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Thursday, July 18th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Song of Solomon 2

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries


It will be noted that I associated Song of Solomon 2:1 and Song of Solomon 2:2 with Solomon’s blandishments in the previous chapter. See my comment on Song of Solomon 1:15-17; Song of Solomon 2:1 there.

Verses 1-2

“As a lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters” (Song of Solomon 2:2). Many of the commentators view the word `love’ here as Solomon’s reference to the Shulamite. If that had been the case, the word would have been `beloved’ as the triple use of it in Song of Solomon 1:15 indicates. What Solomon is saying here is that his style of loving affection shines like a lily among the thorns, a self-compliment that Solomon supposed that all “the daughters” agreed with. If that had not been true among the daughters, not one of them would have dared to contradict the king. The failure of the RSV to make the distinction between love and beloved as used in these chapters obscures the meaning. This is unfortunate, because the proper understanding of this verse clarifies the following paragraph.

Verses 3-6


“As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, So is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, And his fruit was sweet to my taste. He brought me to the banqueting house, And his banner over me was love. Stay ye me with raisins, refresh me with apples; For I am sick from love. His left hand is under my head, And his right hand doth embrace me.”

“So is my beloved among the sons” Note that when a lover is meant, the word is not `love’ but `beloved.’ Note also that the Shulamite’s true lover is “among the sons,” a description that has no application whatever to Solomon.

Also, look at the past tense: “I sat down”; “his fruit was sweet”; “he brought me,” etc. All the scholars admit that Solomon is wooing the maiden in this book; but she mentions loving experiences with her true lover that occurred in the past. She is rejecting the king.

“He brought me to the banqueting house” When was Solomon’s palace ever called “a banqueting house.”? This is clearly a reference to some public eating place.

In the light of these considerations, we find full agreement with Balchin who wrote that these verses recall, “A meeting the maiden had with her lover.”(F1)

We include here a sample of the allegorical speculations with regard to the meaning of this chapter:

“This is a poetical, allegorical representation of what takes place in the Church and in the experience of believers individually. Examples of this are seen (in the case of God’s people) when the Jews returned from the captivity in Babylon, or in the Incarnation of Christ; or, (in the case of individuals), at any time of great revival in the Church.”(F2) This writer only wishes that he could see things like that here; but, truthfully, he cannot.

Illustration: This writer once watched a skilled artist painting a picture of Bryce Canyon in Utah. He used many different colors in portraying the matchless wonder of that spectacular pageant of natural beauty. A bystander said:

“I don’t see all those colors down there”! The artist looked at him sadly, and said: “Don’t you wish you could”?

Similarly, this writer would welcome the power to see such wonderful teachings in these erotic verses. And make no mistake about it, these words are extremely sensuous and erotic, as a glance at the Good News Bible translation will indicate.

“Stay ye me with raisins… I am sick from love… his left hand is under my head… etc.” What do these verses say?

The recall of events in her former meeting with her beloved were too taxing for the maiden. Memory brought an acute emotional climax. She appeals to the women of the harem to bring food (Song of Solomon 2:5). Evidently, the love-sick maiden had not eaten properly during the period of her separation (due to the king’s bringing her into his harem).”(F3)

This translation supports Bunn’s understanding of the passage: “Restore my strength with raisins,… I am weak from passion.”(F4)

Verse 7

“I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, By the roes, or by the hinds of the field, That ye stir not up, nor awake my love, Until he please.”

“This refrain appears four times in this book: here, and in Song of Solomon 3:5; Song of Solomon 5:8; and Song of Solomon 8:3; and with each use of it, there is a definite break in mood and movement. It twice follows the clause, `O that his left hand were under my head, and that his right hand embraced me.’“(F5) What does it say? “She begs the attendant maidens not to disturb their private moments of love.”(F6) Pope was sure that it could mean no such thing; “It cannot be an appeal not to be disturbed during the course of love-making.”(F7) This writer believes that the Shulamite’s plea here is that the women she addresses may not awaken her desire for love in the continued absence of her lover. This would make the words, “Until he please,” carry the message, “Until he comes and rescues me.” The use of the abstract word `love’ rather than the concrete word `lover,’ as pointed out by Jordan,(F8) supports this viewpoint. “The verse refers to a false rousing of love as an emotion.”(F9) It might very well be a reference to the Shulamite’s rejection of the passion arousing stimulants which members of the harem provided for the woman scheduled to be called to the king’s bed.

Verses 8-9


“The voice of my beloved! Behold he cometh, Leaping upon the mountains, Skipping upon the hills. My beloved is like a roe, or a young hart: Behold, he standeth behind our wall; He looketh in at the windows; He glanceth through the lattice.”

“My beloved… leaping upon the mountains… skipping upon the hills” This is not the picture of a king ordering one of his eunuchs to bring a new concubine to his bed. No indeed! This is the Shulamite’s true lover striding over the hills of Judea, scaling a wall, looking through the windows to find his beloved!

