Bible Book Studies: Song of Songs 1:7-14

In the previous study, we were introduced to Kallah through her musings at the banquet table. We also saw how the author uses the “others” to introduce new topics or allow the characters further explanation and dialogue. Now, after Kallah has been reflecting on her own desires for her husband and her somewhat insecurity with her own self-image, she addresses her husband, possibly during a break in the social gathering in which they find themselves.

The Song

SHE
7  Tell me, you whom my soul loves,
where you pasture your flock,
where you make it lie down at noon;
for why should I be like one who veils herself
beside the flocks of your companions?

Kallah asks Solomon where he pastures his flock. This passage has caused some to interpret the Song as depicting the love between a shepherd and shepherdess. However, I contend that the language is still consistent with a poem highly filled with imagery and metaphors. In verse 3 Kallah stated “your anointing oils are fragrant; your name is oil poured out; therefore virgins love you,” indicating that her Beloved is one who is well off (uses anointing oils), is famous (your name is…), and desired by many (virgins love you). This is not a likely position for the average shepherd of the day to find himself.

She addresses Solomon as a shepherd. It is not uncommon in Scripture for the king to be identified as a shepherd. She asks him where he will make his flock lie down at noon, indicating that she would like to “meet him for lunch”. “Why should I be like one who veils herself beside the flocks of your companions?” indicates that she wants the freedom to be able to meet with him mid-day.

HE
8  If you do not know,
O most beautiful among women,
follow in the tracks of the flock,
and pasture your young goats
beside the shepherds’ tents.

Solomon’s answer to her is in keeping with the metaphor she has begun. He essentially invites her to follow along with him for the day and join him during his routine. He called her “most beautiful among women” and then continues with his adoring praise of her.

HE
9  I compare you, my love,
to a mare among Pharaoh’s chariots.
10  Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments,
your neck with strings of jewels.

No, he did not call Kallah a horse. Well, he did, kind of. This is intended as a high compliment to her. He compares her to one of the horses that would pull Pharaoh’s chariots. First of all, this comparison lends possible credence to Kallah’s identity as Pharaoh’s daughter (the one Solomon married in 1 Kings 3:1). Second, the high compliment here is that Pharaoh’s chariot would only be pulled by he finest of horses, and that horse would be beautifully decorated with ornaments of various sorts. So, in essence, Solomon tells her that she is the finest daughter of Pharaoh and her jewels are a constant reminder to him of how fortunate he is to have her as his wife. The “others” pick up on this compliment and say

OTHERS
11  We will make for you ornaments of gold,
studded with silver.

They encourage Kallah to take pride in her appearance and offer to help her “decorate” herself for her husband’s pleasure.

Now we return to the banquet, or some other social or official setting in which Kallah is likely sitting off to the side observing Solomon and thinking more about her love for him.

SHE
12  While the king was on his couch,
my nard gave forth its fragrance.
13  My beloved is to me a sachet of myrrh
that lies between my breasts.
14  My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms
in the vineyards of Engedi.

Kallah has used nard, an expensive oil, as a body perfume and she notices its scent. She thinks about it wafting over to her husband as and invitation for intimacy and it makes her draw two analogies about him. She says first that he “is … a sachet of myrrh … between my breasts.” Myrrh is another fragrant oil used as perfume and the sachet would be a small cloth packet/container which would be infused with the oil and worn in necklace form as a nighttime fragrance which would then remain as a scent through the next day.  She likens Solomon to this sachet, indicating that their nighttime intimacy and sleep together serves as a comfort and reminder to her throughout the day.

Her second analogy references “henna blossoms in the vineyards of Engedi.” Engedi is a well-known oasis near the western shore of the Dead Sea in Israel. It was a place of shade, water, refreshment, and even cultivation. The Henna plant has a very delicate flower. By mixing these two items, Kallah is imagining a picture of relaxing in the cool pools of the oasis with delicate flowers in her hair – in other words a scene of relaxed bliss. This is what she thinks of her husband. He is a source of pleasure, relaxation, and refreshment to her.

The Marriage

In this first scene of interaction between Solomon and Kallah we see several things which we can learn from for our own marriages. First, they simply have a deep appreciation for each other. Solomon praises Kallah’s beauty and value to him, and Kallah sees Solomon as a comforting source of refreshment to her. This is a view that we often have of our spouse when we’re dating or early in our relationship, but we can get so “comfortable” with them that we may begin to take them for granted. Comfort is not a bad thing, but it is good to verbally and mentally keep those original attractions alive, reminding ourselves of what we value in each other.

Second, this couple shares a sense of playfulness. In verses 7 and 8 they share a somewhat playful exchange (probably to be discreet) about planning a noon rendezvous. They both contribute to a running metaphor of being shepherds seeking each other during their day’s wanderings. We can take away from this the value of humor and pet names/small talk that we can use with our spouse. We can also learn from this couple about ways to speak to each other using words which we have developed that have special meaning (codes, if you will) that allow us to convey our desire and intimate plans with one another without being too openly crass or obvious about it. Make it a game to come up with ways to entice your spouse toward playfulness in creative and subtle (or not-so-subtle) ways!

The Church

This passage shows how much Solomon and Kallah value each other. From the standpoint of our relationship with God (as his “bride”), we already know how much He values us. He created us and desires a personal relationship with us. He came to this earth and became one of us (Jesus) and died on the cross to pay the penalty that our sin demands of us. Romans 5:8 says “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This means that God chose to love us and give himself for us whether we accept that gift from Him or not. So that brings me to our response.

Imagine a marriage in which the husband (or wife) gives everything they have for the other, and the other refuses to respond. A gift like that requires a grateful response or it ends in hurtful rejection. How grateful are you to the God of the universe? Do you desire Him like Kallah desired Solomon? Do you eagerly seek ways to engage intimately with Him (through prayer, studying His Word, and fellowshipping with other like-minded believers)? Thank God right now for His love for you and if you haven’t yet, accept his gift of eternity spent with Him in heaven.

 

 

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