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David Guzik :: Study Guide for Song of Songs 7

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The Maiden's Beauty

A. The maiden is described for a third time.

1. (Sng 7:1-3) Description of the maiden's body.

How beautiful are your feet in sandals,
O prince's daughter!
The curves of your thighs are like jewels,
The work of the hands of a skillful workman.
Your navel is a rounded goblet;
It lacks no blended beverage.
Your waist is a heap of wheat
Set about with lilies.
Your two breasts are like two fawns,
Twins of a gazelle.

a. How beautiful are your feet in sandals, O prince's daughter! This begins another extended description of the maiden's beauty. Song of Solomon 6:13 ended with both a request for the maiden to return so her beauty could be longer enjoyed, and a gentle protest from the maiden wondering why she should be such a subject of attention.

i. The mention of the dance of the two camps in Song of Solomon 6:13 suggests that the maiden was dancing. This is also suggested by the description of these verses, which begins at her feet and continues up her body to her head. This would be much more natural in describing someone who was standing and dancing. Yet did she dance before a group of onlookers or privately for her beloved?

ii. There are some reasons to believe that this was a dance before a group of onlookers, such as or including the Daughters of Jerusalem.

- The inherited context from Song of Solomon 6:13, with a call from the Daughters of Jerusalem.

- The description of the maiden as the prince's daughter seems more appropriate from those other than the beloved.

- The description of a king in Song of Solomon 7:5 may be more appropriate in the voice of someone other than the beloved.

iii. There are also some reasons to believe that this was a private dance for the beloved; mainly, the description suggests that the maiden's thighs, navel, waist, and breasts could all be seen (at least partially). There is nothing in Biblical or ancient Hebrew culture or in the Song of Solomon itself to suggest that it was a practice for a maiden to dance provocatively before a public group. Given this, it is probable that this is merely a poetic image and not a news report, or a private display for the blessing and benefit of the beloved.

iv. It is also important to notice that this is the third extended description of the maiden's beauty (previously also in Song of Solomon 4:1-5 and 6:4-9). This is opposed to the single description of the beloved's appearance (found in Song of Solomon 5:10-16), which was not even spoken to the beloved himself, but to others about the beloved. This strengthens the impression that it is far more important for a woman to be assured of and confident in her beauty than it is for a man.

- The first description of beauty (Song of Solomon 4:1-5) is in the context of the wedding night; the beloved praised the beauty of the maiden before she yielded her virginity to him.

- The second description of beauty (Song of Solomon 6:4-9) is the context of restoring a relationship after a conflict; the beloved assured the maiden that she was just as beautiful to him then as she was on the wedding night.

- This third description of beauty (Song of Solomon 7:1-5) is perhaps a more public description, further assuring the maiden of her beauty.

v. "It should be noticed that, though the Song is really the bride's song there are three occasions when the groom describes her beauty in detail and only one where she reciprocates. If the Song has any allegorical significance, it should indicate that God finds us much more delightful than we find him." (Kinlaw)

vi. Prince's daughter: "As in 6:12, the meaning is not necessarily that the girl is of royal birth, but rather that she is of gracious and noble character and person." (Carr)

b. How beautiful are your feet in sandals: As the maiden danced, the onlookers naturally first noticed her feet in sandals. They admired both the beauty of her feet and her sandals.

c. The curves of your thighs … your navel … your waist: The description visually moves up from the feet of the maiden, describing the beauty of her body.

i. If we assume that these are the comments of the beloved made in a private setting, the comment of Glickman makes sense: "One of the things we notice is that the praise of the king is much more sensual and intimate. It reflects a greater knowledge of they physical beauty of his wife. For example, here he praises the curves of her thigh and soft warmth of her stomach." (Glickman)

ii. "Wine and wheat were the basic foods of any meal. His joining these two images in his praise of her stomach must mean that her stomach is like a wonderful feast to him." (Glickman)

iii. "The reference to the lilies that encircle the stomach reminds us that we are dealing with figures whose very ambiguity enrich the eroticism of the passage." (Kinlaw)

iv. The comments of the old Puritan commentator John Trapp show the difficulty of approaching the text primarily as a spiritual allegory. "The navel is baptism, that nourisheth newborn babes in the womb of the Church … Some understand hereby that other sacrament of the Lord's Supper, called a 'heap of wheat,' for its store of excellent nourishment." (Trapp)

v. Set about with lilies: Some believe that this is a poetic reference to the pubic region, as he describes the maiden's naked body. This is unlikely, especially given the use lilies in Song of Solomon 4:5 and 5:13.

d. Your two breasts are like two fawns: This is an image repeated from the first description of the maiden in Song of Solomon 4:1-5. There as well as here the emphasis seems to be on the idea is that the maiden's breasts look as innocent and attractive as young deer, as well as matching in their form and beauty (twins of a gazelle).

i. Trapp can't escape the instinct to make these two breasts something other than two female breasts. "Fresh and lusty, even and equal. Understand the two Testaments; hereunto resembled for their perfect agreement, amiable proportion, and swift running all the world over in a short time." (Trapp)

ii. "This poem indicates the perpetual charm of the female form to the male." (Kinlaw)

2. (Sng 7:4-5) Description of the maiden's head, face, and hair.

