Song of Solomon2:4

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Translation

He brought me to the house of wine,

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and his banner over me

was love.

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Paraphrase

He brought me to the place where his prosperity is evident and we experience happiness together;

I was motivated to commit myself to him with complete loyalty because his reputation is that of love.

Footnotes

1: “house of wine”

Did it refer to a banqueting hall where wine was served? Possibly. Was it just a wine cellar for storage? Sometimes. But those questions take us the wrong direction. The emphasis here, as far as the symbolism goes, is an emphasis on wine itself. Where it was served is of lesser importance. As such this line points to the qualities of wine, how it was used in celebrations, and how it served as a symbol of prosperity and happiness. Notice that it takes about 3 lines in the paraphrase column to begin to express what 3 words in the translation column communicate through symbolism.

2

“Love” is not used here as a symbol, but it is part of the symbolism of the word “Banner.” Usually a banner had an identifying image on it, be that a lion, an eagle, etc. but in this case the image on the banner was simply love. How that would be depicted is not something worth debating because it is not necessary for the imagery to make its point. His reputation, his very identity, and the person that she knows as Solomon are all characterized by love. She is saying that another name for Solomon is Love, and that has attracted her to him and motivates her to follow him.

“HIS BANNER OVER ME WAS LOVE.”

A banner was often used in battles. It was used by the troops not just to help identify their regiment, but as a source of motivation and encouragement. When they saw their banner, it was an inspiration for them to fight a little harder, or hang on a little longer. The banner was a source of assurance. What a wife desires more than anything else on earth is to know, to be absolutely sure, that her husband loves her. She wants to be cherished, treasured. Nothing else can be a substitute for the assurance that it is so.

Banners were also used for identification. The tribes of Israel all had their own banners which they carried as they marched so that people could tell for sure that they were marching in the right place in the column. Above I have woven into the paraphrase an element of identity and the assurance it brings as part of the impact of this image. This does not supersede the meaning of “motivation” which remains the primary impact of this image, but it is my attempt to acknowledge that the people of ancient times would likely have seen several layers of meaning in this one image.

Another layer in this symbol is that a banner could inspire fear in the enemy. In a marriage relationship there is no room for the presence of other lovers. Our motivation to remain committed to our spouse should be obvious to all, including to our children and even to any who might think of stepping in to steal sexual favors that do not belong to them.