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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Song of Songs 1

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“Rightly Do They Love You”

A. Introduction to the Maiden, the Beloved, and the daughters of Jerusalem.

1. (Sgs 1:1) Title: The Song of All Songs.

The song of songs, which is Solomon’s.

a. The song of songs: This great song, or collection of poetic songs, is unique in the Bible. If the Song of Solomon was not in our Bible and we were to discover it as an ancient document from the time of Solomon, it is unlikely that we would include it in the collection of Old Testament books.

i. “If a manuscript of this little book were found alone, detached from the biblical context and tradition, it undoubtedly would be viewed as secular. The book has no obvious religious content.” (Kinlaw)

ii. It seems that Bible translators cannot even agree on a name for the book. Some call it “Song of Solomon,” some “Song of Songs,” some even use the Latin word for songs, calling it “Canticles.”

iii. No matter what one calls this book it has rightly been highly praised, even by those who have interpreted it in somewhat allegorical and speculative ways. “The entire history of the world from it beginning to this very day does not outshine that day on which this book was given to Israel. All the Scriptures, indeed, are holy...; but the Song of Songs is the Holy of Holies.” (Rabbi Aqiba, an early Jewish commentator on Song of Solomon, cited in Kinlaw)

iv. Charles Spurgeon preached 59 sermons on this book (in Victorian England) and Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) preached 86 sermons on chapters one and two alone.

b. The song of songs: Many different interpretive approaches have been used in understanding this great song.

i. Some avoid this book altogether. Origen (c.185-c.254), an important teacher in the early church, said of the Song of Solomon: “I advise and counsel everyone who is not yet rid of vexations of the flesh and blood, and has not ceased to feel the passions of this bodily nature, to refrain from reading the book and the things that will be said about it.” Origen apparently felt he was prepared to study Song of Solomon because he castrated himself when he was a young man.

ii. Others embrace this book with great devotion, but see it primarily as an allegory describing the love relationship between God and His people, not between a husband and wife. “The early Jewish rabbis taught that the book pictures God’s love for Israel. Early Christian writers took the same approach, but they replaced Israel with the Church. One writer in the third century wrote a ten-volume commentary on Song of Solomon, telling how the book describes God’s love for Christians.” (Estes) Trapp expresses this perspective: “The chief speakers are not Solomon and the Shulamite... but Christ and his Church.”

iii. Others see this book primarily as a drama dealing with three characters; Solomon, a simple country shepherd, and the young maiden. The idea is that Solomon one day traveled through his kingdom and saw the young maiden and was captivated by her beauty. Though she was betrothed to the simple shepherd, Solomon brought her back to his palace and tried to win her affection with all lavish gifts and loving words. Though her resolve wavered, just before she gave in to Solomon’s attention and affection, she fled his palace and went back to her simple shepherd, her true love.

iv. The best way to see this book is as a literal, powerful description of the romantic and sensual love between a man and a woman, observing both their courtship and their marriage. It does not give us a smooth chronological story, beginning with the introduction of the couple to one another and ending with their married life together. Instead, it is a collection of “snapshots” of their courting and married life, with the pictures not necessarily in order.

v. Yet, because God deliberately uses the marriage relationship as an illustration of the relationship that He has with His people, we find that this great song of songs illustrates the love, the intensity, and the beauty of relationship that should exist between God and the believer. This is clearly a secondary meaning, sublimated to the plain literal meaning, yet nevertheless valid and important.

vi. “There are those who treat this Book as a song of human love. There are those who consider its only value is that of its mystical suggestiveness. Personally, I believe that both values are here.” (Morgan)

c. The song of songs: The fact that this “greatest of all songs” focuses on romance and marital love shows us what a high regard God has for the institution of marriage. We might expect that the songs of songs be a song that only praises God instead of one that celebrates love and sensuality within marriage.

i. This idea is decidedly contrary to the negative view towards marriage that came early in the history of the church. In 325 at the Council of Nicea, a proposal was made to prohibit all clergy from living as married; but the Council did not approve the proposal. In 386 Pope Siricius commanded that all priests live as celibates, and later this order was extended to include deacons in the church. In this period, many people who were ordained as priests were already married. Leo the Great (440-461), out of concern for these wives, did not allow priests to put their wives away but commanded that the priest and his wife live together as brother and sister – that is, without any sexual relationship. This command led to the rule that a married man could not be ordained as a priest unless he and his wife took a vow that they would live as celibate, and then led further to the refusal to ordain anyone who was or had been married.

