Q&A: Does Song 8:8-9 encourage the marriage of children?

Does Song 8:8-9 encourage the marriage of children?

Question

Does Song 8:8-9 encourage the marriage of children?

Answer

Song of Solomon: 8:8-9: We have a little sister, and she has no breasts. What shall we do for our sister on the day when she is spoken for? If she is a wall, we will build on her a battlement of silver, but if she is a door, we will enclose her with boards of cedar.
The meaning of this is summarized well by D. A. Carson as follows:

This is a very significant paragraph on the theme of keeping the expression of physical love for the right time. It is not a new theme in the book but occurs now in a different kind of way. It tells of a loyal, caring family who protected their young sister from misuse of sex. From her early years, before she was physically developed (her breasts are not yet grown), her older brothers, in particular, disciplined her and encouraged her to keep her body only for the one she was to marry. The day she is spoken for is the time of marriageable age. [1]

Song 8:8-9 does not encourage child marriage. Rather, it emphasizes child purity — being stedfast in chastity and virtue. Since, chastity is of great worth and value ("silver"), her family members build a barricade ("wall") around her to protect her.

Note

[1] Carson, D. A., R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, and G. J. Wenham, eds. New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition. 4th ed. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).