(Song 8:1) Does this passage support incest? (cf. 4:10, 5:1)

CLAIM: Solomon’s wife says, “Oh that you were like a brother to me who nursed at my mother’s breasts. If I found you outdoors, I would kiss you; no one would despise me, either” (Song 8:1). What does she mean by this?

RESPONSE: In ancient Near Eastern culture, a woman could not show public affection for her husband. The only man she could be affectionate with was her brother or father. Thus she is saying that she wants to show public displays of affection. Carr writes, “She is not wishing that they were literally brother and sister, but that they had the freedom of public expression of their love. What was not in good taste even for husband and wife was perfectly permissible between brother and sister.”[1] Carr continues to note that Egyptian poetry demonstrates the same phenomenon. Tremper Longman notes that the term “despise” or “shame” is “what shows us that a matter of cultural delicacy is at issue here.”[2]

[1] Carr, G. L. (1984). Song of Solomon: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 19, p. 181). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[2] Longman, T. (2001). Song of Songs (p. 204). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.