Thoughts and Truth from the Impossible Life

What’s Liberating about Islam? – by Rita Karlsen

What’s Liberating about Islam? – by Rita Karlsen.

January 29, 2012 Posted by | Understanding Islam | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

About the Song of Songs

The Aleppo Codex is a medieval manuscript of t...

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About the Song of Songs

The Song of Songs is a poem about love. The main speakers are a man, and the woman whom he loves.

At the start, the couple are not yet engaged. The woman is not sure about the man. She twice sends him away. She does not want to share his life.

But in the end, she learns to trust him. They marry. She is ready to become a mother. And she is glad to work with him. Her attitudes have become mature.

About the man

The man is King Solomon. Solomon was a great king, but he was not a proud man. He sincerely wanted to help his people. He worked hard to make their lives better. In fact, he liked to describe himself as a shepherd. A shepherd is a man whose job is to look after sheep. Once, Solomon’s father, David, worked as a real shepherd. Solomon was never a real shepherd. As king, he looked after people instead of sheep.

Actually, Solomon was not a good model for a husband. He had many wives. He married these women for political reasons. For example, he wanted his country to be at peace with Egypt. So he married the daughter of the king of Egypt. We do not know whether Solomon really loved all these women. But the woman in the Song of Solomon was different from these other women. Solomon loved her deeply. She really was special to him.

The Song of Songs seems to describe the man as if he were a better husband than Solomon. In fact, the man in the Song seems perfect. This is not the only place in the Bible where there is such a description. Psalm 72 is also about Solomon. But the Psalm seems to describe a king who is a better king than Solomon. Both passages are poetry. And both have the same explanation. Although the passages speak about Solomon, they were really describing God.

God is like Solomon in many ways. God is the greatest king. God looks after his people. So God is also like a shepherd (Psalm 23). (A shepherd is a man who looks after sheep. God looks after his people, rather than sheep.) And God loves the people who obey him. Especially, God loves the people who trust him completely. And these people are glad to do his work. God’s love is perfect although our love for him is often weak. This is exactly like the man in Song of Songs.

Solomon was the greatest king that the people in Israel ever knew. He was richer than any other king. The country was at peace. He achieved many great things and he built impressive buildings. So, he seemed to be the right king to choose as a description of God. But Solomon was certainly not perfect. He made terrible mistakes. At the end of his life, he even served false gods because of his foreign wives. Other books in the Bible describe these errors. But the Song of Songs does not. Instead, it gladly remembers the happy days when Solomon was a young king. At that time, he was loyal to God. And so, Solomon’s love for a young woman reminded everyone about the love of God.

About the woman

We do not know the name of the woman whom Solomon loved. The Bible simply calls her ‘the Shulamite’. This probably means that she was from a town called Shulem. This town was in the north of Israel. It belonged to the family of Issachar.

Solomon’s intentions for the woman soon become clear. He wants her to be his wife. But she hesitates to join him.

Proverbs 31:10-31 is a poem from the same time as Song of Songs. This poem lists the duties of a perfect wife. Clearly, such a woman was working very hard. Although her husband was wealthy, she was never lazy. She made sure that her husband never needed to worry about anything. So, he was able to carry out his work as a judge. This woman looked after him and their children. She also helped poor people. She impressed everyone by her hard work.

The woman in Song of Songs seems to hesitate for various reasons. At the start of the Song, she does not seem mature enough. Her words sometimes seem selfish. She may be a little lazy. But perhaps she also fears failure. In other words, she thinks that she will never be perfect enough for Solomon. Perhaps she knew the poem about the perfect wife in Proverbs 31:10-31. And she was afraid that she would disappoint Solomon.

But in the end, this woman becomes mature. She accepts Solomon’s offer of marriage. She shares with him everything that she has. And she is glad to join him in his great work. Like this woman, we often hesitate about our love for God. Our reasons are often the same as hers. We may be glad to invite God into our lives. But perhaps we are afraid to obey him completely. We may be selfish or lazy. We may be unsure about the work that God wants us to do. Or we may be afraid that we will fail. But God is always encouraging us to trust him more. He wants us to become better Christians. He wants us to become mature (Hebrews 6:1).

About marriage

We know some marriage traditions that existed at the time of the Song. We are not sure how these traditions relate to the events in the Song.

Parents would often arrange for the couple to become engaged (Judges 14:2). The man’s parents might select a wife that the man had not met (Genesis 24:4).

The woman would receive gifts when she became engaged (Genesis 24:22). The man’s family would arrange a procession to show the man’s wealth (Genesis 24:10). There would be parties (Genesis 24:28-33). The couple were not yet married. They did not live together. And they did not have sex. But they promised to marry. So they were different from people who were neither married nor engaged (Deuteronomy 22:22-29).

The engaged couple had to wait for their wedding. For example, Jacob waited 7 years for his wedding (Genesis 29:20). The man had to pay a price for his bride (1 Samuel 18:23-25).

The wedding itself would a great event. At the wedding, the man would come with his friends to his bride’s home. The man would take his wife away and lead her to his own home. The couple would be a married couple from the first night of the wedding. But the parties continued for several days (Judges 14:10-18).

About love

Our ideas about love today are often different from ancient ideas about love. Today, we often think about love as a mere emotion. For example, films always seem to show love as an emotion. Clearly, the couple in Song of Songs felt this emotion. But they did not marry merely because of this emotion. In fact, the woman twice decided to send away the man.

In ancient times, people thought above love as a decision. This still happens in some societies today. The couple decide to marry. Sometimes they may not even feel love as an emotion. But their decision is a declaration of love. For the rest of their lives, they will give themselves to each other. They will look after each other. And they will work hard to help each other. This is real love. And in the end, the couple in the Song of Songs show such real love to each other.

The meaning of the Song of Songs

The Song of Songs is, of course, a poem. It describes wonderful plants and beautiful animals. It describes special places. And it describes processions, dances and gardens. But the Song also has a more important meaning.

Parables and allegories are different types of stories. Both parables and allegories have a meaning. But there is a difference. Parables are very simple. And they are easy to understand. But allegories are very complex. Every detail in an allegory is important. And words have secret meanings.

There are many parables in the Bible. Jesus often used parables to each the people. The meaning of these parables is never complex.

Allegories became popular many centuries after the time of the Bible. People used to read allegories for entertainment, like novels today. And many people thought that the Song of Songs was an allegory. They tried to find secret meanings in its words. They thought that its real meaning must be very complex. They tried to find new meaning in every sentence.

We think that the Song of Songs is more like a parable. In other words, its meaning is simple to understand. Its meaning is:

·     God loves us. His love does not change.

·    But we are not always loyal to him. Perhaps we are selfish. So we do not always want to obey him.

·    God wants us to trust him more. Then, in the end, we shall be glad to obey him. And we shall be perfect for him.

Chapter 1

v1 The most beautiful of songs, by Solomon.

Verse 1

Solomon collected songs and proverbs (wise words). In the end, he had 3000 proverbs and 1005 songs. We still have over 600 proverbs that he collected. They are in the Book of Proverbs. Perhaps the songs in his collection included some Psalms. Or perhaps only one song from this collection still exists. This song is called the Song of Songs. And it was Solomon’s greatest song because it is about the love of God.

Love is a wonderful subject for a song. But the love of God is an even nobler subject.

The young woman and her hope for the future

The young woman

v2 Your lips give me many kisses.

Your love is better than wine.

v3 Your *perfume smells wonderful.

But your name is better than the best *perfume.

That is why the young women love you.

v4 Take me away with you, and we will run away.

Let the king bring me into his room.

Friends

          We are very happy for you.

We will say that your love is better than wine.

The young woman

                      How right the women are to love you!

v5 I am dark but lovely too, young women of Jerusalem.

I am dark like the tents of Kedar.

But I am beautiful as Solomon’s curtains.

v6 Do not stare at me because I am dark.

The sunshine has made me dark.

My brothers were angry with me.

They made me look after the *vineyards.

So I could not look after my own *vineyard.

v7      You are the only person that I love.

Tell me where you feed your sheep.

Tell me where you rest your sheep at midday.

Or I will be like a woman who *veils herself.

And I will sit among the *flocks of your friends.

Solomon

v8 You are such a beautiful woman!

Perhaps you do not know where to go.

Follow the tracks of the sheep.

Let your young goats eat by the *shepherd’s tents.

v9 Let me describe you, my *dear.

You are like a *mare of one of Pharaoh’s *chariots.

v10 Your hair is beautiful upon your cheeks.

So is your neck with its precious stones.

v11 We will make a chain of gold for you.

We will use silver to make you pretty.

