This new section tells how the couple’s marriage grew and matured in spite of problems. Some time had passed since the wedding, and the girl felt as though some indifference had developed in their relationship. She had become cool to her husband’s advances, and by the time she changed her mind and responded to him, he had left.
Inevitably, with the passing of time and the growth of familiarity, a marriage will start to lose its initial sparkle. Glances and touches no longer produce the same emotional response. Conflicts and pressures may creep in, causing you to lose your tenderness toward your spouse. The world is not a haven for lovers; in fact, external stress often works against the marriage relationship. But you and your spouse can learn to be a haven for each other. If intimacy and passion decline, remember that they can be renewed and regenerated. Take time to remember the commitment you made, those first thrills, the excitement of sex, and your spouse’s strengths. When you focus on the positives, reconciliation and renewal can result.
Her self-centeredness and impatience, though brief, caused separation. But she quickly moved to correct the problem by searching for her husband (5:6-8).
The quest for her husband (5:2-9). The couple experiences conflict. (See 3:1-4.) She heard her husband calling to her (note that he doesn’t call her his “bride”) and asking her to let him in. Apparently she had locked the door and gone to bed without him. But she had bathed and was comfortable in bed and didn’t want to be disturbed. Perhaps she wasn’t in the mood for romance. She didn’t respond to his voice, but she did respond when she saw his hand come through the opening for the door latch and when she smelled the fragrant perfume on his hand. The king didn’t force his way in, but surely he was disappointed when his beloved rejected him.
Realizing her mistake, the Shulamite went to the door, but when she did, she discovered that he was gone. Her heart sank, for love is a delicate thing, easily misunderstood and quickly hurt. She called, but he didn’t answer, so she went in search of him. This time the city guards didn’t cooperate with her; instead, they wounded her and took her cloak. Did they think she was a prostitute out looking for business? The beloved seemed to have most of her trouble in the night and not when she was walking in the daytime with her king. She told the daughters of Jerusalem that she was faint from love (2:5), for she was learning that there’s a price to pay in marriage if we want to mature in our affection. They asked her what made her beloved so special, and her reply was another description of how handsome he was.
The beauty of her husband (5:10-16). Perhaps if she had told him this on their wedding night, he wouldn’t have left her temporarily or been so quick to leave before she could open the door. “Love is patient, love is kind” (1 Cor. 13:4, niv), but love needs to be nourished with kind words and actions. Again, the measures she used to describe his attractiveness are different from those we use today, but they do convey the right message. “White and ruddy” describes a man radiant with health and strength, just like David (1 Sam. 16:12; 17:42). “Ruddy” comes from a word that means “red,” which could suggest a red tint to the hair or perhaps the “bronzed” complexion of the person who has an active life outdoors.
A head like fine gold means a valuable head; that is, his brains were worth something. A body like ivory and marble speaks of beauty and strength. “Like Lebanon” also suggests beauty and strength, but this time she points to the famous and valuable cedars of Lebanon. The beautiful phrase “altogether lovely” says it all. Over the years, our bodies change and we get old, but the husband and wife who grow in their appreciation and evaluation of each other will never cultivate a critical attitude. “Young in heart” is the secret of a long and happy marriage.
5:16 The girl calls Solomon her “friend.” In a healthy marriage, lovers are also good friends. Too often people are driven into marriage by the exciting feelings of love and passion before they take the time to develop a deep friendship. This involves listening, sharing, and showing understanding for the other’s likes and dislikes. Friendship takes time, but it makes a love relationship much deeper and far more satisfying.
Their meeting in the garden (6:1-13). It’s now daylight and the women of Jerusalem offer to help her to find her husband, but the Shulamite knows him well and knows where he has gone. One of the important elements in a marriage is getting to know each other so well that we can “read each other’s minds” and anticipate actions and words. “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” expresses it perfectly (6:3; see 2:16 and 7:10). Solomon was not lost to her even though they weren’t together. He was feeding his flock in the garden and she knew where to go.
The moment he saw her, he welcomed her and began to extol her virtues. He didn’t scold her for keeping him outside the door or for walking about the city alone at night and getting bruised by the watchmen. Tirzah was the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel after the nation divided. “You are fit for a king!” is what he was saying. The Jews thought that Jerusalem was the most beautiful of all cities (Ps. 48; Ps. 50:2; Lam. 2:15). “Terrible” means “awesome, majestic.” Remember, he is speaking about a woman and comparing her to an impressive army on the march. Her eyes alone captivated him and overcame him. He used a number of the similes that she had used in 4:10-16, although he wasn’t present to hear her words. They are starting to become very much alike, something that often happens in marriages.
6:8-9 Solomon did indeed have many queens (wives) and concubines (1 Kings 11:3). Polygamy, though not condoned, was common in Old Testament days. Solomon said that his love for this woman had not diminished since their wedding night, even though many other women were available to him.
The number of queens and concubines in his harem was much lower than in his later years 1 Kings 11:3), so this was written very early in his reign. But of all the women in his life, the Shulamite was his favorite as well as the favorite of her mother and the other queens in the palace. In the eyes of the Shulamite, Solomon was “altogether lovely [beautiful]” (5:16), and in Solomon’s eyes, his wife was “the only one of her kind—unique” (6:9). Even the daughters of Jerusalem praised the Shulamite for her beauty. They had been with her at night and saw her as fair as the moon, and now that it was morning, she looked as lovely as the dawn. As the sun ascended, she looked as awesome as an army, a phrase the king had used (v. 4). Some see verse 10 describing the king and his wife riding off in the royal palanquin.
The beloved wife decided she wanted to visit their garden to see if the spring had brought new growth to the trees and vines, so there was a temporary separation from her husband. But then a remarkable thing happened: she found herself “among the chariots of the people of the prince” (v. 12, niv margin). Her husband’s army was arriving, and the garden looked like a battlefield. But gardens are for beauty and nourishment, not for battles. Is there a suggestion here that marriage should be neither a battleground nor a playground, but a garden that is carefully cultivated and thoroughly enjoyed? The first marriage took place in a perfect garden (Gen. 2:18-25), and marriage ought to be like a garden. This takes work, but it’s worth it!
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Sources: Life Application Study Bible, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 1082.
Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – Wisdom and Poetry, (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2004), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 546-550.