ii. This idea that the truly spiritual cannot or should not be married and enjoy sexual love is not based in the Old Testament. The Old Testament has no word for a bachelor; in Old Testament thinking, there were to be none. Every patriarch was married, all priests were married, and as far as we know every prophet was married except for Jeremiah, who was uniquely commanded by God not to marry (Jeremiah 16:2). Since the office of high priest was hereditary, the high priest had to marry, showing that only a married man could experience this most intimate closeness and communion with God as the high priest did by entering the Most Holy Place on the Day of Atonement.

iii. As well, the idea that the truly spiritual cannot or should not be married and enjoy sexual love is not based in the New Testament. In the New Testament, Jesus reaffirmed the value of marriage in Matthew 19:3-9 when the religious leaders came to Him with a question about divorce. Hebrews 13:4 tells us that the marriage bed – understood as the place of sexual relations in marriage – is undefiled and should be honored by all. Paul told us that it was desirable for elders and church leaders to be married (1 Timothy 3:4 and Titus 1:6-7). Jesus began His ministry by blessing a wedding (John 3:29-30), and the final step in man’s relationship and fellowship with God is pictured as a wedding feast (Revelation 19:6-10).

iv. The difference between the Old and New Testaments is that the New will allow that the unmarried state can also be good and even sometimes, in rare cases, preferable. We have the example of Jesus Himself (and later Paul, as in 1 Corinthians 7:7). Jesus also said that the state of a eunuch for the Kingdom of Heaven could be good (Matthew 19:11-12), and Paul recognized that singleness could be an advantage in a time of distress (1 Corinthians 7:26), but never commanded. The Old Testament virtually (not actually) forbids singleness; the New Testament allows it for those who are so gifted and called, and encourages them to use their singleness for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 7:32-35) – while all the while assuming the married state for the vast majority of Christians and Christian leaders.

v. “The Bible does not see marriage as an inferior state, a concession to human weakness. Nor does it see the normal physical love within that relationship as necessarily impure. Marriage was instituted before the Fall by God with the command that the first couple become one flesh. Therefore physical love within that conjugal union is good, is God’s will, and should be a delight to both partners (Proverbs 5:15-19; 1 Corinthians 7:3).” (Kindlaw)

vi. Additionally, “The prospect of children is not necessary to justify sexual love in marriage. Significantly, the Song of Songs makes no reference to procreation.” (Kinlaw)

vii. Nevertheless, over hundreds and hundreds of years in Christianity, the dominant view was that sexual passion and true spirituality were contradictory and opposed to each other. This idea that for the truly spiritual sexuality was repressed led to a greater emphasis on the idea that we are to be passionately devoted to Jesus Christ as a superior replacement of our sexual desires. “The result of this perspective was that the medieval church had a love affair with the Song of Songs. An eroticism precluded at the human level was permitted at the divine. No book of Scripture received such attention between Augustine and Luther. What Galatians was to the Reformers, the Song of Songs was to the church for a thousand years.” (Kinlaw)

viii. We remind ourselves: “The book never claims to be an allegory. Other genuine allegories in the Bible (e.g., Ezekiel 17:23; Galatians 4:22-31) clearly symbolize truths outside the story. Song of Solomon presents itself, instead, as a literal account of the love of a man and a woman.” (Estes) “Allegorical writing usually gives hints that it is allegory. The places are fabulous – Doubting Castle, The Slough of Despond, Puritania, Orgiastica; the names are obviously symbolic – Mr Worldly Wiseman, Giant Despair, Mr Reason, the Clevers; and the story-line moves through obvious stages of climax and resolution. None of these is present in the Song of Songs.” (Carr)

ix. Additionally, there is significant danger in emphasizing an allegorical approach for interpretation, more than just application. “Allegory, however, is too often uncertain, unreliable, and by no means safe for supporting faith. Too frequently it depends upon human guesswork and opinion; and if one leans on it, one will lean on a staff made of Egyptian reed [Ezekiel 29:6].” (Luther, cited in Kinlaw) Yet, even Luther had a hard time taking the Song of Solomon literally. “He saw in the bride a happy and peaceful Israel under Solomon’s rule.” (Kinlaw)

