Song of Songs - Part 2
Song of Songs
The New Testament predicted that following the days of the apostles there would be a falling away from the faith and that this apostasy would include a negative attitude toward marriage (1 Timothy 4:1-3). In 325 A.D. at the Council of Nicea, a proposal was made that all clergy give up cohabitation with their wives. The proposal did not carry. The perspective represented in the proposal did. Pope Siricius in 386 commanded that all priests live celibately. Later this order was extended to sub-deacons. Many of the priests were married when they were ordained. Next, the apostate church insisted that a married man could not be ordained unless he and his wife exchanged vows of continence. This led ultimately to refusal to ordain anyone to the priesthood who had been married. Celibacy reigned as the symbol of supreme piety. Marriage was seen as a concession to human weakness and the need to continue the human race. This could be done by weaker fold and more worldly believers. The more noble were celibate. Augustine was a key influence in this, his position was basically that since the Fall, man is unable to enter into a sexual relationship without lust, and lust is defiling. In contrast, the Bible, including the Song of Songs, does not see marriage as an inferior state or a concession to human weakness. In fact, marriage existed before man sinned (Genesis 2:18-24). The prospect of children is not necessary to justify sexual love in marriage. Significantly, the Song of Solomon makes no reference to procreation or furthering the human race. It must be remembered that the book was written in a world where a high premium was placed on offspring, and a woman’s worth was often measured in terms of the number of her children. In contrast, the Song is a song of praise of love for love’s sake, and for love’s sake alone. This relationship needs no justification beyond itself. “In a sense there is almost an Edenic quality in much of the Song of Songs, almost as if it were a commentary on Genesis 2:18-25” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Frank E. Gaebelein, p. 1206).
1:8 The Chorus or Daughters of Jerusalem
This may have been said in a mocking tone, “If you of all people, do not know where he is, go to the other shepherds where you really belong anyway”. Women were given the task of caring for the newborn of the flock, hence the expression, “your young goats”.
1:9-10 Solomon Speaks
Modern Western readers understand ‘most beautiful’ and ‘darling’. The next figure, though, is unexpected to us. Solomon compares this woman to a “prize filly”. In Marcia Falk’s book, The Song of Songs, she comments on the nature of Solomon’s comparison to a filly among Pharaoh’s chariots: “A woman is compared to a mare in Pharaoh’s chariotry—a puzzling image, for in that context only stallions, never mares, drew chariots. But the Egyptians’ enemies set mares loose in war to drive the Pharaoh’s stallions wild. The woman is not simply a beautiful creature; she is as alluring as a ‘mare among stallions’. The beloved possesses a captivating power over her admirer. That is, the presence of a mare among such stallions could be the ultimate distraction.
1:11 Solomon or the Daughters of Jerusalem
Here is the promise or offer to clothe her with jewelry. These were not idle promises; they were backed by all the wealth of a billionaire. Solomon wants to overwhelm and impress her with his promises. “Perhaps this rustic country maid has around her neck a simple inexpensive necklace, it will be replaced with a brilliant expense gold one” (Kidwell p. 332). Solomon’s approach is rather common in the world, very sensual and material (Jeremiah 5:7-8). Will the Shulammite be enticed by Solomon’s approach? Husbands and wives today often receive similar temptations that come from various sources. How can we help each other in our marriages so that we do not fall prey to a sensual world? (1 Corinthians 7:5).
1:12-14 Shulammite (thinking of her shepherd in her heart)
“If Solomon set his table for this maid as he did at other occasions this must have been an impressive feast (1 Kings 4:22-27; 10:21)” (Kidwell p. 335). The word “perfume” in verse 12 is literally “nard”, which was an expensive ointment from India. This might have been a very expensive fragrance provided by the king. A cluster of henna blossoms was a simple gift apparently given her by the shepherd. En Gedi, was an oasis on the western shore of the Dead Sea. “Are we to believe she is treasuring the bundle of myrrh left with her by her beloved? To keep his presence near, does she often lift his sachet of fragrance from her chest to overpower the scent of the nard?” (Kidwell p. 337). Carefully note how this woman speaks of the person she loves. Too many husbands and wives have failed to understand the power of their words upon the spirit and attitude of their mate (Proverbs 12:18; 15:1,4; 16:27; 18:21; James 3:8-13). One man when confronted about the way he talked to his wife defended himself by saying, “I always speak what I feel. If she does not like it, then she really does not like me!” A friend responded back, “If you talked to me like that, I would not like you either!” No only are death and life in the power of the tongue, but so is marital happiness of misery.
