Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, July 24th, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
Attention!
Take your personal ministry to the Next Level by helping StudyLight build churches and supporting pastors in Uganda.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Commentaries
Song of Solomon

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

- Song of Solomon

by Multiple Authors

The Song of Solomon

Introduction:

The Song of Solomon is a love poem that illustrates the intense affection and love between a man and woman. Due to the apparent erotic nature of the book Origen and Jerome state that no Jew was allowed to study it until they were 30 years old. Why is this love poem in the cannon of scriptures? Unrevealed matters of King Solomon’s life will always cause speculation among critics of God’s word yet this book clearly has divine purpose. It seems that the overall thought of the book is to accentuate love and fidelity toward two married people as God had always intended (Genesis 3:23 ff). Solomon appears to have found that one among a thousand women (see Ecclesiastes 7:28). He appears to be denouncing polygamy through the study. He teaches us the importance of moral purity, dating boundaries, love, marriage, and faithfulness to each other.

Background Information

Author—Solomon (1:1). The story originates most probably in some event of his earlier life as king. Solomon was an avid songwriter (1 Kings 4:29; 1 Kings 4:32).

Date—970-930 BC. Suggested date is 965-960 BC, before Solomon was drawn away from Jehovah by his 700 wives (cf. 6:8; 1 Kings 11:3-4).

Name Of Book—The Hebrew name, “The Song of Songs” is taken from Song of Solomon 1:1 and is a way of expressing the superlative, making this the best or most exquisite of songs (whether Solomon’s or anyone else’s). As the “song of songs” (Song of Solomon 1:1) this one must have been the “cream of the crop.” The more common title is “The Song of Solomon” which is also from Song of Solomon 1:1. Sometimes the book is referred to as “Canticles,” which means a “series of songs” (Jensen) or “liturgical songs” (Webster). This is the name given by those who consider the book to be a series of love songs rather than a single, complete work.

Setting Of The Song—The peaceful settings in the royal court and throughout the countryside would suggest a period of peace and tranquility, which fits very well into the “golden age” of David and Solomon. Likewise, the mention of various mountains, cities, and geographical areas spread throughout Israel would suggest a time in Hebrew history before the division of the kingdom, after the conclusion of Solomon’s reign (931 BC).

The name “Shulamite” appears only once (Song of Solomon 6:13). The word is probably derived from the place called Shunem, which is just north of Jezreel, near the plain of Megiddo. It was located in the tribe of Issachar (Joshua 19:17-18; 1 Samuel 28:4; 1 Kings 1:3; 2 Kings 4:8).

Unique Characteristics Of The Book— It is one of the most misunderstood books in the Bible, and therefore, one of the most neglected. Written in the setting of a 3000 year old culture half a world away, we find many of the expressions confusing.

1. The speakers and speeches are not identified by name in the song, which leads to various interpretations. We have the words without the settings identified.

2. No other book emphasizes human love, between a man and woman, like this book.

3. Only one direct reference to God is contained in the book (Song of Solomon 8:6), and that reference is not even found in the KJV or NKJV.

4. No mention is made of sin, religion, or anything connected to the Mosaical law.

5. The book is not alluded to by Christ, or quoted anywhere in the New Testament.

6. The book is written especially to stir up feelings and emotions in God’s people (cf. Song of Solomon 2:7; Song of Solomon 3:5; Song of Solomon 8:4).

Various Interpretations:

Some have interpreted the book as an allegory (i.e., a literary, dramatic, or pictorial device in which each literal character, object, and event represents a symbol illustration an idea or moral or religious principle” AHD 95) . The Targum (an Aramaic paraphrasing of the Old Testament Bible) describes this book as an allegory with the congregation of Israel being the bride and Solomon a representation of God. A similar allegorical approach is the view that the Shulammite is the church of Jesus Christ and Solomon God. This hypothesis falls apart when one discovers the sinful state of Solomon (see Song of Solomon 6:8-9 compared to Deuteronomy 17:17).

Others see Solomon representing himself as an enticer, only to exhibit the idea of female virtue as triumphing over the greatest seduction. This view considers the three chief characters of the song to be Solomon, the Shulammite, and a shepherd boy that is her true love. Again; however, this theory falls apart when we find that the Shulammite’s beloved is the king (Song of Solomon 1:12; Song of Solomon 2:4). The Shulammite voluntarily enters the king’s royal car of state and then transported to the royal city (Song of Solomon 3:7 ff). Solomon and the Shulammite consummate their marriage in sexual union (Song of Solomon 5:1 ff).

Still others believe that this Song is an allegory representing the Shulamite as wisdom personified. This theory too falls apart when one sees the humble Shulammite asking to be taught wisdom by Solomon (Song of Solomon 8:2). The best interpretation of this book is a literal one. It is not titled “The Song of Solomon” to praise the church, the wicked behavior of Solomon, the chaste behavior of a woman, or wisdom. The Song is rather Solomon’s expression of deep and devoted love for a woman.

Interpretations Of The Song

The reason there are so many different interpretations of the Song is that the plot, backdrop, and speakers are not identified by name. Therefore, we must draw conclusions based on the setting, the tense of words, the gender of pronouns, and the overall feel of the Song.

The following four interpretations are the most widely accepted.

(1) Anthology Of Love Songs Some think of this Song as a collection of shorter songs of love. One source—Hannah’s Bible Outlines—sets the number at 13.

“Song of Songs is a short anthology of love poems of various lengths, sung by the bride, the bridegroom, and their friends” (Pfeiffer, p.708).

“The book is an anthology of love lyrics and related poems rather than a collection of songs for a specific purpose, or a single lyrical or dramatic poem” (Pfeiffer, p.711).

(2) Allegory— Many believe the Song is an allegory, a non-historical story in which the characters represent some higher spiritual truth.

“An allegory is the description of one thing under the image of another. In an allegory we use the concrete to enforce the abstract, represent one thing in pictures or narrative in order to consider something else...” (Griffis, pp.106-107).

The Jews interpret the poem as setting forth Jehovah’s love for Israel as symbolized in other Old Testament passages (Isaiah 54:5-6; Jeremiah 3:1; Ezekiel 16:1-14; Hosea 1-3).

Origen popularized the view among Christians that the Song prophetically represented Christ’s love for the church (Ephesians 5:22-33; 2 Corinthians 11:1-2; Revelation 19:6-9; Revelation 21:9). The details of the Song are subject to extravagant interpretations.

(3) Typical—This view bridges a gap between more extreme positions. It holds that the story is historical, yet is a type, with the marriage of Solomon and the Shulamite foreshadowing the relation between Christ and the church in only a few conspicuous points. They see this explanation as justification for including an otherwise secular book in the canon of God’s holy word.

“The songs should be treated then, first as simple and yet sublime songs of human affection. When they are thus understood, reverently the thoughts may be lifted into the higher value of setting for the joys of the communion between the spirit of man and the Spirit of God, and ultimately between the church and Christ.” (Morgan, p.197).

(4) Literal—The other prominent view holds that this is a real life story, representing human love without any higher complicated meaning. One opinion is that there are two principle characters in the Song—Solomon and a Shulamite maiden. He woos her and wins her love and devotion, then she becomes the chief of all his wives and the real love of his life.

“The Song of Solomon deals with a love affair—I would guess, the one great love affair of Solomon’s life. Such an experience will be understandable if we assume that it took place when Solomon was yet a young man and before he glutted himself with wives and concubines. Reading the book in this light will leave us with mixed emotions—joy at the pure love between Solomon and Shulamith, but also a certain sadness at the tragedy of what Solomon must certainly have lost when he reached out for more. But even that tragedy ought to be instructive to us and make us wiser.” (Mott, p.64).

A second opinion (and the one which guides this study) is that there are three principle characters in the Song—Solomon, the Shulamite maiden, and her shepherd-lover. Solomon tries to charm her away from her shepherd with his money, power, and flattery. She is tempted by those outward trappings, but her heart remains loyal to the one true love of her life until she returns to him. Thus, the poem is made to address the triumph of pure love over lust.

“The poem is God’s commendation of true mating love and his condemnation of Solomon’s polygamy... Three principles lead me to accept this view: 1) The Bible is a complete book, and as such it must deal with all aspects of human experience. Mating love is a strong factor in life and unless this poem deals with it, it is omitted from God’s book. 2) The very structure and evidence of the poem. 3) If such a virtuous girl’s marriage to Solomon was the theme, then Solomon’s polygamy would be tacitly endorsed.” (Hailey, p. 24).

Many people mistakenly claim that God endorsed polygamy and never condemned it among the kings of Israel. This Song—from the mouth of the most polygamous king ever—condemns polygamy and extols the virtues of monogamous marriage. Solomon shows himself to be the loser at love (8:7; cf. Ecclesiastes 7:28).

Three Primary Characters in the Song

First, we have King Solomon. The king first meets the Shulammite under an apple tree in the country (see Song of Solomon 8:5). He falls hopelessly in love with the country girl. His love; however, runs much deeper than mere infatuation and physical attraction. Through time, the king finds within the heart of the Shulammite a woman that exceeds all others that he has met. He reveals this love toward the Shulammite through complementary sayings throughout the book. The king’s character is revealed by looking to the Shulammite’s moral virtue. She was not a woman that would allow inappropriate and lustful advances of man (see Song of Solomon 8:10). It is apparent that Solomon treated her with respect, dignity, and honor while they dated else the Shulammite could not have made such a statement at Song of Solomon 8:10.

Secondly, we have the Shulammite (named so at Song of Solomon 6:13). She is portrayed not only as one who is outwardly beautiful but inwardly (the ideal woman). The song depicts the Shulamite as a very simple woman of the country (Song of Solomon 2:8; Song of Solomon 2:14). Solomon, on the other hand, is one who’s life is complex and busy as king. The Shulammite is depicted as a girl of dark complexion (Song of Solomon 1:5) and beautiful (Song of Solomon 2:1 etc.). She was forced to do labor in the fields by her brothers (Song of Solomon 1:6) and she is familiar with shepherd life (Song of Solomon 1:7; Song of Solomon 2:16). The Shulammite is humble (Song of Solomon 8:2) and virtuous (Song of Solomon 8:10). Solomon’s attraction to the Shulammite was thereby both her inner and outward beauty.

The Story

The Song of Solomon is a poem depicting the love of King Solomon for the Shulammite. The song can be divided into four main parts. First, the dating days (Song of Solomon 1:1 to Song of Solomon 3:11). Secondly, the climax of the song is found at Song of Solomon 4:1 ff when the marriage is consummated in the sexual act. Thirdly, we have the separation period (Song of Solomon 5:2 to Song of Solomon 7:5). Lastly is the period of reconciliation (Song of Solomon 7:6 to Song of Solomon 8:14).

Lessons to be Learned

The lessons learned from the Song of Solomon have to do with dating and marital relationships. Those who enter into a dating relationship must recognize their God ordained boundaries. The Shulammite was an impenetrable “wall ” against the inappropriate advances of lustful men (see Song of Solomon 8:10). Her brothers saw to it that she would not be violated as a swinging door by the lustful advances of men (Song of Solomon 8:9). Young men and women would do well to consider these principles in dating. Inappropriate making out and touching is a violation of God’s will and a woman’s virtuous character. A young man who would violate these principles is not worthy of such a godly woman. Such a man is due the wrath of God, the woman’s brothers, and father. A young woman who is likened unto an open door of sensuality is not the type of woman that God commends. Attraction should have its basis not only in the physical aspects (see Song of Solomon 4-5) but also one’s morality (Song of Solomon 5:2; Song of Solomon 6:10).

Marital lessons appear to be the primary focus of the Song. The Song illustrates God’s intention for a man and woman to enjoy their marital relationship together (Proverbs 5:18; Proverbs 18:22; Proverbs 19:4; Ecclesiastes 9:9). Jesus and the Apostle Paul said that two married people are to “become one flesh” (Matthew 19:5-6; Ephesians 5:31). We find Solomon and the Shulammite performing acts that manifest their true love for each other and sealing the bond of marriage. They use pet names for each other such as “my love” (Song of Solomon 4:1; Song of Solomon 6:4 etc.), “beloved” (Song of Solomon 5:2 etc.), and “dove” (Song of Solomon 5:2). Said terms breed confidence and strengthen the bond of marriage. Marital confidence is further strengthened when two make it manifest that they are inseparably one flesh by statements such as, I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine (see Song of Solomon 2:16; Song of Solomon 6:3) . The Shulammite’s dedication to Solomon is depicted when she said that he was, “The chiefest among ten thousand” (Song of Solomon 5:10) and “altogether lovely” (Song of Solomon 5:16). Solomon demonstrated his dedication to her by saying that she is the only “one” that stands above sixty queens and eighty concubines (Song of Solomon 6:8-9). The permanent bond of marriage is depicted as a fire that no flood can extinguish and no money can separate (Song of Solomon 8:6-7). No perverted adulterer, financial problems, argument, or geographic separation can dissolve such a bond. This is marriage as God intended.

Further Details of Marital Lessons Learned:

  • ·    Pet names: Solomon refers to the Shulammite as his “love” (Song of Solomon 4:1; Song of Solomon 6:4 etc.), “bride” (; Song of Solomon 5:1) and “dove” (Song of Solomon 5:2) while she refers to him as her “beloved” (; Song of Solomon 5:2 etc.). The importance of these terms cannot be overestimated. When a man and woman call each other by special words that indicate their affection for one another they are illustrating their interest and care for one another. Said terms breed confidence and strengthen the bond of marriage. The uses of such labels are indicators of a strong marriage.

  • ·    God’s Marital Blessing (Proverbs 18:22; Proverbs 19:4): A study of the Song of Solomon illustrates a man and woman’s intense interest and love for each other. The question arises in the Bible students mind as to how far this should go in relationship to one’s place with God. Let the prudent student of God’s word understand that God blesses and intends for man and woman to enjoy each other’s affection. Solomon wrote, Let thy fountain be blessed; And rejoice in the wife of thy youth” (Proverbs 5:18). Again, the wise king said, “Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of thy lie of vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all thy days of vanity: for that is thy portion in life, and in thy labor wherein thou laborest under the sun (; Ecclesiastes 9:9). Marital joy comes also in the form of having the greatest friend on this earth (see Proverbs 18:24). The Shulammite said of Solomon, This is my beloved, and this is my friend (; Song of Solomon 5:16).

The Woman is the Weaker Vessel (1 Peter 3:7): The Shulammite girl seems to be self conscience about what others think regarding her rural background (see Song of Solomon 1:5-6). When Solomon publicly embraces the Shulammite girl (a public sign of his affection and approval) she seemed to be eased (see Song of Solomon 2:4-7). Public displays of attention can be healthy for a relationship. The more emotional woman needs attention, affection, and approval not only in private but in all circles of life. Men would do well to tastefully let the world know that the woman that is next to his side is his and that he approves of her (i.e., holding hands, embracing, and an occasional kiss) . It seems that Solomon’s use of the royal guard and personal chariot to escort the Shulammite girl into the royal city for their wedding was an outward public sign of his inner love for her (see Song of Solomon 3:7-11).

  • ·    Physical Attraction: Consider the Bible’s depiction of the physical beauty of Rachael (Genesis 29:17), David (1 Samuel 16:12), Abigail (1 Samuel 25:3), Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:2), Esther (Esther 2:7), and Absalom (2 Samuel 14:25). A primary focus of the Song of Solomon is the physical beauty of the Shulammite and Solomon (see Solomon’s view of her at Song of Solomon 4 and her view of him at Song of Solomon 5). With the volumes of information about physical beauty before us in this study we see the importance of it in relationships. One who is not physically attracted to their mate does not follow the Bible pattern of relationships. We must be physically attracted to our perspective mates and they us for the physical part of our relationship to be healthy. The important thing is that you are attracted to your wife and she to you (this is not a Bible request for all to search for what the world considers a beauty queen).

  • ·    Spiritual Attraction: Solomon refers to the Shulammite girl as his undefiled in relation to her moral goodness at Song of Solomon 5:2. This illustrates that he was not only interested in her physical attributes but her spiritual as well.

Commitment (Matthew 19:4-6): When one studies the Song of Solomon another marital attribute that comes out is their commitment toward each other. Notice how the Shulammite states on two occasions that I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine (see Song of Solomon 2:16; Song of Solomon 6:3). The second use of this term is found at the end of Act IV, scene 1. The two had apparently separated due to the Shulammite’s rejection of Solomon’s desire to be with her. He seems to get his feelings hurt and so leaves her to meditate in the garden. She begins to feel bad for her harsh treatment of him and makes this statement of commitment. We learn from such an incident in the Song the importance of commitment in a marriage. When two are married there will certainly be times of disagreements, arguments, and frustrations with each other. This being the case, two married people that are committed to each other will know deep down that come what may (troubles that is) they will work all things out. This confidence can only be achieved in a marriage by an initial commitment to each other through vows that are kept through life. Secondly, the couple will continuously illustrate their affection and care for each other which will settle deeper and deeper into the hearts of one another as the years go by.

  • ·    Mutual Respect and satisfaction: The Shulammite refers to Solomon as the chiefest among ten thousand (Song of Solomon 5:10). Solomon exclaims that the Shulammite is “one” that stands above 60 queens and 80 concubines (; Song of Solomon 6:8-9). When two married people are mutually satisfied and respect each other there will be nothing or no person that can come between them. They look at each other as the only ones who matter in this realm of affection. When my wife (husband) is the chiefest among ten thousand I am saying that there is no other. The Shulammite further expresses this idea when she said of Solomon, he is altogether lovely (Song of Solomon 5:16).

  • ·    Praise of one another’s beauty: A real killer in a marriage is for one mate to point out the other’s physical flaws. Note that throughout the Song of Solomon both the Shulammite and Solomon praise each others good physical qualities (see Song of Solomon 2:2; Song of Solomon 4:1 ff; Song of Solomon 5:10 ff; Song of Solomon 6:4 etc.).

  • ·    Love: Solomon is not merely infatuated with the Shulammite he is in love with her. He is emotionally, physically, and spiritually satisfied in everything about this girl. Such love is compared to a flame of fire (Song of Solomon 8:6).

  • ·    Love and Care between Siblings: Though the Shulammite’s brothers seemed so awful to her at first (see Song of Solomon 1:6) they are clearly praised and thanked in the last scene of this song. They were responsible, through their love and care for their sister, for the Shulammite’s purity. Families would do well to protect the purity of their daughters today.

Introduction to Song of Songs

Song Of Songs is often overlooked or misunderstood by Christians; yet it can be encouraging when we understand it. On the surface, we see a bride and bridegroom anticipating coming together, and showing their appreciation for one another. On this level, this couple’s thoughts provide some helpful insights into the way that healthy human relationships are built. Yet beyond this, Song of Songs is a parallel to the relationship God wants with each of us.

Song Of Songs can at first seem difficult to interpret. Indeed, commentators have taken a wide range of fanciful approaches to it. Some have attempted to turn the entire book into an allegory about God and humanity, looking for hidden significance in every detail. Other commentators go to an opposite extreme, trying to force the book into a detailed, chronological story line, quickly becoming hopelessly tangled.

The book is not a detailed allegory, nor is it a mere human story without spiritual lessons. Rather, it uses the familiar example of a marriage relationship, to help us understand our own relationship with God; and as it does so, it may also be helpful in our relationships with one another. The language and imagery of Song of Songs may seem quite different from other books of the Bible, yet we don’t need to be as uncomfortable with it once we learn what it means.

Even in its surface meaning, as a poetic description of a marriage relationship, Song Of Songs helps us learn to appreciate and give thanks not only for our spouses, but also for others we are close with. This in turn makes it more likely for us to see our families and our friends in the way that God intended, rather than approaching them with worldly thinking.

Yet human marriage is often used by Scripture as an analogy for our relationship with God, so this can help us see the deeper meaning of Song Of Songs, and can help us learn what it says to anyone about his or her relationship with God. The book of Revelation often tells us that we are the ’Bride of the Lamb (Jesus)’, and it tells us about the ’wedding supper’ God holds when we come to know him and Jesus (see, for example, Revelation 19:7-9).

Song of Songs gives few specific details about the bride and bridegroom themselves, since the interpretation and the themes of the book do not depend on their identities. Because of Song of Solomon 1:1 and other references to Solomon, it is sometimes thought that Solomon was the bridegroom. But it is much more likely that Solomon is merely the author of the Song, not the bridegroom.

The book’s overall theme can be summarized by the groom’s view of the bride being "like a lily among thorns" (Song of Solomon 2:2). The closer we come to Jesus, we can see him in this same way, a light in the gloom and darkness, a spring of water in the parched desert. So too, we know that God’s love for us is also incomparable in its depth and devotion, and the joy he takes when one of us turns our hearts to him.

Mark Garner, July 2004, revised February 2017

An Overview of Song Of Songs

Song Of Songs consists of a series of short sayings alternately spoken (or sung) by the bride (or beloved) and by the bridegroom, with occasional short remarks from friends or onlookers. This is why the book gets its name - it is a ’song’ consisting of a series of ’songs’ by these characters. Though poetic, and not meant to follow a strict outline, the book does have a basic outline.

First we see them before their wedding (Song of Solomon 1:1 to Song of Solomon 3:5), then a poetic description of the wedding procession and the couple coming together (3:6-5:1), and then it describes their lives together (Song of Solomon 5:2 to Song of Solomon 8:14). Each parallels our relationship with God. This outline is just a handy way of summarizing the main flow of ideas. The book is not meant to be approached by breaking it down too analytically; it is more important to consider the major ideas and themes.

The first section primarily follows the couple before marriage (Song of Solomon 1:1 to Song of Solomon 3:5). It shows their anticipation, their affection and appreciation for each other, and their readiness to devote themselves to one another. We see how each clearly focuses on the other, appreciating all the good things about one another, and accepting their flaws. This is of course an important part of a marriage relationship or any close relationship.

Likewise, this same kind of closeness and joy is meant also to be part of our relationship with God. If we are capable of feeling this way about another mere human, how much easier it can be to learn to feel such joy and appreciation in knowing the God and Creator of the universe. And as with any lasting relationship, a lifelong walk with God cannot rely on excitement or on temporary feelings.

In the next section (Song of Solomon 3:6 to Song of Solomon 5:1), we see an image of a wedding processional, and then the joy of the couple as they are united. As a marriage union is worth celebrating for its own sake, so also God calls us to understand that it means far more to come to know him, to become the Bride of Jesus. Likewise, God asks us to accept his blessings for their own sake, without feeling compelled to figure out a ’use’ for them or a finding a way to deserve them.

In the last portion of the book (Song of Solomon 5:2 to Song of Solomon 8:14), the main emphasis is on the married couple’s life together. Their initial enthusiasm often has to give way to understanding and simple trust. They learn to accept one another just as they are, and they lay a good foundation for a lifetime of faithfulness to God and to each other.

So too, our relationship with God is not meant to be a fad that lasts only as long as we receive fleshly excitement or earthly acclaim from it. It too is meant to last, and if it is built on a strong foundation, it will. If our ’marriage’ with Jesus is accepted with thankfulness, and if our eyes remain fixed on him than rather than on the world, then it will not only last, but will continue to satisfy the needs of our spirits, regardless of what happens in this world.

- Mark Garner, July 2004, revised February 2017

Take Me Away With You (Song of Solomon 1:1-4)

Song Of Songs opens with the anticipation of a bride as she looks forward to coming together with her chosen bridegroom, asking him to ’take me away with you’ (Song of Solomon 1:1-4). This undisguised joy is also a parallel to the greater, more lasting peace we can find in knowing God, as we learn to delight in him. The bride seems giddy, inattentive to anything else. Likewise, as we come nearer to God, we begin to understand how deep his love is for us.