x. The purely allegorical approach to the Song of Solomon is wrong; yet it cannot be denied that since it presents the height and glory and passion of love in marriage, it powerfully illustrates the love-relationship that exists between God and His people, between Jesus Christ and His Church. “The songs should be treated first as simple and yet sublime songs of human affection. When they are thus understood, reverently the thought may be lifted into the higher value of setting forth the joys of communion between the spirit of man and the Spirit of God, and ultimately between the Church and Christ.” (Morgan)

d. Which is Solomon’s: We learn that Solomon, the son of David and one of the great kings of ancient Israel, composed this song. Solomon composed some 1,005 songs (1 Kings 4:32), and this was the greatest (the song of songs) among them.

i. Solomon is presumed to be the author because he is mentioned six times (Song of Solomon 1:5; 3:7; 3:9; 3:11; 8:11; and 8:12) and there are three references to an unnamed king (Song of Solomon 1:4, 1:12, and 7:5).

ii. The mention of Solomon brings up another problem with understanding the Song of Solomon; mainly, who are the characters speaking in this collection of poems, and how do we assign specific speaking lines to the specific characters? It must be admitted that the assignment of certain lines to certain individuals is somewhat subjective, and will differ from translator to translator.

iii. As mentioned before, some people see this as a drama proving that true love wins out between the young maiden and simple country shepherd, even though Solomon tried to take the maiden for Himself. This would mean that there are four main speakers or characters in the song (including the “chorus” of the daughters of Jerusalem).

iv. It is the opinion of this commentator that there are actually only three main characters or speakers: the young maiden (the Shulamite), the young man (Solomon, the Beloved), and the chorus (the Daughters of Jerusalem). In addition to these main characters or speakers, there are also a few “minor” characters, including the brothers of the Shulamite and some relatives to the wedding party.

v. The young maiden is often called the Shulamite. “The girl is usually identified as a country girl from Shunem, a small agricultural village in Lower Galilee... Some commentators suggest that she is one of Solomon’s many wives, perhaps even the Egyptian princess described in 1 Kings 3:1; 7:8.” (Carr)

vi. The young man is often called the Beloved, and is generally identified with Solomon. It’s curious that God used Solomon to write this, because in the big picture he miserably failed the tests of love and romance. Believing that the Song of Solomon really is by Solomon, we are left with difficult and perhaps unanswerable questions, such as: What is the occasion upon which it was written? Who is the woman so passionately loved by this man who ended with 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3)? Why was this exceedingly wise man not wise enough to keep his affections for this special maiden alone?

vii. Perhaps the Song of Solomon does not reflect Solomon’s actual experience – certainly not in an enduring sense – but his wise analysis and skillful presentation of the glory of romantic and sensual love; more in theory than in his enduring experience. Solomon was not the first nor the last wise man that lived as a fool when it came to romance and sexuality.

2. (Sgs 1:2-4a) Opening words of the maiden.

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—
For your love is better than wine.
Because of the fragrance of your good ointments,
Your name is ointment poured forth;
Therefore the virgins love you.
Draw me away!

a. Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: The dialogue between the maiden and the young man begins with this passionate desire of the maiden. She wants to receive and experience the love of her beloved.

i. At the very beginning, we catch some of the power of this Song of Solomon. One can learn many relationship principles from this book, but it is not presented to us primarily as a handbook on relationships. “It does not state principles in logical arguments. Instead, it assembles a number of songs, or poems.... It causes us to feel as if we are with Solomon and Shulamith, not merely watching them. As we read, we share their feelings.” (Estes)

ii. Uncomfortable with such strong passion expressed in sacred Scripture, many commentators minimize the strong desire of this book. As the old Puritan commentator John Trapp said of this verse: “She must have Christ, or else she dies; she must have the ‘kisses of Christ’s mouth,’ even those sweet pledges of love in his Word, or she cannot be contented, but will complain.”

iii. “No one can kiss two persons at the same time, so this is a matter of personal significance. Moreover, this kind of kiss is not on the cheek like that of Judas Iscariot, nor is it a kiss upon the feet like that of Mary, but it is ‘the kisses of his mouth,’ which would express a most personal and intimate love.” (Nee)

b. Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: Right away we are struck with two complementary truths regarding this loving couple. First, the maiden is not weak and passive; second, the young man is nevertheless a leader and respected as such.

