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Old Testament Essays

On-line version ISSN 2312-3621
Print version ISSN 1010-9919

Old testam. essays vol.24 n.2 Pretoria  2011


"I sought him, but found him not" (Song 5:6) - Public space in the Song of Songs



Johanna Erzberger1






As far as the relation of sexes is concerned the Song of Songs seems to create a counter world compared with the world described by other biblical books and compared with the Song's assumed historical sociological background. By focusing on the Song of Songs' assumed social setting, and on the Song's perspective on this social setting as reflected by its presentation of space, a more specific understanding of gendered norms is offered. The interaction between "conceived" and "lived" space (Lefebre) depicts the Song's sociological background. Different groups of locations represent different categories of space. Locations such as the vineyard and garden are largely metaphorical, while private locations are, to a higher degree affected by conceived space than public locations. Song 3:1-5 and 5:1-8 show that places, streets and squares (public locations) partake in lived space to a relatively high degree. While locations of fulfilled love, the vineyard and the garden work as metaphors, locations where the share in lived space is high, show a patriarchal society that does not generally defer from other biblical books or Greek literature of the same period, such as Theocritus ' Idylls. The Song and the Idylls sympathize with its female protagonist, but criticism of the gendered norms in the Songs is due to the modern reader's concepts.



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Dr. Johanna Erzberger
Philosophisch-Theologische Hochschule Münster
Hohenzollernring 60, 48145 Münster



1 The author is a research associate of the Department of Old Testament Studies at the University of Pretoria.

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