Rise Up, My Love (237): Clusters of Fruit

Song of Solomon 7:7  The Hebrew word in this comparison is ‘eskol, which is translated “cluster” in verse fourteen of chapter one (where it refers to a cluster of camphire). Because the Hebrew word is also used to name the Valley of Eshcol (Numbers 13:23), where the children of Israel found fabulously large clusters of grapes, the authorized version adds the words “of grapes” to harmonize with the imagery of verse 8. But, according to Carr, “there is no need to shift the image in this colon. The picture is…of the ‘sweetness’ the heavy, dark fruit provided.”*   As the earlier part of the verse compares Solomon’s wife to a palm tree, a more consistent continuation of the thought might be comparing her breasts to clusters of dates or some similar fruit of the palm. Perhaps the imagery of the bride’s breasts being like clusters of ripe fruit is a natural simile for men, or maybe even for most women, but it wasn’t a natural for me at first. I think of a cluster of fruits—be it grapes, dates, or coconuts— as being lumpy and bumpy, and I think of a breast as being one soft, round entity, more like a peach.   However, as I meditated on what our Lord—the living Word and the eternal author of this song—might have been trying to teach, I remembered back to the days when I used to nurse my infant children. As a girl, I assumed that milk flowed from a mother’s nipple in a single stream, rather like a kitchen faucet. I’ll never forget the first night my infant son started drowning because he couldn’t keep up with the flow of milk! He choked and began to cough, releasing his grip on the nipple. Milk sprayed in no less than seven distinct streams a good three feet away from us in all directions…including his tiny face!

That really enraged him, and I realized with amazement that a woman’s breast is not a “single fruit”…it is really a cluster of “fruits!” Indeed, studying an encyclopedia reassured me that I wasn’t abnormal; a woman’s nipple consists of “fifteen to twenty-five irregularly shaped lobes…Leading from each lobe is a duct, the lactiferous duct, which opens to the outside at the nipple” (The Encyclopedia Americana, 1995, 491).  So, here is another example of the correctness and perfection of the Word. A woman’s breast, although soft and smooth externally, is indeed like a cluster of fruit organically and internally! Also, Solomon—the human author—was a brilliant man and an avid student of natural history, and he could have perceived with appreciation the essential nature of his wife’s breasts as “clusters” of fruit.But, let’s not spend our whole time thinking technically! What is the meaning of this striking simile? As mentioned earlier, the focus should be on the sweetness and not the shape of the breasts. Her breasts attracted Solomon like the discovery of an oasis on a desert island would attract the attention of a shipwrecked sailor! What? You don’t think so? Then you haven’t been a young wife yet!  🙂…Well, perhaps that’s a little overstated, but without a doubt, the idea of Solomon’s wife as a statuesque palm laden with clusters of fruit is a most sensuous and appealing thought! Can you picture such a beautiful tree in your mind’s eye? What is the setting? To me, I envision the palm as a striking centerpiece on a tropical isle floating in an emerald sea. I remember visiting one such isle when my husband and I cruised through the French Polynesian Islands in the South Pacific. The sky was sapphire blue, and the crystal waters of the ocean were lapping at the sandy shoreline. Imagine with me. Can you see?  The palm is laden with luscious clusters of fruit that appear temptingly from time to time as the palm fronds ripple in the breeze. As my mind’s eye drifts down from the beautiful palm, I see the backdrop of a pristine beach in a hidden cove. There are no people in the picture, and the only sounds are the rhythmic throbbing of the surf and the stir of gentle breezes in the top of the palm…with perhaps the distant call of an island bird piercing the air from time to time. The scene I remember gives a haunting call to return to that little South Pacific paradise… “Bali Hai… come to me!” Romantic, hidden, wonderful, exotic…paradise just waiting to be found… delight just waiting to be enjoyed… adventure just waiting to begin.

*G. Lloyd Carr, The Song of Solomon: An Introduction and Commentary (Downer’s Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1984), p. 161.

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