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I can think of few times in the Song of Songs where the sexual union is strongly connected with the place of birth 8:5 (NIV):

Under the apple tree I roused you;     there your mother conceived you,     there she who was in labor gave you birth.

We also find expressions like "bring thee into my mother's house" (8:2; 3:4), and "in the chamber of her that conceived me" (3:4); from all this it becomes evident that there is some symbolic significance to a sexual union in the same place one was born. My questions are:

  1. What was its symbolic significance?
  2. Can we infer from this imagery that it was the widespread custom in Ancient Israel to conceive in the same bed one was born? Does the poetic language used in the song reflect a reality in biblical times, and is it to be taken literal, or is it used in a figurative manner?

Note: I'm not looking for Jewish or Christian allegorical explanations of the above texts to explain its meaning and significance, I'm looking for the plain meaning of the texts and for their historical interpretation in ancient Israel, and how they would've understood this symbolism (whether it was taken literally or figuratively).

  • In 8:2 she is wishing he was her brother so that there would be no scandal when she kissed him in public and went together into their mother's bedroom. There, in secret she would intoxicate him with her salacious femininity and unhindered love making. – Ruminator Apr 5 '18 at 22:32
  • In 3:4 she associates her mother's bedroom with sex and reproduction. It is there she wants to be alone with her lover in the dance her mother danced with her lover and resulted in offspring. She wants not only to have pleasure with him but to bear his child. – Ruminator Apr 5 '18 at 22:39
  • In 8:5 I believe the "apple" is a pomegranate which is a symbol of fertility (because of its prominent seeds). The blood red juice seems connected to bodily fluids, perhaps passion and birth. – Ruminator Apr 6 '18 at 0:01
  • The idea expressed in these passages seems to be one of continuity; i.e., the same activities taking place in the same locations over consecutive generations. – Lucian Apr 16 '18 at 13:06
  • @Lucian if you can find support for this idea in the OT, please post as an answer and i will upvote. – Bach Apr 16 '18 at 13:43
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The strongest Biblical parallel is found here:

And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death. - Gen. 24:67

This is a little bit different that the Song of Songs, but the premise in the same.

Symbolically, the apple tree is something familiar and something comforting (i.e. "comfort me with apples, for I am sick with love" (Cant. 2:5)). The Bride has been feeling out of place in Jerusalem where she is in competition for the King's affection. However, when he takes her into the country, and she takes him back to the place she was born, all the attention is focused on what makes her comfortable.

In a way, her position is similar to that of Rebekah - brought from her home and family to be with her husband. While Isaac can't take Rebekah back to her own homeland, he can still himself be comforted by bringing her to his own mother's tent. Perhaps in doing so, he also makes her part of his family symbolically, much as the Bride does for the King in the Song of Songs.

As for the ancient marriage customs, I understand that it was more common for the Bride to be taken to the Groom's family compound, as in Genesis 24. However, the reversal of the roles in Song of Songs- the Bride taking the Groom into her native space- is not without Biblical foundation:

"...and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?" - Is. 58:7b

The importance of family ties in the Ancient Middle East (and current) can not be overemphasized, yet it is this foundation that forms the social cocoon around any ancient Near East marriage. In fact, the word for marriage 'khotain' literally means 'marriage alliance', where two families are joined by marriage. To have a marriage outside of the familial network was rare. By making these ties an important backdrop to the marriage, the familial aspects of the 'khotain' or marriage alliance are reenforced, and are therefore portrayed in a positive, even romantic light in the Scriptures.

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    Thanks for pointing out the parallel in Gen. 24 which is obvious but I have missed. I have also missed the reversal of the roles that you noticed. Whereas it was common for the groom to bring the bride to live with him, over here it is the bride that brings the groom in her own house. I think this is so because were dealing here with a romantic relationship, so it must not follow the conventional marital customs. Perhaps the imagery here presents a lover sneaking in the house of his irresistible beloved bride to sleep with her. In any case, your answer is awesome. Thanks. – Bach Apr 26 '18 at 13:48

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