Love is an Adventure. After the banquet, Solomon leaves and the Shulamite went back to her normal life, but her eyes and ears were always open as she anticipated his return. Then it happened! One day as she was in her brothers’ home, she heard his voice and saw him coming toward her bounding across every barrier that stood between him and his beloved. He stopped at the wall that protected the house and looked at her through the lattice window. Then he spoke to her and twice invited her to “come away!”
2:8-9. As Solomon approached his beloved’s home, she excitedly described him coming as a gazelle or a young stag This emphasized his attractive appearance, strength, and agility. He approached the wall around her parents’ home and then peered through the lattice. He was anxious to see her.
2:10-13. Solomon, her lover, asked his darling to go for a walk in the countryside. At the beginning and ending of his invitation he said, Come with me . The elaborate description of spring was probably meant to do more than simply emphasize the beauty of the setting. It is likely that he was also describing their relationship. In a sense when one falls in love the feeling is like spring for everything seems fresh and new. The world is seen from a different perspective, which is how Solomon felt when he was with his beloved. Several statements refer to the beauty of spring: (1) The winter is past. The word for winter (set̠aw, used only here in the OT) refers to the cloudy season of March and April with the “latter” rains. (2) Flowers appear in the spring, adding delightful colors to the landscape, causing people to sing for joy. (3) Doves coo, “announcing” spring’s arrival. (4) Fig trees put forth their early fruit (cf. Nahum 3:12). The early figs were either those that had remained unripened on the trees from the previous summer and then ripened at the beginning of spring, or were small edible buds that appeared in March. (5) Grape vines blossom, giving off their fragrance just before the grapes appear. Spring stimulates the senses of sight, sound, taste, and smell.
2:14. Another characteristic of genuine love is the desire to be alone with one’s lover. This desire seems to be easily experienced during courtship, but unfortunately it often fades in marriage. Yet if love is to grow a couple must find time to be alone. Doves hide in rock crevices, reluctant to leave. The lover likened his beloved to such a dove, hesitant to join him in the countryside. So again he urged her to leave her home and join him so he could enjoy her sweet-sounding voice and lovely face.
2:15. She was probably speaking poetically about their relationship rather than about literal foxes and vineyards. Foxes were noted for their destructive tendencies in crop fields, so her reference to those animals probably suggested metaphorically some problems in their relationship. The beloved was asking her lover to take the initiative in solving the problems that were potentially harmful to their relationship. “The foxes represent as many obstacles or temptations as have plagued lovers throughout the centuries. Perhaps it is the fox of uncontrolled desire which drives a wedge of guilt between a couple. Perhaps it is the fox of mistrust and jealousy which breaks the bond of love. Or it may be the fox of selfishness and pride which refuses to let one acknowledge his fault to another. Or it may be an unforgiving spirit which will not accept the apology of the other. These foxes have been ruining vineyards for years and the end of their work is not in sight” (S. Craig Glickman, A Song for Lovers, pp. 49-50). Even in ideal courtships and marriages most couples encounter some potentially destructive problems. Their willingness to solve them together is an evidence of their maturity.
2:16-17. Though they had some problems in their relationship, the beloved knew that her lover belonged to her and she belonged to him. They were committed to each other. She could rest in the shepherd-like quality of his love despite the struggles they shared. She said he browses (lit., “he pastures” his flock) among the lilies . Her thoughts of their mutual possession of each other naturally led to her desire for physical intimacy. So in her mind she invited him to turn (i.e., to her) with the strength and agility of a gazelle or… young stag. Rugged hills (hārê b̠āt̠er) is literally, “hills or mountains of separation or cleavage.” Some say this refers to actual mountains—perhaps “hills of Bether” (niv marg.), though the location of such a site is unknown. It seems preferable to take this as a reference to her breasts, thus an inner longing that they consummate their marriage. If that is the meaning, then she wanted that intimacy to last during the night till the day breaks (lit., “breathes”) at dawn and the night shadows vanish. When their marriage was consummated they did this (see 4:5-6). As already stated, in expressing their love in their courtship, the beloved and her lover used restraint. Yet because of their deep love and commitment to each other they longed for their wedding day to come.
