Poetry – Song of Songs 3:6 – 5:1

[She]
Who is this coming up from the wilderness
    like a column of smoke,
perfumed with myrrh and incense
    made from all the spices of the merchant?
Look! It is Solomon’s carriage,
    escorted by sixty warriors,
    the noblest of Israel,
all of them wearing the sword,
    all experienced in battle,
each with his sword at his side,
    prepared for the terrors of the night.
King Solomon made for himself the carriage;
    he made it of wood from Lebanon.
Its posts he made of silver,
    its base of gold.
Its seat was upholstered with purple,
    its interior inlaid with love.
Daughters of Jerusalem, come out,
    and look, you daughters of Zion.
Look on King Solomon wearing a crown,
    the crown with which his mother crowned him
on the day of his wedding,
    the day his heart rejoiced.

  • Song of Songs 3:6-11

He
How beautiful you are, my darling!
    Oh, how beautiful!
    Your eyes behind your veil are doves.
Your hair is like a flock of goats
    descending from the hills of Gilead.
Your teeth are like a flock of sheep just shorn,
    coming up from the washing.
Each has its twin;
    not one of them is alone.
Your lips are like a scarlet ribbon;
    your mouth is lovely.
Your temples behind your veil
    are like the halves of a pomegranate.
Your neck is like the tower of David,
    built with courses of stone;
on it hang a thousand shields,
    all of them shields of warriors.
Your breasts are like two fawns,
    like twin fawns of a gazelle
    that browse among the lilies.
Until the day breaks
    and the shadows flee,
I will go to the mountain of myrrh
    and to the hill of incense.
You are altogether beautiful, my darling;
    there is no flaw in you.
Come with me from Lebanon, my bride,
    come with me from Lebanon.
Descend from the crest of Amana,
    from the top of Senir, the summit of Hermon,
from the lions’ dens
    and the mountain haunts of leopards.
You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride;
    you have stolen my heart
with one glance of your eyes,
    with one jewel of your necklace.
How delightful is your love, my sister, my bride!
    How much more pleasing is your love than wine,
and the fragrance of your perfume
    more than any spice!
Your lips drop sweetness as the honeycomb, my bride;
    milk and honey are under your tongue.
The fragrance of your garments
    is like the fragrance of Lebanon.
You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride;
    you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain.
Your plants are an orchard of pomegranates
    with choice fruits,
    with henna and nard,
    nard and saffron,
    calamus and cinnamon,
    with every kind of incense tree,
    with myrrh and aloes
    and all the finest spices.
You are a garden fountain,
    a well of flowing water
    streaming down from Lebanon.
She
Awake, north wind,
    and come, south wind!
Blow on my garden,
    that its fragrance may spread everywhere.
Let my beloved come into his garden
    and taste its choice fruits.

  • Song of Songs 4:1-16

I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride;
    I have gathered my myrrh with my spice.
I have eaten my honeycomb and my honey;
    I have drunk my wine and my milk.
Friends
Eat, friends, and drink;
    drink your fill of love.

  • Song of Songs 5:1

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

NOTE from the author:  I am using as one resource a book by Sharon Jaynes, Lovestruck.  She is a writer and for many years a radio cohost of Proverbs 31 Ministries.  She writes from a literal perspective of the love between Solomon and the Shulammite woman.  (She adds an extra “m” in Shulammite and I did not correct that spelling, quoting it as her book states it.)  She writes from a female perspective, so that males could learn by reversing the gender in what she says.  It may be jarring to contrast her approach to that of Rev. Spurgeon who speaks of the male lover being Jesus, and the female lover being each of us as we love Jesus with every fiber of our body, mind, and soul.  Taking the text literally as Ms. Jaynes has done can make the interpretation rather steamy at times, but it is a good lesson for us in keeping the romance going with our spouse.

And remember, this book of the Bible is for mature audiences.

