The Bible’s Song of Love
Verse by verse through the Song of Songs Part 1b
All references RV unless otherwise specified
1:11 Having reminded her of the adornments of the spirit which beautify her He promises still more “WE WILL MAKE THEE PLAITS OF GOLD WITH STUDS OF SILVER.” We will make–“I and my Father” (see John 10:30).
At this point it is helpful to pause for, as we look back over the last eight verses, we can observe a gradual spiritual progression.
1:12 Wearing the spiritual adornments which befit the company of the Beloved the maiden quietly soliloquises "WHILE THE KING SAT AT HIS TABLE, MY SPIKENARD SENT FORTH ITS FRAGRANCE." Our fellowship with the Lord is not one‑sided, bringing joy and gladness only to the Bride, but is fragrance to the Beloved. When He makes them sit down to meat and...serves them (Luke 12:37) then His loved ones give to Him the only thing they have—a loving fragrance. And even this derives from Him for, as the maiden says,
1:13 "MY BELOVED IS UNTO ME AS A BUNDLE OF MYRHH, THAT LIETH BETWIXT MY BREASTS." Myrrh was a main ingredient of the anointing oil–bitter to taste but fragrant. This "indicates how He is cherished in the privacy of personal affection. He lies in the affections of His (espoused) bride, in all the fragrance of His suffering love, through the night of His reproach and rejection here…Myrrh is connected in Scripture with a suffering Christ. (Mark 15:23; John 19:39)" (C.A.Coates "An outline of the Song of Songs") It is a symbol of the zeal of devout hearts ready to offer their best to the Lord. In the story of Esther we read that she experienced a whole year of ceremonial purification with myrrh and other sweet scents before her marriage to the king. The maiden in the Song associates such fragrance similarly with her Bridegroom for whom and by whom the fragrance was called forth.
1:14 "MY BELOVED IS UNTO ME AS A CLUSTER OF HENNA‑FLOWERS IN THE VINEYARDS OF EN‑GEDI." "Long clusters of henna flowers are exceedingly fragrant. The Orientals are extravagantly fond of their odour, and they have an intimate association with love and marriage." (Thomson: ""The Land and The Book"") His love, we see, is not associated with resting and rest alone. She sees Him as the fragrance of the vineyards. En‑gedi, it should be observed, is a district of steep rocks which seems to typify the difficult conditions in which the follower of the Lord has to cultivate his vineyard.
1:15 The love of the Lord brought us to Him but He gives each one of us a personal revelation of it when we can show that His love has begotten in us a love for Him. And so we read that the Bridegroom first expresses His love when she has expressed hers. "BEHOLD," He says, "THOU ART FAIR, MY LOVE; BEHOLD, THOU ART FAIR; THINE EYES ARE AS DOVES." The dove is distinguished for gentleness; affection and fidelity for its mate; purity and cleanliness, and timidity. The dove has an especially sacred association for it was in that form that the Holy Spirit descended on our Lord.
