Monday, October 26, 2009

Song of Ascents (intro and explanation)

What is a Song of Ascents?
Well, it seems to be a poetry form used by the Hebrews around the time of David and Solomon.

My dictionary says that an ascent is 1. the act of ascending, rising, or climbing. 2. an advancement, as in rank, fame, etc. 3. a.) a way leading up; upward slope; acclivity b.) the amount of such slope [an ascent of 3 degrees].

My Holman Master Study Bible's [HMSB] encyclopedia says that "A Song of Ascent" is "a phrase occurring in the title of fifteen Psalms, 120-134, inclusive, They may be so called from a certain rhythm which is obvious in several of them, by which the sense apparently by degrees or steps, the first or last words of a preceding clause being often repeated at the beginning of the succeeding one."

So a song of ascents is a song of steps or degrees.
A good example of what my HMSB encyclopedia said is in Psalm 121. It is very strong, almost from verse to verse.

Psalm 121:1 I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From whence shall my help come?
vs 2 My help comes form the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.
vs 3 He will not allow your foot slip; He who keeps you will not slumber,
vs 4 Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
vs 5 The Lord is your keeper; The Lord is your shade on your right hand.
[and so on]

What does this have to do with the Song of Solomon (SOS)? Well, I'll tell you. SOS can be divided into very distinct stages or phases. The first two are 1.) SOS 1:1-2:7 and 2.) SOS 2:8-3:5
Both these sections end with the same verse

SOS2:7 & SOS 3:3 I adjure you, oh daughters of Jerusalem, By the gazelles or by the hinds of the field that you will not arouse or awaken my love Until she pleases.

I had already noted that these two sections existed and ended with the same verse. I also noted that the second section was the next 'phase' that the bride was going through. But what I didn't notice until the other day was that the first couple of verses of the second section does this little 'song of ascent' thing in that it uses a word from the last verse of the first section.

SOS 2:9a My beloved is like a gazelle or young stag.

I already understood that SOS is a definit progression, a definit maturing and empowering process that the beloved goes through as she grows from being an oppressed maiden to being Proverbs 31 Woman material. Looking for a word or phrase to call this progression, the phrase, "A Song of Ascents" came to my mind. I though that there was a psalm called that somewhere so I looked it up and learned about this form of Hebrew poetry. And this has confirmed to me that the Song of Solomon is indeed a Song of Ascents, loosely in a poetic form, strongly in the progress the beloved makes from chapter one to chapter eight.

I have more to say about SOS being a Song of Ascent but feel the need to close out section one (1:1-2:7) before we discuss the strong upward call in section two (2:8-3:5)

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