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Bible Commentaries

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

Song of Solomon 3

Verses 1-5

The Engagement (Scene 2: The Shulamite’s House) (Separation or Sanctification) Literal Interpretation - The second song (Song of Solomon 2:8 to Song of Solomon 3:5) reflects the season of engagement, or betrothal, that takes place in a relationship of growing love. In the African culture the wife brings her lover to her parent’s home and introduces him. This event is called an introduction, and a man is free to take her to his home at any time afterwards. However, in the Middle Eastern culture this event is considered the betrothal that precedes the wedding. In the opening scene (Song of Solomon 2:8-15) the Shulamite hears the voice of her beloved woos her and asking for her love. In Song of Solomon 2:16 to Song of Solomon 3:5 we have the Shulamite’s response to her lover’s call. She accepts (Song of Solomon 2:16-17) and then experiences the pain that results from being separated from the person who is about to become her husband (Song of Solomon 3:1-5). Love becomes so strong that it even becomes difficult to sleep at night. At this point in love’s journey she has not entered into rest.

Figurative Interpretation The second song opens with the Shulamite being wooed from her bed rest by her lover. Figuratively speaking, this song represents the call of the Lord for a believer to separate himself from the world and sanctify himself as one who is betrothed to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2). Within the context of Songs, a believer’s call to sanctification is described as someone who is called apart for communion with God. This time of separation is important for every believer. We see in the life of Moses that he stayed in the desert forty years before entering in to divine service. Paul the apostle spent three years in Arabia before serving the Lord. Queen Esther spend one year separating herself and preparing herself to be presented before the king and to serve him.

If a believer stays at the king’s banqueting table and never grows in devotion the Lord, then his love will never be tested as genuine. For example, when David fled Jerusalem because of Absalom, many of his servants join in this rebellion. These servants had fed at the king’s table for years; but their heart was not with the king. The rebellion served as a test of David’s servants. Love must be tested, and this is what God is doing by calling us from our place of rest. He is testing our devotion to Him.

We find another example in the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve were feasting in God’s blessings in the Garden. In order to test their love and devotion to Him, God gave them one commandment to avoid the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Unfortunately, Adam and Eve yielded to their own fleshly desires and disobeyed God’s command and failed the test of love.

Outline - Note the proposed outline of this section:

1. Scene 1 A Time of Courtship Song of Solomon 2:8-17

a) The Bridegroom’s Call Song of Solomon 2:8-15

b) The Bride’s Response Song of Solomon 2:16-17

2. Scene 2 - Love is Tested Song of Solomon 3:1-5

Historical Background of Oriental Betrothal The next stage of love is the period of engagement, which is symbolized in Song of Solomon 2:8 to Song of Solomon 3:5. The oriental Jewish culture called it “betrothal.” John Gill, in his comments on Matthew 1:18, gives us the account and manner of the Jewish custom of betrothing by quoting Maimonides:

“Before the giving of the law, if a man met a woman in the street, if he would, he might take her, and bring her into his house and marry her between him and herself, and she became his wife; but when the law was given, the Israelites were commanded, that if a man would take a woman he should obtain her before witnesses, and after that she should be his wife, according to Deuteronomy 22:13 and these takings are an affirmative command of the law, and are called אירוסין או קידושין ‘espousals’ or ‘betrothings’ in every place; and a woman who is obtained in such a way is called מאורסת או מקודשת ‘espoused’ or ‘betrothed’; and when a woman is obtained, and becomes מקודשת ”espoused”, although she is not yet נבעלה ‘married, nor has entered into her husband’s house’, yet she is a man’s wife.” ( Mishneh Torah, vol 16: Hilchot Ishot c.1.sect. 1,2,3) [124]

[124] John Gill, Matthew, in John Gill’s Expositor, in e-Sword, v. 7.7.7 [CD-ROM] (Franklin, Tennessee: e-Sword, 2000-2005), comments on Matthew 1:18.

