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Bible Commentaries
Song of Solomon 1

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

Verse 1

Son 1:1

Song of Solomon 1:1

The maiden here stands for all mankind before the coming of Christ. Her longing for her true love to come and take her away from that evil, hopeless place stands for the longing of all righteous people for the coming of the Messiah. The criticism of the harem women stands for the hatred of the world for those who desire to serve God. The maiden’s unhappiness in the harem shows the inability of the secular world to satisfy our souls.

Song of Solomon 1:1

"The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s."

It is stated in 1 Kings 4:32 that Solomon wrote a thousand and five songs; yet only one of them is found in the Bible; and through the ages there have often been questions as to whether or not this one really belongs in the Canon. Most of the interpretations (especially the allegorical explanations) are clearly designed to justify the presence of this book in the Bible; and the utter inability of the scholars of two thousand years to reach an even approximate agreement on what the book teaches leaves the question unanswered.

The only reason that this writer accepts the Song of Solomon’s place in the Holy Bible is that God Himself commissioned Israel to be the trustees of "the oracles of God" (Romans 3:2); and there can be no doubt that the unchallenged opinion of ancient Israel placed it there (in the Canon). Could Israel have made a mistake in this instance? Even if they did (and we do not charge that they did) make a mistake in this matter, it is of no consequence in reference to their major assignment of recognizing, receiving and advocating the worldwide acceptance of the Messiah in his First Advent. In the person of the holy Apostles of Christ and the righteous remnant of the apostate Israel, they gloriously achieved that assignment.

Nevertheless, the vast majority of Israel was blind in their loving adoration of Solomon; and they considered his evil kingdom a type of the Kingdom of God that the Messiah would organize when he came. They desired nothing, either in heaven or on earth, any more than the restoration of that reprobate kingdom of Solomon; and the only reason they crucified Christ came from their recognition that Jesus Christ would never restore anything like Solomon’s kingdom. There is a possibility, although we do not see it as a fact, that Israel might have included in the Bible one of Solomon’s 1,005 songs merely because of their infatuation. We cannot answer this question, nor can we deny the existence of it.

As we explore what the text says, the reader must make up his own mind.

The literal words here are erotic; of that, there is not any doubt.

This verse is a form of expressing the superlative. Like holy of holies or Lord of Lords or King of Kings. Of the many songs that Solomon wrote (one thousand and five, 1 Kings 4:32) this is the best. We are eager to learn of its superlative value.

Verses 2-4

Son 1:2-4

Song of Solomon 1:2-4

"Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth;

For thy love is better than wine.

Thine oils have a goodly fragrance;

Thy name is as oil poured fourth;

Therefore do the virgins love thee.

Draw me; we will run after thee:

The king hath brought me into his chambers;

We will be glad and rejoice in thee;

We will make mention of thy love more than wine:

Rightly do they love thee."

"Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth" (Song of Solomon 1:1). "The scene here is in the women’s chamber of the royal house. The young bride sings of her love for Solomon. In passionate romantic terms, she praises the man she loves. The `oils’ (Song of Solomon 1:3) are those with which the king anoints himself. His name is as refreshing and soothing as oil.” That is one way of viewing the passage.

Balchin understood it this way: "A number of different persons speak here. The Shulamite, a young innocent from the country, has been thrust into the king’s harem. She is not at home. The over sensuous words of the women grate on her sensitive ears. As they see the king approaching, they long for the touch of his lips on theirs. The women are talking to one another about the king. Your `love’ (plural in the Hebrew) means caresses ... `wine.’ An apt description of the intoxicating effect of caressing and kissing.”

"Your name is oil poured out" (Song of Solomon 1:3). "There is a play on words here. In Hebrew, `name’ is [~shem] and `oils’ is semen.” Waddey writes that, "His name was as refreshing and soothing as oil upon wind-burnt skin.”

"St. Gregory, seeking some meaning beyond the words, wrote that, `Every precept of Christ is as one of his kisses."

"Draw me. We will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers; we will be glad and rejoice in thee" (Song of Solomon 1:4). "The Shulamite speaks here.” She longs for her shepherd lover; and although he is not present, she pleads for him to come and take her away. The better version here reads: "Draw me after you, let us make haste. The king has brought me into his chambers.” This version fully supports the "two lovers" interpretation. Note that the "us" in this place refers to the Shulamite’s true lover; and the third person reference to the king in the same breath means that the king is not her beloved.

"The king has brought me into his chambers" (Song of Solomon 1:4). The king’s chambers here are those of the king’s harem.

"Let us make haste" (Song of Solomon 1:4). There was always an extended period of waiting before a woman taken into the harem was brought into the king’s presence (Esther 2:12). The Shulamite pleaded for her lover to take her away before she would be compelled to go to the bed of Solomon.