One of the ironies of Song Of Songs is that Solomon, the writer, had many inappropriate, even toxic, relations with women. His heart was hardened by idolatrous women, and in turn he oppressed them. Solomon never showed genuine love to his many wives and concubines, for he was more interested in outward appearances than in helping them to know God. Yet God can use even this sad situation to help us learn what it means to seek him and to know him.

This bride’s eagerness to be with her future husband are extravagant praises, yet for the most part they are sincere expressions of appreciation and a pledge of genuine love. In the proper context, there is nothing wrong with such affection. Yet on the deeper level, her impatience for her ’king’ to bring her into his chambers parallels the desire of our spirits to be with God, the longing of our souls to meet with him (as we see, for example, in Psalms 42:1-2).

The bride needs to wait until the proper time, as we see in other passages like Song of Solomon 2:7; Song of Solomon 3:5 and Song of Solomon 8:4. It is human nature to want everything all at once, and this leads only to impatience and disappointment. As good human relationships take time and patience, rather than basing them on shallow words or self-centeredness, so also we are called to wait on God to give us what we need at the proper time; as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior (Micah 7:7).

This idea helps us see further parallels in our relationship with God. Just as this woman understands that many days are ahead, so that there is no reason to run ahead; so also God does not give us all the answers all at once nor fix all of our problems at the same time. Instead, he gives us the reassurance and understanding and grace we need each step, and he promises us that he will be with us.

Other scriptures such as Psalms 63:1; Psalms 84:1-2; Psalms 143:6 also express our soul’s desire for God in terms not dissimilar to those in Song of Songs. Filling our lives with material possessions, worldly entertainment, or other such things, cannot give the soul what it longs for. What this woman really needs, and what all of us really need, and what our souls seek, is to know our God.

- Mark Garner, July 2004, revised February 2017

God Can Heal Our Insecurity & Self-Doubt (Song of Solomon 1:5-7)

We’ve seen the young woman’s love and appreciation for her future husband, yet she also has some self-doubt and insecurity in her heart, and she now shares these things. Even when we have genuine, godly relationships, there will still be causes of fear, anxiety, and self-doubt from time to time - and more importantly, this is especially true in our relationship with God.

The woman openly expresses the things that make her feel badly about herself. She has lived a life filled with hard labor in the outdoors, and her complexion has been heavily darkened by the sun. She also has some family tensions, and some of her brothers boss her around. She senses that her hard life has perhaps taken its toll on her outward appearance. She hopes that this has not obscured her true, inner beauty, and she hopes that her husband will not look down on her.

We may often feel this way in our human relationships; and most of all we may feel this kind of insecurity in our relationship with God, and we often need to be reassured that God does not look down on us because of what we look like. This woman’s husband loves and accepts her for who she is, and our God especially loves us and accepts us just the way he made us.

Most of us see things about ourselves that cause us to be insecure, and wonder if others look down on us because of our appearance, our habits, our possessions, and other such things. Often these are innocuous characteristics, which no one who really cares about us would ever find displeasing. Even more so, we have no reason to think that God would cease to love us because of personal characteristics that we ourselves do not like.

There is no reason for this young woman to fear what her future husband thinks about her appearance nor her status as a laborer. Simply expressing such doubts in the right way can often help us, even in human relations. And most of all, God made us the way we are, and he is ready to forgive even the worst sins of those who love and seek him. Even more will our Heavenly Father see even our flaws and quirks and misadventures as additional reasons to care for us.

After expressing these things, the woman indicates a desire to be with her intended, and asks where she can find him grazing his flocks. It is natural, when we are mulling over our anxieties, insecurities, and doubts, to seek re-assurance. Sometimes, as in the following verses here, we are able to receive such comfort at once from those who care about us. But at other times we will have to take our concerns to God - and that, of course, can be an even greater source of relief.

God loves us more deeply and completely than any human can love another. The more we learn to trust God with our needs and feelings, the more he is able to help. Sometimes those we are close to may not be able to provide such comfort, but God is always near and can gives even deeper comfort.

Mark Garner, July 2004, revised February 2017

Mutual Reassurance (Song of Solomon 1:8-14)

After his beloved’s expression of self-doubt and anxiety, the future groom (or Lover) begins to speak for the first time. He re-assures her that he loves her as deeply as she loves him, that he wishes to be with her, and that in his eyes her beauty is extraordinary. For her part, she responds with a new expression of praise. This couple sets an encouraging example in the way that they understand each other’s needs, and in the way they make efforts to meet those needs.

In the preceding verse, the woman had indicated the desire to see her beau at once, and asked where to find him. The directions now given in verse 8 may be from him (in which case this may be her imagining what his response may be), or they may instead be from onlookers who help her, as the section headings in the NIV and some other versions would suggest. In either case, God provides the two with a way to meet. Often best way to gain re-assurance is to share our insecurities and anxieties with those closest to us. This also implies that we must be ready to help others in the same situation. No Christian, of course, could be expected to listen to everyone else’s troubles or worries. But we have all been blessed with those with whom we have particularly close relationships, and we ought to be able to re-assure those others, when appropriate, just as we may sometimes need to share our problems with them.

In the next few verses, the couple exchange expressions of appreciation and re-assurance. The man begins by comparing his beloved with one of the beautiful, magnificent horses that carried the chariots of the Pharaohs. To him, it matters little that her body has been taxed by years of labor, or that her family does not appreciate her. He openly expresses his love and appreciation for who she is, and he adds his promises to make her look even more beautiful.

She responds in kind, giving him in person the kind of praises she sang to him earlier when she was alone. He did not ask for any such praise or assurance for himself, but she does not wait until he does. How often do we notice good qualities in others, or know that someone did or said something helpful to us, and then neglect to express this openly? We can at least make an extra effort to verbalize our positive thoughts to those who are close to us. In marriage and family, it is especially important to make sure that there is always an atmosphere of mutual appreciation and assurance.

God, of course, will also willingly do this for us - that is, if we let him. In his Word, he has expressed in countless ways how much he loves his people, and if we take time to notice, he also tells each of us every day, in many ways, how much he cares about us. As encouraged as we all are when we are built up by other persons, it ought to mean even more when we are given signs of God’s appreciation of us, and of his desire to re-assure and comfort us. We have to pay attention, and look a little harder, to see these signs. But they are worth looking for.

Mark Garner, July 2004

A Lily & An Apple Tree (Song of Solomon 1:15 to Song of Solomon 2:3)

In these verses, the betrothed couple express the perspective that characterizes the book of Song of Songs. Each of them sees the other as the most beautiful, most wonderful, and most important person in the world. To the man, the woman is "like a lily among thorns", a source of delicate beauty in the midst of a world of trouble and sorrow. To the woman, the man is "like an apple tree among the trees of the forest", the one tree that has the fruit she desires, and a source of strength and life.

So many persons in the world could save themselves great heartache and frustration if they would listen to God, and accept the things his Word teaches us about courtship, love, and marriage. The world makes up myths, lies, and rationalizations to justify their irresponsible indulgence of immediate fleshly desires, and then wonders why they are so unhappy when things do not work as they wished. God teaches that it is not only desirable, but possible, for a man and a woman to give each other a total commitment of faithfulness and loyalty. His Word also teaches us that purity in such matters is not only possible, but essential, for anyone who wishes to walk with him. The world will never cease to offer temptations, but a child of God must learn to resist those temptations, and should not learn to make up rationalizations for giving in to them. A simple, but powerful, means of combatting these temptations is to instill in ourselves a sincere love and appreciation for our own spouses.

This man and woman each believe in their hearts that the other is the most desirable and wonderful person in the world. After a brief exchange of compliments (Song of Solomon 1:15 to Song of Solomon 2:1) similar to their earlier statements, in Song of Solomon 2:2-3 they each express the feeling that serves as the theme for our study of Song of Songs. These two genuinely and without reservation desire each other above anything else in this world. Their specific words, or others similar to them, could also have been said by many other couples, though without such sincerity. But these two maintain their feelings throughout the book and throughout their lives. Their feelings go beyond physical attraction or mutual self-interest.

In one sense, there is no one who objectively deserves the title of greatest or best-looking or most wonderful person in the world. Even those individuals to whom the world sometimes accords such titles do not truly merit them; in the world these are more of an indication of silly fleshly trends and whims than of the real merits of such persons. But with God’s help, we can learn to appreciate and love those whom God has chosen for us, to such a degree that we truly feel the way that these two young persons feel about each other. Everyone has weaknesses and faults, but if God can overlook these in order to have a relationship with us, we can certainly learn to forgive each other, and especially those closest to us. Everyone also has a lot of good things inside, and if we only learn to look for them, we shall find that there is a great deal to love and admire inside almost any human, and certainly inside any Christian.

Mark Garner, July 2004

Waiting For the Right Time (Song of Solomon 2:4-7)

In these verses, we see the first mention of one of the most significant teachings in Song of Songs. No fewer than three times in the book does the woman exhort those listening to her, "do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires." (The other two are in Song of Solomon 3:5 and Song of Solomon 8:4.) The gift of romantic love is not a toy to be trifled with, nor is it an achievement that we deserve or earn, nor is it meant to be a subject for boasting. It is a gift from God, and should be accepted with the same humility and gratitude that we should show for all of his gifts. Although it is a curiosity about Song of Songs that it nowhere mentions the name of God, this is one of the examples that best show how God’s perspective lies behind every one of its teachings.

The context of the charge to "not arouse or awaken love until it so desires" is important. It comes from the young woman herself, even as she celebrates and enjoys the love that she has found. Just before giving this advice, she has once again expressed the joy she has found with her future husband, as well as the combination of love and anticipation that she is feeling now. In other words, this call to be self-disciplined does not come from a questionable source, such as someone hardened or embittered against love or against the opposite sex. Good advice should, of course, be heeded whether or not it comes from a reliable source. But in practice, we know that most persons - and especially most young persons - will ignore advice from those whom they consider not to understand their problems. This young woman understands exactly what it is like to be "in love", but she also keeps a godly perspective about it.

That it is this captivated young woman who gives this sound advice has two important implications. First, it shows that she herself has a clear conscience and has conducted her own relationship according to godly principles. Those who indulge in immorality or impurity are often pleased to see others do the same, since they think that this somehow lessens their own sinfulness. But this woman wants to see others enjoy God’s blessings with purity and sincerity. Second, her advice shows that it is possible to behave in a pure, godly fashion towards those of the opposite sex, and still enjoy the blessings of love at the proper time. The selfish and the worldly often sneer at God’s commands because they think that God’s way would be less enjoyable. In fact, those who indulge their fleshly cravings soon find them to be less and less satisfying, while those who wait patiently are the ones who are able to have the greatest joys.

In Song of Solomon 2:4, the woman says of her future husband that "his banner over me is love". She means that, just as ancient armies used to hoist banners that announced the causes for which they fought, his attitude towards her is based on genuine love, not selfishness or sensuality. Christians sometimes use this same saying of God, for indeed his "banner" is love. Whether giving us gifts or giving us commands, God loves us and has our best interests at heart. Surely we should trust his love, in our relationships and in everything else.

Mark Garner, August 2004

Rendez-Vous in the Countryside (Song of Solomon 2:8-13)

After the bride-to-be has exhorted her listeners to wait for the right time (in Song of Solomon 2:7), the setting changes. These verses describe, in some detail, a pleasant and satisfying time that the couple spends together in the countryside in springtime. The passage is filled with imagery and references involving nature and God’s creation. Not only here, but in many places in Song of Songs, we see a link between the joys of love and the joys of God’s creation. The two are much closer than one might think them to be. Both nature and marriage show the combination of God’s love and God’s wisdom.

As the young woman describes the time that she is spending with her loved one, she even describes the man himself in terms that refer to nature. She calls her intended mate a gazelle and a stag, emphasizing the gracefulness and strength that she sees in him. It is not uncommon for us to use living things or other features of nature in describing other persons or their habits, and indeed it is appropriate to do so. For the same God who created humanity also created nature, and there are many natural resemblances of having come from the same Creator and Father. In particular, when it comes to someone we love or care about, it is much more suitable to appreciate the characteristics of that person that come from God, rather than qualities that are defined by the world, such as his or her possessions, status, or power.

She also describes in some detail the natural world that they see around them. Spring flowers, early fruit, fragrant vines, cooing birds, and more are all part of their world. How praiseworthy it is for her to notice such gentle blessings from God, even when she is in the midst of a euphoric meeting with her beau. Further, it seems likely that a woman who appreciates so many of God’s blessings and creations is also going to be more likely to appreciate godly qualities in other persons. She does not make the mistake of being attracted to flashy, noisy earthly things, as even many Christians do. She knows what constitutes real beauty.

We would do well to spend more time appreciating the natural world, for it is one of the surest ways to appreciate God’s own qualities. The marvels of nature and the universe take more thought and sensitivity to appreciate than do the fast, loud, crass man-made items that the world so admires. If we learn to see the Creator around us, we bring blessings on ourselves in several ways. When we appreciate the world that God has made, we find a never-ending and inexhaustible source of confirmation of God’s wisdom and love. We also find more to appreciate about God himself. Finally, those who attune themselves to the kind of real beauty and real creativity that come from God will also be better able to see these kinds of qualities in others. Too many Christians value the same superficial qualities in others that the world values. These verses provide us with one way of helping ourselves develop more godly values.

Mark Garner, August 2004

Catch the Little Foxes (Song of Solomon 2:14-17)

These verses contain a somewhat playful and ambiguous exchange between the young man and the young woman. There are several aspects of these verses that biblical commentators consider to be open questions. Even the exhortation in this passage to "catch for us ... the little foxes that ruin the vineyards", one of the verses in Song of Songs that may be somewhat familiar to general readers, is clear in itself, but it can be applied in more than one possible way. What is clear in the passage is the devotion to each other that the young couple displays. They may tease one another or even mis-communicate at times, but they are always ready to reaffirm their mutual love and support.

The passage opens with the young man calling for his beloved to come out from hiding. This could mean that she is hiding in a literal sense, or it could mean simply that he finds some things about her to be so mysterious that it is as if she is hiding from him. In either case, he expresses himself in a light tone, coaxing her, rather than demanding her to cooperate. It illustrates the need for even the closest couples (or friends, or even family members) to overcome the many differences of personality, habit, and perspective that distinguish one person from another - and especially those that distinguish men from women. The young man sets an example by doing this in such a gentle way.

In the next verse comes the call to "catch the little foxes". This interesting image could have been said by either person (commentators have various views as to which one is saying it). The general image is clear: foxes were nuisances or even pests in a vineyard, and it could require both vigilance and ingenuity to keep them from doing damage. Yet they were hardly dangerous threats on the order of a bear or a swarm of locusts. So the need for the young couple is to make sure not only to avoid big problems, but also not to let "little foxes" accumulate to the point where they do real damage. It seems very possible, given the context, that the "foxes" specifically include the kinds of communication barriers that can so often cause hurt feelings or misunderstandings. There are, of course, many other "foxes" that can derail a relationship a little bit at a time. The playful image used here suggests that these two are willing to "catch their foxes" with affection and kindness, not with suspicion, harshness, or selfishness.

The next two verses (Song of Solomon 2:16-17) are one of many statements of re-assurance that we find in the Song. The woman re-affirms her absolute devotion to her chosen one. Even if there has been, or still is, some kind of misunderstanding or insecurity, he is still and always her gazelle, her stag. This kind of mutual reinforcement is invaluable. No two humans will ever entirely avoid difficulties in their relationship, but with the right perspective, the relationship does not have to be weakened by them. Even more importantly, this kind of person-to-person affirmation of love and devotion should remind us of the even more certain constancy of God in his relationship with us. No matter how badly we disappoint him or misunderstand him, he still has a commitment to us that no human could ever match.

Mark Garner, August 2004

Longing & Fulfillment (Song of Solomon 3:1-5)

These verses describe the woman’s longing to be with her intended husband. She has expressed similar feelings earlier in the book, but this time her thoughts convey a somewhat different perspective. Here, she shares the experience of waking in the dead of night with a sudden, almost desperate longing to see her sweetheart. The passage that follows most probably describes a dream experience, not an actual event, but it nevertheless reveals some of the feelings and thoughts that she has in her heart as the day for her wedding draws nearer.

The young woman tells of passing a sleepless night, filled with thoughts of her future husband. She even describes going outside to look for him in the middle of the night, roaming streets and squares, filled with longing. The only other persons still awake are watchmen, whom she questions. These descriptions most likely refer either to a dream that she had, or else to her thoughts, as she lay awake, about what she wished to do, so these verses probably do not mean that she actually carried out these actions. One indication of this is that she describes wandering in a fruitless search for her sweetheart’s home, when she would surely have known where to go if she had actually gone to look for him. She is simply showing by this that she feels a deep need to be with him, and she feels as if he is nowhere to be found.

Anyone who has had a close relationship with someone of the opposite sex knows that feelings of insecurity and uncertainty often arise. There are times when we are simply seized by a need for re-assurance, support, or companionship, and it can seem as if only the immediate presence of that special person can meet these needs. In this particular case, the young woman almost cannot bear to wait for her wedding day, so that she can be together permanently with her beloved (this is what the last part of verse 4 essentially says).

The first significant point from these verses is that this kind of feeling is a natural part of a romantic relationship. It isn’t a unique feeling that is only felt by the Romeos and Juliets, or by other great lovers. When we have found someone with whom we have a special level of communication and understanding, of course we shall want to be together constantly. It is one of the numerous aspects of relationships that we can handle better once we realize that we are not unique or special in the kinds of feelings that we have. Whether we are feeling lonely, or whether we are battling our own desires, many others have been there before, and thus many others do understand what we feel, more often than not.

This is also important to remember in connection with a second point from this passage, namely, that this kind of longing cannot always be fulfilled at once. There is a stage in any potential marriage relationship when waiting is appropriate, necessary, and healthy. At the end of her experience, the young woman re-iterates her exhortation to others that they "not arouse or awaken love until it so desires." She realizes that others have these same kind of feelings, and that they will need to wait until the proper time. She also knows that she herself must wait just a little longer before she and her beloved can be together to stay.

Mark Garner, September 2004

The Wedding Procession (Song of Solomon 3:6-11)

With this passage, the second portion of the book begins. Until now, we have seen the feelings and thoughts of the prospective couple as they look ahead to their marriage. It is now time for the couple to be united, and the material in Song of Solomon 3:6 to Song of Solomon 5:1 is set in the general context of their wedding day and the celebration that accompanies it. It is not meant as a completely literal description, but rather as a series of images of the new life into which the young couple is about to enter.

In the last several verses of chapter 3, the young woman describes the wedding procession, as she sees her husband-to-be approach. Her description of the details is not meant to be literal, but rather indicates her excitement and her adoration of her chosen husband. For example (as discussed in a previous article), the bridegroom is almost certainly not Solomon himself. Rather, the references in Song of Solomon 3:7 and Song of Solomon 3:9 simply indicate the bride’s fervent appreciation of her bridegroom. Since he was a shepherd, the actual procession was probably a humble one. But to the bride, it seems as magnificent as if he were riding in King Solomon’s own carriage, with Israel’s finest warriors accompanying him. How much healthier our relationships would be if we would learn to see one another in this way!

When a young couple are first "in love", they generally see each other in an idealized light, seeing all the things that they think are wonderful about one another. Unfortunately, as they grow more familiar with one another, they often begin to take one another’s positive qualities for granted. Once this sets in, it becomes all too common for a wife to wish that her husband were richer, or that he had a more powerful or important job. Likewise, it becomes all too common for a husband to compare his wife with the kinds of images represented by shallow, phony celebrities. There are of course many more variations of this problem, but all can be solved if we learn to appreciate one another for who we are, and to be grateful for one another for the right reasons, rather than wishing for fleshly qualities that are over-valued by the world.

This even applies in our relationship with God. God loves us in a way deeper than the world can even understand, and the things we get in our relationship with him are of infinite value. But if we have the wrong expectations, if we expect God to give us worldly baubles and to satisfy all of our fleshly desires, then we can quickly become bored or disenchanted with him. God so often uses our human relationships to teach us the qualities that really have value - in ourselves, in one another, and in him. When we learn to value the right things in each other, it also helps us to value the right things about God.

Mark Garner, September 2004

The Couple United (Song of Solomon 4:1 to Song of Solomon 5:1)

After the wedding procession described in the last portion of the third chapter, the couple are now united, and are able to celebrate their union along with their friends. These verses do not describe the literal details of the wedding rites so much as they detail the thoughts and feelings that characterize the occasion. Indeed, the details of a wedding ceremony are hardly significant in themselves. What counts is a bridal couple’s love for each other and devotion to each other.

Almost all of the fourth chapter is spoken by the groom, and this is the first time in the book that he has said more than a couple of sentences at a time. In the first few verses, he pays his bride a whole series of lavish compliments, using numerous kinds of imagery. A few of his images may need brief explanations for us to appreciate them (for example, the end of verse 1; Gilead was known for its goats with rich, beautiful wool, and was thus a suitable compliment to pay to her hair), but the meanings of others are readily apparent to anyone.

It is significant that he chooses this time to express so many of the feelings that he has had in his heart. Upon getting married, a husband should not feel that he has now proven his love to his wife, and that he thus can stop making efforts to compliment her. Rather, it is after marriage that a man should learn to build up his wife in every possible way, since there is now no need to use restraint in his expressions of affection. Likewise, he should learn to appreciate his wife in ever deeper ways, especially as regards her spiritual qualities.

Next (Song of Solomon 4:8-15), he expresses his wish to become one with his beloved from this time forward. He commits his heart to her, and makes no secret of his need for her. Once again he is a good example for husbands or prospective husbands. While it may impress the worldly for a male to boast about how lucky a woman would be to have him as her husband, this hardly pleases God. This husband knows that he is lucky and blessed, and that his beloved is a gift from God, for which he must always be thankful and appreciative.

The bridegroom also knows that they will soon have a much deeper level of intimacy, and at the same time he understands the emotional commitment that comes with it. The worldly want to experience the intimacy, but without the commitment. The two are meant to go together, and in fact both - even the call for commitment - are gifts of grace from God.

In reply, the bride makes a short statement of acceptance (Song of Solomon 4:16). She figuratively welcomes her husband into her garden, implying that she now expects to share everything with him. She too knows that she is blessed and fortunate, and is willing to give all that she has to her mate. The husband confirms his acceptance of the new bond between them, and of the responsibilities and blessings that it involves (Song of Solomon 5:1). Then their friends give them a brief exhortation to celebrate their union with joy (Song of Solomon 5:2). All who love God should rejoice whenever God joins together a young couple who have pledged themselves to each other in accordance with God’s will.

Mark Garner, September 2004

Mis-communication & Anxiety (Song of Solomon 5:2-8)

Like Song of Solomon 3:1-5, this passage most likely describes a dream that the young woman (and new wife) has experienced. In her dream, she mis-communicates with her husband in such a way that she feels a deep anxiety and an urgent need to find him at once. It is a rather frightening experience for her, yet by sharing it she provides some helpful direction for others.

As the young wife is asleep or half asleep, she imagines that she hears her husband knocking at the door, eagerly asking to come in (Song of Solomon 5:2-4). She deliberately makes him wait, either out of a desire to tease him or as a slight "punishment" for something he has done or said. After making him wait for a sufficient time, she then opens up the door, only to find that he has given up and left her (Song of Solomon 5:5-6 a). Her attempt to be playful or coquettish has backfired, causing immediate anxiety (Song of Solomon 5:6 b). In the dead of night, she goes out into the street to find him, and the town’s watchmen assault her, beating and bruising her (Song of Solomon 5:7). Her ordeal ends with a plea that any bystanders tell her mate of her desire for him (Song of Solomon 5:8).

Her dream can best be understood by comparing it with the similar dream experience in Song of Solomon 3:1-5. In the first dream, she felt a sudden need for her beau, and made an immediate search for him during the middle of the night. This time, it is he who desires to be with her, but she makes him wait, with negative consequences. She actually had felt the same desire to be with him, but she had put him off for her own reasons. She thus learns that such forms of communication can easily produce misunderstandings. If she had wanted to tease him, it would have been better to make that clear to him, rather than acting ambiguously. If she had been irked by some minor offense on his part, she should have said so openly.

