Unfortunately, I’ve let myself get so busy with other things that I haven’t written anything here lately. If you missed the last installment on my study of the Song of Solomon, you can view it here.
After the opening scenes with Kallah sitting apart from Solomon during a social gathering, musing a bit on her love for him and sneaking a quick teasing conversation with him during a break, we finally enter a scene in which she and her husband are alone and able to openly express their love for one another. I’m looking at the end of Chapter 1 and the entirety of Chapter 2. For discussion purposes, I’ve broken down the text into three “scenes”. If you’ll recall from my explanation of my interpretive stance at the beginning of this study, the Song is not a linear story but rather a series of flashbacks or memories of various scenes from the couples’ marriage. Solomon speaks first in this set of memories.
15 Behold, you are beautiful, my love;
behold, you are beautiful;
your eyes are doves.
Solomon begins, in this private intimate setting, with an expression of his admiration for his wife’s beauty. Notice that he begins with admiration for her eyes. It is a popular saying that the eyes are a window into the soul. An article in Psychology Today elaborates on this sentiment, explaining how much information about a person’s state of mind can be gleaned by simply observing their eyes. This is consistent with Jesus’ teaching from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:22-23 where he says “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” In context, these verses follow Jesus’ statement of “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” When Solomon looks into Kallah’s eyes, he likely sees her admiration and love for him looking back at him, as if he were seeing in a mirror the reflection of his love for her.
He also compares her eyes to doves. While it keeps with the overall pastoral imagery of the entire Song, doves also are often used to represent the notion of peace. Solomon sees in Kallah’s eyes and senses in her heart feelings of peace and contentment. Kallah responds to Solomon’s expression of love with her own.
16 Behold, you are beautiful, my beloved, truly delightful.
Our couch is green;
17 the beams of our house are cedar;
our rafters are pine.
She responds in kind, telling Solomon that he is beautiful and delightful to her. However, she then turns her attention to her surroundings, describing their bedroom. Her descriptions of their bed and ceiling invoke images of a pastoral scene. Some have suggested that her description actually indicates a romantic rendezvous with her husband outdoors. That is possible, and later in the Song we’ll see that they likely had some romance in beautiful outdoor settings. However, I think this particular scene takes place in their bedroom and she is simply describing the decorative material Solomon used to decorate the room. In 1 Kings 7:1-12 we read about the costly and decorative material Solomon used for his own palace and governmental buildings. It says “He built the House of the Forest of Lebanon. … It was built on four rows of cedar pillars, with cedar beams on the pillars… There were window frames in three rows… And he made the Hall of Pillars; … And he made the Hall of the Throne where he was to pronounce judgment, even the Hall of Judgment. It was finished with cedar from floor to rafters. His own house where he was to dwell, in the other court back of the hall, was of like workmanship. Solomon also made a house like this hall for Pharaoh’s daughter whom he had taken in marriage.” Kallah’s descriptions of the forest materials comprising her surroundings could very well be in reference to the rooms in Solomon’s house.
The scene continues with an assertion by Kallah.
1 I am a rose of Sharon,
a lily of the valleys.
2 As a lily among brambles,
so is my love among the young women.
She likens herself to a flower of a plain (Sharon) in Israel. Whether this is a self-assessment of her beauty or her plainness, I don’t know. But Solomon immediately elevates her self-image by saying that her “flower” is far superior to any other women around. She is like a flower among thorns in his eyes.
Kallah returns a similar compliment to Solomon.
3 As an apple tree among the trees of the forest,
so is my beloved among the young men.
With great delight I sat in his shadow,
and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
4 He brought me to the banqueting house,
and his banner over me was love.
Kallah says that Solomon is like an apple tree among the trees of the forest. Imagine walking through a forest (typically of non-fruit-bearing trees) and coming upon a tree laden with apples. It is unique and provides welcome nourishment and refreshment to a weary traveler. This is how Kallah sees her husband.
Her mind then shifts directions and she recalls how Solomon has publicly demonstrated how he cherishes her. She thinks back (possibly even to the banquet she attended in Chapter 1) and recalls how his love for her is evident to the people around her.
Now she continues her amorous recollections, reviving the metaphor of the apple tree, but with definite additional sexual overtones.
5 Sustain me with raisins;
refresh me with apples,
for I am sick with love.
6 His left hand is under my head,
and his right hand embraces me!
Some writers attribute these phrases (and verse 3 above) with specific sexual practices. I’m not going to go there except to say that Kallah is excited and interested in what she’s reminiscing of. Notice the use of the exclamation mark in this English translation. She’s “sick with love”, e.g. she’s very excited about what’s going on! This prompts her, though, to give the following warning.
7 I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
by the gazelles or the does of the field,
that you not stir up or awaken love
until it pleases.
This same phrase occurs three other times in the Song. It is a refrain, addressed to the readers as a warning to “not stir up or awaken love until it pleases.” It is a warning that sexual intimacy is to be kept for its appointed place and time within the context of marriage. The calling upon the gazelles or does to act as witnesses is in keeping with the pastoral setting, using them to represent witnesses of blessing to the natural sexual attraction and activity a husband and wife enjoy together.
