Does Song of Solomon 8:8 promote child marriage?

by Matt Slick

Does Song of Solomon 8:8 promote child marriage?  No, it does not. 

Song 8:8, “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?"

This verse speaks of a young sister whose family desires her to remain chaste until her wedding night.  It is not about child marriage. However, in the culture of the time, marriages were often arranged by the parents, even from the early age of their children. So, the parents of one child and the parents of another child might get together and agree to have their young children be married in the future. So, the phrase "when she is spoken for" occur when she was 10 years old. The parents could speak for their daughter and plan a wedding several years in advance. So she can be spoken for at an early age, but not married for many years later.  Consider the next verse...

  • Song 8:9, “If she is a wall, we will build on her a battlement of silver. But if she is a door, we will barricade her with planks of cedar.”

The cultural phrases are foreign to the modern, western ear.  But, it had meaning at the time of writing.

  • “If she is a wall, we will build on her a battlement of silver.” The thought is that the young lady would be crowned with honor, if not wealth, if she maintains her virginity. On the other hand, “if she is a door, we shall barricade her with planks of cedar,” i.e., solitary confinement for her own protection. A “door” is a female who is flirtatious and improper in her relations with men."1

So we can see that the main concern of these two verses is the honor and chastity of a young sister whom the family is guarding.

  • "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."2
  • 1. Smith, James E. The Wisdom Literature and Psalms. Old Testament Survey Series. Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., 1996.
  • 2. 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.

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.