Another key difference between the two dreams is the behavior of the watchmen. In the first dream, they are useless yet benevolent bystanders, but in the second dream they punish her brutally. This is, most likely, a simple expression of her guilt feelings for having caused the problem. In a sense, it actually speaks well of her. She immediately acknowledges that her attempt to communicate has gone wrong, and she eagerly wants to put it right. If she always responds this way to her slightest mistakes, then her husband is deeply blessed to have her as his wife.

A further question would be why the young wife had this dream at all. It could well have reflected an actual incident of mis-communication or hurt feelings that was fresh on her mind. The dream represented the basic features of something that may have happened, except with exaggerated details. That is, her wandering through the streets at night was certainly not literal, nor were the violent actions of the watchmen. These details would have represented her distress and self-reproach for what happened. To have such a dream shows her genuine love and appreciation for her husband. No one likes to feel guilty or anxious, but there are times when feeling those emotions can teach us about our lives.

Mark Garner, September 2004

Building One Another Up (Song of Solomon 5:9 to Song of Solomon 6:3)

In these verses, the new bride answers some questions posed to her by friends of the newlyweds. The woman’s friends ask her (Song of Solomon 5:9) to explain why her new husband is so special to her, and then they ask her where he is (Song of Solomon 6:1), perhaps implying that he does not love her as much as she thinks he does. In both cases, the young woman quickly and happily praises her husband for his appearance, his nature, and his devotion to her. Not only does she decline to use any opportunity to critique him, but she is more than happy to compliment him in front of others.

Although many couples find it easy to praise and compliment each other before marriage, many things change afterwards. Living with someone day after day, and of necessity seeing someone in the less glamorous parts of life, puts someone in an entirely different light. In a strong marriage, a husband and wife must maintain their love and respect for one another despite each other’s more ordinary characteristics. All too often, married persons can reach a time, after they become familiar with one another, when they begin to look more closely at the negatives, and to take the positives for granted. This young woman is not making that mistake.

Human relationships were never meant to be based primarily on physical attraction, or on having fun all of the time. Nor can we build strong relationships if we have unreasonable expectations of one another. The most attractive person will not always look that way, and the most sensitive person will have times when he or she expresses negative emotions. When we see such things in one another, a simple self-reminder of our own shortcomings can often prevent us from developing unjustified negative attitudes.

Above all, we should not needlessly criticize our spouses, or any others to whom we are close, in front of others. It is another all too common habit for husbands or wives to look for opportunities to tell others about their spouse’s bad habits. This is only appropriate in very specific circumstances, and only when those listening are doing so with a desire to help or to counsel, not just to gossip or to join in the criticism.

This young wife says only good things about her husband to her friends. It is surely possible that some of those listening may have found her lavish praises to be silly or overly sentimental, and indeed all of us can remember times when our friends who were "in love" said things that we thought were too "mushy". But which is better, to praise our loved ones too lavishly to others, or to criticize them and embarrass them in front of others? The woman in Song of Songs has chosen what is best.

Mark Garner, October 2004

Continual Appreciation (Song of Solomon 6:4 to Song of Solomon 7:9)

Twice in this passage, the husband gives lengthy descriptions of his wife, praising her for her beauty and her personality. Both of the main passages in this section (Song of Solomon 6:4-9 and Song of Solomon 7:1-9) are similar to his earlier speech in Song of Solomon 4:1-15, which there is set in the general context of the couple’s wedding day. All three of these talks have the same kind of pattern, and indeed there are several phrases or statements that occur in more than one of them. The husband, then, not only knows what he appreciates about his wife, but he also tells her. And he not only tells her, but he tells her numerous times, to re-affirm his love and appreciation.

As simple as the point is, appropriate praise and compliments are an important part of close relationships. Who does not like being complimented? Further, we all face many forms of negative reinforcement from the world. Worldly values are shouted at our ears and forced in front of our eyes, and one of the worst effects of all this is that it can make us feel constantly insecure, anxious, or inferior. The world has ridiculous standards, but it proclaims them with such boldness and persistence that even Christians can be tempted to adopt them. The things the world values are crass, fleshly, and short-term, yet they can make us feel very uncomfortable when we do not measure up to their standards. It is therefore all the more important for Christians to build one another up, and especially in our closest relationships.

This is nowhere more important than in marriage. The old cliche about the insensitive husband who no longer tells his wife that he loves her because "I told her once, and if I change my mind, I’ll let her know" is still too common. The husband in Song of Songs is not going to make that mistake. He feels neither embarrassed nor inconvenienced to build up his wife as often as he can, even if he is just saying the same things that she has already heard him say to her.

There are many good things in our spouses, families, and friends. To find them, we just need to take our minds off of ourselves for a few moments. Then, to encourage someone costs nothing, is painless, and can usually be accomplished with a minimum expenditure of time and other resources. Naturally, as Christians, we cannot always say only positive things to one another, but positive things really should constitute most of what we say about one another. You know how many ways the world makes you discouraged during the course of the week. Your spouse, your family, and your brothers and sisters in the Lord have the same kinds of experiences. In the world, it usually happens that the negative, the rude, and the fearful far outweigh the positive, the kind, and the hopeful. We can make sure that it stays the other way around in the church.

Mark Garner, October 2004

A Pledge of Devotion (Song of Solomon 7:10 to Song of Solomon 8:7)

After her husband has give two lengthy descriptions of her beauty and gentleness, the wife declares her ever-stronger devotion to him, and her desire to be one with him. She goes even further here than in previous passages, declaring that she belongs to him, and vice versa. She observes that their love for each other and their commitment to each other are both strong in two different respects. First, they are strong in that their appreciation for each other and their attraction to each other are both deeply felt. Second, their commitment to each other is an exclusive one. They have each given up some of their rights and options so that they can be together.

This is the way that God intended the marriage commitment to be. When we enjoy the intimacy and closeness of marriage, we must also accept the responsibility and commitment that go with them. To desire the pleasures of marriage without the commitment is selfish and irresponsible. This couple is able to enjoy their marriage to the fullest because both of them know that they are pledged uniquely to each other. The world, in its ignorance, thinks that responsibility and commitment are confining, but in fact they free us to enjoy the blessings that God has given us.

Because secular culture makes idols out of physical appearance and sensual enjoyment, the world’s view of the marriage commitment is distorted and wrong. They try hard to promote a less godly view of marriage and relationships, by glorifying sin in their music, their movies and television shows, and other such means. Christians must guard themselves against the trap of falling into worldly perspectives through being constantly exposed to such material.

Even Christians often fall prey to the crudest of temptations, because they allow the world to convince them that sin is not as bad as God says it is. And even Christians sometimes make use of the kinds of excuses that the world concocts to rationalize their sin. But there is an even more insidious way that Christians allow the world to dictate values to them, in that we can allow the world’s determined advertisements for sin to make us feel that by abstaining from sin we are "missing out", or that we are "unsophisticated", or simply that we are going to be unpopular.

One of the reasons why Song of Songs is in the Scriptures is to help us to refute, at least in our own minds, the world’s attempts to make us feel that sin is more fun than godliness. The young married couple in Song of Songs are getting much more enjoyment out of their relationship because of their faithfulness to each other and their commitment to each other. When you watch a worldly movie or television show, adulterous couples are often portrayed as happy and secure. When you listen to a worldly song, it might celebrate how much "fun" it is to indulge the flesh irresponsibly. But the truth is that any enjoyment is, at best, short-lived and shallow. Those who live lives of sensual indulgence are insecure, joyless, and desperate, even if they have devised skilful ways of appearing contented, "sophisticated", or "hip". Don’t let them fool you. Godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6), and godly relationships bring the greatest and most lasting joy.

Mark Garner, October 2004

The Younger Sister (Song of Solomon 8:8-9)

These two verses constitute an interesting digression from the main flow of thought in Song of Songs. The ongoing interaction between the young couple is interrupted to consider a third party, a younger girl, most likely a sister of the bride and her family. The thoughts here are straightforward and relatively simple, in that the bride’s family and/or friends (most likely, she and her brothers) express their intention to protect the young girl, and if necessary to shield her until the time is right for her also to experience courtship and marriage. Yet even these simple thoughts contain a number of helpful points.

The young woman and her family clearly acknowledge that there is an appropriate age for a young person to become aware of this part of life, and that before that time, it is not right for a young child to be exposed to things that he or she is not physically and spiritually ready to deal with. As difficult as it is to do in the midst of a secular culture dominated by sin and selfishness, it is right to do what is possible to shield younger children from dangerously inappropriate influences. There is no reason to feel guilty or embarrassed for so doing.

Then also, the young bride and her family accept the responsibility for bringing up their younger sister in the right way. This includes the ways that they teach and instruct her, and it also includes their own example. They are willing to do what they can to keep her out of harm, and to keep her pure, even if this means that she may be displeased with them for the time being. In the case of the older sister who is now a wife, she realizes her responsibility to set an example for her younger sister, through her own purity and faithfulness. She knows that she should provide the same kinds of example and practical instruction that Paul describes in Titus 2:3-5.

Finally, all of these other perspectives come from the more basic acceptance of sexuality as a gift from God that must be received in the proper way, with thanksgiving, humility, and purity. It is not something that humans invented in their own genius, nor is it a toy that everyone has a right to play with as they see fit. It is unfortunate that so many humans take the very things that God gave them and then twist and pervert them into objects of abuse. It is sad because it is so sinful and wrong, and it is also sad because those who abuse God’s gifts in order to have "fun" will never know the deeper satisfaction that comes with living in the way that God has called us to live.

Mark Garner, October 2004

Love Freely Given (Song of Solomon 8:10-14)

After all of the thoughts that they have shared with each other, the young couple closes the Song of Songs with a declaration of the love that they have freely given to each other. They share affection and support with each other out of a mutual love for each other and for God, not as a fulfillment of a requirement list, or out of a feeling of joyless obligation. As in so many other things that we have seen in this book, in this too they set an example worth following.

Another of the basic flaws in so many human relationships is the tendency to keep track of the things we have done for each other, right and wrong. When we do something to help others, it is easy, but misguided, to feel that they automatically "owe" us something in return. When someone does something that makes us feel hurt or uncomfortable or annoyed, we often feel that they now "owe" us something by way of compensation. Such an approach can never lead to the kinds of satisfying godly relationships that God wishes us to have. Further, we are told many times by Jesus and the apostles to keep no record of wrongs, to give to those who cannot give back, and to base everything in our relationships on grace, out of appreciation for the grace that we ourselves have received from God.

As we see this couple in Song of Songs, their relationship is in an ideal condition. It is true, of course, that the test of time lies ahead for them. They have dealt well so far with the few trouble spots that have arisen, but the long-term test is always more of a challenge. In practice, the test often comes when something goes wrong, either because one party hurts the other, or because something external hurts one or both of them. Either difficulty can make one or both partners withdraw his or her love from the other, either out of anger, or out of fear, or out of pain. The challenge is then to realize that continuing such a pattern is good for no one. Love freely given is the only way to get past these struggles.

There are times when an excuse to stop giving and loving is easy to find, and this is why so many marriages fail. But remember - what is God’s standard for loving us? Does he give his love to us only when we deserve it? Does he love us only when we do what he wants us to do? God, of course, gives and loves - freely - at all times. We also must learn to do this if we want our relationships to last. Even if we are hurt or angry or afraid, we should not stop loving. It is difficult to do, but God’s own example should be enough to persuade us to try.

Mark Garner, October 2004

Overview of the Song of Solomon

(broken up into “Acts and Scenes”)

Act I, scene 1 (Song of Solomon 1:1-8)

The daughters of Jerusalem, along with the Shulammite girl, express their adoration for Solomon.

Act I, scene 2 (Song of Solomon 1:9 to Song of Solomon 2:7)

Solomon and the Shulammite express their affection for each other at the king’s table. The scene ends with Solomon publicly embracing the Shulammite girl. All eyes had been on her as though she were not worthy of a king’s love. Solomon puts his stamp of approval upon the Shulammite, by this public display of affection, and thereby comforts her anxiety (see Song of Solomon 2:7) (see study # 2; Public Display of Affection).

Act II, scene 1 (Song of Solomon 2:8-17)

Act II opens after an apparent lengthy winter has kept Solomon and the Shulammite girl apart. Solomon has traveled to the mountainous country home of the Shulammite to invite her to come to the royal city to be his bride. The Shulammite is hesitant to come because she knows there are foxes that shall attempt to ruin their love (i.e., likely the daughters of Jerusalem and all others who would not think she was of a sophisticated state for Solomon).

Act II, scene 2 (Song of Solomon 3:1-5)

The Shulammite girl has a dream that indicates her intense affection and anxiety over Solomon and the royal city. She has dreamed that she cannot find him anywhere. She goes throughout the city streets looking and asking the watchmen about his location. She finally finds him, holds him, and refuses to let go. The scene ends with Solomon and the Shulammite embracing once again.

Act III, scene 1 (Song of Solomon 3:6-11)

Act III opens with the Shulammite being escorted to the royal city to wed Solomon. She is accompanied by a great procession of soldiers. The scene is one of protection and honor due such an important person. Solomon has not only shown the people his affection for her but also his view of her high estate among women. This seems to be an underlying theme of the book. Though the Shulammite is a lowly country girl the King of all Israel has made her feel like a queen among the most royal of people. The husband would do well to treat his wife with such dignity, respect, honor, and affection in the public eye that the wife may feel that she is in her rightful place along his side (see study # 2). The moment a woman feels inadequate or undesired is the moment of troubles in the marriage. The more emotional woman needs attention and the husband who gives her this affection in a way that makes her feel like one of the most important things in his life will have a happier marriage (see 1 Peter 3:7) (see study # 1).

Act III scene 2 (Song of Solomon 4:1 to Song of Solomon 5:1)

The climax of the Song of Solomon reaches its peak in this scene. Solomon commends seven beautiful physical attributes of the Shulammite. She is depicted as a garden that belongs to the king (see Song of Solomon 4:16). Solomon enters into his garden (the Shulammite) and partakes of her fruit. They consummate their marriage with sexual union and call upon their friends to celebrate with them.

ACT IV, scene 1 (Song of Solomon 5:2 to Song of Solomon 6:3)

This scene takes place well into the marriage. The king has come through the night to see the Shulammite bride; however, she has already turned in for the night and us unwilling to get up, clothed herself, and soil her feet again. Solomon seems to be hurt and leaves the scene. The Shulammite comes to her senses and hurries to the door to let the king in but it is too late, he is gone. She breaks out in thoughts regarding her love, attraction, and dedication to Solomon. She exclaims that he is the chiefest among ten thousand (Song of Solomon 6:10), altogether lovely...and this is my friend (Song of Solomon 5:16). Furthermore the Shulammite states, I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine:” (Song of Solomon 6:3). Though they have had a disagreement, she is confident that they will be reunited due to their deep and committed love for each other.

Act IV, scene 2 (Song of Solomon 6:4-9)

Solomon’s thoughts are now recorded. The two have been separated through a quarrel yet the Shulammite is confident that they shall reunite their love. Solomon considers the physical and moral beauty of his Shulammite bride. Though their have been so many women in the life of Solomon none can be likened unto the Shulammite for beauty, majesty, and royal appearance. The daughters of Jerusalem along with the king’s queens and concubines praise her beauty and royal stature (Song of Solomon 6:9 b).

Act V, scene 1 (Song of Solomon 6:10 to Song of Solomon 7:5)

The daughters of Jerusalem observe, with admiring eyes, the Shulammite’s beauty and purity. The Shulammite’s thoughts are revealed as she has traveled into the garden to examine the new growth of the green vegetation. She seems to not be aware that while she was walking through the garden Solomon has sent for her with his royal chariot that she may be brought to the palace to be with him. Meanwhile, the daughters of Jerusalem continue to admire the beauty of the Shulammite bride. They compare the physical attributes of the Shulammite to an angelic dance. The daughters of Jerusalem reveal their view of the Shulammite’s beauty as she is being carried to the palace to meet with Solomon (remember, they have been captivated by her beauty in previous verses / i.e., see Song of Solomon 5:9; Song of Solomon 6:9).

Act V, scene 2 (Song of Solomon 7:6 to Song of Solomon 8:4)

Solomon and his wife are reunited. The time apart has made the both of them hungry for time together. The Shulammite reveals more of her golden character in that she desires to learn more in relation to wisdom from her beloved husband. The scene ends with Solomon embracing his bride.

Acts VI, scene 1 (Song of Solomon 8:5-7)

Solomon and the Shulammite have traveled to the country to be together. They find the original apple tree that they first expressed their love for each other. Under this tree they express their inseparable love toward each other. Grand lessons on the oneness of marriages are depicted here.

Act VI, scene 2 (Song of Solomon 8:8-14)

The Shulammite expresses her gratitude toward her brothers who at first seemed to be mean spirited (see Song of Solomon 1:6); however, upon closer examination we find that she appreciated their watchful and caring eyes. Solomon’s bride unashamedly professes her purity and thereby brings joy to her brothers who sought so diligently to keep her that way. The Song ends with Solomon and his bride vanishing from our eyes.

Outline of the Song of Solomon

Chapter 1

ACT I Scene 1

The daughters of Jerusalem’s view of Solomon (Song of Solomon 1:1-4):

The Song of songs, which is Solomon’s” (Song of Solomon 1:1).

The word “song” Hebrew (shiyr) means music, singer, songs (Strong’s 7892). This book of songs is known as the “Canticles” (i.e., Latin for “the song of songs”). This song that exceeds all songs is attributed to Solomon. Solomon is the author of this book.

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth; for thy love is better than wine” (Song of Solomon 1:2). The narrator at this point is clearly females who are contemplating Solomon. All virgin daughters of Jerusalem, including the Shulammite girl (see Song of Solomon 6:13) are intended. Latter, the Shulammite girl takes over the narrative (see Song of Solomon 1:5 ff). The maiden’s name may be a derivative of Shunammite which is “a general designation for a woman of Shunem, a village in the tribal territory of Issachar (Joshua 19:18)” (ISBE v. 4, pp. 497). The daughters of Jerusalem (see Song of Solomon 1:5) and the Shulammite woman contemplate the kisses of Solomon that are viewed as sweeter than the blood of the grape (i.e., wine). The point is that Solomon’s kisses are very enjoyable.

The scene is that of a group of women sitting together talking about their desire for one man.

Thine oils have a goodly fragrance; thy name is as oil poured forth; therefore do the virgins love thee” (Song of Solomon 1:3). The oils of Solomon are a “goodly fragrance” in relation to his charm. He is a gentleman with qualities that are attractive (i.e., kind, wise, and complementary). The name of Solomon is known abroad and is thereby compared to oil poured forth.” Said fame and glory came to be known of the Queen of Sheba and so she came to prove him (see 1 Kings 10:1-10). Solomon’s charm and world glory made him a very attractive man to the virgins or maidens of the world.

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 of wine: rightly do they love thee” (Song of Solomon 1:4). The idea portrayed is that if it be the king’s will “we will run after thee.” All are willing to be brought to the king’s chambers (it does not appear that the ones under consideration have gone but rather that they are willing at his bidding). The narrative appears to not only take into consideration the Shulammite but all virgin women who desire this charming man of renown (i.e., the daughters of Jerusalem).

The Shulammite woman addresses the daughters of Jerusalem (her competition for Solomon’s love) (Song of Solomon 1:5-6):

I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon (Song of Solomon 1:5). The desires of the daughters of Jerusalem have been made known. The Shulammite woman is apparently among these daughters as they sing the song. All eyes have managed to gaze upon the Shulammite woman with looks that say, “Why are you here?” The Shulammite woman answers their inquisitive looks by admitting that she is black (by sun scorched skin). She compares herself to the tents of Kedar (i.e., Ishmaelite tribes of north Arabia / see Genesis 25:13). These tents were known to be made from black or dark colored goat skins. Though black in skin color she is not without beauty. She confidently compares her appearance to the curtains of Solomon (dividing tapestries that would have been very beautiful for the king).

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” (Song of Solomon 1:6).The Shulammite continues to explain her appearance to the daughters of Jerusalem. She is black due to the sun that hath scorched me in intense labor. She is apparently not a woman of royal estate but rather common. She pleads with the daughters of Jerusalem not to view her as swarthy (i.e., having a dark complexion) as though she were a foreigner but rather it is due to her hard labor in the vineyards. Today we may hear, “don’t judge me by the color of my skin.”

The Shulammite reveals that her brothers were all incensed with her and thereby farmed her out for labor in their own vineyards. Interestingly she does not refer to them as her brothers but rather “My mother’s sons.” The idea of their anger directed at her and her reference to them illustrate some difficult family issues that have not been resolved.

The Shulammite now addresses Solomon (though Solomon is not present) (Song of Solomon 1:7):

Tell me, O thou whom my soul loves, 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?” (Song of Solomon 1:7) The Shulammite woman now singly addresses Solomon. She longs to meet the king alone and far away from all the starring eyes of the daughters of Jerusalem. Her thoughts are laid open to the daughters of Jerusalem as she request the king’s location that she may go to him. Note that she refers to Solomon as one “whom my soul loves.” We are told nothing, to this point, of any previous relationship between Solomon and the Shulammite woman. At this point of the study we see that she knows of him and loves him.

The Daughters of Jerusalem answer the Shulammite’s Thoughts (Song of Solomon 1:8):

If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsepts of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherd’s tents” (Song of Solomon 1:8).     The daughters of Jerusalem answer the Shulammite woman by saying if you don’t know where the king is then go forth unto the flock and shepherd the kids by the shepherd’s tents. The thought seems to be that if the beautiful Shulammite woman has no clue as to where Solomon is then she should just go back to her simple shepherd life.     Though the daughters of Jerusalem are struck by the Shulammite’s beauty they nonetheless seem to treat her as though she were a dumb country girl who is not worthy of the king.

ACT I scene 2

Solomon now comes upon the scene (Song of Solomon 1:9-11):

I have compared thee, O my love, To a steed in Pharaoh’s chariots” (Song of Solomon 1:9). Solomon’s thoughts are now considered within this poem. While the Shulammite woman has revealed her thoughts about Solomon he now contemplates her. Their introduction to each other is not given. We are only told that they have this initial intense interest in each other. It may be that she is brought to Solomon as one of his many virgin wives yet she is standing out in his mind from the others. Solomon looks upon the Shulammite woman and sees within her a steed in Pharaoh’s chariots.” A steed is a beautiful and spirited horse.

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” (Song of Solomon 1:10-11). Solomon looks upon the natural beauty of the Shulammite and pictures her with “strings of jewels.” The king entices the Shulammite to remain in the palace with gold and silver.

The Shulammite is now in the presence of Solomon for the first time (Song of Solomon 1:12-14):

While the king sat at his table, my spikenard sent forth its fragrance. My beloved is unto me as a bundle of myrrh, that lies between my breast. My beloved is unto me as a cluster of henna-flowers in the vineyards of Engedi” (Song of Solomon 1:12-14). The scene before us, to this point, is one that is building in the realm of love. Two individuals have an intense attraction for each other. Their feelings for each other have been suppressed within their minds. The moment of personal engagement has come. The scene is like two young people who have eyed each other, thought about each other, and finally approach each other in conversation with hopes of developing a relationship.

While the king is at his table she appears to him. Her presence figuratively sends forth a fragrance of her love toward him and Solomon picks up on it. This can occur through eye contact, body language, and other flirt like actions that indicate one is interested in another. She looks upon Solomon as her beloved compared to myrrh that lies between my breast.” Myrrh (perfume from India, Africa, and Arabia) appears to have been applied between the breasts of women and caused one to be pleasing. The fragrant aroma of myrrh was a constant refreshment to the woman wearing it. Solomon held such a special place within the mind of the Shulammite woman that he reminder her of this myrrh. She thought about him all the time. His name was refreshing to her. He was likened unto an ornament of beauty to her (“a cluster of henna-flowers in the vineyards of Engedi”).