i. This is undeniably a strong woman – who happens to do most of the talking through the Song of Solomon. “Nearly twice as many verses are from her lips than from his.... There is nothing here of the aggressive male and the reluctant or victimized female. They are one in their desires because their desires are God-given.” (Carr)

ii. Yet we see that the young man occupies a place of leadership; she does not initiate a kiss, but asks that he might kiss her. She asks that he would draw her.

b. For your love is better than wine: To the maiden, the love of her beloved is more refreshing and intoxicating than wine. She is deeply, passionately infatuated with her man.

i. “The theme of sexual enjoyment and consummation runs through the book, and the theme of commitment is central to that whole relationship. This is no passing encounter: this is total dedication and permanent obligation.” (Carr)

ii. Charles Spurgeon, the great preacher of Victorian England, followed the custom of his age and understood the Song of Solomon primarily as a poetic description of the love relationship between Jesus Christ and His people. In his sermon titled Better than Wine, he drew forth two main points:

Christ’s love is better than wine because of what it is not:

· It is totally safe, and may be taken without question – you can’t take too much.
· It doesn’t cost anything.
· Taking more of it does not diminish the taste of it.
· It is totally without impurities and will never turn sour.
· It produces no ill effects.

Christ’s love is better than wine because of what it is:

· Like wine, the love of Christ has healing properties.
· Like wine, the love of Christ is associated with giving strength.
· Like wine, the love of Christ is a symbol of joy.
· Like wine, the love of Christ exhilarates the soul.

c. Your name is ointment poured forth: This expresses the respect and esteem the maiden had for the character and reputation of her beloved. The name represented much more than just the title by which her beloved was addressed; it represented his character and reputation. His name was like ointment poured forth and flowed from the fragrance of his good ointments.

i. “When she said that his name was ‘perfume poured forth,’ she meant that his character was as fragrant and refreshing as cologne poured out of a bottle. This is the reason the girls around the palace loved him – not just because he was handsome... but because his inner person was so attractive.” (Glickman)

ii. This couple is obviously physically attracted to each other; yet their relationship goes far deeper. “From the start they focused on the other’s character and kindness toward each other. They learned to value and care for each other as persons.” (Estes)

iii. This shows us that a wise woman chooses a man whom others see to be a man of character. There is something not-quite-right if she thinks she can see what an amazing guy he is, but no one else can see it.

iv. The seriousness of her estimation of him – going far deeper than just a physical or sexual attraction – shows us the character of their passionate love. Reading this collection of love poems, one might easily think that this is primarily a book about falling in love. Instead, it is much more accurately seen as a book about building love.

d. Therefore the virgins love you: The maiden understood that others could see the good character qualities in her beloved, without necessarily being romantically attracted to him. This made her love him all the more.

e. Draw me away! This was the logical desire of a woman so taken with loving desire towards her beloved. She wanted to be with him, and to be one with him.

3. (Sgs 1:4b) An interjection from the “Daughters of Jerusalem.”

We will run after you.

a. We will run after you: The “we” of this verse is somewhat hard to identify, and as mentioned previously, the assignment of particular lines to particular characters through this collection of poems is somewhat subjective and may differ from translation to translation. The New King James translation assigns this line to the “Daughters of Jerusalem.”

b. We will run after you: The idea is that the Daughters of Jerusalem – this on-looking chorus, who observe and celebrate the love between the maiden and the young man – they want to see what will happen as this wonderful love builds and takes its course. It is a good thing, and from their respectful distance they want to be part of it.

4. (Sgs 1:4c) The Shulamite enters the king’s chamber.

The king has brought me into his chambers.

a. The king: This is another line that seems to reinforce the point that this is Solomon, inviting the young maiden into the private rooms of his palace.

b. The king has brought me into his chambers: However, because it does not seem that their love is yet consummated, this reference to his chambers may well be poetic and symbolic, in the sense of “He has welcomed me into the affections and secrets of his heart.”

5. (Sgs 1:4d) The Daughters of Jerusalem remark on the couple and their love.

We will be glad and rejoice in you.
We will remember your love more than wine.

a. We will be glad and rejoice in you: The Daughters of Jerusalem rightly saw this passionate love as something to celebrate. It was good – not simply fun or exciting, and should be recognized as such.

b. We will remember your love more than wine: Another phrase remarking on the beauty and goodness of their love.

