Come out to see King Solomon, young women of Jerusalem. He wears the crown his mother gave him on his wedding day, his most joyous day. (Song of Solomon 3:11, N.L.T.)
The Song of Solomon gives us King Solomon’s God-inspired account of his courtship and marriage to a woman he calls The Shulamite. The term “Shulamite” likely indicates that this young woman lived in Shunem in the hill country a few miles north of Jerusalem (6:13). Evidently, King Solomon frequently visited his lands there, lands upon which he grazed a flock (1:7) and possibly also had gardens and vineyards (Ecclesiastes 2:4-7). The Shulamite’s family had vineyards and a flock there as well (1:6; 1:8; 8:12), and it was in this hill country that Solomon and The Shulamite first met and fell in love.
As the book begins, the couple have just met. 32 of the book’s first 39 verses are spoken by The Shulamite. For starters, she wants Solomon to kiss her over and over again (1:2) and draw her away unto himself (1:4). As she says, “Oh, that the king would bring me to his chambers” (H.C.S.B.). She is beautiful, but she worries that he will be turned off by the fact that her skin has become too tanned and dark from working in her family’s vineyard (1:5-6). She expresses this worry by comparing her own appearance to a vineyard and saying, “They (her family) made me the keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard (my appearance) I have not kept.”
Next, she wants Solomon to tell her where he feeds his flock and where he lets it rest at noon. Why does she want this information? It’s because she wants to come see him in innocence rather than acting like one of the prostitutes of the time who veiled themselves to hide their face (1:7). Solomon answers her question by playfully telling her to find him as she grazes her little flocks in the footsteps of his large flock (1:8). It is also at this point that he extends to her the first of many compliments by comparing her to a beautiful mare standing among Pharaoh’s chariots, chariots that were always pulled by stallions rather than mares (1:9-10). I myself wouldn’t advise a man to compliment a woman by comparing her to a horse, but, hey, it worked for Solomon.
In verse 12, The Shulamite poetically speaks of how she will send forth the fragrance of her perfume to entice Solomon while he sits at his table. In other words, she hopes that he will remember the sweet smell of her perfume even after he has returned to his palace in Jerusalem. Then she compliments him by describing him as “a bundle of myrrh” (N.K.J.V.), “a cluster of henna blooms” (N.K.J.V.), and a man she wishes would lie all night between her breasts.
On and on the love-struck banter goes like that. Solomon tells her that she is fair and has dove’s eyes (1:15), and she responds by telling him that he is handsome and pleasant (1:16). Then she figuratively refers to the grassy sites where they rendezvoused for their romantic meetings. She calls those sites their green “couch” (N.A.S.V.) and adds in that the sites are surrounded by cedar trees and fir trees that she calls the “beams of our houses” (1:16-17, N.K.J.V.). It is as if she is imagining how wonderful it would be to reside in an actual house as Solomon’s wife. The fact that she says “his fruit was sweet to my taste” (2:3, N.K.J.V.) shows that they kissed at those outdoor sites up there in that hill country.
With all this romantic rendezvousing taking place, it isn’t long before Solomon formally invites The Shulamite to dine with him in the banquet room of his palace (2:4), and it is following that meal that their intimacy gets perilously close to the sin of premarital sex. As Solomon places his left hand under her head and embraces her body firmly with his right hand (2:6), The Shulamite feels the inner temptation to let things go too far. This prompts her to warn the young women of Jerusalem: “Do not stir up or awaken love until the appropriate time” (2:7, N.L.T.). She herself has now experienced firsthand just how difficult it is to stop the lust train once it has built up steam.
Following the meal in Solomon’s palace, The Shulamite returns to her home and the winter months fall upon the land. The indication is that the couple doesn’t see each other during those days. But once the winter is past it doesn’t take Solomon long to make his way back to The Shulamite’s home. Sure, he’s returned to the hill country to check on his flock but he’s also come to see her. Verses 8 and 9 of chapter 2 quote her describing him as a young stag who comes leaping and skipping to her house. Once there, he asks her to come away with him and enjoy the pastoral wonders of Israel in the springtime as he feeds his flock (2:10-17). The renewed romance once again flames the fires of passion within The Shulamite and causes her to spend a terrible night in bed alone longing for Solomon to be with her. She even dreams of going into the city of Jerusalem, searching for him, finding him, and taking him back to her family’s home (3:1-4). That long night prompts her to repeat her warning to the young women of Jerusalem: “Do not stir up or awaken love until the appropriate time” (3:5, N.L.T.).
This time around, though, she won’t have to wait long for the word “marriage” to enter the relationship. One day not long after that wistful night here comes King Solomon, decked out in his royal regalia, smelling of myrrh, frankincense, and fragrant powders (3:6). He is escorted by sixty of his most valiant men, each of whom carries a sword and is an expert in warfare (3:7-8). Solomon himself is seated upon a wooden chair that is covered in silver, gold, and the color purple (3:9-10). This, of course, is the royal procession by which Solomon has come to take The Shulamite to Jerusalem to officially become his bride. This explains why the following verse (3:11) quotes The Shulamite as encouraging the daughters of Zion (Jerusalem) to come out and see King Solomon on his wedding day as he wears his royal crown.
Once the wedding has taken place, the next chapter (chapter 4) is a full chapter about the honeymoon night of sex that Solomon and The Shulamite enjoy. In verses 1-5, he lavishes praise upon his new spouse for her exquisite beauty, and few body parts from her upper torso escape his glowing report. He mentions: her dove’s eyes (4:1); her dark hair (4:1); her white teeth (4:2); her scarlet lips (4:3); her lovely mouth (4:3); her pleasing temples (4:3); her regal neck (4:4); and her soft breasts (4:5). Following all this sweet talk, he describes her virginity as an enclosed garden, a shut up spring, and a sealed fountain. (4:12). The Shulamite, for her part, expresses her readiness to lose that virginity by saying, “Blow upon my garden that its spices may flow out, and let my beloved come to his garden and eat its pleasant fruits” (4:16). Is all this racy stuff? You bet. But it isn’t sinful. These are simply two newlyweds who are about to enjoy the God-approved intimacy of holy matrimony.
Not surprisingly, the next passage brings past-tense language from Solomon as he says, “I have come to my garden” (5:1). He then tells his friends who have attended the royal wedding and stuck around to enjoy the wedding feast, “Eat, O friends! Drink, yes, drink deeply, O beloved ones!” (5:1, N.K.J.V.). And it is here that we will leave the couple until next time. The courtship, the marriage, and the consummation of the marriage are now finished, and the only question left to be asked is, “Will the couple’s fires of romance continue to burn red hot or will the tedious days of marriage turn those fires into dying embers?” That’s the question that I’ll answer in my next post as we finish up the book by walking through chapters 5-8. So until then, I hope you’ll stay tuned……