Verses 2-4

This young woman likes Solomon very much. Her emotions feel very strong. In fact, she probably thinks that she loves him. But her attitudes are not yet mature. She wants the excitement of friendship with a very special man. But she will have great responsibility as his wife. And she is not yet thinking about this responsibility.

We do not think that the couple were actually kissing yet. The woman was probably imagining his kisses. She was very excited because of him.

When we become Christians, our attitudes are not mature. We know that God is wonderful. We want to thank him for his love. We are excited that he chose us to follow him. But perhaps we are not yet ready to serve him. His instructions seem like a problem instead of something wonderful. But God wants us to become more mature.

Verse 4

In this verse, the other women reply. They agree that Solomon is a wonderful man. Everybody seems to want his love.

Verses 5-6

The woman is aware that she is not perfect. She has two problems:

·     She thinks that her skin is too dark. She wants to marry the king. But she does not look like a princess. Instead, she looks like a young woman who works outside. So she is afraid that Solomon will not like her. But her fear is stupid. Solomon does not want a lazy wife who is pale! Instead, he wants a wife who will share his work. He wants a wife who will be responsible.

·     She has not looked after her own *vineyard. In other words, she has not done her own work. So she feels guilty. In the end, she will do this work (8:12). But she will not be working for herself. She will gladly give the profits to Solomon.

God does not want us to be lazy. God wants us to be responsible people. And God wants us to work for him. We do not work for God because we feel guilty. Instead, we gladly work for him because we love him (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Verse 7

The woman asks where she can meet Solomon. She does not want to follow him at a distance. She wants to be with him.

Her thought was a beautiful thought. Christians too should want to spend time with Jesus. There are other good things that we may enjoy. But the time that we spend in prayer is special time.

Verse 8

In his reply, Solomon tells the young woman about his work. Solomon pretends that he is looking after sheep. Really, Solomon is the king. His work is to look after people. So he invited the young woman to join him as he does his work.

Jesus also compared himself with a *shepherd (John 10:14). But really, Jesus is the greatest king (Revelation 19:16).

Verse 9

The horses that pulled *chariots were strong and brave. These were not lazy horses. They wanted to work hard. Pharaoh was the king of Egypt. He did not travel without a *chariot. His horses took him wherever he wanted to go.

Solomon seems to be discussing this woman’s attitudes. Perhaps she thinks that, as queen, she will have a life of leisure. But he is offering her worthwhile work as his queen. She will help him to rule the country.

Verses 10-11

The woman was not sure that she was beautiful enough for Solomon (1:6). But Solomon replies that she is very beautiful. And he will help her to be even more beautiful.

The special meal

The young woman

v12 The king is at his table.

The smell of my *perfume is in the air.

v13 My lover is like a collection of *perfumes.

This lies all night between my breasts.

v14 My lover is like a bundle of henna flowers.

These flowers are from Engedi.

It is where people make wine.

Solomon

v15 How beautiful you are, my *dear!

Oh! How beautiful!

You have eyes like *dove’s eyes.

The young woman

v16 You are so handsome, my *dear;

You are such a delight to me.

Our bed will be green.

v17 We can have wood from tall trees.

We can use it in our house.

We can use other types of wood for our ceiling.

Verses 12-14

Song of Songs 2:4 also seems to describe a special meal. Perhaps the meal begins at 1:12 and continues until 2:7.

Engedi is a place with many beautiful gardens. But its situation is unusual. It is in the middle of a desert. It would be difficult to get flowers from Engedi. So the flowers are a special gift.

The *perfumes also seem to be a special gift. And the woman will keep them next to her heart.

Verses 15-17

This is a very happy conversation. We think that, perhaps, the couple are using friendly humour.

Solomon says that the woman’s eyes are like doves (birds). Of course, doves live outside. So she jokes that the couple would need a green bed, like grass. Then the couple imagine the house. It could have tall trees for its walls. And its roof would be branches that spread out.

So the couple joke that they should not really be inside. She has already explained that she has to work outside (verse 6). And he replied that he wants her to join him in his outdoors work (verse 8).

Chapter 2

The young woman

v1      I am only a wild flower from Sharon,

a wild flower of the valleys.

Solomon

v2 You are like a wild flower,

a wild flower among *thorns.

You are my very *dear woman among women.

The young woman

v3 You are like an apple tree.

This tree is among the trees of the forest.

This is what you are like among young men.

I sit in your shade with great pleasure.

Your apples taste good. They are sweet.

v4 He has taken me to his house.

It is where he has special meals.

Everyone can see how much he loves me.

v5 He has made me strong again with his fruit.

I feel much better with his apples!

I am weak with love.

v6      His left hand is under my head.

And he touches me softly with his right hand.

v7 Women of Jerusalem, make a promise to me.

Think about the wild *gazelles and *deer as you make this promise.

Do not think about love until the right time.

Verses 1-3

The couple continue their happy conversation. But the subject changes. The couple talk about special plants that grow among wild plants. A beautiful wild flower could grow among *thorns. A fruit tree could grow in the forest. But we do not usually find such special plants among wild plants. It would be a rare and wonderful event.

Solomon and the young woman had discovered each other. So they were very excited.

When we discover God’s love, we are very excited. It is wonderful to know that God loves us. But God is also very pleased that we are starting to love him (Luke 15:4-7, Luke 15:21-24).

Verse 4

Many young women like Solomon (1:3; 2:2). But this young woman is very special. Solomon makes a party for her. And he wants everyone to know that he has chosen her.

Verse 5

But this young woman does not seem to appreciate Solomon’s attention. She is not still excited. Instead, she complains that she feels weak. Solomon has provided wonderful food to make her strong.

Verse 6

Perhaps this woman is so weak that she falls. Perhaps Solomon has to hold her so that she does not hurt herself. His touch is gentle.

She should be very excited that he is touching her. But instead, she seems afraid. Their love seems to be developing too quickly. She is not sure that she is ready for him yet.

Verse 7

So she asks the other women to make a promise. She reminds them about wild animals called gazelles and deer. These animals do not mate before the proper time of year. And, like them, she does not want to marry Solomon until she is ready.

This young woman is not yet ready to be Solomon’s wife. She loves him. But her attitudes are not yet mature enough.

As Christians, we often love God deeply. But our attitudes are not always mature. God invites us to serve him. But we hesitate. God wants us to work for him. But we have other ideas. So we do whatever we want to do. We are not always loyal to God. But God still loves us. And he will teach us to love him better, if we are ready to learn.

Solomon proposes to the young woman

The young woman

v8 Listen! My lover!

Look! Here he comes!

He is jumping across the mountains.

He is jumping over the hills.

v9 My lover is like a *gazelle.

Or, like a young *deer.

He is like an animal that can run fast.

Look at him, as he stands next to the wall.

He looks in through the window.

He looks through the wooden bars.

v10 My lover speaks to me.

Solomon

Come then, woman whom I love.

My *dearest, come with me.

v11 Look, the winter is over,

the rains have come and gone.

v12 Flowers appear in the country;

birds are singing.

In the fields, people can hear the song of *doves.

v13 Young *figs are growing on the *fig trees.

Smell the flowers on the*vines.

Get up, my *dear, my beautiful lady.

Come with me.

v14 You are like a *dove that hides in holes in the cliffs.

It is as if you are hiding in secret places in the cliffs.

Let me see your face.

Let me hear your voice.

Your voice is so pleasant,

and your face is so lovely.

v15 Catch the foxes for us.

These little foxes spoil the *vineyard.

There are flowers in our *vineyard now.

The young woman

v16 My lover is mine,

and I am his!

My lover eats among the *lotuses.

v17 Turn, my lover,

until the day begins.

And until the shadows go away.

You should be like a *gazelle,

or a young *deer on the mountains of Bether.

Verses 8-9

Solomon visits the woman. But he does not enter her room. He stands outside and he calls her.

His character reminds her of a shy animal. He seems to behave like the animals that she spoke about in verse 7.

We think that Solomon was simply behaving politely. He did not want to be alone with the young woman. He wanted to be fair to her. He did not want to force her to join him. He simply wanted to invite her. She could either agree to or refuse his invitation.

God is also very gentle with us. He does not force us to obey him. He wants us to obey him because we love him. So he allows us to choose what we shall do.

Verses 10-13

This is a beautiful invitation. It is a description of spring. Solomon starts with a description of the country at the end of winter. Then he describes the start of spring. And now it is the time when animals mate. In fact, it is the time when she expected to be ready for him (verse 7).

