A. The maiden describes a restoration of their love relationship.
1. (1) A further question from the Daughters of Jerusalem.
Where has your beloved gone,
O fairest among women?
Where has your beloved turned aside,
That we may seek him with you?
a. Where has your beloved gone, O fairest among women? Continuing the thought from the previous chapter, it is difficult to tell if these on looking friends are supporting the maiden or being sarcastic towards her.
b. Where has your beloved turned aside, that we may seek him with you? More important than the tone of the question in the previous line was this second question. After hearing the impressive description of the character and appearance of the beloved, the Daughters of Jerusalem wanted to know where the beloved was, and if they could help her locate him.
2. (2-3) The maiden describes her relationship to her beloved man.
My beloved has gone to his garden,
To the beds of spices,
To feed his flock in the gardens,
And to gather lilies.
I am my beloved's,
And my beloved is mine.
He feeds his flock among the lilies.
a. My beloved has gone to his garden, to the beds of spices: Previously in the Song of Solomon (Song of Solomon 4:12, 4:16, and 5:1) the image of the garden was used to represent the sexuality of the maiden.
i. Yet here that image seems out of place; if the beloved had gone to his garden, then why did it seem that the maiden was still searching for him? It seems best to regard this as a simple reference to a literal garden. The maiden remembered that her beloved would be a familiar outdoor place to feed is flock in the gardens.
ii. Interestingly, the maiden's previous search through the city accomplished nothing and in fact only harmed her. Yet when she (in response to the questions from the Daughters of Jerusalem) thought about how wonderful her beloved was and where he might be, she was able to figure it out.
iii. "The bride's response to the friends' inquiry assures them that she has not really lost him. The anxiety in her dream was without foundation in reality." (Kinlaw)
iv. Her initial reaction to their relationship problems was entirely feeling-based with little or not thought behind the reaction. When she began to think through the fundamentals of her relationship (Who is my beloved? Where can I find him?), things began to make sense.
v. This reminds us that for success in a Christian marriage, we must think and understand. The world relies upon mistaken ideas of romantic love and feelings to make marriage work, and never really makes a person think and understand about marriage.
b. To feed his flock in the gardens, and to gather lilies: When the maiden thought about where her beloved would be, she remembered that he would be doing his work (to feed his flock) and looking for ways to show his love to her (to gather lilies).
i. We can say that the maiden understood some basic things that contributed to the restoration of relationship.
· She knew where he had gone - to his favorite (literal) garden.
· She knew that though they were separated, they still belonged to each other.
· She knew her husband was like a gentle shepherd, who would want to restore the relationship.
c. I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine: The remembrance of these things - who her beloved is, where she is, and what he would be doing - filled the maiden with a renewed sense of their connection and oneness with each other.
i. This is where she wanted to be; this is opposite to the attitude of self-indulgence and laziness shown in the first part of Song of Solomon 5. She is back where she wanted to be, but she did not get there by focusing on her own feelings; rather by thinking and understanding. Now feelings came into the picture, and in a wonderful way.
ii. I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine is also an important description of the idea of oneness. The maiden sensed and valued their spiritual, emotional, physical, and life connection. From the Apostle Paul's strong and repeated exhortations of this principle of oneness to husbands (and from life experience), one might reasonably understand that women tend to sense and value oneness in marriage by instinct; men have to learn to sense and value it.
iii. "The ability of a couple to succeed in their marriage is equal to the ability of that couple to forgive and accept forgiveness. . . . When this willingness on the part of both becomes a habit, then the bubble of romance that began their relationship will become a diamond that will last forever." (Glickman)
iv. In Song of Solomon 2:16 the maiden said: My beloved is mine, and I am his. Here she says, I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine. Some people note that in the first the emphasis is on what belongs to her; in the second the emphasis is on whom she belongs to. Perhaps she found it was a more wonderful thing for her to belong to him than for her to "have" him.
B. Enjoyment of the restored relationship.
1. (4-7) The beloved describes the physical appearance of his maiden.
O my love, you are as beautiful as Tirzah,
Lovely as Jerusalem,
Awesome as an army with banners!
Turn your eyes away from me,
For they have overcome me.
Your hair is like a flock of goats
Going down from Gilead.
Your teeth are like a flock of sheep
Which have come up from the washing;
Every one bears twins,
And none is barren among them.
Like a piece of pomegranate
Are your temples behind your veil.
a. O my love: These are the words of the beloved to the maiden. They are together again, and the warmth of their restored relationship is evident in this section.
b. You are as beautiful as Tizrah, lovely as Jerusalem, awesome as an army with banners! The beloved compared the beauty and stature of the maiden to noble and beautiful cities (Tizrah and Jerusalem). She was as impressive as an army with banners, ready for battle.
