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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Song of Solomon 6

 

 

Verse 1

The DAUGHTERS OF JERUSALEM reply.

“Where is your beloved gone, O you fairest among women, In which direction has your beloved turned himself, That we may seek him with you?”

The wife’s reply has brought home to the daughters of Jerusalem how foolish they have been in despising her beloved (Song of Solomon 5:9). Now it is their heart’s desire to seek him too, and they want to be directed to where he is.

‘In which direction has your lover turned himself?’ Literally, ‘where has your beloved turned him?’ Instinctively she knows the answer. She remembers her instruction in Song of Solomon 2:17, ‘Turn my beloved, and be like a roe-deer, and hart on the craggy mountains’. She knows that he has turned him to the craggy mountains of her homeland.

Happy the Christians whose testimony to their Lord are such that it causes the hangers on to declare their wish to seek Him in terms of their own early experiences.


Verse 2

The YOUNG WIFE replies.

“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.”

As could only happen in a dream she is immediately aware of where her husband will be. She is taken back to the time when he had first sought her out (Song of Solomon 2:16). She knows that he has returned to those happy surroundings, and that if she would find him she must return there too. She knows that he will be out there watching over his sheep among the lilies of her own homeland, seeking to restore their first love. Describing the pasture in terms of a scented garden has in minds his words when they first made love together (Song of Solomon 4:12 to Song of Solomon 5:2). But it is now also the place to gather lilies. He has returned in his heart to the place where they first courted, when she was but a lily of the valley (Song of Solomon 2:1-2), for he carries her in his heart. ‘Lilies’ are regularly connected with her homeland (Song of Solomon 1:1-2; Song of Solomon 1:16; Song of Solomon 4:5). And it is among the lilies that she knows that she will find him as he longs for their love of earlier days.

This vivid indication that her beloved is not to be found in Jerusalem, but is to be found among the natural beauties of her homeland, is quite startling in view of the importance that Jerusalem would later assume. It is an indication to Israel that the One Whom they are to love can be found just where they are, in the land which He has given to them as an inheritance. But as we have been shown this is not just in the north of the kingdom. It is wherever the beauty of His creation is revealed (e.g. Song of Solomon 1:14). This would appear to indicate a time when the Temple had not yet been established, when Jerusalem was not so important, and before the kingdoms had become divided.

One thing that we can be sure of as His church is that when we have lost Him we know where we can find Him. He will be in the place where we first met Him when He was everything to us, and He will be found caring for His sheep. He will be fulfilling the task that He gave to us, in which we are failing (John 21:15-17; 1 Peter 5:2). And if we are like the church of Ephesus and discover that we have lost our first love (Revelation 2:4) we too must go back to those heady days when we first met Him as the shepherd Who watches over His sheep, that time when we asked no questions but gave ourselves wholly to Him and sought Him where He was. We need to strip off the trappings of the king’s palace and return to the pure love of early days. We must leave the scented gardens and make our way among the lilies. We need to join Him in watching over and tending His sheep, instead of preening ourselves upon our beds (Song of Solomon 5:2-3).

But notice the subtle change in her words. Her experience has deepened her love, and her commitment to her husband. While saying virtually the identical thing, she no longer commences with ‘my beloved is mine’ (Song of Solomon 2:16), but rather with ‘I am my beloved’s’. She has learned that He Himself is more important to her than the way in which He sees her, and that what matter most is that she belongs to Him, although, of course the fact that He is hers immediately follows. There is now a new and deeper dedication. ‘I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.’ It is a wonderful thing to be able to say ‘My Beloved is mine’ and to be able to delight in what He is to us, but when we can first say ‘I am my Beloved’s’ it is a sign of deepening maturity.

Note also that this time she does not let him go as she had done in Song of Solomon 2:17. There is no equivalent here. This time she wants to remain with Him among the sheep and share His labors.


Verse 4

Her BELOVED welcomes her.

“You are fair, O my love, as Tirzah, Comely as Jerusalem, Terrible as an army with banners. Turn away your eyes from me, For they have overcome me. Your hair is as a flock of goats, That lie along the side of Gilead. Your teeth are like a flock of ewes, Which are come up from the washing, Of which every one has twins, And none is bereaved among them. Your temples are like a piece of a pomegranate, Behind your veil. There are sixty queens, and eighty concubines, And virgins without number.”

Her beloved welcomes her in similar terms to those used in his speech on her wedding night (see Song of Solomon 4:1 a-4). It is a clear renewal of their relationship. But there are subtle and important differences. She has returned as the conqueror of his heart, beautiful as Tirzah (the ancient name for Samaria), comely as Jerusalem, (therefore more important to him than the greatest of his possessions), terrible as an army with banners (devastating in her effect on him), slaying him with her eyes (verses 4-5a). The ewes are no longer newly shorn, for her milk teeth have long since gone. But she still has her full set, each tooth having its twin. And now around her neck are not the thousand bucklers and the shields of the mighty men (golden ornaments - Song of Solomon 4:4), but sixty queens and eighty concubines and virgins without number, probably indicating the womanly, and closer to the natural creation, necklaces of vine blossoms, crocuses and lilies. Now she has conquered him and he is hers, and she is more to him than any king’s harem. His pride is now not in what he has bestowed upon her, as he turns her into his armory, and covers her with gold (Song of Solomon 4:4), but on the allurement of all that she is, as she has turned herself into a royal lover’s nest, beautified by nature. There is little doubt in view of the parallel that we are to see in the sixty queens, and eighty concubines and numberless virgins three necklaces which are inviting his love, and probably therefore of the vine blossoms, crocuses and lilies (Song of Solomon 2:1) which become her more than the ornaments of gold and take him back to their early courtship days. (The parallel in Song of Solomon 4:4 demonstrates that they represent ‘ornaments round her neck’). Note the increase in numbers as each necklace is larger than the previous one, and the indication of the profusion of flowers which decorate her neck.

