Song of Songs 3:1-4 is a highly repetitive passage, but it does have a logic and unity to it. The structure appears to be:

A. On my bed: seeking the one whom my soul loves, v 1a

B. Sought but did not find, v 1b

C. I arose and surveyed the city ( ‘asovvah ba’iyr ) for the one whom my soul loves, v 2a

D/B’. I sought the one whom my soul loves, but did not find, v 2b

C’. I found guards surveying the city ( hassovvah ba’iyr ): Have you seen the one my soul loves?, v 3

B”. I found the one whom my soul loves, v 4

A’. I did not let him go until I took him to the house of my mother, v 5

The word patterns are of course significant.

“Seek” ( baqash ), “find” ( matza’ ), and “one whom my soul loves” ( she’ahavah naphshi ) each occur four times. “Seek” is used in a rhythmical pattern: First with “the one whom my soul loves” as an object, then followed in the statement “I sought and did not find him”; then it is used with “the one whom my soul loves” as object, and finally in a repetition of “I sought and did not find him.” “Find” is used twice with lo , “not,” then with “watchmen” as the object, and finally with the object “one whom my soul loves.” Meanwhile, the phrase, “the one whom my soul loves” is the object of “seek” in verses 1-2, then the object of the question posed to the guards, and finally the object of discovery, the one “found.” The repetitions help to reinforce the frantic feel of the passage: It’s like someone searching for her keys.

The structure above highlights one connection, that between the Beloved and the watchmen. Both are going around the city. The beloved is acting as a night watchmen, perhaps because the watchmen themselves have been lax in their duties?

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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