Solomon’s thoughts on the visage of the Shulammite while at his Table (Song of Solomon 1:15):

Behold, thou art fair, my love; Behold, thou art fair; thine eyes are as doves” (Song of Solomon 1:15). Solomon looks upon the Shulammite and exclaims that she is fair (i.e., beautiful to look upon). While the Shulammite has referred to Solomon as her “beloved” he now refers to her as, my love.” The attraction between Solomon and the Shulammite woman cannot be denied. Solomon compares his love’s eyes to a dove for purity and gentleness. Everything about the Shulammite impresses the king.

The Shulammite replies to Solomon’s kind words (Song of Solomon 1:16-17):

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 1:16-17). The Shulammite too considers Solomon fair or beautiful. She envisions future days together as a married couple whose dwellings are in the green countryside yet not without the luxuries of a king (i.e., cedars and firs).

Thoughts:

The scene is one of mutual attraction that builds unto a personal meeting. The two have admired each other in thought and now express their love and attraction to each other in word.

Chapter 2

The Shulammite’s appetite and fears are satisfied and Comforted (Song of Solomon 2:1-7):

I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valley. As a lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters” (Song of Solomon 2:1-2). The rose of Sharon (crocus or narcissus... “There are seven species of rose that grow in the Holy Land. The most widely distributed of these is Rosa Phoenicia, Boiss., which grows on the coast and in the mountains” (New Unger’s Bible Dictionary pp. 1339). The flower was recognized as “Sharon” due to the plain it grew in (i.e., the Plain of Sharon was a coastal plain found on the Mediterranean coast between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea).

The Shulammite compares her love for Solomon with the professed love among the daughters of Jerusalem. Thorny love can only mean that there is deception and ulterior motives behind their affection. They may want a share of the king’s glory and riches. The Shulammite simply desires the man.

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” (Song of Solomon 2:3). The apple tree produces fruit and is apparently the noblest of trees in this geographic region. The Shulammite sees in this noble tree among trees her beloved Solomon. Solomon’s fruit (i.e., his character such as his words and actions / see Matthew 7:15 ff; John 15:5 ff) is a refreshing sweet apple to the Shulammite. He is likened unto shade that the tree produces indicating that she feels safe and protected when with him.

He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love” (Song of Solomon 2:4). To this point Solomon has been absent yet now is present with the Shulammite. He brings her to the banqueting house (i.e., the place where he entertains his closest friends). The Shulammite is somewhat uncomfortable with this setting knowing that she is black and not of royal descent; however, Solomon’s love is depicted as a banner over her and she is thereby made to feel comfortable.

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” (Song of Solomon 2:5-6). The Shulammite calls upon raisins and apples to refresh her from her state of being love sick. She feels herself sinking into a realm of intense loving feelings for Solomon. She is not looking to end this feeling but rather to be refreshed. Solomon does the refreshing. His left hand supports her love sick head and his right hand embraces her. This is not a dream, this is not fantasy, she is refreshed by the reality of his love like raisins and apples refresh the physical body.

I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes (gazelles), or by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, until he please” (Song of Solomon 2:7). While the Shulammite is embraced by Solomon she adjures the daughters of Jerusalem to leave them alone. The moment of her greatest feelings of love are being fulfilled as her love sickened heart is made comfortable and fulfilled by Solomon. He holds her in view of all and thereby gives his approval of her. The gazing eyes of the daughters of Jerusalem may be filled with jealousy yet they are adjured to leave the two alone.

The first ACT of the book ends with Song of Solomon 2:7 (Song of Solomon 1:1 to Song of Solomon 2:7). The scene has been played out in the city where Solomon dwells. The daughters of Jerusalem, along with the Shulammite girl, had gathered to speak of Solomon. Solomon’s true love is reserved; however, for the Shulammite girl alone. They meet at his banqueting house (Song of Solomon 2:4) at the king’s table (Song of Solomon 1:12). The Shulammite girl feels a bit out of place yet her love sick heart drives her to remain. Solomon comforts his love by embracing her in view of all in the house. Said act refreshed the love sick soul of the Shulamite like raisins and apples refresh the body. The Shulammite adjures the daughters of Jerusalem to not interrupt their moment of affection. The scene ends with Solomon holding the Shulammite in his arms.

ACT II Scene 1

The Shulammite and Solomon meet after a long Winter Apart (Song of Solomon 2:8-17):

The voice of my beloved! Behold, he comes, leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills (Song of Solomon 2:8). Acts 2 of this song is in a different location than the royal city of Song of Solomon 1:1 to Song of Solomon 2:7. The Shulammite sees Solomon coming to her through the mountains and it produces excitement.

My beloved is like a roe (gazelle) or a young hart: behold, he stands behind our wall; he looks in at the windows; he glances through the lattice” (Song of Solomon 2:9). Solomon, with the speed of a gazelle, rides through the mountains to reach his beloved at her house. He arrives and peers through all the windows, walls, and lattice as though he is frantically searching for the Shulammite.

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 ripens her green figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth their fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away” (Song of Solomon 2:10-13). The Shulammite narrates this whole scene. She explains that Solomon finds her and calls upon her to “rise up” and come with him back to the royal city. The long winter is past and spring is here. Flowers, song birds, turtle-doves, and plants sending forth green leaves are signs of the warmer season. Solomon calls upon the Shulammite to “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.”

O my dove, that 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” (2:14). Solomon has referred to the Shulammite as having the eyes of a dove (Song of Solomon 1:15). He has told her of her beauty (Song of Solomon 1:9-10). He calls the Shulammite, his love (Song of Solomon 1:9). He now calls upon this beautiful dove that he loves to leave her home in the mountains and come back to the city with him. He has said that it is a good time due to the weather warming (i.e., spring). Now, Solomon longs to see her countenance and hear the Shulammite’s voice. There seems to be nothing that can please him like her visage and voice. All men ought to view their wives in such a light and all wives ought to live in such a way that would encourage said attraction (see study # 1; Love and Marriage).

Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vineyards; for our vineyards are in blossom” (Song of Solomon 2:15). The Shulammite contemplates the vineyard she works at in relation to her love for Solomon and his love for her. The vineyard that is overrun with foxes is a ruined one. Foxes dig holes and burrow underground destroying root systems and creating holes that the roots can gain no sustenance from. Throughout the scriptures foxes are used figuratively to denote physical (Neh. 3) and spiritual (Ezekiel 13:4) destroyers. The Shulammite wants no part of fox like people who would destroy the love that she and Solomon share (such as the daughters of Jerusalem who dwell in the royal city).

My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feeds his flock among the lilies. Until the day be cool, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe (gazelle) or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether” (Song of Solomon 2:16-17). Though Solomon was not a shepherd the Shulammite has nothing better to compare him to in relation to her experiences. The idea of Solomon belonging to the Shulammite and the Shulammite belonging to Solomon conjures up ideas of monogamy. She seems to have taken the ultimate place in Solomon’s heart. The “feeding of the flock among the lilies considers Solomon’s kingly work viewed with beauty by the Shulammite. She request that he make haste (like a gazelle) and finish his work that they may be together again in the evening. Notice that the one who holds the Shulammites affection is her beloved.” To this point she has referred to a man as her beloved and the one to whom her soul loves on 10 times. Note again that at Song of Solomon 1:12-13 the beloved is attributed to the king.” It seems clear to this point that even though the Shulammite uses shepherd terms there is no second man in the picture. This is “Solomon’s song” (Song of Solomon 1:1). There are thereby three principle characters in the song to this point (i.e., Solomon, the Shulammite, and the daughters of Jerusalem).

Summary of ACT II Scene 1

Solomon has swiftly come to the mountain home of the Shulammite after a long winter of being apart. He tries to persuade her to come back to the royal city that they may be together. The Shulammite is hesitant to come because she knows there are “foxes” that shall attempt to ruin their love (i.e., likely the daughters of Jerusalem and all others who would not think she was of a sophisticated state for Solomon).

Chapter 3

ACT II Scene 2

The Shulammite’s Dream (Song of Solomon 3:1-5):

By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loves: I sought him, but I found him not” (Song of Solomon 3:1) Evening comes and the Shulammite has not left her mountain home. She lies in bed thinking about the one her “soul loves.” It may very well be that the Shulamite begins to dream of searching for her beloved yet unable to find him.

I said, I will rise now, and go about the city; in the streets and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loves: I sought him, but I found him not” (Song of Solomon 3:2). The dream produces anxiety. Her beloved is no where to be found. She has searched the city streets and broadways but she cannot find him. The Shulammite is filled with anxiety over the dreamy loss of her beloved.

The watchmen that go about the city found me; to whom I said, Saw ye him whom my soul loves?” (Song of Solomon 3:3). The Shulammite is discovered wandering through the city streets at night by the watchmen of the town. She asks the men if they have seen Solomon. Note that if a shepherd boy was intended by the Shulammite the watchmen would not have as great of knowledge of his whereabouts. “In the OT times watchmen protected vineyards and fields during harvest season (Jeremiah 31:6)...Watchmen were posted on city walls (2 Kings 9:17-20) and at city Gates (2 Samuel 18:24-27)...The watchman also guarded the walls day and night against enemy attack or siege (1 Samuel 14:16; Isaiah 21:6-8; Jeremiah 51:12) he was responsible for warning the citizens of impending attack by sounding a trumpet (Jeremiah 6:17)” (ISBE V. 4, pp. 1024).

It was but a little that I passed from them, when I found him whom my soul loves: I held him, and would not let him go, until I had brought him into my mother’s house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me” (Song of Solomon 3:4). The Shulammite is told by the watchmen about Solomon’s whereabouts. She finds the one her “soul loves” and held tightly to him so as not to loose him again. The Shulammite will not let go of Solomon “until I had brought him into my mother’s house.” She did not want to loose track of him again. Once again we note the term, him whom my soul loves.” The Shulammite used this term at Song of Solomon 1:7 and it is connected to the king and the term beloved at Song of Solomon 1:12-13. Again, the Shulammite is clearly referring to the king (i.e., Solomon) rather than a second man (i.e., the “shepherd boy theory”). The entire scene depicts the intensity of love the two shared for each other. Let us learn that while God demands our undivided love and devotion He permits, yea blesses, us with wives and husbands to enjoy while on this earth (see Ecclesiastes 9:9) (see study # 1).

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” (Song of Solomon 3:5). This statement brings to an end the second scene of ACT II (the dream). I find it interesting that we ran across this exact same phrase at Song of Solomon 2:7 (i.e. the end of the first ACT). At Song of Solomon 2:7 the Shulammite is being held in the comforting arms of her beloved and once again here at Song of Solomon 3:5 she is holding on to him. The statement appears to mark an embracing moment in the Song (see once again at Song of Solomon 8:3-4).

ACT III scene 1

The Spectacle entrance of the Shulammite into the Royal City to wed Solomon (Song of Solomon 3:6-11):

Who is this that comes up from the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant?” (Song of Solomon 3:6) A great procession makes its way to the royal city from the wilderness. The occupant, apparently the Shulammite girl whom Solomon has summoned, fills the air with pleasant fragrances. Apparently the Shulammite has accepted Solomon’s offer to come to the royal city and to be wed (see Song of Solomon 2:10).

Behold, it is the litter of Solomon; threescore mighty men are about it, of the mighty men of Israel” (Song of Solomon 3:7). The question posed at verse one, i.e., Who is this...” is now answered. Behold, it is the litter (portable bed or coach) of Solomon.” Apparently Solomon had a special chariot or boxed carrier to travel in. His traveling cart is now used by his love the Shulammite. Note that the cart is accompanied by sixty might men (or heroes). This would amount to one tenth of the royal guard (see 1 Samuel 27:2; 1 Samuel 30:9).

They all handle the sword, and are expert in war: Every man hath his sword upon his thigh, because of fear in the night” (Song of Solomon 3:8). The sixty heroes, mighty men, and those experts in war had a ready sword attached to their thigh. The scene appears to be one of not only protection against enemies in the wilderness but honor for the occupant of the royal cart.

King Solomon made himself a palanquin of the wood of Lebanon. He made the pillars thereof of silver, the bottom thereof of gold, the seat of it of purple, the midst thereof being paved with love, from the daughters of Jerusalem” (Song of Solomon 3:9-10). The Shulammite approaches the royal city with great pomp. All eyes have taken notice. She heads toward the royal palanquin of Solomon’s (i.e., marriage bed... “An east Asian covered litter, carried on poles on the shoulders of two or four men” [AHD 893]). This bed has been given special attention in areas of workmanship. The bed has pillars of silver, bottom of gold, and seat (cushions) of purple. The entire bed is paved with love (i.e., special care due to the love that exists between Solomon and the Shulammite in preparation for their marriage).

Keil and Delitzsch remark, “Nowhere do we see her up to this point resisting; much rather she is happy in her love. The shepherd-hypothesis cannot comprehend this marriage procession without introducing incongruous and imaginary things; it is a poem of the time of Gellert. Solomon the seducer, and Shulamith the heroine of virtue, are figures as from Gellert’s Swedish Countess; they are moral commonplaces personified, but not real human beings” (Keil and Delitzsch v. 6, pp. 548). Furthermore, F. C. Cook writes, “If in other Scriptures are found words of indignation and wrath and terrible threatening, the characteristics of this Book are sweetness, cheerfulness, and joy, characteristics somewhat at variance with ‘the hypothesis’ so-called ‘of the shepherd lover.’ This hypothesis, held by many distinguished critics, assumes that there are two lovers in the Song, one a faithful simple-minded shepherd, the other a magnificent voluptuous king, by each of whom the affections of a Shulammite maiden are alternately solicited; while she, faithful in her allegiance to her shepherd-lover, rejects with scorn the monarch’s blandishments, and finally compels him to abandon his pursuit” (Barn’s Notes; Proverbs to Ezekiel, F. C. Cook, pp. 116-117).

Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold king Solomon, with the crown wherewith his mother hath crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart” (Song of Solomon 3:11). Solomon’s mother is Bathsheba (see 1 Kings 1:11). The use of the term daughters of Zion is to distinguish them from the daughters of Jerusalem found at Song of Solomon 1:5; Song of Solomon 3:5 etc.). The daughters of Zion would likely be the general population of Jewish women. The women are called upon to view two things: The women of Zion were to look upon the king as his mother put the crown of his espousals.” The crown and espousals have an apparent relationship to marriage and the wedding procedure. The word espousals (Hebrew chathunnah) = “a wedding... a prim. Root; to give (a daughter) away in marriage; hence (gen.) to contract affinity by marriage: join in affinity, father in law, make marriages, mother in law, son in law” (Strong’s Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary pp. 45 word # 2861). Bathsheba’s purpose for crowning Solomon was not to pronounce him king but rather for giving him away in marriage (an apparent custom for men’s mothers to perform likened unto a father giving away his daughter in marriage). Secondly, this day of wedding and marriage was a day of the gladness of his heart.” The love and wedding between Solomon and the Shulammite was very public. There was a clear distinction to be made on this occasion with his other wives (see Song of Solomon 6:8 ff).

Chapter 4

ACT III, scene 2

Solomon Affectionately Describes the Shulammite’s Beauty (4 all):

Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thine eyes are as doves behind thy veil. Thy hair is as a flock of goats, that lie along the side of mount Gilead” (Song of Solomon 4:1). Solomon praises the Shulammite’s beauty (i.e., fair = beauty or beautiful {see Strong’s # 3303}). There are seven physical attributes of beauty ascribed to the Shulammite in this section. This illustrates the importance of physical attraction between two who are contemplating a relationship (see study # 3; Physical Attraction). Solomon begins by describing her eyes and moves on to her hair. The Shulammite’s eyes have been previously compared to a dove yet now they are seen behind a veil. Her hair is compared to goats that have assembled upon the side of mount Gilead and have the appearance of long flowing hair alongside the mountain. These rural scenes and comparisons would be greatly appreciated by the woman who has spent her life in such environments and seen its beauty.

Thy teeth are like a flock of ewes that are newly shorn, which are come up from the washing, whereof every one hath twins, and none is bereaved among them” (Song of Solomon 4:2). Solomon moves from the Shulammite’s eyes to hair and from hair to teeth to describe her beauty. Her teeth are white as the sheep and perfect in their number.

Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy mouth is comely. Thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate behind thy veil” (Song of Solomon 4:3). Solomon is impressed with the Shulammite’s eyes, hair, teeth and now he describes the beauty of her lips and mouth. Her lips and mouth are attractive as is scarlet fabric. Her temples can be seen and are compared to pomegranates for beauty.

Thy neck is like the tower of David builded for an armory, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all the shields of the mighty men” (Song of Solomon 4:4). Solomon continues to examine and describe every beautiful physical part of the Shulammite girl. He is working from head to toe. Such an event in the Bible depicts the importance of physical attraction in the lives of mankind when choosing a mate. While physical attraction is not the only criteria for selecting a mate it is nonetheless important. Two people who are considering marriage ought to be physically attracted to each other. We are created by God as a people who have the innate ability look upon others and judge their external beauty. The Bible tells us about the beauty of Rachael (Genesis 29:17), David (1 Samuel 16:12), Abigail (1 Samuel 25:3), Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:2), Esther (Esther 2:7), and Absalom (2 Samuel 14:25) (see study # 3). Solomon moves to the Shulammite’s neck and describes it as the tower of David.” This tower is mentioned at Nehemiah 3:25 as being repaired. Apparently the tower was a very beautiful structure. This tower, in the city of Jerusalem, was used for hanging armament of David’s elite guard (the heroes) (see 1 Kings 1:8; 2 Kings 24:14 etc.).

Thy two breasts are like two fawns that are twins of a roe, which feed among the lilies” (Song of Solomon 4:5). Solomon has affectionately described his physical attraction to the Shulammite’s eyes, hair, temples, lips, mouth, neck and now he looks to her breasts. The youth of fawns and beauty of lilies in the field depict the Shulammite’s breast. The seven fold beauty of the Shulammite is complete for now (i.e., her eyes, hair, teeth, temples, lips, neck, and breasts).

The Shulammite girl answers Solomon’s praises

Until the day be cool, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense” (Song of Solomon 4:6). The Shulammite acknowledges Solomon’s praise with the request to go into the mountains and hills where the myrrh and frankincense trees grow. It appears that on this day that she would be wed to Solomon she desires to meditate alone.

Solomon, upon hearing these words of the Shulammite, heaps more praise upon her.

Thou are all fair, my love; and there is no spot in thee” (Song of Solomon 4:7). Solomon has depicted the sevenfold external beauty within the Shulammite as being without “spot” (i.e., she is perfect in every physical way). Consider the description of Absalom (David’s son) at 2 Samuel 14:25... “Now in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty: from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him.” The Shulammite is as perfect in bodily form as was her male counterpart Absalom.

Come with me from Lebanon, my bride, with me from Lebanon: look from the top of Amana, from the top of Senir and Hermon, from the lions’ dens, from the mountains of the leopards” (Song of Solomon 4:8). Solomon referred to the Shulammite as “my love” at the beginning of chapter four and now calls her my bride (i.e., “spouse” {see Strong’s # 3618}). The day of their wedding has arrived. Solomon calls upon the Shulammite to sit upon the high mountains of royalty. Herein is a place of comfort and protection.

Thou has ravished my heart, my sister, my bride; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one of chain of thy neck” (Song of Solomon 4:9). The Shulammite has taken captive Solomon’s heart. He exclaims that he is ravished by a single look and even one chain upon her neck. The most modest of apparel worn by the right person can appear ravishing (i.e., overwhelmed in a good sense).

How fair is thy love, my sister, my bride! How much better is thy love than wine! And the fragrance of thine oils than manner of spices! Thy lips, O my bride, drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon (Song of Solomon 4:10-11). The Shulammite is viewed not only as beautiful but to experience her love in the smells of aromatic fragrances is better than wine. The King looks to his bride and seemingly breathes in everything that the Shulammite is to him and she is indeed fulfilling and refreshing.

A garden shut up is my sister, my bride; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed” (Song of Solomon 4:12). The Shulammite bride now belongs to Solomon. She is his garden sealed for his eyes and taste alone.

Thy shoots are an orchard of pomegranates, with precious fruits; Henna with spikenard plants, spikenard and saffron, Calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices” (Song of Solomon 4:13-14). Solomon looks to the Shulammite as a garden that belongs to him (see Song of Solomon 4:12). The king now envisions his ravishing garden as a beautiful orchard of pomegranates, fruits, aromatic plants, and spices. Indeed, this garden is a pleasant place to dwell.

Thou are a fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and flowing streams from Lebanon” (Song of Solomon 4:15). A fountain within the garden gives life to all it waters. The Shulammite is viewed by the king as one who sustains his inner most desires and fulfills his every need.

The Shulammite girl responds to Solomon’s affectionate words directed toward her:

Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof my flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his precious fruits” (Song of Solomon 4:16). The Shulammite girl continues the illustration used by Solomon in that she is compared to a garden with wonderful fruit and fragrances. She calls upon the wind to stir up the aromatic fragrances and send them to Solomon that he would be pleased with her. She now invites Solomon to partake of his garden and to eat his precious fruits.” Note the possessive statement his precious fruit.” She now belongs to the king and is ready to consummate the marriage through the sexual union.

Chapter 5

Solomon replies to the Shulammite’s request that he come in to her

The Marriage of Solomon and the Shulammite consummated in Sexual Union (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” (Song of Solomon 5:1). With this verse comes the climax of the Song of Solomon. Let us recall that the garden under consideration, with its fruits and trees, is the Shulammite girl herself (see Song of Solomon 4:12). She has called upon Solomon to come and partake of the garden (Song of Solomon 4:16). Solomon now partakes of his brides’ love in sexual union as belongs to married couples alone (see Hebrews 13:4). The sexual union marked the wedding day of Israelite couples and afterwards would come the celebratory feasts with all of its guests (see Genesis 29:28; Judges 14:12). Solomon thereby calls upon friends to drink abundantly as guest of the wedding feast. Solomon and the Shulammite are now married!

Summary of Act III scene 2 (Song of Solomon 4:1 to Song of Solomon 5:1)

The climax of the Song of Solomon reaches its peak in this scene. Solomon commends seven beautiful physical attributes of the Shulammite. She is depicted as a garden that belongs to the king (see Song of Solomon 4:16). Solomon enters into his garden (the Shulammite) and partakes of her fruit. They consummate their marriage with sexual union and call upon their friends to celebrate with them.

ACT IV, scene 1 (Song of Solomon 5:2 to Song of Solomon 6:3)

The Shulammite rejects Solomon’s Request to see her (Song of Solomon 5:2 to Song of Solomon 6:3):

I was asleep, but my heart waked: it is the voice of my beloved that knocks, 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” (Song of Solomon 5:2). It seems that the author of our study is now giving us a glimpse into the married life of Solomon and the Shulammite. How much time has elapsed since their wedding is not said. The Shulammite has turned in for the night and is sleeping. Her sleep is disrupted by the voice of Solomon. The beloved of the Shulammite is Solomon (see Song of Solomon 1:12-13 etc.). Solomon knocks at the door of the Shulammite. He has traveled through the night to see her and so has “dew” in his hair. Solomon refers to the Shulammite as his sister, love, dove, and undefiled.” Some versions say spouse rather than love.” The Hebrew word for love in this text is rayah which is defined as “a female associate: love” (Strong’s 109). The fourth description of the Shulammite by Solomon is the word undefiled (Heb. tam) = “complete; usually pious; coupled together, perfect, plain, undefiled, upright” (Strong’s 124). This is an important word in the study because it says that the king was not simply after the Shulammite girl because of her seven physical traits of beauty enumerated at Song of Solomon 4. Solomon has not only been impressed by the Shulammite’s outward beauty but with her inner beauty as well.

