by J. D. Watson
In Chapter 3:1-4, the wedding is approaching and the maiden has a dream brought on by a fear of losing her beloved.
She looks everywhere, finally sees him, and takes him to her mother's house, the most secure place she knows. Verse 5 ends the courting section with another reminder against the arousal of uncontrolled sexual passion before the right time. The wedding was almost there.
Verses 6-11 describe the wedding procession, which customarily was led by the groom to the bride's home, when he then took her to their new home. There was then a wedding feast that lasted about a week. While the feast continued, however, the couple still consummated the marriage on the wedding night. We read the details of the wedding night in 4:1-5:1.
Up to now, Solomon's physical desire has been delicately phrased, but from here on it is open and explicit, which is totally appropriate for a married couple. I'll leave the reader to explore the details, but Solomon thoroughly describes her body (vv. 1-7), tells her that she has "ravished [stolen] his heart" (v. 9), calls her "sister" (a very affectionate term for one's wife in the ancient Near East, v. 10), praises her for her virginity (a "closed garden" and "sealed fountain," (v. 12-14), and then enjoys her as, to use her own delicate term, a "garden" (vv. 4:16; 5:1). She reciprocates in verse 11 and enjoys him as well.
Starting in 5:2 and going through the rest of book, we see the maturing of the marriage. At first, however, we see a problem (vv. 2-16). While intimacy, joy, and physical desire did not fade between the couple, the "little foxes" of 2:15 silently crept in. While some view this passage as a dream, it is more likely quite real. In either case, it teaches a very important lesson. Solomon is late coming home (which is a challenge to all husbands to avoid this whenever possible), and is looking forward to being with his wife. She, however, is already in bed and groggily answers in effect, "I just don't want to get up again." We see, then, that he is late, and she is indifferent. Here is a challenge to every couple to take great care not to drift apart, not to take each other for granted.
Solomon doesn't give up yet. He tries the door first, but when it doesn't open he then surrenders and departs. Finally realizing what she's done, she flies out of bed and opens the door, but he's gone. She even smells his scent on the door handle and is in total despair. She runs through the streets looking for him but can't find him. Finally, she asks the women of Jerusalem to help her look for him and if they find him to tell him that she is lovesick and miserable.
"But what is so special about him that makes you so miserable?" they ask her. "Why is he any different then any other man?" This takes her back to her courting days, and she lists all the things about him that made her love him in the first place, ending with the words, "This is my beloved, and this is my friend." That's why he's different! He is mine, he is my friend, it is to him I am committed and devoted.
"Okay, where should we look?" the women ask, as chapter 6 opens (vv. 1-3). Knowing him the way she does, it hits her, "Of course, he's gone to his garden." She goes to him and they are reconciled. Verses 4-10 are from his perspective. There is no bitterness and total forgiveness. He praises her and makes it clear that his love has not diminished since their first night together. Verses 11-13 are from her perspective. She is exhilarated to know that their love is still flourishing. She has no doubt that he loves her because he puts her in his chariot to make a public display of their reconciliation (v. 12). The women of the palace call to her as the chariot races by, and they can see the joy in her face (v. 13).
The opening verses of Chapter 7 (1-9) record Solomon's even more intimate description of his wife than the one on their wedding night, starting with her feet and going up from there. This demonstrates that physical intimacy between husband and wife is God-given. Verse 6, in fact, declares that it is for our enjoyment: "How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love, for delights!" In verse 10, she responds passionately, "I am my beloved's, and his desire is toward me." She goes so far as to take the initiative in verses 11-13, suggesting they go into the countryside to be together.
In 8:1-4 we see her desire for even greater intimacy. While this sounds odd to our Western ears, in the ancient Near East public displays of affection were frowned upon except by family members, so she playfully wishes that he were her younger brother so she could kiss him anytime she wished. In verse 3 she once again joyfully anticipates their next time together.
As the story nears its conclusion, we read of the nature of true love in verses 5-7. First, true love is a seal. A seal is a symbol of ownership, and she wants it to be clear that she belongs to no one else. While such a thought is repugnant to the feminist, it is the foundational desire of the godly woman. Second, true love is strong, as "strong as death," in fact. Both are irresistible. Third, true love is singular. She knew how harmful jealousy is and hoped that he would never give her reason to be jealous by looking at other women. Fourth, true love is stirring; it is passionate, as "coals of fire" and "vehement flame." And fifth, true love is supreme.
Verse 7 concludes: "Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned [i.e. despised]." Nothing can quench true love and nothing is more valuable. Are these principles true in our marriages?
The closing verses (8-14) are a reminiscence of how it all began. How important this is for all couples to do! After 32 years of marriage, my wife and I still reminisce. "Remember when?" one of us will ask, and then we relive that time. Likewise, this wife remembers her brothers protecting her when she was a little girl and encouraging her to stay pure. She could either be "a wall" that would resist all men who wanted her only for sex, or she could be "a door" that would allow anyone entrance.
She recalls that she chose to be a wall. She then remembers meeting Solomon in a vineyard that he had leased out to her brothers. It was there that she fell in love with him.
Verses 13-14 recall the early days of the courtship and show that the passion of those days is still alive and well. Whenever he is gone from home, she says, "Make haste, my beloved" to come back to me so we can be together.
Solomon's Song is a beautiful picture of the "covenant of companionship" that God designed marriage to be (Mal. 2:14). It exalts the personal characteristics of a man and woman on which a marriage is to be partially based. But the Song is also a graphic testimony of God's endorsement of physical love between husband and wife. It is a relationship in which there should be three last realities: total openness, enduring romance, and lasting passion.
We'll close with a story that is told of William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925), the great American lecturer and political leader, who was also a devoted Christian and defender of the faith. While having his portrait painted, Bryan was asked, "Why do you wear your hair over your ears?" Bryan responded, "There is a romance connected with that. When I began courting Mrs. Bryan, she objected to the way my ears stood out. So to please her, I let my hair grow to cover them." "But that was many years ago," the artist said. "Why don't you have your hair cut now?" Bryan winked and answered, "Because the romance is still going on."1
I pray that each of our marriages will have continued romance.
1. Windows on the Word, p. 99.
J. D. Watson is pastor-teacher of Grace Bible Church in Meeker, Colorado.