When Work Is a Pleasure (Song of Songs 1:9-2:17)
In Song 1:9-2:7, the man and woman sing of their devotion to each other. He speaks of how beautiful she is, and she proclaims how happy she is in love. Then, in Song 2:8–17, they sing of the glories of the arrival of springtime, and he invites her to come away with him. This is in the context of the agricultural economy of ancient Israel, and a trip into the countryside in springtime is not just a picnic. It involves work. Specifically, pruning has to be done to ensure a good harvest (Song 2:12–13; “the time of singing” can also be translated “the time of pruning,” as in the NASB). In addition, Song 2:15 says that foxes, animals that love to eat young grapes, have to be kept from the vineyards lest they spoil the harvest. But the man and woman have light hearts. They turn this task into a game, chasing away the “little foxes.” Their work is so amenable to games of love that it leads to the double entendre, “our vineyards are in blossom.” This glorious picture of agricultural life in springtime hearkens back to the Garden of Eden, where tending the plants was meant to be a pleasure. Genesis 3:17–19 tells us that, because of sin, such labor has become drudgery. But this is not the original or proper meaning of work. This episode in the Song is a glimpse of how God desires life to be for us, almost as if sin had never happened. It is as if Isaiah 65:21 were already fulfilled: “They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.” The kingdom of God brings not the elimination of work, but the restoration of joy and delightful relationships in work. See Theology of Work Project article, Revelation and Work at www.theologyofwork.org for more on work in the ultimate kingdom of God.