"We will be glad and rejoice in thee" (Song of Solomon 1:4). Scholars agree that these are the words of the women in the harem. Waddey found them to mean that, "They shared her joy for her new found love, and they loved her as well.” Such love in a king’s harem for a new member of his seraglio seems to this writer totally contrary to the mutual hatred among the women, such as that which we have always understood to be characteristic of such godless places.

In the Shulamite’s plea for her true love to come in a hurry and take her away, we have a glimpse of, "True loyal love shining through the lust of this court scene (the harem).”

Our purpose and attitude toward this book should be threefold: (1) To give as careful an exegesis of the text as possible. We are concerned about every word in the Song of Solomon and its meaning! (2) The application of the text to the husband-wife relationship. We believe this book can become a veritable marriage manual in the area of love that should and can exist between those who are married. (3) As much as we need help in our day for our shakey marriages, we need more help in establishing a deep union and communion with our Lord. We shall relate the text to the mutual love between the believer and his Lord.

Exegesis

By reading Song of Solomon 6:12-13 we conclude the Shulammite maid was kidnapped—perhaps willingly, by the servants of Solomon. She was taken to the palace of King Solomon. Perhaps this palace was one of his northern summer houses—or was it at Jerusalem? At least there is a garden present with a latticework trellis. It is springtime. She is confined to the King’s inner chambers. The women of the court or “daughters of Jerusalem” surround her. When the impact of what has happened hits her she cries out in deep longing for her betrothed—“Let him kiss me with his mouth; for his love is better than wine.” Even the wines of Solomon cannot make her forget her beloved. In memory and imagination she can remember the fragrance of his presence. We would compare such fragrance to cologne used by both men and women of our day. The thought of his familiar fragrance prompts her to epitomize the total personality of her betrothed with the symbolism of the fragrance of his oil poured forth—“Thy name is as oil poured forth.” In her soliloquy she is saying—“You are as attractive to me in your personality as the cologne is to my sense of smell.”

What is meant by the phrase, “therefore do the virgins love thee”? We see the Shulammite dreaming of her wedding day. All her girlfriends who share with her in the wedding party also share her estimate of the groom. These virgins love the shepherd, not, of course, in the same relationship as the bride—but they understand the beauty of his character and appearance and therefore admire him greatly.

The girl from Shunem asks the groom to indicate by some word or gesture that he wants her with him (i.e., “draw me out”)—only a slight indication and “we shall come running.” We can see the girls and the bride of the wedding party frolicking on the green meadows of northern Galilee. All of this is fanticized in the mind of the maiden as she waits in the King’s chambers. She is waiting for a wedding—but not with Solomon. The king wants her to rejoice and be glad in him and all the things he can give her. The Shulammite assures her far off lover that her heart is with him—her joy is in him—she will tell the daughters of Jerusalem of her true lover—she will speak of him to them of his endearing charms.

Marriage

All husbands would be delighted to have a wife who loved them as this maiden loved her betrothed. And perhaps at one time such love existed as a mutual deep affection. What happened? Well, no perfume lasts forever—or very long at all. If we refer to only a surface put-on physical attraction we are sure this is true. But if it is true hidden fragrance of the man of the heart we are just as sure that such fragrance will not leave or change. Your wife has always wanted you with your kisses. Yes, she wants your kisses but not without you. The sense of smell has more power in it for recall than any of the other senses. We all associate some pleasant experience or the opposite with some fragrance. Today, we with tears remember, as we catch again the fragrance of yesterday—how poignant and sad. What has changed? Not the perfume—but what it represented. There is only One who can give any of us a lasting fragrant personality. Please notice that the words concerning other women and their admiration of the husband are in the mouth of his wife—not in his. She knows her husband is attractive to other women and she is ready to admit it—not out of fear, but admiration. She is confident and secure in his love for her. She does suggest to her husband-to-be that she has an interest in expressing her love—but it is the shepherd who draws her out. The expression of not only physical love but all love in the husband-wife relationship is reciprocal. Many husbands would be pleasantly surprised to know how very often their name is mentioned in conversation shared by their wife among other women. Your wife wants to rejoice and be glad not only in your presence but in her constant pleasant memory of your presence. There is a lovely intoxicating quality in a true love affair—and it does not last for only a brief day, it is the continuing of the love of marriage where giving and not getting is the center.

Communion

Is it difficult for you to relate these words to yourself as the bride of Christ and to Him also as the groom? Or more to the point—can you relate them to yourself as the betrothed and our Lord as the One to whom you are promised? We are not suggesting that everyone will emotionally respond to what they can remember of their Beloved. Many believers have not spent time enough in the gospel accounts to get personally acquainted with the beautiful One there revealed. Is it at all possible to fall passionately in love with Jesus of Nazareth who is the God of love in human form? Perhaps we should ask—if we do not love Him deeply from the heart what has prevented it? Do we expect from Him a relationship in which our senses will respond to His near, dear presence? The words from His lips are found in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These words are expressions of love to us—when we read them as such we cannot prevent emotional response—when we “abide” in His words we are moved emotionally. We are NOT saying this is our only response to His words—but we are saying this is one of our responses!