"The light of the body is the eye:" Jesus said "if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light." (Matt.6:22 KJV) Our beauty in the sight of Christ consists in our appreciation of Him. She has dove’s eyes—eyes enlightened by the holy spirit, thus giving her spiritual perception. This implies personal holiness for "the light of the body is the eye." Let us pray "That we should be holy and without blemish before Him: having in love foreordained us." (Eph.1:4‑5 mar.) "So shall the King desire thy beauty: for He is thy Lord; and worship thou Him." (Psa.45:11)
1:16 Worship is the right response to His loving commendation and so the maiden turns immediately to His beauty "BEHOLD, THOU ART FAIR, MY BELOVED, YEA, PLEASANT", "Thou art fairer than the children of men." (Psa.45:2) "ALSO" she adds "OUR COUCH IS GREEN." This is "typically a restful association with Him here—for green is the colour that beautifies the earth—rather than what is distinctively heavenly." (C.A. Coates "An outline of the Song of Songs")
1:17 "THE BEAMS OF OUR HOUSE ARE CEDARS, AND OUR RAFTERS ARE FIRS." In Isa.55:13 the fir is contrasted with the thorn as characterising the perfect conditions which Christ will eventually bring to the earth.1 Kings 4:33 suggests that the cedar is pre‑eminent among trees, and cedars of Lebanon are quoted elsewhere to indicate spiritually elevated conditions. Thus we have a picture to illustrate our present enjoyment of Christ in an earthly environment. It is our spiritual dwelling place here with the Lord not "in the streets…of the city." (3:2)
2:1 Now the maiden seems to drop her eyes and, as they light on one of the humble blooms growing near to the ground, she likens it to herself "I AM A ROSE OF THE PLAIN, A LILY OF THE VALLEYS." (mar.) It seems probable that the maiden refers to one flower only in the sense given by some translators "a flower of the plain, a mere lily of the dales." The Psalmist had a similar thought when he wrote "He raiseth up the poor out of the dust...that He may set him with princes, even with the princes of His people." (Psa.113:7;8) "Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which He hath promised to them that love Him?" (Jas.2:5 KJV)
2:2 Our Lord desires humility in His followers and so we find that the Bridegroom accepts the maiden’s picture of herself. But, with a tender charm, He shows her the preciousness to Him of humble purity. A humble lily? Yes, but "AS A LILY AMONG THORNS, SO IS MY LOVE AMONG THE DAUGHTERS." "The lily grows amongst thorns" says Thomson: "The Land and The Book". "Nothing can be in greater contrast than the luxuriant, velvety softness of a lily, and the crabbed, tangled hedge of thorns about it". This is how the bridegroom contrasts His loved one with the Daughters of Jerusalem. Elsewhere in the Song we see that the daughters are a worthy class with a measure of love—but not bridal love—for the Lord. How does our profession stand up to this standard? Are we like the daughters who show a continued regard for the Lord but are as "thorns"—unapproachable and unresponsive to His love?
As the "lily" is hidden in a surrounding growth of thorns so the Bride of Christ is known only to Him, hidden among "the daughters." "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His." (2 Tim.2:19 KJV) "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth…" (Matt.13:44 KJV) As the lily grows among thorns; so the Bride is developed in an environment which would appear uncongenial and difficult because, as our Lord foretold, "A man’s foes shall be they of his own household." (Matt.10:36)
2:3 In her reply the maiden continues to use the metaphors of the countryside and, as she soliloquises, she seems to be conscious that the daughters are looking on. To her enchanted gaze He has all the fragrant, evergreen beauty of the golden‑fruited citron tree in contrast to the stunted forest trees. "AS THE APPLE TREE AMONG THE TREES OF THE WOOD" she says "SO IS MY BELOVED AMONG THE SONS." Compared with the stature and rich fruitfulness of Christ, the sons–His brethren–are as stunted forest trees which bear tiny, pithy fruit. The Apostle John had a similar thought when he wrote "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God… Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is." (1 John 3:1,2 KJV) "For ye are all the sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus." (Gal.3:26)
"I SAT DOWN UNDER HIS SHADOW WITH GREAT DELIGHT, AND HIS FRUIT WAS SWEET TO MY TASTE." In her first words to the daughters, the Maiden has told how the burning heat of the sun has left its mark upon her. Now she tells of her appreciation of the shadow of Christ–our advocate—covered by His righteousness. Writing of the days of Israel’s restoration, the prophet Isaiah uses a similar metaphor: "And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the day time from the heat…" (Isa.4:6 KJV–also Isa.32:1,2)
His fruit was sweet to HER taste—a taste cultivated by the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Peter in his first Epistle puts this as the test of spiritual appreciation "If ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious." (1 Pet.2:3)
2:4 Her train of thought leads to other rich experiences: "HE BROUGHT ME TO THE BANQUETING HOUSE, AND HIS BANNER OVER ME WAS LOVE." He brings all His loved ones to the "house of wine" for true doctrine is served only in communion with Him. "If any man hear my voice…I will…sup with him, and he with me." (Rev.3:20) "They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures." (Psa.36:8) Our appreciation of the deep things of God’s word is not the result of great intellect, but because He has set His love upon us. "He hath brought me."
