SoD: “His banner over me”

Posted: 18th May 2008 by ElShaddai Edwards in Uncategorized

His Banner Over Me
Words and Music by Kevin Prosch
Copyright © 1991 Mercy Publishing

Steve at Undeception has wittingly woven two of my recent posts together into one of his – in a response to being tagged with the “Weird Worship” meme, he includes the verses from this Kevin Prosch song, “His Banner Over Me” (not to be confused with the endlessly repetitive “His Banner Over Me is Love” that I sang ad nauseam as a kid):

He brought me to His banqueting table
He brought me to His banqueting table
And His banner over me is love

We can feel the love, of God in this place.
We believe Your goodness, we receive your grace.
We delight ourselves in at Your table, oh God.
You do all things well, just look at our lives.

I am my beloved’s and He is mine
I am my beloved’s and He is mine
And His banner over me is love

His banner over you, His banner over me,
His banner over us, is love, love, love, love.

The text is taken from Song of Songs, which I’ve recently explored in Calvin Seerveld’s translation. Specifically the verses in focus are 2:4 and 2:16, though mostly the former for the purposes of this post (for more than you ever wanted to know about 2:16, also 6:3, see John Hobbins’ post on Victoria Beckham’s tattoo):

He has brought me to his banquet hall,
And his banner over me is love. (Song 2:4, NASB)

Steve notes that:

Well, I was always struck with how obscure the concept of a “banner over me” was – I mean, what the heck does that mean? I heard some explanations […], but they all seemed suspicious. Then I found out that what we have with “banner” is increasingly recognized as a mistranslation of an obscure Hebrew root. Thomas Constable notes that, based on an Akkadian root and comparative ANE literature, scholars are being convinced that the word “banner” really shouldn’t appear here at all; rather, the phrase should read something more along the lines of “His wish regarding me was lovemaking” or “His intentions were to make love.”

Happily, some modern translations do take an approach more in line with the latter viewpoint:

He has taken me into the wine-garden
and given me loving glances. (REB)

He brought me to the banquet hall,
and he looked on me with love. (HCSB)

The NASB and HCSB note that “the house of wine” is the literal translation of “the banquet hall” (2:4a), hence “wine-garden” in the REB or the now ominous “cellar” in the NJB. Seerveld translates this line as:

He would lead me out to a [hidden] arbour, and cover me there with his love.

The use of “arbor” points back to verse 2:3, where the Shulammite compares her lover to an apple tree. Seerveld writes more about this specific verse in his section, “Certain difficult phrases translated”:

Miming his kisses that explored the inside of her mouth [2:3], the Shulammite confesses happily of their dallying alone [2:3, “in his shadow”] on beds of country flowers [1:16]: we needed no blankets, no flags declaring for whom we were; his body and carresses covered me [2:6], rapturously… (Seerveld, p.95)

Weird worship indeed. But what exquisite love poetry!

  1. FYI: John Hobbins has responded to this post with a well-documented argument for the traditional rendering of v.2:4b, “his banner over me is love”.

  2. TC says:

    Elshaddai, here’s the NET:

    “He brought me into the banquet hall,

    and he looked at me lovingly.”

    I delight in biblical poetry.

    Here’s a story you might appreciate. On wednesday nights at church, we have the teens give a 10mins words of encouragement. Two of them in particular, love to exhort from Song of Songs.

  3. TC – thanks for the story (and the NET translation as another example of this approach). I’m curious whether your teens see this as broader allegory or as love poetry akin to their age in life.

    For those interested in much more detail along the lines of John Hobbins’ post, the NET translation notes for 2:4 can be found here.