Your neck is like an ivory tower,
Your eyes like the pools in Heshbon
By the gate of Bath Rabbim.
Your nose is like the tower of Lebanon
Which looks toward Damascus.
Your head crowns you like Mount Carmel,
And the hair of your head is like purple;
A king is held captive by your tresses.

a. Your neck is like an ivory tower: The idea with this image isn't so much of an extremely long neck, but of one that communicate nobility and strength of character.

i. "He is probably complimenting not only the noble dignity exemplified in her posture but also the artistic smoothness of her neck. As he gently slid his fingers down her neck it was smooth as ivory to him." (Glickman)

b. Your eyes like the pools in Heshbon: Here the deep beauty of the maiden's eyes is described. Perhaps there was something particularly beautiful about these specific pools of water.

i. "Possibly here were two fish-pools, which being conveniently seated in a large field, might bear some resemblance to the eyes placed in the head." (Poole)

c. Your nose is like the tower of Lebanon which looks toward Damascus: It seems that the tower of Lebanon was not a literal tower, but a hill or mountain whose white cliffs looked out toward Damascus. This would make this a reference more to the color of the maiden's nose than the size or shape of it.

i. "Lebanon is one of several words derived from the Hebrew root laben, 'to be white'. It was probably the whiteness of the limestone cliffs that gave the mountain its name. This suggests that the imagery here is associated wit the colour of her nose rather than its shape or size. Her face is pale, like the ivory tone of her neck, not sunburnt." (Carr)

d. Your head crowns you … a king is held captive by your tresses: The beauty of her hair is so striking that it can only be related to royalty (is like purple) and captivates royals (a king is held captive).

i. Tresses: "The root meaning is to run or flow, so that the picture here is of her hair having the appearance of running, rippling water." (Carr)

ii. "On their wedding night he could give sevenfold praise, but on this later night he could give tenfold praise. Their love had truly deepened." (Glickman)

3. (6-9a) Description of the beloved's desire.

How fair and how pleasant you are,
O love, with your delights!
This stature of yours is like a palm tree,
And your breasts like its clusters.
I said, "I will go up to the palm tree,
I will take hold of its branches."
Let now your breasts be like clusters of the vine,
The fragrance of your breath like apples,
And the roof of your mouth like the best wine.

a. How fair and how pleasant you are, O love: Here it seems clear that it is the beloved speaking, and not a group such as the Daughters of Jerusalem. If it is true that such a group spoke the words of Song of Solomon 7:1-5, then clearly now the beloved speaks to his maiden more directly about his attraction to her and desire for her.

i. With your delights indicates how basic and wonderful his attraction was to her. She delighted him; obviously with her beauty and personality, but also with her character and strength.

ii. By analogy and application, the great delight of the beloved over his maiden helps us to understand that this shows us how much God loves us. As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. (Isaiah 62:5)

iii. "Dear soul, do you realize the desire of your Beloved towards you? You love Him; but He loves you ever so much more. You desire Him; but his desire towards you is as much greater than yours towards Him, as sunlight is more brilliant than moonlight." (Meyer)

b. This stature of yours is like a palm tree: Here he speaks of the maiden as being tall and noble like a great palm tree. It is another reference to more than her beauty, but her character and bearing as well.

c. And your breasts like its clusters … Let now your breasts be like clusters of the vine: Seeing the great character and beauty of his maiden, the beloved wanted her. He loved her for more than her body, but he also - rightfully - wanted to enjoy the pleasures of her breasts and body in married lovemaking.

i. Solomon had advice with the same spirit in Proverbs: Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; and always be enraptured with her love. For why should you, my son, be enraptured by an immoral woman, and be embraced in the arms of a seductress? (Proverbs 5:19-20)

ii. The sense we have from all this is that this couple has grown and matured in their sharing of love, sexual and otherwise. "This is a different mood from the delicate formality of their wedding night." (Glickman)

d. The fragrance of your breath like apples, and the roof of your mouth like the best wine: The beloved told his maiden how pleasing and satisfying their lovemaking was to him.

i. "He creates a vivid picture of his kissing her breasts as one would place the clusters of the vine to one's lips. And her kisses would bring the fragrance of her breath like the sweet scent of apples, and her mouth would be 'like the best wine' to be slowly and exquisitely enjoyed with every sip." (Glickman)

B. The maiden longs for intimacy with her beloved.

1. (9b-10) The longing for intimacy.

