In my last Bible Study post, Kallah (the bride in the Song of Solomon) has just invited her husband (Solomon) to enjoy their sexual intimacy with her. Chapter 3 picks up now with a scene in which Kallah finds herself in bed alone and feeling a bit insecure or lonely
1 On my bed by night
I sought him whom my soul loves;
I sought him, but found him not.
2 I will rise now and go about the city,
in the streets and in the squares;
I will seek him whom my soul loves.
I sought him, but found him not.
Four times in these first four verses Kallah refers to her husband as “him whom my soul loves.” This expresses the deep connection that she feels for and with him. It is this deep feeling for him that produces an equally deep longing for him when he is absent. The reason for his absence is not specified here. She falls into a fitful sleep and dreams of rising and searching the city for him.
3 The watchmen found me
as they went about in the city.
“Have you seen him whom my soul loves?”
4 Scarcely had I passed them
when I found him whom my soul loves.
I held him, and would not let him go
until I had brought him into my mother’s house,
and into the chamber of her who conceived me.
She dreams of searching the city, asking various people as she goes if they’ve seen her husband. When she finally finds him, she holds tightly to him and takes him to her mother’s house and bedroom. This is the primary clue that this is likely a dream rather than an actual event. It is not likely that Kallah, possibly an Egyptian woman but even if she’s an Israelite, would bring the king into her parents’ home for “safekeeping”. Rather, it’s a vision of her desire to keep him near in a place that she associates with both safety and intimacy.
This dream expresses both a positive intense desire for her husband and a more negative insecurity regarding his time away from her. Kallah likely recognizes both aspects in herself and uses these intense feelings to issue her second warning to the “daughters of Jerusalem”.
5 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.
The first instance of this admonition was in Song of Songs 2:7, expressed by Kallah right after or during a time of sexual intimacy with her husband. The admonition warned young women not to engage in sexual intimacy outside of marriage. Similarly, the warning this time suggests that sexual intimacy produces very intense emotions and only the commitments within a Godly marriage can rightly deal with them.
Now Kallah’s dream, or recollections as she lies alone, turn to her wedding day.
6 What is that coming up from the wilderness
like columns of smoke,
perfumed with myrrh and frankincense,
with all the fragrant powders of a merchant?
7 Behold, it is the litter of Solomon!
Around it are sixty mighty men,
some of the mighty men of Israel,
8 all of them wearing swords
and expert in war,
each with his sword at his thigh,
against terror by night.
9 King Solomon made himself a carriage
from the wood of Lebanon.
10 He made its posts of silver,
its back of gold, its seat of purple;
its interior was inlaid with love
by the daughters of Jerusalem.
11 Go out, O daughters of Zion,
and look upon King Solomon,
with the crown with which his mother crowned him
on the day of his wedding,
on the day of the gladness of his heart.
While Kallah remembers all the finery that accompanied Solomon in his procession on their wedding day, the most significant phrase in this passage is the last one – “on the day of the gladness of his heart.” She is encouraging the daughters of Zion to recognize that Solomon is happy marrying her. She is using this memory to bolster her confidence in her husband’s love for her during her feelings of loneliness.
There are two major themes that come out of this chapter of Solomon’s Song – the intensity of emotions that can occur in a marital relationship, and a method to deal with those emotions. Much has been researched and written about the hormone Oxytocin, which is released, in both women and men, during intimate encounters. It has the benefit of creating intense bonding feelings with our mate, and also serves to help focus those feelings on our mate and away from others. This can lead to the types of feelings Kallah experienced. She had such a deep longing for her husband and simultaneous fears of his absence. Thus the admonition to the daughters of Jerusalem not to engage in intimacy until the proper time because of the intensity and focus of the resulting emotions. The more we engage in intimacy with our spouse, the more intense the effects of Oxytocin and the more intense our emotional ups and downs are likely to be. Conversely, if we don’t engage intimately, those effects will be diminished to the point of apathy toward our mate.
Kallah utilized a very good method to counteract her own feelings of loneliness during her husband’s absence. She recalled their wedding day. This day, for them, was a day of happiness and rejoicing in which they both pledged their love for each other. She remembered the vows they had taken and used these memories to bolster her confidence in her husband’s love for her. This reminds me of that scene from The Sound of Music in which the main character (Maria) comforts the fears of the children by having them remember “their favorite things“.
These same principles have correlations in our relationship with God. The more time we spend with him (in church, in reading the Bible, in prayer, in fellowship with other believers) the more we fall in love with Him. It’s almost as if there is a spiritual Oxytocin, which I believe is simply the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. If you don’t do these things, the Spirit’s influence in your life will be diminished, or quenched (see 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22). Quenching the Spirit’s influence can lead to indifference and apathy in your relationship with God.
However, the more we engage with God, the more intense our feelings toward Him will become. We will love Him more, but we will also feel more emotion when we feel He isn’t paying us the kind of attention we think He should. This leads me to suggest Kallah’s solution. Remember. Remember who God is and what He has done. This is why the Bible is so full of encouragements to recall what God has done in the past. It also has many examples of how to turn our thoughts back to a right direction. Consider the following Psalm 13 written by David.
1 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
3 Consider and answer me, O LORD my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
4 lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the LORD,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
David is at a very low point in his life. He is being pursued by Saul in Saul’s effort to kill him. In the midst of this he asks God four times a “how long” question. But he ultimately ends this direction of thinking by remembering God’s salvation and expressing confidence that He will deal with him graciously.
This is a pattern set many times in the Psalms and one we would do well to remember. Remember who God is and what He has done. This can and should bolster your confidence in Him for the future.