Verses 14-15

So he is now inviting her to join him. There is work for them to do together. She suggested that she wanted to look after her *vineyard (1:8). In springtime, the farmers need young workers to look after the *vineyards. They have to chase away the foxes.

Of course, Solomon was the king. So we do not really suppose that he had to chase the foxes. But the couple always used events in the country to describe their love. So perhaps Solomon really wanted her to help with other problems.

God is very great. He does not need our help to do his work. But he chooses to work with us. He gives us responsibilities. And this is a great honour for us (Matthew 25:34-40). God will reward us when we do his work (Matthew 25:21).

Verse 16

The young woman does not seem to think seriously about the invitation. She does not agree that the time is right. Solomon said that she was like a flower (2:2). But she said that he had plenty of flowers to look at. He was like a wild animal that lived among the flowers. In other words, she was saying that he had other women to look at. She was speaking as if she were as important as him. Or, as if his invitation did not matter to her.

Verse 17

So she told him to go away. If he was like a shy animal, then he should go back to the hills. She would not join him.

Her decision was stupid. But he respected her. He went away.

Sometimes we may refuse to allow God to work in our lives. God will allow us to do our own things. But he still loves us. He still encourages us to trust him.

And when we are ready, he will be waiting for us.

Chapter 3

The young woman looks for Solomon

The young woman

v1 At night, when I was on my bed, I looked for my man.

He is the man that my heart loves.

I looked for him, but I did not find him!

v2      I will get up now.

I will go round the city.

In the streets and squares,

I will search for the man that I love.

So I looked for him but I could not find him.

v3      The guards who go about the city found me.

I asked them, ‘Have you seen the man that I love?’

v4      As soon as I left the guards, I found my man.

I found the man that I love.

I held him, and I would not let him go.

Then I took him to my mother’s house.

It was the room where I was born.

v5      Women of Jerusalem, make a promise to me.

Think about the wild *gazelles and *deer as you make this promise.

Do not think about love until the right time.

Verse 1

After Solomon proposed to the young woman (2:12), she sent him away (2:17). Soon, she is sorry about her decision. She cannot sleep. She hopes that he will return to her. But she is afraid that she may never see him again.

Sometimes we may think that God has left us. Perhaps we do something wrong, so we feel guilty. But God still cares about us. He wants us to confess our wrong actions to him. Then he will gladly forgive us (1 John 1:9).

Verses 2-3

The woman got up very early in the morning. The time was so early that the guards were still working. Their job was to protect the city during the night. She is looking everywhere for Solomon. And she asks the guards to help her. She seems desperate.

Solomon could have waited at the door. But he did not. He went away from her. He did not go far. But he still left. So she had to look for him.

Sometimes it feels as if we must look for God. Perhaps we refuse to obey him. And then we are sorry. We pray. But perhaps we do not feel that we are close to God again. God wants us to be humble. When we apologise to God, we must be sincere. God is always kind. He will not refuse us if we are humble. But he will oppose us if we continue to be proud (James 4:6-10).

Verse 4

When the young woman finds Solomon, she is not still proud. She now realises that she needs him. And she wants to be his wife. Last night she sent him away. Her proud words were very foolish. But this morning she invites him into her home. She wants him to meet her mother. It was the tradition that parents would arrange for the couple to become engaged (Judges 14:2; 2 Samuel 13:13).

Verse 5

The woman repeats her words from 2:7. But the meaning seems slightly different. She agrees that now is the right time for her and Solomon to become engaged. Their love feels wonderful. And she now knows that she needs him.

The procession

The young woman

v6      Somebody is coming from the desert.

And men are coming with clouds of smoke.

They come with *myrrh and *incense.

They have a wonderful smell.

v7      Look! It is Solomon’s carriage!

Sixty (60) soldiers guard it.

They are the best soldiers in Israel.

v8      All of them are skilful with the sword.

People have trained them to fight.

Their swords are at their sides.

They are ready for any danger during the night.

v9      King Solomon made the carriage for himself.

The wood came from Lebanon.

v10    He made the poles from silver.

And it has a gold base.

A purple cloth covers the seat.

The women of Jerusalem made the beautiful inside of the carriage.

They made it with grace.

v11    Women of Zion, come out and see King Solomon.

Look at the crown that his mother put on him.

This is the crown for his wedding.

And he is so happy because of his wedding.

Verse 6

The people in Israel loved special processions (Judges 21:19-23; 2 Samuel chapter 6). And they would organise processions for many reasons. So we cannot be sure about the reason for this procession.

Perhaps the procession is because the king and the young woman are engaged. Or perhaps it is their actual marriage procession.

Whatever the purpose of the procession may be, it reminds us about Solomon’s importance. Often in the Song, he behaves like any ordinary young man. But Solomon was not merely an ordinary young man. He was the king. In fact, he was Israel’s greatest king.

So Solomon has his wonderful procession. The procession even smells wonderful. The couple often speak about *myrrh and *incense. Such beautiful smells seem to describe love well. Their love, like a beautiful smell, makes them happy. And their love, like a beautiful smell, brings joy into the lives of other people too.

Verses 7-8

An ordinary young man would ask his friends to lead him to his bride. But Solomon’s procession is much better. Israel’s best soldiers act as his guard. They are wearing their uniforms. They are carrying their swords. These soldiers impress everyone who sees them. Everyone will realise that this is an important procession.

Verses 9-10

The carriage is beautiful. Solomon designed it himself. He used the best materials. He wants the procession to be perfect. He wants to impress his young woman. And he wants everyone to know that they are engaged.

Everybody is glad because of their good news. So other women help Solomon to make the carriage beautiful. Perhaps they arranged the flowers in the carriage. Perhaps they made beautiful things for the carriage.

Verse 11

The smell is wonderful (verse 6). Perhaps people could smell the procession even before they saw it.

Then the people would see the soldiers. They are impressive (verses 7-8).

Then people would see the carriage. It is beautiful (verses 9-10).

At last, people would see Solomon himself. He is wearing a crown.

And it is a special crown (verse 11).

Chapter 4

Solomon’s beautiful words about the woman whom he loves

Solomon

v1      My *dear, you are so beautiful!

Oh, you are beautiful!

Your eyes are behind your *veil.

They are like *doves.

Your hair is like a group of goats.

They are coming down from the mountain called Gilead.

v2      Your teeth are white like sheep whose wool is clean and neat.

Each sheep has its *twin.

None of the young sheep is alone.

v3      Your lips are like a red ribbon.

They are so lovely when you speak.

Your cheeks are red behind your *veil.

They are like a *pomegranate.

v4      Your neck is like a strong building.

This building stands above the castle that David built.

Your neck is round and smooth.

A thousand *shields hang on it.

All these *shields belong to soldiers.

v5      Your breasts are like two young *gazelles.

A *gazelle can have *twins.

These *twins eat among the flowers.

Your breasts are like these *twins.

v6      I will go to the mountain of *myrrh.

I will go to the hill of *incense.

I will go there until the day begins.

I will go there until the shadows disappear.

v7      You are beautiful, my *dear!

How perfect you are!

Verses 1-3

The couple often use descriptions that seem strange to us today. But they are describing things that they considered beautiful.

For example, wild goats on a mountain may not seem beautiful to us. But people who have seen the goats may think differently.

We also need to realise that this is not the record of a conversation. The Song of Songs is a poem. So the poet could write words that the couple would be too modest to say. The poet was not merely trying to record their words. He was also trying to show their attitudes.

Verses 1 and 3 mention a *veil. Young women used to cover their faces when a young man was present. Perhaps they wanted to show that they were modest. Or perhaps they did not want the man to stare at them. After the wedding, they might remove the *veil. In Genesis 29:18-25, Jacob could not recognise Leah because of her *veil. In some countries, women still wear *veils today. Solomon cannot see her entire face because of the *veil. But he still thinks that she is very beautiful.

Verse 4

Solomon seems to be describing her collar. The materials seemed to shine. Or perhaps she had precious stones on a chain round her neck.

This sight reminded Solomon about part of David’s castle. When the soldiers did not need their *shields, they would hang them on the wall. Everybody who saw the *shields would be glad. They would know that the country was at peace.

Verse 5

In other words, she is still very young. Compare 8:10. In chapter 8, she will be a mature woman. And she will be a good mother.

Verse 6

Solomon reminds the woman about her words in 2:17. Then, she told him to go away to the mountains. But now she wants him. So he jokes that he will go to the mountains. But he is not going away from her. Instead, he chooses the wonderful places where there are lovely smells. These smells will remind him about their love.

Verse 7

In chapter 4, Solomon chooses nice words when he speaks to the woman. These words remind her that they are engaged. (Or perhaps, they are married.) He calls her:

·     My *dear (verse 7). This means, ‘the woman whom I love’.