6. (Sgs 1:4e-6) The Shulamite considers her own shortcomings in appearance.

Rightly do they love you.
I am dark, but lovely,
O daughters of Jerusalem,
Like the tents of Kedar,
Like the curtains of Solomon.
Do not look upon me, because I am dark,
Because the sun has tanned me.
My mother’s sons were angry with me;
They made me the keeper of the vineyards,
But my own vineyard I have not kept.

a. Rightly do they love you. I am dark: Hearing the words of the Daughters of Jerusalem in the previous lines, the maiden considers that their high estimation of her beloved is appropriate (Rightly do they love you). Yet of herself, she feels that her deeply tanned appearance (I am dark... like the tents of Kedar) makes her less worthy of their praise and (presumably) of her beloved’s attention.

i. The maiden was happy that the character of her beloved was good and could be seen as so. “Because his character was so attractive, the girl who will someday be his bride can confidently say that the women of the court rightly appreciate him. After they praise him, she must agree, ‘Rightly do they love you.'” (Glickman)

ii. This well-deserved (rightly) respect others had for the young man showed that the maiden made a wise choice. “She should not be so infatuated that she imagines a scoundrel or knave to be her knight in shining armor. She should be able to say, ‘rightly do I love you.’ He should be the kind of person one ought to respect.” (Glickman)

iii. Marriage-eligible women today should have the same perspective, considering that the Apostle Paul summarized the responsibility of a wife towards her husband in Ephesians 5:33 with one word: respect. Though it is common – in the words of a modern film – for women to select a man for who he almost is, or to choose him for the man she can make him to be, this is unwise. An unmarried woman should ask herself the serious question: “Can I genuinely respect this man as he is right now? Do I respect him enough to submit to him the way the Bible says a wife should submit?” The maiden of the Song of Solomon had already asked and answered this question.

b. I am dark, but lovely: The self-doubt the maiden had regarding her own appearance should not be overstated. She did feel, in some ways, unattractive and unworthy (Do not look upon me, because I am dark). Yet at the same time she could say she is lovely.

i. Look not upon me: “This is an attitude very common to early Christian life. We do not want our natural life to be exposed at all. Thus, before being sufficiently dealt with by the Holy Spirit, immature believers will tend to hide from others. They do not wish to be known as they really are.” (Nee)

c. Because the sun has tanned me: Perhaps it is best to say that she saw herself as fundamentally lovely, yet marred by her prolonged exposure in the sun, transforming her more fair skin into darker, deeply tanned skin.

i. Like the tents of Kedar: “Kedar was a territory southeast of Damascus where the Bedouin roamed. Their tents were made of the skins of black goats.” (Kinlaw)

ii. In that day (as in most of history), fair skin was considered more attractive than tanned skin, because it showed that one was of a financial or social status high enough to where they did not have to perform outdoor work; they lived a higher life than that of simple farmers.

iii. The manner in which primarily allegorical interpreters deal with the line, because the sun has tanned me, demonstrates the weakness of the primarily allegorical approach. Trapp discusses how some think that the sun represents the Sun of Righteousness, Jesus Christ, and how in His brilliance the church sees its own nothingness. Or, he says that the sun might represent original sin. But he thinks the best understanding is to see the sun as “the heat of persecution, and the parching of oppression.”

d. My mother’s sons were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards: Worse still for the maiden, her unattractive appearance was unjustly forced upon her by her stepbrothers. Somewhat as a “Cinderella” figure, she was forced to work by cruel relatives.

i. The maiden seems to make – or at least almost makes – the mistake of thinking that her hardships have disfigured her and make her less qualified to be truly loved. Instead, “She has a natural attractiveness to her and a certain humility which often only suffering can bring. No doubt genuineness and humility were refreshing changes to the king.” (Glickman)

e. But my own vineyard I have not kept: She worked hard in this unjust labor, while neglecting her own appearance. In this she well represents the thinking of many women who consider themselves not attractive enough to be truly and passionately loved. She should not believe the lie that her hardships have made her less attractive to a good man.

i. There is an old story about a thief who broke into a department store and stole nothing; but he switched the price tags. The next day an expensive Swiss watch was marked as being worth $1.50; a fine leather handbag was marked for $1.75. A simple rubber ball for a child was marked for $150.00 and three pencils were marked for $175.00. If people bought or sold at those prices, you would think they were crazy. Yet all the time people value precious attributes and characteristics in other people very cheaply (especially when it comes to love and romance), and they assign high value to attributes and characteristics that are actually worth little.