Finally, we turn to the third scene that Kallah remembers.
8 The voice of my beloved!
Behold, he comes,
leaping over the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
9 My beloved is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Behold, there he stands
behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
looking through the lattice.
She remembers the boyish (but not childish) exuberance with which Solomon engages with her. He excitedly comes to her, he loves to look at her, and his energy shows when he wants to make love to her. She remembers here one specific time that Solomon invited her to a getaway in the countryside.
SHE (Quoting HE)
10 My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
and come away,
11 for behold, the winter is past;
the rain is over and gone.
12 The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
is heard in our land.
13 The fig tree ripens its figs,
and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
and come away.
Solomon paints a picture of the coming springtime, using the sensual descriptors as a verbal aphrodisiac to entice his lover into joining him. The descriptions may be just of the countryside, but they may also have underlying sensual or sexual connotations as well. The point, though, is simply that he uses beautiful language (not crass innuendo) to express his desire for spending time with her.
SHE (Quoting HE)
14 O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,
in the crannies of the cliff,
let me see your face,
let me hear your voice,
for your voice is sweet,
and your face is lovely.
15 Catch the foxes for us,
the little foxes
that spoil the vineyards,
for our vineyards are in blossom.”
Solomon turns from a description of the beauty of the countryside to a description of Kallah. He adores her face and her voice. However, he also recognizes that Kallah is easily distracted in their intimate times together. He asks her to “catch the foxes… that spoil the vineyards.” This is a way of asking her to set aside those things which may distract her and focus on their time together.
16 My beloved is mine, and I am his;
he grazes among the lilies.
17 Until the day breathes
and the shadows flee,
turn, my beloved, be like a gazelle
or a young stag on cleft mountains.
Kallah acknowledges that she is, indeed, focused on their time together and invites her husband to enjoy his bride.
The scenes depicted in this text have been evocative of sensual, even sexual, interactions between Kallah and Solomon. With that in mind, I want to emphasize four things that I think we should learn from their example to apply to our marriages.
First, the language used by this couple is very descriptive and romantic, but not explicit or crass. It takes effort to be creative with your language, but that effort is a way to demonstrate care, concern, and love. I realize that for some, words are just words, but in our society, we have gotten used to too much profane, uncreative language when we should be nurturing with our mate. That’s not to say that you can’t be playful in your talk, but I encourage you to talk with each other about how you talk to each other and look for ways for creativity to thrive.
Second, the metaphors that Solomon and Kallah use to talk about their enjoyment of each other invoke all of the senses. Sex and romance should be sensual, utilizing all of the senses to foster play and enjoyment.
Third, this couple shows enthusiasm about being with each other. Don’t let your marriage lose the excitement that you once had with each other. Make plans or be spontaneous, but do so with excitement and exuberance!
Fourth, marriage allows for and is designed for exclusivity with your spouse. Solomon and Kallah express that they see each other as being uniquely theirs. In other words, they are beyond compare with anyone else because they recognize that they are God’s gift to each other. They do not share this gift with anyone else.
I want to apply these same principles to the body of Christ. First, our language needs to be proper. There are several facets to this. The obvious would be not being vulgar in our speech because we are to be different than the world. Don’t let yourself be drawn into using the same kinds of phrases that people in the world use. There should be a distinction between you and the world. That doesn’t mean, though, that we should sound “churchy”. Our choice of words about our faith should not be so foreign to non-believers that they can’t understand what we’re talking about. We might also consider reserving some words just for expressions of our faith. For example, I heard a pastor recently say that he reserves the word “awesome” just to describe God and His work. I love that idea!
The second concept I discussed above was in regard to sensuality. It may seem strange to refer to the church as sensual, but I do think we need to think more about how senses can be used to enhance our worship and our expression of faith. I’m thinking more along the lines of quality. As Christians, we should strive to turn out the very best products that we can. I think of Chick Fil-a and their reputation as a Christian company, yet they consistently produce an exceptional product as well. Christian movies, books, companies, music… you name it. These all appeal to various senses (e.g. sensuality) and they should be enticing and inviting. Be sensual without sin!
Third, we should be enthusiastic about our faith. Peter admonished us (1 Peter 3:15) to “always [be] prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” I think our enthusiasm for church and our faith should entice people to ask us what we’re so excited about. Also, when we are excited about something, we are eager to talk about it and this is what we should be doing with our faith in Jesus!
Finally, our faith is exclusive. This is in the sense that we have no other God (the first commandment). We worship God alone and willingly set aside any idols (things which we allow to replace God). Our faith is also exclusive in the sense that it is the only way to heaven. Again Peter, in a sermon recorded in Acts 4:12, said “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” That name is Jesus. Jesus himself said, in John 14:6, that “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He is EXCLUSIVELY the way that we are able to spend our eternity with God.