I have put off my garment; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?” (Song of Solomon 5:3). The Shulammite rejects Solomon’s request to enter into her room due to the fact that she had already removed her garments and washed her feet (i.e., she was not willing to get up, put her cloths on, and soil her feet so that he may come in). This response on the part of the Shulammite does not coincide with the previous chapters. She has illustrated her intense love and desires for Solomon yet now she is not even willing to come to the door to greet him. Did they have a disagreement... is she irritated with him for some reason??? It is somewhat interesting to note that though a man may use all sorts of sweet sayings to his wife she may remain irritated with him until she comes to herself. The point is that it is wise to give one’s spouse time to recover from wounds. She may have been irritated with him because he had been gone for so long. It may be well to interject a thought here that shall help both parties of a marriage in relationship to dealing with issues. The Song of Solomon is a book that illustrates the needs of a relationship. Let us consider; however, that the woman (or man) who does not act worthy of attention, honor, affection, love, and praise will be hard pressed to receive it. A woman may certainly need affection, attention, and approval yet as she does nothing but put the man down and treat him with little to no respect she must realize that she is making it harder and harder for the man to show his affection toward her.

My beloved put in his hand by the hold of the door, and my heart was moved for him. I rose up to open to my beloved; and my hands dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with liquid myrrh, upon the handles of the bolt” (Song of Solomon 5:4-5). After telling Solomon that she was already in bed and did not want to put her clothes back on and soil her feet the Shulammite hears Solomon put his hand by the hold of the door.” It seems that the cause for her not wanting to get up and greet her beloved has now left and she quickly arises to unlock the handles of the bolt on the door that he may come in. Her heart was moved in that she realizes that she has erred in not answering his sweet call.

I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn (turned away) 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” (Song of Solomon 5:6). The Shulammite now recognizes her error yet it is too late. Solomon is gone. The king had come to her in the night with sweet words of care, respect, and honor yet she rejected him. Solomon likely felt slighted by his bride and left the scene in sorrow. The scene is not unlike many situations in marriages today. One of the mates may feel neglected and thereby returns the neglecting to the other. One thing leads to another and the two who are so close become far apart. Misunderstandings, a moment of selfishness, and times of self pity have a way of bringing down a marriage.

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” (Song of Solomon 5:7). Incidentally, note that the Shulammite is searching for her beloved in the city as opposed to the country side where a so called shepherd lover would be located. Once again, this is devastating to the “shepherd lover-hypothesis.” Here, as in her first dream, she seeks help from the watchmen. This time; however, the Shulammite is not consoled or helped but rather beaten and taken for a criminal in the night. To avert capture she struggles away from the men leaving her outer garment in their hands.

I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, that ye tell him, that I am sick from love” (Song of Solomon 5:8). To adjure (i.e., “to command or enjoin solemnly, as under oath... to appeal to or entreat earnestly” [AHD 79]). The Shulammite has previously adjured the daughters of Jerusalem to leave their love undisturbed (see Song of Solomon 2:7; Song of Solomon 3:5). She now calls upon these women to tell Solomon that she is sick over her love for him.

What is thy beloved more than another beloved, O thou fairest among women? What is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so adjure us?” (Song of Solomon 5:9). The daughters of Jerusalem share in admiration of Solomon (see Song of Solomon 1:4-5). These women ask the Shulammite what she considered so special about Solomon as opposed to all other men. The daughters of Jerusalem acknowledge the Shulammite’s adjuring with a question. They are being called upon to tell Solomon how love sick she is over him. They seem to want to know why the Shulammite is so enthralled by Solomon. If he will not reciprocate her love why not go after another beloved.” If someone were to asks you this question about your husband what would your answer be? Would you say that he is affectionate, kind, gentle, shows me honor and respect... or would you say, “He never does this, that, or anything for me...”

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” (Song of Solomon 5:10-11). Solomon had revealed the sevenfold aspects of the Shulammite’s physical beauty at chapter 4. The Shulammite now reveals her assessment of Solomon’s physical beauty. There are many physical characteristics listed at Song of Solomon 5:10-16. The Shulammite answers the daughters of Jerusalem’s question beginning with Solomon’s countenance. Solomon is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand.” The Hebrew word for white (tsach) = “dazzling, i.e. sunny, bright, (figuratively) evident:--clear, dry, plainly, white” (Strong’s # 6703). To be ruddy (adom) = “red” (Strong’s 122)... “having a healthy, reddish color” (AHD 1076). Solomon’s head is depicted as gold for splendor and his hair was curly and black as a raven. The Shulammite’s view of Solomon is that he is the chiefest among ten thousand.” Again, let the wife so honor and view her husband (i.e., there is no one that could ever take his place). Let us continue to note the praise, honor, attraction, and love that Solomon and the Shulammite have for each other.

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” (Song of Solomon 5:12-13). The eyes of Solomon are depicted as doves near water. The white in his eyes are as milk and set perfectly within his head. His cheeks and lips are admired and desired as well (see study # 3).

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 upon 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” (Song of Solomon 5:14-16). The Shulammite, with a spirit of fondness, continues to reveal the strong and royal appearance of Solomon’s hands, body, legs, and mouth. Solomon is not only one with whom the Shulammite is physically attracted to but he is her friend.” Herein is a great lesson on the relationship between the husband and wife. The married couple should not only be physically attracted to each other, respect and honor each other’s moral standards, but they should also be friends. The closest friend a husband and wife can have is their own company (see Proverbs 18:24). Those who seek closer friends among others are doomed to alienation, adultery, and failed marriages.

Chapter 6

Act IV, scene 2 Continued (Song of Solomon 6:1-3):

Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among women? Whither hath thy beloved turned him, that we may seek him with thee?” (Song of Solomon 6:1). The daughters of Jerusalem appear to have a genuine care and concern for helping the Shulammite. They seem to have gotten over their original prejudicial view of her (see Song of Solomon 1:4 ff). The daughters of Jerusalem offer to help the Shulammite find Solomon.

My beloved is gone down to his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies. I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine: he feeds his flock among the lilies” (Song of Solomon 6:2-3). The Shulammite assumes that Solomon has traveled “down to his garden.” The physical garden is meant here as opposed to the figurative one (i.e., the Shulammite) at Song of Solomon 5:1. Solomon loved his garden with its flowers. The Shulammite is sure that her beloved has gone there to meditate on the day’s events. She concludes by saying, I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” The Song of Solomon has effectively depicted an immensely strong bond between Solomon and the Shulammite. This bond is founded on their mutual love, honor, physical attraction, and respect for each other which is an testament to their marital vows (see study # 5; The Marital Bond). Even though they have separated due to a disagreement, misunderstanding, or moment of weakness they know that their love is real. Married couples today are to take the same approach. We may have disagreements, moments of weakness and selfishness, and get irritated with each other but deep within you both know that “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine (see study # 4; The Keys to a Successful and Happy Marriage). When two people are committed to each other there will be no person or issue that comes between them.

Act IV, scene 2 (Song of Solomon 6:4-9)

Solomon Admires His Bride the Shulammite (Song of Solomon 6:4-9):

Thou art fair, O my love, as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem, terrible as an army with banners” (Song of Solomon 6:4). This new scene opens with Solomon, once again, praising the Shulammite (his bride) (see study # 6; The Importance of Complementing one’s Mate). Her beauty is compared to two chief and beautiful cities within Israel. The first, Tirzah, was the chief royal city before Samaria. The second, Jerusalem, is known as the “perfection of beauty” among the Israelites (see Psalms 50:2; Lamentations 2:15). Solomon is not only captivated by the Shulammite’s beauty but also her terribleness as an army with banners.” This has nothing to do with their disagreement or any argumentative ways about her. She is viewed with an eye of the highest respect by Solomon. He sees her as a confident army marching to war with their banners flying. The Shulammite girl carries with the air of a great and beautiful conqueror.

Turn away thine eyes from me, for they have overcome me. Thy hair is as a flock of goats, that lie along the side of Gilead. Thy teeth are like a flock of ewes, which are come up from the washing; whereof every one hath twins, and none is bereaved among them. Thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate behind thy veil” (Song of Solomon 6:5-7). Solomon is paralyzed by her beauty and noble approach to life. He requests that she turn her eyes away from him that he would not be overcome with love sickness. Not that he restrains himself from her because she doesn’t belong to him but it is likely because he has a work to do and her very being cannot interfere with his royal duties. Though I may be totally infatuated with my wife I must maintain my responsibilities in life.

Solomon reiterates his physical attraction to his wife.

There are threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and virgins without number. My dove, my undefiled, is but one; she is the only one of her mother; she is the choice one of her that bare her. The daughters saw her, and called her blessed; yea, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her” (Song of Solomon 6:8-9). The Shulammite had earlier said that Solomon is the chiefest among ten thousand (Song of Solomon 5:10) and that he is altogether lovely (Song of Solomon 5:16). Solomon now looks to the Shulammite as standing out among the masses of women. The king speaks of his 60 queens and 80 concubines, and virgins without number (in a harem) yet the Shulammite is my dove, my undefiled, is but one...” When one studies 1 Kings 11:3 we learn that there were 700 wives and 300 concubines among the women in Solomon’s court. It appears that Solomon’s relationship with the Shulammite occurs somewhere at the beginning of his kingship. All the women in the king’s court recognized the Shulammite as Solomon’s preferred bride. The interpretation of this book as an allegory with Solomon representing God or Christ and the Shulammite his bride or church falls apart here. Solomon was a sinful man who violated God’s marital law principles (the Lord is not one with sin) (see Deuteronomy 17:17).

Act V, scene 1 (Song of Solomon 6:10 to Song of Solomon 7:5)

The Daughters of Jerusalem speak:

The Daughters of Jerusalem Voice their Attraction to the Shulammite (Song of Solomon 6:10-13):

Who is she that looks forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear (pure) as the sun, terrible as an army with banners?” (Song of Solomon 6:10). The use of the plural pronoun “we” at Song of Solomon 6:13 is proof that the Daughters of Jerusalem are speaking rather than Solomon. The evolution of the daughters of Jerusalem is an interesting study in this book. These women were in competition with the Shulammite at the beginning for Solomon’s love (see Song of Solomon 1:2 ff). They ridicule her at Song of Solomon 1:8. Their perception of the Shulammite is changed once Solomon publicly illustrates his desire for her (see Song of Solomon 2:4-7; Song of Solomon 3:6 ff). They confess that she is the most beautiful among women (Song of Solomon 5:9). They offer their help to her at Song of Solomon 6:1. Finally, we find them praising her beauty here at Song of Solomon 6:10 ff. The daughters of Jerusalem praise the Shulammite in four areas: She that looks forth as the morning.” She overcomes the darkness of night with her presence in the garden. She is fair as the moon.” When one looks to the moon in the heavens one sees the beauty of creation. She is as the clear (or pure) sun.” Purity of the soul is compared with the purity of the sun burning and glowing with perfect heat. She is terrible as an army with banners in that she walks with the nobility and confidence of a feared and victorious army.

I went down into the garden of nuts, to see the green plants of the valley, to see whether the vine budded, and the pomegranates were in flower. Before I was aware, my soul set me among the chariots of my princely people” (Song of Solomon 6:11-12). We have here the thoughts of the Shulammite. She goes to the garden to see how the plants fair. The vines and pomegranates were of interest to her. She obviously enjoyed watching the new growth come upon the vines and fruit trees. To watch the progress of plant life is to witness and enjoy nature. It is at this point that the shepherd lover hypothesis approach to interpreting this book looks to the Shulammite as being abducted, in a state of unconsciousness, by Solomon’s chariot and taken to the royal city that she may be seduced by Solomon. Let us recall that Solomon and the Shulammite have been separated due to the Shulammite’s shunning of Solomon at Song of Solomon 5:2-3. Rather than being abducted by Solomon the Song portrays the Shulammite’s voluntarily going in the chariot to see her beloved.

Return, return, O Shulammite; Return, return, that we may look upon thee. Why will ye look upon the Shulammite, as upon the dance of Mahanaim?” (Song of Solomon 6:13). The Shulammite’s name is given for the first time in the book (not a name proper but a name that indicates her descent and thereby one in which we may refer to). Apparently the daughters of Jerusalem are pleading with her to come back so that they may behold her beauty. The Shulammite, recall, is being taken from the garden to the royal palace in Solomon’s chariot (see Song of Solomon 6:12). The Shulammite appears to hear the cries of the daughters of Jerusalem and asks them, Why will ye look upon the Shulammite as upon the dance of Mahanaim?” Keil and Delitzsch comment that this dance derives its name from the town named Mahanaim which derived its name from Jacob’s vision of two encampments of angels that came to protect him. There is beauty in such an angelic dance. The daughters of Jerusalem see the beauty of the Shulammite girl as the beautiful angelic dance of Mahanaim.

Chapter 7

Act V, scene 1 continued

The Daughters of Jerusalem observe and describe the Shulammite’s Beauty (Song of Solomon 7:1-5):

How beautiful are thy feet in sandals, O prince’s daughter! Thy rounded thighs are like jewels, the work of the hands of a skilful workman. Thy body is like a round goblet, wherein no mingled wine is wanting: thy waist is like a heap of wheat set about with lilies. Thy two breasts are like two fawns that are twins of a roe. Thy neck is like the tower of ivory; thine eyes as the pools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bathrabbim; thy nose is like the tower of Lebanon which looks toward Damascus. Thy head upon thee is like Carmel, and the hair of thy head like purple; the king is held captive in the tresses thereof” (Song of Solomon 7:1-5). The daughters of Jerusalem have voiced their views of the Shulammite’s beauty at Song of Solomon 5:9 and Song of Solomon 6:10 ff. They view her beauty as angelic in form while dancing. The daughters of Jerusalem are utterly at awe by the beauty of the Shulammite. Her beauty is seen from her head to her feet (i.e., ten body parts are examined). Notice that the daughters of Jerusalem observe that it is due to her beauty that the king is held captive in the tresses thereof.” Again, this proves that it is not the King who is attempting to seduce the Shulammite here but rather the daughters of Jerusalem praising the Shulammite’s beauty.

Act V, scene 2 (Song of Solomon 7:6 to Song of Solomon 8:4)

Solomon Picks up the admiring comments once the Shulammite is in his palace

Solomon and the Shulammite express their Love for each Other (Song of Solomon 7:6-10):

How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love, for delights! This thy stature is like to a palmtree, and thy breast to its clusters” (Song of Solomon 7:6-7). Apparently Solomon and the Shulammite are reunited after their scuttle mentioned at Song of Solomon 5:2-3. Solomon sees his beloved wife and immediately praises her beauty. He compares her stature to a palm tree and her breast to its clusters (see study # 6).

I said, I will climb up into the palm-tree, I will take hold of the branches thereof: let thy breasts be as clusters of the vine, and the smell of thy breath like apples, and thy mouth like the best wine, that goeth down smoothly for my beloved, gliding through the lips of those that are asleep” (Song of Solomon 7:8-9). Nothing satisfies the soul of man like love. Love fulfills one’s inner most desires in man’s emotional, physical, and spiritual being (see study # 7; Defining Love). Love will always manifest itself in words and actions. Solomon is not merely infatuated with his bride but head over hills in love with her. Every part of her being captures his attention. The Shulammite’s stature, breasts, breath, and mouth fulfill the king’s deep inner cravings for his wife. Through Solomon’s eyes the Shulammite is everything that a woman should be.

The Shulammite Replies to Solomon’s words of praise:

I am my beloved’s; and his desire is toward me” (Song of Solomon 7:10). Solomon has left no doubts within the Shulammite’s mind regarding his feelings for her. Husbands would do well to do the same toward their wives today. Let us praise her beauty, spirituality, and overall stature (see study # 6). The Shulammite is the Queen of his life and he remains her beloved. When two have such strong mutual feelings toward each other and they reveal this the relationship is healthy.

Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field; let us lodge in the villages. Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see whether the vine hath budded, and its blossom is open, and the pomegranates are in flower: there will I give thee my love. The mandrakes give forth fragrance; and at our doors are all manner of precious fruits, new and old, which I have laid up for thee, O my beloved” (Song of Solomon 7:11-13). Solomon’s bride does not appear to be forcefully abducted here. The Shulammite wife is just as happy to see Solomon as he is to see her. Their absence from each other has heightened their desire to be with each other. The Shulammite girl suggest that the two of them go to the garden, view the new growth of vegetation together, and partake of each other’s love. The Shulammite has apparently set aside various fruits and planned this “date” that they may both enjoy each other and the garden’s fruits. It will be a sensual moment of pleasure for the two which is again healthy for married couples. Herein we see that the sexual part of the marital relationship is not just for procreation but can be used to enjoy each other’s love and affection.

Chapter 8

Acts 5, scene 2 continued

The Shulammite’s Desire for Solomon (Song of Solomon 8:1-4):

Oh that thou wert as my brother, that sucked the breasts of my mother! When I should find thee without, I would kiss thee; Yea, and none would despise me” (Song of Solomon 8:1). The Shulammite longs to spend more time with Solomon as sister and brother do early in life. She would that they were in the country, away from all the busy life of king and queen, that they may spend time together and kiss each other with no one despising them.

I would lead thee, and bring thee into my mother’s house, who would (or / that thou mightest) instruct me; I would cause thee to drink of spiced wine, of the juice of my pomegranate” (8:2). The idea that the Song of Solomon is a poem about the Shulammite being “wisdom personified” seems to fall apart here. The Shulammite is expressing a desire to be taught wisdom rather than personifying it. Brothers of early Hebrew families would play the part of teacher toward younger sisters. The Shulammite desires to be taught Solomon’s wisdom as a brother would teach his sister. She desires to know better how to be a just and perfect wife and godly woman. Said request on the part of the Shulammite speaks volumes in relation to her golden character. Such a wife is truly a jewel. As oil and perfume rejoice the heart (Proverbs 27:9) so does wine (yayin) (see Psalms 104:15). The wine under consideration is the freshly squeezed juice of the pomegranate. The rejoicing is not in drunkenness but rather in the blessings of such grand taste and availability (see study # 8; Bible Wines).

His left hand should be under my head, and his right hand should embrace me. I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, until he please” (Song of Solomon 8:3-4). The scene ends with Solomon and the Shulammite embracing in the proposed place of their date (i.e., the garden). This exact phrase was used at Song of Solomon 2:6-7 where the Shulammite is comforted by Solomon after being chosen above all other women available to the king. She is comforted then and at this time as well. She is in the arms of her beloved and there is no more desired place to be. Once again she requests that no one disturb their moment of love.

Act VI, scene 1

The Inseparable Union of Two who are Married (Song of Solomon 8:5-7):

Who is this that comes up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved? Under the apple-tree I awakened thee: there thy mother was in travail with thee, there was she in travail that brought thee forth” (Song of Solomon 8:5). The last scene takes place in the country side. It seems that the Shulammite finally has Solomon in her homeland and the two are alone. They are seen by the villagers who exclaim, Who is this that comes up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?” These villagers see Solomon and the Shulammite from far away yet do not recognize them. Meanwhile, Solomon and the Shulammite remind each other of the time and place where their love was first born (not her physical birth but the birth place of their love) (i.e., under the very apple tree that they are now at).

Set me as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as Sheol; the flashes thereof are flashes of fire, a very flame of Jehovah” (Song of Solomon 8:6). The Shulammite requests that Solomon would take her as a possession that is inseparably connected to his very being (i.e., heart and arm). Such a position within his heart is compared to the possession of death in Sheol and jealousy as it captures and holds hostage one who has intense feelings for another. Said intensity of love is looked upon as flashes of fire. The idea is that she would be held so tightly in Solomon’s heart as to become one with him. Such a strong bond of love is the clear picture of marriage. The wife cannot do without her husband and neither can the husband do without the wife! Indeed they are one flesh (see Matthew 19:4-6; Ephesians 5:28-31) (see study # 1).

Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, he would utterly be contemned” (Song of Solomon 8:7). The intense fire of love that burns within the hearts of two married people cannot possibly be extinguished by the greatest of floods. Here are two married people that are inseparable. Jesus said, What God has joined together let no man separate (Matthew 19:6 b). No foreign love will take the place of these two who are joined as one. No argument, no amount of money, and no distance can dissolve such a holy and loving union. Marriage is indeed the ultimate human relationship. Marriage far exceeds any friendship between two women or men. Marriage is between a man and woman. The two are inseparably joined in love and its very foundation is the law of God (see study # 1).

Act VI, scene 2

Siblings love and care for one Another:

We have a little sister, and she hath no breasts: what shall we do for our sister in the day when she shall be spoken for? If she be a wall, we will build upon her a turret of silver: and if she be a door, we will enclose her with boards of cedar” (Song of Solomon 8:8-9). A new scene emerges. The Shulammite asks a question on behalf of her brothers and in light of her current state of love and marriage. She contemplates the day when she was but a little girl with no breasts (young). During this time, no one worried about who would court her or pursue her love. However, through the process of time, that little no breasted girl blossoms into a woman and young men begin to pursue her interest. What shall her brothers do in such a time? Interestingly, it was a girl’s brothers who took precedence over the father and mother when it came to her marriage (see Genesis 24:50 ff [Rebekah’s brother Laban] and Genesis 34:1-14 [Shechem defiles Dinah and her brothers are filled with wrath]). Let us recall that at the beginning of this study the Shulammite seems frustrated with the careful and strict treatment of her brothers yet now realizes that they performed their loving duty toward her (see Song of Solomon 1:5-6).

The brothers answer the question posed by the Shulammite girl. They answer if she (their little sister) grow up to be a wall (i.e., impenetrable by the forwardness of lustful men) then they shall honor her with turrets of silver. On the other hand, if their sister be as a door that swings upon its hinges (i.e., seems willing to open herself to the lustful advances of men) they will board her up with cedar so that she be not defiled. Such words help us visualize not only the care and love brothers should have for their sisters but also the responsibility of young women to keep themselves pure and undefiled from sexual immorality. Secondly, let all young men hear these words clearly. While the young women are to be pure and holy let the young men know that God and that young girl’s brothers and father are watching over her purity. Those who dare to violate her should know that they are subject to the wrath of God, brothers, and the girl’s father (see 1 Corinthians 6:12-20).

I am a wall, and my breasts like the towers thereof then was I in his eyes as one that found peace” (Song of Solomon 8:10). The Shulammite professes, to the joy of her brothers, that she was that impenetrable wall that they sought to honor. She closed herself to the advances of sinful and lustful men. Though her breast brought the attention of enemies like a tower upon a wall she remained pure and undefiled. She, as a wall, aloud no lustful man to approach her. No man was able to seduce her. No inappropriate making out or touching was aloud! She was indeed pure as the sun (see Song of Solomon 6:10). She was indeed a prize to be had and Solomon won her love. He obviously treated her with the honor that she demanded and in no way was aloud to approach her in lustful ways. He was the one who treated her with honor and dignity rather than an object of one’s lust. When a young man finds such a woman and treats her in such a way they shall be rewarded with a beautiful relationship that shall last throughout their lives.

Solomon had a vineyard at Baalhamon; he let out the vineyard unto keepers; every one for the fruit thereof was to bring a thousand pieces of silver. My vineyard, which is mine, is before me: thou, O Solomon, shalt have the thousand, and those that keep the fruit thereof two hundred” (Song of Solomon 8:11-12). The Shulammite now compares herself to a true vineyard that Solomon rented out for 1000 pieces of silver. Her vineyard (her own person) belongs to Solomon (he receives the full 1000 pieces of silver). The Shulammite; however, calls upon Solomon to remember the keepers of the vineyard (i.e., her brothers who so lovingly protected and cared for her). She does not necessarily asks Solomon to give these brothers money but rather reminds him to be thankful to them for their careful watch and developing such a sister that has turned out to be a jewel among women (i.e., the one among the 60 queens and 80 concubines) (see Song of Solomon 6:8-9).

