Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, July 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
We are taking food to Ukrainians still living near the front lines. You can help by getting your church involved.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries
Song of Solomon 5

Pett's Commentary on the BiblePett's Commentary

Verse 1


The Loving Couple Are Married And The Marriage Is Consummated (Song of Solomon 3:6 to Song of Solomon 5:1 ).

The young maiden need not have worried. Her beloved had not forgotten her. And soon the arrangements went forward for the wedding. In her love she had never really thought about the greatness and splendor of her beloved. But now it was brought home to her in its totality when a splendid litter arrived accompanied by the bridegroom and his friends, and she was taken in great splendor to Jerusalem, where they were met by the daughters of Jerusalem who had come out to greet them. It was the custom at ancient weddings for the bridegroom to collect the bride and take her to the wedding.

The BELOVED carries his bride in splendor to Jerusalem for their wedding.

Verse 2

The Nightmare Begins.

Her BELOVED seeks to join her in her room, but she lets him go away. She is too filled with her own comfort and her own delightfulness.

‘I was asleep, but my heart awoke, It is the voice of my beloved who 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.”

Lying asleep in her luxurious bed it was as though she was suddenly awoken by a knock on the door, although it was only her heart that awoke. And her heart leaped as she heard the voice of her beloved. But despite his sweet words she was not too impressed when she learned that he had just come in from seeing to his sheep, so that ‘his head was filled with dew, and his locks with the drops of the night’. In her dream she was back with her old shepherd lover. Why could he not wait until he was more ready to enter her bed? Surely he did not expect her to receive him like that? She had grown too used to comfort.

How easily our love for our Lord can slip in a similar way, so that when He comes to us to put us under some inconvenience we are unwilling. When we first became His we were delighted to do anything that He asked. But now we have become more choosy. Let Him wait until we are in a better frame of mind. We do not want to be involved with the discomforts of His watch over the sheep. We do not want to share the inconveniences and consequences of the night watch. Our love has grown cold.

Verses 2-16


HER SECOND NIGHTMARE (Song of Solomon 5:2 to Song of Solomon 6:3 ).

Sadly the original warmth of the marriage appears at some stage to have grown cold, for we find now that she has a nightmare that when her beloved comes to enjoy her love, she cannot be bothered to open the door to him, especially as he has come in damp and dripping from watching over the sheep. (She still dreams of him as her shepherd). How can he thus expect to share her bed? So she refuses to open to him. She is now so taken up with herself and her home comforts that she has no time for Him.

Then she regrets her folly, but when she repents she finds that it is too late for she discovers that he has gone. And so in her nightmare she wanders out into the city to seek him, and is treated by the watchmen and guards as a loose woman, her outer mantle being ripped from her. But she does not care. All that concerns her is that she cannot find her beloved, and she calls on the daughters of Jerusalem for their assistance, but finds that her pleas are dismissed.

Verse 3

‘I have put off my garment, How shall I put it on? I have washed my feet, How shall I defile them?’

Her drowsy voice reaches her beloved. Does he not realize how thoughtless he is being? She has undressed. Does he really expect her to put her clothes on again? She has washed her feet. Does he really expect her to get them dirty? She cannot be bothered, and she has become too nice for such behavior.

How easily Christians settle down in a similar way with their Lord, so that the dedication that they once had has slipped and they are no longer prepared to be inconvenienced, or to get their feet dirty. Their view is, ‘Let Him return in the morning when it is more convenient’. (It can sadly happen to us all).

Verse 4

‘My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, And my heart was moved for him.’

In her drowsiness she realized that her beloved was reaching through the hole by which the inner bolt could be opened from the outside (typical of ancient bolts), and her heart missed a beat. But the bolt would not move because the pins were in place, so that he remained unable to open the door. However, she knew now that she could not leave him outside, for she still loved him, even if not quite as much as before.

