Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Shepherd.

There has been a suggestion that the ‘Song of Songs’ is a kind of Midrash, or Jewish commentary on the book of Genesis, and in particular the Creation story. The book opens with various images related to the life of shepherd communities who wander with their flocks in the desert. The image of the Tent, and later the recurring symbolism of the Palanquin remind us of the “Tent of meeting” or Tabernacle, which was a moveable Holy place, representing a Divine Presence that moves with a migrant people. There is also a strong sense of the significance of the harvest. In fact one suggestion is that the Song of Songs began as a series, or garland of hymns that had an almost liturgical significance. There is a link between the Song of Songs and the mood of the very lyrical book of Ruth in the Bible. There are also Messianic overtones, as the Lord of the Harvest, is also the expected Saviour of his people. Running through this early part of the myth is the underlying concept of Covenant. The relation between the Divine, and the human community, is a covenantal one, and this also implies a deep love, which is also found in the imagery of the Prophet Hosea, where the bond between the People of God and the Divine Presence is comparable to the lasting bond between husband and wife. But it is noteworthy that the relationship is an equal one. The two partners in this love narrative, have a remarkable autonomy, and the songs shift from the search of the male for the female, to an initiative where the woman takes the leading role. It is the feminine figure who searches, desires, and recovers the male partner. This has led some commentators to wonder whether the Song of Songs comes from a very Matriarchal society, as the Mother is mentioned seven times in the text, whereas the Father is not mentioned at all. The feminine figure in the Song of Songs bears a strong resemblance to ancient Mother goddesses of the Middle East. And there is little doubt that the love theme draws of ancient fertility rites, which have been given a new significance in the frame of the Covenant.

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