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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Song of Solomon 5

Verse 1

Song of Solomon 5:1

"I am come into my garden, my sister, my bride:

I have gathered my myrrh with my spice;

I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey;

I have drunk my wine with my milk.

Eat, O friends; Drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved."

Balchin interpreted this thus: "The Shulamite maiden's invitation is accepted by the Shepherd lover. He comes and eats with the bride. `Eat, O friends' is either spoken by the Shepherd inviting others to celebrate their love, or by a chorus."[1] Note also that this celebration is not taking place in Jerusalem, but in Lebanon. Bunn read the passage as meaning that, "It relates a clandestine meeting between the lovers."[2] However, the invitation for the whole community (`friends') to share the celebration denies that there was anything secretive about this.

In this writer's allegorical understanding of the Song, this little paragraph corresponds exactly with Christ's statement: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." (Revelation 3:20). This is continually fulfilled in the Church's observance of the Lord's Supper.

Waddey understood the verse to mean, "That the marriage is now consummated (with the king)."[3] We agree that this celebrates a marriage, all right; but it is the Shulamite's marriage with the Shepherd, an allegory of the church's marriage with Christ. Why? The scene here is Lebanon. Those celebrating the marriage are citizens of a different nation from that of Solomon. Otherwise, the marriage would have been in Jerusalem. We do not find any word in the whole passage that indicates the scene as being anywhere else except in Lebanon. Did not Solomon plead with the maiden to go with him "from Lebanon"? (Song of Solomon 4:8). Where does the text say that she went with Solomon?

Redford likewise read the passage as a marriage ceremony, and wisely compared it to the marriage of Christ and his Church;[4] but he failed to see that no single one of a thousand consorts of Solomon could ever have symbolized that holy union between Christ and his Church, so he supposed the marriage to have been between Solomon and the maiden.

Delitzsch also commented that, "Solomon now triumphs in the final enjoyment which his ardent desire had found."[5] These are indeed great scholars who advocate this understanding of the verse; but this writer finds it absolutely impossible to find Solomon in the Holy Bible as a type of the holy and sinless Son of God, and that only one single member of his godless harem should be accepted as a type of the universal Church of God.

Balchin correctly understood the passage as, "An account of the marriage between the Shepherd and the maiden, the wedding feast here celebrating the joy of the Church's union with Christ."[6]

Even the scholars who insist on finding Solomon as the bridegroom here agree that what is symbolized is the union between Christ and the Church. Redford noted that, "The wine and the milk mentioned here are what God offers to the people without money and without price (Isaiah 55:1)."[7] These, of course, must be understood as symbols of the glorious gospel of salvation.

Verse 2

THE MAIDEN'S SECOND TRAGIC DREAM

"I was asleep, but my heart waked:

It is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying,

Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled;

For my head is filled with dew,

My locks with the drops of the night.

I have put off my garment; how shall I put it on?

I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?

My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door,

And my heart was moved for him.

I rose up to open for my beloved;

And my hands dropped with myrrh,

And my fingers with liquid myrrh,

Upon the handles of the bolt.

I opened to my beloved;

But my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone.

My soul had failed me when he spake:

I sought him, but I could not find him;

I called him, but he gave me no answer.

The watchmen that go about the city found me.

They smote me, they wounded me;

The keepers of the walls took away my mantle from me.

I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, If ye find my beloved,

Tell ye him, that I am sick from love."

Waddey thought that the lover in this dream was Solomon.[8] However, the fact of his being wet with dew contradicts this idea. The words fit the Shepherd lover far better. He would indeed have slept out doors; but who can imagine Solomon's sleeping out, even in a dream?

Not many of the scholars whom we have consulted have risked any guess as to the exact meaning of this dream. That it is a dream is generally accepted; and Robinson with several others agreed that the time indicated is subsequent to the marriage.[9] Bunn pointed out that the situation indicated in the dream, "Is tragic."[10]

THE SPIRITUAL MEANING OF THE ALLEGORY

The Church is indeed married to Christ; but the Bridegroom has been taken away (Matthew 9:15); this is beautifully symbolized here by the absence of the Shepherd. The mistreatment of the maiden stands for the persecutions, hatred, and bitterness of the world against the Bride of Christ (His Church). Her being wounded speaks of the martyrdoms of the faithful. The maiden's crying after her beloved speaks of the fidelity of the Church to the Christ in his absence. We hardly need to be reminded that, "We must with many tribulations enter into the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22)."

