The Bible’s Song of Love
Verse by verse through the Song of Songs Part 4b Chapter 5:6‑5:11
All references RV unless otherwise stated
5:6 "I OPENED TO MY BELOVED; BUT MY BELOVED HAD WITHDRAWN HIMSELF, AND WAS GONE."
There was a sense of expectancy. She took it for granted that He would be there as though nothing had happened to mar sweet fellowship but He had withdrawn and was gone. The original implies "Gone!" "Gone!" "Gone!" He would have us realise the sense of desolation when He is not near for we must be keenly conscious of our need of Him. Moreover our Lord will not abide with us within walls of our own making.
"MY SOUL HAD FAILED ME WHEN HE SPAKE."
If we cast our mind back to verse 2 we can understand the depth of her feeling. His expressions of love and His lack of reproof stirred her more than any chastisement could do.
"I SOUGHT HIM, BUT I COULD NOT FIND HIM; I CALLED HIM, BUT HE GAVE ME NO ANSWER." To all who love the Lord this is the supreme rebuke. In Chapter 3:1,4 her search for Him was comparatively easy. Spiritual growth implies new responsibilities. Indifference to the preciousness of Christ merits the withdrawal of His Presence. His absence is a salutary lesson to the saint who has known the felicity of His company.
5:7 "THE WATCHMEN THAT GO ABOUT THE CITY FOUND ME, THEY SMOTE ME, THEY WOUNDED ME; THE KEEPERS OF THE WALLS TOOK AWAY MY MANTLE FROM ME."
The watchmen have been commented upon in Chap.3:3. Here the word translated "keepers" is the same Hebrew word as is also translated "watchmen."
"She ought never to have come under their notice at all, but having lost the company of her Beloved through indolence and self‑complacency she was agitated and restless now that she realised her loss." (C.A. Coates An outline of the Song of Songs) The clear inference is that they "found her" because she was not with her Lord and that the watchmen were also not with Him or they would not have dared to ill‑treat His loved one.
It seems possible that the watchmen class are believers, probably self‑appointed "watchmen" in Christian assemblies, although not in close fellowship with the Lord. In what sense would they do deliberate injury to one of the Lord’s own people? The "smiting" suggests "hurting." Are not many sincere believers "upset" when an individual of their number seeks a purely individual approach to the Lord? Fellowship can become a form of enclosure (Hebrew word translated "walls" means walls of enclosure). "Wounded" suggests an injury to her beauty. Probably she conveyed something of the self‑satisfied attitude she had recently adopted which provoked the wounding. Is it not regrettably true that many quite sincere believers have at some time in their lives attacked one of the brethren whose life appears to be a criticism of their own? Self‑justification then becomes an instrument with which wounds are inflicted. This conduct of the watchmen seems to point to two morals (1) "Judge not—" and (2) that we should not "justify ourselves rather than God."
The Hebrew word translated "mantle" is only used here and in Isa.3:22 and obviously refers to one of a collection of garments of self‑adornment. It should not be confused with the "coat" of verse 3. Thus we see that the Bride still relied on her own garments. It required the rough discipline at the hands of the keepers to tear this covering from her. If we are ever in that plight in which brethren can strip off any semblance of self‑complacency and smugness which we have wrapped around us may we remember the Bride and thank God for the needed discipline. As the Psalmist expressed it "Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness; and let him reprove me, it shall be as oil upon the head; let not my head refuse it: for even in their wickedness shall my prayer continue." (Psa.141:5) And in this spirit she also turns to the daughters of Jerusalem who live within the precincts of the city.
5:8 "I ADJURE YOU, O DAUGHTERS OF JERUSALEM, IF YE FIND MY BELOVED, THAT YE TELL HIM, THAT I AM SICK OF LOVE."
In chapter 2:5 this "sickness" or "fainting" was the effect of joy in His presence, but now she is faint with grief and remorse. In both cases it is the loveliness of the beloved with the soul’s love to Him that causes the sickness. (Psa.42:1)
Absent from her Lord and with a heart which aches for Him she does not even think of her ill‑treatment. It appears, however, that her distraught earnestness acts as a rebuke to the consciences of the daughters so they reply:
5:9 "WHAT IS THY BELOVED MORE THAN ANOTHER BELOVED, O THOU FAIREST AMONG WOMEN? WHAT IS THY BELOVED MORE THAN ANOTHER BELOVED, THAT THOU DOST SO ADJURE US?"