Song of Songs 3:6-11 ‘The wedding procession’: “The Song painted a beautiful picture of a fragrant smoke billowing, muscular soldiers marching, golden swords glistening, purple robes flowing, hand-cut jewels shimmering, and young women straining on tiptoes to catch a glimpse of the bride. Just a short time ago, the Shulammite was a humble field hand working under the scornful eye of the scorching sun. She’d had no time to take care of her appearance or prepare for her future. And then Solomon had plucked her from the field and placed her in the palace. Don’t you know her head was swimming? I often wonder about her mean old stepbrothers. There’s no mention of them at the wedding, but I bet they were cowering in the crowd, hoping Solomon wouldn’t string them up by their toenails.
“For months Solomon had wooed the Shulammite with the easy tenderness of a shepherd rather than the egotistic toughness of a king. He hadn’t coerced her with his power but pursued her with his love. And yet everything about the wedding procession reflected the power and strength of the man: cedars of Lebanon, purple royal fabric, gold and silver posts, and sword-bearing groomsmen.”

  • Sharon Jaynes, Lovestruck

Song of Songs 3:9 ‘Solomon arrives on a palanquin’: “Great princes in the East are in the habit of traveling in splendid palanquins, which are at the same time chariots and beds. The person reclines within, screened by curtains from public view; a bodyguard protects it from robbers, and blazing torches light up the path along which the travelers proceed. King Solomon, in this song, describes the church of Christ and Christ himself as travailing through the world in such a palanquin. The day is coming when both our divine Lord and his chosen bride will be revealed in glory before the eyes of all men. The glory of the progress of Christ through the world is spoken of in the sixth verse; then the security of Christ’s cause in seventh and eighth; thirdly, the superlative excellence of it in the ninth and tenth verses; and lastly, our joyful duties with regard to it in the eleventh verse.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Song of Songs 4:1-5:1 ‘The Wedding and the First Night Together’: “Until 3:11, there has been no hint of a wedding or marriage; thus, the scenario of events support the idea that 1:2—3:5 refers to premarital days, while 4:1ff. rehearses the wedding and their love-life that followed. Several reasons support this explanation: (1) ‘wedding’ is not mentioned before 3:11; (2) ‘bride’ does not appear until 4:8, and then it is mentioned six times from 4:8 to 5:1; and (3) prior to 4:1, the beloved has a holy preoccupation with sexual restraint (cf. 2:7; 3:5), but not afterwards in the holy bonds of matrimony.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Song of Songs 4:1-4 ‘the eyes, the teeth, the mouth, and the neck’: “Solomon compared his Shulammite’s eyes to a dove’s, just as he did in chapter 2. The couple was about to engage in the most intimate act created by God, and it began with looking into each other’s eyes.
“Her teeth were clean, literally ‘coming up from the Washing.’  If you separate the teeth in the middle, right under the nose, each tooth has one just like it on the other side. The right and left sides of her teeth were mirror images, and she wasn’t missing any. We might chuckle at this praise, but remember, back in their day, there were no six-month checkups at the dentist’s office. No Whitening strips for a dazzling smile. To have all of her teeth, and have them white, was a real treat! Even today, nothing is more alluring than a sparkling smile.
“Solomon loved her lips and her mouth. He loved kissing her and couldn’t wait to kiss her some more. I think he gently placed his lips on hers at this point, or at least traced their outline with his fingertip.  Lips and mouth are two different words in Hebrew. When Solomon and the Shulammite spoke of the mouth, as they did several times throughout the Song, they were referring to what lies beyond the lips.  This was not a peck on the lips, but sensual, deep, tongue-engaged, open-mouth kissing.
“A long, stately neck was a mark of beauty in the ancient world. It appears she wore beautiful necklaces around that graceful neck on her wedding day—necklaces that reminded Solomon of warriors’ shields.  Warriors hung their shields on the tower of David during times of peace. It could be that she wore traditional Egyptian necklaces that were layered and reached all the way down to her shoulders.
On that day the bride’s neck was tall and unashamed. Her inner strength mirrored her husband’s. She was his equal. The bride was not embarrassed by her husband’s words but drank them in as wine  before a fine meal.”