The function of this dream in the narrative is thus clear enough. It speaks of the absence of the bridegroom, and the certainty of his identity with the Shepherd. Did not Christ say, "I am the Good Shepherd." Any alleged absence of Solomon here is an absurdity. It is the Good Shepherd who is in heaven where He is absent from the Church, his earthly bride.

Cook mentioned the Jewish understanding of the dream as a symbol of, "Israel's condition in the Babylonian captivity, when the glories and privileges of Solomon's Temple were no more."[11] Some Christian interpreters saw the bride's sleep as the lethargy and indolence of the Church following the Great Persecutions."[12] Pope also mentioned a scholar (Gordis) who took the whole passage from Song of Solomon 5:2-6:3 as a dream song.[13] That would classify the whole passage as a dream and also ease some of the difficulties of interpretation. "Any absurdity can happen in a dream"! Nevertheless, we go along with Cook on this. He said of verse 8, "The bride wakes up here."[14]

The following somewhat lengthy paragraph reaching through Song of Solomon 6:3 is interpreted by Jewish writers as, "An allegory of Israel in captivity praising God, `by the waters of Babylon.' Christian interpreters apply it directly to the Incarnate Son of God."[15]

Verse 9

"What is thy beloved more than another beloved,

O thou fairest among women?

What is thy beloved more than another beloved,

Thou that dost so adjure us?"

This verse is an introduction to the paragraph that follows. It was prompted by the maiden's extravagant praise of her absent shepherd lover in the previous lines and her urgent request for their aid in finding him. These words may be paraphrased, "Why don't you tell us what is so special about your lover? If the maiden's lover had been Solomon (which he certainly was not), then she would have said: "He is the richest man on earth; he is the all-powerful king; he has 40,000 horses; all nations pay him tribute; he has the most luxurious harem you ever saw, etc. etc." There's not a word in the maiden's song here that suggests any such things.

The question, asked by "The Daughters of Jerusalem" is apparently that of the women in Solomon's harem (remember that in a dream anything is possible). Whoever they were, the question simply cannot refer to Solomon as the lover they invited the maiden to praise. THOSE WOMEN ALREADY KNEW ALL ABOUT SOLOMON! Here are the words of the bride:

Verse 10

"My beloved is white and ruddy,

The chiefest among ten thousand.

His head is as the most fine gold;

His locks are bushy, and black as a raven.

His eyes are like doves beside the water-brooks,

Washed with milk, and fitly set.

His cheeks are as a bed of spices,

As banks of sweet herbs: His lips are as lilies, dropping liquid myrrh.

His hands are as rings of gold set with beryl:

His body is as ivory work overlaid with sapphires.

His legs are as pillars of marble, set with sockets of fine gold:

His aspect is like Lebanon, excellent as the cedars.

His mouth is most sweet;

Yea, he is altogether lovely.

This is my beloved, and this is my friend,

O daughters of Jerusalem."

There is another description of Christ the Holy One in Revelation 1:12-16 which resembles this one in many ways, in spite of their differences. There is absolutely nothing in either of the descriptions that may be applied to things sensual, vulgar or sexual. The glory of them both is that they declare the supreme value and eternity of the lover. The mention of the lover's being "white" suggests his purity and holiness, exactly the same as did "his hair white as snow" in the Revelation account. Another similarity occurs in the supreme emphasis of the lover's words (his teaching), appearing here in the mention of "lips" and "mouth," and in the Apocalypse as "the sharp sword" in his mouth.

Any attempt to find a line by line reference in this passage to any human being would tend to eroticism, "And would do an injustice to the text."[16] In their ultimate application, they cannot refer to a human being at all but to Him who has "Sat down upon the right hand of the Majesty on High."

The thought here is concluded in the first three verses of the following chapter.

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 5". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/song-of-solomon-5.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.