SONG OF SOLOMON 6-8: If it is true that we are hearing the voices of two men vying for the Shulammite (Solomon, seeking to add her to his harem, and a rustic herder and vine dresser who simply loves her, and whom she loves), then we might read the last few verses of chapter 8 to say that the rustic herdsman and vine dresser redeemed his love from Solomon’s harem for 1200 shekels of silver (8:12). To Solomon and all his blandishments she was “a wall (8: 8-10).” But to her rustic suitor, she gives herself freely. In this interpretation we would have a parable of Christ courting and redeeming his bride, the church, and of the church’s faithfulness in spite of all the temptations, flattery and seductions of the world.
Here is our first venture into the Prophetic literature of the Bible. Two very good books to read, for background and insight into this body of work, would be The Prophets, and God In Search of Man, both by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. Consider the following thought by Heschel:
“What begins—theoretically–as faith in the prophets moves and grows to be faith with the prophets. The Bible enables us to hear something of what they have heard, though not in the manner they heard.
The soul of the prophet is a mirror to God…. It is not enough to think about the prophets; we must think through the prophets. The word was not given to the prophets for their own sake. We were all faced by God when the prophets were faced by Him. We were all addressed, when the prophets were spoken to. Our faith is derived from our perceptiveness to the word that has gone out to all of us.” (God in Search of Man, pp.218-250).
The first 39 chapters of Isaiah serve as a prophetic companion piece to the histories we read earlier, especially from the reign of Uzziah onward (8th C. BC). During his career, the northern kingdom was captured and dispersed by the Assyrians, and Judah and Jerusalem invaded, though a remnant was left. The idea of a remnant of people, left loyal to God, that is cleansed of idolatry and injustice by its sufferings and setbacks, is a prominent theme of Isaiah (chapter 4). For the injustice and idolatry of the people are what bring about their downward spiral toward powerless and enslavement, in the terrifying visions of invasion, destruction and exile, in chapters 2 and 3
Yet Isaiah is not a simple crank. His prophetic insight is based on his exalted and soul-shaking vision of his thrice-holy God (chapter 6), and upon the glorious work of cosmic reconciliation that God will accomplish (Isaiah 2). As the nation loses all worldly power, and even its geographical place, it will grow in moral and spiritual impact, worldwide.
The Song of the Vineyard (Is. 5) is the basis of Jesus’ parable in Matthew 21:33-45. His enemies would have understood the implications, that they too are under judgment and are going back into Exile, which would explain more of their murderous rage against him.
When Isaiah spoke to King Ahaz about the sign of a “maiden, who will conceive and bear son, who shall be called Emanuel” he was most likely not thinking about the virgin birth of the Messiah eight hundred years later. He was probably not even thinking about a miraculous virgin birth. That would be necessary for other reasons than prophecy. But in the Hebrew mind, a young unmarried girl and a virgin would likely be the same thing. More important is the fact that this child is a sign of hope for the nation, and that he testifies to “God with us,” for the deliverance of the people.
Isaiah’s own sons bore prophetic signs (chapter 8) for their names. In Chapter 8, verse 17 (“for my disciples”), we get a hint that Isaiah’s prophetic vocation is not a solitary one, but that it involves disciples and himself as teacher and leader. Perhaps his school of disciples outlived him and carried on his name, outlook and ministry, well into the Babylonian Exile (chapters 40 and beyond).
In another possible and surprising convergence, our Psalm may correspond with the other Bible reading of the week. Psalm 46, a hymn of confidence and thanksgiving to God for his peace and protection upon Zion, may reflect events recorded in II Kings 18 and 19 and again in Isaiah 36-37, namely, Zion’s deliverance from the siege of Sennacherib’s army. The following verses would well describe the scene after the Assyrian army fled the plague that decimated their ranks:
8: “Come and see what the LORD has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.”
Their deliverance was discovered “at break of day (v. 5).”
Even if the tie-in is a stretch, the Psalm serves to remind us of God’s sovereignty and power over all the threats to Zion, the people of God. Therefore, “be still and know that I am God.”