B. Endearing words between young lovers.

1. (Sgs 1:7) The Shulamite speaks to her beloved.

Tell me, O you whom I love,
Where you feed your flock,
Where you make it rest at noon.
For why should I be as one who veils herself
By the flocks of your companions?

a. Tell me, O you whom I love, where you feed your flock: Here the beloved is pictured as a shepherd, which was presumably a symbolic representation, perhaps touching on the idea common in the ancient world that the king was like a shepherd to his people. Yet the picture is clear: she wanted to know where her beloved was, because she simply wanted to be with him.

i. This picture of a shepherd is one reason why some think that the Song of Solomon is actually a drama with a distinction between Solomon the king and the beloved who is also a simply shepherd. On balance, it seems best to regard this simply as a poetic description of Solomon the king, who was also the beloved.

b. For why should I be as one who veils herself: Here the maiden proclaims her modesty, because in that culture a veiled woman was a woman of low sexual morals. She didn’t want to make herself look like a loose girl following the flocks looking for any lover; therefore she wanted to know where her beloved was. She didn’t want a man; she wanted her man, her special man, her beloved.

i. Genesis 38:13-15 tells us that when Tamar, the widow of the sons of Judah wanted to entrap her father-in-law Judah by posing as a prostitute, she covered herself with a veil and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place. This was making herself available as a prostitute.

ii. “In their culture this term, ‘a veiled woman,’ referred to a loose girl, likely a prostitute. If she were going to see the king, she wanted it to be at the proper time and place – say, for example, when he was free in the middle of the day. She didn’t want to go wandering around looking for him, appearing to be an aggressive and available prostitute to everyone else.” (Glickman)

iii. In this the maiden shows that she is both humble (in that she doesn’t want to make an ostentatious search for her beloved) and she has integrity, not wanting to even appear like one of these “loose girls.” She understood that when it comes to sexual attraction and reputation, what others think does matter.

2. (Sgs 1:8-10) The beloved praises his lover.

If you do not know, O fairest among women,
Follow in the footsteps of the flock,
And feed your little goats
Beside the shepherds’ tents.
I have compared you, my love,
To my filly among Pharaoh’s chariots.
Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments,
Your neck with chains of gold.

a. If you do not know, O fairest among women, follow in the footsteps of the flock: Poetically, the beloved tells the maiden where she can find him – just follow the flocks. He welcomes her presence and companionship, and is happy to have her with him.

b. To my filly among Pharaoh’s chariots: Historical studies set this phrase in an interesting light. Normally, we would think of a beautiful filly, magnificently drawing Pharaoh’s chariots. Yet there are ancient sources that indicate that by strict rule, Pharaoh’s chariots were pulled by stallions, not fillies, mares, or geldings. This then would have the sense that the maiden was as alluring and exciting as a filly among stallions.

i. Estes describes the more conventional view: “Solomon’s mare was his pride and joy. It was the most beautiful and graceful horse in the kingdom. It had been specially selected to draw the king’s chariot... only one horse was good enough for Solomon. The meaning of the comparison is obvious; other women may be fine, but Shulamith was the only one Solomon prized.” (Estes)

ii. Yet it seems that by the middle of the second millennium before Christ – well before the time of Solomon – the custom was established that only two stallions pulled the chariot of Pharaoh (according to Carr and others). Here, the man describes his wife as a filly among Pharaoh’s chariots, which probably means that she had the same sexual attraction that a mare loose among stallions would have.

c. Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments, your neck with chains of gold: The beloved praised the beauty of the maiden in general (as in Song of Solomon 1:15). Here, more specifically, he praised the way that she made herself beautiful, with ornaments on her cheeks and chains of gold on her neck.

3. (Sgs 1:11) The daughters of Jerusalem offer gifts to the Shulamite.