We have here a clear picture of the backholding and lukewarm heart (compare Hosea 4:16, ‘Israel is backholding, like a backholding heifer’). It is not that we do not want to serve Him, it is just that we do not want our luxurious form of living to be disturbed, with the result that we have locked Him out. But our beloved is not satisfied with that and constantly seeks to find His way to us, even reaching though the door so that He can approach us, only to find it locked. Then we have to choose what we will do. Will we open to Him immediately, or will we tell Him to go away and return at some more convenient time? But we must remember that if we do continue to refuse Him access we must not be surprised if we then find that He has hidden Himself from us.

Verse 5

‘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.’

Rising from her bed she swiftly clad herself and then went to draw back the bolt, but all the time conscious of the myrrh that dropped on to her hand and fingers even as she did so. Even now she was too much taken up with herself. But she also knew that this myrrh was a luxury that she owed solely to him, and it must have moved her conscience as she thought of how she had nearly refused him. It was, however, to be too late.

Verses 6-8

‘I opened to my beloved, But my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone. My soul had failed me when he spoke, I sought him, but I could not find him, I called him, but he gave me no answer. The watchmen that go about the city found me, They smote me, they wounded me, The keepers of the walls took away my mantle from me. “I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, If you find my beloved, That you tell him, that I am sick from love.”

Opening the unbolted door at last, she discovered that her beloved had gone and had left the palace. Hurt at her rebuttal he had deserted her and left her on her own. And all because her soul had failed her when he had spoken.

In the horror of her nightmare she seeks him, but cannot find him. She calls to him but he gives no answer. And so covering herself with a mantle she races out into the streets of the city (compare her similar experience in Song of Solomon 3:2-3). But this time there is no help from the watchmen. In her nightmare the watchmen find her and treat her like a loose woman, knocking her about and wounding her, and she knows that it is what she deserves. Then she reaches the walls of the city and the gatemen tear off her mantle revealing how little she is wearing underneath (it is the stuff of nightmares). But she does not care, for all that she can think of is that she has lost her beloved. And she calls to the women of Jerusalem, and asks that if they see her beloved, they will tell him that she is sick with love for him.

It must be obvious that a lesson is deliberately being given here. It is a clear example of Israel’s behavior towards God as they extend to Him their indolent and insulting response to His entreaties, which eventually leads to a half-hearted repentance which simply fails, and which is then followed by severe chastening. It is an illustration of their constant history. It is a warning of the dangers of treating God lightly, and then thinking that we can easily remedy the situation. But how easily we can discover like she did, that once we are on the path of disobedience and failure, it is not so easy to get off it. And it can be very unpleasant on the way.

We should carefully note here the difference between this and the previous nightmare. Then the watchmen had been helpful, but here they treat her with the utmost severity. For then she was not yet married to her bridegroom and they had recognized her need for assistance, but here she has spurned her husband and she is therefore in need of chastisement. We tend to think that the state of the seeker is worse than the lukewarmness of the Christian, but here we are reminded of the severity of God towards the sinfulness of His children. God does not see as a light thing the spurning of His Son’s approaches to the hearts of His people. It is time that we awoke, as the king’s wife does here, to the genuineness of the anger that is in His heart when we are walking in disobedience. But as here, because our Father loves us if we are really His, He chastens us (Hebrews 12:5-6). And if He does not we should beware. For it will reveal that we are not truly His sons (Hebrews 12:8).

Verse 9

The nightmare continues, for in her nightmare the women merely taunt her:

“What is your beloved more than another beloved, O you fairest among women? What is your beloved more than another beloved, That you do so adjure us?”

The women who had once fawned on her now mock her status and ask why her beloved is more important than anyone else’s? Let her give a reason why they should help her in her need. ‘Fairest among women’ is the typical title given to her by the women who represent Israel (compare Song of Solomon 1:8; Song of Solomon 6:1). There is in these words a suggestion that they have nothing but pleasure in the fact she is no longer to be seen as his queen. Now she has been reduced to their level.