Deuteronomy 22:13, “If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her,”

Albert Barnes says that the Jewish custom was to have an interval of ten to twelve months between the contract for marriage, or betrothal, and the actual wedding. During this interval, the virgin was betrothed, or espoused, to her future husband. This engagement was as strong as the marriage itself. [125]

[125] Albert Barnes, The Gospel According to Matthew, in Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database (Seattle, WA: Hendrickson Publishers Inc., 1997), in P.C. Study Bible, v. 3.1 [CD-ROM] (Seattle, WA: Biblesoft Inc., 1993-2000), comments on Matthew 1:18.

In Deuteronomy 22:22-29, the Law of Moses considered a virgin who has been betrothed to a man as being bound under the same laws as a wife. If another man lay with such a betrothed virgin, then death is the penalty. If the virgin is not betrothed when a man lays with her, then the penalty is weakened to a monetary fine. The only way that this relationship between a man and his betrothed virgin can be broken is by a writing of divorce, since he was considered her husband (Matthew 1:19).

Deuteronomy 22:23-24, “If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour's wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.”

Matthew 1:19, “Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.”

We see the strength and bond of the act of betrothal in the story of Jacob and Laban. After seven years of labor, Jacob demanded his “wife” from Laban, her father (Genesis 29:21).

Genesis 29:21, “And Jacob said unto Laban, Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in unto her.”

Verses 6-11

The Wedding (Scene 3: The Wedding Processional, Wedding Festival, and Wedding Chamber) (Communion, or Full Consecration to Christ [Divine Service]) Literal Interpretation - Many scholars see in Song of Solomon 3:6 to Song of Solomon 5:1 the symbolism of the wedding ceremony between the bridegroom and the bride. We have the wedding procession described in Song of Solomon 3:6-11, followed by the wedding song of the bridegroom singing to the bride (Song of Solomon 4:1-15), with the exchange of wedding vows in Song of Solomon 4:16 to Song of Solomon 5:1.

Figurative Interpretation Figuratively speaking, this third song represents the phase in a believer’s spiritual journey when he/she gives oneself entirely to God and receives a divine commission to serve Him. Within the context of Songs, a believer’s call to divine service is described as a bride who gives up her people and will and gives herself entirely to her new husband. We now belong to Jesus, our will yielded to His plan and purpose for our lives in divine service.

A good example of this phase of loving God with all of our heart is seen in Acts 13:0, when Paul and Barnabas were sent on their first missionary journey, although Paul had been evangelizing the regions of Syria and Cilicia for over a decade. We see Anna, the prophetess, serving the Lord day and night in the Temple. She moved into this level of love when she entered the full-time ministry of prayer and intercession in the Temple. Another example is seen in the life of Abraham, when he left his family and went to the land of Canaan. Another example is seen in the life of Joseph when he was exalted over Egypt to serve that nation.

Outline - Note the proposed outline of this section:

1. Scene 1- The Wedding Processional Song of Solomon 3:6-11

2. Scene 2 - The Wedding Ceremony Song of Solomon 4:1 to Song of Solomon 5:1

a) The Wedding Song Song of Solomon 4:1-15

i) The Bride’s Beauty Song of Solomon 4:1-7

ii) The Request for Marriage Song of Solomon 4:8

iii) The Bridegroom’s Love Song of Solomon 4:9-10

iv) The Bride’s Purity Song of Solomon 4:11-15

b) The Wedding Vows Song of Solomon 4:16 to Song of Solomon 5:1

The Wedding Contrasted with the Adulteress in Proverbs We can contrast this holy wedding ceremony of the bride and the groom with the act seduction between the adulteress and the naïve young man in Proverbs 7:1-27. The adulteress woos her victims by presenting herself in seductive clothing (Proverbs 7:9-12), while the bride arrives in all of her beauty and glory (Song of Solomon 3:6-11). While the bridegroom sings a love song to his bride (Song of Solomon 4:1-15), the adulteress romances her victim with words of seduction (Proverbs 7:13-20). Finally, the wedding is consummated with marriage vows (Song of Solomon 4:16 to Song of Solomon 5:1), while the adulteress lures her victim into the bed of adultery with vain promises (Proverbs 7:21-23). The outcome of the marriage bed is rest and fulfillment of God’s divine plan for two individuals, while the outcome of adultery is destruction.

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Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 3". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghe/song-of-solomon-3.html. 2013.