A Seal – Song of Songs 8:6

The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s, is one of the most debated, profound, and poetic books of the Bible. Its meaning isn't always obvious, even to students like me who believe it to be a frank and straightforward look at healthy marital love. Gleaning from commentators like G. Lloyd Carr, Marvin H. Pope, Dennis F. Kinlaw, and others, I have learned that the Song contains more eroticism, suggestion, and romance than even my substantial assumptions. This is an example.
ancient cylinder seal and impression

Song of Songs 8:6a

  • KJV: Set me as a seal upon thine heart, / As a seal upon thine arm:
  • NIV: Place me like a seal over your heart, / like a seal on your arm;
  • NASB: Put me like a seal over your heart, / Like a seal on your arm.

Happy early Valentine’s Day, readers! Today, we’re going to explore this latest bit of unexpected erotica which seemed all too fitting for tomorrow. In this verse, we see the same woman speaking who spent the last few verses fiercely yet wistfully bucking against societal boundaries that might frown on aggressive public displays of her affection for her husband, with her kissing him (v. 1), giving him a taste of the juice of her pomegranate (v. 2), and having him caress her body (v. 3). Now, she pushes for the same sort of cultural coup from him. Let’s see how.

She tells him to sîm her like he might a hôtām.

These seals (hôtām) were used to endorse official documents, much like a signature is used today. They were engraved with a unique pattern on a stone or metal signet ring or a cylinder that could be rolled in hot wax to seal an envelope or mark a document. Possessing a man’s seal basically gave you full authority over him, so much so that its theft would be much like what’s done by modern-day identity thieves. Such signets and cylinders were often worn on a necklace, which is why the New English Bible renders _sîm _as “wear”.

However, the true meaning of sîm is much more active than merely wearing something.

  • God asks Moses “Who makes (sîm) a man deaf or mute?” in Exodus 4:11.
  • God assures David He will provide (sîm) a place for Israel in 2 Samuel 7:10.
  • Job says God fastens (sîm) his feet with shackles in Job 13:27.
  • A man plants (sîm) a tree in a parable in Ezekiel 17:4-5.
  • A woman is seized (sîm) and put to death in 2 Kings 11:16.
  • God’s Servant will not rest until He establishes (sîm) justice on earth per Isaiah 42:5 (and I’m glad).

She wants him to aggressively wear her on his heart, in his innermost being, but she also wants him to aggressively wear her on his arm so the rest of the world can clearly see.

Obviously sîm is a rather flexible verb in its application, but it seems consistently forceful. It’s not like wearing something you forget about until you need it. I don’t sîm my watch, but perhaps I sîm scuba gear or a weightlifting belt or a condom. It’s very intentional, and I’m consistently aware of its presence (or absence).

She wants him to sîm her, deliberately position her. She wants him to wear her as the NEB suggests, but to do so aggressively and intentionally.

She wants him to aggressively wear her on his heart, in his innermost being, but she also wants him to aggressively wear her on his arm so the rest of the world can plainly see. Today, we say things like “he’s got a chip on his shoulder” or “it’s written all over your face”. The idea behind such statements is the intense obviousness of it.

This sort of intense obviousness is what she’s expecting from him.

In this, “the girl wants to imprint her claim to her lover deeply and openly _on him,” Carr writes (emphasis mine). And given her immediately prior remarks on how she wishes to make _herself known as his, it’s fair to say she’s expecting him to make himself known as hers just as conspicuously.

In other words, she wants him to frequently employ PDA.

Originally posted 2016-11-28 08:00:04.

Photo credit: peterjr1961 / Foter / CC BY-NC
About Phil (245 Articles)
Philip Osgood is a Christian husband, father, and writer who considers himself a passable video game player, fiction reader, camping and hiking enthusiast, welder, computer guy, and fitness aficionado, though real experts in each field might just die of laughter to hear him claim it. He has been called snarky, cynical, intelligent, eccentric, creative, logical, and Steve for some reason. Phil and his beautiful wife Clara live in Texas with their children in a house with a dog but no white picket fence. He does own a titanium spork from ThinkGeek, though, so he must be alright.

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