1:15 Either Solomon or the Shepherd
The dove is faithful to its mate all its life. In the eyes of this woman one can see loyalty and fidelity. Do not marry someone that you have to chase down, and stay away from relationships in which you must keep the other person faithful. Rather, find someone who is faithful.
1:16-2:1 The Shulammite
Notice the scenery. The beams of cedars and the rafters made of cypress probably do not refer to a literal building but figuratively to the pastoral setting in which they first met. This is also suggested by the verdant (green) couch. The field where they fell in love and sat talking was green. All of this sounds like Eden, with its simplicity and purity. The word translated “bed” is literally, “day-couch”. Remember, Jesus also spoke of the lilies of the field in Matthew 6:28-29. “Sharon” was the fertile coastal region of Israel from Caesarea to Joppa. In her humility she likens herself to common flowers of the field.
2:2 Solomon or the Shepherd
The idea may be that the Shulammite sees herself as a simple wildflower, and her lover responds, “Yes, but a lily among thorns”, that is, compared to her, all other women are thorns. She was unique among all others as a single lily would be among many thorns. This is not being merely sentimental, for a godly woman is a rare find (Proverbs 31:10-11; Ecclesiastes 7:28).
2:3-7 The Shulammite
Notice how kind and encouraging words build on one another. How important are verbal expressions of love between husband and wife? As an apple tree would be a delightful surprise in a forest, her lover was a delightful and rare find. Consider the phrases “lily among the thorns” and “apple tree among the trees of the woods”. What do these phrases tell us about who we should choose as our life-long mate? Stay away from the women who are “thorns” (Ecclesiastes 7:26) and the men who are coarse, rude, and rough like the forest. “His banquet hall” may refer to Solomon’s banquet hall, or seeing that the term means “house of wine” or “house of vines”, it may refer to a simple vine arbor where she longs to meet her shepherd. “His banner over me is love”: A “banner” refers to a rallying point that rendered confidence to soldiers. “It was a rallying-point and guide to give encouragement and confidence to those on a weary march or those amid extreme conflict” (Kidwell p. 347). 1. His love for her was not a secret, rather, he proclaimed such love, and it was easily seen by another who observed them together. 2. She found tremendous encouragement in this love. A healthy marriage should encourage and motivate one, and enable one to handle the tough times in life. 3. She could be referring to his “look of love”. It would be as though she were saying, “Every time he looks at me, I see love in his eyes”. 4. She finds herself under his banner of protection, she senses security and protection in his love “Sustain me with raisin cakes, refresh me with apples”: There could be a contrast here between the simple meal that the shepherd offered with the banquet offered by Solomon (“Better is a dish of vegetables where love is, than a fattened ox and hatred with it” Proverbs 15:17). “That you will not arouse or awaken my love, until she pleases”: This seems to be a warning to the daughters of Jerusalem. True love has its own timing and progression. It could be that they were trying to force a love relationship between her and the king. Today, people make the mistake of trying to force love. This verse is repeated in the book(3:5; 8:4). 1. Real love cannot be forced, you cannot force or manipulate someone to fall into love with you. 2. Real love cannot be purchased and there is not any shortcut. Beware of relying upon the gimmicks that the world attempts to use to awaken love. 3. If one wants genuine love or to have a relationship like this couple experienced, then one must wait for it. 4. Some translations read, “until it pleases”.
2:8-14 Shulammite Remembering the Shepherd’s Visit
This is either an actual visit or a poetic projection of the maiden’s own consuming desires for his presence. She is clearly in her own city at this time (2:9). He is like a gazelle or young stag, strong and full of energy. He stands outside and calls her to go into the country with him to enjoy the beauty of spring as nature erupts with the passing of winter (10-13). Clearly he is anxious to see her. The idea in verse 9 is that in ancient dwellings with courtyards this was easy to do and was expected. It is not a quick glance, either, he is taking his time looking for her and at her, and it is a look of love and excitement. Practical Application: True love is not apathetic when it comes calling, i.e., “What do you want to do? I do not know, what do you want to do?” What this woman likes about this man is his energy, excitement, optimism, and excitement about being with her and about life in general. Stay away from gloomy and moody men and women. “O my dove, in the clefts of the rock”: He speaks of the Shulammite as a dove in the cleft of the rock and calls her out that he might see her face and hear her voice. The wild dove would choose high and inaccessible rocks for its resting place. Here is a picture of her simplicity and remoteness from the world. Her voice is soft and quite enchanting. He does not barge in and demand his own way and rights, rather, he is gentle, and loving, compare with 1 Peter 3:7.
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/503-644-9017