for the marriage bed.

In our confession in the Large Catechism, we remind one another with Luther’s wise words: “Let us carefully note how highly God honors and glorifies the married life, sanctioning and protecting it by his commandment. He sanctioned it in the Fourth Commandment, ‘You shall honor your father and mother’; but here, as I said, he has secured it and protected it. Therefore he also wishes us to honor, maintain, and cherish it as a divine and blessed estate. Significantly he established it as the first of all institutions, and he created man and woman differently (as is evident) not for lewdness but to be true to each other, be fruitful, beget children, and support and bring them up to the glory of God” (Large Catechism, Sixth Commandment).

Spiritually, we don’t need to think of the elements of the scene in terms of a parable, as if the lattice or the wall is sin that comes between Christ and his people, since the wall is “our wall,” and by extension, the window and lattice are “ours” as well. Rather, we look to the words of Psalm 33:14, where “From his dwelling place God watches all who live on earth” (this is the same word “watch” that we see here in verse 9 ). The Christian first of all listens to God (verse 8), since here on earth we have his word as our source and the norming norm for all doctrine, for all law apart from the conscience, and for all gospel.

The approach of Christ in the Gospel thrills his bride, the church. We frequently (it is not a rule but only a custom) stand when we listen to lessons from the four Gospels in worship. We give a special priority to the words of Christ even within the entire revelation of God’s holy word. In John’s Revelation there are many scenes from our worship life in eternity. Christ has merely to be mentioned and praised by one group when all others, all the elders in heaven, stop whatever else they are doing and fall down and worship him (Revelation 5:14, 7:11, 11:16, 19:4).

For it is always good to be in our house, which is his house, secure behind our wall, which is his wall, and when our Master speaks, we have a special delight, an interest in and a devotion to what he says above anything else, and we set aside all other matters to listen to his holy and eternal word.

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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