9/3 Reading (Song of Songs 1-3; Matthew 1-2)

Introduction to Song of Songs: I’m actually kind of excited about reading this book. Curious too. Several people have described this book as sexual and erotic. Should be interesting.

I do find it interesting that the Hebrew title of the book is Song of Songs and yet many people call it Song of Solomon because several people attribute the book to Solomon. However there is some debate on that. Always fun to get that information.

Several of the resources I’ve used to learn about the context of this book refer to it as a love poem. One even said that if it was a movie it would be rated R for its thinly veiled sexual references (apparently between unmarried lovers). That’s kinda funny.

I’m just going to put this link here to point to a good place to go for an introduction to this book: http://thecenterforbiblicalstudies.org/resources/introductions-to-the-books-of-the-bible/song-of-songs/

One other thing, the introduction in the NRSV version says “The Song is about how glorious it is to be in love” (p. 950). I couldn’t agree more. I’m sappy, but I am very much in love with my bride. I still can’t believe that we are married. Such an incredible woman. Makes me a very lucky guy.

One other fun tidbit from the CEB intro: “Here, as nowhere else in the Bible, the love between a man and a woman is celebrated in full blown fashion, with discretion to be sure, but with plenty of suggestive detail, all without any embarrassment or apology” (p. 1075 OT).

Song of Songs 1: The text starts with the woman speaking. She is longing for her partner. Her descriptions here are very passionate. She is clearly in love with this man. She then gives us an idea of what she looks like, saying that she is “darkened by the sun’s gaze” (1:6) because she tends the vineyards. This is followed by her asking her man where he takes care of his flock at noon, perhaps intending on an intimate encounter. The man responds, first calling her beautiful and suggesting that she follow the animal tracks to the tents of the shepherds. He then praises her beauty, using the phrase “my dearest” (1:9; According to the notes this is his favorite nickname for her). She responds seeming to indicate excitement when she learns they are close to each other, using her favorite term for him (my love) and describing something lying between her breasts (according to the CEB notes it’s unclear if the “something” is the “sachet of myrrh” or the man himself). The chapter ends with them each describing the other person’s beauty. It’s clear they are in love but also in lust for each other.

Song of Songs 2: Lots of flowery praise here for each other. The woman is referred to as a “lily among thornbushes” (2:2) and the man is referred to as an “apple tree among wild trees” (2:3) and a “gazelle or young stag” (2:9). We also get some sexual innuendos here. When the woman compares her lover to an apple tree, she states “In his shade I take pleasure in sitting, and his fruit is sweet to my taste” (2:3). WOW! Other examples include her requesting food for strength and a description of their positioning: “His left arm is beneath my head, his right embraces me” (2:6). According to the CEB study Bible notes, this “pose is found in ancient Near Eastern depictions of sexual intercourse” (p. 1078 OT).

Song of Songs 3: This chapter starts with the woman longing for “the one that I (she) loves with all my (her) heart.” She searches the town for him and even asks the guards for help. She finally finds him and takes him to “the chamber of the one who conceived me” (3:4). This chapter ends with a poem about Solomon’s wedding day.

Introduction to Matthew: I’m excited to be back in a Gospel. I’ve enjoyed reading Paul’s letters, but it’s nice to see another Gospel.

I like how the intro starts in the CEB study bible: “The overarching theme of the Gospel of Matthew is the role of Jesus as the Christ in relation to God’s plan of salvation for all humanity” (p. 3 NT). One other tidbit from this chapter is that it was written in the last decades of the 1st century CE and was published anonymously.

Matthew 1: The first half of this chapter traces the genealogy of Jesus from Abraham. One fun thing of note: “So there were fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen generations from David to the exile in Babylon, and fourteen generations from the exile in Babylon to the Christ” (1:17).

The next half focuses on the birth of Jesus. We are told how Mary became pregnant by the Holy Spirit while she was engaged with Joseph. Joseph was a good man and he didn’t want to humiliate Mary, so he broke off the engagement quietly. An angel visited Joseph during a dream and told him that Mary was carrying the son of God, thus fulfilling the prophecy in Isa 7:14. Joseph woke up, married Mary, and waited until she had Jesus before they had sexual relations. No joke, the Bible says this.

One last thing that helped from the notes to the last verse (25) in the chapter (p. 6 NT):

Naming a child in the ancient Mediterranean world was a significant act on the part of the father. In naming the child, the father officially acknowledge the infant as his own legitimate child. Here, the act of naming functions as a virtual adoption of Jesus by Joseph as his son, even though he had nothing to do with the pregnancy of Mary. This is how Jesus became an heir to the Davidic dynasty. Now he is rightly called the “son of David.”

Matthew 2: Here comes the magi. Here we see the story of the three magi who bring the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Herod the Great tries to trick the magi in revealing the location of baby Jesus because he feels threatened. Initially they seem to agree, but after they meet Jesus, they choose not to help Herod because they learn in a dream that Herod wants to murder Jesus. An angel warned Joseph of Herod and they fled to Egypt. Herod got angry and murdered all the children in Bethlehem and the surrounding area who were two and under. Scary stuff.

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