“The Lord Jesus excels in all the fragrant graces of a perfect character.” (Clarke) To become so intimately involved with Him in an appreciation of His character and His sacrifice on our behalf is better than wine. Can we say the joys we experience in our knowledge of Him creates a sensation (based on our knowledge) better than the physical inebriating capacity of wine? These are mere poetic words without meaning to those who have never hungered and thirsted after Him (who is our righteousness).

Jesus was “the anointed of God”—He was thus anointed with the Holy Spirit at His baptism. (Acts 10:38) The Holy anointing oil of the Old Testament was a combination of lovely fragrances (Cf. Exodus 30:22-25). The name of a person stands for or represents the person himself—His name is “The Anointed One”—He is even as His name—fragrant in beauty beyond human description.

We are glad to affirm that our Lord has many, many times drawn us out in our love for Him. If we want His love He will provide the circumstance in which we can find it. You will find His love revealed in His word and in your meditation and prayer before Him. Do you want to spend time with your beloved? Ask Him—he will draw you out by arranging your schedule in such a manner that whereas you had no time or place—then suddenly there it is!—When He has shown us the way, are we ready to run in it? Taking delight in the Lord is a cultivated capacity. Wine and its enjoyments is here contrasted with our Lord and His enjoyments. Which will it be? We cannot kiss two people at the same time.

Verses 5-7

Son 1:5-7

Song of Solomon 1:5-7

THE SHULAMITE RESPONDS TO CONTEMPTUOUS CRITICISM

"I am black but comely,

O ye daughters of Jerusalem,

As the tents of Kedar,

As the curtains of Solomon.

Look not upon me, because I am swarthy,

Because the sun hath scorched me.

My mother’s sons were incensed against me:

They made me keeper of the vineyards;

But mine own vineyard have I not kept.

Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth,

Where thou feedest thy flock,

Where thou makest it to rest at noon;

For why should I be as one that is veiled

Beside the flocks of thy companions?"

This paragraph tells us the identity of the Shulamite’s true love. He is a shepherd, not the king of Israel. No stretch of imagination can make a shepherd out of Solomon. Furthermore, the hostility and cruelty of the harem appear here. "The newcomer is subjected to their contemptuous, jealous looks.”

"I am black but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem" (Song of Solomon 1:5). That the Shulamite here apologizes for her dark sun-tan indicates that the pale, hot-house victims of the harem had heaped their scorn and criticism upon her.

These words have led some to suppose that the Shulamite was a Negro; "But the parallel line tells us plainly the meaning, `I am swarthy’; therefore, she was apologizing for her dark sun-tan.” The balance of the paragraph explains how the sun-tan came about. Her brothers had compelled her to work outdoors. Thus she could not keep her "own vineyard." What did she mean by that?

"My own vineyard have I not kept" (Song of Solomon 1:6). Bunn interpreted this to mean that, "The Shulamite had not kept her own chastity.” Cook saw it as a reference to, "the care and cultivation of her own beauty." Pope affirmed that, "The reference is to the maiden’s body, especially her sexual parts.” Cook’s opinion is by far the preferable understanding of it. To accept the other views would mean that the Shulamite here confessed her status either as an adulteress or as a prostitute.

"Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest thy flock?" (Song of Solomon 1:7). If this text has any meaning at all, it means that the Shulamite’s true lover was a shepherd. Only by the abuse of figurative language can this be applied to Solomon. The implication of this is that the absent lover was feeding his flock in some place unknown to the Shulamite. Solomon was not absent; he was not feeding a flock, and his place was well known to everyone in Jerusalem. Solomon is not in this at all.

Exegesis

We much prefer the translations which suggest the maid to be “dark” or “sunburnt.” Perhaps she becomes somewhat self-conscious of her darker complexion as she mingles among the secluded bleached out women of Solomon’s harem. “The tents of Kedar” refers to dwelling places of the descendants of Ishmael who roamed the deserts of northwestern Arabia. Their tents were made of black goats’ hair. Such tents are still in use today in several parts of Israel and Arabia. The cloth is a close-weave and waterproof.

The tapestries of Solomon were those beautiful hangings used in the temple and many of the royal buildings. The rich colors and embroidery work made them a topic of conversation throughout the land.

This maiden offers to all maidens after her a grand example of proper self-image. She quite candidly recognizes both her limitations and potential. She is less than perfect but she is valuable and comely. She offers this evaluation of herself before she hears from “the daughters of Jerusalem.”