·     My sister (verse 10). Of course, she was not really his sister. But he could speak to her as easily as he could speak to a family member. And he could relax when he was with her.

·     My bride (verse 10). This could mean that the couple were already married. Or perhaps Solomon was excited to think that they would soon be married. So he was already calling her ‘my bride’.

Solomon

v8      Come with me from Lebanon, my bride.

Come with me from Lebanon.

Come down from the top of Amana,

from the top of Senir, the top of Hermon.

Come from the lions’ cave.

And from where *leopards live in the mountains.

v9      I want to love you with all of my heart, my sister.

I want to love you, my bride.

You gave me one look with your eyes,

You showed me one stone of your *jewels.

v10    Your love is a delight, my sister, my bride!

Your love is so much better than wine!

Your *perfume smells better than any *spice.

v11    Your lips are sweet.

They are like honey, my bride.

Honey and milk are under your tongue.

Your clothes have the smell of Lebanon.

v12    My sister, my bride, you are like a garden.

This is a garden that someone has locked.

You are like a place where there is fresh water.

It is a private place.

You are like a fountain that someone has closed.

v13    These plants grow in your garden:

·     *pomegranates with the best fruit

·     bushes and flowers that have a beautiful smell

·     v14 *perfume bushes and other flowers

·     many *spices

·     trees with *incense

·     *myrrh and the best *spices.

v15    You are like a fountain in a garden.

You are like a well of fresh water.

This water comes down quickly from the Lebanon mountains.

The young woman

v16    Wake up, north wind!

Come, south wind!

Blow on my garden.

Then its smell can spread everywhere.

Let my lover come into his garden.

Then he can taste its pleasant fruit.

Verse 8

We do not really think that the woman lived in these places. These are wonderful places. But they are also dangerous places.

We think that Solomon was saying, ‘You are so beautiful. I am surprised that someone so beautiful has come from my own country. I would imagine that you have come from elsewhere. I would like to imagine that you are from Lebanon. There the mountains are high. And the plants have wonderful smells. But there are also many dangers in those mountains. So let me rescue you! You will be safe with me.’

Verses 9-11

Their love seems very special:

·     She glanced at him. So he loves her.

·     He saw the chain round her neck. And he wanted her to be his bride.

·     He prefers her love rather than the best wine.

·     He prefers her *perfume rather than any other smell.

·     Her words seem so sweet (pleasant). He jokes that they are sweeter than honey.

·     In the mountains of Lebanon, many plants have beautiful smells. See verses 6 and 8. She seems to come from such a place. When he is with her, he seems to be able to smell the air from the mountains.

We might think that we are not important to God. Or, that God does not really care about us. But the Bible teaches that such ideas are wrong. God really does love us. He loves us so much that he sent Jesus to die for us (John 3:16). God loves us, and he wants us to love him too (Mark 12:30).

Verses 12-15

In fact, the woman did not come from Lebanon. So Solomon uses another description. Solomon had great knowledge about plants (1 Kings 4:33). He knew about plants with beautiful smells from many countries.

Solomon imagines that the woman has collected these plants. He imagines that she has a wonderful garden. But the garden is a secret garden. Its gate has a lock. Nobody can enter the garden to smell its plants.

Such a garden would need a good supply of water. Israel is often a dry country. And these plants would need plenty of water. So Solomon imagines a fountain in the garden. If the woman is not from Lebanon, then perhaps her water comes from Lebanon!

Of course, this garden does not really exist. Solomon is using his imagination. Really, Solomon is saying, ‘You are very special. I love to be in gardens. I love to smell the beautiful plants. I love to see plants from distant countries. But I feel happier with you than I have felt in any garden. Unusual plants interest me. But you interest me more. Beautiful smells make me happy. But when I smell your *perfume, I am even happier. I am happier, because you are near to me.’

Solomon’s words about the water mean, ‘A garden can become dry. Then its plants will die. And everyone will leave the garden in despair. But I shall never leave you. I always feel delight when I meet you. You always surprise me. I am always excited because of your love.’ Jesus used a similar description in John 7:37-39.

Verse 16

Solomon’s words are wonderful. But the young woman’s reply is also wonderful. She is pleased with Solomon’s words. She wants him to share her life. So she pretends to invite Solomon into her garden. And she tells him to enjoy the fruit.

But the young woman is not selfish. She wants everyone to be happy because of their love. She did not think that a beautiful garden should be secret. She wants everyone to smell the beautiful smells.

Solomon is pleased because of her reply. Her attitudes are the same as his. He is the king. And he believes that he should work hard. Then all the people will benefit. And she is starting to have the same ideas.

Chapter 5

Solomon

v1      I have come into my garden, my special young woman, my bride.

I have gathered my *myrrh and *spice.

I have eaten my honey.

I have eaten where the *bees store honey.

I have drunk my wine and milk.

Friends

          Friends, eat and drink!

Drink until you are full of love!

Verse 1

In 4:12-15, Solomon said that the young woman was like a beautiful garden. He described such a garden. It had beautiful fruit. And the plants smelled wonderful.

In 4:16, the woman pretended that she had such a garden. She invited Solomon into the garden. And she told him to taste the fruit.

Probably this garden did not really exist. The couple were merely pretending. This idea of a garden seemed a wonderful description of their love. In 5:1, they continue with this description.

Solomon says that he is now in the garden. She does not disappoint him. And her garden does not disappoint him. He says that he has found *myrrh and *spices. These plants smell wonderful. He has found honey, wine and milk. Solomon would be very happy in such a garden. Of course, he really means that he is very glad to be with this young woman.

And the couple’s friends encourage them. The friends can see that the couple are in love. And the friends are happy because of Solomon’s love for the young woman.

Solomon invites the young woman for the second time

When Solomon first proposed to the young woman, she refused him (Song 2:17 to Song 3:4). She soon felt sorry. She was sure that she had made a terrible mistake. So she searched for him. And the couple were engaged.

We think that perhaps Solomon now wants her to become his wife. He visits her again. But again, she is not ready for him.

The young woman

v2      I slept but, in a dream, I awoke.

Listen! My lover is knocking.

‘Open to me, my special young woman, my *dear,

my *dove, my perfect young woman.

My head is wet with *dew.

My hair is damp because of the night.’

v3      I have taken off my dress,

I do not want to put it on again.

I have washed my feet.

I do not want to make them dirty.

v4      My lover put his hand through the opening.

I was excited because he was near.

v5      I got up to open (the door) for my lover.

*Myrrh was falling off my hands.

Liquid *myrrh was falling from my fingers.

It fell onto the handles of the lock.

v6      I opened for my lover.

But my lover had left. He had gone.

I was so sad because he had gone.

I looked for him but I could not find him.

I called for him but he did not answer.

v7      The guards found me as they walked round the city.

They hit me and they bruised me.

There were guards on the wall.

They took away my coat.

v8      Make a promise to me, women of Jerusalem.

If you find my lover,

Tell him that I am weak.

I am weak because of love.

Verse 2

Perhaps the young woman has gone to bed early. This fact may seem unimportant. But the perfect wife in Proverbs 31:10-31 did not go to bed early. The perfect wife was still working even by night. And the perfect wife was never lazy.

But this young woman is already sleeping when Solomon visits. So the author of the Song shows us that she is not yet mature.

Solomon knocks at her door. The passage is like Revelation 3:20. In Revelation, Jesus asks us to invite him into our lives. Jesus is like someone who knocks at a door. And our lives are like that door. We have a choice. We can invite Jesus into our lives. Or we can refuse his love.

Solomon does not order the woman to open the door. Instead, he gently appeals to her. He reminds her about their love. He speaks beautiful words to her. He calls her ‘my *dear’. He calls her ‘my *dove’. And he calls her ‘my perfect young woman’.

Verse 3

We hear the woman’s reply. And we can hardly believe her to be the same young woman whom Solomon loves. She seems not to care about him. She is only thinking about herself.

Her excuses seem very unimportant. She does not want to put on her dress. And she does not want her feet to touch the ground. She has no proper reason to send Solomon away.

There are never any proper reasons to refuse God’s love. We may tell God to go away because we are lazy. We may refuse to spend time with him because we have other plans. But such explanations are merely poor excuses.

Verse 4

Solomon tries to open the door. But there is a lock on the door. He cannot enter. In 4:12, he said that she was like a garden. But there was a lock on the gate. She replied (4:16) that she wanted him to enter. And she wanted everyone to smell her beautiful plants.

