In my last Bible study blog Kallah and Solomon had just enjoyed a time of marital intimacy. Now we find Kallah asleep on another occasion. Remember, the Song is not a linear sequence of events but rather a series of personal memories about various occasions in their marriage specifically chosen to illustrate and comment on aspects of marital intimacy.
2 I slept, but my heart was awake.
A sound! My beloved is knocking.
Here Kallah recalls a time when she had just fallen asleep or for some other reason was not soundly sleeping yet. Some interpreters suggest that the opening phrase indicates that she is recalling a dream, and that is certainly possible. In either case, Solomon awakens her.
“Open to me, my sister, my love,
my dove, my perfect one,
for my head is wet with dew,
my locks with the drops of the night.”
Her husband has been out and about and decides that he wants to visit her with obvious sexual advances in mind. In this culture, especially in the wealthy or royal lines, it would not be unusual for the husband and wife to sleep in separate chambers. We know from 1 Kings 7:8 and 9:24 that Solomon built a separate house for his new wife (Pharoah’s daughter). Given this cultural possibility, let’s assume this is the case here. Solomon has arrived “after hours” and knows Kallah is asleep. Yet, his words and actions speak of desire for her. Look at her initial response.
3 I had put off my garment;
how could I put it on?
I had bathed my feet;
how could I soil them?
She recalls her thoughts… you can almost hear the eye rolls. “I’m tired and was almost asleep. Really?”
4 My beloved put his hand to the latch,
and my heart was thrilled within me.
I feel there was a bit of a pause here. Kallah lay in bed for a few moments and her initial irritation began to soften and shift to feelings of desire as she thinks of her husband and hears his desire for her.
5 I arose to open to my beloved,
and my hands dripped with myrrh,
my fingers with liquid myrrh,
on the handles of the bolt.
6 I opened to my beloved,
but my beloved had turned and gone.
My soul failed me when he spoke.
I sought him, but found him not;
I called him, but he gave no answer.
Verse 5 speaks of the intensity of Kallah’s blossoming desire for her husband. “Opening” for him may very well be a play on words, and just as myrrh was indicative of sexual arousal specifically associated with Kallah in verse 1, it may indicate here her awareness of her own arousal as her hands had slipped across her private parts while contemplating getting out of bed. Remember, the Song is not intended to titillate, but to illustrate.
Kallah finds that she has waited too long. Her husband has left and she feels a bit of remorse (“My soul failed me when he spoke”). So she ventures out to look for him.
7 The watchmen found me
as they went about in the city;
they beat me, they bruised me,
they took away my veil,
those watchmen of the walls.
Kallah is assaulted and mistreated by the night watch. She is out in the middle of the night and they take advantage of her. The scene represents what is obviously inexcusable behavior of the men here. If this is a recounting of a dream this would be the nightmarish ending of it.
8 I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
if you find my beloved,
that you tell him
I am sick with love.
9 What is your beloved more than another beloved,
O most beautiful among women?
What is your beloved more than another beloved,
that you thus adjure us?
To end this sequence, we see Kallah asking her friends to help her find her husband. The friends respond by asking why she feels that he is so special. They may even be speaking rather derogatorially, perhaps in response to awareness that Kallah’s husband had been insensitive to her need for sleep. Perhaps knowing that he awakened her and her seeking him has led to her abuse at the hands of the watchmen, the her friends may be saying “Go on, girl. He’s not worth the trouble!” Kallah chooses to respond by speaking of Solomon admiringly, similar to the way he had described her in the previous chapter.
10 My beloved is radiant and ruddy,
distinguished among ten thousand.
11 His head is the finest gold;
his locks are wavy,
black as a raven.
12 His eyes are like doves
beside streams of water,
bathed in milk,
sitting beside a full pool.
13 His cheeks are like beds of spices,
mounds of sweet-smelling herbs.
His lips are lilies,
dripping liquid myrrh.
14 His arms are rods of gold,
set with jewels.
His body is polished ivory,
bedecked with sapphires.
15 His legs are alabaster columns,
set on bases of gold.
His appearance is like Lebanon,
choice as the cedars.
16 His mouth is most sweet,
and he is altogether desirable.
This is my beloved and this is my friend,
O daughters of Jerusalem.
This description serves to remind Kallah of how much she admires and loves Solomon, and also convinces her friends that he is indeed worthy of her admiration. They now offer to help her find him.
1 Where has your beloved gone,
O most beautiful among women?
Where has your beloved turned,
that we may seek him with you?
Kallah, in turn, explains to them that she has already found him and they have enjoyed their intimacy once again!
2 My beloved has gone down to his garden
to the beds of spices,
to graze in the gardens
and to gather lilies.
3 I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine;
he grazes among the lilies.
As I reflect on possible applications from this passage, a couple of things stand out. First, husbands (and wives as well), don’t be selfish jerks! I totally understand the idea of being “in the mood” at sometimes inopportune times, and there can be a place for middle of the night spontaneity, but don’t make it a general rule to regularly wake your spouse up for sex! We are called to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)
Second, the same principle applies from the perspective of the other spouse. I mentioned, regarding Kallah’s initial response that you could almost hear the eyeroll. This was her first reaction. However, she did allow herself to begin to think about and consider her husband’s desire for her and it turned into desire for him. Sometimes you have to be a bit deliberate and intentional about deciding to “open” to your mate, even if that wasn’t particularly on your mind at the moment.
Third, don’t give in to temptation to malign your spouse to others. When the “others” asked Kallah why her spouse was worth seeking, Kallah could have responded in frustration about how insensitive he had been. But instead she chose to sing his praises, and that resulted not only in her increase in appreciation for him, but also in his reputation increasing in the eyes of the “others”.
It should go without saying that the Philippians passage quoted above applies to the church as well. So I’m going to address a few other applications from this chapter of the Song in addition. When the husband approached his wife, her initial reaction was annoyance and avoidance before acceptance. We need to recognize these tendencies in ourselves with regard to promptings from the Holy Spirit. By acknowledging this tendency, we can become more aware of when we head down that track and deliberately choose to more quickly listen to and accept what God is asking us to do. Sometimes the Holy Spirit prompts us to do something that we don’t feel very confident or comfortable with. Yet if we will trust Him, He will carry through on His promise to always be with us. For example, Jesus says, in John 16:13-15, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
Another application comes from Kallah’s words about her husband to her friends. When they challenged his character, she simply chose to show them why he is to be valued. In essence, she became an apologist for the character of her husband. Merriam-Webster defines an apologist as “one who speaks or writes in defense of someone or something.” Peter challenged us to “… honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” (1 Peter 3:15-16) We need to always prepare our hearts and minds to give glory to Christ in all we do, and when people begin to malign him or question his goodness, in gentleness and respect offer a defense of His character and righteousness.