Peer group pressure has not been suddenly discovered by our generation. If we do not dress alike or comb our hair alike we are scrutinized with a critical eye. The Shulammite was different. She explains her appearance. We do not feel there is veiled criticism in the phrase “my mother’s sons,” it is but another way of identifying her brothers. Why did they send her out into the hot sun to work the vineyard? They were upset with her for some reason. Perhaps it was her shepherd lover. Maybe they felt she was too young. It would seem they wished to remove her from the family home. She was busy all day in the vineyard and perhaps stayed in a near shelter at night. Such is only conjecture and we must leave it there. The reference to “mine own vineyard” refers to her complexion and grooming, which was in strong contrast to what she saw in the pavilion of Solomon.

Marriage Song of Solomon 1:5-6

As we have observed above: the woman who knows her limitations and does not feel inferior, the one who recognizes her comeliness and is yet not proud will make an ideal wife and mother. It is so important that such an attitude be expressed and maintained among other women. This will not be an easy task. Perhaps we should be reminded that family influence will carry over into marriage relationships. How the wife treated her brothers might be similar to her treatment of her husband. We detect no resentment in the explanation of the treatment she received from her brothers.

Communion Song of Solomon 1:5-6

The Christian is indeed “black but comely.” We do not refer to an inward blackness of sin from Adam’s transgression, but of the effects of external influences upon him. Because he has responded to “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the pride of life” (1 John 2:15-17) he has entered the blackness of death in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1 ff). But he is also very comely—he is created in the image of God and has all the potential of a child of heaven. He can be made whiter than snow; he can be raised out of his death into new life (Colossians 3:1 ff). Among the “daughters of Jerusalem” the Christian must maintain his integrity. He is a sinner like those about him, but God so loved him that he is now the comely child of God. We all have a strong tendency to either think too much of ourselves and emphasize our comeliness or deprecate ourselves unnecessarily and remember how black we are. We can say in genuine humility—“I am a black sinner made comely by grace.” We could see a comparison in the action of the brothers of this text to our fellow sinners. They have had an influence upon us and we could blame our sinning upon them. A little thought will let us both know that we were the ones outwardly responsible. In this same context we can say we were so busy in the affairs of this world we never even considered what tragic influence it was having upon our standing before God.

Exegesis Song of Solomon 1:7

In her imagination the maiden has left the chambers of the King. She is out again in the open fields of her home in northern Canaan. She can see her beloved shepherd with his flock. She wants to sit down with him at the same oasis at noon. She longs for his personal interest and concern for her, so she simulates a situation where he can express his concern and show personal interest. “Suppose I cannot find his flock, and I must wander across the fields from flock to flock? What will the companion shepherds of my beloved think of me? The obvious conclusion would be that I am a prostitute in search of business. Do not let me be thus misrepresented—it is the anti-thesis of my true self. Help me!”

Marriage Song of Solomon 1:7

There is much to learn in this one verse. Women are given to day-dreaming—witness the immense popularity of the afternoon soap operas on TV. But contrary to what men believe they are not dreaming about men as such—but about the love and concern men should have for women. Yes, the maiden wanted to be with the shepherd—longed earnestly to see him. But for what reason? So he might take an interest and show personal concern for her. This is not primarily an erotic interest but a total-person interest. It is the nature of your wife to seek protection and help.

Communion Song of Solomon 1:7

Surely we can address our Lord with the words of this verse: “O thou whom my soul loveth.” Far more than a mere academic relationship exists between the bride and the eternal shepherd. The two works of the shepherd are the two needs of our soul: food and rest. We can observe other sheep who are fed and rested. We long for this same relationship. Our request will not go unanswered. There is food and rest for anyone who will come unto Him—take upon him His yoke—he shall find rest and will be led into the green pastures.

Other shepherds have flocks—we have often wandered among these flocks and found neither food nor rest.

Verse 8

Son 1:8

Song of Solomon 1:8

THE IRONIC RETORT OF THE HAREM WOMEN

"If thou know not, O thou fairest among women,

Go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock,

And feed thy kids beside the shepherds’ tents."

"This verse contains the response of the chorus." What chorus? The scene here is that of Solomon’s harem. These had overheard her soliloquy, longing to find her true love; and their ironic and contemptuous answer is in this verse. "Let her go and find him for herself. `Go back to your shepherd life’; feed the kids by a shepherd’s tent." In jest, they referred to her, "O thou fairest among women"! One can almost hear their sadistic laughter. "If thou know not," these words carry the sneer that, "If you are such an ignoramus as to prefer life with a shepherd to what you will get here, go ahead. Go back to your lover."

