Monday, June 22, 2009

Song of Songs, 4 [on spousal love]

[To see all of the earlier posts and this one gathered together in this my sporadic running commentary on the Song of Songs, look to the sidebar on the right under, "Labels," and click on Song of Songs.]

Chapter 1, v 8

The maiden may gain an understanding of her bridegroom's ways by being alert for the "tracks" of those whom he looks after. Or, another way, she may look for traces of the effects of his work in the world. These need not be great in the world's eyes. Simply, how do her groom's activities impact (whether in ways large or small) the lives of those on behalf of whom he works? Further, if she wants to get a variety of perspectives as to what sort of person he is, she might be wise to spend some time alongside those companions in his life who are closest to him.

v 9

I grew up with horses. They are excellent creatures! Mares (female horses) are not all of the same temperament. A mare who was destined to the honor of pulling the Pharaoh's chariot would surely have been hand picked as the very best among those suited by disposition for this special role. Such a horse could not be timid, "flighty" (easily scared), or overly delicate and prone to injury. A chariot horse (in a horse-like way) would have to be strong; sturdy; fearless (to forge ahead in spite of the din of war all around her); totally trusting of her driver's signals yet also possessed of tremendous and quick instincts of her own about where dangers lay on the field of battle and how to avoid them without flipping the chariot over; she would need to be fast; of extraordinary stamina and determination (to hold to a line through the battlefield and keep charging through it no matter what). In other words, superb chariot horses were very special, extraordinary creatures--and greatly prized. Certainly they were highly trained to work as a single unit in harmony with their particular drivers. And, in keeping with ancient cultures for which the horse was an integral part, it would always be best if the mare were all the above and also beautiful and glorious to behold! There truly is something very special about a beautiful horse. Horses seem to have a nobility and grace--a combination of natural majesty together with refined power--that exceeds any other creature (beyond the world of persons) on earth.

And so when the bridegroom compares his beloved to a mare of Pharaoh's chariots, this is something quite extraordinary. For the Pharaoh's mares, for sure, would have been the most superlative in power, instinct, toughness, speed, docility to the driver's touch, and fearlessness, as well as the most breathtakingly beautiful of all their noble equine sisters! Such literary comparisons perhaps pass through our minds as quaint or of little consequence. But this would not have been so for a reader belonging to an ancient Eastern culture that depended on horses in battle. Good horses were vital to the survival of their society.

Indeed, I suggest that perhaps it would have been true that in the ancient east, in a horse culture, the most flattering animal that could be used out of all the creatures of the earth as an analogy for an extraordinary and beautiful woman would be the horse. Ancient horse cultures were serious about their horses!

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