With most translators the latter phrase reads "His banner over me is love." This describes a common practice in Old Testament days to have the leader or king’s name inscribed on a banner at banquets. She appreciated His love, not as something completed at Calvary, but as an ever present experience. "As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love." (John 15:9 KJV) His banner, we read, IS love. The apostle tells us that "God IS love" and here we see portrayed "the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom.8:39 KJV)
2:5 When we meditate upon His love does it not sometimes seem that the delight is almost too great to be borne. But it is nevertheless from the same source that we draw the spiritual nourishment to meet the need. "STAY (sustain) ME WITH CAKES OF RAISINS" she begs, "COMFORT ME WITH APPLES: FOR I AM SICK OF LOVE." (mar.)
She "looks for sustenance and refreshment that she may be equal to bearing the exceedingly blessed character of the love that embraces her. The enjoyment is so great that she feels it is insupportable without special strengthening." (C.A. Coates "An outline of the Song of Songs") She feels the need for the nourishment which derives from the vine–Christ–and for refreshment she asks for the fruit of Christ’s tree–the citrus fruit (translated apples). This is a most appropriate symbol for this fruit is full of refreshing juice and renowned for its fragrance. Pray "that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His spirit in the inner man." (Eph.3:16 KJV)
2:6 Earlier in the Song the maiden asked Him to draw her and He brought her "into His chambers." Now that she appeals for spiritual support she finds that "HIS LEFT HAND IS UNDER MY HEAD," but how loving is that support for "HIS RIGHT HAND" she says "DOTH EMBRACE ME." The apostle conveys a similar association of thoughts in the words "And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts" (His right Hand doth embrace me) "and minds" (His left hand is under my head) "through Christ Jesus." (Phil.4:7 KJV) "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might." (Eph.6:10 KJV)
2:7 As she rests in His loving embrace He turns and addresses the daughters—"I ADJURE YOU, O DAUGHTERS OF JERUSALEM, BY THE ROES, AND BY THE HINDS OF THE FIELD, THAT YE STIR NOT UP, NOR AWAKEN LOVE, UNTIL IT (SHE) PLEASE." And so attentively He brings her strengthening rest which gives refreshment and peaceful sleep. This is not, of course, the sleep of Chapter 5:2–which we shall see was a condition of spiritual self‑satisfaction and not in His embrace. The followers of Christ can only safely rest in Him. When we lose such precious and hallowed enjoyment–seasons of communion and fellowship with the Lord–the fault is our own–in other words (as other translators render it) "until she please."
In this verse the Lord adjures professing Christians not to disturb and distract those who have come into an intimate association with Him. Let nothing be done to mar this restful condition. Here is a responsibility placed upon every assembly of God’s people (largely composed of "daughters of Jerusalem") to do all things unto edification and to promote and maintain a personal and intimate love for Christ. Is this the chief theme of all our fellowship? The whole phrase is in the form of an oath–hence the reference to the objects (roes and hinds) by which the oath was sworn (a common Hebrew practice). The choice of roes and hinds associates the oath with a sensitive, loving theme–"the loving hind and pleasant roe" (Prov.5:19 KJV), sensitive animals which are easily disturbed. Succeeding verses liken the Beloved to a hart (practically the same Hebrew word as "hind")–swift and graceful, an animal of sensitive grace and beauty. The ‘roe’, i.e. the gazelle, the most graceful and shy and swift among the beasts of the field. It is used as a word to express endearment and admiration, more than once in this book (2:9,17; 8:14). The hind is the emblem of the tender and loving one. The speed and beauty of the hart are referred to in verses 9 and 17 of this chapter and 8:14; Isa.35:6; Psa.18:33.
On these thoughts the Bridegroom brings to a close the first part of the "Song." It has beautifully portrayed spiritual progress, from the first longings after Christ to fuller Christian experiences of this "earthly pilgrimage." Some of the experiences which retard this ideal progress are recorded in the later passages of this Song.
To be continued