  • Sharon Jaynes, Lovestruck

Song of Songs 4:1 ‘love emanates from the eyes’: “This is a chapter that is, perhaps, more adapted for private meditation than for reading in public. Nevertheless, it is a love song, the song of the loves of Jesus. As he sets forth the beauties and charms of his church, may the same beauties and charms be found in every one of us through the grace he imparts to us by his Spirit. May we, as parts of his mystical body, be fair and lovely in his esteem because he has bestowed on us so much of his own loveliness. Let us walk so carefully with God that there may be nothing to put even a spot on our garments.
“In this verse, Jesus prizes the love of his people that flashes forth from their eyes as they look on him. The good works of his people, like the locks of hair that are the beauty and glory of the female form, are the beauty of the church and of every individual believer. It is a beautiful thing to have the eyes of faith glistening between the locks of our good works to the praise and glory of God.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Song of Songs 4:2 ‘The teeth chew at God’s Word’: “Our ‘teeth’ are those parts of our spiritual being with which we feed on Christ and masticate and assimilate the Word. We should seek so to feed on the Word of God as to become fruitful by it. If we spiritually feed on the flesh of Christ, we will afterwards be the means of bringing forth an abundant harvest of holiness to his praise and honor.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Song of Songs 4:3a ‘The scarlet of the Savior’s blood’: “What is there for the believer to talk about but the scarlet of the Savior’s blood—that matchless bath in which we are washed whiter than snow? May my mouth be filled with the praises of the Lord, that my lips may be like a cord of scarlet. There is always an attractiveness in that conversation that is full of Christ. Let our conversation always be such as becomes the gospel of Christ. But that cannot be the case unless there is much of Christ in it.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Song of Songs 4:3b ‘doctrine without holiness’: “Doctrines in the head, without holiness in the life, are of no service. But when the temples are covered with the locks of righteousness, then they are like a piece of a pomegranate, acceptable both to God and men.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Song of Songs 4:5 ‘the breasts’: “Okay, ladies, this is not referring to the Old and New Testaments, as some scholars of yesteryear have conjectured. Solomon was slowly moving from his bride’s eyes to her mouth to her neck to her breasts. He loved her breasts and was excited to get to see them finally! Notice how gentle he was with her—how tender, how slow. What a beautiful picture God gives us of a man taking his time with a virgin on her honeymoon.
“Most likely Solomon’s mention of a fawn or graceful deer was referring to the softness of her breasts—as soft as a young fawn’s fur. He longed to hold and caress them. Like a gentle shepherd, he didn’t run up and grab the fawns. He was careful not to frighten them away but moved slowly and methodically. His likening of her breasts to a fawn or a young gazelle also alluded to their youthful appearance. Notice he was browsing—taking his time. Think of when you browse in a bookstore or an art gallery. You’re not in a hurry; you’re just taking your time looking first at one item, then another. Solomon was browsing the beautiful bounty of his wife’s body and taking his time doing it.”

  • Sharon Jaynes, Lovestruck

Song of Songs 4:6 ‘Where is Jesus?’: “Our beloved has gone away from us until the day of his reappearing—until the night of his church’s anxiety is over and ‘the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings’ (Mal 4:2). Jesus has gone from earth, but where is he? He has gone to intercede for us before the throne of his Father. He has gone to where there are mountains oi myrrh, the sweet perfume that always rises from his one great sacrifice for sins. Well may he compare it to a mountain of myrrh and to a hill of frankincense.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Song of Songs 4:7 ‘washed as if virgin honey’: “Drink that truth in, Christian. If ever there was a honeycomb full of virgin honey, it is here. Though in ourselves we are defiled, yet in the eyes of Jesus, looked on as covered with his righteousness, we are ‘absolutely beautiful.’ We are as dear to him as though we had never sinned.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Song of Songs 4:9-11 ‘using all the senses’: “Solomon moves from looking to tasting, to smelling, to touching, reminding us that sex involves all the senses because God made us that way. If you remember, in chapter 1, the Shulammite compared her beloved’s kisses to wine and his fragrance to perfume poured out. Now Solomon was doing the same.
“It might seem rather odd for Solomon to call his wife his sister, but in Near East poetry, sister was a term of endearment for one’s wife. The inference was that the new wife was now related to her husband as closely as a blood relative.”