Exegesis Song of Solomon 1:8

It would seem the ladies of the court would be glad to be rid of their rival. “If you want your shepherd lover—go find him,” they seem to say. It is impossible to shine as light and not reflect upon the darkness. The simple expression “I am comely” is here exaggerated to mean “the fairest of women.” Perhaps the women of the harem would reflect Solomon’s attitude. They are expressing in jealousy his estimate of the newest arrival. What a humble task is suggested to the potential bride of King Solomon. Women were given the task of caring for the newborn of the flock. We see in the sarcastic words of these women a humble peasant girl leading a little flock of young sheep or goats across the far reaches of the hills of Galilee. With difficulty she directs them to the protection of the shepherds’ booths.

Marriage Song of Solomon 1:8

“All who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” II Timothy. Girls who accept our Lord as their life-style will without question stand out among women without Christ as the Shulammite in the court of Solomon. They can expect the same treatment. A Christian true to her Lord is looked upon by many as being both weak and ignorant. Many times your presence will be an embarrassment to others and they will wish you were gone. Please notice that there is no response from the maid. Light, truth and love need no defense, they will speak for themselves by their nature. At the same time, we need to remind husbands that all battles for our Lord are not fought nor won in the environment of their jobs and friends.

Communion Song of Solomon 1:8

A happy relationship with your wife or husband is the very best protection against illicit sex. It is only where we are vulnerable that words of criticism touch us. When our Lord is as real to us in our imagination as the shepherd was to this shepherdess we will be able to turn a deaf ear to reproach—yea, more, we can rejoice in it for we are sharing the proper response to His likeness in us. Our job is humble compared to some. Our work is always humble as compared with anyone. Humility is our garment. Are we to resist likeness to our Lord? The Great Shepherd’s task was the lead and feed sheep—young and old. We hear Him say to us as He did to Peter—“feed my sheep—feed my lambs.” (John 21:15 ff)

Verses 9-11

Son 1:9-11

Song of Solomon 1:9-11

SOLOMON WOOS THE SHULAMITE WITHOUT RESPONSE

(See Song of Solomon 1:9 to Song of Solomon 2:2)

"I have compared thee, O my love,

To a steed in Pharaoh’s chariots.

Thy cheeks are comely with plaits of hair,

Thy neck with strings of jewels.

We will make thee plaits of gold

With studs of silver."

The big deal here is that Solomon will load the Shulamite down with expensive jewelry. His comparison of her to a horse (presumably a mare) hooked up to one of Pharaoh’s chariots reveals the sensual nature of Solomon. Every woman, in his sight, was merely an animal, a real slick, beautifully groomed animal, of course. This writer cannot imagine any man who would take a thousand women to his bed as having any other view of the true value of womanhood.

Exegesis Song of Solomon 1:9-11

The comparison here made by Solomon was a very acceptable compliment or it would have not been given. To horse-lovers today it is not difficult to see comparable qualities. The effortless grace of an Arabian horse could be very much like similar movements on the part of a beautiful maid. Solomon and many men since have been connoisseurs of the movements of both horses and women. The perfect symmetry of both is another obvious likeness. The word “horses” used here suggest a mare horse which makes the comparison even closer. We must not overlook the tremendous value placed on horses from Egypt. (Cf. 1 Kings 4:26; 1 Kings 10:28). It is of some interest to point out that the expression “my love” used by Solomon means literally “companion” or “female friend”—it is used twice by Solomon—here and in Song of Solomon 6:4. He is not necessarily deprecating her and refusing to marry her, for the shepherd uses the same word seven times (Cf. Song of Solomon 1:15; Song of Solomon 2:2; Song of Solomon 2:10 Song of Solomon 2:13; Song of Solomon 4:1; Song of Solomon 4:7; Song of Solomon 5:2). We know Solomon’s intentions were to add her to his already large harem. This was not the purpose of the Shepherd.

Solomon is now using his imagination—he sees the charming maid with a headdress holding two rows of jewels which decorate either side of her face. How beautifully do those dangling rows of jewels set off your cheeks. Perhaps this rustic country maid has around her neck a simple inexpensive necklace—it will be replaced with a brilliant expensive gold one. Solomon wants to overwhelm and impress her with his promises. There is nothing personal in what he says—any beautiful girl would fit the description given here—it probably is not the first time he used it. The phrase “ornaments of gold with beads of silver,” is difficult to visualize. Moffett translated it “We will have golden beads strung around you, studded with silver.” These were not idle promises—they were backed by all the wealth of a billionaire—but how empty of personal interest! Solomon is due for a shock.

Marriage Song of Solomon 1:9-11

How would your wife respond to such flattery? We would all like to believe they would be as impervious as the maid from Shunem. We want to assume our wife would not be interested in gold and silver. Her head would not be turned by extravagant words of praise. But if we have long ago left her for other interests she has since felt bereft of personal concern and appreciation. She has built up a deep hunger for appreciation—if such appreciation (however false) is tied into a solid financial gain who is to say what would happen? Please do not say “this cannot happen to me,” it is happening today in a thousand homes. And with offers far less attractive than the one offered by Solomon. Our wives must feel that we believe they are both beautiful and valuable. If they are not, why did we marry them?