We should remember that if we behave so lightly towards our Lord we should not wonder when people begin to treat Him lightly too. They pick up the same attitude as we convey. But what is saddest here is the thought of what she has lost. She has ceased to enjoy her exalted status, and has been reduced to being like any other. It is a reminder that without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5).

Verses 10-16

In her continuing dream the YOUNG WIFE gives her response

“My beloved is white and ruddy, The chiefest among ten thousand. His head is as the most fine gold, His locks are curly, and black as a raven. His eyes are like doves beside the water-brooks, Washed with milk, and fitly set. His cheeks are as a bed of spices, As banks of sweet herbs, His lips are as lilies, dropping liquid myrrh. His hands are as rings of gold set with beryl, His body is as ivory work overlaid with sapphires. His legs are as pillars of marble, Set on sockets of fine gold, His aspect is like Lebanon, Excellent as the cedars. His mouth is most sweet, Yes, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.”

Almost too late the young wife has remembered the attractions of her husband. She no longer thinks of his hair as filled with dew, and his locks with the drops of the night. Now she can only think of his hair as like finest gold (possibly having in mind the custom of sprinkling gold on the hair), and his locks as curly and black as the raven. And she expands on the attributes of her husband with a mixture of descriptions, partly reminiscent of how he has previously described her (eyes like doves (Song of Solomon 4:1), springs of water (Song of Solomon 4:15)) partly taken from nature, and partly taken from the jewellery with which she has become familiar in the king’s palace. She now sees him as being as precious to her, as she is to Him.

She sees him now as a mixture of that handsome young shepherd whom she had first known, and the powerful king whose wealth was bordering on the fabulous. But it can all be summed up in terms of the opening and closing descriptions, ‘he is the fairest among ten thousand, and altogether lovely’. He is both her ‘beloved’ and her ‘friend’, someone to be delighted in and trusted. Now she knows that nothing must be allowed prevent the complete fulfillment of their relationship.

Seeing it in terms of the Lord Jesus Christ it depicts His perfections, and what He is to us, both ‘beloved’, because we love Him, and ‘friend’ because He is both our companion and our helper. ‘You are my friends if you do the things which I command you’ (John 15:14). To us too ‘He is the fairest among ten thousand, and altogether lovely’. The overall descriptions remind us that He is both of earthly nature (descriptions from nature) and of Heaven (descriptions in terms of splendor). We may see it as reminding us that He is both man and God. How foolish we are then when we keep Him at a distance.

The descriptions contain within them the ancient ideas of beauty and splendor. If we wish to go into detail we may see the fact that He is white and ruddy as indications of His matchless purity, and His precious redeeming blood (1 Peter 1:1-19). The gold in His hair may be seen as reminding us that he is a King with all the riches of Heaven at His disposal, and as portraying that in Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3). The blackness of His locks points to His permanent youthfulness as the giver of life. There is no aging with Him. From everlasting to everlasting He is God (Psalms 90:2). His dove’s eyes demonstrate that He is the Prince of Peace and of gentleness (Isaiah 9:6). That they are fitly set indicates His ultimate perfection. That His face and lips emit the perfumes and scents of nature indicates that His face is ever towards us for good, and that His words will be sweet in our ears, even when sometimes they are necessarily tender words of rebuke. The descriptions of His hands, body and legs in terms of the finest materials and jewels bring out His infinite glory and beauty. Lebanon was seen as pointing to all that was most splendid about nature, with its towering cedars and its fragrant trees and plants. His aspect can thus be seen as reflecting the glory of the Creator. The sweetness of His mouth reminds us of the gentleness of His words and the beneficial effects of His teaching. ‘Altogether lovely’ sums up the whole. How wonderful then to be able to say, ‘this is my Beloved, and this is my friend, O all you who hear’.

Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 5". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pet/song-of-solomon-5.html. 2013.
Ads FreeProfile