We will make you ornaments of gold
With studs of silver.

a. We will make you ornaments of gold: The on-looking daughters of Jerusalem wanted to bless the maiden also. When they saw how the king cared for her, they wanted to be kind and good to her also.

i. This is one reason why it is important to a woman that her man treat her well, and treat her well in public. She instinctively understands that others will treat her better if they see that her man values her and treats her well.

b. Ornaments of gold with studs of silver: This shows how greatly they responded to the example set by the beloved. His treatment of the maiden made them want to be somewhat extravagant in honoring the maiden.

i. “In all probability, she was not in actual possession of any of these items. Rather, they are similes that express her sweet feelings toward her lover.” (Carr)

4. (Sgs 1:12-14) The Shulamite describes how precious her beloved is to her.

While the king is at his table,
My spikenard sends forth its fragrance.
A bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me,
That lies all night between my breasts.
My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blooms
In the vineyards of En Gedi.

a. While the king is at his table, my spikenard sends forth its fragrance: The maiden was aware of her attractive powers, and how her attractiveness could draw her beloved (the king) to herself. This is clearly a woman who is aware of her sexual attractiveness, but uses it in a godly and responsible manner; not for casual flirtation or questionable liaisons.

b. A bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me: The maiden understood her ability to attract her beloved; and she also understood his ability to attract her. This dynamic of mutual romantic and sexual attraction is wonderful in the context of a concern for character and corresponding commitment; it is a dangerous dynamic outside this context.

c. That lies all night between my breasts: The idea is that the presence and scent of her beloved stayed with her, even when the maiden was alone. The thought of her lover is like a fragrance that stays with her and sustains her, even when he is not there.

i. “Shulamith was explaining that even while she slept alone at night, Solomon’s love continued to enrich and nourish her life.” (Estes)

ii. This speaks to the sense of security that his love gives to her. Since she is secure in his love, he doesn’t need to be immediately there for her to be blessed and benefited by it.

d. Between my breasts: This reference to the female breast – made by the maiden herself – makes some readers and commentators of the Song of Solomon uncomfortable. There is a reflexive instinct to believe that God must have had something else in mind; something more spiritual.

i. “Jewish scholars have seen in the bride’s breasts Moses and Aaron; the two Messiahs, Messiah Son of David and Messiah son of Ephriam; Moses and Phinehas; and Joshua and Eleazar. Christian interpreters have been equally ingenious. They have seen the bride’s breasts as the church from which we feed; the two testaments, Old and New; the twin precepts of love of God and neighbor; and the Blood and the Water. Gregory of Nyssa found in them the outer and the inner man, united in one sentient being.” (Kinlaw)

d. In the vineyards of En Gedi: The place known as En Gedi is a famous oasis in the Judean wilderness, lush with water and life in an otherwise barren place. A cluster of henna blooms in the vineyards of En Gedi would be alive, beautiful, healthy, and full of good scents.

i. “The king was En-Gedi to this girl, an oasis of life in a desert of monotony, and like a weary traveler she found refreshment with him.” (Glickman)

5. (Sgs 1:15) The Beloved praises the beauty of the Shulamite.

Behold, you are fair, my love!
Behold, you are fair!
You have dove’s eyes.

a. Behold, you are fair, my love! With both the intensity of the words and their repetition, we see that the beloved lavished praise upon the maiden for her beauty. It was important for him to say and for her to hear; she was beautiful to him.

b. You have dove’s eyes: He especially noted the beauty in her eyes. It is true that some women have beautiful eyes by birth; yet there is something wonderful about the beauty of spirit that is seen in the eyes. A woman deeply in love with God has a particular beauty in her eyes.

i. “The large and beautiful dove of Syria is supposed to be here referred to, the eyes of which are remarkably fine.” (Clarke)

6. (Sgs 1:16-17) The Shulamite responds with kind words.

Behold, you are handsome, my beloved!
Yes, pleasant!
Also our bed is green.
The beams of our houses are cedar,
And our rafters of fir.

a. Behold, you are handsome, my beloved! The maiden loved and respected the character of her beloved (Song of Solomon 1:3); yet she was also attracted to his appearance. This was no doubt because the beloved was and made himself handsome; but also because she saw him through a woman’s eyes of love, which undeniably make a man better looking.

i. She is clearly responding to his previous expressions of love. “He calls her ‘beautiful’ (Sgs 1:15); she responds with the masculine form of the same Hebrew word (Sgs 1:16).” (Kinlaw)

b. The beams of our houses are cedar, and our rafters of fir: The image is as if they are on a walk in the country, and the use the plants and scenes around them as pictures of their love and relationship.

©2013 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
[A previous revision of this page can be found here]

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