  • Sharon Jaynes, Lovestruck

Song of Songs 4:9 ‘Joy in singing’: “I don’t mind if the piano is out of tune, or if one fellow is singing a little step behind the next fellow—that doesn’t bother me. But the lack of warmth and enthusiasm makes me question the experiential life of Christians. The Christian Church has God in it and wherever God is, God will joy over His people with singing. The singing of the Church reflects the great God singing among His people.
“I notice that Jesus Christ our Lord said about His Church in Song of Solomon 4:9, ‘Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one [glance] of thine eyes.’  When the Lord says this about His Church, it can only mean one thing: He feels toward His Church as a bridegroom toward his bride, as a mother toward her child, as a lover toward the object of his affection. And there’s a highly satisfying love content in true Christianity if you go deep enough. The trouble is, we don’t go deep enough!”

  • A. W. Tozer, The Attributes of God II

Song of Songs 4:12 ‘protection from defilement’: We are not only like a garden, but a garden enclosed.  If the garden were not enclosed, the wild boar out of the woods would destroy the vines and uproot the flowers, but infinite mercy has made the church of God an enclosure into which no invader may dare come. ‘l myself will be a wall of fire around it, and I will be the glory within it’ (Zch 2:5). Is she a spring? Are her secret thoughts and loves and desires like cool streams of water? Then the Bridegroom calls her ‘a sealed spring.’ Otherwise, every beast that passed by might foul her waters, and every stranger might drink heartily from her streams. She is a fountain sealed, like some choice cool spring in Solomon’s private garden around the house of the forest of Lebanon—a fountain that he reserved for his own drinking by placing the royal seal on it and locking it up by secret means, known only to himself. So the Lord has taken measures to preserve all his chosen ones from all those who would defile and destroy them.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Song of Songs 4:16 ‘we are transformed’: “What a difference there is between what the believer was by nature and what God’s grace has made him! Naturally, we were like the howling wilderness, like the desert that yields no healthy plant. It seemed as if we were given over to be like a salt land that is not inhabited—no good thing was in us, or could spring out of us. But now, as many of us as have known the Lord are transformed into gardens—our wilderness is made like Eden, our desert is changed into the garden of the Lord.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Song of Songs 5:1 ‘Their union complete’: “Solomon reveled and rested in the release of passion. The months of dreaming about being joined as man and Wife had finally ended; it was now their reality. He seemed euphoric as he remembered their night of lovemaking. The once tense muscles relaxed. The tension of restraint was released. The buildup of hormonal urges subsided. Like exhausted dancers at the end of a raucous song, the couple rested. There was no guilt or shame but pure joy in knowing the night was sanctioned and sanctified by God. The union of their bodies was complete; the journey of their souls intertwining had taken a monumental leap forward.”

  • Sharon Jaynes, Lovestruck

Song of Songs 5:1a ‘I have’: “While the guests feasted, the couple consummated their marriage (cf. Gen. 29:23; Deut. 22:13-21), and Solomon announced the blessing (cf. Gen. 2:25).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Song of Songs 5:1b ‘Eat, O friends!’: “Given the intimate and private nature of sexual union, it seems difficult to understand anyone but God speaking these words (cf. Prov. 5:21). This is the divine affirmation of sexual love between husband and wife as holy and beautiful.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

 

My Thoughts

There was one bit of administrative discussion that should have been included last week.  We discussed what to call the book.  We discussed how to read the book.  But to explain the odd division in mid-chapters, I am writing this study to coincide with the encounters between the king and the Shulamite woman, or God and His Church, or however you interpret the reading of the book.  Many of the scholars use this division, maybe varying by one or two verses here or there.  This then, is the second encounter.  There will be two more to finish the book of Song of Songs.

The first encounter, their courtship, was filled with metaphors, but the couple respected each other, with no hanky-panky until the wedding.

Yet, after the royal wedding procession, chapter 4 and the first verse of chapter 5 are steamy.  The metaphors that some religious scholars use fall on deaf ears once the reality of what is happening sinks in.  And with God’s blessing of the marriage between a man and a woman, saving themselves for the wedding, the union is a beautiful thing.  As Ms. Jaynes states, Solomon went slowly and enjoyed each new discovery.