Thou that dwellest in the gardens, the companions hearken to thy voice: cause me to hear it. Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices (Song of Solomon 8:13-14). Solomon has apparently been quietly listening to the Shulammite’s requests and his answer appears to meet it with approval. Solomon requests that she would sing him a song of love. The Shulammite answers the king with words, or a song of love, that requests that they fly away to the mountains of spices.” Together they vanish from the scene and we are left with thoughts of one of the greatest historical love stories told.

Introducing Song of Songs

Song of Solomon 1:1

By Brent Kercheville

What do you know about the Song of Songs? Many people have not studied the book nor have the heard the book taught publicly at church. Some try to read the Song of Songs on their own and find the material very confusing. Who is talking? What are they talking about? Who are they talking to? Most translations try to help this out by including “he” and “she” notations throughout the book. But these are not original to the manuscripts but an attempt to clarify to the reader who seems to be the speaker. This is an inspired book that is in our Bibles and must not be ignored. “All Scripture is berated out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

The book begins by calling itself “The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s.” “Song of Songs” is a Hebrew idiom to describe this song as the very best song. Think about the tabernacle and how the inner sanctuary was called the “Holy of Holies.” This meant that it was the most holy place, the highest of holiness. So this is what we are told about this song: it is the greatest of all songs. There are some unusual features to this song. The most notable feature is that the woman is the main character and main speaker in the book. I consider that just as the book of Proverbs was written primarily to instruct the young man how to live in life that the Song of Songs was written primarily to young women to know God’s teaching concerning love. Both genders have much to learn from both of these wisdom books. But it seems women are given particular attention in this Song.

Method of Interpretation

Unfortunately, it seems there are hundreds of interpretations for the Song of Songs. As I prepared to teach this material I was shocked to learn how varied the interpretations were. Perhaps the most popular interpretation has been the allegorical approach. This view declares that the Song of Songs is not teaching about human love at all, but depicts either Christ and his love for the church or God and his love for Israel. People have gravitated to this interpretation because of the highly suggestive language of love and romance that is found in the book.

But there are significant problems with an allegorical interpretation. First, where does this Song ever suggest that it is not to be read at face value but should be understood as an allegory? There is no indication in the text to clue the reader into thinking that this song is speaking about anything other than the love between a man and a woman. It is totally unnatural to read this book as God loving Israel or Christ loving the church. Second, how could this book be about Christ and the church when it was written in the days of the reign of Solomon? No one reading would have a concept of the church to be able to read this book in that way. Third, the love that is described in this book is explicit. It is not only unnatural, but uncomfortable, to use this kind of romantic language in reference to Christ and the church. While the scriptures paint God’s love for Israel and Christ’s love for the church as a marriage, these relationships are never described in terms of sexual relations. Fourth, the allegorical approach leads to some extremely ridiculous interpretations. For example, notice 1:13.

My beloved is to me a sachet of myrrh that lies between my breasts.

The allegorical interpretation teaches that this is a reference to Christ between to two testaments (the old and new covenants). One can see that this is a complete reach and an unnatural explanation. Finally, we must reject the allegorical approach because it is an improper way to study any book of the scriptures. We cannot begin with what we think the book says and then force the book to read that way. The only time we can know if something is an allegory is when the scriptures tell us it is an allegory, like in Galatians 4:24. We must let the book speak for itself and base our interpretation from what it says, not impose our interpretation over the text. We cannot start with an interpretation, like this book is about Christ and the church, and force the text to match what we think.

Further, the sexual language in the book should not bother us just because it is in the scriptures. First, God is the creator of sex. He is the one who created these desires. He further commands his creation to engage in sexual relations in marriage and calls it sin if sex is avoided in marriage (1 Corinthians 7:1-6). Further, there are many places where we see this kind of language in the scriptures outside of the Song of Songs. Listen to the Proverbs:

15 Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. 16 Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? 17 Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. 18 Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, 19 a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. 20 Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress? (Proverbs 5:15-20 ESV)

Sex is not to be our god, which is where our society is at today. But in overreaction, some well-meaning Christians teach their children that sex is gross or sinful. I believe there is a terrible thing that has been taught to children through the years that sex is something that is gross, dirty, nasty, vile, evil, and wrong that should be saved for the one you love. I have had to counsel too many young married women who were having issues in the bedroom because they were taught all their childhood that sex is wrong and sinful. Now they are married and can’t get past that idea. We must teach that sex is a gift of God which is a blessing and joy of marriage. Sex is only sinful when it is outside of the context of marriage. In fact, God commands sexual relations and condemns marriages where sex does not exist (1 Corinthians 7). This is what we should proclaim.

We should not be surprised that topic is in the scriptures. God created sex, romance, and love. Should not the creator of these things also instruct his creation about what is right and good about them? This is the nature of the wisdom books in the scriptures. The wisdom books deal with practical matters that are not directly or overtly God-glorifying (like the Proverbs describing a nagging wife is like a dripping faucet and warning not praise your neighbor early in the morning or he will consider it a curse). The location of the Song of Songs is in the wisdom books. So what we are going to read are to be practical teachings for life. Our interpretation should be to read the book looking for how this information will help us to have a good life now being pleasing to God.

Understanding Poetry

The Song of Songs begins by telling us that it is a song. It is poetry. Songs are a beautiful way to communicate God’s word. Just read the emotions of the Psalms and we quickly can see this beauty. Songs and poems have a way communicating to our minds and emotions in a greater way than plain information can. Consider the following difference:

She walks in beauty, like the night

Of cloudless climes and starry skies;

And all that’s best of dark and bright

Meet in her aspect and her eyes.

Thus mellowed to that tender light

Which heaven to gaudy day denies. (Lord Byron)


or:

A woman in a black dress with shiny beads looked pretty when she walked by.

We could certainly say the second thing about a pretty woman in a dress. But we recognize the beauty of the poetry which awakens our senses beyond imparting information. We should consider that this is a beautiful way for the Lord to speak about human love and romance.

There are differences in speaking about love and sex using clinical language, crude language, and poetic language. God could speak like a doctor would speak to you, talking about increased heart rates and perspiration. But this would miss the beauty of love. But we also see that God does not use locker room language about love. The language is not crude or crass. The Song of Songs speaks about love and romance that heightens the senses. Consider that we do the same thing even in our day when we speak about romance. We do not speak about perspiration and heart rates when we speak about love but you make my heart “go pitter patter.” Why do we use pet names, like “honey” or “dear” or whatever you use? This is how we talk about romantic love. We use language like “the birds and bees” when speaking about sex. We should read these words as beautiful, romantic language and not turn this into a crass, pornographic poem.

The Disney movie, Bambi, can help us understand the Song. The mating time is in the spring. Thumper says they all got “twitter-pated.” Spring is the season for love. Setting a season in beautiful language and imagery. There is a setting for love and romance. Consider that a red rose symbolizes love and romance, more so than any other flower. We use nature as a means to speak in a careful, yet romantic way about love. Movies today do this with fine dining, wine, red roses, fire in the fireplace, etc.

Therefore our challenge is to know the meaning of these images in the original context of ancient near eastern love poetry. When the Song speaks about deer and gardens, it is up to us to consider what those images meant to the readers at that time, just as cultures in the future will have to learn what a red rose meant to us in our culture. While the sexual and romantic language of the book perhaps is shocking to us, the language is remarkably similar to ancient near eastern love poetry. The Song uses the same kind of love imagery that is found in Egyptian poetry and other ancient near eastern poetry. It is not unique in its images. What is unusual about the Song of Songs is that it has no cultic reference (no love/sex with pagan sacrifices) and it glorifies marital love rather than fornication. Proper romance and purity of the relationship is glorified rather than sexual immorality.

How To Read Song of Songs

Read the following poem and think about how one is to understand the writing.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

Robert Frost

Is there really a physical road? No. The reader of the poem is not to wonder where the author was when he wrote this. The point is not to try to find these two paths at some geographical location. These paths are metaphors. They are not to be taken literally. Each path represents something else. One path is the way everyone goes, making the same life decisions as everyone else. But there is another path that is rarely traveled and that is the better life path. We need to see that we are called upon to stop and reflect on the message of the poem. We are to see the level of symbolism and interpretive license that is allowed to the reader.

Therefore we need to have this kind of thinking in mind when we read the Song. This Song is poetry. The Song of Songs in no way implies that some historical event is being preserved. It is poetry. It is a song. We need to think of it as a song. Think of it being sung. Think of the artistry. Think of the beautiful imagery. The Song has highly figurative language. By the author telling us it is a song allows us to interpret the book metaphorically and poetically. Poetry is the art of being highly expressive in a minimal amount of word usage, using words that invokes the senses of the mind and heart. Even the songs we sing in our songbooks use highly figurative and metaphorical language (e.g. Streets paved with gold, mansion over the hilltop, kneel at the cross, I’ll fly away, and many more). We understand the meaning of these metaphors from the song. We must do the same thing as we study the Song of Songs.

Further, there does not have to be a story in poetry, necessarily. There can be just a singular point, like Frost’s poem. So we do not need to read this Song as if we are reading about two actual individuals. Just as Frost’s poem is not about an actual event, the Song gives no indication that these are real people or that these events actually happened (we will address the use of Solomon’s name in the Song later in our study).

Preparing For Study

The Song of Songs is needed now more than ever. Marriages are crumbling. People are looking for love in the wrong ways. Sexual immorality is on the rise. Love and sex have been ripped away from marriage. People often do not know what to look for in love and marriage. Rather than fearing this book and being uncomfortable with the subject matter, this book needs to be taught and shared in our society.

As we proceed in this study, I am going to take the most naturally sounding picture of the poetry as the means of interpretation. There are so many interpretations that we can get lost in explaining every option. I will proceed as I did when we studied through the book of Revelation. We will read the text and take the most natural picture presented, considering what the image meant in that day and time.

When I taught Song of Songs before, I taught it as a three person view. This means that I saw that there was a story of a woman who was deciding between Solomon and a shepherd. The Song then shows her struggle to decide who she loves and true love is compared with false love. However, I have changed my mind away from this interpretation for a number of reasons. The first major reason is that scholars tell us that ancient near eastern poetry did not write about love triangles. There is no poetry that shows a woman deciding between two men. These are dramas that came along later with Greek plays (some 600 years later). The second major objection to the three person interpretation is that no one until the 1800s suggested that there are three main characters. All Jewish literature and interpretations always saw only two characters in the story, not three. Finally, I reject the third person view because it is not the most natural way to read the Song. The three person view requires the reader to impose an interpretation over the Song, the very thing we condemned the allegorical approach for doing. The three person view requires us to assume that she is thinking or dreaming about a third person and is not speaking to the person who is talking to her. The view makes too many assumptions and is not a natural understanding of the Song. Therefore, I will present a two person view because this seems to be the most natural way to read the Song. I will make notes as to what the three person view declares and why I reject it at certain points throughout the study.

Finally, we must address one other question: How could Solomon teach on a book of love when he was a polygamist and fell away? There are a number of options for an answer. First, “Which is Solomon’s” does not necessarily mean he wrote the Song but that the Song is about him. I personally do not think this is the case. I believe he wrote the Song, but it is worth noting that some take this option. Second, the third person view is popular because it makes Solomon to be the villain of the story. But is this the only way to deal with Solomon as the author of a love song? I submit to you that there are many more option. Consider that Solomon wrote Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. Should those books be rejected because Solomon fell away? Should his counsel about love in the Proverbs be rejected because he had so many wives? I do not think so. Further, it is possible that he wrote this Song early in his reign. It is just as possible that he is writing later in his reign, drawing from his own experiences after learning from his own errors. Can we not instruct others based on the mistakes we make in our own lives? I do not believe that Solomon is discredited for writing about love. He was given the greatest wisdom ever by God and has every ability to express those godly truths by the Holy Spirit even though his life did not meet God’s standards.

So read the Song of Songs. See the beauty of God’s words as he pictures the beauty of human love.

Affirming Love For One Another

Song of Solomon 1:2-17

By Brent Kercheville

In Song of Solomon 3:11 we see a description that it is the wedding day and what follows are images of a wedding ceremony. This sets the stage for how we should look at the poetry we are reading. The first three chapters show courting and dating. We are reading love poetry about a relationship between a man and a woman that is moving toward marriage. So as we read the first few chapters I believe we should look at this in the context of the dating relationship.

She Desires Him (Song of Solomon 1:2-4)

The song begins with her desiring intimacy with this man. She desires to kiss him. His love is intoxicating to her. His love is a joy and great delight to her. Further, she is attracted to his character as well as his looks. He acts well and smells good. His cologne and his name excites her. He is a person that other women also desire. There is something wrong if this man has absolutely no hope of finding a spouse. He is not someone that all the women say, “Ewww! That guy!” The other women also think he is a catch. If nobody likes this man, that is supposed to be a warning. If your parents do not like him and your friends do not like him, you need to be greatly concerned. How often a girl will say of a man she is dating, “I am the only one who understands him” or “No one sees in him what I see in him.” You are fooling yourself. This is a warning. The reason you are the only one who sees something is because you are hoping to see something that is not there. You think you are going to fix him or make him a better person or change him. This is not the situation this woman is in. Other girls enjoy his company also and are not confused as to why you are spending time with him.

In Song of Solomon 1:4 she expresses the desire to spend intimate alone time together. We are going to see throughout this Song that there is a fight to spend private time together. They are continually looking for alone time together. A couple translations suggest that this is the bedroom. “Chambers” can refer to a bedroom in scriptures but the word merely means “the innermost part of the house.” There was a need for privacy for kissing, especially in that day. “Romantic kissing was assumed but kept away from the public gaze” (Hess, 49; cf. 8:1). There is still somewhat of a stigma today for kissing in public, though it does not at all seem to be to the degree that we are reading about in that time. But it is not hard to see that there was a need for privacy when kissing and that is what they are longing for and find privacy for. The point is not that they are starting a sexual relationship before marriage. The point is that they want to spend time together, to the exclusion of others. They want time alone, away from distractions. This is natural. You start ignoring your friends and spending more time with the person you are dating. When you spend time together, you spend the time without distraction, doing things together.

How sad when a couple does not want to spend time together but look for time to be apart to unwind and relax. We need to fight for time together. We spend so much time together when dating, but that time is easily lost when married. Children completely destroy together time. So we have to be creative in making time together. You may not be able to go out on dates like you did before. But you can send the children to bed and have a date night at home. Spend time together talking, playing games, and interacting together. Fight for time together.

Further, there’s something wrong if we are not desiring one another physically. It is good to desire each other. Sexual desire is not evil. It has a proper place. God gave us these desires. The desire is not the problem but what we do with the desire (fornication, lust, porn, etc).

Notice also that she calls him “the king.” Scholar and commentator Tremper Longman writes, “It is best to take the reference neither historically nor ritually, but rather as a poetic device. It is love language. She refers to him as king, but this must not be taken literally. In her eyes, he is a king, the best and most powerful male in her life, worthy of the highest honor. Elsewhere, she calls him a shepherd (Song of Solomon 1:7), but that is not literal either. These are terms of endearment. The Song is best understood as creating a poetic world, not as describing actual events” (Longman, 92). We use the same kind of language today in love and poetry. He should be your “Prince Charming.” Women speak of certain men as their “knight in shining armor.” Is he really a knight? Is he really a prince? Ladies, if one of you said to the other that the prince took you on vacation, you would not think that she was having an affair with a prince. You would understand that the prince is the husband. It seems best to do the same here, remember that this is a song with strong poetic metaphors in use.

Her Self-Image (Song of Solomon 1:5-7)

She describes herself as your average woman. She does not look like the models. She is lovely, but she is not amazingly hot. She is a woman that all women can relate to. She has average good looks. She is dark from working outside. Pale skin was “in” back then because it meant you had wealth and did not have to work. Today tan is “in” and pale is “out.” This shows how styles are always changing. But the point is that she is someone for all the women to relate to. She is not a perfect 10.

Further, she is painfully aware that her appearance does not measure up to the conventional definition of feminine beauty in her culture (Song of Solomon 1:6). She says that because she works in the vineyard that does not have the time or ability to “doll herself up” like the other women. She is a busy woman working in the vineyard and she is aware that she does not and cannot look like others. Does any woman love their appearance? It is interesting that even the woman in the story feels like she has to justify her appearance and is not satisfied with her looks. But she is beautiful to her man, as we will see as the poem progresses. This is all that matters.

Men, your wife is the standard of beauty and not what you see on tv or in movies. She will be insecure about her looks because the world always seems to have a moving target for what is beautiful. She is beautiful. If she had makeup artists, clothing consultants, special lighting, airbrushing, and Photoshop, she would look smashing also. But the one you are married to or the one you are dating works, takes care of the children, goes to the grocery store, does household chores, cooks meals, manages the house and so forth. She cannot look like what you see on television and in magazines, men. She can’t be in the beauty parlor for four hours every day. So it is unreasonable to hold your woman up to a false standard of beauty that no one is able to maintain.

All that matters is that he thinks she is beautiful. Men, she is your standard of beauty. She is beautiful to you. It does not matter what the world defines as beautiful. Men must communicate that to the woman. We are going to see the man in this relationship do that later in this chapter. Further, this is part of the plague of internet pornography. The images you are seeing are not real and cause you to be dissatisfied with your spouse’s or girlfriend’s looks. If you married a short woman, then you like short. If you married a tall woman, then you like tall. If you married a “high-maintenance” woman, then you like “high-maintenance.” If you married a “low-maintenance” woman, then you like “low-maintenance.” If you married a skinny woman, then you like skinny. If you married a not so skinny woman, then you like no so skinny. What if they do not look the way they did when you married them? Neither do you. Now you like the way she looks now. As we have noticed with this woman in the Song, she is keenly aware of her looks and how it does not match the standard of the world. You do not need to reinforce that to her. Instead, you need to reinforce your pleasure in her.

In verse 7 we see that she wants to know where he will be so that she can find time to spend with him. She does not want to blend in with “the friends crowd.” She wants to be alone with him. Couples should be looking for ways to make time together. She says that she wants to meet him at work to spend time with him. This was one of the nice things my wife did for me when we were dating. I was working at a gas station/convenience store in college and I worked the third shift. There were times she came and visited me, even though it was late at night. We need to think about one another and do things for each other that would be enjoyed and appreciated.

Textual note: Kedar was a territory southeast of Damascus where the Bedouin roamed. Their tents were made of the skins of black goats.

His Praise For Her (Song of Solomon 1:8-11)

In Song of Solomon 1:8-10 we see the man make two declarations to her. First, though busy and working (Song of Solomon 1:7), she still is the priority of his life. She needs to be his priority and she is. She needs to know that he wants to be around her. He does not say, “Don’t bother me at work. I’ll see you when I am done tending the flocks.” She wants to spend time with him and he is encouraging her to do so. Also, there is an important message of trust declared here. There is a knowledge of where each other will be. It is not a surprise as if he has gone somewhere that she had no idea. There is nothing hidden from each other in this relationship. They know where each other are. If you are dating and you think you need more privacy, then you have the wrong person. If you are trying to hide yourself from the other person, then this tells you that you do not enjoy spending time together. If you are married, then this secrecy is a big problem. It is often an indication of an affair, or at least a heart that has shut down to you and may be opening up for another. This problem must be immediately addressed.

Second, he is willing to praise her beauty. He listened to her concerns and addressed what she needed. She has asked to not be looked down upon because of her looks. She is lovely but she does not meet the culture’s standard of beauty. He only has eyes for her. Among all the women, she is the most beautiful. He says that she stands apart from all the other women. You catch the attention of all the men. Notice that he confirms her beauty to alleviate her fears that she is expressed in Song of Solomon 1:5-6. Also notice the specificity of his compliments to her and she will respond in kind. Don’t just say “you look good.” He gives her specific compliments. Tell her what looks good. Tell her what you like and be specific about your compliments. He speaks about how beautiful her jewelry sits on her. Women like to hear these kinds of words, men. Further, the language he uses also speaks to her nobility and her value to him.

Song of Solomon 1:11 is another chorus of women singing how beautiful the jewelry sits on her.

King or shepherd? — The discussion has been of flocks, herds, shepherds, and vineyards. But the rest of chapter 1 speaks of a table, expensive and exotic perfumes, and spices from far away places. At the beginning of the chapter he was called a king but now he is called a shepherd. This may be confusing to us because we do not usually associate shepherds and kings. This confusion has led some to suggest that there are two men, one who is a king and one who is a shepherd. However, the confusion simply indicates how far our world is from the world of David’s day. In the ancient Near East in the second and first millenniums B.C., kings from Greece to Egypt to Persia were called shepherds. Notice that the Lord calls Cyrus of Persia “my shepherd” (Isaiah 44:28). In Jeremiah 2:4-13 four classes of leaders are castigated: the priests, the legal authorities, the rulers, and the prophets. The Hebrew term for the rulers is ro’im (lit., “shepherds”). She is still calling him by pet names. Whether he is truly a king or truly a shepherd or neither is not relevant to the poet. To her, he is her king. To her, he is her shepherd. (cf. Expositor’s Bible Commentary).

His Importance To Her (Song of Solomon 1:12-14)

She is wearing perfume and he is sitting on the couch. In keeping with the first couple verses of this chapter, they have gone into the innermost part of the house to have time together privately. She is wearing pouch of myrrh around her neck that hangs between her breasts. This is one of the ways a woman would perfume herself in ancient times. Nard (NIV, “perfume”; ASV, KJV, NKJV, “spikenard”) was an ointment derived from a plant that grew in northern and eastern India. It was considered very fragrant and quite expensive. It was used as a love charm in the ancient Near East, as were other aromatic oils (cf. Luke 7:36-50) (Expositors’ Bible Commentary). So what she is saying about him is that he causes everything to be better for her and she does the same for him. She is like perfume to him and he is a beautiful fragrance to her. This is what she means to say that he is like “a cluster of henna blossoms.” Henna was a Palestinian shrub. Its leaves were used to produce a bright orange-red cosmetic dye. It has been used in the Near East to color the hair, hands, and feet. We still know it as a hair dye. Its blossoms, however, were quite fragrant. He is a wonderful fragrance to her. He is not the stench in her life. His presence is pleasant, comfortable, and enjoyable.

His impact on her is encompassing and inescapable. Her consciousness of him sweetens her life the way the aroma of a sachet of perfume placed between the breasts makes a girl move in a cloud of fragrance. The thought or sight of him is as pleasant as the aroma wafted from a field of henna blossoms. Love has its own hallowing touch on all of life. The point is that the person you are with is better than anyone else. You are not settling for someone. Rather, your lover is like flowers among the desert wilderness. Notice how both are speaking complimentary back and forth to each other. We do these kinds of things in dating but they must continue into marriage. For some reason these things often stop once marriage begins and we take one another for granted.

Engedi was an oasis on the western shore of the Dead Sea. It stands in stark contrast in the middle of the desert region. It was an extraordinarily fertile place and archaeology indicates a significant perfume business was there. To her, he is an oasis, a respite from life. He is the place where she goes for comfort, relaxation, and relief, not agitation and distress. We need to be an oasis to one another in our relationship. When we are dating, we put aside a terrible day and put on our best face because we are with the person we love. We must continue this in marriage.

Building Life Together (Song of Solomon 1:15-17)

In Song of Solomon 1:15 he responds to her gestures by declaring her beauty. Notice it is not just her beauty, but he speaks to her softness. He says that her eyes are like doves. There is a kindness and tenderness about her. She is beautiful and tender.

She also responds that he is handsome also. It is important that this is communicated to the man. Just as we see the man validating the beauty of this woman in this song, we see that she reciprocates the feeling. Yes, she finds him attractive also.