This immense description of a restored loving relationship surely reminds us of a similar restoration in relationships, when a young man, destitute and in rags, approached with trepidation what was once his home, fearing what his welcome would be, only to see his old father dressed in all his finery running along the road on his way to welcome him (Luke 15:20) and granting him the best robe and fatted calf. Here too we have a royal welcome being given to one who was undeserving who was returning ‘home’. The repentant has returned.

There is in this clear repetition of the wedding speech (Song of Solomon 4:1-4) the indication that when we, like the young wife, do return to our Lord after a period of self-indulgence and neglect of our duties, He will not only receive us back, but will do so with a love that is even increased on what it was before, an ever increasing love, and with joy in heaven over one sinner who repents. For Christians are often sinners who need to repent too (1 John 1:8-10). And they can be sure when they do so of a double welcome, restoring them, and more than restoring them, as they delight again in His presence.

We may also see in the replacement of the golden ornaments with a necklace that reflects the beauty of God’s provision in nature, a reminder that we are not to seek earthly things but the things which are of God (Matthew 6:28), which are so much more valuable.


Verses 4-13

SECTION 5.

The Nightmare Is Over And She Is Again With Her Beloved (Song of Solomon 6:4-13).

In this brief song the Beloved now describes the beauties of the one he loves in such a way that the daughters of Jerusalem want her to return among them, for once again she is the beloved of Solomon (shulamith - ‘the one of Shelomoh’). But she gently rebuffs them. She knows that it was Jerusalem that had previously weakened her love for him, and now she wants to be with him in the place of their first love. She no longer wants the pleasures of the world.


Verse 9-10

The BELOVED continues with his welcome.

“My dove, my undefiled, is but one, She is the only one of her mother, She is the choice one of her who bore her. The daughters saw her, and called her blessed, Yes, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her. Who is she whose glance is as the appearance of the morning, Fair as the moon, Clear as the sun, Terrible as an army with banners?”

‘My dove, my undefiled.’ Note his return to the language he had used just prior to his rejection (Song of Solomon 5:2). He is indicating that she is fully restored as though she had never turned him away. And now he stresses her uniqueness. She is her mother’s pet daughter, the choice one of her who bore her. And all who see her exult in her. The young women of her homeland see her and call her blessed. Yes, even the queens and concubines of subject kings round about, as symbolized by the crocuses and lilies, praise her (see our interpretation of verse 8). All praise her because of her outstanding beauty and loveliness, a reminder of the position to which she has been restored. For her glance is as the appearing of morning, as fair as the waning moon, as clear as the rising sun. She has the splendor of an army with banners at its approach.

And to our Lord Jesus Christ all true believers are in His eyes just as glorious. Once they are restored to Him they once more enjoy their uniqueness and become the praise of all who know them. No longer in the darkness and humiliation of backsliding (Song of Solomon 5:7), they come forth as the appearance of the morning, fair and clear like moon and sun. Enjoying again having the majesty of an army with banners.


Verse 11-12

The YOUNG WIFE describes her restored status.

“ 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 willing people. Return, return, O beloved of Solomon, Return, return, that we may look upon you. Why will you look upon the beloved of Solomon, As upon the dance of Mahanaim?”

Restored to her homeland, reunited with her royal and beloved husband in their former surroundings, the young wife renews her acquaintance with their favorite haunts, certain that she would discover that nature was flowering in the same way as she was. She no longer wanted the delights of Jerusalem, but the loveliness of God’s creation. And then it was as though she found herself among the chariots of her willing people, and hears their call, ‘Return, O beloved of Solomon, return. Return that we may look upon you.’ (Solomon is shelomoh, so shulamith could indicate the wife and beloved of Solomon). Now that her status is seen to have been restored by her beloved, they no longer despise her (Song of Solomon 5:9) but want her in their midst so that they too might look upon her.

Her reply is swift and to the point. Why do they want to look on the beloved of Solomon (whom they had so recently despised)? Is it because they see her simply as royal entertainment, as though she were a well known, popular dance?

Alternately there may be in mind a dance which celebrated the return of Jacob and his family to their native land when he was welcomed by the twin hosts (mahanaim) of angels (Genesis 32:1-2). In this case she is saying, do you want to welcome me like the twin hosts of angels welcomed Jacob?

What a beautiful picture we have here of the restored soul as it wanders out into the green pastures to which it has returned, where the Shepherd watches over His flock (Psalms 23:2). No more the enticements of Jerusalem with their stultifying effects, but the joy of once more experiencing renewal and life. And it is once they are restored that Christians will hear again the desire of the hangers on to have them once more among them, not for their own sake’s, but because they are the beloved of the King.

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 6:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/song-of-solomon-6.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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