Communion Song of Solomon 1:9-11

Put these words in the mouth of Satan as he makes his offers to each of the members of the bride of Christ. These words all have a physical, sensual association. We want to appear acceptable if not beautiful in the eyes of men. For someone to tell us we appear to them as graceful and strong as some beautiful woman or handsome man could indeed get our attention. If while holding our attention an offer of a large sum of money is tied to the compliment we might give more than attention. Why? Because our image of grace and beauty is found in the person of man. The heroine of this love song was not at the least interested. Why? Because the beauty she saw in her shepherd and the value she found in his presence was far more than all Solomon (Satan) could offer her. Until our relationship with our Lord becomes far more personal and real than it usually is we will be tempted to join the harem.

Verses 12-14

Son 1:12-14

Song of Solomon 1:12-14

THE SHULAMITE’S NEGATIVE RESPONSE

"While the king sat at his table,

My spikenard sent forth its fragrance.

My beloved is to me as a bundle of myrrh,

That lieth betwixt my breasts.

My beloved is unto me as a cluster of henna-flowers in the vineyards of Engedi."

"While the king sat at his table" (Song of Solomon 1:12). This means, "in the king’s absence." He was either eating "at his table" or conducting the affairs of state. In the meanwhile, the Shulamite maiden possessed a small box of a very precious ointment which she carried between her breasts, reminding her continually of her real lover. Her imagination was not stirred at all by Solomon’s promise of gold jewelry; instead her mind went back to a bouquet of henna-flowers from the vineyards of Engedi, which had most likely come to her from her shepherd lover. The origin of that gift of flowers points to the true lover, not to Solomon. Scholars dispute it; but we see these as wild flowers.

Exegesis Song of Solomon 1:12

The King has made all the provisions necessary for the contemplated wedding—or entrance into his harem. The prospective bride (or mistress) is bathed and perfumed with the rare and expensive fragrance of spikenard such as those used in Oriental courts. Such perfume was made from a plant grown in India and was imported for this purpose. Even as she speaks she can catch the impact of her wedding preparations through her olfactory sense.

If Solomon set his table for this maid as he did at other occasions this must have been an impressive feast. Read 1 Kings 4:22-27; 1 Kings 10:21 to visualize Solomon’s menu. Read also Mark 14:3 for a reference to the same perfume lavished upon our Lord by a woman in Bethany whose name was Mary. Cf. John 12:3. The fragrance filled the room—at Bethany as it did at the table of Solomon.

Marriage Song of Solomon 1:12

At least Solomon was aware of the need to pay attention to the person of his prospective bride. It was much more important to her than to him. He could love one more wife without perfume—but she would not be as responsive to him. We must first of all make it very clear that we love the person of our wife before we make any identity with her body. But it is important that she know we want her total self. The atmosphere is almost as important as the action to our wife.

Communion Song of Solomon 1:12

I have thought a number of times that the perfume of the scripture could accompany our reading and meditation on His word and could of themselves contribute an atmosphere of peace and relaxation necessary to total concentration. We are not suggesting such is essential but we are saying the environment of meditation and memorization is important. While the prince of this earth reclines with his friends shall we enjoy the fragrance of His presence?

Exegesis Song of Solomon 1:13-14

The term “my beloved” here used twice by the bride-to-be is used by her twenty-five times—each time in reference to her shepherd-lover (Clarke). This is a beautiful metaphor—but what does it mean? Are we to believe she is treasuring the bundle of myrrh left with her by her beloved? To keep his presence near, does she often lift his sachet of fragrance from her bosom to overpower the scent of the spikenard? It is interesting to contemplate—especially when we know that myrrh carries a bitter-sweet association. It is sweet in fragrance but bitter to the taste. We do associate certain persons with certain fragrances. She can turn in her sleep and catch a breath of myrrh and smile as she thinks not of Solomon, but of her shepherd.

Henna flowers were sometimes white and sometimes of pastel color of very light brown to beige. They were fragrant and most popular as flowers for the hair. In the far-off oasis of En-gedi in the desert by the Dead Sea has my love gathered the most beautiful and fragrant of these lovely blooms—he left a cluster of them with me just before I was stolen away by Solomon. More precious to me are his flowers than all the riches of Solomon.

Marriage Song of Solomon 1:13-14

If we have not fairly represented the captive of Solomon’s chambers we do hope there is somewhere a girl like this—what a wife she would make! If we have given the girl we married the same care and devotion as the shepherd-lover we could expect the same response—but not until, and only when we do. What keepsakes have we left with our wives? Something distinctively personal and full of fragrant beauty. In the midst of the multiplied tasks of the day and the sometimes overpowering pressures of life this dear girl we married wants, needs and deserves an oft given remembrance or two from you and me.