Maybe in my old age, I am still not mature enough for this section.  While the scholars look at this as beautiful and thought of by God as beautiful, my mother thought that anything to do with the naked body or sex or child procreation or even kissing and hugging, at least in public, was SIN.  This included talking about it or thinking about it.  I am sure some of my punishments, when I had no idea what I had done wrong, was my mother thinking that I was thinking about an activity that she, in her superhuman self-control, would never think about.

My father once told me to look at the dogs.  To me, that made no sense at all, and I wonder how much punishment he endured by even saying that.

Note: I am the third child, nine years younger than my late brother, but my mother was determined to have a boy and a girl and then stop all that sin.  She would endure that much sin for what she wanted.  I was not only unplanned, I was a result of unnecessary sin and thus unloved, at least by my mother.

And here, God places a love story, a steamy love story, in the middle of the Bible.

God, through Solomon, is describing this as a beautiful thing.

But first, the wedding procession was on a grand scale.  Solomon had the wealth, and he flaunted the wealth in this case.

But then comes the king gazing at his bride – the eyes, the teeth, the mouth and lips, the neck, and then the breasts.  We can picture him drinking in these things, all of them beautiful, all perfect and untainted.  I have had teeth without twins for a long time.

What Solomon paints here in the picture is a virgin that is untainted.  What are we to God?  When we have Jesus come into our heart, God washed our sins away.  We are perfect, as white as snow.  And our new bodies in the next life will be free of blemish.  Our muscles will not ache when we move.  We will be like those fawns and gazelles.  And God wants that intimate relationship.  We may not have sex on the table, but we will be intimate with God in many other ways.

Note also what Ms. Jaynes said about how all our senses will be in play.

The last of the metaphors is that the king’s bride is a garden.  And the bride beckons the king to enter the garden.  Yes, steamy, but in relation to us and our Savior, Jesus has already done that when we were saved.  He came into us.  For a moment, forget the sexual metaphor, although it may be difficult.

And then in the first verse of the fifth chapter, the union is complete.

The last bit of Song of Songs 5:1 is an invitation to eat and drink.  In those days, the wedding party partied while the newlywed couple had a different type of party.  Today, the married couple spends tons on a catered dinner and then dancing and then they ride off into the sunset, so to speak.  When they do that, before the wedding is consummated, the party, these days, is over.  Maybe the old school way is better.  That way, you know that once married, the “party” should not be over.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

Song of Songs 3:6-3:11 – The Wedding Procession: 1. What factors enter into an engaged couple’s decision about how BIG to make their wedding? What was (or would be) the determinative factor in your case?
“2. On your ‘Big Day,’ what made your heart skip? Do you still feel that way? Why?
Song of Songs 4:1-5:1 – The Wedding Night: 1. If God‘s view of sex in marriage is conveyed here, then why do so many couples experience nothing like it? What does this Song have to say to a divorced person? To macho men? To prudish women?
“2. How might a beautiful courtship, like the one here, better equip you for marriage? What about God‘s wonderful creation (you!) and your (hoped for) courtship can you give thanks (or pray) for?
“3. Using the garden metaphor as it applies to love-making, what are you now growing: Weeds? Desert? Annuals? Perennials? A new garden?
“4. Reflecting on the winds of change since your wedding day, what is now blowing your way: A cold northerly or warm southerly wind? Breezy or gusty? Clearing up or clouding over? Why?
“5. Applying this lovers’ poem allegorically to Christ and the Church, what might this story say about the second coming and the great wedding feast that will be? How does Christ’s royal love for the church inspire your devotion and self-surrender? If your ‘garden’ is despoiled, how can the chief Gardener restore it?”

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

There is two sets of questions for these two and a half chapters.

Note: These questions cover both literal and allegorical interpretations.  And some of the answers may be tough to say out loud in a small group unless you trust each other completely.

Substitute whatever group for any reference to a small group or ask who could come to your aid.

If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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