The charge to the daughters of Jerusalem, verse 8, and their response in the next verse seems strange when the daughters themselves professed love for the same beloved. It clearly reveals that they have not appreciated or experienced "the love that passeth knowledge." It seems to suggest that whatever "picture" we have of Christ we never really recognise Him until we know Him intimately. The distinction between the two states of heart is shown in the last sentence. The maiden alone can say "I am lovesick."
The question to "the daughters" suggests perplexity because of the distraught condition of the espoused. The admiration of "the daughters of Jerusalem" ("thou fairest among women") indicates they were not of the world, for the world sees no spiritual beauty in Christ or His followers.
They do not ask "WHO is thy beloved"–this they know–but "WHAT?" What is there in Him that your desire for Him is so intense?
5:10 The true follower of our Lord always responds to every opportunity to extol His praises but when there is even the slightest invitation to extol Him to other believers then what a galaxy of superlatives the heart brings forth. In the next seven verses the Bride replies in one of the most lovely word pictures of all scripture.
This beautiful "full length" portrait emphasises that the message of the Song is for true believers only. The maiden addresses this rhapsody of praise to them alone–the world in general does not in fact enter into the Song. These verses indicate how we should help to make other believers acquainted with the beauties of Christ—for love must speak of its object. (1 Pet.3:15)
The maiden delights in Him and all that He is. The work and offices of their Lord are the most that many believers ever know of Him. These verses describe Himself, not His gifts.
She opens with praise, not only for His beauty but with acknowledgment for His pre‑eminence.
"MY BELOVED IS WHITE AND RUDDY, THE CHIEFEST AMONG TEN THOUSAND."
His is a pure complexion—it is not pale for He is the embodiment of spiritual life—pictured here in the ruddy glow. "White" for He is the Lamb "without blemish." Whiteness (purity) is the outstanding feature presented to us by Christ. The Hebrew word translated "white" means illuminated by the sun. It is He who is "the effulgence of His glory." (Heb.1:3)
In His eyes the Bride’s cheeks have the ruddy glow of spiritual life (ch.4:3) Ruddy–Hebrew "Adom" meaning "red." The word "Adam" is from a root which means "to be red" or "red earth" and Christ is "the second Adam." (Heb.2:9‑14; 1 Cor.15:45‑46)
The phrase "Chiefest among ten thousand" is not a literal translation. The original Hebrew conveys the thought of pre‑eminence in the same sense as a standard is raised above the head of a marching army. Ten thousand is a figure of speech to convey the thought of a large number. Literally "He is the standard bearer"; "Jesus the captain and perfecter of our faith" (Heb.12:2 Mar.); "the firstborn among many brethren" (Rom.8:29); our "forerunner." (Heb.6:20) "And He is the head of the body, the Church…that in all things He might have the pre‑eminence." (Col.1:18)
We are reminded in these verses that David was a type of Christ for (1) David’s name means "beloved"; (2) he was described as "ruddy, and of a fair countenance," (1 Sam 17:42 KJV) and (3) the children of Israel said of Him "Thou art worth ten thousand of us." (2 Sam.18:3)
5:11 "HIS HEAD IS AS THE MOST FINE GOLD."
Once again the Hebrew original is a figure of speech–fine gold representing excellency. Perhaps its meaning derived from the concept of a kingly crown of gold. It is also interesting to observe that the inspired interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream reads "Thou, O king, art a king of kings…Thou art this head of gold." (Dan.2:37‑38 KJV) It certainly confirms that the simile of "a head of gold" implies pre‑eminence. Spiritually the head usually refers to the intellect, mind, wisdom, and so this part of the song reminds us of the kingliness and nobility of Christ as well as His excellent wisdom. "Head over all things to His Church."
"HIS LOCKS ARE CURLING, AND BLACK AS A RAVEN." (Mar.)
Once more we turn to other scriptures to help our understanding of a particular word. Here the Hebrew word translated "black" is associated elsewhere with the thought of "youth." (Eccl.11:10) The reference to black, luxuriant hair suggests spiritual vigour of the prime of life, just as grey hair would suggest being past the prime.
"As a raven" may merely be inserted for emphasis but the association of the raven with the dove in the next verse reminds us of Genesis 8:7‑11 where both birds were used as typical harbingers of the regenerating power to be brought to the world. Christ and His bride (to whom the description of dove is also given) are to be the channels for blessing and regenerating the world but during this age they are only harbingers of that blessing. The ravens in the case of Elijah also illustrate God’s sustaining power. (1 Kings 17:4‑6)