Jesus Creed

The young man has just extolled the beauty of his lover, comparing or imagining her ornamentation to that of Pharaoh’s royalty. It is now her turn to answer back:
12 While the king was on his couch,
my nard gave forth its fragrance.
13 My beloved is to me a bag of myrrh
that lies between my breasts.
14 My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms
in the vineyards of En-gedi.
Perhaps she has now come to his tents. Perhaps not. Perhaps they have found a bed in the vineyards. Perhaps the tents are near vineyards. We don’t know. The scenic imagery has shifted: he is “on his couch” or in “his enclosure.” While he is there, her “fragrance” (nard) emoted its fragrance and, as the Blochs translate, “wakened the night.”
Is the lover between her breasts all night long? Or, is the “sachet of myrrh” between her breasts and sending out its fragrances? Does it matter? The myrrh that leads him to her personifies his presence. He’s there in her mind at least. She dreams of him; she loves him so much she draws him into her presence.
If he is a sachet of myrrh between her breasts in her imagination or in actual presence, she also imagines him to be a “cluster of henna blossoms.” The henna blossoms are fragrant — that’s the point. In the midst of the vineyards of Ein Gedi — perhaps an allusion to the other shepherds or other males — her man is a fragrant blossom.
One should not be forgetful of the confidence of this woman; she knows who she is and she is secure in her lover’s love. She extols him in language that expresses what she likes. Perhaps the shepherd lover would not speak of himself as myrrh or henna blossoms. She does because that is her frame of reference. What she likes best shapes what she thinks of him.

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