Communion Song of Solomon 1:13-14

Has our Lord left us anything by which we can remember Him? To ask is to answer. We could easily suggest His bread and His cup—or His external words of love recorded in the gospels, or the Other Comforter. But we pause to contemplate how very lightly such dear sweet remembrances can be treated. It is our love, yea our deep, personal love for the One who gave them that impregnates His gifts with beauty and fragrance for us.

Would we overtax the figure to suggest that we could once again enter into a courtship with our Lord? Would you read again His love letters to you—sometimes called the Gospels?

Verses 15-17

Son 1:15-17

Song of Solomon 1:15-17

SOLOMON CONTINUES HIS FLATTERY

"Behold, thou art fair, my love;

Behold thou art fair;

Thine eyes are as doves.

Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant:

Also our couch is green.

The beams of our house are cedars,

And our rafters are firs

(Song of Solomon 2:1)

I am a rose of Sharon,

A lily of the valleys."

"The adjectives in this verse are feminine," therefore they cannot apply to Solomon, who must be understood as the speaker here, not the one spoken to. He is thus continuing his flattery of the Shulamite maiden.

Balchin sees this verse as the Shulamite’s loving remembrance of her true love, thus construing the house of cedars with rafters of firs as the scene of their love-making outdoors. This writer cannot accept that, because there is no evidence that the maiden here is speaking. Oh yes, the adjectives are masculine; but so what? Solomon was applying the words to himself in order to impress the maiden. Of course, he would have used masculine pronouns. That Solomon is the one spoken of here is inherent in the mention of the cedar palace, the triple flattery, "Behold, thou art fair my love," and in the fact that there has been no change in the maiden’s identification of her lover back in Song of Solomon 1:7. It is impossible to suppose that, suddenly, Solomon is her true love here. Also, the proposition that the maiden would have referred to herself as the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valley is not half as attractive as the one that makes the words Solomon’s conceited flattery of himself (Someone was certainly flattering himself here). He was still trying to overwhelm the maiden with his persistent advances. We also believe that Song of Solomon 2:2 proves Solomon is the speaker here.

Exegesis Song of Solomon 1:15 to Song of Solomon 2:1

The shepherd speaks again of his rapture in the presence of his bride. Actually all of this dialogue is but a soliloquy on the part of the bride. She in imagination hears him say these words to her. Perhaps she had heard them often before so it was easy to repeat them. Constant companionship is a large part of courting. As he once again looked into the eyes of his beloved he sees in their open, transparent, soft expression something similar to what he often observed in the eyes of a dove. The total impression of the dove is included in the comparison. The altertness, the quick perception, the softness are all involved in what he sees. “Doves are thought of as emblematic of gentleness and guilelessness (Matthew 10:16). They are noted also for constancy, having but one mate for life, and are said to mourn when the mate is absent.” (Clarke)

The bride reciprocates, she says in effect, you are the fair one. The term “fair” refers to physical appearance, she adds a word—“not only are you acceptable to the eyes—your personality is most pleasing.” Both the outward and the inward view are a source of happiness. In her heart, the green couch of the woodland is much to be desired over the luxuriant divans in Solomon’s palace. In but recent days they had sat together and shared the communion of lovers.

“To the Shulammite’s poetic fancy the interlacing boughs of cedar and cypress trees formed overhead the ceiling of ‘their’ house.” It is no uncommon thing for lovers to dream of their future house. She may be intentionally suggesting a contrast with the splendors of Solomon’s grand house (1 Kings 7:1 ff). “House (‘houses’ the Hebrew plural of excellence). The thrice repeated ‘ours’ shows a sweet consciousness of a shared possession.” (Clarke)

We should ignore the chapter divisions. The bride is still speaking—she considers herself as but a wild flower. She identifies herself with one of the two most common flower varieties. The “rose” of the plain of Sharon was most probably a narcissus or meadow saffron.

The term “lily” is used six times in this book—Song of Solomon 2:1-2; Song of Solomon 2:16; Song of Solomon 4:5; Song of Solomon 5:13; Song of Solomon 6:2-3; Song of Solomon 7:2. It most likely refers to the scarlet anemone which grows in such profusion in several places in Samaria and Galilee. Matthew 6:28 seems to be a reference to such a lily.

A not too covert comparison is being made in such a reference. She is saying—“How could you find me among the many maidens of the village?—I am so small and ordinary.”

