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Shir HaShiriym/Song of Songs 2:10 The blossoms have been seen in the land, the time of the song has arrived; and the voice of the turtle-dove has been heard in our land.
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Continuing last week's passage from Song of Songs, let's take another verse from the Hebrew text. As last week, this has a number of unusual words. The first word, , is a masculine plural noun from the root , which means to glisten or shine; the noun is used for flowers or blossoms. There are three verbs in the verse: , the Nif'al 3cp affix form of the root , to see, so "they were (or have been) seen"; , the Hif'il 3ms affix form of the root , to touch, but in Hif'il "to reach or arrive", so here "he has arrived"; , the Nif'al 3ms affix form of the root , to hear or listen, here "he was (or has been) heard. Also present twice is the noun , earth or land: , in the land; and in our land.Pesikta Rabbati offers more thoughts on this and the following verse from the ancient rabbis (Piska 15, section 11):
The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree ripens its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away. (Song of Songs 2:12-13, ESV)
The phrase 'the blossoms have been seen in the land' stand metaphorically for Moshe and Aharon.HaShem raised them up as His leaders to bring our people out of Egypt. He also raised up Esther to the unlikely position of Queen of the (pagan) Persian empire, "for such a time as this" (Esther 4:14, ESV). Finally, in the fullness of time, "while we were still helpless, at the right time, the Messiah died on behalf of ungodly people" (Romans 5:6, CJB). Our G-d sees our need and, having already prepared His solution, calls it forth when it is needed.
Staying on the subject of time, Pesikta Rabbati says that the 'time of singing has come' refers to the season when plants are pruned or cut back. The noun comes from the root , to cut or prune (Davidson), but is used in the Hebrew Bible as either "pruning time" or "song, praise". The rabbis suggest that this could mean the time has come for the Egyptians to be cut down; the time has come for their idols to be cut out from the earth, "I will mete out punishments to all the gods of Egypt, I the L-RD" (Shemot 12:12, JPS); alternatively, they offer the time has come for the Red Sea to be cut in two, "The waters were split" (4:12, JPS). They also connect it to Israel singing praises after crossing the Reed Sea, "Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the L-RD" (15:1, JPS), and to the time for the Torah to be given: Rabbi Bebai interpreted this with "Your laws have become my songs wherever I make my home" (Psalm 119:54, CJB). Rav Sha'ul encourages the Ephesians to make Scripture a part of their every day lives and relationships: "Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the L-rd" (Ephesians 5:19, NASB). When imprisoned in Philippi, Sha'ul and Silas spent the night "praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's bonds were unfastened" (Acts 16:25-26, ESV). A time of singing and praise to G-d led to freedom and release; more, to a way forward for the gospel so that the jailer and his family became believers and were baptised!
Commenting on the voice of the turtle-dove, Rabbi Johanan said: This means that the voice of him who led us with great skill through the turnings of our journey was heard in the land, the voice of Moshe, that is. This comment relies upon a word-play connecting the word for turtle-dove, , with the word , guide, and forms another allusion to Moshe, the leader of the Exodus and the journey through the wilderness. Moshe's words continue to be heard in the land of Israel in the yeshivas and study halls where Torah is learned and debated each day. But the image of the turtle-dove is employed by the New Covenant Scriptures as well. The Ruach descended upon Yeshua at His baptism "like a dove" (Mark 1:10) and the voice of the Spirit guided Yeshua into the wilderness, through His years of ministry in the Galil and Judah, in His teaching and obedience to the Father. So Yeshua promised the Ruach to be our guide in times of trial and persecution - "Do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you" (Matthew 10:19-20, ESV) - and to remind us of everything Yeshua said and taught: "The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you" (John 14:26, ESV).
The land appears as a locus for these phenomena. In the first phrase, "in the land" is the location of the blossoms; in the last phrase, "in our land" makes it clear that this is not just any land, it is our land. The second location clause makes this personal; the Spirit is not remote: just as we see with our own eyes the blossoms on the trees in gardens, parks and woodland in the spring and hear with our own ears the cooing of doves under eaves and on rooftops as they wake us from sleep at the start of the day - the real sights and sounds of Spring in our own land - so the Ruach is at work in our real lives, homes and places of work today. By using "the time has arrived", the text makes it clear that the phenomena are not just past events that happened is history - they are happening now and have relevance and currency for us in our day.
The pictures of the fig tree ripening figs and the vines coming into blossom are signs of Spring, renewal and fertility. The figs are put on top of the baskets of first fruits ... the fragrance given off by the drink offerings. The rabbis suggest that the time is drawing near for you to bring the first fruits and wine libations in the Temple. The middle phrase of that verse, "the fragrance of the figs and vine blossoms" refers to those among the Children of Israel who had the fragrance of repentance so that they were received by G-d ... So Moshe said to them: So many good fragrances are within you, and yet you are still here in Egypt - "Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away". The Hebrew word for 'Egypt' is Mitzrayim - bondages. Without Messiah, our lives are in bondage to sin; we need to repent and hear Him call us to "arise and come away". We need to receive His renewal so that our lives can be a fragrant offering before the L-rd as we serve Him: "Whoever thus serves Messiah is acceptable to G-d and approved by men" (Romans 14:18, ESV) and the writer to the Hebrews urges us: "let us offer to G-d acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our G-d is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:28-29, ESV).
The original text speaks of glistening blossoms being seen in the land, of the time for pruning and singing, and of the voice of the doves being heard in our land. It goes on to speak of new figs and the fragrance of the blossoming vines, followed by a call to come away. In each case, as with last week's text, we can see how Messiah fits the pictures that Scripture draws. More, we can see how the images can also be applied to ourselves as believers in Messiah, whether Jew or Gentile. The steady repetition of the time motif reminds us that each day we wait for Messiah to return, to look in through the lattice and call us to come away with Him. Just as Yeshua chides the crowds, "You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?" (Luke 12:54-55, ESV), the ancient rabbis were acutely aware of the times in which they lived. We should learn from their practice and be ready for G-d to do something at any time. It is only be being ready, by having our eyes open and paying attention, that we can be sure to see all the signs that have been placed in our path and hear the call to "Arise and come away."
Rabbinic interpretations of Scripture may sometimes be fanciful and are frequently scoffed at by the Christian tradition. Song of Songs is a book that is often avoided and frequently misunderstood, taken as allegory - either Messiah and the Church or G-d and Israel, depending on your point of view - or dismissed as salacious or somehow inappropriate for the rest of the Bible. Perhaps these studies of just a small part of the book and some of the comments it inspired in the earliest commentators can show us that we can all learn both from a less frequently read part of the Bible and from the rabbinic writings.
Chag Matzot Sameach!
Further Study: Song 7:11-13; 1 Peter 2:4-6
Application: Have you seen the blossoms, heard the cooing of the doves and smelt the fragrance of the vines in your land? Have you heard the voice of Yeshua calling you to "Arise!" and follow Him?
Comment - 15:55 25Apr16 Tom: Yes. It is easier for us now to hear, see and smell these things than it was with people of former times. In this last age since the Messiah was here with his task of redemption it is clearly Gods plan that when we say "Thy Kingdom come"
© Jonathan Allen, 2016
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