These thoughts were wonderful. But they were merely ideas. The real test was in verse 2, when he actually came to her door. But she has a lock, so he cannot enter. She had said the right things. But the reality was different.

We may make wonderful promises to God. And at church, we may speak words of love to God. But the real test happens when we have troubles. Perhaps we are at home or we are working. Our behaviour then should show our love for God.

The young woman is excited when she briefly sees Solomon’s hand. Her attitudes change quickly. But she has already sent him away. She has already failed her test.

Verses 5-6

The woman does not hesitate now. Her excuses do not matter now. She rushes to prepare to see Solomon. She puts *myrrh, which has a beautiful smell, on her hands. And she opens the door. But nobody is there. She is too late.

Jesus told a story like this in Matthew 25:1-12. We must be careful not to miss the opportunities that God gives us. We should always be ready to do the things that God wants.

So the young woman is alone. She wanders round the city. She walks through the streets. There would not be any lights in the streets. So the city is dangerous at night. It is especially dangerous for a young woman who is alone.

Verse 7

This is a very sad verse. The guards are very cruel. Their behaviour is terrible. They laugh at the young woman. They hurt her. They hit her. They even take away her dress, so that she is ashamed.

The guards thought that the woman was very stupid to be out during the night. Only bad women would be outside during the night (Proverbs 7:9-10). Only evil people had a reason to be outside (Job 24:13-16).

Perhaps the guards do not believe that the woman is looking for Solomon.

Perhaps they think that she has spent the night with another man.

Perhaps they imagine that she deserves punishment.

As we become more mature Christians, our responsibilities increase (James 3:1).

And the devil may oppose us more (1 Peter 5:8-9).

New Christians make many mistakes. They do not need to worry about their errors. We simply teach them to confess their evil deeds to God. Then God forgives them, and they can learn to do the right things. It is as if God is waiting for them to trust him again (3:4).

Mature Christians should not make the same mistakes as new Christians. God will still forgive a mature Christian when that person confesses his errors. But the results of these errors may be more severe. God is training that person to be more responsible.

When Peter met Jesus, Peter was afraid. He told Jesus to go away. But Jesus was not angry. He simply told Peter not to be afraid (Luke 5:8-10). Later, Peter tried to tell Jesus that he was wrong. Jesus was stricter. He warned Peter that Peter’s ideas came from the devil (Mark 8:32-33). After the soldiers arrested Jesus, Peter was afraid. Three times, he denied that he knew Jesus (Mark 15:66-72). John’s behaviour was much more mature (John 19:26-27). So Peter was afraid when Jesus died. After Jesus became alive again, Jesus called Peter to serve him for a second time (John chapter 21).

Verse 8

In 2:5, the young woman was also weak because of love. Then Solomon’s love seemed too great for her. She was with the man whom she loves. And she was afraid.

Now she is weak again because of love. But Solomon is not with her. She is again afraid. She worries that she has lost him. And she is afraid that she will never be with him again.

In 2:7, she asked the women of Jerusalem to make a promise. She did not feel ready for love. She repeated these words in 3:5. But then she wanted his love. She was glad to be engaged to Solomon.

Now she asks the women of Jerusalem to make another promise. This promise seems very sad. She does not dare to ask for Solomon’s love again. She merely asks the other women to remind him about her. She simply asks them to tell him about her sad state. She seems to have hardly any hope.

Sometimes there can seem to be an interruption in our love for God. The fault is always ours. God’s love is always perfect. But if we do not confess our errors, the interruption may continue for years. In fact, the interruption may seem permanent. We might believe that we are not still real Christians. Or, that we shall never again love God as we used to. But God is very kind. He does not forget us. He still wants us to trust him again. He still wants us to know his love. He still wants to forgive us. So we should confess any evil deeds. And we should trust him again. God is waiting for us to return to him. He will not refuse us.

The young woman describes Solomon

The women of Jerusalem

v9      Beautiful woman, how is your lover different from other men?

Is your lover better than other lovers?

Is that why you ask us to make this promise?

The young woman

v10    My lover is fair and red.

He is noticeable among ten thousand men.

v11    His head is like the purest gold.

His hair has curves.

It is black like a *raven.

v12    His eyes are like *doves.

The *doves are by a stream.

The white part of his eyes is like milk.

It is as if someone has set his eyes like *jewels.

v13    His cheeks are like *spices in a garden.

Their flowers give a *perfume.

His lips are like *lotuses.

Liquid *myrrh seems to fall from his lips.

v14    His arms have a good shape.

They are like gold.

*Jewels cover his arms.

His stomach is like smooth *ivory.

He has covered it with *jewels.

v15    His legs are like *marble columns.

Someone has set them on a gold base.

He stands tall.

He is like the finest *cedar tree in Lebanon.

v16    Yes, women of Jerusalem, this is what my lover is like.

He has the sweetest mouth.

Everything about him is lovely.

Verse 9

The poet who wrote the Song is very clever. While the woman is still thinking about herself, she cannot find Solomon. She feels very unhappy, because she sent him away. But the poet wants her to think about Solomon. When she praises Solomon, she will find him.

When we think about ourselves, our thoughts are often selfish. But selfish thoughts are not the right attitudes for a person who loves.

Sometimes we can only think about our own troubles. We may blame other people. Or we may blame ourselves. Such thoughts are, in fact, selfish, because we only want to think about our own situation. Instead, we ought to pray, or, we ought to praise God (James 5:13).

The other women seem to have doubts about Solomon. They do not love him like the young woman. They suppose that he is actually like any other man. They make her explain why he is special to her.

But their words of doubt seem to encourage her to trust Solomon again. Because of their doubts, she begins to praise him again. And she again speaks the words of a woman who is in love.

Other people are often doubtful about our love for God. Their doubts can upset us. But their doubts can make us more confident to speak about God. If we concentrate on their doubts, we shall be sad. But if we think about God, we shall be more confident.

Verses 11-16

The woman describes Solomon to her friends. Her description may seem strange to us. But she is describing things that people thought to be very beautiful. Or, things that were very special.

Some of her descriptions sound like gardens. There are trees and flowers. There are beautiful smells. There are birds. And there are streams of water.

Other descriptions sound like a building. And the building contains the most expensive materials. There are gold and *jewels. There are *ivory and *marble. There are bases and columns.

Solomon was a very rich king. His workmen built great palaces and other buildings in Jerusalem. He used wood from Lebanon. The workmen cut flower shapes into the wood. And he used much gold (1 Kings chapters 6-7). So perhaps the woman was describing an actual building in Jerusalem. Or perhaps she was describing the gardens near the great buildings (Ecclesiastes 2:4-6).

‘Everything about him is lovely’ (verse 16). These are good words for Christians to use when they praise God. God is perfect. He deserves our honour. Nobody is like him. He is really wonderful. We should always praise him.

Chapter 6

The young woman meets Solomon again

The women of Jerusalem

v1      Where has your lover gone,

most beautiful among women?

Tell us which way your lover went.

Then we can help you to look for him.

The young woman

v2      My lover has gone down to his garden,

to the places where *spices grow.

He will eat food from the garden.

He will gather flowers there.

v3      I belong to my lover

and my lover belongs to me.

It is he who eats near the flowers.

Verse 1

The women of Jerusalem have heard the young woman’s description of Solomon. But they still do not realise why he is special. He seems to them like any other man (5:9). They do not love him, as the young woman does. But they are willing to help her. The man that she loves seems to have gone away. And the women of Jerusalem think that they can find him.

People who do not love God cannot explain our attitudes. They do not know why we love God. Perhaps they admire our sincere behaviour. Perhaps they would even like to be like us. But unless they themselves trust God, they will never really know God’s love. Until then, they will never know how anyone could be in love with God. Even the idea will seem strange to them.

Verses 2-3

The women were kind when they offered to help. But the young woman does not need their help. She remembered Solomon’s character. So she already knew where Solomon would be.

Jesus spoke about Christians as if they were sheep. At that time, a man would look after a small group of sheep. The man would lead the sheep into the fields. The sheep knew the man’s character. And they could even recognise his voice (John 10:2-5). So Jesus said, ‘My sheep (people) listen to my voice. I know them. And they follow me’ (John 10:27). As Christians, we learn God’s character. We learn how to trust him. And we learn to obey him.

The woman is right about the place where she can find Solomon. He is not angry with her. Instead, he speaks kind words to her again. He still loves her deeply.

Solomon’s kind words to the young woman

Solomon

v4      You are beautiful, my special young woman.

You are as beautiful as Tirzah,

as lovely as Jerusalem.

You are as wonderful as those great cities.

v5      Turn your eyes away from me.

They excite me too much!

