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LIFE > Life in the World > Drinkers of Wine > Symbolism of Wine > Beauty, Love, Marriage


Solomon wrote of his love for the Shulammite girl in a song or poem that is filled with romantic images. “Wine,” “vines,” and the “vineyard” play important roles depicting the bodies of each and the relationship share:

Love is “better than wine (yayin)” (1:2; 4:10) and love will be remembered “more than (yayin)” (1:4). The girl says she was made “the keeper of the vineyards” (hence her dark complexion) and that “my own vineyard I have not kept” (1:6). She adds: “My beloved is to me a cluster of henn blooms in the vineyards of En Gedi” (1:14), an oasis on the western shore of the Dead Sea and known for its luxurious vegetation.

Later she says that Solomon “brought me to the banqueting house (lit., “house of wine”) and his banner over me was love” (2:4). The “house of wine” was the dining room for feasting, where the finest food was served with the choicest wine; and, according to Josephus, all the vessels used by the guests were of gold.

In the hope that nothing will interfere with their love making the statement is made: “Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes” (2:15). Foxes were common in Palestine and were very fond of the grapes, destroying vineyards if not stopped.

In Chapter Five the beloved says: “I have come to my garden, my sister, my spouse . . . I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine (yayin) with my milk” (5:1). Eating and drinking at “my garden,” in this context, surely refers to lovemaking. He also says to the Shulamite: “Your navel is a rounded goblet; which lacks no blended beverage (lit., “mixed or spiced drink”) (7:2).

He continues: “now your breasts be like clusters of the vine, the fragrance of your breath like apples, and the roof of your mouth like the best wine (yayin)” (7:8). He is pleased by the appearance of her body.

The Shulamite responds: “The wine goes down smoothly for my beloved . . . and his desire is toward me. Come . . . let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see if the vine has budded, whether the grape blossoms are open . . . there I will give you my love” (7:9-12). Their time of love was the timeof spring; it was the time of “grape blossoms.” and in the vineyard the couple would enjoy companionship; she would give to him her love.

She continues: “I would lead you and bring you into the house of my mother, she who used to instruct me; I would cause you to drink of spiced wine (yayin), of the juice (asis; see: Preaching of the Prophets) of my pomegranate” (8:2). Pomegranate juice (the Hebrew word speaks of intoxicating juice; also translated “sweet wine” in Joel 9:13 was sometimes added to the wine to make a sweeter wine; she will give to her lover the most desirable and most delicious drink.

And finally she says: “Solomon had a vineyard at Baal Harmon; he leased the vineyard to keepers; everyone was to bring for its fruit a thousand pieces of silver. My own vineyard is before me. You, o Solomon, may have a thousand” (8:11-12). Solomon has his wealth; she has her body that she will gladly give to him.

Again, images from the viticulture of the everyday life of the people are used to speak symbolically, even of love, beauty, and marriage. That which is sacred and private is illustrated by that which was used constantly and also brought great joy to the people. The images of the vineyard, the vine, and the wine were images the nation identified with, even in a romantic sense.

Drink to me only with thine eyes, and I will pledge with mine;
or leave a kiss but in the cup, and I’ll not look for wine.
Ben Johnson

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