Most of the similes in 7:1-9 have been used before in the book, but a few are new. He describes her beauty from foot (v. 1) to head (vv. 5 and 9). Both food and drink are referenced in 7:2, describing the intimate area of her body, and this suggests that the husband is nourished by the love of his wife. Oriental “fish pools” were beautiful and peaceful, even though filled with life, and so were her eyes (v. 4). Previously, Solomon had been so smitten by her look that he was overcome (6:5), but now he can watch her eyes and find beauty and excitement. If today you compared a woman’s neck or nose to a tower, you would offend her, but not so in that day. The reference isn’t to size or prominence but to proportion and fitness. Like a tower on the city wall, or even standing alone in the land, it was in the right setting and had its own beauty. Hair “like purple” isn’t referring to dyed hair but to royal curtains or tapestries. Whereas the king had been transfixed by her eyes (6:5), now it’s her hair that captures him.
In verses 6-9, he introduces a fascinating new metaphor. He sees his lovely wife as a palm tree, beautiful and fruitful, and their intimate love as his climbing the tree and eating its fruits. (“Grapes” in v. 7, kjv should be “fruit,” referring to dates.) Kissing her was like drinking wine, and he told her so. Her reply was that she hoped the wine would flow gently over his lips and teeth and please him. Again she assures him of their mutual love and devotion (v. 10; see 2:16 and 6:3). “His desire is toward me” reminds us of Genesis 3:16, where the Lord said that Eve’s desire would be for her husband. Sexual attraction in marriage must be a mutual experience, and the husband and wife must work at making themselves desirable.
7:10-13 As a marriage matures, love and freedom between marriage partners should increase. Here the girl takes the initiative in lovemaking. Many cultures have stereotypes of the roles men and women play in lovemaking, but the security of true love gives both marriage partners the freedom to initiate acts of love and express their true feelings.
Now the bride wants to make a visit to the country, something Solomon had wanted to do before and she had refused (2:8-17). Sometimes visiting another place gives a freshness to marriage relationships, and she promised to give him her love (7:12). A husband and wife have conjugal obligations to each other (1 Cor. 7:1-7), but they shouldn’t look upon married love as a dutiful responsibility. It is also a gift they share with each other, as they shared the feast and the joys of visiting the garden. Mandrakes have long been associated with sexual passion (Gen. 30:14), although there’s no evidence that they work as a sexual stimulant. The Shulamite enjoys fruit that is both new and old, suggesting that they’re brave enough to try something new but wise enough not to abandon what they know really works.
As she closes her monologue, she expresses regret that she can’t show her love to him spontaneously, as a sister can do to a brother (8:1-4). In that society at that time, for a wife to kiss her husband in public would be considered uncouth, so they had to wait until they were alone. She wanted to be a “big sister” to him and kiss him, take him home to her mother, and learn from her mother how to treat him. Once again, the image of food and drink is used to describe their love: he would embrace her and she would provide the wine and pomegranate juice. The seeds of the pomegranate are found in sacs that contain a tasty juice.
They pledge unending love and faithfulness (8:5-14).
The daughters of Jerusalem see the couple returning home from their honeymoon trip to the villages, and they note that in the royal carriage she is leaning on her husband in love. (See 3:6 for a parallel picture.) As they come to her native village, they see a prominent apple tree, and the king reminds her that she had been sleeping under that tree, weary from work, when first he saw her. Then he pointed to her girlhood home and reminded her that there she had been conceived and delivered.
But those days were ended. Now they belonged to each other and needed to be true to each other. He asked her to make him the seal on her heart and arm, for a seal speaks of ownership and protection. Their love brought them together and their love would keep them together. The grip of death and the grave can’t be broken, and neither can the hold of love. A husband and wife aren’t envious of each other but they are jealous over one another, and that jealousy is powerful, like the very fire of God. The bride picks up this image of the fire and says that such love can’t be put out by water, and it’s not for sale! Any man who offered to buy love would be scorned and rejected. By speaking in this way, the king and his wife affirm their unending love for each other.
8:6, 7 In this final description of their love, the girl includes some of its significant characteristics (see also 1 Corinthians 13). Love is as strong as death; it cannot be killed by time or disaster and cannot be bought for any price because it is freely given. Love is priceless, and even the richest king cannot buy it. Love must be accepted as a gift from God and then shared within the guidelines God provides. Accept the love of your spouse as God’s gift, and strive to make your love a reflection of the perfect love that comes from God himself.
Verses 8-14 form an appendix to the story. As the Shulamite returns to her girlhood home with her husband, she remembers what her brothers said about her when she was younger. They didn’t think she was ready for marriage because she hadn’t yet matured. The images of the wall and the door have to do with the girl’s virginity. If she was a door, a woman of easy access, then she would not be fit to be a bride, but if she kept herself pure, behind a wall, as it were, then they could give her away to the man who asked for her. The Shulamite boldly stated that she was a wall and entered the marriage bed a pure virgin. But in spite of her brothers’ sneers, she developed physically and had breasts that her husband admired (4:5-6; 7:3, 7-8).
Now that she is married, her brothers will not be able to enlist her help in caring for the vineyard. But Solomon owns the vineyard and, as his wife, she has a share in it! Verses 11-12 seem to speak about a new “work contract” she negotiated between her husband and her brothers, providing them with more money for their labors. They might be able to hire extra help to replace their sister.
The book closes with the Shulamite in her garden, chatting with some friends, and her husband calls to her because he wants to hear her voice. Where there is love, the husband and wife want to be together and share their ideas and feelings. Yes, there’s a place for other companions, but nobody must replace the mate God gives to us. How does the beloved respond to his call? She tells him to hurry up and leave with her, because the “mountains of spices” (her breasts, 4:5-6) are awaiting his touch. Of course, her companions in the garden don’t understand this code word, so she doesn’t embarrass anybody. Husbands and wives frequently have a secret language of love that others don’t understand.
8:14 The love between Solomon and his bride did not diminish in intensity after their wedding night. The lovers relied on each other and kept no secrets from each other. Devotion and commitment were the keys to their relationship, just as they are in our relationships to our spouses and to God. The faithfulness of our marital love should reflect God’s perfect faithfulness to us.
Paul shows how marriage represents Christ’s relationship to his church (Ephesians 5:22-33), and John pictures the Second Coming as a great marriage feast for Christ and his bride, his faithful followers (Revelation 19:7, 8; 21:1, 2). Many theologians have thought that Song of Songs is an allegory showing Christ’s love for his church. It might be even better to say that it is a love poem about a real human love relationship, and that all loving, committed marriages are reflections of God’s love.
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Sources: Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – Wisdom and Poetry, (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2004), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 546-550.
Life Application Study Bible, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 1085.