“He standeth behind our wall” To be in front of a wall would be to stand on the outside of it, approaching it. The shepherd lover of the Shulamite found his way inside the wall that guarded the harem, found his lover’s window, and was looking in at it! What an amazing development!

Verses 10-14


“My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, The rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; The time of the singing of birds is come, And the voice of the turtle-dove is heard in our land; The fig-tree ripeneth her green figs, And the vines are in blossom; They give forth their fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. O my dove, thou art in the clefts of the rock, In the covert of the steep place, Let me see thy countenance, Let me hear thy voice; For sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.”

“Rise up, my fair one, come away” Why is this repeated? The Shulamite might not have been able to respond instantly, through fear of discovery, or by reason of interference by other women in the harem. Anyway, in some of the most beautiful language in all the literature of mankind, the shepherd lover pleads for her to come away.

“The winter is past…the rains are come and gone… the flowers are blooming…. the birds are singing… and the figs are getting ripe” The next verse indicates that the lovers have indeed escaped from the harem.

“O my dove, thou art in the clefts of the rock, in the covert of the steep place” This indicates the security of the wilderness which, at this point, they had achieved in their flight to the shepherd lover’s vineyard in northern Palestine, far from Jerusalem.

Verses 15-17


“Take us the foxes, the little foxes, That spoil the vineyards; For our vineyards are in blossom. My beloved is mine, and I am his: He feedeth his flock among the lilies. Until the day be cool, and the shadows flee away, Turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart Upon the mountains of Bether.”

“Take us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vineyard” This is called, “The most enigmatic verse in Song of Solomon.”(F10) Bunn suggested that, “It might be a reference to the young men who pursued her.”(F11) Balchin also understood the verse as figurative. “The Shulamite requests that anything that would spoil the vineyard of their lives must be caught and eradicated. Let love be pure and undisturbed.”(F12) The imagination of men has been turned completely loose on this verse. Pope tells us of an alleged explanation, as follows: “The marauding foxes refer to the Amalekites who held a grudge against Jacob, and destroyed his birthright.”(F13)

“My beloved is mine, and I am his; he feedeth his flock among the lilies” Anchor Bible cites a number of scholars who find the most explicit sexual meanings in the second clause;(F14) but all such notions lie utterly beyond the perimeter of what our English text says; and, as stated earlier, our concern is to understand what the text says, not what some imaginative scholar thinks it might mean. As the verse stands, it stresses the marital happiness of the shepherd and his Shulamite lover. Furthermore, we cannot accept the supposition of Redford that the Shulamite, “Was here lovingly thinking of Solomon as a shepherd. She idealizes.”(F15) It seems to this writer that not even an idiot could have idealized Solomon as a shepherd pasturing his flock all night long, that is, “until the morning breezes blow, and the darkness disappears.”(F16)

“Until the day be cool and the shadows flee away” See the Good News Bible rendition of this in the above paragraph.

“Turn, my beloved, be thou like a roe, or a young hart” The Good News Bible translates this: “Return, my darling, like a gazelle.”(F17) The picture here is one of marital happiness. Although the shepherd is out all night with the flock, his wife lovingly, awaits and anticipates his return. It seems to this writer that any application of these verses to Solomon is impossible.

“Upon the mountains of Bether” “There was a chain of mountains east of the Jordan river that bore that name”;(F18) which says as clearly as language could say it that this happy couple, was at this time, living happily beyond the Jordan river, whither they had fled from the harem. This is what the passage says.

Now we take an excursion into the never, never land of what the scholars say it might mean:

“These `mountains of separation’(F19) refer to her breasts, and, by metonymy, to her whole person. Comparing Song of Solomon 1:13 and Song of Solomon 4:6 we have similar usage. The Shulamite says, `My beloved is unto me a bundle of myrrh betwixt my breasts’; and Solomon sings, `I will get me to the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense.’“(F20) In case there is any doubt of what is meant by this, this rendition of Song of Solomon 1:13 will clarify it: “My lover has the scent of myrrh as he lies upon my breasts.”(F21) This comparison of a woman’s breasts to twin mountains is evidently quite old. The American Indians did the same thing when they called the mountains near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, “The Grand Tetons.” A recent example of the same thing is near Kokurah, in Japan, where the soldiers of the United States Air Force called a couple of symmetrical mountain peaks, “The Jane Russell Peaks.” This writer made a picture of those.

Interpretation: In this chapter, the Shepherd Lover, standing for Jesus Christ, appears to his love trapped in an evil world (Solomon’s harem), takes her unto himself and bestows upon her citizenship in the heavenly kingdom. This all stands for the incarnation of Christ, the establishment of his Church, the rescue of his love (all mankind who believe in Him and obey Him), and his ascension to heaven, leaving the bride separated from Himself until the Second Advent. This separation is found in the allegory of the Bether mountains, “the mountains of separation” (Song of Solomon 2:17). Note that the Shepherd is absent from his lover in Song of Solomon 2:16. His Church feels the absence of Christ in heaven.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 2". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/song-of-solomon-2.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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