i. "Tirzah was an ancient Canaanite center that served as the capital of the northern kingdom before Omri (c. 879 b.c.) established Samaria as the capital. This reference is a strong indication of an early date for the origin of the Song." (Kinlaw)
ii. "Tirzah was a city in the tribe of Ephraim, (Joshua 12:24,) and the capital of that district. It appears to have been beautiful in itself, and beautifully situated, for Jeroboam made it his residence before Samaria was built; and it seems to have been the ordinary residence of the kings of Israel, 1 Kings 14:17; 15:21; 16:6. Its name signifies beautiful or delightful." (Clarke)
iii. There is not a hint of bitterness or unforgiveness on the part of the beloved. There had been a disruption of their relationship (shown in Song of Solomon 5:2-8) that was largely her fault. Yet the offended party in this relationship was quick to forgive and restore relationship.
c. Turn your eyes away from me, for they have overcome me: This was high praise, expressed with poetic beauty. "Look away - I am so excited by the beauty of your eyes that I can't take it!"
i. "Her eyes have been noted as very beautiful and seductive several times already (Song of Solomon 1:15; 4:1, 9), and the motif is carried out here." (Carr)
ii. "But it is otherwise in Christ: majesty and love, even unto ravishment, meet in his holy heart. If the Church be sick of love toward him, she should know that he is overcome with love towards her, and that there is no love lost betwixt them." (Trapp)
iii. Spurgeon related Song of Solomon 6:5 to Jesus and the church, noting that Jesus is overcome with love when He looks upon the church. This was true before the incarnation, as He walked this earth, and now that He has ascended into heaven.
· The eyes that show repentance overcome Him.
· The eyes that mourn over sin overcome Him.
· The eyes that look to Jesus for salvation overcome Him.
· The eyes that long for assurance of salvation overcome Him.
· The eyes that trust Him and look to Him for all provision overcome Him.
· They eyes of prayer overcome Him.
d. Your hair is like a flock of goats . . . : The beloved continued to describe the maiden, using many of the same images previously used in Song of Solomon 4:1-5. When she returned to him, he told her the same kind of things he told her on their wedding night. It was his way of saying, "I love you and value you just as much now as then."
i. Yet, he avoided description of her more sensual physical features - lips, breasts (as he had described), or hips (as he will later describe). He wanted to avoid the idea that the only reason he wanted to make up with her was to make her willing for sex. This was both good and wise of the beloved.
ii. At the same time in the following verses he added some compliments that were good for the sake of reconciliation, reminding her how favorably she compared to others.
2. (8-10) The beloved describes his maiden as compared to other women.
There are sixty queens
And eighty concubines,
And virgins without number.
My dove, my perfect one,
Is the only one,
The only one of her mother,
The favorite of the one who bore her.
The daughters saw her
And called her blessed,
The queens and the concubines,
And they praised her.
Who is she who looks forth as the morning,
Fair as the moon,
Clear as the sun,
Awesome as an army with banners?
a. There are sixty queens and eighty concubines, and virgins without number. My dove, my perfect one, is the only one: This goes beyond the description of the maiden's beauty recorded in the previous verse. Here he praises the maiden in comparison to other women. It is important - even vital - for a wife to feel not only beautiful, but preferred above others in the eyes of her husband.
i. "He did not go off in a dream world, feel sorry for himself, and wish he had married someone else. Such an attitude, in fact, would only have compounded the problem. Quite the opposite, he very creatively and compassionately assured her of his forgiveness. She was still the girl he married, and he was thankful for her." (Glickman)
b. Queens . . . concubines . . . virgins: The mention of these other women makes us wonder if Solomon wrote this when he had more than one wife (he eventually had 700 wives and 300 concubines according to 1 Kings 11:3).
i. The beauty and intensity of the romantic love described in the Song of Solomon does not seem to come from a man who actually romanced and loved many woman (and they came to ruin him spiritually according to 1 Kings 11:1-4). There are a few possible explanations for this problem:
· Solomon wrote this as a young man on the occasion of his first love, his true love. Of all the 700 wives, one had to be first, and the maiden of the Song of Solomon was this one. If this is true, then the reference to the queens, concubines, and virgins was simply theoretical and does not describe women that actually belonged Solomon.
· Solomon wrote this as a middle-aged man with many wives and concubines (though perhaps somewhat early in the count), meaning that he wrote this about an ideal that he did not live or benefit from. If this is true, then the reference to the queens, concubines, and virgins is literal.
· Solomon wrote this as a man late in life, having tasted the good and ideal but wasting the vast majority of his life upon foolish romances and sexual liaisons; he wrote this remembering the ideal and attempting to promote it to others. If this is true, then the reference to the queens, concubines, and virgins is theoretical.
ii. "The relatively small numbers, sixty and eighty, are supposed by Delitzsch to indicate this episode took place early in Solomon's reign before his harem grew to its fullest number. More probably, no particular harem is being considered. Note the text does not say 'Solomon has' or 'I have', but it is a simple declaration: There are . . . , and my beloved 'is unique'." (Carr)
c. The only one of her mother, the favorite of the one who bore her: This statement is difficult to understand; the only one should probably be understood as not meaning that she had no siblings (brothers and sisters seem to be indicated in Song of Solomon 8:8). Instead it emphasizes her preferred and favorite status.
d. The daughters saw her and called her blessed, the queens and concubines, and they praised her: The greatness and beauty of the maiden was evident not only to the beloved, but also to her woman companions (and theoretical rivals).
i. "One of the best ways to praise someone is to mention the nice things other people have said about that person." (Glickman)
e. Fair as the moon, clear as the sun, awesome as an army with banners: This high and poetic praise assured the maiden that her relationship with her beloved was truly reconciled. There was no lingering bitterness or withheld forgiveness.
i. He "did not fall prey to the destructiveness of wounded pride. He did not act in petty revenge; he did not determine to 'get back' at his wife. He thought only of assuring her of his forgiveness." (Glickman)
ii. "Solomon showed us a better way. He did not make Shulamith pay for her insensitivity. He worked on the problem, not on the person. He wanted reconciliation, not retaliation." (Estes)
iii. Spurgeon considered how the church was also awesome as an army with banners, emphasizing the idea of the banner and how the church should be like an army bearing banners.