Marriage Song of Solomon 1:15 to Song of Solomon 2:1

Our wife will never know how she appears in our eyes unless we tell her! Our compliments must not only be sincere but distinctively individual. If your wife’s eyes do not look like those of a dove do not use this as a compliment. There is indeed a metaphor or simile especially applicable to her. You can be sure your wife will respond very much like the Shulammite—she hardly knows how to handle it, except that she is pleased and returns the compliment. Once again, we must be reminded that environment is so important to our wife. She does not remember your kisses only, but also the green couch and the beautiful ceiling where they were given. As much as at all possible we should prepare the place for her. Comfort, and natural beauty are a much more meaningful gift than a multitude of “things” which many times have no personal meaning.

So many wives have a very low self-image—they want to believe they are indeed “the fair one” in the eyes of their husbands, but many times they feel much more like a very ordinary rose among ten thousand more on the wide plain of Sharon; or like a humble lily hidden away in a valley. How fondly do they hope someone will notice them and lift them out of obscurity and anonymity. Each person has an important identity of themselves but your wife to a large extent has her identity with you and of you. The person who cannot appreciate another will themselves fail to be appreciated.

Communion Song of Solomon 1:15 to Song of Solomon 2:1

We believe the words of these verses can have a wonderful meaning for the believer and his Lord. Can we imagine our Lord speaking of us in the words of Song of Solomon 1:15?—“Lo, thou art fair, O my companion”! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, when our Lord considers us as justified, sanctified, redeemed, adopted, saved, are indeed “fair.” It is an imputed beauty—but a beauty none-the-less.

That He would condescend to be “our companion” is a wonder of all wonders. As we abide in Him and with Him does He see in our eyes the dove-like quality of trust and purity and fidelity? The eyes are the windows of the soul—what would it be to have Him look fully into our eyes? He does, He is! Companionship with Him can allow the dove within us i.e., the Other Comforter to develop His life within us—some-day it will be no longer self who looks out of this house but heaven’s dove.

It is easy for us to lavish praise upon Him—we are quick to return the compliment and at the same time we are humbled by His attention to us. Our beloved is indeed “fair and pleasant.” We read of His beauty in the gospel accounts and find it true in our experience. He is not only fair to observe but pleasant to live with. We offer no sensual association in our communion with our Lord, for He is Spirit and not flesh and bones. We feel none-the-less a strong attachment to Him and count the times and places of deep communion and meditation as a trysting place of love. As the maiden remembers her “house” which became “our” house, we can remember many occasions and places we could call “Bethel” i.e., the house of God and the gate of heaven.

All of this for one who is but a poor rose and unnoticed lily!

The Wedding Day - Song of Solomon 1:1 to Song of Solomon 2:7

Open It

1. Why do you agree or disagree with the saying that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder"?

2. What is your favorite part of the wedding ceremony? Why?

3. How is love generally depicted in television programs, movies, and romance novels?

4.Why do you think people read romance novels or watch romantic movies?

Explore It

5. Who are the three speakers in these verses? (Song of Solomon 1:1 to Song of Solomon 2:7)

6. What is the relationship between the Lover and the Beloved? (Song of Solomon 1:1 to Song of Solomon 2:7)

7. How did the Beloved describe her Lover? (Song of Solomon 1:1-4; Song of Solomon 1:16)

8. Where did the Beloved want her Lover to take her? (Song of Solomon 1:4)

9. How did the Beloved describe herself? (Song of Solomon 1:5-7)

10. How did the Lover describe his Beloved? (Song of Solomon 1:9-11; Song of Solomon 1:15)

11. To what did the Lover compare his Beloved? (Song of Solomon 2:2)

12. To what did the Beloved compare her Lover? (Song of Solomon 2:3)

13. Where did the Lover take his Beloved? (Song of Solomon 2:4)

14. What did the Beloved ask her Lover to do? (Song of Solomon 2:5)

15. What did the Beloved tell the Daughters of Jerusalem they should do? (Song of Solomon 2:7)

Get It

16. What stage in the Lover and Beloved’s relationship is described in these verses?

17. How is romantic love depicted in these verses?

18. What types of words did the Lover and the Beloved use in speaking to each other?

19. How might the Beloved’s description of herself be an indication that others may not have found her as attractive as did her Lover?

20. Why did the Lover and the Beloved praise each other’s physical attractiveness?

21. Why is it important to compliment a person’s physical appearance?

22. How do you think the compliments given by the Lover and the Beloved made the other person feel about himself or herself and about their relationship?

23. How important is mutual physical attraction in a relationship?

24. Besides physical attractiveness, what other characteristics did the Lover and the Beloved praise?

25. What qualities besides physical attractiveness should a potential marriage partner possess?

Apply It

26. How can you make the person you are in a relationship with feel loved and accepted today?

27. What one thing can you do this week to add a bit of romance to your relationship?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Song of Solomon 1". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/song-of-solomon-1.html.
 
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