Your hair is long.

It is like a *flock of goats that are coming down from Gilead.

v6      Your teeth are like a *flock of sheep.

Their wool is clean.

Each sheep has its *twin.

None of the sheep is alone.

v7      Your cheeks are red behind your *veil.

They are like the halves of a *pomegranate.

v8      There might be 60 queens.

There might be 80 women who live in the palace.

There might be too many *virgins to count.

v9      But my *dove, my perfect young woman, is special.

She is the only daughter of her mother.

Her mother prefers her to any other person.

The young women see her and they praise her.

There are queens and women in the palace.

They praise her too.

Verses 4-7

Solomon was speaking to the young woman who had just sent him away. But you would never guess this fact from his words. He speaks as if she has always obeyed him. He has many kind words to say to her. He repeats some phrases from chapter 4. He loves her as deeply as he used to love her. They had been apart. But their love was still the same.

Some couples always remind each other about their past mistakes. But God does not behave like this. He really forgives us.

Verses 8-9

In the end, Solomon would have 700 wives. And 300 other women lived with him in the palace (1 Kings 11:3). So we can see that Solomon is still a young man in this Song.

Solomon married these women for political reasons. They came from many countries. Solomon married all these women so that his country would be at peace. For example, he married the daughter of the king of Egypt. So Solomon’s country was at peace with Egypt. We do not think that this was a good plan. But this was how Solomon behaved.

So Solomon had many wives. These women lived in his palace. They were important women. But they probably did not really love Solomon. And he probably did not love them. But the young woman in Song of Solomon was different from these other women. Solomon really loved her. Everyone in the palace realised this fact. Even the other queens approved of Solomon’s love for this woman. They all knew that she really was special.

Many Christians behave rather like Solomon’s other wives. Such Christians like to be Christians. And they are glad to receive God’s good gifts. But they do not love God deeply. They do not try always to please God. They will never become mature Christians. In fact, they do not even want to be mature Christians.

We should be like the young woman who really loved Solomon. We should want to obey God. We should try to become mature Christians. We should learn the lessons that God teaches us.

Jesus taught us to love God with all our heart. And with all our mind. And with all our strength. Jesus said that this is God’s most important command (Mark 12:28-29).

The young woman’s beauty

The women of Jerusalem

v10    Who is this woman?

She seems to shine like the dawn.

She seems as beautiful as the moon.

She seems as bright as the sun.

She is as wonderful as the stars.

Verse 10

Solomon may be the speaker. But we think that this verse is probably the words of the other women. Solomon said in verse 9 that they were praising the young woman. She impresses them. And they seem curious about her.

At the start of the book, only Solomon could see the young woman’s beauty. The other women did not seem to think that she was beautiful. People might stare at her because her skin was dark (1:6). Even the young woman herself did not seem sure that she was beautiful.

But at the start of the book, the young woman was still a girl. Now she is older. And she is more mature. She has spent time with the king. And she has learned how to make herself beautiful.

Now other women can see her beauty too. They do not still complain that her skin is too dark. Instead, she is so beautiful that they compare her with the brightest lights.

The young woman becomes Solomon’s bride

The young woman

v11    I went down to the group of nut trees.

I went to see the young plants in the valley.

I went to see if the *vines were beginning to flower.

Or the *pomegranates were beginning to flower.

v12    Then my hope came true.

I was next to my prince.

We were in a *chariot.

The *chariots belonged to the king.

I was with people that I knew.

This happened before I realised it.

The women of Jerusalem

v13    Come back, come back, *Shulamite.

Come back, come back. Then we can stare at you.

Solomon

          Do not stare at the *Shulamite!

Do not stare as she dances the Mahanaim dance!

Verse 11

Solomon wants to check whether it is spring again. The couple often considered that spring would be the right time for their marriage (2:7, 2:10-13). Solomon often used *pomegranates as a description of the young woman’s face (4:3, 13; 6:7). Now he wants to see if she is ready for love.

Verse 12

Solomon is in a carriage again. There seems to be a procession. Everybody is very happy for the king. He had waited for a long time to be with the woman that he loves. But now she is ready for him. Now, she wants to go with him.

At a wedding, the tradition was that the bridegroom would go to the bride’s home. Then he would take the bride to his own home. And everyone would be very glad.

Verse 13

The other women do not want her to leave. They still want to enjoy her beauty. They ask her to stay with them. But perhaps they are merely pretending to ask her to stay. They know that she is now Solomon’s bride. So they must expect her to go with him.

Solomon replies. She is his bride. So now, he himself will look at her. He wants to enjoy her beauty.

The woman may be called the Shulamite because she comes from a town called Shulem. King David was Solomon’s father. When David was very old, his servants chose a woman called Abishag to live with him. Abishag was also a beautiful young woman. It seems that she came from the same town (1 Kings 1:1-4).

However, the word Shulamite is similar to the name Solomon. The couple are now married. So perhaps she now uses her husband’s name. In many countries today, women use their husband’s surname after marriage.

We do not know anything about the Mahanaim dance. But perhaps it was like the dance of the girls of Shiloh (Judges 21:21). As the girls danced there, the men chose their wives.

Chapter 7

Solomon describes the young woman, who has become his bride

Solomon

v1      You have *sandals on your feet.

Your feet are as beautiful as the feet of a prince’s daughter!

The curves of your legs are like *jewels.

They are like the work of a skilled worker.

v2      Your stomach is like a round cup.

It shall never have a lack of wine.

Your *waist is a heap of wheat.

Flowers are in a circle round it.

v3      Your breasts are like two young *gazelles.

A *gazelle can have *twins.

Your breasts are like these young*twins.

v4      Your neck is like a high, round building.

Someone has made the building with *ivory.

Your eyes are like the pools of Heshbon.

These pools are next to the gate of Bath Rabbim.

Your nose is like a high round building.

This building is in Lebanon.

It points towards Damascus.

v5      Your head is better than a crown.

It is like the mountain called Carmel.

Your hair is like silk.

It is long and smooth.

Although I am the king, I am excited to see it.

v6      You are so beautiful!

And you are so pleasant!

My special young woman, you are a delightful young woman!

v7      You are tall,

as tall as a *palm tree.

And your breasts are like its plentiful fruit.

v8      I said, ‘I will climb the *palm tree.

I will hold its fruit.’

I would like your breasts to be like groups of *grapes.

I would like your breath to smell like apples.

Verse 1

Solomon describes his beautiful bride. Perhaps he begins with her feet because she is dancing (6:13). Her movements are very graceful.

Verse 2

He associates her *waist with wine and wheat. People make wine from the fruit called grapes. Fruit and grain were the most important crops in ancient Israel. Solomon speaks about plentiful wine and wheat. So, he was describing a good harvest.

This verse is like 5:1. The woman does not disappoint Solomon. She is able to provide everything that he needs. She will work hard to supply everything for their family. But she is not merely a servant of her husband. All her actions show grace and love. She is like someone who arranges flowers round the wheat harvest.

Our work for God should not be merely a duty. We work for God because we love God. Every action should be an expression of our love (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Verse 3

This young woman is almost perfect for Solomon. But there is one problem. She is still very young. Solomon needed a son, who would be the king after him. But Solomon’s bride is not yet ready to become a mother. Solomon waited eagerly (verse 8).

In the Song, Solomon often has to wait. He needed to be patient twice when she sent him away. Now he must be patient again while he waits for her to become a mother.

God is very patient with us. He wants us to learn many new qualities (2 Peter 1:5-8). He wants us to be mature Christians (Hebrews 6:1). In the end, we shall be perfect for him (1 Corinthians 13:9-13).

Verses 4-6

This woman reminded Solomon about the country that he ruled. Solomon was a good king. He felt as if he belonged to his country. This woman was now his bride. And Solomon felt as if he belonged to her, also. But Solomon’s duty to his country did not oppose his duties to his bride. Because of his bride, Solomon would love his country better. She would help him as he ruled his country.

When he saw his bride, he also thought about his country.

And God does not love us less because he also loves other people. God wants us all to receive everything that he has for us. So we should be glad when other people trust God (Romans 11:11-12). God cares about people from many nations (John 10:16). We should be glad when God sends us to work for him. We should even be glad to go to people whom we may not like (Acts 1:8; John 4:9).

Verses 7-8

The woman’s problem is that she is not yet ready to become a mother (verse 3). But Solomon knows that the woman’s body will soon become mature. He speaks about the *palm tree. The fruit on the *palm tree is plentiful. He says that she will be like the *vine. The *vine also has plentiful fruit. So he is confident that she will have children.