Now she praises him for the home they are going to be building together. We have built the home that we will enjoy together. This seems to be more than a literal,”I like the green couch we have.” This metaphor speaks more to the relationship that they have built together that is strong and beautiful. A lasting, wonderful relationship is being built by these two people.

Conclusion

We should read this first chapter and note how these two speak to each other and how they perceive each other. We must look to replicate this atmosphere in our relationships. They are working for private time together to build their relationship. They physically desire each other. They are building each other up with their words. They are a strength, a wonderful fragrance, and an oasis for each other. They are delighted in being with each other and others are able to see the joy and love in the relationship. They have built a strong, beautiful relationship together because they have focused on the needs, desires, and wants of the other person.

A Proposal To Marriage

Song of Solomon 2:1 to Song of Solomon 3:11

By Brent Kercheville

The second chapter of the Song of Songs continues where the first chapter left off. She has been describing the beauty of her beloved and the strength of the relationship that they are building together. The first verse of chapter 2(Song of Solomon 2:1) is the woman describing herself. She says, “I’m just an ordinary flower.” “Rose” is not a proper translation, but KJV translators didn’t know what flower it was referring to. But the translation stuck. “Rose” does not fit because she is not glorifying herself. Rather she is speaking to how common and ordinary she is. According to the NET Notes, the location of this flower in Sharon suggests that a common wild flower would be more consonant than a rose. The term appears elsewhere only in Isaiah 35:1 where it refers to some kind of desert flower — erroneously translated “rose” (KJV, NJPS) but probably “crocus” (NASB, NIV, NJPS margin). Appropriately, the rustic maiden who grew up in the simplicity of rural life compares herself to a simple, common flower of the field.

However, he disagrees with her self-assessment. He says that she is a flower among thorns. You are not like anyone else, according to him. Spouses need to let each other know this. We may feel ordinary in our relationships. But we need to express that love we have for the other. I do not want anyone else because you are distinct, unique, and special to me. You are a flower that stands out in the middle of thorns.

The Banner of Love (Song of Solomon 2:3-7)

She now exclaims her love for him and praises him. He is distinguished among the others. Everything about him shows me love and protection. This is his banner over her. He provides her safety, someone she feels safe to be with. He puts her safety above his. He shows protection. Notice the context really includes emotional protection, not merely physical protection. He cares for her and provides what she needs emotionally. This has caused her to be “love sick” (Song of Solomon 2:6).

The declaration is made to “not stir up or awaken love until it pleases” (Song of Solomon 3:7). This is a repeated instruction in this book. The NASB for some reason and without warrant adds “my,” changing the meaning to “Do not stir up or awaken my love until he pleases.” But “my” is not in the text. It is better to keep the reading that is in the manuscripts. Even in love, desire must be kept under control (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5). The NET Notes summarizes the possibilities of what it means to “not stir up or awaken love until it pleases.” “There are three major views: (1) to force a love relationship to develop prematurely rather than to allow it to develop naturally; (2) to interfere with the experience of passionate love; or (3) to stir up sexual passion, that is, to become sexually active. As noted above, “love” probably denotes “sexual passion” and “awaken…arouse” probably denotes “to stir up, excite.” Likewise, the verb “awake” is used in Song of Solomon 4:16 and Hosea 7:4 in reference to stirring up sexual passion to excitement.”

I believe that a combination of these three is the meaning. The beloved is being carried away by her passions. She relishes the joy. Yet she knows that love should have its own rhythm and its proper progression. Too fast and too soon would spoil it all. So she adjures the women of Jerusalem not to encourage love beyond its right and proper pace (Song of Solomon 2:7). This is important for dating. Relationships hit a certain point where they cannot progress further until marriage. Therefore, speeding those milestones up only increases sexual temptation. Physical actions must be accepted slowly (e.g. Holding hands, hugging, kissing). Starting these actions too quickly leaves the relationship with no where else to go. When the relationship is not ready for marriage, then the crushing weight of physical desire hampers the relationship or leads to sin.

Invitation To Marriage (Song of Solomon 2:8-17)

Song of Solomon 2:8 appears to be a natural break and the beginning of new action. We see the couple separated but longing for each other. By “leaping” and “bounding” we see him approach her with eagerness. He wants to spend time with her. He does not avoid her or reluctantly spend time with her. His love motivates and empowers him to do whatever is necessary to be with her. He is willing to overcome all obstacles to be together. Many of us have driven long distances to spend time with the person we were dating. When I was dating April, she was at Florida College and I was at Western Kentucky University. I drove through Hurricane Opal as it moved through the panhandle of Florida and into Georgia, just to be able to visit her for a weekend. In Song of Solomon, we see this man committed and determined to be with her. Song of Solomon 2:9 reveals how much he wants to see her. He is eager to see her. In dating there should be a time of the man wooing the woman to be with him. The effort to win her heart. He does not barge in uninvited or as if by right. He remains outside, waiting to see if the one he loves will come out to him.

In Song of Solomon 2:10-13 he calls for her to come away with him. It is spring. Spring represents love and fertility. Think about Bambi. It’s spring time and love is in the air. It is spring and it is the right time for love. The spring holds the hope and optimism for the future of this relationship. Let’s go spend time together. He calls to her in a tender appeal, not of force or demand. He woos her for a greater, deeper relationship. There is a time where a relationship moves from friends, to dating, to exclusively together, to fiancé. Let’s be together, just you and me, is his call. It is spring. Let us move forward in our relationship. I believe this is his proposal of marriage to her. Let’s take the next step in our relationship.

In Song of Solomon 2:14 we see the man continuing to call out to her. It seems that she is responding with some shyness and hesitation to his proposal. She is at the very least a little reserved and he is calling for her to come out. She is to be pursued. She is not the pursuer. We need to teach our girls this. You are not to pursue but to be pursued. You are to decide who you want to be with and you determine the speed at which this relationship moves. Women must not fail to understand that they control these keys to the relationship. Love does not run roughshod over the feelings of others. One must be considerate of these fears and hesitations. She is pictured as living in the clefts of the rock. She is being reserved and is not quickly receiving his invitation to marriage.

There seem to be some issues or problems that still need to be ironed out in the relationship. The call in Song of Solomon 2:15 is to catch the foxes. Foxes ruin vineyards. Foxes are threats to the relationship. The appeal is made here to outsiders to prevent “the foxes,” those forces that could destroy the purity of their love, from defiling their vineyards, which are blossoming. In Song of Solomon 1:6 the maiden uses “vineyard” as a metaphor for her own person (see Carr, p. 79; Murphy, p. 60). So they plead for protection for the love that blossoms between them that nothing will spoil it. What are the forces that ruin marital love? Name some threats to your relationship. There are so many things that mess up a happy marital love life. Address those issues. Catch those foxes. You have to overcome these problems, not give up. Today too many have a Cinderella picture of marriage, living happily ever after with no problems. But there are foxes that will try to harm and ruin the relationship. Identify those foxes and overcome those issues before the marriage relationship deteriorates.

The chapter concludes with her thinking about the security she has with this man in the relationship. The lovers may accept restraint on the pace of love’s development, but there is no denying that they belong to each other. In Song of Solomon 5:13 his lips are called “lilies” so this may be a reference him kissing her lips. She certainly desires him but has been hesitate to go forward in the relationship.

The Dream (Song of Solomon 3:1-5)

The third chapter of the Song opens with a new scene. She is on her bed at night. Therefore it seems like that this is a dream. She says she is in her bed but she is running through the streets worried. So a dream seems to be the most likely picture. She is worried about something concerning their romance and upcoming marriage. She is concerned about losing him. Perhaps her hesitation to his marriage proposal has made her nervous about losing him. Sometimes space is useful for relationships. It helps both parties determine if they truly want to be together. Sometimes the constant presence of the other can cause one to take the other for granted or remain in infatuation, unable to see if they are willing to make a true, godly commitment to love the other person. Her separation has caused her to realize that this man is truly the one she wants to marry. The dream sequence continues. She is moving through the streets in her dream trying to find her beloved. But she cannot find him. She even asks the watchmen if they have seen him. The point is that she is recognizing that he truly is the one she wants to be with.

In Song of Solomon 3:4 she is finally able to find him and she realizes that she never wants to let him go. She is not going to hesitate about this proposal any longer. She seems to bring him home to meet the parents in some respect to use language that we understand today. She is indicating her desire for him to become part of the family. But more to the point, she does not want to let him go and is ready to be with him in marriage. She cautions the daughters of Jerusalem again to not speed up love. It is not yet time for physical intimacy. Do not stir up or awaken love until it is time.

The Wedding Song (Song of Solomon 3:6-11)

Song of Solomon 3:6 begins the wedding parade and festival (see Song of Solomon 3:11). Many scholars note that while this is Solomon’s litter/royal travel couch, it is not him riding in it but the woman. An escort party was sent to pick up the bride and bring her to him in ancient near eastern culture (see also Isaac and Rebekah in Genesis 24). But this is something writers argue over whether the woman or the man is riding on the litter. Either way, this is a royal wedding procession. The rest of the chapter describes the beauty and majesty of this processional as the two are joined together in marriage.

The Wedding Night

Song of Solomon 4:1 to Song of Solomon 5:1

By Brent Kercheville

The fourth chapter appears to move the scene to the wedding night. The third chapter concluded with arrival of the wedding carriage. Song of Solomon 3:11 reveals that this is the day of his wedding. Though nothing specifically says that chapter 4 is the wedding night, what we read in this chapter compels the reader to this conclusion. Remember that this is a song of love as these two long to be together. They are now married and continue to use love imagery to describe their coming together. We must appreciate this chapter because the wedding night is not described crassly or crudely. Nor is this described clinically with medical terms. Just as a red rose, twilight, and fire in the fireplace conjure up romance and lovemaking in our culture, these images conjure the same romance and lovemaking in ancient near eastern culture. Allow your mind to embrace this love language.

Describing The Bride (Song of Solomon 4:1-7)

These first seven verses provide an opportunity for the man to affirm his lover in her beauty. You will notice that there are seven descriptions: eyes, hair, teeth, lips, cheeks, neck, and breasts. Scholars have observed this behavior in the Middle East. They have seen weddings where the groom and the bride would describe one another’s physical beauty as a prelude to lovemaking (Longman, New International Commentary on the Old Testament, 140). Notice that she is wearing a veil (Song of Solomon 4:1) which is common for brides in the scriptures (Genesis 24:65; Genesis 29:23-25; Genesis 38:14). While these images may seem humorous to us, these were statements that would make a woman melt. I believe cultures thousands of years from now would fine our imagery of beauty to be humorous also. But know that he is praising her physical beauty.

We must consider the impact of what he is doing for her. His words of praise and adoration set aside any feelings of insecurity and uncertainty she might have. This is a common characteristic in women that men must understand. Most women are insecure about their beauty. I personally think our culture has played a significant role in this problem. The standard of beauty in our society is set so high that none can attain it, even the models themselves. Perhaps you have seen more actresses come out against the magazine that are airbrushing everything about their photos. I hope there will be a continued response against the false definition of beauty that is set before our eyes. It is important for women to reject it and for men to reject it. What you see on television, magazines, and movies is false. We noted in our first lesson on this book that your standard of beauty is what you married. We see the man affirm her beauty. She needs to know that you find her attractive. Think about how he identifies seven traits of beauty for her. Consider that this implies that, to him, she is perfect. She suits his desires perfectly. I think women should understand this about men. If a man dated you and married you, I guarantee you that man thinks you are beautiful. Men must praise their wives for their beauty, as he see the man in this Song doing. He is going to praise her beauty three times (Song of Solomon 4:1-7; Song of Solomon 6:4-6; Song of Solomon 7:2-8) which tells us that this is important for a man to do for his wife.

Song of Solomon 4:6-7 describe his desire to be with her sexually through this night. There is nothing for her to fear. He desires her and they will enjoy this night together. It is not hard to see that verse 6 is sexual imagery. Song of Solomon 1:13 already placed myrrh as a necklace between her breasts. He says that he is going to go to the mountain of myrrh all night. The imagery is clearly sexual.

The Garden of Love (Song of Solomon 4:8 to Song of Solomon 5:1)

Song of Solomon 4:8 describes his commitment to her. He is going to protect her and take care of her. This is the offer of marriage, men. You are saying to her that she can trust you, come away with you, and you will provide. Men must consider what women are doing when they obey the command to submission. Guys, women are trusting you be provide and protect. Submitting to your leadership and your decisions to be your life long partner is to entrust their heart and body to you. You have a responsibility to care for her now with understanding. This is what the apostle Peter is teaching in 1 Peter 3:7. You are to live with her in an understanding way, showing deference to her. She has entrusted your life to you. You do not lead with fear or intimidation. You are to be the place of safety. So the man in verse 8 is telling her that you can come with me. Whatever her worries are, the man will take care of them.

Please notice that the text emphasizes that these two are married for he calls her “my bride.” Four times in Song of Solomon 4:9-12 he calls her his bride. You will also notice that he calls her his sister. This was a term of endearment in ancient near eastern times. It is a similar term of affection that a man may use of his wife, calling her “honey,” “darling,” or “baby” or something like that. One day people will read our writings and wonder why men kept calling women “baby.” Again, these are terms of endearment and “sister” was such a term in the Near East.

The language that we read in Song of Solomon 4:10-15 is not entirely different from songs today. He is saying that when he looks at her, it drives him crazy. She is so beautiful that every move you make causes excitement. Our songs today make the same analogies, often more crassly unfortunately. But we are able to understand the idea easily enough.

The images in Song of Solomon 4:12-15 were used in the ancient Near East as well as in the Bible as very sexual images (cf. Proverbs 5:15-20). He praises her for her purity and virginity. This shows that this book is not praising sex before marriage. She is praised for keeping herself for marriage. She is not a fountain open to everyone who passes by. Our society needs to hear this and women today really need to hear this. This is the picture of you in the scriptures. You are to keep your garden locked and your fountain sealed. Sexual activity is not for anyone else but the one you marry. This is a beautiful gift for your husband. He praises this gift. “Sexual pleasure is diluted when it is given prematurely to others, but it is concentrated when it is saved for one’s marriage partner, and then given to that one person with a full and open heart” (Estes, Apollos OT Commentary, 363). Since she has remained sexually pure, verse 8 may also include his call to her that they are married and there is no need for her to be guarded. They can experience any aspect of each other’s bodies that they want.

In Song of Solomon 4:16 she invites him to enjoy what she has saved for him. In marriage, husbands and wives are to enjoy each other’s bodies. The writer of the Proverbs says you are to be intoxicated by the physical love and enjoyment of marriage (Proverbs 5:15-20). Within the boundaries of marriage, sexual intimacy is free to be enjoyed fully and completely. One of the great things about keep oneself pure until marriage is that there is no comparison. Magazines today have titles about having great sex and how to make sex better. There is talk about “sexual compatibility.” If you have not been with anyone else, then you do not know any better. You are instantly compatible because there is no other point of reference. Any sex becomes great sex. God protects us from this nonsense in the world by commanding physical purity. Paul commanded full sexual enjoyment in marriage in 1 Corinthians 7:2-4.

2 But because there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs. 4 The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife. (1 Corinthians 7:2-4 NLT)

Her invitation is that her body, which was kept pure from other men, is now given to him to enjoy. Carefully notice the words she uses. She says that her garden is now “his garden.” She has the right attitude about how she understand her body in the marriage relationship. As Paul declared to the Corinthians, his body is now hers and her body now belongs to him. In chapter 5 and the first verse he partakes of this gift. The first verse of chapter 5 concludes with a chorus singing that this is right. This is what is to happen. We are to enjoy each other’s love physically. This completely defeats the religious argument that sex is only for procreation. What these two are doing in lovemaking is praised as good by God. This is the picture of a healthy marriage that God created for a husband and wife.

Solving Marital Problems

Song of Solomon 5:2-16

By Brent Kercheville

The first verse of chapter 5 belongs with the fourth chapter of the Song of Songs as we see the husband and wife come together for lovemaking. God is picturing the beauty of intimacy in marriage. Not only is intimacy in marriage commanded by God (Genesis 2:23; 1 Corinthians 7:2-4) but intimacy is the fruit of a good marriage. Song of Solomon 5; Song of Solomon 1 concludes with the chorus telling to the couple to enjoy the love of one another.

Marriage Problems (Song of Solomon 5:2-8)

The next movement of this song shows that something has gone wrong in the marriage. There are now some problems in the marriage. This should not be surprising to us. Every marriage goes through problems and difficulties. Especially early on in the marriage there are problems that have to be worked through as two sinful humans try to obey Christ toward one another. As an individual, we are used to doing whatever we want. Now we are to yield our lives to another person. There can be many problems that arise as these two lives try to merge into one. I believe one of the reasons why so many divorces occur is the unwillingness to try to work through these problems. Too many people enter marriage with a Cinderella concept of living happily ever after. But that can only happen when there is a commitment to work through problems that will certainly come to the marriage.

The scene pictures the husband coming home and her unwillingness to open the door for him. She makes three excuses why she is unwilling to get up and open the door. First, she is lying in bed and nearly asleep or drifting off into sleep (Song of Solomon 5:2). Second, she has already taken off her clothes. She is in bed and does not want to have to put on clothes to open the door (5:3). Third, her feet are clean. She does not want to have to walk across the dirt floor to open the door because she will have to clean her feet again before she can get back in bed (Song of Solomon 5:3). In Song of Solomon 5:2 you will notice that he makes overtures to her to open the door. “Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my perfect one.” He wants to be with her and for whatever reason (we have seen three terrible excuses) she is unwilling to let him in. Something has happened in the marriage. He is making calls to her. So it is not that he is ignoring her. But she has become cold to him so that she will not let him come in. Some amount of time passes and she decides to open the door for him, but it is too late (Song of Solomon 5:5-6). She has driven him away and she is full of regret. She cannot find him (Song of Solomon 5:6). She goes about the city looking for him but cannot find him. She is even suffering mistreatment by the guards trying to find him because she so desperately wants to find him but cannot (Song of Solomon 5:7). So she tells the chorus if they find her husband, tell him that she is sick with love (Song of Solomon 5:8). Tell him I am sorry and I want him.

Let’s start with some surface conclusions. It is important to recognize how strongly women set the tone in the marriage. Men without a doubt bear responsibility in the marriage. I am not saying that men do not bear an equal responsibility to the marriage as the women. But we see in this song that she has driven him away. She is upset about something and has taken it out on him in such a way that she has driven him away. The husband responds to the tone that is set by the wife. Our culture even understands this with the true cliché: “Happy wife, happy life.” Husbands understand that if the wife is unhappy, then life is unhappy. In marriage it does not take long for a husband to understand the need to keep the wife happy because they control the tone of the marriage. Men typically want the path of least resistance. They will do what is needed to keep peace in the home so they can have peace and relax. The point is this: both husbands and wives bear responsibility for problems that occur in marriage. Wives, however, are more frequently the ones who will turn the issue into a fight. This is what we see in this fifth chapter. We do not know what has happened. We do not know if he has done something. We do not know if she has done something. All we know is he is trying to draw close to her (Song of Solomon 5:2) but she refuses to welcome him back, which causes him to leave. She is creating the fight in this chapter by not allowing him to come close to her. A fight is not the way to accomplish what we want in our spouse. We are not to try to hurt each other to try to cause change. We are not in the business of trying to change each other or force each other to do things. Too often we try to use distance and coldness to try to communicate our displeasure and punish our spouse rather than expressing the problem and trying to solve it. We cannot try to hurt the other person just because we have been hurt. We need to talk through issues that arise, not push each other away.

Now, there is another level in this song that needs to be explored. It is likely that this is a sexual rebuff. We have noticed how this song has repeatedly used romantic, yet careful language to speak of highly sexual activities (see chapter 4). We noted in Song of Solomon 4:12 the garden was not simply a garden but was speaking of her sexual area and the mountains and hills are poetic way to speak of her breasts. Notice in Song of Solomon 4, “My beloved put his hand to the latch” (ESV). Other translations that he put his hand “through the opening” (NASB, HCSB, NRSV). The Hebrew word just means a “hole.” So this could easily mean that he is trying to reach his hand through the hole in the door for the key that would have been kept on the inside so that he can unlock the door. However, her response in Song of Solomon 5:4-5 indicate a sexual rebuff. The scene has a poetic picture of him wanting to be with her sexually. He is trying to approach her sexually and she is excited about the prospect of a sexual encounter with her husband, but rebuffs his advances. So she is making excuses for not making love with him. She is already asleep. She is already changed. She is already in bed. She does not want to get dirty and have to clean up again before bed. She is saying no and her refusal has pushed him away.

One of the most important love languages for husbands is sex. To refuse sex is perhaps one of the most hurtful ways to attack a husband. This is why the apostle Paul gave the command in 1 Corinthians 7:2-4 for there not to be time apart sexually because it will tempt him to sexual immorality. Again, a wife sets the tone for the intimacy of the marriage. Refusal to be together damages the marriage in severe ways that perhaps women to do not fully understand. The parallel pain would perhaps be if a husband was unwilling to buy flowers or do something special for Valentine’s Day or your anniversary. It shows that he does not care. The refusal of intimacy shows him that she does not care. So we see the husband leaving in this song. She has driven him away from her and now regrets doing so. She has caused this distance to occur between them. Intimacy is not to be a tool of punishment against each other. Too often this happens when there are issues or disagreements. We try to use intimacy as a tool to try to make the other person change. This is condemned by God and must not be done. We are destroying the marriage and only hurting ourselves when we use these kinds of tactics.

Resolving Marriage Problems (Song of Solomon 5:9-16)

So what is the answer to resolve marital conflicts? The chorus helps her come to the solution. In Son 9 they ask her what makes her beloved better than others. So they want her to explain why he is so important to her. What makes him so special? How does he stand out from others?

This is an important practice in marriage especially when there are difficulties: focus on the positive, not the negative. No human is perfect. You are not perfect and your spouse is not perfect. Rather than ruining the marriage by focusing on all the things you do not like, focus on all the wonderful attributes that caused you to love your spouse. Marriages are ruined when we focus on each other’s failures. Consider that when we focus on each other’s failure we are not practicing a Christ-centered marriage. Focusing on each other’s mistakes is not what Paul commands of marriage in Ephesians 5. Christ does not focus on our failures but made a way for our sinfulness to be overcome by his love. We must replicate this model in our marriages. Do not focus on the failures but focus on loving your spouse in a way that overcomes those failures. We know how to do this because we did it when we were dating and we did it early in our marriage. We overlooked the negatives and focused on the positives. We must continue to do this in marriage. Marriages are not solved by focusing on the negatives. By the way, do you want your spouse to focus on all your deficiencies, weaknesses, and failures? Then why are you focusing on your spouse’s deficiencies, weaknesses, and failures? So the chorus brings her around to the proper way of thinking. What do you love about him? What makes him special? Why do you want to be with him? Focus on those things. Express those attributes. Part of solving marital problems is to be grateful for the person you have that has chosen you rather than being ungrateful because he or she is not perfect.

She goes on to explain what makes him her beloved and special to her (Song of Solomon 5:10-16). You will notice that she is physically attracted to him just as he is physically attracted to her. There is nothing wrong with this. We are to enjoy how each other look and we are to praise each other for that. But notice that it is not all physical. She ends with the most important attribute about him. He is her beloved and her friend (Song of Solomon 5:16). This is how the marriage relationship is supposed to work. Our spouse is our friend. It is natural to break away from our other friends and focus on the marriage relationship as our primary friendship. This does not mean that we do not have other friends. But our marriage is to be a friendship. We are not only to love each other but we are to like each other. Therefore, those who are preparing for marriage must ask the question if this is your friend. It is not enough to simply think you are love. Are you friends? Do you share your lives with each other? This gets more to the heart of marriage: the sharing of lives together. It is so sad to see so marriages turn into being roommates. The marriage partners do not want to spend time together, do not want to do things together, and do not want to talk with each other. There is something very wrong when that is the case. You should be able to say about each other that my spouse is my friend.

