Let us go out into the countryside.
Let us spend the night among the henna blossoms.
Let us rise early to the vineyards.
Let us see if the vine has budded,
its blossoms have opened,
the pomegranates have bloomed.
There I will give my love to you.
The mandrakes send out their fragrance,
and at our doors are delicious fruits,
both new and old,
which I have kept for you,
Song of Solomon, 7.11-13.
In courtship Solomon had come bounding on the hills, inviting Shulamith outside to enjoy a spring day. Now it’s her turn. She invites him to spend the night among the henna blossoms, to rise early and go to the vineyards, and in the midst of pomegranates and mandrakes, to make love in the beauty of spring.
Mandrake plants, like pomegranates, were well-known symbols of fertility and sexual love. Persephone, the goddess of spring, was symbolized by the pomegranate. Aphrodite, the goddess of love, was called “Lady of the Mandrake.” Shulamith playfully pretends to be a goddess of spring love, offering Solomon the choice fruits she has prepared for him.
I picture her in the privacy of home, pretending to be a sex goddess of their culture. I sense it is done in the same spirit that a young woman today might teasingly pretend to be like a contemporary sex symbol—women to whom much of our society attributes ideal sexuality and attractiveness. In the past, these qualities were attributed to the gods of myth and song.
Shulamith longs to see if the vine has budded and its blossoms opened. The possibility of flowers in bloom not only discloses the time of year—the transition from winter to spring—but a new spring in their relationship too.
Solomon’s Song of Love, pp. 133-134.