The fruit on a tree is very small before it is ripe. But the fruit develops quickly. It becomes much bigger. The young woman was not yet ready to be a mother. Her breasts were not yet ready to feed a baby. But Solomon was confident that they would not have to wait long.

The young woman’s new attitudes as Solomon’s wife

The young woman

v9      I would like your mouth to smell like the best wine.

I hope that the wine goes straight to my lover.

I hope that it flows gently over his lips and teeth.

v10    I belong to my lover,

and he desires me.

v11    Come, my lover, let us go to the country.

Let us spend the night in the villages.

v12    Let us go early to the *vineyards.

We will see if the *vine has begun to flower.

Perhaps the *vines have flowers.

We will see if the *pomegranate trees have begun to flower.

There I will give you my love.

v13    You can smell the *mandrakes.

And you can smell all the special fruits that are near us.

Yes, I have saved many pleasant things for you, my lover.

There are both old and new things.

Verse 9

The young woman wants Solomon to receive everything that she can give to him. She does not want to keep anything for herself.

Verse 10

This verse shows how much her attitudes have changed:

·     In 2:16, she spoke as if her opinions were as important as his opinions. So, she had the right to send him away. She was glad that she impressed this noble young man. But her feelings about him were not mature.

·     In 6:3, her ideas are similar. But she does not speak as if she is so important. Solomon’s attitudes seems much more important to her than her own attitudes.

·     In 7:10, her attitudes are mature. She is not still thinking about herself. Her own feelings do not seem important. Solomon’s love for her seems more important than anything else. She does not even mention her own emotions.

When we first become Christians, our attitudes are not mature. We are glad that God loves us. But perhaps we do not really want to give him an important place in our lives. We may care more about our own feelings than we care about God.

As we become mature Christians, our attitudes change. We do not still care about our own feelings. Our only desire is to serve God. And our most important emotion is that we appreciate God’s great love.

Verses 11-12

The young woman is now showing the attitudes of a good wife. Like him, she wants to look at the plants. Like him, she wants to work in the country. Like him, she wants to know the state of the fruit plants. These are the attitudes of the perfect wife in Proverbs 31:10-31.

Of course, Solomon was not really a farmer. He was a king. But to Solomon, a king’s work seemed like a farmer’s work. Both kings and farmers look after the land. Of course, they do this in different ways. Farmers look after the soil and the plants. Kings look after the people who live on the land. And kings look after the borders of the country.

So perhaps the woman really means that they should make a royal visit to the country. They can see whether the people have problems. If so, the king may be able to help them. Christians look after other people because God loves us. We show our love to him by helping other people (Matthew 25:34-45).

Verse 13

The mandrake was a special plant. People used it to help women to have babies (Genesis 30:14-16). So we can see that Solomon’s bride now wants to become a mother.

She adds that she has many beautiful things to share with Solomon.

Jesus seems to refer to this verse in Matthew 13:52. He speaks about a man who has studied the Bible. This man has learned about God’s law. So he has learned to obey God. But this man has now learned from Jesus. The man has heard about God’s rule in heaven. And the man has gladly believed Jesus. Jesus said that such a man has many good things. They are both old and new things. It is as if the man has a store room. And the room is full of good things.

We should not merely obey God. We should also love God. Then we too will have many beautiful things for his delight.

Chapter 8

The young woman’s pleasure in her work for Solomon

The young woman

v1      I wish that you were like my brother.

My mother fed him at her breasts.

Then, if I found you outside, I would kiss you.

Nobody would say that it was wrong!

v2      I would lead you to my mother’s house.

She is the person who taught me.

I would give you wine with *spices.

And you could drink wine from my *pomegranates.

v3      Your left arm is under my head.

And your right arm holds me.

v4      Women of Jerusalem, make a promise to me.

Do not think about love until the right time.

Verse 1

Solomon said that the young woman was like a sister to him (5:1). In chapter 8, she copies this idea. She pretends that he is her brother. But her words may surprise us. She pretends that she is a young girl. And that Solomon is her little brother. She pretends that Solomon is younger than her.

At the time of the Bible, parents wanted to have very large families. For example, King David had 7 brothers. But the parents would not look after all the children constantly. Instead, they taught the older children to look after the younger children (1:6). So a little girl would look after a younger brother. This young woman has become Solomon’s wife. She believes that she must work hard in order to look after Solomon (Proverbs 31:10-31). But her many duties do not upset her. In fact, she is very happy. She is so happy that her work seems like a game. She speaks as if she is merely playing, like a little girl with her brother.

Her pleasure is immense. A little girl may kiss her younger brother as she plays. And so the young woman kisses Solomon. She is working hard. But whenever she has a spare moment, she expresses her love to Solomon.

In the book of Philippians, Paul had been working hard for God. Paul even called himself ‘a servant of Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 1:1). Now he was in prison because he was a Christian (Philippians 1:7). But Paul was not sad. He was still working for God continuously (Philippians 1:12-13). And he felt great joy (Philippians 1:4, Philippians 1:18, Philippians 2:2, Philippians 3:1, Philippians 4:4). He trusted God completely (Philippians 4:12-13). He loved God deeply (Philippians 3:8-11). He prayed often. And he always prayed with joy (Philippians 1:3-4).

Verses 2-3

The young woman continues to speak as if she is Solomon’s older sister. She would take her little brother back to her mother. This is a clever description. The young woman is reminding Solomon about 3:4. Then, she took Solomon to her mother. We think that the couple became engaged then.

The young woman prepares a beautiful drink for Solomon. Pomegranates are a special fruit. Solomon spoke often about his love of pomegranates (6:7, 7:12). The juice of pomegranates smells very beautiful.

In verse 3, the young woman repeats 2:6. Then he held her because she was too weak. Now she is strong. And she is working hard. But there is still time for their love. In fact, their love seems better than in chapter 2. Then she was not sure about him. And now she really enjoys his love.

Verse 4

She has said similar words before, in 2:7 and 3:5. But now her meaning seems different. Then she was not ready for Solomon. But now she knows his love. Perhaps she is advising the other women. They must not let emotions control their behaviour. They should decide carefully about marriage.

When we choose to love God, we are making a very important decision. God asks us to give our whole lives to him (Luke 14:25-30). Buy many people allow their emotions to guide them. Sometimes they are for God. And sometimes they are against God (Revelation 3:15-16). God wants us to trust him completely. So we must decide carefully. God promises wonderful things to the people who love him (1 John 5:2-5). But if we only want to satisfy our own desires, we do not really love God (Galatians 5:19-21).

Love and reality

The women of Jerusalem

v5      Who is this coming from the desert?

She is leaning on her lover.

The young woman

          I woke you under the apple tree.

It was the place where you were born.

It was the time when your mother struggled at your birth.

v6      Keep me near you like a *seal.

Keep the *seal on your arm

because love is as strong as death.

Strong love is as strong as death.

It quickly becomes like a flame.

And that flame becomes a great fire!

v7      If love were like fire, then even plentiful water could not put it out.

A river can be powerful.

But nothing can stop our love.

A man might offer all his wealth for love.

But someone else would not want this offer.

Verse 5

The young woman is joking that Solomon is like her younger brother. But the other women can see the reality. Really, she depends on Solomon. She has to lean on him. He is strong, and he supports her.

We have the same experience as we work for God. We may work very hard. But we are not working alone. We can only do God’s work because he supports us. We depend completely on him.

The couple are coming from the desert. They have been visiting the country that Solomon rules (7:11). They have seen the beautiful places (7:12). But now they are also visiting places where there are serious problems.

As we become mature Christians, God may prepare more difficult tasks for us (2 Corinthians 11:23-29). But God never sends us alone to do his work. God is always with us (Matthew 28:20).

The young woman continues her story about the children. But now her story seems more serious. She speaks about the struggle when a baby is born. Now she is not merely playing. Sometimes a girl must work hard when she looks after her baby brother. Sometimes the mother is too weak to help the girl. So the girl cannot play. She must stay with her younger brother continuously. The two must always be together.

The young woman needs to be with Solomon continuously. They must not leave each other. Their work is difficult. She depends on him.

Verse 6

People used a *seal instead of an envelope. The *seal would attach the papers firmly. The sender would place his own mark on the *seal. Nobody else would use the same mark. Solomon was the king. So his mark was very important. Solomon would place a *seal on each new law that he made. People knew that the law was genuine because of Solomon’s mark.

The young woman wants to be like a *seal. It is as if she wants to have Solomon’s mark.

The Bible also expresses such ideas elsewhere. It is as if God places a mark on his people (Galatians 6:17; Revelation 7:3-4). But it is as if the devil also places a mark on his own people (Revelation 13:16-17).