Fear of Losing Her Lover
3:1-4. Solomon returned to Jerusalem, leaving his beloved at her home in the country. The phrase All night long on my bed indicates that the experience she was describing took place in a dream. When a person loves another person deeply, it is natural to fear losing him or her. In her dream she lost her lover and sought to find him. The repeated expression the one my heart loves (once in each of these four verses) revealed the depth of her love for Solomon.
In her dream she went to a city (either a town near her home or Jerusalem) to look for him, but she was unsuccessful. She even asked the watchmen, men who guarded the city at night, if they had seen him. Apparently they had not. When she found him in her dream, she took him to her mother’s house, the most secure place she knew.
The Refrain (3:5)
This refrain marks the end of the section on the courtship (1:2-3:5) and the beginning of the wedding section (3:6-5:1). Perhaps the wedding was to be seen as a reward for patience on the beloved’s part.
The Wedding (3:6-11)
Marriages in the ancient Near East were usually sanctioned through civil contracts rather than through religious ceremonies. Except for Proverbs 2:17 and Malachi 2:14 marriage covenants or contracts are not mentioned in the Old Testament. However, examples of Jewish civil marriage contracts have been found in the remains of the Jewish colony at Elephantine, Egypt dating back to the fifth century b.c. The marriage of Ruth and Boaz before a court of elders rather than before priestly officials (cf. Ruth 4:10-11) also illustrates the “civil” rather than religious character of wedding ceremonies. It is not surprising, therefore, to find that weddings took place not in the temple (or later in the synagogue), but rather in the couples’ homes.
A central feature of a wedding ceremony was a procession to the bride’s home led by the groom, who then escorted her back to their new residence. Next a wedding feast was given which lasted up to a week or even longer. Though the feast was prolonged the couple consummated their marriage on the first night. The wedding feast is not described in the Song of Songs but both the wedding procession (Song 3:6-11) and the wedding night (Song 4:1-5:1) are presented in some detail.
Song 3:6. The author spoke as a narrator in this verse, as if he were a spectator watching the approaching wedding procession, which was elaborate. What at first appeared in the distance to be a great column of smoke. There was incense burning in front of the procession. The fact that the incense was made from all the spices of the merchant emphasizes the costly nature of this display. The myrrh added another fragrance to the procession.
The pomp and beauty of this procession were wholly appropriate in light of the event’s significance. The Scriptures teach that marriage is one of the most important events in a person’s life. Therefore it is fitting that the union of a couple be commemorated in a special way. The current practice of couples casually living together apart from the bonds of marriage demonstrates how unfashionable genuine commitment to another person has become in contemporary society. This violates the sanctity of marriage and is contrary to God’s standards of purity.
3:7-8. The 60 warriors accompanying Solomon’s carriage were friends of he groom. It was common for a groom’s friends to go with him in the wedding procession. But they were also the noblest and most experienced soldiers in Israel, probably Solomon’s royal bodyguard. David had a bodyguard (2 Sam. 23:23) and so possibly did Solomon. Since the caravan may have had to travel some distance (cf. “coming up from the desert,” Song 3:6, and note also the mention of Lebanon in 4:8, 15), the king was taking no chances with the safety of his bride. If bandits would appear at night and terrorize the bride, the soldiers were ready for them. The lesson is valid today for a would-be husband. He should give proper thought and planning to protect his bride. One form this takes is providing economic security for her.
3:9-11. Solomon’s carriage was made of the very best, that is, wood from Lebanon (possibly his bride’s homeland; cf. 4:8, 15). The carriage was adorned with the most expensive materials, silver… gold, and purple (representing royalty) fabric. Solomon offered his bride the best he had. And his love for her brought out the best in him. Others shared the couple’s joy by helping prepare for the procession (the daughters—female inhabitants—of Jerusalem helped make the interior of the carriage and did so gladly) and by watching it (look at King Solomon). In the procession he wore a crown. This was not his royal crown, but a crown… his mother (Bathsheba, 1 Kings 2:13) gave him; it probably depicted happiness more than royalty.
Next week, we will read about the couple’s wedding night as they have sex in Chapter 4.