The wine goes down smoothly for my beloved,
Moving gently the lips of sleepers.
I am my beloved's,
And his desire is toward me.

a. The wine goes down smoothly for my beloved: This is the maiden's response to the beloved's previous statement and appeal. He said how much he enjoyed their lovemaking; now she answers with recognition of its goodness.

b. Moving gently the lips of the sleepers: The idea is of them asleep together, perhaps embracing one another and refreshed in love.

i. "Whereas the wedding night focused on the purpose of sex as the consummation of marriage, this night focuses on the purpose of sex as the nourishment of marriage … As they fell asleep the last kiss lingered in each other's minds like the aftertaste of good wine. What an enchanting picture of the sleeping couple!" (Glickman)

c. I am my beloved's and his desire is toward me: The maiden is completely secure in his love. She understands his desire as not a demand or a burden, but as wonderful and appropriate.

i. "She not only places his possession of her primary, but strengthens it by adding that his desire is toward her, and so focused is she upon him tat she omits her possession of him. She has really lost herself in him and thereby found herself." (Glickman)

ii. "It is the full, final, ultimate word of love. It expresses complete satisfaction, absolute rest, and uttermost of contentment and peace. There are two elements in it. The first is that of complete abandonment; 'I am my beloved's.' The second is that of the realization that the beloved is satisfied; 'His desire is toward me.'" (Morgan)

2. (Sng 7:11-13) The invitation to intimacy.

Come, my beloved,
Let us go forth to the field;
Let us lodge in the villages.
Let us get up early to the vineyards;
Let us see if the vine has budded,
Whether the grape blossoms are open,
And the pomegranates are in bloom.
There I will give you my love.
The mandrakes give off a fragrance,
And at our gates are pleasant fruits,
All manner, new and old,
Which I have laid up for you, my beloved.

a. Come, my beloved, let us go forth to the field; let us lodge in the villages: Responding to the desire of her beloved, the maiden invited him to come away on a trip to the countryside where they could enjoy their intimacy. It was like a weekend get-away for a couple deeply in love.

i. Earlier the beloved made a similar invitation to the maiden: Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away (Song of Solomon 2:10). Now the maiden answered with a similar invitation. She seems to have matured in her self-confidence since the early days of their courtship (Song of Solomon 1:5-6). She also understood that it was not only the responsibility of the man to signal the desire for intimacy.

ii. "If we must at any time listen to the praises of our virtues, if we have served God so that the Church recognises and rewards our usefulness, it is well for us to listen just as long as we are obliged to do, but no longer; and then let us turn aside at once to something more practical and more healthful to our own spirits. The spouse seems abruptly to break off from listening to the song of the virgins, and turns to her own husband- Lord, communion with whom is ever blessed and ever profitable, and she says to him, 'Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field.'" (Spurgeon)

b. Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see if the vine has budded: Since springtime was a special emblem of their love (Song of Solomon 2:10-13 and 6:11-12). She used that image to communicate her own desire to enjoy the freshness and strength of their love and intimacy.

i. "The poet thus reveals that their relationship has gone from spring to spring, that now it has experienced a full cycle of growth." (Glickman)

c. There I will give you my love: The maiden was refreshingly honest and open with her beloved. She said to him, "Let's get away to the countryside and make love." This is an invitation likely to appeal to a husband.

i. In all of this we see a remarkable freedom and joy in their love. Sexual intimacy was not understood to be the husband's pleasure and the wife's duty; there is a spirit throughout the Song of Solomon that shows how good marital love can be for both partners.

ii. "Song of Solomon teaches that true freedom does not come by someone's being liberated from marriage. The truth is that genuine liberation comes in marriage. Marriage is a secure hedge that protects love as it grows. As love is nurtured, it produces freedom and fulfillment." (Estes)

d. The mandrakes give off a fragrance: This plant was understood to be an aphrodisiac in the ancient world, especially in the sense of increasing fertility (Genesis 30:14-17).

i. "The mandrake or 'love apple' is a pungently fragrant plant that has long been considered an aphrodisiac - not that these lovers needed any additional stimulation, but the use of such items has long bee part of the lore of love-making." (Carr)

ii. Therefore the reference to mandrakes shows a desire for children. "Shulamith wanted children as a visible demonstration of the oneness in her and Solomon's love." (Estes)

e. All manner, new and old, which I have laid up for you, my beloved: This difficult to translate phrase may have the sense that she is inviting him to enjoy intimacy in ways that are both familiar and new to the couple. The idea would be they would enjoy their lovemaking in creative ways that were planned in advance by the maiden (which I have laid up for you).

©2008 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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