Original Research

The bride as a ‘locked garden’: An eco-sustainability retrieval of nature metaphor in Song of Songs 4:12–15

Kivatsi J. Kavusa
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 43, No 1 | a2607 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v43i1.2607 | © 2022 Kivatsi J. Kavusa | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 June 2022 | Published: 16 September 2022

About the author(s)

Kivatsi J. Kavusa, Department of Old Testament and Hebrew Scriptures, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa; Department of Systematic Theology and Hermeneutics, Faculty of Theology, Humboldt University of Berlin, Berlin, Germany; Department of Ancient and Biblical Studies, Faculty of Protestant Theology, Université Libre des Pays des Grands Lacs, Goma, Congo, the Democratic Republic of the


Song 4:12–15 depicts the body of the bride as a ‘locked garden’ filled with fruits, exotic and medicinal plants and abundant freshwater. These luxuries are said to be plentiful and appealing but carry with them the threat of spoiling. In this way, the garden is ready for enjoyment, but forbidden (locked) at the same time. The geo-metaphor of the bride fits perfectly with the ancient belief of Mother Earth and resists the dominion drive of the Anthropocene. Dominance is alien to Canticles. The Book pledges that we can rediscover the lost paradise of Genesis 2 through love and partnership, not dominion. This article investigates which assumptions about nature are reflected in the author’s use of nature metaphors to describe the sensual body of the bride. It makes use of insights of ecological sustainability, the principle of intrinsic worth from the six eco-justice principles of the Earth Bible Project and elements of historical-critical approaches to retrieve the ecological significance of Song 4:12–15.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: This article explores whether the insights of eco-sustainability can be fruitfully used to retrieve ecological wisdom from the metaphor of Song 4 depicting the bride as a locked garden. It involves the disciplines of biblical exegesis, elements of ecological hermeneutics and insights from sustainability theories.


Garden of Eden; eco-theology; ecological hermeneutics; eco-sustainability; Anthropocene; metaphor


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