The woman and her beloved continue to speak in evocative images about their love for one another. Two sections of our reading stand out as in need of explanation.
First, the chorus of friends briefly speak about their sisters whose “breasts are not yet grown” (Song of Songs 8:8-9). The chorus is responding to the oft-repeated admonition from earlier not to awaken love before it desires (see 8:4). This response conveys that the daughters of Jerusalem understand the importance of chastity before marriage by promising to honor this sister with silver if she is virtuous when she is older (like a wall that cannot be entered) or to protect her (with cedars) if she proves unchaste (like a door).
The second section immediately follows (Song of Songs 8:10-12). I believe this brief discussion surrounding the difference between Solomon’s vineyards and the woman’s vineyard informs the main point of Song of Songs. As this woman compares her vineyard to Solomon’s, she is comparing her monogamous matrimony to Solomon’s polygamy. Vineyards and wine have frequently symbolized the body and sex in this book. This woman suggests that Solomon cannot actually care for all of his 1,000 vineyards (see 1 Kings 11:1-4 for Solomon’s wives and concubines). Yet this woman can tend her own vineyard (body) and chooses to give herself to her beloved for his delight, whereas Solomon keeps his vineyards for selfish gain.
At this point, I tip my hat to my seminary professor Dennis Magary from Trinity, though any failure to summarize his main arguments is my fault. My recollection is he argued that Song of Solomon could be better titled “Song against Solomon”. The entire book has been devoted to the dreamy delight a Shulammite woman and her beloved shepherd have for each other. Solomon is mentioned in this woman’s dreams from chapter 3-6 as revered by many, standing as a figure who reflects her desires for the shepherd to be similarly respected. While awake, the only mention of Solomon is negative, where she contrasts his approach to marital love with her own. One is the wise approach, which even Solomon elsewhere advocates (Proverbs 5:18-23), the approach of monogamous matrimony. The other is the folly of polygamy, which Solomon actually practices. Thus, the entire book has been about the wonders of romance for husband and wife and how different that is from the selfish polygamy engaged in by Solomon.
I know that interpreting this book in this way is historically unique, but it is the interpretation that has made the most sense to me. If you have questions about this, reach out to me!