· Banners were carried for distinction, so that the army could be clearly identified.
· Banners were carried for discipline, so that the army could be organized in its work.
· Banners were carried as a sign of activity, indicating that something was about to happen.
· Banners were carried as a sign of confidence, willing to engage the enemy.
3. (11-12) The maiden describes her meeting with the beloved.
I went down to the garden of nuts
To see the verdure of the valley,
To see whether the vine had budded
And the pomegranates had bloomed.
Before I was even aware,
My soul had made me
As the chariots of my noble people.
a. I went down to the garden: Presumably, this is where the beloved was (Song of Solomon 6:2). She happily remembered their reuniting.
i. Watchman Nee gives an example of over-spiritualization here: "Nuts - with their hard shells which require careful cracking before the delicious and nourishing interiors can be extracted - may be likened to the Word of God, which yields its soul-satisfying meats only to those who diligently and with prayer seek to rightly divide the word of truth."
b. To see the verdure of the valley, to see whether the vine had budded: She went to see and to enjoy the coming of spring. Springtime was associated (perhaps both literally and symbolically) with the presence and goodness of their love (Song of Solomon 2:10-13). Their relationship was in springtime again.
i. "Guilt had turned her eyes inward, but he brought them outward. She went down to the garden in self-conscious guilt in hope of renewal, and she was met with praise which turned her eyes from herself to him, and once to him, back to herself through eyes of forgiveness." (Glickman)
c. Before I was even aware, my soul had made me as the chariots of my noble people: The reuniting of their relationship, the return of springtime for their love, was so exhilarating to her that the maiden felt that her soul was as a free and as fast as a chariot.
i. The goodness and depth of their relationship really had been restored. Problems of the past didn't mean that their future was doomed or even hindered. Couples should be confident in faith, knowing that God can restore and bring springtime to troubled relationships.
ii. The following verse implies that perhaps the maiden was actually in a moving chariot; perhaps the prestigious chariot of her beloved, Solomon. The double-meaning of this would strengthen the idea of a complete restoration of relationship, as he honored his maiden with this prestigious luxury. The Revised Standard Version translates with this idea: Before I was aware, my fancy set me in a chariot beside my prince.
4. (13a) The Daughters of Jerusalem appeal to the maiden.
Return, return, O Shulamite;
Return, return, that we may look upon you!
a. Return, return, O Shulamite: The words seem to have spoken by the Daughters of Jerusalem (or perhaps by the beloved and his friends). They appealed to the maiden who seems to be swept away as in a chariot (Song of Solomon 6:12), perhaps both literally and figuratively.
i. This is the only verse in the Song of Solomon where the name Shulamite is used. It may indicate someone from the Galilean village of Shunam; or the name may also simply be the feminine form of the name Solomon, indicating their close unity.
ii. "In the original language in which this song was written, 'Shulamith' was simply the feminine form of the name Solomon, the name of the king. It would be like 'Don and Donna' in our language. The name would thus mean that she was the feminine counterpart of Solomon, his opposite number." (Glickman)
b. Return, return, that we may look upon you! The idea is of the speakers calling out to a departing chariot. They wanted the maiden to return so that they might continue enjoying her beauty and goodness, now made more beautiful because of the lovingly restored relationship she enjoyed.
5. (13b) The response of the maiden to the Daughters of Jerusalem.
What would you see in the Shulamite—
As it were, the dance of the two camps?
a. What would you see in the Shulamite: The response of the maiden to the plea of the Daughters of Jerusalem shows she has a fundamental humility. She seemed surprised at the attention she received.
i. Some believe that this half-verse is from the beloved, speaking to the Daughters of Jerusalem, and this is possible. "The king remarks in fact that they loved to gaze upon her as intensely as if they were looking upon a festive dance." (Glickman)
b. As it were, the dance of the two camps? This statement is difficult to understand. Perhaps it refers to a literal dance, as if the maiden was dancing and calling out to the on looking Daughters of Jerusalem. Others emphasize the idea of two camps and think it refers to the internal battle of the soul, and is a mention of the inner battles the maiden has fought and is fighting.
i. "Suggestions of some sort of sword dance or celebration of bloody military victory seem out of place here." (Carr)
ii. "In v.13 the bride responds to the guests who want to see her. She is modestly reluctant. She questions their desire. If she wonders why anyone would want to see her, she is to get an answer from her lover. The next unit is his description of her charms." (Kinlaw)
©2013 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission