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8 We have a little sister, and her breasts are not yet grown.

What shall we do for our sister on the day she is spoken for?

9 If she is a wall, we will build a tower of silver to protect her.

If she is a door, we will enclose her with panels of cedar.

10 I am a wall and my breasts are like towers.

So I have become in his eyes like one who brings peace.

The text is obviously to be taken metaphorically. But what is its most straightforward allegorical interpretation?

The first verse is pretty simple. The siblings are concerned about their little sister who hasn't yet reached full maturity. They want to find her a suitable mate, but are afraid that no one would want her. The "wall" and "door" that follow have almost unanimously been taken as an allusion to a "virgin" and a "promiscuous woman". But the exchange that follows has yet to be interpreted in a satisfactory manner (If she is a virgin we will protect her with silver, and if she is not, we will protect her with cedar). What are the allusions of the "towers of silver" and "panels of cedar"? Are different actions taken for the "wall" and for the "door"? If yes, what are they?

Furthermore, verse 10 needs to be taken into account as well. If the wall is supposed to symbolize a virgin, then how are we to understand the "breasts like towers" protecting her? Most importantly, how do they relate to verse 8 in which her breasts are said to be not yet fully grown?

p.s. I am not looking for Jewish, Christian or any other religious interpretations, only for scholarly interpretations that take the context of the entire composition into account, and are interested how it was historically understood by the Israelite audience?

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This is how I read the text. Hope you don’t mind me sharing my point of view. Even if it’s not found in a commentary.

What shall we do when she is spoken for seems to be the context. Specifically the words “spoken for” is a reference to those who would woe her.

If she is a wall, we will build on her a battlement of silver, but if she is a door, we will enclose her with boards of cedar.” ‭‭The Song of Solomon‬ ‭8:9‬

There are only two alternatives when a girl is being woed/persued/spoken for, either she puts up a wall as she is timid or she becomes easily accessible like a door and overly eager. At least according to her older sister.

And the older sister says that if she is a wall or shuts down from being persued then we will help her by making her more irresistible to keep the pursuit going. But if she easily engages then she needs to be slowed down on purpose.

And then verse 10 is just saying that the older sister was a wall but her breasts stood out so prominantly that she was persued despite her shyness.

“I was a wall, and my breasts were like towers; then I was in his eyes as one who finds peace.” ‭‭The Song of Solomon‬ ‭8:10‬ ‭

The KJV translates shalom as one who has favor. And indeed Solomon according to her account continued to pursue her despite her “wall-like” behavior because he was enamores with her breasts. These breasts gave her favor in his eyes despite being more timid.

  • So sorry to have to disagree but I think that the theme of chastity is not a feature of this particular book! Solomon has how many wives and concubines? He is slathered in perfumes and ointments and all the girls want him. It is more that kind of story! I think you are reading all of that into the story and that it is not at all in the author's mind. The heroine big sister and her friends want to help their little sister to be attractive and satisfying. Think "beauty parlor talk" (I would imagine from TV). – Ruminator Apr 2 '19 at 21:44
  • @Ruminator you can disagree. I’m not suggesting chastity I’m referring to the dance of courtship. – Nihil Sine Deo Apr 2 '19 at 21:53
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    So your understanding is that the panels of cedar is meant to slow her down, while the battlement of silver is supposed to make her more attractive? Can you bring some support to this interpretation? Are there any other hidden meanings associated with silver and cedar that would make these hints more obvious? Also how do you explain the obvious contradiction between v. 8 (in which the breasts are not yet fully grown) and v. 10? – Bach Apr 3 '19 at 0:11
  • @Bach דּלת or door is also a reference to an easily accessible woman, hence why I reason she is eager to accept the woer. I extrapolated in reverse for the wall analogy. Also I don’t know what contradiction you speak of. V8 speaks of the younger sister not having breasts at this time BUT in the day when the woers start to pursue or when her breast have grown what shall we do? V10 is speaking of the older sister’s breasts and that hers were developed and though she was timid her breasts stood out like towers on a castle which was enough to get a woer interested in her though she was timid/shy. – Nihil Sine Deo Apr 3 '19 at 1:14
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    Autodidact, I posted my own answer check it out. I am grateful for your answer (food for thought), especially for your translation of v. 10 which I adopted in my post. – Bach Apr 3 '19 at 17:32
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After doing some research I think I have come up with the correct interpretation.

The dialogue in this chapter actually follows a well-known motif of the Song of Songs. The motif is of a young girl who is different than her siblings, who has some secret lover whom she can spend time with only sporadically. Her siblings are rude and harsh, distrust her and view her as an outcast, and treat her with disgust. See for example 1:6

Do not stare because I am dark, for the sun has looked upon me. My mother’s sons were angry with me; they made me a keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I have neglected.

So here too the motif repeats itself. The girl that we will now name Shulamit (after end of chapter 6) explains how her siblings scorned her and distrusted her. When she was young (breasts had not yet grown) they were worried that no one would want her when she comes of age. They took all means to protect her. They said: if she will be a wall, i.e., she will be careful not to lose her virginity before the time comes, then we will adorn her with silver when she comes of age. If she will be like a door, i.e., promiscuous and flirtatious, then we will fasten her up with planks of cedar, i.e., we will take all means to stop her from seeing her lovers. The allusion of planks of cedar is well explained by the Cambridge bible commentary:

The meaning is, that as men prevent a door from opening by fastening a plank across so that it cannot move, so they will take measures to prevent her from yielding to her weakness.

Shulamit reveals how her brothers had distrusted her and took all means to prevent her from getting close to her lover in fear that she will succumb to him thereby losing her virginity in the process. It is important to keep in mind that this is all said in retrospect, for now she is already old and independent, she is only recounting how she was treated by her brothers when she was young. But now Shulamit declares defiantly:

I was a wall, and my breasts were like towers (this translation is contrary to the conventional translation which has it in the present tense: "is" and "are", which is quite misleading)

She declares that all these years she was like a wall and did not let anyone sleep with her (even her lover), thus reinforcing the fact that her brothers were scornful, overprotective and distrustful to her for no good reason. The analogy of breasts to towers is well explained by the commentary by K&D: Towers on the wall of a city attract the eyes of the enemies towards them but there is enormous power and defense concealed in them, which makes them unapproachable. So are her breasts attractive but the defenses are hidden behind them making them unapproachable (double entendre of "towers" is that they are big and attractive yet at the same time a good defense system).

  • Can you please cut and paste or provide a link for the K&D quote? Thanks. – Ruminator Apr 3 '19 at 17:24
  • @Ruminator here it is, "Kleuker rightly remarks that here the comparison is not of thing with thing, but of relation with relation: the breasts were those of her person, as the towers were of the wall, which, by virtue of the power of defence which they conceal within themselves, never permit the enemy, whose attention they attract, to approach them." – Bach Apr 3 '19 at 17:29
  • Thanks. Can you please add it to your answer, ie: with a link if possible? Comments disappear. Thanks again. However, how does that explain "then I was in his eyes as one who finds peace"? – Ruminator Apr 3 '19 at 17:40
  • Who are you actually citing? Apparently not Kleuker. ? – Ruminator Apr 3 '19 at 17:42
  • @Ruminator I'm citing Keil and Delitzsch. i will provide link. it's a very long page though, so you will have hard time finding it! – Bach Apr 3 '19 at 18:14
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I don't see any reason to see the passage as allegorical. It appears to me to be a discussion among the heroine and her friends about a possible breast augmentation for her younger sister.

"What are those?"

"These? Oh, these are just towers guarding my wall!"

The heroine savors that her lover finds her ample breasts comforting, possibly nurturing:

10 I am a wall and my breasts are like towers. So I have become in his eyes like one who brings peace.

In my view (not original to me) the love story is largely from the viewpoint of the woman who is having a romance with King Solomon who is a renaissance man, a true royal and a legendary lover.

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