Conclusion

The message of chapter 5 is how to overcome problems in marriage. First, we should not make excuses to not be with our spouse and to not give our spouse the attention, time, or requests they need. When we fail to do this we are simply driving our spouse away. Second, never use these things as weapons against our spouse. We must never withhold attention, conversation, love, or intimacy from each other as a tool to hurt the other person. We have no right to do that. We are not given the right to punish the other person. Christ did not treat us this way. Christ dealt with our errors with an overflow of love, not punishment. Third, focus on the positive to rebuild the marriage and maintain the marriage. Focus on the good attributes in your spouse. Remember that you are not perfect and neither is your spouse. You do not want your spouse to focus on your weakness. So do not focus on theirs. Build your friendship with each other and grow your lives together.

Healing From Marital Conflicts

Song of Solomon 6:1-13

By Brent Kercheville

Chapter 5 revealed problems in the marriage that needed to be overcome. As we studied that chapter we saw the strategies given by God to deal with our marital problems and bring harmony back to the relationship. Chapter 6 begins with a question by the chorus (the daughters of Jerusalem) if everything is fine. Notice verse 1 that they ask if she ever found her beloved. Remember that the fifth chapter showed him leaving. She had hurt him and there was a fracture in the relationship. She went out looking for him, desiring to be with him, and praising him for who he is. Rather than focusing on what he is not, she is focusing on what he is. Did it work?

Song of Solomon 6:2-3 tells us that this did work. She says that he has gone down to his garden. “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” Remember in chapter 4 that we saw the garden as a sexual reference. So the picture is that they have reconciled and are back in each other’s arms. She has called out to him and he has responded to her. He does not hold a grudge or is embittered. She finds him and they resolve their problem. The marriage appears to be back on track. What we will notice in chapter 6 is that the marriage is in harmony again because they are praising each other again. They want to be together and are communicating what they want and need to each other. So there is a happy marriage relationship as each is responding to the other’s desires. But this requires that we want happy marriages. This sounds obvious but some do not recognize that they are happy being miserable. They like have a bad marriage so that they can complain to others about their situation, receiving pity and attention. This must not be how a Christian behaves. God commands us to have Christ-like marriages (Ephesians 5:22-33). So we are not going to be happy by trying to keep things miserable in our marriages. We are going to give and sacrifice as Christ did so we can have relationships that he has commanded us to have.

Praising Her (Song of Solomon 6:4-10)

Notice that he is doing for her and saying to her the things that he did and said at the beginning of their relationship. Song of Solomon 6:5-7 contains the same words that he spoke in Song of Solomon 4:1-3. One of the keys to marital harmony is to continue to show love for each other by doing the things you know your spouse likes. Do and say the things you did and said when you were dating and when you first got married. Too many marriages talk about when things were better in the marriage before. It was better when we first were married or it was better when we were dating. There is a simple answer to this problem. Do what you were doing before. Don’t stop. Those words and actions do not have to be mere memories. Go back to those good times and continue to do them. Kindle the love for each other by doing what the other person loves. Do not take the love of each other for granted. Doing so is a critical mistake.

But he also adds new information too. Song of Solomon 6:8-10 gives new words of love to her, as well as Song of Solomon 6:4. Tizrah was a beautiful city in the northern part of Israel which would become the capital of the northern nation of Israel from the time of Jeroboam to Omri (cf. 1 Kings 15:33). His attitude toward her is that she is the best. This is what he says in Song of Solomon 6:8-9. There are many queens and virgins, but he does not want any of them. He only wants her. Wives need to hear this from their husbands. This is especially true today in this over-sexualized world that places such a heavy emphasis on physical beauty. Husbands need to tell their wives that if they had it to do all over again, they would marry her again. He holds her up as a precious gem that he is grateful to have. I believe that this is what Peter means in 1 Peter 3:7 where he tells husbands to honor their wives as the weaker vessel. Too many get hung up on the “weaker vessel” language which completely misses the point of the instruction. Peter did not say she is a weaker vessel. Peter said to honor her like that. Do not treat her as common. Treat her as special. Treat her like the prize and value that she is to your life.

Her Song (Song of Solomon 6:11-13)

In Song of Solomon 6:11 it appears that she is going to a valley to see if it is spring when the plants are blooming and budding. Spring is a metaphor for love. Is it still the time of love? Is the relationship still good? Another way to look at this is that she is seeing if their reconciliation has brought about a new spring. Scholars note the difficulty of the Hebrew in Song of Solomon 6:12-13 and this explains the difference in translation in our English versions. At the very least she seems to be saying that she has been swept away in her desire for him as he has been putting her on a pedestal and elevating her by his words and actions. The others seem to cry out that they want to see her. However, he intervenes and says that it is not your business to look upon her. She belongs to him and him alone.

You will notice that for the first time she is given a title: Shulammite. Shulammite is an interesting name because it is the feminine form of the Hebrew word for Solomon. So this likely has a picture of these two belonging together. Both of them are finding peace with each other (the root word for both of their titles is shalom, meaning peace).

Conclusion

In this chapter we see what the husband is doing to maintain the marriage relationship. He continues to praise her and show her love as he did when they were dating and when they were first married. Further, he does new things for her, praising her in new ways, and not just doing what he has always done so that it become mundane and habitual. This has caused her to look for a time for love between them after reconciliation from their last marital problem. He has responded to her by sweeping her away so that they can be together.

Recognizing A Husband’s Needs

Song of Solomon 7:1-13

By Brent Kercheville

Chapter 7 really begins in 6:13, setting the stage for what is being described. The group is calling for her not to go off with her husband but to return so they can look at her. He seems to intervene against this request. Who are they to be looking at her like the dance of Mahanaim (“two armies,” ESV)? Scholars are uncertain on what this dance is. Most scholars point out that it was a dance that was done by the women after the nation won a military battle. This dancing was entertainment for the men who would watch the women as they moved. He steps in and says this dancing is not for others to see. She is not for everyone else to look at. But it is not that no one is to look at her. Rather, it is her husband that is able to enjoy looking on her body.

The question in Song of Solomon 6:13 sets the stage for chapter 7. Women typically do not understand how visual men are and how men like to look at women. The warnings in scripture against lusting are very important to keep in mind. Men are not allowed to look at women like it sounds this crowd wants to look upon her. Jesus taught that lusting is committing adultery in the heart (Matthew 5:28). But the solution to lust is for fulfillment in marriage. This is what the apostle Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 7:1-5. Husbands need to know that wives want communication. Wives want to talk and know what is going on in the heart and mind of the husband. Therefore, husbands must be willing to give what their wives need with open and honest communication. In same way, wives need to know that husbands are visual. Communication is not what they need. Husbands want to look at their wives. We have seen this truth throughout the Song as he continues to praise her for her beauty. God made man to desire a woman physically. Therefore, wives must be willing to give what their husbands need by being willing to let him see her body. Notice the verbal affirmation and communication he gives her as she reveals herself to him. This sets the scene for what is happening the seventh chapter.

His Desire For Her (Song of Solomon 7:1-9 a)

He begins by noting how beautiful her feet are in the sandals she wears. This description is unique from his other descriptions of her. Previously he started at her head and moved down her body as he praised her beauty. This time he reverses the order and starts with her feet and moves up her body. The reversal of order suggests that she is showing her body to him in this dance that is reserved for her husband alone. He then moves up to her thighs and hips, noting the curves of her body. He moves us to the center of her body. The navel is like a bowl with wine and the belly is like a heap of wheat encircled with lilies. He then moves to describing her breasts. From there he praises her neck, eyes, and nose. He concludes with her hair as it flows from her head. In Song of Solomon 7:6-9 he makes his overture to her. She is appealing to all of his sense and he wants to show her his love in intimacy. The imagery is straightforward as he expresses his desire to be with her.

Her Desire For Him (Song of Solomon 7:9-13)

As he is singing her praises and is longing to be with her in love physically, she interrupts him. She has been letting him look at her and he is enjoying looking at her body and giving her verbal affirmation of how beautiful she is to him. She is not put off by this nor should she be. This is what Paul was teaching the Christians in Corinth.

The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs. The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife. Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (1 Corinthians 7:3-5 NLT)

We are to serve the needs and desires of each other in marriage. This is exactly what we are volunteering for when we get married. We want to make the other person happy. We want to do all we can to bring joy and satisfaction to each other in marriage. We are looking out for the desires of each other. A wonderful truth is being taught in this chapter. There is freedom in marriage. All that is forbidden before marriage is approved by God in marriage. God did not prevent sexual intimacy and pleasure but instructed us that marriage was to be the place for its fulfillment. So she joins in on this description at the end of Song of Solomon 7:9. He says that her mouth and her body are like the best wine (Song of Solomon 7:2; Song of Solomon 7:9). She says that the wine goes down smoothly for him, flowing over his lips.

She goes further and tells him that all that she has is strictly for him. “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me” (Song of Solomon 7:10). This pictures again what Paul spoke about in 1 Corinthians 7. She says that her body is for him to enjoy. This is what Paul is teaching. Each of you are to enjoy each other’s bodies. She does not refuse him. She does not recoil. She willingly and happily accepts what he is saying to. A wife should be excited that your husband’s desire is for you. This is what she says. She is pleased and satisfied that his desire is for her. Why would a wife resent this? What do we think will happen if your husband’s desire is not for you? He is going to be looking for another woman. This is exactly what the Proverbs are warning against. Be exciting to your husband. Let him desire you. Then you will have the confidence and security in the marriage beyond your vow that you took before God because you know he desires you. I have counseled so many marriages where affairs began because they stopped desiring each other. They stopped doing things to be attractive toward each other. They stopped paying attention to each other and trying to do what is pleasing for each other. So they found other people who would pay them attention and do what is pleasing to them. We must protect our marriages by understanding each other’s needs and desires and meeting them. One of the strongest ways wives can protect and affair-proof their marriage is by knowing what your husband needs and being willing to meet those needs. You want your husband to desire you. If he does not desire you, there is a very big problem and your marriage is in danger. The New Testament picture is that a husband and wife give their bodies to one another and love one another as they would love their own bodies (Ephesians 5:22-33; 1 Corinthians 7:2-4).

Not only this, but notice in Song of Solomon 7:11-13 she is making it possible for his desires to be met. She says that we need to go somewhere and “there I will give you my love.” So it is not him having to be a beggar to her for intimacy. Nor is she forced by him. He does not control her or force her. She willingly desires to give her love to him. She understands what he needs and willingly gives it to him. She makes a way for them to be able to be together. The location is poetic language to speak of a place where love is in the air and where it is romantic. She is making a way and a time for them to be able to be together. It is important for wives to make time for intimacy together. It is easy to say that there is so much to do and that there is no time. Between the kids and the house there is an easy built in excuse to avoid being with your husband. But this cannot happen. If there is a lot to do, ask your husband to help so that time can be made to be together. Also, if there are things to do, do those things later. It is more important to do what is good for the marriage ahead of making sure the clothes are ironed or the kitchen is cleaned.

Notice that she is going to enhance their time together. Mandrakes were prized for their aphrodisiac properties in ancient near eastern times (Song of Solomon 7:13). Notice that her words are encouraging their intimacy. She is not guarded. She is not repulsed. She is not shy. She does not look at being with her husband sexually as “a necessary evil” or a commanded duty. She is going to facilitate their coming together. Her response is that her body and her love is all for him. She invites him to be with her and they will enjoy new as well as old fruits of intimacy together. Duane Garrett states, “The woman speaks of ‘new and old’ treasures she has for the man. This would imply that as they grow in love they will both repeat familiar pleasures and find new ones as well” (New American Commentary, 424). Both husband and wife should be looking for ways to bring joy, pleasure, and satisfaction to one another, both new and old ways.

Conclusion

In chapter 6 we talked about how marriages need to continue doing what you both did for each other when you were dating and when you first were married. We noted that it is a common failure for husbands to stop praising their wives and stop showing them love and attention as was done when dating and first married. Chapter 7 shows us that wives cannot stop trying to be physically attractive to their husbands. Just as he is to continue putting forward effort to show love to her, she continues to put forward effort to show love to him. She is not trying to attract other men to her, but she wants to continue to attract her husband. Men are strongly visually attracted to women. We have seen this repeatedly in the Song of Songs. He wants to look at her and see her body. She understands that her body is reserved for her husband alone. She allows him to look at her and willing initiates intimacy with her husband. Let these words be able to be confidently said in our marriages: “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.” Seek to fulfill the desires of one another in marriage.

Set Me As A Seal On Your Heart

Song of Solomon 8:1-14

By Brent Kercheville

The eighth chapter can be seen as a continuation of the events of chapter 7 or as a new scene that is separate from the seventh chapter. The Song continues to praise the joy of love and affection that they have toward one another in marriage.

Desiring Affection (Song of Solomon 8:1-4)

We see the wife continuing to express her desire for affection from her husband. We saw that she desired affection from him when they were dating/betrothed (Song of Solomon 1:2-4). But this is not supposed to change in marriage. She still wants to receive his affection. Notice that she wishes that she were like a brother to her. The reason for this is that it was acceptable to show affection to your family in public. But it was not acceptable to show affection to your spouse or betrothed. So her desire is that there was a way for her to receive affection from him at all times, even in public. She desires to be with him and wants to show him affection and receive affection as much as possible. Also remember that we saw that the “brother/sister” terms were used as terms of endearment in their time (Song of Solomon 4:9-12; Song of Solomon 5:1-2).

There is an interesting statement in Song of Solomon 8:2. In speaking about her mother, she says, “She who used to teach me.” It seems that her mother taught her about love, affection, and having a relationship with a man. I believe she is saying that her mother taught her how to behave in a relationship. We have seen in this Song her ability to know how to handle herself with this man that she loves. She has done things the right way. They had desires for each other but did not sin with lust or sexual contact. She gave the charge to “not stir up or awaken love until it pleases” (Song of Solomon 2:7; Song of Solomon 3:5). Desires are to held in marriage and these things should not be stirred up early. We mentioned previously in our studies how we must be careful to not accelerate the relationship because there is a limit of what a couple can do toward each other before marriage. Her mother taught her how to behave properly toward a man before marriage and how to behave when married. Our daughters need these instructions. They should not have to go blindly into marriage not knowing these principles that have been studied in this book. If a daughter is old enough to get married, then she is old enough for a mother to sit down and have a discussion about the marriage relationship. She says that her mother taught her about these things and this is right training according to God.

She also describes their love for each other as intoxicating. We have seen this theme throughout the Song as well (Song of Solomon 1:2; Song of Solomon 5:1; Song of Solomon 7:9). This is the same message that Solomon taught his son in the Proverbs:

Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. 16 Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? 17 Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. 18 Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, 19 a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. 20 Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress? 21 For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the LORD, and he ponders all his paths. (Proverbs 5:15-21 ESV)

Solomon tells his son to always be intoxicated by her love. Do not be intoxicated by another woman. Looking outside of marriage for this love is the path to destruction and ruin. So the man is told to look to his wife for this intoxicating love. The Song tells the woman that you need to allow your husband to be intoxicated by your love. You must be intoxicating to him. He must look to the wife and find satisfaction in marital love. She must be willing to show her love to him in the marriage relationship. In Song of Solomon 8:2 she is expressing her desire to continue to show her love to him.

Song of Solomon 8:3 pictures the affection and intimacy they have for each other. The joy of the embrace of one another is praised. They want to be together. This is a good reminder to husbands that our wives want affection. They want us to show them that we care for them. There is a tenderness in the words we read in verse 3. We saw the same tender affection when they were dating in Song of Solomon 2:6. This is another reminder to both husband and wife that we must continue to do for each other the things we did when we were dating and first married to keep the joy and love in the relationship going.

The fourth verse is a declaration to the daughters of Jerusalem what she has said in this Song in Song of Solomon 2:7 and Song of Solomon 3:5. Do not rush into love, marriage, and intimacy. These things have a proper place and a proper time. There is great joy and pleasure found in the marriage relationship that waits for the proper time to enjoy the fruit of the relationship. So now that she is married, she gives counsel to the other women of Jerusalem to wait for intimacy until it is the right person and the right time, which is the one to whom you are married. Intimacy before marriage ruins marriages and there is a loss of the fruit that is to be greatly enjoyed in the marriage covenant.

Set Me As A Seal (Song of Solomon 8:5-7)

As we come to the conclusion of the Song we see that the Song takes a step back and reflects on the nature of love. The chorus begins with a question: “Who is that coming up from the wilderness, leaning on her beloved?” Here is a picture of this couple that we have been reading about, walking side by side, arm in arm, with her leaning her head on him. They have found a special place under the apple tree where she awakened him. She awakened his love and excitement for her in the place where his mother awakened the love of her husband (his father). This is clearly a special family location that is given as the place to be together in love.

“Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm” speaks to the exclusivity of the relationship. The seal here is indicating a metaphor of ownership and personal identification. They are taking ownership of each other. This is a glorious picture of love. They are willingly giving themselves to each other and to each other only. There is a picture of permanence for this relationship. Their hearts are sealed for each other. They possess each other’s hearts. Therefore, their love is strong and unbreakable.

Notice this language of their unbreakable love for one another in these verses. “For love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave.” Consider that nothing can stop death. Death is an irresistible and inevitable force. She speaks of their love for each other with this kind of strength. They have a love for each other that tolerates no rivals. This is not describing a bad jealousy but a proper jealousy. We are sealed for one another and will not share you with another. God speaks of himself as a jealous God which carries the same idea. God will not share our hearts with another idol or another love. In the same way, we will not share our hearts with another person. This is why God declares sexual immorality as the only thing that severs the bond of marriage (Matthew 19:9). Jealousy is a proper emotion to any threat to the relationship.

Listen to the heat and passion of the relationship. “Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord.” It is burning hot. The flame of the Lord is the hottest of all flames. Their marriage relationship, love, and intimacy is burning with intense passion. Even today we will describe love as the “flames of love.” Love is a powerful thing. We must ask ourselves if our marriages have this passion and intensity. If not, we need to recognize that there is a problem. This is a warning because it is easy for our eyes and hearts to be caught by another when we do not maintain the passion in the marriage. Love is to be as strong as death and has intense and passionate as the hottest of flames. If this is missing, then the marriage needs our attention and we must do the things that this Song has taught us to do for the marriage. This also teaches us the power of this thing called love. This is how affairs happen. We underestimate the power of passion. We neglect our marriage failing to recognize that we are putting ourselves in great danger because when one’s heart is captured by another, it is very powerful.

In Song of Solomon 8:7 she continues to describe this love. “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can flood drown it.” A passionate love can endure anything. We see this idea captured in works like Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. Nothing can stop love and, when aflame, nothing can quench it. Further, love is not able to be purchased. To even try to buy love only brings shame. Love is priceless. Therefore, we need to treat our relationships as priceless. Love is too important to neglect and too valuable to ignore. It is critical that we maintain our marriages because they are important and must never be taken for granted.

Preparing For Marriage (Song of Solomon 8:8-12)

In Song of Solomon 8:8 we read a question from some brother. We do not know if they are her brothers or another audience who is asking the question. Either way, they want to know what they should do to prepare their young sister for the day of marriage (“on the day when she is spoken for”). She is clearly a young girl. So they are asking what they should follow in order to prepare her for her future marriage. It is not a last minute idea. It is preparing young girls for this time. I think this is so important for us to consider what the Song is teaching. We do not let our daughters or sisters go into dating and marriage blindly. Further, we do not wait until they are already dating. The Song pictures that at an age when they are starting to become a young woman like the junior high age, we will train and teach our girls about these things. So what are the instructions to prepare her for the day of her wedding?

The answer is given in Song of Solomon 8:9. Her behavior will dictate how we will go about helping her be ready for marriage and stay pure. “If she is a wall” then she is choosing to protect her sexuality. She is a virgin. She understands why this is important. She has been taught to keep herself pure and is prepared to do so. If she is a wall, then we will honor her for that decision. We will build her up and praise her so that she will continue to be a wall as God wants her to do. However, “If she is a door” pictures that she is inclined to yield to a man’s advances. If she is a door, then they will be protective of her. They will enclose her with boards of cedar. They will increase the security around her to keep her from doing this. One can assume that if she is a door, then there will be less independence. She is not going to be available for men to get to know her until she matures to the point that she is a wall. These conversations start early, teaching the girl the necessity of being a wall, not a door.

In Song of Solomon 8:10 we see the main character speak again. She says that she was a wall. The Song is praising her decision. This is how to live. Maintain your purity and look at how blessed she is. She has found a wonderful man and they have a passionate love and marriage. You do not have to be a door to find a man. In fact, the Song is teaching against being a door and the damage that is caused to you and to your relationship when you are a door. Be a wall. She was a wall and her body was off limits until they were married (“my breasts were like towers”). She protected her body and she was not accessible physically. By being this, “Then I was in his eyes as one who finds peace” (Song of Solomon 8:10). She is what a good, godly man is looking for and brings peace to him. Her decision to be a wall brings fulfillment, satisfaction, and contentment to him.

Song of Solomon 8:11-12 continues this important message. Some quickly see the term “vineyard” and suppose that the Song is saying that Solomon has been with hundreds of women but she has kept herself pure. But the imagery falls apart upon closer examination of verse 11. Solomon has a vineyard that he lets out to the keepers. The keepers tend the vineyard and bring from the vineyard its fruit which is very valuable (“a thousand pieces of silver”). The keepers pay one thousand pieces of silver for the fruit from this vineyard. One can see that the imagery does not work sexually. The imagery does not fit Solomon having a harem because there is no explanation for the keepers and money they pay for the fruit from his vineyard.

What we need to see is the Song is moving from the literal to the figurative. The picture is that Solomon has a luxurious vineyard. The proceeds of the fruit brings him 1000 pieces of silver. The owner of the vineyard gets his share of the vineyard because it belongs to him. He receives the benefits of that vineyard because it is his. Now she uses this analogy for herself in Song of Solomon 8:12. In Song of Solomon 8:11 there is the set up using a literal image that was common in that day and time for what she is going to talk about concerning herself. Her “vineyard” (which she is speaking about her body) is at her disposal. Now notice: who gets to reap the profit from her vineyard? Solomon does. “You, O Solomon, may have the thousand.” It is all is going to him. He reaps the benefits of her vineyard. She also gets something in return (“and the keepers of the fruit two hundred”). But it is not about her. Yes, she enjoys this and yes, there is benefit to her. But the point is that the fruit of the vineyard belongs to her husband. What she gives is for him. What she does is for him. Marriage is not a pursuit of selfishness. Marriage is not a pursuit of what I get out the relationship. Marriage is giving yourself completely and fully to your spouse. She wants to give him the fruit of her body. Daniel Estes summed this well, “Intimacy is not reluctant or calculating, but freely and willingly gives itself without reserve. It gives heart, soul, and body to the one it loves. Anything less is unworthy to be called true love” (Apollos Commentary, 415). Your purity before marriage is an investment you are making for marriage, the fruit of which will be enjoyed then. She was a wall and protected her vineyard. Then she gave her vineyard to her husband to enjoy the full benefits.

Epilogue (Song of Solomon 8:13-14)

The Song then ends with them calling for each other and going off together, joined in marriage (Song of Solomon 8:13-14). He wants to hear her voice and be in her company. She wants him to come to her and enjoy being with her. She encourages him to be like a gazelle or a young stag on the mountains. She invites him to be joined with her in love and intimacy. When both husband and wife give themselves completely to one another, the marriage becomes what God wanted it to be. Both are enthralled and enjoy the benefits of marriage. Marriage becomes beautiful and fulfilling, rather than what the world portrays marriage, as if it is some antiquated concept. Marriage is the pinnacle of love that carries the couple to new joys and heights.

 
adsfree-icon
Ads FreeProfile