In Ephesians 1:13-14, God’s *seal means the gift of the Holy Spirit. God gives us the Holy Spirit to help us to know him better (Ephesians 1:17). God’s Holy Spirit will protect us through this life (Ephesians 6:10-18). The Holy Spirit helps Christians to love each other (Ephesians 4:3). The Holy Spirit teaches the Bible to us (Ephesians 6:17) and he helps us to pray (Ephesians 6:18).

Verse 6 becomes very serious. The young woman has been very happy with Solomon. But her attitudes are now mature. She realises that she will not always be happy. They may suffer terrible troubles. She cannot depend on her feelings. Her love for Solomon is not a mere emotion. She has decided to be his wife. Whatever happens, she will still love him. Nothing can ever change her mind.

Love is like death because her decision to marry was permanent. A dead person cannot return to life. And she can never return to the same state that she had before her marriage.

Love is like fire because love is very powerful. Her love for Solomon will not reduce because each day she will work to increase their love for each other. Her happy feelings will not last. But she realises that love is not merely happy feelings. Love is the decision that they made to look after each other. And even if they have troubles, that decision will become stronger. In fact, their troubles might even make their love stronger.

Our decision to love God should not be merely an emotion. Instead, we should make a firm decision always to trust him (James 1:6-8). We cannot forget him if we have problems. Instead, we should trust him more because of our troubles.

Verse 7

Water can put out a fire. But nothing can stop real love.

‘Nothing can separate us from Christ’s love. Trouble cannot separate us from Christ’s love. Pain cannot. People who oppose us cannot. Hunger cannot. Even if we are naked, there is no difference. Even danger and war cannot separate us from Christ’s love’ (Romans 8:35).

God loves us deeply (John 3:16). Jesus died for us because of his love for us (1 John 4:10). And we must trust God’s love (1 John 4:16).

Love is precious. It is more valuable than anything that we can own. But nobody can buy love. And nobody can buy God’s gifts (Acts 8:18-22). God’s love is a free gift (Isaiah 55:1-3).

A young sister

Friends

v8      We have a young sister.

And her breasts are still small.

A man might ask her to marry him.

But we will not know what to do.

v9      If she becomes like a wall,

we shall build her a silver *parapet.

If she becomes like a door,

we shall put *cedar boards round her.

Verses 8-9

This young sister is still a child. Once, Solomon’s wife was like this girl. Solomon’s wife was not always a mature woman (4:5). But now she is mature. And she has become the queen. So she is the model for this young girl. The girl’s relatives hope that the girl will also marry well. They want to work out how the girl can become a beautiful woman. Then perhaps she will be able to marry a great man like Solomon.

So the relatives have a plan for the girl. They will make her more beautiful. And they will improve her until she is perfect for marriage.

Silver is an expensive metal. And *cedar is an expensive wood. People did not use such materials in ordinary buildings. But they might use such precious materials for a palace.

God does not want Christians to be selfish. He offers his love to everyone. As Christians, we should tell everyone about God’s invitation (Revelation 22:17). And we should teach newer Christians how they can love God more.

Solomon’s wife makes him content

The young woman

v10    I am like a wall.

And my breasts have grown strong.

They are like the buildings that defend a wall.

I have made my husband content.

v11    Solomon had a *vineyard in Baal Hamon.

Men rented his *vineyard from him.

And each man brought fruit to him.

This fruit was worth 1000 pieces of silver.

v12    But my own *vineyard is mine to give.

The 1000 pieces of silver are for you, Solomon.

And 200 pieces of silver can pay the workers who look after the *vineyard.

Verse 10

At the start, perhaps we were not sure whether the young woman would ever become the queen. She was very young. Her attitudes were not mature.

But now we can see that she is a mature woman. And she is also a mother. Her husband is content because she has provided a child for him. The Bible does not actually mention the child. But we know about people’s attitudes at the time of Solomon. Solomon needed a son who would be the king after him. So, when the boy was born, Solomon would be content.

As our love for God increases, we do not want to satisfy our own desires. Instead, we gladly do whatever God wants us to do. We forget our own plans. His plans are much more important.

Verses 11-12

Many people produced fruit for Solomon. His palaces were large and he needed plenty of fruit. For most people, the production of fruit was just a business. They were working for the king. But they did not love the king.

The queen’s own *vineyard also produces fruit for Solomon. So she too is working for Solomon. But there is an important difference. She works for Solomon because she loves him. So she does not ask for any money. She gladly gives everything that she has to him.

The queen’s *vineyard is better than the other *vineyards. Their fruit is only worth 1000 pieces of silver. But the fruit from her *vineyard is worth 1200 pieces of silver. Her *vineyard is more successful because of her love. And she is generous with her workers.

Many people know God, but they do not really love him. Some people work for God merely in order to earn money. Perhaps they are selfish. Or perhaps they are not yet mature Christians (Philippians 1:15-17).

But people who really love God are glad to work for him. They do not care about money (Philippians 4:12). They only care about God’s plans.

A final word

Solomon

v13    Let me hear your voice from the garden, my *dear.

My friends are waiting to hear you speak.

The young woman

v14    Come with me, my lover.

Be like a *gazelle

or a young *deer on the mountains of *spice.

Verse 13

Solomon asked his queen to end the Song. Her words were special to him. And God also wants to hear our prayers (Luke 11:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Revelation 5:8).

Verse 14

The queen reminds Solomon about her earlier words in 2:17. At that time, she told him to go way. But now she invites him to join her.

Together, they will be like strong, graceful animals. They will climb the most wonderful mountains (4:8). They will enjoy the smells of beautiful plants (4:13-16). They will explore the country that Solomon rules (7:11). And they will learn to love each other even more deeply.

Jesus said, ‘Love God. Love him with all your heart. Love him with all your spirit. Love him with all your mind. Love him with all your strength… And love other people as much as you love yourself. No other laws are as important as these laws’ (Mark 12:30-31).

Word List

bee ~ a type of insect.

cedar ~ a type of tall tree, or wood from the cedar tree.

chariot ~ a vehicle with two wheels. A horse pulls it.

dear ~ someone that you love in a special way.

deer ~ an animal.

dew ~ small amounts of water that appear on the ground during the night.

dove ~ a bird.

fig ~ a fruit.

flock ~ a group of sheep, goats or other animals.

fragrance ~ a smell, usually good.

gazelle ~ an animal.

grape ~ a small soft fruit.

incense ~ a *spice that produces a sweet smell.

ivory ~ part of an elephant (called the ‘tusk’). It is hard and white. People use ivory to make beautiful things.

jewel ~ a precious stone.

leopard ~ a dangerous animal.

lotus ~ a flower.

mandrakes ~ a plant with white flowers; part of the plant can look like a person.

marble ~ a very hard material; it is similar to stone; it can have colours.

mare ~ a female horse.

myrrh ~ something that comes from trees; people use it in *incense.

necklace ~ precious stones that people wear round their neck.

palm ~ a tree.

parapet ~ a low wall at the edge of a roof.

perfume ~ a sweet smell.

pomegranate ~ a fruit which is the size of an orange.

raven ~ a black bird.

sandal ~ a shoe that is open at the top.

seal ~ a material, usually with a design. People use it to make an envelope, or something similar, safe.

Shulamite ~ the woman may be called the Shulamite because she comes from a town called Shulem.

shepherd ~ someone who looks after sheep.

shield ~ a piece of metal that a soldier uses to protect himself.

spice ~ a special plant that has a strong smell and taste. People use spices to make *incense and *perfume.

symbol ~ something that represents something else; a sign of an object; something that actually means something else.

testament ~ collection of books in the Bible.

thorns ~ plants with sharp points that can hurt.

twin ~ one of a pair – both come from one mother in one birth.

veil ~ a piece of cloth; a woman wears it over her face; it is possible to see through it.

vine ~ a plant with fruit; grapes (a small, soft fruit) grow on them.

vineyards ~ a place where *vines grow.

virgin ~ a woman who has never had sex.

waist ~ the middle part of the body.

watchman ~ someone who guards a city or town. He looks for thieves.

Book List

Christ in all the Scriptures by A.M. Hodgkin

Various writings and sermons by C.H. Spurgeon, J. Wesley, G. Whitefield and other important writers

Various articles from The Temple Bible Dictionary edited by Ewing & Thomson

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible by Jamieson, Fausset and Brown

Young’s Analytical Concordance

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance

Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon by B. Davidson

Bibles – NIV, KJV, TEV, RSV, occasional use of Hebrew text, and other translations

January 29, 2012 Posted by | Christianity / God | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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